Friday, 30 May 2014

New multipack vest extenders!

There are new mixed fabric selection multi-packs of vest extenders in the shop!
Get them while they're still there!  :-)

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Heads still be growing, I still be sewing.

I have made many ... reversible ... bucket hats from this pattern by Oliver & S.  Toddler Button keeps growing, so I have been forced to stitch him a new hat for the sunny days.  We're now in size M (19") which sadly means there is only one size left before I have to draft my own hats.

Behold the epic new hat on a theme of racoons, with a sunny yellow reverse side:

I've got construction down to a fine art now, and I've eliminated all hand-stitchery.  It's charming but I don't have time for that malarky.

Do you want to know my non-hand-stitch secret...?

Alright, here it is:
  1. Construct the brim in it's entirety,  including the top-stitching.
  2. Construct both caps individually including the top-stitching around the top of the crown.
  3. Pin the brim to one of the caps, right sides together and machine stitch around with a 3/8" seam allowance.
  4. Stitch around a short distance (only 2-3") of the same seam but with the usual 1/2" allowance the pattern dictates.  In this area you'll have two rows of stitches.
  5. Pin the second cap around the same seam.  For this, you'll have the two caps right-sides together with the brim all squashed up and sandwiched between them.
  6. Sew around the seam with a 1/2" seam allowance, leaving a gap of 2-3" matching exactly where your double-line of stitching was.
  7. Trim and grade your seam allowances, so the cap allowances are 1/4" and the brim allowance is a shade more.
  8. Turn the hat right-sides out through the gap and press the seam flat.
  9. Close the gap left from turning the hat out, which will only appear on the inside of the hat (due to your careful double-stitching on the other side).  Press the seam allowance in this area appropriately and pin the gap shut.  Carefully top-stitch around the whole hat on the sides, which should catch the gap shut at the same time.
  10. Superb!  A hat with no hand-stitching!

The squashed on floor look: how the hat will spend most of it's life.

Hats look better on heads, so I'm sorry for the floor-based pictures.  It's raining and TButton has the lurgy, so there is no hat-wearing today.  He had a tantrum when I put his old sun-hat in the washer and the new one just wasn't the same (apparently), but I think he'll be over that soon.  I'm aiming to appeal to what remains of his 6 month long obsession with the colour yellow.

I got the fabrics from Backstitch at Burwash manor.  A lovely shop!  :-)

Sunday, 25 May 2014

More Mizzen Shorts

The last pair of shorts were so obnoxious* that I had to immediately remedy them by making some more in nicer fabric.

These shorts are in a nice pale blue linen-type fabric that drapes beautifully.  The blue is actually a soft sky-blue, not the bright shade my computer is currently rendering for me.

I went all-out with some back patch-pockets, but didn't do as much top-stitching as I'd have liked because a) I thought I was about to run out of matching thread, and b) I was bored of making the shorts already.

I went for the super-low-opening fly again, with concealed poppers.  It totally works for me, and this time I remembered to put the poppers in before finishing the fly top-stitching.  Wow!  However, I didn't remember to put the elastic in before closing the waistband, so never fear: my seam ripper still saw some action.

I'm so glad to be done with these.  I've got a lot of vest extenders to make now (the shop is empty), but more excitingly I've got some super scrummy birthday yarn to knit with and some epic 50p/m bargain fabric from Walthamstow Market to sew up.  Sorry TButton: Mummy knows you need more shorts and vests and a raincoat and a hat, but Mummy wants a new blouse.  Too bad.

* I went to the park with TButton wearing the terrible union shorts and this soldier shirt (because it was the only one that matched), and then realised it was a terrible UKIP-style combo.  I almost felt I should apologize to the other mothers...  ARGH.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Little fox-and-dots hat for a little head

A colleague of mine is having a little baby!  Hooray!  I couldn't resist the urge to make baby a little hat a week ago.  I hope it will fit: I made size XS, but it's supposed to be for 6-12 months and baby is not here yet.  That said, XS was too big for some of TButton's friends at that age, and much too small for TButton.  So hopefully it will be sunny at some point when it fits the new baby.  The pattern is from Oliver & S here.

I was super-excited to find almost a full fat-quarter of fox print fabric in my stash, and then fortuitously a pale blue dot fabric which is completely non-related but matches so well!  Plus, the hat is reversible.

I tried a different construction method this time, top-stitching the brim before attaching it to the hat.  I then used a cunning technique to attach both sides of the cap to the brim without any hand-stitching.  Honestly, who has time to hand-stitch?

The whole hat only took a few hours.

UPDATE:  Baby is here!  It's a girl!  Happy birthday little one, and congratulations Mummy and Daddy!

Sunday, 18 May 2014

B-o-r-i-n-g nappy pants.

I'm a big fan of me old cloth nappies.  Not because I'm a tree-hugging earth-mother type, but because they work better for me than disposables.  I actually don't mind doing laundry, and I'd rather wash the nappies than endless sets of soiled clothes.  We have Tots Bots bamboozles, which are a bamboo-based two part shaped nappy.

Anyways, little Button needs boosters now he's bigger, which are just an extra absorbent layer.  Tots Bots old-style ones are no longer for sale (boo hoo), and although their new ones are excellent, they're a bit more pricey when you need 12 more boosters for daytime wear.

I elected to make his new boosters myself, using fabric from Plush Addict, who had 20% off nappy making supplies during real nappy week.  I went for bamboo velour for the outside, with a single layer of Zorb sandwiched in the middle.

The bamboo velour has a super slinky drape and quite a lot of stretch.  The zorb feels like a very dense rough quilt batting, almost like felt.

Apparently, the zorb shrinks quite a lot in washing, but you can't pre-wash it or it will fall apart.  Therefore, I bring you the cunning cutting sizes, as determined by my own experiments.

For 1 booster:
2 pieces of 12cm x 30cm bamboo velour
1 piece of 12.5cm x 32cm zorb

Because the zorb is 115cm wide, and the velour is 150cm wide, you can manage to get 13 boosters if you plan your cutting carefully by buying only 0.5m length of zorb, and 0.75m length of the velour.  (I didn't care whether I cut on the lengthways or crossways grain; they're just nappies.)

To make up, I found the best method was pin the zorb inside the bamboo layers, stretching the velour to meet the edges of the zorb all round.  This is not a problem as the velour is so stretchy.  The right-sizes of the velour should be outside.

Next, I used my machine to sew around the edges with a zig-zag, making the corners curved slightly.  I found it much easier to hold the pieces by machine stitching first, (before the overlocking stage) as they're really stretchy and slippy.

After machine stitching, I trimmed the corners into a curve with scissors and overlocked around the whole edge with a 3-thread overlock.  I found I had to increase my stitch width (compared to how I'd set it for woven cotton), and 4-thread overlock didn't work so well.  I know the overlock cuts and sews in one, but I still got better results by trimming the corners with scissors first; it was all too much for the poor machine otherwise.

The booster looks all contorted from the oversize zorb inside, but after washing it shrinks to match the velour and voila!  We have a delightfully flat booster!

I did this 13 times.  B--o--r--i--n--g.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

It's hot; I have made shorts.

Brits abroad!  Whoa!

It's all sunny and TButton doesn't own a single pair of shorts!  Let the crisis-sewing commence.

I drafted some shorts in "age 2" from the Aldrich book (which I have many reservations about, but at least the baby trouser block is reliable for cloth nappies).  I wasn't sure if the shorts would fit, because he was asleep when I drafted them so I couldn't take any measurements.  Therefore, I was determined to make them from some fabric in my stash that I wasn't keen on and I'm certainly not keen on these shorts!!!

The good news is that they turned out to fit pretty well.  The bad news is that he's now going to have to wear them if it gets any hotter.  They remind me of shirtless overweight motor-boat owners holding cans of lager.  (Sorry.)  Brits abroad!  ARGH!

I didn't have enough cotton flag fabric or blue polycotton to make the full shorts, hence the mix-and-match legs.  I was hoping that plain blue would tone the flags down a bit, but somehow they're even worse.  Mum gave me the flag print to make myself a Geri-Halliwell-style union dress about 12 years ago, but the fabric wouldn't even union-up my left leg now (boo hoo).  Sorry about being rude about your fabric, Mum.  I hope you like the shorts!

The back is still nasty!  Woo hoo!
The back has an elasticated waistband, but the front waistband is plain.  There's plenty of room for his cloth-booty.

No about of clever fly detailing will make these shorts a pleasure to put on.
I made a super-low-opening fly to make them easy to get on, with sneaky poppers that are hidden when they're closed.  The waistband has a button fastening with some slightly aged white button I found in my jar.  He's lucky the button wasn't pink.

At least I know the pattern is okay, so I can make more shorts in less nasty fabric.  I've got some reasonable denim and some pale blue linen, and I might buy him some nicer beige twill.  Meanwhile, at least he's not going to swelter in trousers.

I named the pattern "Mizzen Shorts", which is a pleasing sail reference.  After some sail fact trading with Mr Button (who has never heard of a Rotor Sail), he alerted me to the Water Sail.  Wow, that's a funny sail: looks like the boat's pants are falling down.


It got really hot this afternoon, and TButton tried his new man-wear to play with some water in the garden.  Rock those shorts, Toddler.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Sorbetto: the revenge of polka dots

You get a hastily taken wonky image of this one.  Told you it's not a photography blog.  My left hand is being dragged away by a toddler who is in a huff.

I'm not wild about my fabric choice here.  It's a bit Minni Mouse, and polka dots on the binding AND the main fabric?  What was I thinking?  I'll tell you what I was thinking: I like red, and I like purple, and I like them together, and OH LOOK POLKA DOTS.  At no point did I envisage the unholy mess they'd be when placed together on this garment.  In addition, the fabric has too much body for this top.  It would make a lovely dress, but this top would be better in a cotton lawn or something.  If I tone it down with a cream cardigan it's totally good for layering, so I'll still wear it.

I made a bunch more pattern changes after my last post about fitting sorbetto.  I took another 1/2" off each side seam and shaped the CB even more.  In total, this lost another 3" around the waist.  This was because my husband described it as looking like a sack.  I also lowered the arm-holes a tad.  I think I'm finally done with pattern alterations.  It must have worked though; I wore the top for a whole day and didn't feel uncomfortable or self-conscious  in it, the way I do with some of my efforts when the fabric is pulling and the fit is bad.  The first day I spent in this dress was a saggy baggy hell.

Hey ho.  I think I'll make it more tastefully next time.  How about a lace yoke and plain bottom?  Or some nice pale broderie anglaise with a coloured trim?  Or a light chambray with pintucks instead of a centre pleat, and floral trim?

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

I'm going to bias bind EVERYTHING.

Sewists* of the internet!  For years I have been baffled by your impeccably bias-bound seams.  For a time, I thought it was just the camera angle, but then you started to post close-ups.  Close-ups!  I ask you!  I was despairing in my soddy and wonky binding.  I began to avoid binding.  The thought of a Hong Kong seam made me shiver.

No more!  Your secret is out!  Mwa ha ha.  My husband has bought me perfect bias binding for my birthday (18 again of course, but I won't say which base that's written in).  Now I finish binding with ease.  Take THAT, Sorbetto top!

* I hate the term sewist; I'd say "sew-er".  However, it turns out it's indistinguishable from the the infrastructure that conveys sewage when written.

Monday, 5 May 2014

Super fabric haul, much to sew.

Today, I bring you news of great shopping!  Apart from sharing my excitement at cheap fabrics, I'm going to be helpful (to your heart, but not your wallet) and tell you where to get it.

First stop: if you're ever near Doncaster (oop North), go to Waltons Fabrics in Goldthorpe.  Good times!  There is much spandex and giltter, but some real finds amongst them.  Apparently, many roll ends are ex-designer and almost everything was under £5/m.  I filled my boots with fabric, the likes of which I've often seen in commercial clothes but never for sale in fabric stores elsewhere.

Second stop: if you're more local to Cambridgeshire, there are many fabric stalls at the St Ives market, every bank holiday.  This morning I scored some stripey chiffon at £1/m.  You can't beat that for a muslin cost!  I just hope my first chiffon attempt will be wearable, because I quite like the fabric actually...

In other news, it's been real nappy week and I've used the discounts offered to buy a bunch of absorption fabrics to make more nappy boosters for TButton.  We'll see how that goes.  My washing machine wants me to hurry up and make them, because it's fed up of washing trousers.

Instead of making dull nappy boosters, I've actually been sewing a sweet sorbetto by Colette patterns.  I've done two muslins (out of an old circular skirt I found in my fabric box) and a bunch of pattern alterations.  I'm about ready to sew up in the real fabric, a deep red cotton with cream dots from Waltons Fabrics.  I've got purple for the bias binding.  I must be obsessed with polka dots; I've had the same fabric before in pale blue and navy blue already.

Behold, the fist muslin: a straight-up size 12, just taken in by 1.5" at the top of the straps (as is customary for me).  I just noticed TButton in the shot behind me, grabbing the clock off my bedside table: naughty!

In this first image you can see the sad evidence of a need for a full bust adjustment (FBA to its friends) in the drag lines at the sides.

Hello diagonal drag-lines from bust to waist!  Delighted to meet you!
Here is the sad back of the top.  Delightfully too large across the upper back (see baggy fabric at the armholes), and in need of a slight sway-back adjustment (see fabric pooling over me bum).

I also think the top is a little short to be wearing with my jeans, so I decided to lengthen it a bit too.  Before I took the top off, I marked the bust point by drawing on myself with chalk.  I transferred the mark back to the pattern to help with my FBA.

Sad in front, sad behind.  Sad sad sad.
I got out my scissors and set to work.  Behold how I ran out of sellotape and resorted to masking tape like a trouper.

More tape than paper.

I lopped 1.5" off the straps, did a 1" FBA,  changed down to a size 10 from the armholes upward, moved the bust dart up by 3/8", added 2" length to the bottom, did a 7/8" swayback adjustment and added a CB seam, and finally graded in a little at the waist on the back only.

FBA with a moved dart and added masking tape.
You'd think a simple loose-fitting top wouldn't need much fitting, but you'd be wrong, apparently.  Hey ho.

Hoorah!  Time to sew up a sweet sorbetto!

Friday, 2 May 2014

A birthday dress

Over the third week in April, I made a little dress for one of TButtons little friends, who's reaching the grand old age of 3.  I didn't know what to get her, but then I had a brainwave and realised she'd probably be getting big enough for a pattern from Burda Magazine.

This photo doesn't show the top-stitched box pleats all around the skirt: boo hoo.
I have a couple of issues kicking around from ye olde 2008 (that's 6 years ago, can you believe it?) when I bought them from W H Smiths if they had 2 or more patterns I liked in.  It was pretty hard to find a branch that stocked them.  Since then, the magazine is now called "Burda Style" and it's stocked in my local Tesco: hoorah for dressmaking returning to fashion!

The magazines are still pretty awesome: you get a good range of patterns for your £5-ish, although you have to trace them yourself and add seam allowances.  The instructions are pretty brief too (a few bullet points), so not too great for a beginner.  However, if you've made a few garments before, you'll probably be fine with that.

The dress I made was from the November 2008 issue, dress 139, in the smallest height 98 (roughly age 4).  The charmingly translated German copy next to a photograph of the dress in floral needlecord reads:
"For saucy girls flowers bloom in winter too, e.g. on this pinafore dress!"
With such a recommendation, I couldn't not make it!  I can't believe that this is the first garment from the magazine I've actually finished!  I've made toiles of a few, but never got further than the first fitting.

My mother-in-law acted as my sidekick while I traced and cut out the pattern and fabric and tailor-tacked, while Mr Button and his father put fitted carpets and wardrobes in the shed.  It was fun!  M-in-L suggested I cut the centre back on the selvedges so that I didn't have the bulk of extra overlocking down this seam, which is a top idea.

Buttons!  Hoorah!  More top-stitching!  ARGH!
I used some spotty needlecord and lining I had left from this skirt, and I used buttons from my trusty jar.  I even found a concealed zipper lying around; although black would have been better, at least the pink matches the fabric dots.

Pink zipper: quite cool, actually.  Plus, more top-stitching...
I did the whole double top-stitch thing, even on the lining.  It felt like construction took an age when every seam was stitched three times.  I can't believe I haven't put a zip in for the last 3 years (what on earth have I been up to?) but this one went in like a dream first time.  It helped that I remembered to use a couple of strips of fusible interfacing along the centre back before inserting the zip; I've had problems in the past where the fabric has stretched and looked baggy around the zip.

Can you see the sneaky concealed zip?  No, thanks to Mr Fusible Interfacing!  Cheers, Vilene!

The lining hem is a rolled hem done on my overlocker, and I'm pretty pleased with the result.  I find any other sort of hem is really tricky on the slippery fabric as it stretches and wrinkles when you get to a bias section.

Tasty overlocking on me old hem.
The needlecord presses really nicely and the whole dress feels like it's got reasonable body.  The skirt looks really fun and swingy, so I hope little miss will enjoy wearing it.

I challenged myself to try and make this dress as robust as possible, and as much like a commercially purchased garment as I could.  To that end, I even added a label.

Who knows how well iron-on t-shirt transfer on cotton twill tape will wash?
Happy Birthday, Miss M!