Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Mr Sneeze packed the things he'd need for his journey (mainly handkerchiefs)...

The internet does not sell Pocoyo-branded hankies.  The internet only supplies ugly overpriced children's handkerchiefs.  Toddler Button is OBSESSED with Pocoyo, and he also likes to put a tissue in his pocket because Grannie showed him how.  I do not like tissue washes, and now I have a huge amount of tiny pockets to check.

On a separate note, I am not too hot at rolled hems on my sewing machine.  I also have a large amount of awkwardly sized selvedges in cheap poly-cotton left from making curtains.

I have solved all these problems!  I have practised my rolled hemming on 9" square bits of curtain lining to produce 10 neat hankies.  I have also printed 2" square images of Pocoyo and his friends on iron-on inkjet t-shirt transfer paper.  (Mr Sneeze and Mr Silly included as bonus hankies.)  BAM!  Free (or almost-free) hankies that Toddler should love.  Not a moment too soon, as I caught him pilfering a tissue from the kitchen drawer this morning and trying to shove it up his sleeve.

Toddler owns over 10 Mr Men books, but will only allow me to read Mr Sneeze (fortunately handkerchief appropriate) and Mr Silly.  This is because he thinks that Mr Silly is rewarded with a drill at the end of the book.  It's actually the "Nonsense Cup for Silliest Idea of the Year", but there's no persuading him that a drill isn't actually the better prize.

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Boo hoo to the saggy dressed skinny doll

I have just finished sewing the little boy doll from the pattern Simplicity K1900 which my sister-in-law kindly gave to me, and I have a LOT to say about it.

Firstly, big thank-yous to my S.I.L who was very kind to give me the pattern, and I can say with conviction that the pattern picture on the front of the envelope is very cute.  I hope you won't be cross with what I have to say about the pattern itself!

I decided to make boy doll.  I had lots of fun picking out fabrics and cutting him out and embroidering his face.  It was all fun and games until it came to turning the limbs inside out, and then it was HILARIOUS.  I followed their suggested 1/4" seam allowances, and I even made them scant 1/4", but still it was almost impossible to turn the skinny arms out through the minuscule wrists.  The pattern piece suggests the wrists are 7mm across when sewn, giving a circumference of 14mm after stuffing, which means they have a diameter of under 4.5mm.  Do you see the madness here?

Finally I prevailed without torn fabric, and it was time to stuff them.  Har-de-har.  I could just about ram a 4mm knitting needle down the arms (see above comment on the puny diameter), so I managed to use a combination of the knitting needle, tiny bits of stuffing and a kitchen funnel inserted in the arm end to cram stuffing into the hands, arms and legs.  It took me an entire evening to stuff the little blighters for a single doll.

The rest of the doll body went together easily, and although he looks a bit malnourished, I proceeded onto the clothes with hope in my heart.

I made the shirt first.  Here I discovered that they'd omitted to tell me in the cutting directions that the neck facing was needed for view D (the boy) as well as for the girls.  So out came all the fabrics to cut the extra piece.  They give no directions for seam finishes, which is fine if the doll is to sit on your shelf, but less fine if you expect it to withstand the attentions of a lively 2-year-old.  I elected to zig-zag the seams I could.

I then made the little dungaree shorts.  Very cute on the photo.  However, when it came to dress my doll, he does not look like the picture.  Sad times.  The shirt is definitely more roomy than the envelope image shows (especially around the arms) and doesn't quite come down low enough to be sure that the doll doesn't feel draughty around the tummy if he moves.  It requires careful tucking to ensure he's covered below his shorts waistline.  In addition, the shorts are pretty roomy around the hips.  I know that I followed the seam allowances correctly on the shorts because my notches all lined up to the bib part perfectly when I came to attach it, so we can discount incorrect construction on my part.  I can only assume they've cunningly pinned the excess behind the doll before the photo, or else they made the model to a better fitting pattern than the one supplied in the envelope.  That's a bit of a shame.

I had no more luck with the felt shoes.  I sewed them as directed, and this resulted in giant moon-boots that fell off his feet.  I took in an extra 3/8" at the front and re-cut the piece to correct this.  That's quite a correction to get it to look like the photo on the envelope, I'd say.

The hat is also a sad disaster.  Despite adding an extra line of stay-stitching around the brim to prevent the felt stretching, it does not sit snuggly on the dolls head as per the picture.  It looks like a sad loose bowl of custard plonked on his bonce, and comes much further down than the envelope photo shows.  I fail to see how this can go so wrong for such a simple pattern piece.  I can only assume trickery on the part of the envelope photographer.

I made three shirts, two dungarees, two shoes and a hat for my sad doll, because I'd already cut them out at the start.  I hope toddler likes him, but I won't blame him if he doesn't.

So, in summary, cute pattern envelope, shame about the contents.  Either all the boy doll clothes are wrong, or else they've got the wrong seam allowances on the doll itself.  Also, I have learned that I hate sewing titchy tiny doll clothes with a passion.  I don't think I'll be making another doll in a hurry.

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

Notes on designing curtains with rings

This is a post where I point out things to future Alice which should have been obvious to past Alice when she bought curtain fabric for her spare room.

For context, I am making curtains with 40mm metal eyelets at the top.  I need metal eyelets because I am interlining with blackout fabric, and making a polycotton lining too, plus buckram.  This is quite a thickness to expect shonky plastic rings to withstand.  Therefore, I purchased some badass tools to insert metal eyelets from Hanolex.  It involves the biggest hammer I may ever own.  The break even point in tool investment seems to be when you are making more than one set of eyelet curtains, especially when you take into account the recorded delivery postage in sending your beautifully handmade curtains off to someone else to butcher in the eyelets for you.

I like to use the blackout as an interlining rather than a lining fabric.  When making curtains, one tends not to take the lining all the way to the curtain edge.  I find the blackout fabric to be quite stiff compared to some fashion fabrics used for the front of the curtain, so when using it as a simple lining, you end up with floppy leading edges.  I've even seen this done on sample curtains in a well-to-do posh national chain of stores.  Eugh!  Therefore, I like to use the blackout as an interlining, cut to the finished curtain size and tacked inside, making all the curtain the same stiffness.  I then use a thin cotton or polycotton to line the curtain.

Designing your curtain

Here follow some complicated trade-offs and calculations that I won't repeat here, but consider the following constraints:
  1. For a pair of curtains, each curtain needs to be at least twice the width of the window area it has to cover.  E.g. for a 2m wide window with a pair of curtains, each curtain needs to be 2m wide or more.
  2. You need an even number of rings, and Mr Google suggests typical spacings for 40mm rings are 16-18cm.  The spacing you choose is to some extent determined by how far your curtain pole stands off the wall, which should be just a little more than half your ring spacing.  Clearly if you have M rings, your total curtain width will need to be M x ring spacing.  This allows you a bit of leeway to play around with the number of rings, the ring spacing and the total curtain width, subject to the next constraint.
  3. Typical fabric widths might be 140mm, so you may need several drops of fabric in order to get your total curtain width.  Consider where the join should be between two drops: it ought to fall in a furrow between two rings, i.e. with an even number of rings each side of it.  Make sure your ring spacing and number of rings allows you to get this seam positioned correctly, bearing in mind the width of your fabric (which is fixed).  It's not as easy as you'd think.
  4. With all of the above, make sure you're allowing for turnings at the edges on the front fabric!  On top of the finished curtain size, I allow 5" at the top, 3.5" at the bottom, and 2.5" at each side.  I allow a 1/2" seam to join drops.
Having solved that headache, you might want to consider where you place the seams between drops of blackout interlining and polycotton lining.  I didn't want a stiff section in my curtain, so I plan to stagger the seams.  Since it's the next stiffest fabric, I'll place the join in the blackout lining in a different furrow from the front fabric (with an even number of rings each side).  The polycotton lining is relatively thin and floppy, and in any case is on the reverse, so I'll place the join mid-way between that of the front fabric and blackout, even though this is on a projecting fold.

The narrowest drop of front fabric probably looks best toward the outer edge of your window on each curtain.

For lining, I plan for it to appear on the reverse of the curtain as a neat rectangle coming 4.5" down from the top, 2" in on each side, and 2" up from the bottom.  I allow 1/2" for turning on the top and sides, but 2.5" for creating a deep 2" machined hem along the bottom.

I will use 5" buckram along the top edge for stiffening, and I expect to place my eyelets with their midpoints 2.25" from the top of the curtain.  The outer two eyelets are spaced by half the eyelet spacing from the curtain edges.

Matching obvious patterns

I should have unrolled several meters of the fabric from the roll and stood well back before buying.  What I thought was a lovely swirly pattern turns out to have VERY obvious repeats which really ought to be matched.  What is more, my guestimate of yardage in the shop was pretty good at first sight: I bought 6.5m, and my later calculations show I need four drops of 62" each, which is 6.3m with no pattern matching.  Clearly this is very frugal of me, but I am now cursing myself for not allowing enough for pattern matching.

When you are standing in the shop with a winging toddler, how much extra fabric should you buy for pattern matching?  Turns out to be quite simple.  Firstly, measure the vertical pattern repeat.  Then buy enough for the number of drops (N), plus N times the pattern repeat.  So for my fabric, I should have bought 4 x 62", plus 4 x 24" (because 24" is the enormous pattern repeat distance).  So I ought to have purchased just over 8.8m to be safe.  That's quite a difference from the 6.3m!  I now need to attempt to buy another 2.2m+ of the same fabric, six months after my original purchase, if they still have it.  ARGH.