Wednesday, 2 September 2009

I've moved and here's the link

Some day I am going to learn how to do pretty "click here" style links.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Goodbyeeee, goodbyeeee....

This will be my last Tops & Tails post. Eagle-eyed readers will have noticed that the blog's title vacillates between Tops & Tails and Les Petits Anglais. I started out my business life as Tops & Tails because I made nappies and hats. Well, I no longer make nappies and Nappydashery have started a Tops & Tails shop using the Tops & Tails domain name, and now I mostly make children's clothes, with the occasional hat thrown in as the fancy takes me.

So, I am 're-branding', as I understand it is known in marketing circles. I have switched my blog posts to my new blog, Les Petits Anglais and have also opened a Misi shop under the same name. I have a currently empty Les Petits Anglais shop on Folksy and this is where I shall be selling my autumn line from. Assuming I ever actually get the autumn line done!

Soon (I use the word loosely, you will understand!) to come on Les Petits Anglais blog will be a pattern-drafting tutorial for an A-line pinafore dress, which will be part of my autumn line, and a knitting pattern for this tank-top for the digger-mad boy in your life. So it'd be great to see you over on the new blog.


Monday, 31 August 2009

The Olivia set

This morning Nigel took the children out for breakfast so I could finish an outfit for one of James' schoolfriends. It's her birthday soon and I wanted to make her a dress as a present. I don't normally do this but her mother is a friend of mine and has given us binbags full of clothes for Laura, so I thought it would be nice to return the favour with a handmade birthday outfit. Rachel chose the pattern herself from my collection and the Olivia knit dress with pinafore is definitely her style.

I had some lovely check cotton from Dots n Stripes so I used that for the pinafore and used some self-dyed interlock for the underdress. The interlock came from Specialist Sportswear (an Ebay seller). It's gloriously thick, soft and stretchy and although it isn't listed, he does ribbing to match the interlock. I shall be buying lots more!

I really liked the idea of the pinafore/knit dress combo, but didn't like the gathering of the pinafore at the waist, so I re-cut the pattern so that the gathering was omitted. It's definitely better than the original but now it's made up, I think the fundamental problem with the design is that the knit underdress hangs straight down, while the woven pinafore sticks out. It just looks odd! I'm tempted to take in the sides of the skirts to make it more streamlined but will wait until I've seen the dress on before I decide for sure. It may just be that the when the knit is filled out with five year old girl, the outfit falls into place.

But there have been other problems! I had to hack at the pinafore's armholes because the armscye depth wasn't as deep as the underdress'. Too irritating! And I only realised this when I'd topstitched the pinafore's armholes so I just added some binding to the armhole to cover the hack-job. The underdress was just the right length on my son who is a good 10cm shorter than Rachel, so I added a Geske style flounce to lengthen it. Many of the examples I've seen are worn quite short, almost as tunics. They look lovely, but this is meant to be a party dress, so it really needed to be below knee length. I added some poppers to the pinafore (Rachel doesn't like buttons), and it's done.

All in all, the Olivia underdress is a great pattern - I love it, and will be making another one (or even two!) as cute comfy Autumn dresses for Laura. I also love the idea of the pinafore, but wouldn't be making another from the Olivia pattern. Which is, I think, given how few examples of the pinafore appear on Flickr something that other people have also found!

Sunday, 30 August 2009

Not that he deserves it, mind.

James has been composing a song. I have not yet heard it, but I understand from my husband that it goes like this:

I love daddy.
I love granny.
I love grandpa.

Chorus (loudly and with relish): And sometimes I love my muuummy

I love aunty.
I love Laura
I love nana.

Chorus (con amore): And sometimes I love my muuummy.

Repeat loudly, inserting different people in the verses, but always having mummy in the chorus.

I wouldn't mind, but we hadn't even fallen out!

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

And finally, something for James

Regular readers may have noticed that although I mention two children in my profile, the only one I seem to sew for is Laura. There's a simple reason for that: I very rarely sew for James. This is mostly because, if given the choice, he'd rather have a new digger than a new t-shirt. But it's also because it's very hard to find nice fabric for little boys' clothes. It tends to be funky camouflage (which I really don't like) or too babyish for a four year old. But today, I hit the jackpot and won 1m of Tyrrell Katz jersey fabric on Ebay!

I am completely thrilled about this - I actually gave James the TK Working Vehicles card for his birthday this year, which he really liked. I also thought about getting him a t-shirt but balked at the price - £15 can buy a lot of toy-digger-action! At the time, I googled TK fabric but found nothing. And now I have a whole metre which will make many, many t-shirts because obviously I'm going to cut the fabric into squares or strips, rather than squander the lot on just one, or even two, t-shirts. I might even offer one up on Folksy - I can't be the only mother with a digger-mad son in the house. But it rather depends on whether James feels he can spare one....

And by the way, I don't often sew for him, but I do knit, so he isn't really neglected! And every garment I knit for him features - you've guessed it - a working vehicle!

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

The ruffler foot hokey-cokey

Many moons ago I made Laura a ruffled Feliz. It took 9 hours, 6 of which was spent making and attaching the ruffles. I loved the dress and didn't begrudge the time but I wasn't going to tackle another one without buying a ruffler foot. So I did.

It arrived, I took one look at the foot, one look at the scanty black & white instructions, and I put both away. The ruffler gathered nothing but dust for several months.

In my recent overlocking enthusiasm, I made Laura a very striking shorter-length Anna, and a pair of jeans to go with it. They didn't 'go'. In fact, my eye was so far out there, it must have been in the next village. So I decided to lengthen the Anna with a ruffle. This was the perfect opportunity to get to grips with the ruffler, so I got it back out. And after trying to work it out for over 30 minutes, I put it away again, and started ruffling by hand. Forty-five minutes of fruitless gathering later, the ruffler was retrieved. The instructions weren't any clearer BUT Google had the answer. Or rather, Carla C from You Can Make This had the answer.

Thanks to her idiots' guide to the ruffler foot, I eventually finished the ruffle and attached it (next time, I'll be confident enough to do it in one operation). So if you, too, are battling to work out which side of your ruffler foot is up, and just what the fabric guide is, then this is the link for you! Carla, I am grateful.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

A peacocky kind of party dress

As part of the successful UFO & Mending clear-out, I finished a silk dress for Laura this morning. I can assure you that I do not make a habit of giving silk dresses or indeed silk anything else to children, but this fabric was £8.750/m in the John Lewis sale, I had vouchers burning a hole in my pocket and, well, it was sooooo gorgeous I couldn't resist!

Now, I've never (sucessfully) sewn with silk before, and this was tissue-fine, crinkled silk. With spangles. Gorgeous but terrifying - rather like Daniel Day Lewis. So I turned to my trusty friend the internet for help and advice. And it didn't let me down! I wanted something that would be super-simple to make, partly to let the fabric do the shouting and partly because I feared I would run out of skill on a more complex design. So I did a very modified Ottobre 3-way dress (#18 from issue 03/09). With the help of a #60 needle and some fine silk thread, it wasn't nearly as tricky as I'd expected but I still wouldn't fancy doing anything harder than vertical or horizontal seams.

I did a kind of lettuce edge hem because I couldn't think of what else to do with it. I was going to line it with some aqua cotton lawn, but decided that it might impede the flow of the silk. I found a suitable ribbon in the stash but I think a longer wider one might do the dress more justice.

There's two pieces of silk left, each about 50cm long. One is blue and the other is aqua, and I'm not quite sure what to do with them. No doubt the internet will provide the answer eventually!

It isn't my favourite dress - I've never been a huge fan of the pillowcase style - but it's definitely Laura's! I had to prise it off her, which was very gratifying. I think when you do lots of sewing for your children, they are apt to take it a little for granted - human nature, I guess. We have a party early September so she can peacock in it at that. She'll be thrilled!