Wednesday 26 July 2017

Pulling out all the poses: Another Jalie 3136

I whipped up another little leotard for my budding gymnast, and while she prances around giving every pose imaginable, I'll talk a bit about how it came to be...

About two years ago my sewing machine was playing up. It sounded like a badly tuned engine, there was grrrring instead of purring. It had been serviced just once before in it's lifetime and while it wasn't skipping stitches or sewing badly, it just felt unreactive and sluggish: like a car with the wrong kind of petrol in it.

I took it to the Janome dealership and it went off for a service. It came back free of lint but driving exactly the same. I took it back. No, the lady in the shop didn't want a demonstration or to hear my explanation of how I thought it felt. It could go back to the mechanics as the service was under warranty.

Another two weeks went by and again it came back exactly the same. This time I had the good sense to try it out in the shop before I took it home. I demonstrated how, when I put my foot lightly on the pedal nothing happened. Sure, if I floored it the sewing machine took off. The sewing machine sales lady had a go herself - here it needs to be said that she was obviously a quilter not a garment sewer.

She floored the pedal, executed a few large sweeping circular motions and declared the machine to be perfectly ok. But I don't sew like that I said. And for the way I want to sew, this machine is not working properly anymore. It could go back to the repair guy one more time she relented. This time with my comments and notes about what they were actually meant to be looking for: a sluggish delay when starting to sew, and then a somewhat jerky, out of control speed once going...

You guessed it. It came back with a note from mechanics that nothing could be found to be wrong with it. So obviously I needed a new sewing machine mechanic...

I thought I'd try that funny little sewing machine repair shop in my local hood. The Italian guy who used to be a weightlifter - beautiful video link here.

Within a moment of describing to him how the machine felt, he knew it would be the pedal that was the problem. The pedal! That bit that the Janome people had never looked at, and of course it made perfect sense. I was pressing and the "feel" just wasn't there. I was lifting slightly and the machine was stopping immediately, or even worse, continuing to run on like a bolted horse.

Of course I'd sewn over numerous pins in my time and done a few bits of other damage to my machine and so Nick did a lot of work on it. Along with a new pedal I had the footplate replaced, some other belts or internal bits.... It cost more than double what the Janome guys had charged for their service but it was perfect!

Now since then I've learned a few things about Nick. His wife has sewn for ballet and figure skating and Nick loves a chat. Be prepared to take your time. The kids don't mind 'cause Nick is always happy for them to rummage in the scrap fabric basket and keep any treasures they find.

Jump forward 18 months and the new pedal was playing up. He tinkered with it free of charge. While we were there A scored the piece of fabric that would go on to be her first Jalie 3136 leotard. Seen here.

But there continued to be some loose connection in there. Some days it would be perfect, other days it would cut in and out most annoyingly. About a month ago it went back again. Nick replaced the whole internal workings of the foot pedal, and again, refused to charge me anything.  I walked out with a perfectly functioning sewing machine and another little piece of sparkly, stretch velour fabric.

And that's the tale of her second Jalie 3136 leotard. The fabric remnant required some pieces to be cut upside down. Annoyingly, I hadn't realised the fabric had such an obvious nap until I took these photos. It's less apparent in real life and half the time she's a blur or upside down anyway!

Pattern: Jalie 3136  I really enjoy making this pattern. The neckline binding technique is especially pleasant. (yep that's how exciting my life is)
Size: J width, L length - oddly the cap sleeves seemed tight on her other version, yet the full length sleeves are quite loose
Fabric: free scrap of black sparkly stuff from Nick Ciancio Sewing Machine Repairs. Nude sparkly stuff from my stash via GJ Fabrics (by the way, if you say you're buying fabric for a costume you get 10% off! Did everyone else already know that?)

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.