Monday 21 December 2009
Here are some pictures to mess with your head Carolyn! I hear that some parts of the US and Europe have experienced their heaviest snowfall in many years, meanwhile here in Sydney we have been absolutely sweltering. If it's any consolation the weather forecast for Christmas day is for showers and overcast conditions.

Yesterday we were invited to a Hawaiian themed first birthday party for a friend's daughter so of course we had to get dressed up in a tropical theme. Of course I could have gone down to those cheap stores that sell junk such as plastic flower leis and grass skirts, but me being me I decided to make something!

For Anna, I made a little dress from some hibiscus print fabric in a bright red and white colour. I think this may have been a tablecloth because it was hemmed all round, but it must have been used quite a bit because now it is quite a soft cotton fabric.

I used a vintage pattern picked from an op shop (where else?), Style 2170 view 2 - the pink dress. I left off the trim around the sleeves and yoke, and used snaps instead of buttons on the back (yes Katherine H - I sure am getting lots of use out of my snap press!).

The fit was a little large, so I also put a ribbon tie on the back to get a better fit.

And for me, I had a blue floral dress inherited from gran that could be best described as a muu-muu - I wore it in the last few days of my pregnancy around the house and it still had room so you can imagine how big it is on me!

However 20 mins later and a few rows of shirring around the waistline and it looks totally different. In fact I like it so much that I think I will wear it on holidays because we are going to Brisbane to stay with my inlaws, where it is so hot that just even thinking about moving is enough to cause a sweat to break out!

My husband also got into the spirit, wearing an authentic vintage Hawaiian shirt that somehow made it's way from Hawaii to his wardrobe:

Only four sleeps till Christmas and I still have quite a bit to do! You'd think I'd have plenty of time to get things finished since Anna has decided for the last week that 4.30am is her new wake up time, but funnily enough by the time she goes to bed at 7pm I'm nearly comatose. I'm hoping that she's just growing some more teeth and that's why her sleep patterns have gone out the window, because if this is how it's gonna be from now on she is in severe danger of being an only child!

Dress to see santa

Tuesday 15 December 2009
I've just notched up another parenting milestone - the annual torture of getting a photo taken with Santa Claus! Despite getting to the department store before the 9.30am start time, there was quite a queue and we waited 45 minutes to get our photo. I spent that time showing Anna all the christmassy stuff trying to get her used to it all, but to no avail because as soon as she got close to Santa there were tears and screams and lots of them!

So Anna's first christmas photo turned into an impromptu family portrait with Santa because the only way to get her to stop screaming was for me to hold her. She still didn't smile though, and this photo was the best of many that the photographer took (thank god for digital photography!):
Of course I had to make her a little outfit to have her photograph taken in. I made a simple little cotton dress with matching bloomers, and a detachable red spotted belt with a fabric yo yo on it.

For the dress I used a now OOP Butterick 400, which is a simple and basic pattern but which I knew fitted her having used it before. Again the line drawing on this pattern envelope is deceiving - it says one size only and shows a baby in the picture, yet Anna is nearly 12 months old now and it is still a little loose on her! I know she is a skinny baby, but this would be swimming on any baby younger. I left the fit a little loose though to make it easy to get on her, and just used the red belt to cinch it in. For the bloomers I just used a pattern from the Amy Butler Little Stitches for Little Ones book, again because I've used it before and I know it fits. And I'm trying to get my money's worth out of this book!

Originally I was just going to tie the red belt in a bow around Anna's chest, but the little munchkin kept pulling it apart and it sort of looked messy anyway. So I did what I did for the lilac top in my previous post - I put a press stud in the middle to join it but I also folded the ties down so they would hang down at just the right angle:

To cover the press stud and the folded section of the ties I put a fabric yo yo with a fabric covered button in the middle over the top of it which I think looks ultra cute and better than a bow: I also made some little shoes to match, which you don't see in the christmas photo because Anna kept pulling them off after about 2 seconds! But they are too cute:

I made these by adapting the free pattern for Heather Bailey's Bitty Booties. All I did was cut down the upper portion of the shoe, and sew in a ric rac ribbon tie.

And speaking of shoes, can any of you believe that I have gone practically all year without buying any new shoes at all?! Except slippers, which don't count, but I've gone through three pairs of those already. Long time readers would know I have a little shoe obsession, even having a special shoe cupboard for them and I spent almost my entire time pregnancy wondering about what shoes to wear (as it turned out, high heels still at 8 months). But I rectified that recently by acquiring these two pairs in the last few weeks:

The red heels are a birthday present from my parents and are actually of a sensible height to be very comfortable. And the sandals I bought on sale for 30% off and are a lovely coral colour with a very soft and safe rubber sole which is exactly what is needed when chasing a baby around who in the space of the last few days has decided to not only crawl but to climb stairs, walk around holding onto the furniture and stand up without holding onto anything at all!

Don't worry, the flyscreen door is closed in that last photo!

another UFO done and dusted

Sunday 13 December 2009
I had another night out with the ladies from my mother's group on Friday night, and now that they all know that I sew there is always an expectation from them that I will wear something new that I've made! It's fantastic motivation for me to get sewing, just what I need sometimes.... I was going to wear the black and white vintage dress I made recently but we were going to a Lebanese restaurant where you sit on floor cushions around a low table and a dress isn't too practical for that arrangement.

So I decided to finish off this top I started at least 2 or maybe even 3 years ago:

It's made from Vogue 7232 which seems to be OOP now although the patterns is probably only a few years old. I've made this from some lilac satin brocade that has a silver and gold flower pattern embroidered onto it which looks lovely in real life but was a total slippery pain in the butt fabric to sew and press. Probably one of the reasons it became a UFO really! I think from memory I started making this to wear to a specific event but didn't finish it in time and then never got around to finishing it. Hmmm, this seems to be a common reason for me now that I think about it.

It wasn't difficult to sew, but it was very difficult to do a fitting because the side seams are sewn absolutely last - it's basically two shells sewn together around the neckline and hem, turned out the right way and then sewn down the side seams leaving a small opening in the lining layer to slip stitch shut. This makes for a very neat finish but I couldn't really try on the top until this last step to make sure it fit properly, and as it turns out it didn't fit too well at all.

As usual with wrap tops, the front gaped open badly on me because of my rather concave chest (not even breastfeeding for nearly 12 months has helped me in that area!). The pattern really needed adjustment before cutting fabric to fix it, but since I was well past that stage I just pulled the two sides tightly across my bust and put some snaps in to hold it in place to fit rather than put the snaps in the marked places on the pattern. The result of this you can see in the photo above: the hem of one side doesn't lay exactly over the other side, instead it sits lower. But I can live with that, because the wrap around belt sort of takes away the attention from it.

The sides still gape a little, but it's not obscene:

The other problem is that the obi style belt is just a little too short to tie up properly because the fabric is so slippery is keeps untying every time I sit down. In the end I put a press stud on the ties to hold them shut and then just tied the fabric over it. Whatever it takes to make it work right?!

Anyway it's out of the big box of UFOs and into the wardrobe and that's what matters. I've also half made View A (the version in the middle) in a lovely white stretch cotton poplin but it is also sitting in the big box of UFOs too! I don't know if you can see my handwriting on the pattern, but I've written that the top is way too short and the sleeves are way too long. Again I should have done a tissue fit or even (gulp!) a muslin. I have plans of saving this top by sewing a contrasting band around the bottom of the shirt so that it finishes below the waistband of my pants and skirts rather than leaving a very unflattering inch or so of skin between the hem of the shirt and top of my pants.

All I can say is be suspicious, very suspicious, of patterns that only have line drawings and not photographs of the finished garments on the pattern envelope - I always get tripped up by them!

not your usual DVF

Tuesday 8 December 2009
Think Diane Von Furstenberg and you automatically think a fabulous dress, in particular a wrap dress, correct? In fact I even have this dress pattern picked up from an op shop (of course) but not yet sewn:

Well I was giving my magazine collection (hoard) a clean out recently and was flicking through some old InStyle magazines when this picture from her spring/summer 2007 collection caught my eye:

I immediately thought of my red linen BWOF shorts I recently made, because I've been struggling to find a top to wear with it other than a boring white or grey t-shirt. So I made this:

It's from Simplicity 4589, which is a super simple top with a great square neckline. I made this from some black and white check cotton which looks like gingham but is a thicker fabric and has a slight crinkle to it, paired with a plain black neckband to save matching the checks! All stash material which is a bonus.

I've made this top several times before, and because it's gathered across the front and back it has a tendency to balloon out and look a little maternity. In fact I made a version of this in a nursing/post pregnancy top with just a little tweaking. So instead of gathering I put one inverted pleat at the front and the back, so it sits much better although it still balloons out at the back a little, but I can live with it:

Anyway I'm on hyperdrive for my sewing this week, I have a bunch of things cut out and pinned together so all I have to do is find some time to sit down and sew them production line style. Nothing like a looming deadline for motivation!

it's beginning to look a tiny bit like christmas round here

Monday 7 December 2009
I don't think you all need me to remind you that it's only about 2 weeks until christmas! Yikes, I had so much planned, but like all good plans most of it I won't have time to complete - there's always next year though.....

I have been doing quite a bit lately though, just haven't got any photos because it's been far too hot and sweaty in these parts for a decent photo. My latest obsession is making these felt christmas ornaments from the tutorial over at Zakka Life:

They are super easy to make and although I don't normally like hand sewing it's pretty fun seeing them come to life from a flat pile of felt circles to a round ball. The good thing about them is that they are baby friendly, indeed a few have already seen in the insides of Anna's mouth and came out looking ok. This is my minimalist version of a christmas tree for our house:

I've been picking up twigs from the streets when I'm out walking with Anna so I must look like a right nutbag to anyone passing by! I had intended to paint them white, but I'd say that's one of the things that may get done next year. I put them in a vase wrapped with hessian and secured with red ribbon - too easy. We're generally not home at christmas, going to both sets of in-laws on christmas and boxing days and so have never really made a fuss of christmas decorations before and would you believe we do not own a single strand of tinsel or even a can of fake spray on snow.

I've also been making some little drawstring bags to use for gift bags instead of wrapping paper. I just loosely based their size on the gifts they are to contain, and then sewed some rectangles of curtain fabric overlayed with some colourful fabric. I did it this way because the fabrics I chose were thin cottons and I didn't think they'd be strong enough to survive long term. Aren't they pretty? Although I suspect little kids love the wrapping paper the most so I may be dudding them from some good old fashioned paper wripping up fun.....

And in on going house renovation news the kitchen benchtop is on (after two long days due to our house being old and the walls being very un-straight!), the new cupboards are installed and all that stuff is off my dining table and back into the pantry. Now we're on the search for some new tiles for the splashback, so I'd say we're looking at next year before it's fully finished *sigh*.

I won the Sew Retro contest!

Wednesday 2 December 2009
Yay for lucky old me, I've scored a $100 gift voucher from ZipZapKap Vintage Sewing Patterns etsy shop for winning the party dress competition over at Sew Retro! I can't believe it, I seriously never win anything except for one time I won $800 at bingo but a little old lady had all the numbers as well so we had to split it :(

Even more unbelievable is that I actually finished my entry on time - there's been quite a few that I attempted but just didn't quite get there in time. Too bad this was randomly drawn, 'cos otherwise I would be talking up my phenomenally exceptional sewing skills.....

But anyway thanks to Anna at Sew Retro for organising the competition, and thanks to Katherine from ZipZapKap for the fantastic prize. I'm having buyers paralysis trying to pick which patterns to buy with the voucher, there are too many to choose from!

Carolyn - don't remind me about going back to work! Now that I've got Anna sleeping regularly in the day and through the night I am enjoying being home and doing crafty type things. But I'll only be working three days a week, so plenty of time to get sewing done as long as I ignore the housework, exercise and my husband!

Miss Sews It All - if I tried to finish all my UFOs before starting anything new there's a very strong chance I would never sew anything new ever again! But to assuage my guilt about the waste I do force myself to finish one every now and then.
Pammie - don't be too jealous of our warm weather, it has been unbelievably hot lately and it's only just the very beginning of summer. Sadly our house needed rewiring if we wanted air conditioning so we just swelter on days that it gets well above 30c degrees (86F).

And thank you to the lovely Eileen who emailed me to say she loves reading about life here in Australia and Anna's capers and hopes that I still have time to blog when I go back to work. Don't worry about that Eileen, I'll probably have more time to blog when I'm back at work, I'd say about three more days LOL!

And since I don't like posting without a picture, have a look at my dining room at the moment and see if you can spot what is wrong with this picture:

Yes that would be my kitchen sink and stove top sitting in what is my pantry cupboard lying sideways on the dining room floor. And yes that is the entire content of my kitchen pantry on the dining table, the contents of other cupboards are strewn throughout the rest of the house! We are having a new stone benchtop and some extra cupboards installed in the kitchen at the moment since we enlarged the kitchen during the recent remodelling of the house. So yeah, add this to the post I did the other day of 'this time last year' because this time last year I was still stupidly optimistic it would all be finished before Anna was born. Ha ha ha silly old me....

But look very closely and you'll see two drops of the curtains that I've been putting off hanging there in the background. They aren't quite finished yet as the hems are just pinned up at the moment, but it's a start!

finishing an easy peasy UFO

Tuesday 1 December 2009
So it's been awhile since I knocked off another UFO, but I haven't forgotten about them. It's a bit hard to actually, since they are in a big white box in my sewing room that I helpfully wrote UFO and drew a picture of a flying saucer on the side!

I pulled this skirt out and decided to finally finish it because it seriously took me about an hour to do. I started it maybe 2 years ago or so, and did finish sewing it at that time. But for some reason it turned out way too long even though I measured it against one of my other skirts, and since it is a border print I couldn't just take up the hem, I had to unpick the skirt from the waistband and that was my downfall - I had topstitched it all around and clearly lost interest halfway through unpicking purgatory!
With my new red seam ripper in hand (it goes faster you see) I pulled that baby apart, sewed it back up at the right length and already wore it out. Don't know why I waited so long really (yes I do, I clearly have a short attention span when things don't work out).

The skirt is vampired from Simplicity 4599 - I only used the waistband because I love how it fits on me, and then I just attached a large rectangle of the fabric pleating it the whole way around. This way I was able to keep the border print even all around at the bottom, and used the white selvedge as a teeny tiny hem.

This is a great skirt pattern, although hemming it without a helper to help pin it straight is painful due to the width of the skirt. The jacket totally didn't work for me at all because I just could not get the raglan sleeves to site right at the shoulder for some reason.

I've actually made this skirt several times before, and I'm ashamed to say this, but there is still two more versions still in the UFO pile! One of which was made to pair with the jacket of this pattern which totally failed and the other just needs a hem but it's a slippery fabric that is proving elusive to get straight. However these two made it to the end and are part of my wardrobe:
Thanks for reading whilst I air my shameful secrets!

Party frocks

Sunday 29 November 2009
What a difference a year makes! This time last year this is how I looked:

Ginormously pregnant, too fat to get my wedding rings on my swollen fingers let alone squeeze my feet in party shoes or contemplate going to a christmas party! This year though, I'm all ready to partay in my new frock:
It's made from a vintage Simplicity 3918, picked up in mint condition from an op shop and sewn up in some crisp medium weight cotton purchased from ebay. The fabric has enough weight to it that the very full skirt flares out nicely without the need for a petticoat or layer underneath:

Such a simple shape dress, but made just that little bit difference by that red panel on the front neckline called a "vestee" on the pattern. It's supposed to be detachable, held in place by press studs or snaps but I decided to hand sew it down to the facing instead.

The only changes I made to the pattern were to use an invisible zip down the side instead of the awkward lapped side zip installation suggested by the pattern, and to reduce the length by 6 inches becaues this hit my mid calf which isn't so flattering on me.

And I can't not post a picture of the baby now can I? She finally fits into the little red dress I made for her quite some time ago, although it's still a little loose although it's size is meant to be for a six month old.

And to make sure she's not the Paris Hilton of the toddler set, I made a pair of bloomers in matching fabric with three rows of cotton lace across the butt. It also helps keep her nappy since she likes to take her nappy off these days!

oops, how did that happen?

Friday 27 November 2009
Turns out Anna's head isn't as big as I thought.....

No matter, she seems to think it's funny.....

It will fit her in no time. She's turning into quite the lollypop - her height is 75.5cm which is over the 97th percentile for girls, her head is in the 90th percentile but her weight has dropped down into 50th percentile. She had grown out of her hats, and being the frugalista that I am I wasn't going to pay $15 - $20 for a kiddies hat when I have enough fabric to make hats for all the heads of children in the entire third world. I used Butterick 5717 which according to the Butterick website is now OOP, but I picked it up from an op shop. I used the x-small size, but as usual the sizing of the big 4 pattern companies has foiled me again!

Hats are super simple to make, I don't know why I don't make them more often because I wear them all the time. You won't catch me outside on a barely sunny day without a hat on my head, and I have quite a collection, but like shoes and bags there's always room in the wardrobe for another!

Mochimo - Anna isn't walking yet and she's barely crawling, mostly backwards really which is good because I can see that once she's on the move she's going to need alot more supervision from me. She does like to stand though, and has worked out how to pull herself to a standing position by grabbing onto anything nearby. But you're right, time has flown by this year - I've been off work for a full 12 months now although it only feels like yesterday that I started my maternity leave. I'll be back at work February 1 which sadly is only a bit over 2 months away now! I'll only be working three days a week though so it should be manageable. I enrolled Anna in childcare for those three days a week which is costing $99 a day but it seems like a really good centre and the kids seem happy, so hopefully she'll enjoy it. Has to be more exciting than spending all day every day with me, entertaining little kids is so tiring!

Anyway enough rambling about the baby from me, I have a hem on a dress to finish while she's asleep!

snap happy

Monday 23 November 2009
Well I'm still having a merry old time using my new snap press - it's absolutely great for kids clothes, and I can see it coming in handy for handbag making as well although it's not that often I make handbags because they are way too fiddly for my patience levels.

Anyway I made a little pinafore dress for Anna from a 1974 Simplicity pattern (Simplicity 6051) which my mum remembers making for me and for my brother (the overalls that is, not the dress!). Too bad she didn't keep them and we don't have any photos either, because it would have been fun to see what crazy fabric she used given it was the 70s! I used a stretch dark denim from the stash, embellished with a line of pink ric rac across the front pocket and pink plastic snaps. It looks rather mature and serious looking, but it is a good neutral colour to offset all the girly pink clothes she has.....

Sorry for the blurry photos, it is getting increasingly hard to get crisp photos of Anna since she is just a ball of movement most of the time!

So how did all of you NSW dwellers survive the extreme heat on Sunday? We were out on Sunday and came home to a house that was 35c degrees (95F) inside and 40c (104F) outside, and even at midnight it was still 30c (86F) degrees inside. Unfortunately we don't have air conditioning and boy did we feel it yesterday! Anna was awake half the night being very upset and unsettled which I thought was because of the heat, but this morning I see she has one top tooth popped through the gum and the other just about to come through, the poor little thing.

It was my birthday on Saturday just gone, and my lovely husband gave up his usual Saturday morning golf competition round for me to have a few hours at a day spa which was just great! Actually the real gift was a few hours baby free time, the facial and the massage were just the icing on the cake..... And my lovely friends gave me one of these very cool and very me brooches by the artist Liana Kabel: