Saturday, 30 May 2015

A little catch-up

On my sewing table

I've been making a new summer dress out of some spotty blue and white cotton I bought on my honeymoon (so it's only been in my stash 7 years).  I was holding off on making clothes for me for ages because I'm breastfeeding, but then I read Gertie Sews Vintage Casual and I thought: centre-front zipper!  Hel-looooo baby!

I'm using my own self-drafted pattern and it would have gone together really quickly were it not for a hiccup with the overlocker which ceased to proceed.  More of which later.

Since it's not done yet and there are no photos, I'll save more waffle on this for later.  Hold on to your horses, I bet you can't wait.  ;-)

On my needles

Lots of lovely people I know are having babies soon!  There's a bunch in June/July, and another bunch in Nov/Dec.  I must knit faster!  Some items have been completed already, and some are still planned in my head, but of course I can't post anything until the babies have their gifts.  So there will be a bunch of knitting posts through the rest of the year about projects I'd finished 6 months previously.

I treated myself to a set of ChiaoGoo Red Lace interchangeables with my birthday/Christmas money plus some proceeds from the sale of 20m of my mum's pink upholstery velvet (thanks, Ebay and Mum).  It's very decadent to spend that much on needles, but as my entire family say: "You never regret a quality tool purchase."  I think that might be a family motto.

Out of my toolbox

So, half-way through the summer dress my overlocker (US translation: serger) started to make noises even more alarming than usual.  If I put my foot down, it said CLUNK CLUNK BANG and then the threads snapped.  It was already pretty noisy, as toddler pointed out: "Mummy, use that 'chine: Uh-uh uh-uh UH-UH!"  It finally got to the point where no tension settings worked to make a nice finish.  I couldn't pretend any longer that it didn't need a service.

It's surprisingly easy to take a Baby Lock Prestige 750DS to pieces.  Much easier than my sewing machine.  Instead of stupid plastic lugs everywhere that must be carefully eased apart, the Baby Lock is just screwed together neatly.  The main carcass is metal and all components are easily accessible when the plastic casing is removed.  As usual, the cure-all was just a thorough dust, clean and oil.  The quantity of fluff was amazing, but probably unsurprising after the amount of fluffy nappy-related fabric that has been put through it.  Here I must thank my unendingly patient husband who volunteered to do the cleaning and oiling of the actual joints on the basis that he's more patient and methodical than I am.  I cleaned the tensioners by removing each one in turn and flossing it with a cotton fabric scrap.  For most bits, we used the standard light sewing machine oil, but I did splash out on a can of Lithium grease to use for one metal-to-metal sliding joint which looked like it had been greased with this before.

The whole machine hums happily now.  Splendid!  Another £70 saved.  Ker-ching.

For my next trick

Tomorrow the second ever outfit-along starts!

I'm taking part again this year.  Last year I missed the deadline by sewing in yarn ends and buttons.  Boo!  This year I'm almost ready to go.  I'm making Hetty and Simplicity K1653 (which is a v-neck mock-wrap dress) in this fabric/yarn combination:

I already washed my practice fabric which is black jersey and swatched the lace pattern for the cardigan.  The real dress will be made in the floral jersey in the picture.  £5 for 3m: score!

Wish me luck!

Sunday, 10 May 2015

I totally made another Ottobre shirt!

I have previously made a shirt from the 1/2015 issue of Ottobre magazine, see here.  I made another for my own toddler.

"I want to see [myself] doing cheesing!" - Toddler

The fabric is a nasty cheap polycotton from St Ives bank-holiday market.  I was so disillusioned with it's cheapness that I couldn't be bothered to pattern-match.  I also ended up using thread that was too light in colour because I lost my matching spool somewhere on my messy sewing table.  It turned up just as I finished the shirt, so it got used for the buttonholes only.  Oh well...

I got in a big pickle with the plackets last time and ended up drafting my own.  Time and reflection are a wonderful thing, and I totally understand them now!  I nailed it!  The key phrases that I wish were in the instructions are:  narrow right placket to be applied like an edge binding, and left placket to be applied to the front a bit like an appliqué strip.  And yes, you do need a seam allowance on the opening edge.

I also nailed the hem this time around.  I clipped the curves before overlocking the edge, then turned it under once and top-stitched.  That works!

I re-used six super red buttons from one of my mother-in-law's shirts.  Even omitting the collar buttons, I still didn't have enough matching buttons.  I used two of the six matching buttons on the cuffs and the remaining four down the front.  The lowest button on the front matches in style and size, but is blue instead (turns out my mother-in-law had two identical shirts in different colours).  Finally, the buttons on the collar-stand and pocket are the same red but completely different styles picked from my button jar.  You totally don't see the collar-stand button that much anyway.  Toddler is fascinated with the non-matching blue button: I caught him showing it to his father and then his brother.

I made the 98cm size again (approx 3 years old size), and it fits my tall slim 2 1/2 year old like a glove, which means it won't last long.  (He's just gone into UK age 3-4 clothes.)  I will not make this size for him again: time to trace out the next size up.

The fit of the shirt is amazing, absolutely perfect for my boys.  The outlay on the magazine is totally worth it just for this pattern.  I am already planning shirts number 3, 4 and 5!  Next I am going to make the trousers in the same image.  I scored some purple twill for £2/m from the St Ives market, it's going to be EPIC.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

A coat for Miss F.

I once posted about "The encyclopedia of advanced dressmaking" from the 1970s as my favourite dressmaking book.  I now have other favourite books, but I still like the patterns and illustrations in this one.  One of the patterns ("his and her fur") is for adorable little sheepskin duffle coats for children and I've wanted to make it since before my boys were even thought of.

I needed a birthday gift for one of their little friends, and I don't often get to sew girlie things.  I'd just sorted through my stash with the helpful and ever tolerant husband, and I remembered I had a little deliciously soft purple coat fabric left over from this 1969 coat (which incidentally I am still wearing 5 years later).  I think the purple coat fabric might be wool (or at least with wool content) as it smells like a wet sheep when you press it with the steam iron.  I also had some fun deep red cotton with hearts on it.  The perfect chance to try the duffle pattern!

The book suggests to enlarge the pattern using graph paper (a small pattern graph is provided).  Since it's no longer the 1970s, I used the magic of a scanner to copy the page, threshold the image into black and white in Gimp, enlarge it in Inkscape and print it out again directly at the correct scale.  Toddler helped me tape all the pages together.

Check out my scanned book-page pattern!

I managed to cut out the coat... just!  I had to re-draft the hood into a three-piece version, because I didn't have scraps big enough to cut the original two-piece one.  This page was helpful to confirm that a shaped gusset wasn't necessary- I just went with a 3.5" wide strip.

After cutting out, I had some small 3" fabric scraps left, but that was about it.  I didn't have enough red cotton to cut sleeves out, but I found some purple lining in my stash that was lopped off the bottom of the skirt of my purple practice wedding dress when I made it into a cocktail dress.  It couldn't be a more perfect match, and it will be better to have silky sleeve linings anyway (so you can slide your arms in and out).  I also found some of my original purple thread spool - bonus!

Check out those silky sleeves!

The pattern calls for toggles, but I doubted my ability to find matching purple cord for them.  I was just about to gamble on an online button purchase for something that didn't match when I remembered I'd bought a job-lot of purple miss-matched buttons for £1 a while back.  When I looked, there were 5 matching buttons of the perfect size!  Can you believe it?  They're pretty much the only matching set in the bag, and they were perfect!  Seriously, dudes, this coat was meant to be: all I've had to buy was one extra spool of purple thread.

I have some beef with the pattern.  Clearly my method allows a perfect reproduction of the pattern proportions given, so it's not my pattern copying.  Yet the two sleeve edges are totally different lengths and can never match!  Dumb!  Also the pattern match notches provided on the underneath of the sleeves and armholes don't match, which makes you wonder why they bothered providing them.  Neither do the pocket markings.  Notches on the hood/neckline would have been handy, but when the others are useless I can see why they didn't bother.

The suggested method to make the patch pockets is just to sew lining and outer fabric right-sides together, turn inside out, press and apply.  I decided to change the method of patch-pocket construction so that the lining is not visible along the outer edges when the patch is applied.  I mitred the corners of my outer fabric, and trimmed 1/4" from around my lining.  Then I stitched the lining to the pocket piece with at 1/4" allowance.  It's a little fiddly, but the result is that reverse of the patch has the lining inserted 1/4" from the edge all round.  That meant that even if the edges rolled a little as I applied the patch, the lining wouldn't peak through.  I think if I were to make the pattern again, I'd also add a front facing to the coat, so that the lining doesn't peak around the front edges.  I'd also add some sort of stabilising inside the front edge to support the buttons and button-holes.

No word on how deep the sleeve hem is supposed to be, so I picked 7/8" because making it the same as the 2" lower hemline looked a bit short in the sleeve.  I decided to catch-stitch the main coat hem in all the way around so that it would be more hard-wearing: the little ties between coat hem and lining they suggested to make at the seams would surely not last a toddler 2 minutes! I also added a hanging loop.

Finally, I like it when people post pictures of their sewing space.  It's always a beautifully well-lit white room with colourful spools on the wall, a neat inspiration board and a tidy white desk.  Alternatively they produce wonderful candid finished shots of their adorable toddler progeny in a meadow with their new hand-sewn clothes.  I'd like to provide an antidote to this and show you the gritty reality of sewing with a toddler and baby.

I do my sewing on the dining room table, which is in a sadly windowless room in the centre of the house.  I cut out on the floor in the most well-lit part of the house: in front of the French windows in the lounge.  Behold:

As you can see, I am keeping the sharp pins, scissors and sleeping baby away from the wrecking toddler by means of a playpen unfurled into a room-divider.  There are also exercise balls, empty coffee cups and bags of fabric scraps.  Photo taken with my back to a sea of plastic toy vegetables and bolts mixed up with jigsaw pieces all over the rest of the lounge carpet.  Since I took this photo, toddler learned to open the gate by himself, so pins and scissors and baby all had to be moved.

Coming soon: adorable toddler frolicking in meadow, for which read: blurred image of muddy boy in a field, wearing wellies and a bobbly garish knitted hat sadly covered in sawdust and wood-shavings from the garage.