Sunday 28 August 2016

Book Week 2016

If you follow me on Instagram, then you already know that I went into "manure-faction" and made another poo for P's Book Week Parade Day costume...

The book is the delightful "The Story of the Little Mole who knew it was None of his Business" (Aus publisher link) by Wolf Elbruch and Werner Holzwarth, which is 25 years old this year.

The poo was constructed in much the same way as the last one, only slightly bigger this time : A 4" wide strip maybe a metre long.

I'm rather proud of my snout! I use some leftover fleece from an old nappy change table cover and just drew a long top section then a semi ellipse end and a curved bottom bit. The three sections were stitched together then lightly stuffed. At the open end I inserted a single section from an egg carton, wrapped the fabric around the edge of the egg carton and then roughly handstitched through all layers of fabric and cardboard to finish it.

The snout is then handstitched to the bent wire glasses. They've got some black plumbing tape over the ear ends to make them bearable to wear. I cracked myself up in making it and had to try it on!

To finish the Mole look, P wore his grey tracksuit (which are normally used as pajamas - shh don't tell) which I'd made last year when he needed to be an elephant!

He made such a long, lean looking mole, I almost wished I'd made a darker grey "fat suit" to give him a more distinguished, portly mole shape!

But there was no time for that as I got last minute approval from A to make her something. She had been quite convinced she was going to wear a commercial princess costume and be a generic fairy tale princess. It took some persuading, and plenty of time looking at different books, before we settled on a book character we could both get into:

Annabella Jones from the book "A Proper Little Lady" (Aus Publisher link)
Way back when A was around two or three years old, she became fixated with the idea of pink, sparkly shoes. It was this book that was our savior. You see, Annabella Jones gets all fancied up for the day....

She wears her pale blue dress with the big white bow, her white petticoat, her second-best pair of navy blue knickers, her pink socks with the blue frill, her gloves, her wide brimmed hat with the daisies on it, her long gold chain and a pair of shiny black shoes.

Those shoes go "tap, tap, tap" as she walks along and from then on, my little girl was sold on the idea of "tappy black shoes" Yay!

Of course, as soon as I'd talked her into being Annabella Jones, I realised what a long list of "fancy things" we were going to need! First up, the dress:

The book is very 1980's and while I was keen on the drop waist I wasn't about to copy the poofy sleeves or try and recreate the original exactly. The Croquet Dress by Oliver + S seemed a perfect pattern. It's a bit retro, has a bow and a collar, and I hadn't sewn it for ages and was keen to have another go.

The fabric that I used was the only pale blue left in the stash. It's a crinkly, self striped, sheer chiffon-like stuff which shrinks like a mother when you iron it. That would be a note to self, but I've pretty much used it all up now, so too late. :) (previous Fairy Tale blue dress here)

Because it's see through, I underlined all the pieces with a lightweight cotton batiste. So much for knocking out a quick dress for a costume! The collar and elastic casing/bow are done with a quilting cotton weight fabric, of which there was just enough.

This is such a lovely dress to sew. The way the yokes are sewn together is very clever and with nice facings the insides are really pretty too. I've sewn a size 5 with maybe 2" added to the skirt length.

The hat, gloves, fake flowers and gold chain all came from a local "variety shop". I shortened the gloves and added a blue frill with some frilled elastic I'd found at Eliza Fabrics (I complimented the lady on her wonderful shop and how she had everything I'd needed and still couldn't crack a smile from her). Another bit of elastic also went around the tops of some pale pink socks.

The petticoat was an invention that worked as well as I'd hoped. I used my overlocker to gather some long strips of tulle. I'd never done that before but the instructions were pretty simple, and I didn't even bother joining the strips at theirs short ends, just overlapped them slightly and kept feeding them into the overlocker.

Once I had a giant, long gathered ruffle ready, I stitched it onto the bottom of three rectangular "skirt" layers. Then gathered all of them at the top and then sandwiched them inside some super wide elastic and ziz-zagged stitched the whole thing together.

Finally, the navy blue knickers. Both kids helpfully pointed out that if I was making a pair of "second-best" navy blue knickers then naturally, I would have to make a better pair which would be the "best pair"... I'll leave you to imagine what I told them.

I used a japanese pattern which is part of a skort (made previously here), making just the undershorts. In using up the very last of some navy linen I had to seam the front panels in order to have enough fabric. Also, instead of hemming the bottom frills and ending up with them too narrow I did a rolled hem on the overlocker.

These are size 130cm just because that's what was already traced. They're pretty loose and will hopefully make nice, lightweight summer shorts for a few years to come.

I hadn't intended to spend half a dozen late nights over-doing it on the crafty mum front, but I just couldn't help myself. Now it's time to get back to what I was meant to be working on. It's for me and it's super nice fabric...

Sunday 21 August 2016

Birthday Gifts: Of Pokemon and Poo

There's been quite a few birthday parties recently for the kids to attend. While some necessitated a costume (oh those sequins), others just inspired me to sew/make something 'cause I really like the birthday kid.

First up, was P's best buddy who is also a Pokemon fan...

I set the kids to the task of finding out which was his favourite Pokemon. It was Luxray, which of course meant nothing to me, but since P has an encyclopedia of Pokemon characters we were set.

The image in the book was a bit too small so we scanned it and enlarged it before reprinting it to trace and cut a freezer paper stencil.

Again, I've used the freezer paper stencil to provide the blocks of colour and the overall shape, then added the black line detail by hand once the base colours were dry. I really enjoy painting these!

The T-shirt is, of course, the Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan T-shirt.  I guessed at a smaller size than P's current one and used the pattern I had traced from P's Yoda T-shirt which was around this time last year.

It was happily received and put straight on... At which point I realised P was wearing his Pokemon T-shirt too and we needed a photo of the two of them!

The birthday party we attended today was for a little girl who's just a bit younger than A. We only see her occasionally as they live half in Australia and half in Europe. I wasn't sure what she was "into" re a birthday gift, and so asked her mum.

The reply was "$2 shop stuff, hand me downs, handmade stuff, poos and farts"

Ok, I can work with that... Farts first:

The kids had convinced me to let them keep all those little bits of snipped blue sequins, and shhh, don't tell, but that's them suspended in paraffin oil pretending to be bottled mermaid farts!

A handsewn poo seemed like a fun challenge too. The fabric stash buckets (which, by a happy scatalogical coincidence are the old nappy soaking buckets!) yielded a variety of brown fabrics and we had a family vote on which would make the best pet poo.

Working with the fabric scrap I cut two 3" wide strips and joined them to make a strip about 70cm long. This poo was cut on the bias as that was the only way I could get sufficient length. I've since cut and sewn another which was on the straightgrain. I'll leave it to another sewing blogger who cares more than I to write the dissertation on bias vs straightgrain poo sewing. :)

Anyway, it's just a case of sewing a long, tube that tapers at the closed end, turning it, stuffing it, then rolling and handstitching it to achieve the perfect plop.

This pet poo is really quite endearing. When P saw it the morning after I'd sewn it he looked rapt. He picked it up, petted it then gave it a little kiss. :) Of course he then realised he'd kissed a poo and laughed his head off.

From the birthday girls response I think it's going to get plenty more cuddles and kisses in its new home!

Saturday 13 August 2016

KCW: Mermaids on roller skates!

Ah, Kid's Clothes Week. Sometimes I go nuts, sometimes I barely do anything, but I can never resist dedicating some time in that week to sewing for the kids. Actually that's most weeks really, but this week I feel a little bit less alone in my obsession!

I had only one thing I needed to make this week and it was a costume/dress/outfit for A to wear to a Mermaid/Under The Sea themed birthday party. She's there now, swimming and swanning around with her mer-gal-pals so, let's check out how completely carried away I got...

I was out at Eliza fabrics in Sunshine looking for something else entirely when I spied this electric (or ocean?) blue sequined fabric. At $15/m I figured a 1m cut could make something and wouldn't be too expensive a failure. I'd never sewn with sequins before and I tried a little dig for advice (or even good humoured conversation) from the attendant at Eliza fabrics but got nothing - I might make it my mission to crack a smile from that lady.

The choice of pattern, however was easy: The Roller Skate Dress by Oliver + S
It elected itself by virtue of only being two pattern pieces, being a super quick sew (yeah, more on that) and having a lining to keep it from being a scratchy, nasty mess.

The mer-girl was dead keen on an off the shoulder, one sleeved design (oh I have created a monster) but since this fabric had no stretch I had to talk her out of that. We compromised instead by making the skirt asymmetrical and kind of reminiscent of a fish tail or perhaps dolphin shape.

The dress is a straight size 6 with about two inches added to one side and about 8 inches on the other side. That meant tracing the pattern onto the back of the sequin fabric (standard kids chalk works really well for that) and cutting it single layer. As I cut, using the good scissors mind you, it became obvious that sequin sewing is a whole new world of complicated.

So, what was going to be a 2 hour sew turned into a whole week of evenings spent snipping sequins out of the seam allowances and I suspect I will be vacuumming up bits of blue sequins for many months to come.

I was correct in one thing. Once you've prepped your pattern pieces, the Roller Skate dress really is a lovely, quick sew.

But then the elastic casing, which should take moments to stitch had to be stitched by hand from the lining side. Each stitch picking up just the net backing of the sequins to create the channel for the elastic but not interfere with the lay of the sequins. Between that and hemming the outer skirt it was another long evening....

To "mermaid" things up a bit more I decided she needed a seashell headpiece. I went to Feeling Inspired for some shells and a headband. He didn't have any shells but suggested this silver mermaid, which he then bent to shape to fit the headband and cut the hanging loop of her tail fin. Then he went and got some little sea stars to finish the look. I sauntered off to find some other things for myself and in the end I was charged only for the bits I chose. The headband, mermaid and box of stars were free! I can see star embellishments going on everything as there's plenty of them!

The headband was black, but I had a bit of the lining fabric left so covered it and glued the fabric in place. Not a neat as it could have been but I was way past any more handstitching at this point.

After all that extra effort I'm glad it doesn't look too costume-y as should she happen to get an invitation to a disco or evening gala, she's got the frock!

Hopefully it's held up to the rigors of a kids birthday party and won't come home in tatters.

It's already been tested in action against a photobombing big brother!

Tuesday 2 August 2016

Dressmaker's Do: Koos Van Den Akker coat Vogue 1277

Some time ago I found myself in Spotlight, with no children, no time constraints and in the midst of a $5 Vogue pattern sale. (nice, huh)

A Koos Van Den Akker coat pattern made it's way into my shopping basket, and when The Dressmaker's Do was announced for a wintery June night I knew I had the perfect coat pattern to make. I had already spied the fabric I wanted at Tessuti back when I was looking for the right fabric for my frocktails dress.

This is possibly the thing that I've made to date that I invested the most amount of time and thought into. It was certainly the greatest investment of cash to date! So forgive me a long blog post...

Here's the pattern cover in all it's Koos kookiness

The pattern suggests no less than eight different fabrics and the pattern pieces are simply the weirdest shapes. Koos Van Den Akker described this as his "oil slicker" jacket and there's a great video here of him talking about designing it.

I knew I wanted my version to be a bit more "subdued" by virtue of being all in one fabric. Yet I still liked the idea of the grainline variation that would come from cutting all the separate pattern pieces.

First thing to do was make a muslin to check the fit (yep, it's oversized and so "fit" is hardly the word) and construction. I bought some cheap sweater knit and a chevron stripey knit and set about making a basic test run. I got the idea from JillyBeJoyful blog to make the lining as inner and outer to get a "quick" version of the coat and check for fit.

And I loved it! It's dramatic, it's wide and swingy, it has a crazy high "snow white" style collar yet the one part that needed to "fit" that is; across the shoulders, was perfect!

To make the trial run I traced off just the lining (called contrast 1 I think) and sleeve pattern pieces. This pattern has nine or ten (I forget now, but it was an insane number) sheets of pattern tissue. To make the lining body piece four pattern pieces are joined. I traced them onto the thin interfacing that I use for pattern tracing then sewed the pieces together with the sewing machine

With those two pattern pieces you could have a really quite quick and easy coat and I'm very tempted to make up another everyday version in this way.

Once I knew I was happy with the size I set to work tracing all the other pattern pieces and working out what the absolute minimum fabric requirement was if I was to make the entire outer coat from one fabric. I laid out all the pattern pieces on the floor and played pattern piece tetris for a good couple of hours. The final figure was 3.2m of a 145cm wide wool coating. The lining could be cut from only 1.5m if the fabric is wide enough (1.5m wide) to position the sleeves as above, otherwise it's closer to 2m

The fabric that I'd fallen in love with is an Italian metallic wool coating and it wasn't cheap. I purchased the 3.2m, but it wasn't in stock and so was posted to me a few days later. I never measured the final cut as it arrived, but after I'd cut my coat I had a bit over 40cm spare - a fancy coat for A perhaps? Did I mis-measure or was Tessuti generous with their cutting? I don't know but since it's $40 difference I'm hoping it was the latter!

Once I had the "good fabric", I thought I'd better work through the pockets and so I added them to my sweater fleece version.

The pockets are "patch pockets" in that they are added after the whole coat is constructed and then a very neat and moderately tricky welt is sewn. The pocket is formed on the inside and it has it's own, simpler opening, so the jacket is truly reversible.

I quilted the practice run jacket as I was worried that without the quilting the weight of the fabrics might cause them to sag and hang apart from each other. Big sweeping free motion quilting was kind of fun and with the walking foot the fabrics didn't get pushed around or shift.

When I was in Tessuti getting my fabrics I spotted the perfect metallic grey bias binding. Perfect that is except for the width. It was about 3/8 of an inch too wide. so I ironed flat, trimmed and then re-pressed about 10m of bias binding!

The coat panels are joined with wrong sides together, the seam allowances then trimmed and pressed flat, and then covered with bias binding. Such a beautiful finish which really isn't necessary since the jacket is lined and you'd never see the seam allowances anyway! That's my kind of sewing, technically demanding and excessively well finished!

The sleeve has a twisted, and slightly curved, seam which is sewn after the sleeve outer and lining have been quilted together.

Then the sleeve seam, and all the other construction seams are flat felled. Doing a curved, twisted flat felled seam down into a sleeve is not easy, but with plenty of pushing and poking and short bursts of stitching only about an inch or two long and I got there. 

And it's worth it. Flat felling all the seams leads to a beautiful, reversible coat!

The lining fabric that I chose is a basic cotton/synthetic knit with this nice faux quilted texture. It makes the jacket slightly more casual than it might otherwise have been, and by using a "grippy" knit rather than a slippery lining it's easier to keep the coat closed and on my shoulders

The combination of wool coating and knit lining makes it the warmest, snuggliest coat ever. Like wearing a giant, very fancy blanket!

On a windy day such as it was taking these photos, the jacket does tend to fly open, so I've been using a big kilt pin to keep it closed.

Or it can be worn with the collar turned down

When I'd chosen the fabrics for my trial run I didn't really have myself in mind. I was making one for my mum! Yep, she scored the casual version and I'm happy to say she loves it

And it seems that grandmothers and their granddaughters have at least one thing in common...

They love to twirl!

The pattern is rated "advanced", which of course I hadn't noticed until I was well and truly into it. It would be possible to make it "easy" by doing it as my trial run with one piece, and maybe even leaving off the pockets or making non welt patch pockets.

But, having said that, the Advanced tag might be a bit of an overstatement. If you can apply bias binding, flat fell a  seam and follow a welt pocket instruction (which I thought was very well explained) then you're cruising. Just try and pay someone else to trace all those pattern sheets for you!

Pattern: Vogue 1277
Fabric: Wool coating, knit lining and bias binding all from Tessuti
Size: 16
Alterations: none.
Notions: Thread. Lots of thread.
Again?: almost certainly. Maybe a solid wool outer with a solid contrast merino fleece lining...