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!

Friday, 21 August 2009

One dull job out of the way.

After a week's work, I've finished the business cards and flyers. I doubt if St Martin's will come knocking on my door on the strength of them, and I'd love to know how I can stop the images from corrupting every time I save them, but on the whole I'm pleased with them. Which is a good job because my desktop publishing enthusiasm (such as it was!) has dwindled away completely. I just need to get some name labels and size labels, and I'm done!

Tomorrow morning is earmarked as a UFO day - which translates as 'deal with the Unfinished Objects' Day. So more dull jobs, but there's something very satisfying about clearing a batch of jobs you don't want to do from the 'to do' list. Yesterday, I acquired another such job. I dyed some fabric using Dylon's Rosewood Red. I love Dylon's machine dyes - they're easy to use and come in nice clear colours that don't fade much over time. And they're reasonably cheap. I'd been dithering for a while over this Rosewood Red colour, which on the box is a dark red colour. The word "Rosewood" made me suspicious but I needed a dark red so I went for it. And this hideosity is the result. This is not red. This is brown - and a yucky rusty brown at that. Believe me, this is a very flattering photo of it... it is much uglier in real life. So now I need to get some dye-stripper (Dylon think of everything!) and try again. Probably this time with Tulip Red which is actually red, even if it isn't quite the shade I wanted.

Once I've got all that out of the way, I can get back to sewing.

Monday, 17 August 2009

Time to do some marketing, and not the fun shopping basket kind!

It is becoming clear to me that I need to do some marketing. More specifically, I need business cards and flyers, and that means that I really need to get myself a logo. OK, I could pay for one but I would then have less money for fabric, so I'm having a shot at doing something myself.

Last night I sat down with a pad and pencil and did some playing around. I eventually came up with this. I'm going to use the middle drawing and work it up into something that looks OK in black and white for labels, but can also be extended and made more colourful for a leaflet and website banner. Doing this is quite fun in a way, but I won't be sorry when I've printed the cards and distributed the flyers and I can get back to 'real work'.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

A productive weekend

Yesterday I gave the overlocker a work-out and it performed beautifully. Over the course of the day I completed this custom order, together with a couple of similar outfits for Laura, who is growing bottom-wise out of her RTW trousers. Her wool nappy covers are fantastic in so many ways, but they do make for a very large bottom - even my usual reliable brands can't always cope. But the two pairs of trousers I've just made should do her right up to potty training, though not beyond. It is possible to have too much nappy-ease!

When James reached this stage, I casually gave his size 86s and 92s to the charity shop, only to want them back when he came out of nappies and his size 98s slid gracefully over his pants down to his ankles. So, the charity shop will have to wait for Laura's for another couple of years.

During the day, it became clear that neither the overlocker nor the sewing machine were happy sharing a table, and nor was my back, so we had a trip to Ikea and bought a computer table for £13. I often wonder how Ikea can sell so cheaply, but am afraid to enquire - we are boycotting so many shops and brands already, I don't think I could cope with adding Ikea to the list! But my sewing room is now so comfortable I have no excuse for ignoring the growing pile of mending and UFOs. Obviously, I am not trying hard enough to find one...

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

I have an overlocker, wooo hooooo!!!!!

So thank you, darling DH! It's a second-hand Husqvarna Huskylock 905, bought on Ebay for an excellent £210 including postage. It even arrived ready threaded. So far, I've just serged the edges of some fabric ready for dyeing but it even made that tedious job fun. I can't wait to do an actual garment with it!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Time to suck it and see

The skirt itself is a doddle to make. I cut it out, adding seam allowances as I cut. There are two centre panels (cut on the fold), four side panels, four godets and two yokes (cut on the fold). I then cut the same again in some cotton batiste for lining the skirt - I know it's only a toile, but I still like it to be lined.

Then I seam the godets to the side and centre panels. All seams are pressed and top-stitched as I'm going along. I never used to bother topstitching but I have since realised that omitting this just results in a slightly shoddy looking garment.

I then attach the skirt front to the the front yoke lining, and the skirt back to the back yoke lining, feeling mightily relieved that the pieces go together after my hack job on the pattern pieces. I then seam the skirt front to the skirt back.

Next I seam the yoke front and back shells together at the sides, before attaching the yoke lining to the yoke shell, right sides together and pressing the hem of the yoke lining so that I can just top stitch it in place once I've put in the elastic at the waistband

I cut a piece of elastic to cinch in the skirt back and attach it at the top of the skirt, sandwiched between the shell and the lining. I attach it by stitching in the ditch of the side seams of the shell. It would have been a good idea to take a photo of the process, but I forgot.

I then press the top seam where the shell meets the lining, and seam the shell and lining together just under the elastic to form a casing for it. I continue the seam across the front to make a faux waistband. It would have been a good plan to attach interfacing to the front faux waistband, but I thought of it too late.

I do however remember to do another seam across the elastic casing, which makes the casing look neater and stops the elastic from rolling. On the downside, it makes the skirt virtually unalterable if you ever decide you need to replace the elastic with a longer piece to prolong wear...

Finally, I hem the skirt and it's done. It isn't as swingy as I wanted, so next time I'll put in quite a bit more flare either by cutting the panels and spreading them, or by cutting and hacking a half-circle skirt block. But the skirt is fine for everyday wear. And Laura seems to like it!