Friday, 29 October 2010

easy peasy lemon squeezy

How cute is this print available for download free at poppytalk:
One of the things I sewed up in last weeks hive of activity was a little dress for Anna from a funky striped pillowcase I bought from an op shop some time ago, which was indeed easy peasy lemon squeezy. Although when I was a kid we used to say easy peasy japenesey (no offence intended to any Japenese readers, it's just how it was in Australia in the 70s/80s!)

Now there are about a bajillion tutorials out there for pillowcase dresses, most pretty much comprise of cutting open and hemming the top and bottom to make a tube, shirring around the bodice and sewing on some straps. Simple! I of course, love my sewing patterns and since Anna is still small enough to cut out a dress pattern from a pillow case, I chose not to go that easy option and instead make a little shift dress for her out of my fast becoming favourite pattern (a mini TNT?) from McCalls 5916. This is one of the few commercial sewing patterns that is almost reasonable in it's sizing, although it is labelled for infants and not toddlers so it would probably be ginormous on a younger child.

I made version A (the yellow version) and made it easier by leaving off the pockets, using bias tape on the sleeves and neckline instead of using a front and back facing, and I didn't even try to match the stripes because there wasn't enough fabric for that (or enough enthusiasm from me to try!). A short machined hem, and invisible zip down the centre back and about an hour later I had a cute little cotton dress:


A dress that is good for wearing whilst stuffing your face with banana evidently! The fabric feels like 100% cotton, which explains the wrinkles, although being strapped into the car seat for the drive to the park certainly contributed as well. But still pretty cute. I do have another one of these pillowcases, maybe I'll make a top for myself too and we can be matchy matchy in a naff way. Or not.

Well after all the sewing I got done last week in my effort for this year's holiday (to Cairns for those who asked, and yes it probably will rain a lot but it will still be hot), I haven't stitched or cut or traced a single thing this week. I thought I was exhausted purely because of the antics of the toddler who doesn't sleep, but it turns out I have tonsillitis. Again. For the fifth time this year. Sigh... I'm so tired and run down that I just don't think my body is recovering properly. I am so looking forward to that holiday, let me tell you!

Sunday, 24 October 2010

No talk, all action

So, did my pointing out in the last post that Christmas is only mere weeks away jolt any of you into action as much as it has me? No? Well here's a reminder - it's now only 8 weeks away. Not that I'm planning on sewing all that much for Christmas this year, rather I need to sew up a summer wardrobe for both Anna and I because we're leaving for a holiday to tropical north Queensland the day after Christmas and boy is it going to be hot where we're going. As in really really hot. Lightweight dresses and cute shorts will be required. I've made a bit of a plan, and amazingly have actually started sewing up that plan too!

My lack of blogging last week (my bad, I know you all hang off my every word) is because I spent practically every night cloistered in my sewing room in a one woman sweatshop. I might have also been hiding from the terrible antics Anna has been employing in an effort to avoid sleep, but we won't point that out to my husband now will we? Anyway, last week I managed to sew two dresses, one pair of shorts and one skirt for Anna, and have cut out one dress and two pairs of shorts for myself. As I've said previously though, it is usually quicker and easier to sew clothes for Anna than to photograph her wearing them!

I did manage however to capture photographic evidence of the shorts I made for her, using McCalls 6016 which is a toddler sized pattern for boys. I bought it during a pattern sale on sewingpatterns.com a few months ago where you could buy 10 McCalls patterns for 99c - with the exchange rate and postage it worked out at about $3Aus which is still about half the price they usually are on sale here in Australia. After buying a few adult and girl patterns, I thought I should get a boys pattern in case in the future I ever have a son. However for right now, I prettied up the plain beige cotton with some floral fabric scraps on the pocket trim to make it suitably girlish for Anna:
I don't know why blogger keeps rotating this photo, but I'm too tired to work it out. Just tilt your head for one minute, will you please?


However I have been once again caught out by the sizing of the Big 4 pattern companies kid patterns and by sewing whilst Anna is (or is avoiding) sleeping so I couldn't compare the tissue pattern against her (ha! as if!). Bizarrely this pattern has a cut on fly extension, yet it has no zipper and the fly is just decoratively top stitched down, and the whole waistband is to be elasticated. Since it had that little bit of fabric anyway, I decided to put in an opening zipper and just put elastic across the back.

But can you see in the photo above (yeah, the sideways one) how absurdly short that fly is, as well as the very long distance between the crotch and the fly? These shorts were unbelievably high waisted, so much so that when I pulled them up on her they finished up around her armpits! So I took the waistband off, moved the pockets down and cut about 5cm off the top of the shorts. I also took in the sides a few centimetres as well because they were really baggy too. Ah well, at least I know this pattern will last for years beyond her toddlerhood...

We gave these shorts a test run at the park on Friday and they performed well going very fast down the slippery slide:


sharing lunch with a little friend:


playing with water in the sandpit:



and ending up absolutely soaking wet in the sandpit:


Lucky it was a scorching hot day and all the kids there ended up wet and covered in sand, it was a good option!

Now I just need to get on with sewing for me, because I nearly melted wearing jeans (admittedly that had a lot to do with the lack of hair maintenance on my legs of late). Foolishly though, I have cut out some blue striped fabric for my next project - more pattern matching eek!

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Finally finished

It's funny how some projects seem to drag on and on. Without a self imposed deadline (eg a specific event to wear a garment to), my motivation can sometimes wane and that's certainly the case with this jacket. When I made the black lace and cotton version of jacket 129 of Burda 9-08 I did it in a week because I had a special dinner to wear it to, however this white cotton version took much longer. But it's done (just imagine me doing a little happy dance):


Funny too how using the exact same pattern and same techniques doesn't always mean the same results either! For some reason, probably due to a lighter weight fabric, this version seems a little more boxy around the body and bulky around the shoulders, but when I tried taking it in a little at all the seams I found it became too constrictive and I couldn't stand in my favourite daily pose, which is this:


Ah, yes I admit I do usually have this bossy look about me!

I always like to wear a new garment a few times to see how it feels after a few hours and how it looks with various outfits, so I'm not giving up on this as yet but I think this jacket looks pretty good as is so hopefully there won't be any need for reworking it. I made it in a white poly-cotton with a fine red pinstripe through it, picked up in an opshop or garage sale a few years ago. It's amazing how versatile a red striped jacket can be - I think it will look good with grey, navy, black or even a red skirt/dress if I feel like being matchy matchy (which is often!). Maybe even dark denim jeans for a more casual look outside of work too.

I chose to go with horizontal stripes instead of the typical vertical since I have seen many RTW jackets like this lately, but my choice of pattern wasn't too smart, selected only because I had traced the pattern pieces out, had recent success with this pattern and hadn't put the pattern away yet. Hmmm, not really good reasons are they?

I think the exercise of matching all those seams was a major drain on my energy in making this, because I became a bit obsessed with getting it right. Even though that meant sewing some seams several times over! But check out the front and back matching of the princess seams and raglan should seams:



although the shoulder where all those seams meet is a right mess. Luckily it is mostly covered by the collar, because look at this:


When I first started sewing my goal was to make my clothes look as good as RTW, but now I want to make them look better which makes the effort of matching stripes worth it. My husband has a few midpriced pinstriped suits ($600-$800) and no attempt has been made at all to match the stripes at shoulders, which I think lessens the overall look. It's probably only something a sewist would notice!

But maybe I'm just being hyper critical and a tad negative this week. I am so exhausted at the moment that doing anything feels like too much. Usual cause - Anna's very poor sleeping, combined with some long hours at work last week and I feel like I need to volunteer for an induced coma just to catch up! We've moved Anna from her cot into a bed based on the logic that sleeps ok in our bed, but it turns out that's because we're in the bed, not the bed itself. Hmmm, should have seen that coming. So now she not only has crying episodes every few hours through the night, she also jumps out of her very comfortable and very expensive pillowtop mattress and comes running down the hall to get our attention.

Do you realise it's only 9 weeks until Christmas? 69 days to be exact, according to this countdown. All I want for Christmas this year is a child who sleeps without protest for more than 2 hours at a time. Oh, and world peace. Is that asking too much?

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

when you've got no clean clothes....

do you:

(a) stay home and wear your pyjamas while waiting for the clothes to dry;
(b) wear dirty clothes out; or
(c) sew some more clothes?

Answer: (c) of course!

I had a massively busy weekend and didn't get a chance to do any washing. Since Anna seems to be going through about 5 changes of clothes a day, I realised last night that she didn't have any clean pants to wear to day care today. So while I was waiting for her clothes to go through a wash cycle, I made her a new pair of pants. Really, they were so quick to make that I finished them before the washing machine even stopped spinning.

They are just simple pull on pants with an elastic waistband, made from McCalls 9407 which is a pattern for baby sized clothes, but I found if I just made the legs longer the pants fit Anna perfectly because this pattern is for super baggy pants. Plus I didn't get to use this pattern when she actually was a baby, so it's good to get some use out of it now!

Besides being quick and simple to sew, the other good thing is that so little fabric is required to make these! I used a leftover bit of fabric from this dress that I made a while back, it's a wool/lycra blend that is stretchy but not scratchy and looks great in a geek chic kind of way:



And did you spot the pattern matching on the side and front seams in those photos above? I have become a master at it, thanks to all my practice on the stripey jacket I'm (still) making.

Part of our busy weekend included being in this crowd:

Image from here.

having breakfast on this:

image from here

We were lucky enough to win tickets to the Breakfast on the Bridge event, and spent early Sunday morning sitting on a picnic blanket on freshly laid turf eating croissants where normally 6 lanes of traffic would be whizzing by. It was pretty densely packed in, as you might imagine:


which is not how us Aussies like to picnic - we like our space! And then it rained for a short while, and a little person wasn't too happy about it:


and after two short hours we all had to leave so the bridge could be returned to its proper function as a busy roadway:
but it was certainly something different and exciting to be a part of.

I'm travelling to one our rural offices for work tomorrow, so hopefully I can repoort back with some more op shopping finds!

Friday, 8 October 2010

translations....

Argie asked in the comments to the last post what 'manky' and 'stickybeak' mean - sorry, I forget that although we Australians speak english we do have some crazy sayings that no one else can really understand. And contrary to Hollywood movies we don't generally go around saying alot of things people think we do, like g'day mate, although I do say it sometimes to my husband in jest since he was born and raised in rural Australia and speaks in a very Australian accent, even though he looks Chinese.

Anyway, manky means yucky, generally something pretty gross or horrible. I don't know the origins of it, and I don't know how widespread its use is, but my friends and I use it fairly frequently. But you have to pronounce it correctly, long and drawn out: maaaaaaankeeeeeee. To have a stickybeak means to have a look at something, to be a stickybeak means to be a noseyparker.

And I won't even get into the endless variations of other things: trousers/pants, jumper/pinafore, thongs/flip flops/havianas (if you're pretentious)/jandals (which is my new favourite word thanks to my New Zealander friend Vanessa).

Well spied Carolyn - you've got eyes like a hawk! I am indeed making a white and red pinstripe jacket which makes a change from grey doesn't it? I've seen a lot of RTW jackets lately with horizontal stripes, but silly me picked a raglan sleeved princess seamed jacket so you can imagine how many seams there are to match. So that's why no finished jacket to show you, yet.

But since I don't like posts without pictures, here's a photo of Anna with one of her little friends from my mother's group looking at owls last week at a wildlife park:

Isn't that cute? Those two are inseparable, and when they see each other at daycare they run up to each other for a hug. And this is sewing related since I made her those jeans and that shirt too!

Monday, 4 October 2010

buy nothing new month

Did you know that this month the Salvos is having a "buy nothing new" challenge, with some seriously good prizes to be won which is kinda ironic given the whole point of the competition is to recycle and be less consumeristic but who am I to judge? If you fancy winning $5000 in cash, go and have a gander at their site.

I don't generally buy clothes for myself from op shops (aka thrift stores) because I find sewing from scratch is easier than refashioning and I don't often see anything I like that fits. But I certainly scour the craft and miscellaneous bits and bobs aisles for bargains. Over the years I've amassed a huge amount of fabric and sewing patterns from op shops, including this time that I bought so much on a work trip that I couldn't fit all the fabric in my overnight bag, and had to stuff plastic bags full of fabric and tablecloths in the overhead locker LOL! However, My best three finds would be:

1. A 1960s Lutterloh pattern book

When I saw this little red folder crammed into a bookshelf in the big Salvos store in Wollongong (cnr of Kenny + Ellen Sts) my heart skipped a beat:

and then I pulled it out and saw it was complete with these lovelies inside my heart went pitter patter:




and finally when I spied the $2 price tag on it I nearly had a heart attack I was so excited! These things sell for over $100 on ebay, but apart from the monetary value they are just hard to come by so to find one in good condition and for so cheap was a major find indeed. Mine didn't come with the 'Golden Rule' measuring tape, but this could be purchased if I ever wanted to make one of the patterns. So far I haven't actually sewn anything from it, but just admiring the fashion illustrations is more than enough.


The beauty of this buy is in the timing of the find - I had been thinking about buying a steam press and was about to buy one that was on sale for $299 when I spotted this one in another big Salvos store in Warilla (Shellharbour Rd) for about $30. It was in pretty manky condition, with no manual but in perfect working order, and nothing a little hot iron cleaner to clean the hot plate and a new fabric cover for the ironing bed couldn't fix:



And then in an amazing coincidence, I stumbled across the manual for it about a year later in a Salvos store in another state (Bundamba in Qld of all places!) where it was for sale with the books and magazines and there was no steam press actually in the store. It must have been fate that I was there to buy it!

I don't use it for general ironing or pressing of seams while I'm sewing but rather for fusing interfacing which is very handy because I block interfaced all 14 pieces of the jacket I'm currently sewing and it's much quicker than pressing with the iron.

3. A Hobbytex paint set

When I was little my mum had a set of Hobbytex fabric paints, and I remember using them on various things probably much to my mother's annoyance! In fact I'm now experiencing the feeling of having one's child ruin something of yours, so belated apologies to you mum! Anyway, when I was out in Orange (a lovely town about 4 hours west of Sydney) last week for work I popped into the Vinnies early one morning before going into the office and saw this whole set there for the princely sum of $5:

I didn't even know these things still existed, yet this set looks pretty new with only a few of the tubes used. And I see on the Hobbytex website that this set currently sells for $389, so $5 for all of these is an extreme bargain. I can't say I have a need for these (yet), but I bought them for the memories and to show my mum. Maybe Anna will want to use/ruin them in another 10 years.....

People often ask how I find all this stuff, and all I can say is persistance. I never pass by an op shop without stopping for a sticky beak, and in fact I usually plan my trip to make sure I pass by any nearby op shops especially when I travel to a new town. Luckily both Vinnies and the Salvos have a list of all their stores on line, and also the Australian Op Shop listing is a handy resource. And the I op therefore I am blogs for the ACT and Victoria are handy too if you're in that area.

Well I had a great weekend away with the hubby - he got a round of golf in while I had a two hour massage and spa (total bliss!) and we got to sleep uninterrupted for the whole night whilst the little one kept her grandma up most of the night!

And now I'm engaging in some world championship level pattern matching in the jacket I'm currently sewing. If this was an Olympic sport, I would be in contention for a gold medal for matching the stripes on this princess seam:

And matching these stripes on the welt pocket too:

And now I'm off to see I can achieve the same on the raglan sleeves too....