Wednesday 28 February 2018

Simple Sketchbook Short

It's the last day of summer and I'm about to sew myself a summer dress, but thought I'd sneak in a quick blog post first.

Not much to say about these shorts: Oliver + S Sketchbook shorts size 8, but the boy's modelling cracked me up enough that they warranted a blog post of their own.

I'm on a kick to use up the fabric in my stash, especially the smaller remnant pieces and this little bit of fabric was a left over from this dress (now too big and handed on so no chance of accidental matchy-matchy).

The fabric is a kind of twill with a pale blue shot effect. It's as thick as a light denim, is gorgeously soft and has a kind of peach silk texture. Needless to say he loves it!

I recently found an old knotted friendship bracelet that I'd made myself in high school. It was knotted on and I wore it continuously for maybe about 4 years before I got to the point at university where I had to scrub for surgery and then it needed to be cut off. The kids were fascinated by it, and by how long I'd worn it - there are specks of Mission Brown house paint on it where I painted the external timbers on our family home and it really tells a lot of stories.

Anyway, both kids had chickenpox last year. They're vaccinated of course, so I had healthy, well, bored and quarantined kids needing to be amused. I taught them how to do simple vertical half hitches and the friendship bracelet craze was reignited. We didn't think it would last past the first day of school as they have a uniform/dress code that prohibits jewellery, but it's hanging in there unnoticed so far.

A nice accessory when you've already (already!!) outgrown the sleeves on your Buttoned-Up Button Down shirt.

Anyway, the shorts: They got some topstitching in pale blue thread to match the shot weave and that's about all there is to say. It's nice to see him in some colour (that's not leopard print ;) ).

Monday 19 February 2018

Another vintage birthday

Without realising it, I've gone  vintage for my daughter's birthday dress again. The sixty year old tutu for her sixth birthday has been followed by this very Brady Bunch-esque dress for her 7th birthday.

Note: She hasn't watched a single episode of The Brady Bunch but intuitively chose the Alice role for modelling her dress and insisted on a wooden spoon and mixing bowl as props.

In the middle of my lycra sewing I had the sudden hankering to make something in a nice, crisp cotton. I had already cut out a birthday leotard for A, but couldn't resist surprising her with a dress too.

The pattern came  to me via my aunty Yvonne, and I'm pretty sure my cousin Narelle, who would have been a size 6 in about 1977 would have worn this dress. And I'm pretty sure I would have been jealous of it.

It's a single size pattern and so I was keen to use it while I could and be damned if she didn't like it.

The fabric choice was a no brainer :)
It came to me from @topbikephysio 's mum who was clearing out her old piles of fabrics and I suspect it matches the vintage of the pattern.

The pattern has some lovely bust darts - an amusing first for a size six dress - that add a little shape to the A line shift. The neckline is oddly constructed, using two bias strips, one as a facing and the other almost like a mini neckband. I'm not sure it wouldn't have been easier to use one wider bias strip, but the seam around the neckline does help it to behave, so it was an interesting exercise even if it's one I'd never bother repeating.

The button placket on the front is purely decorative and so there's a 7" invisible zipper in the back to open and close the dress. Again, I seriously considered ignoring the pattern and cutting the back dress on the fold and doing a proper button placket (like in this tutorial I wrote). But there's fun to be had in following old patterns, even when the zipper instructions are as brief as "sew zipper in back opening. Follow instructions given with zipper."

I didn't have enough fabric to bother with pattern matching anywhere, but then my faux placket came out being so nearly, but not quite matched. I had to dig out the remnants and cut another placket that would be quite deliberately mismatched. The buttons were some little white plastic ones with tiny etched criss cross markings on them that suited the dress well.

The instructions also gave no indication of hem length. The sleeves were, I think, marked with a 1&1/4" hem allowance, but the skirt hem just said to turn up as desired. I'd been nervous about the dress being very "vintage short" so I added a 1&1/4" hem to the original pattern length and used that as my hem allowance.

I think it's adorable, and thankfully she seems to be genuinely pleased with it. It may not be the first dress she will reach for, but I anticipate it will still get a bit of wear. Well, I hope so, 'cause it's incredibly cute on.

Pattern: Butterick 4042 - vintage out of print (but here's a size 8 on Etsy)
Size: 6 (breast 24") single size pattern
Fabric: Vintage poly/cotton
modifications: Added 1&1/4: hem length

Friday 16 February 2018

Secret Valentine Exchange and sweet kids

Ah holidays... When I wasn't standing in the river being photographed in my swimwear (eye roll) or riding my road bike up the mountains, or chasing the boys on the mountain bike trails on a borrowed mountain bike... I was stitching.

 ... and eating and drinking obviously. :)

Every year I look forward to participating in the Secret Valentine Exchange, and since it coincides with our annual end of school holidays vacation, I always take my project away with me.

This year I was creating a gift for Simone in the Netherlands. She was very brief in her little survey about her craft tastes. For favourite colour(s) she listed simply: earth, and for favourite styles/textiles etc she said, even more simply: handmade.

So, you can imagine my heart leapt at the Earth bit. I am all over that as a colour scheme! And then I figured the Handmade made part gave me carte blanche to do whatever the heck I liked! Nice one Simone.

I did do a bit of stalking/research via her instagram and web pages to discover that she makes absolutely lovely jewellery. I also saw a very handsome dog pop up in the occasional photo and one of my original plans had been to make a nice dog collar and matching lead set. But then I realised that the elegant silver buckle, slide, D-ring and clip would all weigh so much that postage would be crazy. Another plan....

I'd been wanting to make another cross stitch cushion since the one I made for Sanae herself (one of the Secret Valentine Exchange organisers) and found a simpler looking one in one of my Stitch Idees magazines. - bonus points for getting to participate, ever so lightly, in #sewjapaneseinjanuary.

So my little bundle of Aida linen and DMC threads came away on holiday and during the evenings I stitched, and stitched, and stitched.

Of course it took longer than I had predicted and I was mindful of needing to sew it up quickly when I got home. And of course I failed to do that and made all the same mistakes over and over again that I had made when I sewed Sanae's cushion cover.

To make a fully lined, envelope cushion cover is actually not that hard but it can be a brain teaser to get everything in the right place so that when it's turned out all the different layers are in the right places. I've drawn myself a diagram and some step by step notes and I really should photograph it as well one day. My brief, late night, ill tempered online search failed to turn up any tutorials that showed what I was trying to do.

I had the 28 count linen and DMC threads in my stash, but nothing suitable for the back or lining. I needed some swimsuit lining from GJ's Fabrics anyway and knew they would have the perfect fabrics for this project so off I went.

The backing is a linen of a similar  mushroomy grey to the DMC thread, and then the lining and self made piping was a quilting cotton that co-ordinated nicely.

By the time I had finally figured out the cushion construction I was in no mood to sew buttonholes, but luckily my grey snaps were perfect and in 5 minutes it was all done.

I sent it off to Simone without an insert and I was delighted to see that not only did it arrive in time for Valentine's Day but she seemed sufficiently pleased with it that she went out and purchased a cushion insert for it that very same day. Phew. It's nerve wracking creating for other makers, but immensely satisfying as well.

Meanwhile, a Secret Valentine gift was winging it's way to me, all the way from Tuscon, Arizona. Arriving the day before Valentine's Day I only had to sit on my hands for 24 hours before I could open it.

Where I had been gifted a valentine partner with very similar tastes to mine, I can only imagine my poor gift maker's face when she read my survey. My gift creator was Kirsten, aka @bobbypinbandit.

Her Instagram feed is all colour, delicate stitching and really, pretty things. In making my gift she made something exceedingly beautiful and very pretty but also adhered to my beige/neutral and useful ethos.

She made me this beautiful little needle book. The front and back covers are padded with internal pockets and look at that gorgeous wool embroidery on the front. Those flowers are so fluffy and soft it's crazy!

The internal pages are cream felt, and she included a card of thread, a few needles, buttons and safety pins for me. I'm super-intrigued by the perfect scalloped edges on those felt pages. I'm thinking there's a tool I don't have yet... ;)

Just a few days before receiving this gift I had gone into the city on the train with a bag that needed some running repairs to the leather strap. I stitched it up on the train ride but then was left with my needle and thread hanging out in my coin purse just waiting to impale my fingers when I reached for my coffee money. I'm always joking that "safe" and "elegant" are two states of being that I find simultaneously unobtainable, but damn if this gift doesn't shoot me straight to swanky-safety-stratosphere levels! Thank you Kirsten , it is perfect and stunningly beautiful.

Another little holiday gift was getting to catch up with Maiike of Maaidesign when we were on holidays. We hit the mountain bike trials together then drank coffee and chatted all things swimwear and activewear sewing. A pretty perfect morning in my book!

To finish up, a gift for a kid, designed by a kid.

One of our kid friends was having a birthday, and since this cool little kid falls into the category of having a mum who I really enjoy spending time with, she qualifies for a handmade gift. That's how the equation works, seriously.

My kids get pocket money and purchase gifts for their friends out of their own pocket money, but then for those select kids with the awesome-parent asterisk next to their name, I supplement with a handmade something. My daughter chose the pattern and the stash fabrics and trims and thus this super sweet skirt was created.

The pattern is Pattern C from Sew Sweet Handmade Clothes for Girls. I had it already drafted off in size 110cm which A is still wearing 2 years after I made it here. This friend is a bit shorter than A, so I knew it would fit ok. The fabrics are a Japanese lawn and a Nursery cotton, both from Spotlight but long vintaged in the fabric stash.

I would never have put them together but I think she chose well and it's really sweet.

I hope everyone had a happy Valentine's Day. We've had a birthday at our house too recently, so there'll be more birthday gift sewing to share soon.

Sunday 11 February 2018

Lisette B6358 - Swimwear Sewathon Part 4

You can't say you haven't been warned...

There have been plenty of opportunities to unsubscribe, block the blog or generally ignore me, yet here I come, in a bikini no less and you're still looking?! :) 

I understand. You're here for the pattern review. Well let's have it!


This is Lisette for Butterick B6358, a swimsuit pattern with a one-piece and bikini option. I thought I'd have a crack at the bikini, since I'd just made the one-piece Vogue swimsuit.

The top has a cute tie at the centre front and princess seamed cups which gives the option for colour blocking. The pants, while not as all-encompassing as the other Lisette pattern I'd used last year are still pretty generous in their coverage.

I was happily sewing along until I came to the bit where the elastic that goes around the top of the bikini top ends and the tie sections are edgestitched. I'd been zig zag stitching my elastic in place but surely I wasn't going to zig zag stitch on the ties? It was then that I remembered there is a full sew-along tutorial for this pattern on the Oliver + S blog.

My query was answered there (just switch to a straight stitch) and I was reminded of the option of adding some plastic side supports to the bikini top. I'd forgotten about that part and hadn't left the lining seam allowance free to accommodate them.

I tried the top on, determined it definitely needed the side supports and also decided I was never going to add bra cups anyway, so I could use my lining and cup lining layers to enclose the stays. Here they are in all their bodgy, last-minute-insertion glory

I used some quilting template plastic that I had lying around and cut these little paddle-pop stick shaped stays. They work perfectly and give the sides of the bikini top the structure they need to not crumple. It's rare that I would say I gain anything from sew-alongs, as frequently they just seem to be a photographed rehash of the instructions. But this one is useful and I'd encourage anyone to refer to it before getting started.

The other tip I'd take for next time is to use the Jalie method of inserting elastic into the straps. In this Lisette pattern the strap is sewn as a loop, turned right side out, then the elastic threaded into it. Problem being that elastic always seems to want to twist inside tubes. In the Jalie Gigi bikini that I'd just made for A, the elastic is stitched to the seam allowance of the stitched strap tube before turning it right side out. Then, when the tube is turned the elastic is neatly anchored. The Jalie pattern instructions are always available as free downloads, so you can see the elastic technique on page 9 here.

That would mean shortening the strap length to match the elastic length (can you see it's slightly ruched above?) but that's no problem.

I also wondered if I shouldn't insert some elastic into the waistband and the extensions that form the back waistband ties. I went with the pattern instructions and didn't, but if you like your waistband to have a bit of oomph and holding power then I'd say add elastic. I've used the Carvico VITA lycra here and it's wonderful firm, compressing lycra with great recovery. I'm guessing a flimsier lycra would make for a very "soft" waistband.

We've got a beach holiday planned for April and I definitely want to make the one piece view and give the leg openings a bit of a higher cut. A lovely commenter on Sewing Pattern Review referred to that as a French Cut leg, which sounds much better than my "stuck-in-the-eighties leg". So I'll keep the top half, add the stays, change the strap technique and French-ify the legs. Should be good...

Pattern: Lisette for Butterick B6358 - view A/B
Size: 14 - as per measurements
Modifications: last minute additions of side stays otherwise as per pattern
Fabric: Carvico VITA recycled nylon lycra and mystery stretch mesh lining cause I'd run out of the nice stuff

Friday 9 February 2018

Jalie 3671 Gigi Bikini - Swimwear Sewathon Part 3

Still going with blogging about this summer's swimwear and it's bikini time!

I'm letting A go first 'cause she looks much cuter in her bikini.

I have never seen her more excited about something I've sewn for her. She put it on the moment it was finished and then wore it every single chance she got. At home it was constantly on and then when we went out somewhere it was all I could do to convince her to put clothes over the top. It was not coming off. Ever.

The pattern is Jalie 3671 Gigi. I've sewn the View A with single tie back, halter neck straps and lower cut waist. Straight size J from memory. I didn't bother with the drawstring ruching of the sides of the bikini bottoms. There's so little fabric there anyway!

It's ridiculously cute in that tiny pieces of fabric way, and this particular fabric was just crying out to be a bikini. It's a branded swimwear fabric (Sea Folly I believe) that I picked up at GJ's Fabrics when I was doing my lightning tour of Melbourne's fabric stores to compose this shopping guide.

The fabric is a cotton-feel fuschia base with these tiny scalloped orange ruffles. In all it's quite thick and substantial and is pretty slow drying as far as swimsuits go. That didn't stop her from pulling it on, still wet, every morning we were on vacation. Thankfully GJ's also stocked some of the wider (2cm) bikini clasps needed for the back closure.

My only issue with the pattern is that the bottoms are a bit prone to riding up at the back. I need to give her bottoms the leotard-like, low cut adjustment and maybe try these ones out for me.

...and it's my turn next (trembling...)

Monday 5 February 2018

Jalie 3668 Valerie - Swimwear Sewathon Part 2

With the pre-holiday swimwear sewathon in full swing I realised that if A and I were both going to have bikinis - a lifelong dream of hers, we would need some sun protection too.

Enter the Jalie Valerie (3668) pattern. A raglan sleeve rashie with various sleeve lengths, cropped or regular body length and the option to insert a front zipper. So, if A was getting her full dream realisation she would have had the cropped torso version, but that doesn't give the sun protection she needed so was nixed. Sorry kid.

I'd actually traced off this pattern for both kids last summer but never got around to making them. I stuck with the size I'd traced, J width and L length as that's what her more recent leotards had been. The body fit is fine and the sleeve length is super generous, but this kid always seems to need more torso length and she does, much to her delight, get a little bit of her tummy exposed.

The colours were chosen to try and co-ordinate with her new bikini (apparently the BEST thing I've ever made her and yet to get it's blog feature). The three fabrics are all the Carvico VITA recycled lycra from my stash.

I figured I could make another and use up some too small for anything else remnants of swimsuit lycra with some more colour blocking. The sleeve length on this one was determined by how much of the floral fabric was left. The pink and green are Carvico VITA. It hits just above the elbow and is perfect.

For my version I was keen to have the front zipper, but the couple of suitable, open ended, plastic zippers that were in my stash were all about 5cm too short. I was determined to stick to stash sewing, and didn't have time for zipper shopping anyway, so mine is another straight up View A

I matched mine to my biking too, using the bright lime green and the forest green of my bikini and then threw on black sleeves.  It looks weirdly lumpy above due to the ties on the front of my bikini, but if you follow me on Instagram you've already copped an eyeful of what it looked like when worn alone! :)

Mine was size V as per my measurements with no alterations to the pattern until I'd made it up. Then I trimmed about 4cm off the sleeve length before hemming them. They really are generous sleeves as I'm normally one who either adds length or is barely satisfied with  long sleeves.

This is a great rashie pattern for us girls (and probably P really) but to avoid the feminine waist shaping I might have to pick up Jalie's men's raglan T-shirt pattern to use as a rashie for Flipper. But he can wait until next summer, there's more for the girls first!

Saturday 3 February 2018

Vogue 9192 - Swimwear Sewathon Part 1

So it happened again, I found myself sewing a bunch of new swimwear just before we set off on holiday.

We're back home now, and back to school and work, so it's time to relive the awesomeness of summer holidays and share the awkwardness of photographing swimsuits.

When in doubt, look away and pretend you're somewhere, or someone, else.

So this Tarzan-esque number is Vogue 9192, which has an impressive number of different garments in the one pattern. I've made View C, one of two one-piece costume options included in the pattern.

I'd initially envisaged making this swimsuit in black, just like the pattern cover version. I set off for Jimmy's Buttons and, of course, found the perfect circular, dark steel O ring. But as I was talking to Jimmy about what I was making he also found a bamboo ring for me. Well that really appealed to my swinging-from-vines-into-the-river holiday fantasies and the black suit would obviously have to wait...

I had some khaki green lycra but thought that might be taking my Tarzan fantasy a bit far , so settled instead on this nice wine-y purple-y red.  - appropriately called Merlot on the  Aussie version of the Carvico VITA swatch book.

This is some of the wonderful VITA Xtra Life lycra that I got via Eclipse textiles and a friendly, anonymous, intermediary retailer (you rock!). Made by Carvico in Italy, the fabric is knitted from Econyl, a 100% recycled post waste nylon filament. This is swimsuit fabric made from old industrial carpets and discarded fishing nets collected off beaches, and it's fabulous. Matte, suitably thick, perfectly coloured, UV proof, chlorine resistant etc etc. It's the bees knees of swimsuit lycra, so long as you can cope with solid colours only (or are able to buy the base substrate and do your own dye sublimation - anyone wanna go shares in a sublimation printer? ;) )

Back to the pattern.... I cut a straight size 14 as per my measurements, and for this first go at the pattern, I made no changes.

I think I might be a bit stuck in the eighties when it comes to swimsuit styles as I'm finding these leg holes too low for my liking. Now I'm not suggesting going the full 80's Brian Rochford, but when I searched for images to try and explain what that might mean to an international audience I found this reference for early-mid nineties Brian Rochford and there's my leg hole height right there, please.

Especially when it comes to the back view. I'm pleased that I'll never get a wedgie in this swimsuit, but it's definitely a bit too conservatively low for my liking. Oh, and the back view is really evocative of a Tarzan suit! (must remember NOT to make this up in stripes for fear of looking like an olden days circus strongman)

Those few wrinkles in the mid back section are all that results of the gathering for the right side seam. It seems like quite a bit of gathering as you sew it, but once on, the side seam doesn't look gathered, just a bit puckered. I'd be tempted to either shorten that side and straighten the seam out altogether, or lengthen it at least half as much again so that the little wrinkles turn into some proper ruching.

The swimsuit is fully lined, front and back and then there's a shelf bra which is finished with elastic under the bust. I had very little left of that nice, cotton touch, self striped lining fabric (like this), so mostly lined with a mesh knit as I knew that self lining with the VITA would make it way too thick.

The mesh knit is a bit synthetic feeling and quite a bit more stretchy, but has so far stayed on the inside and not wandered out under the elastic and into view. I did have enough of the nice lining for the shelf bra, and a little gusset bit - that open ended crotch pocket that always just filled with sand when you were a kid at the beach! Can't believe I elected to add that to my swimsuit after all those years of wondering why swimmers always came with a sand pocket just where you didn't want one!

No fear about the one shoulder leading to wardrobe malfunctions, it stayed put nicely even when I was being silly.

I'm not thinking of making another one of this swimsuit straight away, but I'd be tempted to make the other one-piece view and raise the leg openings at least an inch. But then I'm just about to say that about another swimsuit pattern in another blog post....