Thursday, 20 July 2017

Birthdays mean stencilled t-shirts, right?!

So I guess I've created my own making tradition where the boy gets a stencilled t-shirt with his current favourite "thing" for his birthday. But this year the mid-June birthday crept up on me and I had so much else to do. But jump forward to a week after his birthday and I found time to make him a t-shirt just before his party with all his friends.

And this year's "thing"? The fidget spinner of course. These little, cheaply machined, but perfectly balanced, pieces of plastic that allow kids who are minimally engaged with listening to you to express that by constantly fidgeting with something while you talk to them. Anyway, grumpy old lady rant aside they are the current fad and seemed a fun and easy t-shirt stencil to make.

I found an image via an online search that showed a fidget spinner at an angle that I liked and used that to cut the basic stencil. The different coloured sections and the "steel" grey bits were done with stencil cutting, then all the dark grey highlights on the black background were freehand painted on at the end.

The T-shirt is the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt with the customary crazy amount of extra sleeve length. From memory it's a size 8 t-shirt PLUS another 10cm of sleeve length. Seriously! Here's the camera phone photo I snapped to remind myself of how much extra sleeve length this kid needs:

I liked the idea of a bit of fidget spinner style colour blocking with sleeves and neckband and had all these primary coloured knits in the stash - well maybe I had to buy more red, but that will always be useful for school uniform tops so it doesn't count as new fabric. :)

In a quiet moment at work I propositioned my boss about making a cake for P for his party. She can bake, I can't, and she's been happy to do my kids birthday cakes in the past. We decided on a fidget spinner cake and started looking online for inspiration. Well there were lots of fidget spinner cakes and we found some that claimed to "really spin". But they were just cakes mounted on Lazy Susan boards and we weren't impressed.

A real fidget spinner cake should have the centre section stationary while the outer part of the cake spins. We needed a cake board with a central hole. It must have been a quiet day rather than just a quiet moment 'cause from that point on I found myself in phone contact with a woodwork supplies shop on the other side of town ordering a lazy susan bearing system to be delivered...

I then bought two cake boards from the local party supplies shop and got out the compass, ruler and pencil. Can you feel an overengineered project coming on? I sure could. Exciting huh?!

The size of the central hole was, of course, dictated by the bearing plates central hole and the shape of the outer was drawn to ensure that the metal parts of the bearing plates would be covered.

I hadn't thought through the "how on earth will I cut this" part and assumed that hardware stores could do jigsaw cutting to order - they don't. Luckily a local furniture restoration guy who repaired and recovered our couch was willing and able to help.

Then it was just a matter of covering the top board with aluminium foil and attaching each board to the bearings. I'd planned to screw them but Flipper wielded the hot glue gun he'd given me for my birthday (who says romance is dead) and assembled the stand.

Now that we've finished with it I fully intend to replace the aluminum foil, re-glue it and sell the thing on Ebay! I expect it might do well :)

Anyway, Gabby produced the perfect cake, consisting of three different mud cakes and a cleverly iced and concealed tin for the central section.

Voila, we had a real spinning fidget spinner cake.

So then a couple of weeks later it was Gabby's little boys fourth birthday and I figured another stencilled t-shirt was in order. What was his thing? Turned out he is a big LEGO Batman fan. That seemed like a great idea for a detailed stencil:

It's the same oatmeal merle cotton lycra for the body as P's top. This time the pattern is the Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan Tee and a straight size 4. Turns out he's a pretty big four year old and while the t-shirt is fine in width it's barely long enough in the body and will only be a one season t-shirt.

Pity 'cause I'm kinda proud of my LEGO Batman stencil. One day I really should do a screenprinting workshop so I can use the stencils more than once! These are freezer paper stencils and I do it the laborious, but thoroughly enjoiyable way, by handcutting the stencil.

Then each piece is replaced and ironed into position before painting. These kind of one colour stencils are slow to cut but then really quick to paint. The results are pretty cool!

A round up of previous stencils and note son freezer paper and paints can be found here: Stencil blog post link

If you want to over-engineer a cake stand you're on your own but know this: You're my kind of person and I salute you!

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Butterick B6411 tested and perfected

When this Lisette Butterick knit dress pattern was first released I was all over it. I am such a fan of easy wearing, everyday knit dresses. Fun to sew and really nice to wear. Add in that I just can't help but accumulate great knit fabrics and it was going to have to happen...

With the pattern rolling round in my head I found myself wandering through the city, without my kids, on my way to lunch with my mother in law. It was birthday and I really did have to walk straight past Tessuti. Funny that. So I went in and found the perfect knit fabric. Did I say it was my birthday? :)

Anyway, I knew enough to sew a test run in something else first. I'd scored lots of fabric from my friends mum (thank you gifts here)  and included in there was this fabulous retro knit.

I was a bit on the fence about the print until I sewed up the dress and now I adore it. So much so that I wish I had spotted the problem with the pattern before I used this fabric...

So, the front view looks pretty damn good, I think. The dress is a simple front and back bodice cut on the fold. Then two front overlays are used to construct the neckline finish, basted around the armhole and gathered to the side seams. The waist line where the skirt attaches is unusually high, but since the overlay faux wrap is lower and right at the correct waist point it doesn't matter. But hang on, what happens when you turn around:

What is the back waist seam doing all the way up there? So yes, it's windy in these photos, but if anything that might be helping the look. It's a bit like having an empire, or maternity, level waistline, only back to front!

I was going to need to remedy that before cutting into my birthday fabric. But after wearing this dress a few times I don't care enough to not want to wear this one. After all, I never see myself from behind or even side on, and that crazy green colour just makes me happy!

I dug out the traced pattern interfacing for a knit dress that I made a few years back and that I love the fit of. It's actually a pattern for woven fabrics and turned out to work well in a knit without the side zip. I pinched the darts out of the pattern tracing and wouldn't you know it was exactly the width of the B6411 bodice, only about 3" longer.

So I traced the extra section from the woven pattern and added most of it to the bottom of the bodice of B6411 before cutting out my fabric. Looked like this:

That's the front bodice on the left and the back bodice on the right. They are the same width, so the additional wedge is basically the same front and back. The 2&1/2" additional length was chosen as that still gave me about 1/2" above the point where the overlay would attach on each side. I figured that would be enough to ensure that the waist seam was still covered by the wrapped overlays.

I liked the skirt hem length as it was, so I used the lengthen/shorten line on the skirt pattern piece to take that two and half inches back off. And then I was off and cutting.

This might just be my favourite dress ever now. The fabric is all kinds of me. Stripes, my sort of colours, and a lovely soft, drapey jersey but still with enough body not to feel clingy or skimpy.

I feel like my bodice changes did alter the way the overlay crosses over and how much of each side is visible, but logically I don't think it can have. All I've done is lowered the waistline closer to the point where the overlay finishes. I haven't actually changed the overlay, the amount it gathers or the heights at which it starts or stops.

I've seen only one or two other reviews of this pattern and there has been mention of the weirdly short bodice. Thankfully I can say that the fix really is as simple as adding length to the straight under bodice and there's no need to mess with the oddly shaped overlay at all. Easy!

And the new back view?

Much better.

A close up of my freshly sewn side seam went up on Instagram in a moment of self-trumpet-blowing, but here it is again in action in the breeze.

Other than the bodice length change I made no alterations to the pattern at all. I used the two rows of straight stitching sewing technique suggested by the pattern. I've done this before with knit dresses and it makes a nice change from overlocking. It worked fine for me for both dresses, BUT, a note of caution if you have boobs: By lengthening the bodice I have also narrowed the waistline. You can see from my pattern tracings that the bodice continued to taper. I didn't alter the skirt width, just gathered it slightly more.

The dress has no closures and is pulled on over the head. I suspect, with my altered version that if I had a big bust I might struggle to get the stitched waistline over my boobs without popping stitches. I wonder if that isn't the reason for the higher waistline after all. Solutions to that could be either to stitch the waistline with a zig zag, or more extensible stitching technique.

Or, possibly to ONLY lengthen the back bodice. There's no real need for the front bodice to be lengthened, and since the front waistline is not visible it wouldn't really matter if it didn't align with the back waistline. Staggering the seams would make it much easier to get on over an ample bosom. Anyway, not a problem for me so I'm speaking theoretically about something I know nothing of :)

I'm so happy to have freshened up my wardrobe of staple knit dresses. With tights, boots and a jacket these serve as everyday dresses and the green one has already been on the school bike commute and co-ordinated very nicely with my Breezer!


But at the park, in front of the toilet block, in a pair of heels, an everyday knit dress can look kinda fancy too! :)

Size: 14
Fabric: Mystery vintage knit from @topbikephysio 's mum. Striped jersey (not on website) from Tessuti
Alterations: None to muslin (green dress). Lengthened bodice as described for final version 

Friday, 7 July 2017

Pintucked Gallery Tunic for mum

This dress was a long time in the making, so I guess it's fitting that it has taken almost as long to get on the blog.

It was a bit like the sea wall that was holding the tide back. and once it was finished there was the mad flurry of easy(ish) sewing in May and June. So yeah, it was a bit of a beast to make, but the result is so perfect for my mum that it was absolutely worth it.

The long story (you knew there would be a long story, didn't you?) is this: About a year ago my mum tried on an off-white linen dress with pintucks, long sleeves and a mandarin collar. She liked it but it really didn't fit. It was very wide in the shoulders, it was too tight in the back and bust and then, when she told me the price I was adamant that she was not to buy it.

I could do better for a third of that price I boldly stated.

It was just at the time that the Liesl + Co Gallery Tunic and Dress pattern had been released. It ticked most of the boxes: Loose, tunic shape, mandarin collar, long sleeves. it was just all those pintucks had to come from somewhere.

Since my mum and I are roughly the same size across the shoulders I had the perfect excuse to try the pattern out for myself. She tried mine on and we noted that there was plenty of room in the body, the shoulders were fine, the sleeve length perfect, the pockets an inch too low and the dress length was longer than she wanted.

I went on and made a calico muslin as a test for some of the changes that would be necessary. Namely, leaving out the inverted box pleat at the back, and the placket pleat at the front, drafting to a length that was halfway between the tunic and the dress, and then adding all that pleated width at the front.

Then the pattern was sliced horizontally to create the front and back shoulder yokes. I had already determined that if all my pleating happened below the neckline I would only have to pleat straight down from a horizontal edge - much easier!

Once I knew it could work I set it aside for a few months and then completely forgot how on earth I could make the maths work out for all those pleats. I nutted it over so many times and kept getting slightly different answeres - the main problem being that I really didn't know exactly how deep I wanted the pleats to be, or how many, or over what area they should be spread.

So I did the obviously easier thing and pleated the fabric then cut the pattern piece. That irked me as it meant wasting a bit more fabric because the pleating was centered on the fabric fold, but this was definitely a point reached when scrooge-y cutting tendencies had to be set aside.

The front placket as per the pattern was dismissed as the resulting 1" deep pleat was unwanted. So I turned to a kid's pattern and used an extended length version of the placket from the Jump Rope Dress. In later email conversation with Liesl she has pooh-poohed that placket as being not her best work, but I think it's a fabulous bit of sewing instruction especially for those who have never sewn a placket before. I'm told the tower placket instructions on her new shirt pattern is the real deal!

The sage green/grey fabric came from The Cloth Shop. I suspect it's a cotton/linen blend and the cross-hatch weave effect is printed as the back of the fabric is a more plain white. The fabric has the perfect light crispness to hold all those pleats but also the drape and hand that meant it fell nicely from the gathered points. And obviously it wrinkles like a linen!

Buttons were a perfect grey/green variegated plastic button. Matches like this can only come from a trip to Butotnmania with fabric in hand. I'm never disappointed with what they can find for me!

There's a lot of fabric in the skirt at the back as a result of all those pintucks. I was nervous about how that would look on my mum, but since she doesn't have a big backside to begin with I think it works really well for her.

This was new territory for me in terms of making such dramatic changes to a pattern. But then once I thought about it I could see that I had my basic block there with the Gallery Dress. I attribute some of my confidence in tackling this to the Building Block Dress Book, which, while it is for girl's dresses, shows how to take a basic block and manipulate it to get what you are imagining. I was able to see how each of these small changes to the pattern would result in a wholly different dress.

And a perfectly unique dress, 'cause no way am I doing it again!

Pattern: Based on Liesl + Co Gallery Tunic and Dress
Size: 12
Fabric: Linen/cotton (?) from The Cloth Shop
Notions: buttons from Buttonmania. Gutterman thread,... lots and lots of thread.

Monday, 3 July 2017

Snow play time!

Back at the start of June we found ourselves with a free weekend, which is a rarity, and it happened to be the opening of the "snow season".... So we went to the snow, or at least what there was of it.

Northern hemispere blog readers might find this hilarious, but we had a great time tobagganing on the swimming pool sized patch of man made snow. At least we did until midday when it had turned into the consistency of a 7-Eleven slushie, and parents were seen dragging their kids down the tobogganing slope.

While we might not have serious winter snow falls I was still going to make sure the kids were warm and comfy for their snow play. So, I hit up the fabric stash for the cuts of merino jersey I always buy when it's on sale at The Fabric Store.

P got leggings and a long sleeved t-shirt made form an olive green merino jersey I'd previously used here, and an almost-co-ordinating stripe used for his own jumper here, and some electric blue leftovers that date way, way back. The sleeve piecing was due to fabric shortage.

Patterns are Oliver + S Field Trip Raglan T-shirt and Playtime leggings. Both size 8 but lengthened by virtue of adding cuffs.

I didn't make any notes of measurements. Neither did I bother with stripe matching. Nor did I care at all about the construction techniques. These were banged out fast on the overlocker in order to do the job and make the deadline.

And then A got exactly the same. Size 6, I think. Also entirely leftover fabrics: Leafy brown dress here, pink deer skivvy here and cuffs from another of my skivvies in the earlier post link.

We hired snow suits, snow boots and a toboggan each for the kids and kitted them out in some super warm alpaca socks from Creswick Wool Mills. Perfectly toasty warm and dry for playing in the snow.

Neither of them had gloves, and since the bike commutes to school are getting pretty nippy on the fingers I decided to knock out a couple more pairs of mittens.

The pattern is from Little Things To Sew. I used some of the amazing double sided bonded, windproof fleece that I'd bought for school vests and only used once before, here. It's fun to be able to swap the fabric sides for red on blue, or blue on red.

Each pair of mittens was lined by creating another pair of mittens from the scraps of merino jersey. Then, instead of an external casing for the elastic I sewed a channel of both inner and outer mitten, threaded the elastic in, then closed the channel. The wrist edge of the glove is then finished with quilting cotton bias binding.

Here's the lining mittens pulled out to show. The jersey is so stretchy compared to the windproof fleece that the lining mittens are probably a bit big and wrinkly. I'd also enlarge the thumb piece if I was doing this again as that seems to be the smallest part, especially when doubled up.

I did point out to the kids that the mittens would not be waterproof, but of course they dragged their hands in the snow and got them soaking wet, then complained. Still, now that they're clean and dry, they're in steady use for the commute to school.

...and the thermals? Well they're turning out to be both kids preferred pajamas. Makes sense as the bedrooms in our house are about as cold as that snowfield was!

Which brings me to that inversely proportional law of enthusiasm about a sewing project. You know, the more you care for something, the less they like it. Well, it turns out the most useful things are those that sit right in the middle of the graph. No-one is overly enthusiastic: they're not that exciting to make; they're not what you're going to choose to wear to the school disco. But gee if they're not the most useful clothes of all.
For me, I was just delighted to be able to dig out my old gear and use that all over again. But you can see I did have my matching olive-green merino skivvy underneath.

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Art Museum Trousers twice straight up

Almost two years ago I made the kid two pairs of Oliver + S Art Museum trousers and they have been in constant rotation ever since. Yes, he LOVED those cheetah pants and wore them all the time. They have held up really well to wear, somewhat surprisingly given the fabric is just a cotton sateen, but they are definitely too short now. The denim pair have worn through at the knees as well as being outgrown. Time to double up on Art Museum pants again.


First up is the plain black denim pair. This is a small part of a great denim that I scored from Rathdowne Fabrics for only $5/metre due to flood damage. I think the bottom of the fabric roll may have been wet but it's washed up perfectly and even on the wrong side there's no stains or marks.

I love the welt pockets on these pants. They're largely decorative as I don't think I've ever seen him use them for holding anything. For practical sewing purposes they could be left off or switched for patch pockets, but they just look so cool and I always find myself sewing them anyway.

I got a bit scissor happy and snipped too close to one corner. On any other fabric it would have been barely noticeable, but of course denim has those really obvious white warp threads that will pop out and scream "hole pending here!". So I added some decorative and very functional topstitching!

The 2015 pants were straight size 7, this year they're straight size 8. How's that for easy fitting. His body measurements fit the size 8 perfectly but height is closer to size 9 or even 10. However this is one pants pattern with plenty of leg length. I stuck to the straight size 8.

To lighten things up a bit, the waistband facing and the pocket bags were sewn in a quilting cotton.

I'll take whatever modelling I can get these days. Sigh.

Back when I was first searching for fabric to make the Cheetah outfit, I came across some grey on grey big cat print denim. I happily snapped it up only to be told by the kid that it was Jaguar not Cheetah and therefore would. not. do.

A year and a half later I figured the jaguar jeans could be made to replace the cheetah trousers.

These are a fair bit easier on the eye than those cheetah pants - which curiously no one seems to want as hand me downs. ;)

They've already become the favourite pants and are first ones out of the drawer whenever they're clean. That's driving me nuts as there are two perfectly good pair of jeans (these and these) that are in that same drawer and never get an outing.

He was momentarily disappointed to discover the Jaguar jeans weren't lined like the cheetah pants had been. It appears the boy has developed a fondness for fully lined trousers. I've created two fashion monsters it would seem!

And another dab pose, of course.

Pattern: Oliver + S Art Museum Trousers
Size: 8 (no modifications)
Fabric: Black denim from Rathdowne Fabrics. Jaguar grey denim for The Fabric Store. Various quilting cottons for facings/pocket bags from the stash

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Sunday Brunch for a Saturday Matinee

This was one of those projects that wasn't on the schedule but just had to be made. This week's schedule was looking like being a few days sick in bed then tidy up the chaos of last weeks frantic sewing before the snow.

Curled up on the couch in what was probably a tonsillitis induced delirium, it suddenly seemed like a great idea to make the kiddo a Chanel-esque suit to wear to the ballet.

Back last winter when I made my Koos jacket and found that, even after my very careful layout practice and minimal fabric purchasing, I had about 40cm and odd bits of this wool coating left, I decided it would be perfect for the Sunday Brunch Jacket.

Because the jacket has a short bodice and moderately cropped length it was likely to fit on my bits of leftover fabric. I never did measure the cut of fabric that Tessuti posted me so I don't know if they were generous or I'd over bought, but whichever was the case I wasn't letting it go to waste.

Of course once I started fiddling with the leftovers I became convinced I could cut the skirt out as well and make a mini metallic wool tweed suit. The only fudging was to piece the waistband of the skirt and have a centre front seam.

Oh this pattern. I adore it.

I've made a straight size 6 as per her measurements. She's actually about a size taller but there was no fabric left to allow lengthening anywhere, and thankfully it doesn't look like I needed to anyway.

It was Tuesday afternoon when I was feeling well enough to get down on the floor off the couch and do some cutting. That left me with my rostered day off Wednesday, and a couple of evenings to make it all....

The wool coating kind of needed lining as it's a little bit airy in its weave, and lining would save me from bias binding all those seam finishes. If you haven't seen the insides of this jacket done as per the instructions then check out some of these versions in the Oliver + S Flickr pool. All those bias bound seams! So pretty.

Anyway, I lined my jacket with some 'shroomy brown silk from the stash and then only used binding to finish the edge of the facing. Hot pink satin for the win!

The lining was easy. Simply a matter of cutting everything in silk as well as the wool coating. Sewing the lining together, then attaching both at the neckline before attaching the collar and facing.

I shortened the lining sleeves and then managed to do that pull through thing to stitch the sleeve hem to the lining hem. Feeling clever that I didn't get anything twisted or mucked up, but then realising I had miscalculated how much to cut off the lining. After a rethink I should have cut a 1/2" shorter but I wasn't unpicking stitches from that deep pile wool tweed, so let's just say there's plenty of wearing ease in the sleeve lining - and hopefully it won't hang out the bottom and be seen.

Just a little self-congratulatory pat on the back for that hair braid. I usually struggle with her fine, soft hair, but I guess it was either overdue for a wash or just a little bit of that wax stuff did the trick.

The skirt is also lined with the same silk. That was a lot simpler, but of course I'd mucked it by forgetting to fill in that little cut away triangle where the pockets are on the front top side corners. Note to self: Lay pocket pattern piece and the skirt front pattern piece on the lining and then cut. Like I ever listen.

Is it just me or is a kick pleat on a six year old's skirt not ridiculously cute?

If I could have slowed time down even further, apart from sleeping and doing some chores (yeah right) I would have sewn a little white collared shirt (Music Class probably) to go with the suit. As it was, the Class Picnic blouse worked just fine for our Saturday matinee ballet

With no time to shop, the buttons, like everything else, would also have to come from the stash. Thankfully, when I'd attended a few of the Buttonmania open warehouse sales at the old city address I'd purchased "fancy coat buttons" without any real idea how or when they might be used. I held a mini audition for 4 different button types and these guys were the winners. Actually there were two others I liked more at first but they were just too big. Nice to know they're there for a bigger fancy coat another day.

The big gamble with an idea like "I'll sew a Chanel style suit for my six year old in that really expensive wool from Tessuti, and I'll do it in 3 days" is not whether it can be done. But whether the kid will wear it...

If you sew for kids you'll know about the inversely proportional relationship between your excitement for a garment and theirs. The more you care, the more they "meh" your exquisite sewing.

So, here's where I got extremely lucky.... school, A's class is doing some enquiry based learning thing about how we communicate and our idea of ourselves. From that, she has chosen the subject of how fashion has changed with time. She's told me that she and James (nope, I don't know him either) have chosen that topic because they're both really good at drawing. Turns out James draws a fine array of skirts: short ones, long ones, triangle-y ones...

Anyway I started talking to her about Dior's New Look and Coco Chanel's suits. A quick Google search and some pictures viewed on my phone and suddenly she was all over the idea of a wool tweed suit, just like Chanel (who I suspect is also another kid in her class, - skirt drawing skills unknown). This is perhaps now her all time favourite thing ever.

With kids I've learned to neither take pride in, nor try to understand little victories like this. Just enjoy it and roll with the moment.

The victory that makes perfect sense is the result which comes from sewing with impeccably good patterns and beautiful fabrics. I sourced and chose them. I'll take that as win for me.

Pattern: Oliver + S Sunday Brunch jacket + skirt
Size: Size 6
Modifications: Added lining to both jacket and skirt
Fabric: Italian metallic wool coating (no longer available) from Tessuti 
Notions: Silk lining from stash (via Rathdowne fabrics), buttons from Buttonmania, thread, 3/4" elastic.