Inadvertent Jungle January make

Thursday 29 January 2015
Firstly some sad news - our beloved crazy dog Oscar has sadly gone to the great dog park in the sky. It seems a bit strange to share such a personal thing on a sewing blog, but since he always got comments whenever he photobombed a blog photo I thought I would share the event. He was 14 which is a very long life for a big dog like a dalmatian, and he spent each day of those years running around like crazy, wagging his tail so enthusiastically his whole body would wiggle and generally just acting like a puppy right up until the day his old body finally gave up on him. It sure is going to be quiet around here without him.

Switching gears back to my normal blog content.....

Until last year when I made this leopard print skirt I didn't own a single piece of animal print, so I've always just watched Jungle January hosted by Pretty Grievances each year with some amusement but no intention of joining in. But I've just made a few pairs of shorts for Toby using some fun cotton prints that were in the stash, two of which just happen to be lion prints. What can be more jungle themed than the king of the jungle?!

I used a pattern from a Polka Drops Japanese sewing pattern book which I think is called Easy Children's Clothing (ISBN 978-4-529-04837-8):

I quite like the aesthetic of the Japanese kids clothes, but I find the patterns are a little too simplistic - there are no zippers and very few buttons, everything is pretty much elastic waist and loose fitting styles.  Which is fine for some clothes but sometimes jeans and pants need a little bit more tailoring. That said though, I do like this pattern because it has a slim leg and a much better fit than I can usually get from the commercial patterns. And now that Toby is out of nappies he doesn't need the big baggy legs and low crotch that the kids patterns usually produce but he does need an elastic waist to be able to get his clothes on and off by himself, so this pattern suited me needs right now.

The only problem is that the waistband sits rather low - it is designed to have two layers of waistband but I can't quite decipher from the pattern book how the inner waistband is supposed to be higher because both are cut from the same pattern piece. Note to future self - increase the rise of the pattern by at least 5cm!

The first pair I made from a blue lion print with pockets on the sides of the shorts using the waistband piece from the pattern - it's quite narrow and too low so I'll need to replace it eventually.

The second pair I made from a red lion print that I didn't bother with any pockets, but made the waistband much wider and used wider elastic too. These are the same size as the blue pair but look more baggy because the waistband is tighter.

The third pair is my favourite pair, made from a blue elephant print cotton that has been in the stash a long time. I used ribbing for the waistband and patch pockets on the back. Too cute!

The return of my fabric stash

Monday 26 January 2015
I've finally brought the last bags of my fabric stash out of storage and back into my sewing room where they belong. I have to share a photo of the shelves while the piles of fabric are still looking so neat and tidy:

Despite culling a lot of fabric from my stash last year I still have quite a bit. Ok, I freely admit it - I have a huge amount of fabric!

I got so much inspiration from folding each piece of fabric, my mind is so full of projects that if only I had the time to sew everything I want to I'd have the wardrobe of my dreams.

My next step is to cover up these shelves with curtain fabric to keep the sun and dust off the fabrics because my sewing room is quite bright with long windows on three sides. As much as I love looking at these shelves every time I come into my sewing room, the thought of my fabrics fading is the stuff of nightmares.

Funnily enough, going through my old posts I've just discovered that on this day 5 years ago I also posted a picture of my stash - must be something about having a long weekend in January! Unfortunately the neatness of that stash degenerated into a terrible mess (see this post) which took me months to sort out but happily I'm back to square one in terms of an orderly stash.

And now to get on with the actual sewing - I took the kids camping this weekend just gone and then to a bbq at a friends house today so no actual sewing has been done, but you can't get more Australian on Australia Day than camping and a bbq right?!

Same but badly different! Burda Sailor Shorts and retro Vogue boxy top

Thursday 22 January 2015
Isn't it funny (and annoying) how you can take a pattern that you've used before successfully only to have it turn out badly? If I use a pattern a second time I expect to able to whip it up without needing to try it on and make fitting changes during the construction - silly me! Lesson learnt: no matter how many times I've used a pattern I will try on and check before finishing it.....

Just before Christmas I bought some vibrant chilli red stretch cotton drill from Spotlight  and immediately cut out a pair of the Burda sailor shorts from 6/2014 #123 I made back in October which look great and I wear quite often. I didn't get it sewn before Christmas but I did finish them last week when I finally bought some buttons for them, and well what a disappointment:

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen the legs from mid thigh to above the knee, but the stretch in the fabric made a huge difference to the fit. I had to take the shorts in all over, but those horizontal lines at the front aren't the usual crotch 'whiskers' caused by it being tight but rather it's the bottom edge of the panel that goes across the stomach underneath the outer layer with the end of the zipper in particular sticking out. When I look at the photos of the previous version I can see it happening slightly, but because that fabric is thicker and non stretch it isn't as obvious:

Oh well, maybe I'll think about what can be fixed, but I have worn the red pair a few times already and since they're just casual shorts they don't need to be perfect. I have too many other things on my sewing list that I want to make instead of spending time obsessing over these minor details.

I've been doing a bit of a wardrobe audit and realised I don't have many tops at all so I decided to make something to wear with these, otherwise I would probably just always wear a black and white stripe tee with them. I pulled out a vintage pattern picked up in the past from an op shop - Vogue 8291 which is undated but I think may be 1980s judging by the style?

It's just a simple boxy top but is perfect for a casual summer top and it didn't turn out as potato sack like as I had expected. I used a blue printed cotton fabric that was a long term stash resident, also bought from an op shop long ago that to me also has an 80s vibe to it. And to top it off I've got on some terribly 80s plastic beads that my grandma used to wear all the time that I always thought were hideous but couldn't bring myself to chuck them because of sentimental value.

The squared neckline has a wide facing that I topstitched down for a bit of interest. I think the neckline is lovely, but ironically it shows a little too much skin for me because getting enough sunscreen on the back of my neck is always fiddly.

One side has a sewn on tab to put the buttons on, and this side of the top the sleeve hems are just an extension of the hem of the body of the top - folded under and stitched.

I did lengthen this top by about 5cm which was lucky I did because it turned out quite short. You can see in the photo above that I had to sew an extra bit on button tab to get that top button on - carelessly I cut the extra tab with the grain going the other way which you probably didn't notice until I pointed it out right? Those buttons also originated from an op shop and have been in the stash a long time, so overall this top was very cheap and sort of good for the stash (it barely used a metre of fabric).

Surprisingly I quite like this top and I'm already thinking of another version in a stripe fabric or one perhaps with a contrasting neckline by sewing the facing on the outside. So many possibilities for such a simple pattern!

Lastly, that wall you can see in the background of these photos is a sneak peek of my newly revamped sewing room - it's about 75% done and it's going to be fantastic when it's all done and my sewing supplies have come home to me.

6th birthday dress

Monday 12 January 2015
Well it's that time of year again that I made another birthday dress for first born child - I simply cannot believe that she's already 6 and finished her first year of school! I'm sure I say this every year, but those of you who have been reading my blog since before I was even pregnant with Anna will have to agree that the time has simply flown by.

I wasn't sure if I could get away with making a birthday dress from a pattern and fabric of my choice, as she's developing some strong personal fashion choices (to put it mildly!) but this year she's still happy with what I made for her. I used Burda 7/2014 #137 to make a simple ruffled neckline, elasticised waistband dress:

Helpfully Burda has made a matching ladies dress pattern (7/2014 #119) if dressing like your child / significant young person in your life is your thing, but it's not mine so I don't plan on making one for myself anytime soon! 

image via BurdaStyle

image via BurdaStyle
 I made this version in a neon pink polka dot cotton bought from Spotlight which is a great fabric - it doesn't crease too much during wear but pressed well when I was sewing it and hasn't faded yet despite being washed a few times now.

The pattern is super simple - the front and back are basically the same except that the ruffle is more gathered at the back (not that I can see the difference). The sizing is spot on given that Burda's children patterns are done by height, and this is a dress fitted only by elastic really. The ruffle is gathered across the bodice, and there is elastic in the top of the ruffle to cinch it around the shoulders. I suspect the main reason that Anna likes it so much is that it can be worn with the ruffle pulled down around the upper arms, for some reason she thinks strapless tops and dresses are the most fantastic thing around (even though I pull up the ruffle if I catch her wearing it out like this):

And of course it passes the compulsory twirl test, I guess that 6 isn't too old yet for the odd bout of twirling and swirling:

So I have one more thing sewn last year to blog about before starting on this year. Although to be honest I haven't sewn yet anything this year because happily my sewing room is currently being painted as part of my sewing space makeover. But I did have a lovely sewing day on Saturday with some friends at Tessuti in the city - of course I couldn't not buy any fabric during their sale but I did control myself and only came home with 5m. This is why I never make any fabric diet resolutions  - it would never last!

Index of Australian sewing bloggers and Mr Darcy's boxers!

Thursday 8 January 2015
We're finally home from our annual holiday northwards to sunny Queensland to visit my husband's family and to have a beach holiday. As much as I love going away for a holiday there's nothing quite like being in your own home either.

Whilst I was away, I received an email from Maren over at I am Ms. Frizzle telling me about an index of Australian sewing bloggers she has set up. What a great idea - I read blogs from all around the world because we all speak the common language of sewing but when you need inspiration for something to sew right now a local blog is most relevant in terms of the season. Go and check it out when you have time, and if you're not on the list email Maren to be part of it - the more inclusive the better I say!

So I'm not planning to do an end of the year roundup / Top 5 post because it's all been documented here already - I know I had some great hits, a few hilarious misses and no resolutions to break so this year I will keep on with the same. But I will blog one of the last things I made last year. My husband complained that I never sew anything for him and also complained that the elastic had gone in several of his sleep shorts which I had made for him quite a few years ago (see I do sew for him!). So to kill two birds with one stone I decided to make him a few more pairs.

I don't normally blog the boring basics I sew - there's nothing new to say about tracksuit pants or simple pull on shorts for the kids, even if I can get a cute photo of them wearing it. But I decided to blog this to officially record that I do actually sew for him and also to give a shout out to the pattern I used because not only is it free but it's also simple and great.

I used the Darcy boxer short pattern available free to download from the pattern designers site and from The Sewing School at Peppermint Magazine. This pattern is developed by the lovely Susan at Measure Twice Cut Once, who I have had the pleasure to meet quite a few times through the Sydney Spoolettes group. Now I know I have been a bit critical of indie pattern companies in the past, but Susan actually does have industry training and experience so I knew the pattern would work perfectly. And it did.

Since my husband looks more like Yao Ming the giant Chinese basketballer than the delightful Colin Firth as Mr Darcy, I'll spare you a photo of him modelling them. But I made a few small pairs of simple shorts for Toby from the same fabric so here's a cute clothesline photo of the matching daddy and son shorts:

There's not much to say about a simple boxer short pattern, but the fit is spot on and the instructions are very informative with helpful diagrams. I made a few small changes - I did a faux fly instead of an opening button front fly because I was a bit lazy and pushed for time, and I also didn't have any white elastic so instead of an exposed elastic band waist I made a casement for the crazy rainbow elastic I did use. The only small quibble I had with the pattern is that there are separate pattern pieces for the left and right fronts with the only difference being the fly extension on the left front. It just means printing out more paper and extra cutting out which you could probably do without.

If you're in need of new boxer shorts the Darcy pattern is good for ladies as well, and comes in a range of sizes. In fact Susan has a whole range of patterns for essential and pretty underclothes in her shop along with sew-a-longs and handy tips on her blog as well.

It turns out I had a lot to say about a pair of simple boxer shorts didn't it?