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Sunday, 14 September 2014

Lady Skater Dress

Hello again. Wow. Two posts in one weekend. This time, I thought I'd show you my latest make - the Lady Skater Dress - and let you in on a guilty secret.

I recently posted about how I rated different jersey fabrics once they'd been through six months of being worn and washed - my clear winner on the still looking as good as new stakes was the Campan jersey I'd bought from DragonFy Fabrics

Shortly after writing the post, I was sent a couple of metres of the very beautiful stuff to make something else with and show here on the blog. Thanks, guys!

My first thoughts turned to a Coco top that I could layer under a dress (perhaps the navy linen Lilou I've had cut out for nearly a month now...?) or a cardigan. I will almost certainly order a more traditional blue and white Campan for this purpose now, as in the end, I realised I liked the red and pink just on its own and started to picture it as a Lady Skater Dress. My inspiration for making one had come from admiring the ones made and worn by two bloggers I know in real life - my fellow Bedford based buddy, Anwyn, and Lindsy, who I met at the NYLon14 meet up back in May.

Friday night was spent hunting for paper; realising the only paper available was in fact rainbow coloured; trying to get the printer to work; cursing all the taping and cutting up of pattern pieces involved, and finally cutting out the fabric. All this was done with comedy shows on in background which helped keep me amused, and chocolates at my side. 

Being a bit lazy, I really dislike PDF patterns and would happily pay at least a fiver extra to avoid all the annoyance involved. It's a testament to how much I like a pattern if I go ahead and buy one that is only available as a PDF. 

Amanda's pattern and instructions didn't disappoint at all. A woman after my own heart, she has a long set of instructions and a crib sheet for more confident/lazy types. 

I cut out a size 3 and graded it out to a size 4, and then decided to ignore advice about testing for fit and went straight for the real thing. This gamble paid off, and I am very pleased with how this dress fits. The only change I made during the making process was to chop about an inch off the length of the sleeves, as I figured that being shorter than average height, I'd probably need to reduce this a bit.

The making came together in exactly two hours. Hurrah! I do love a one night make, don't you? The only glitch was that I accidentally sewed the elastic that is meant to go inside the back shoulder seams onto one of the front ones as well - resulting in a slightly bumpy left shoulder, but I can live with that. I liked the method for putting on the neck band, and, you can't really see it in the photos (I perched my camera on a bin, set the timer, and posed in a I hope no one notices what I'm doing type fashion) but the contrast direction of stripes looks exactly as I'd hoped.

I'm pleased I opted to try this pattern with the Campan - its weight makes for a nice swish on the skirt as you move, and I almost think using it in a slightly more fitted pattern like this makes more use of the fact this is a fabric that holds its shape beautifully well. I've been wearing the dress all day, and there are no signs of bagginess at the elbows. In fact, I am now wondering about whether I try making another Lady Skater but extending the bodice and just having it as a top. Now that would be a way to make that Lilou warm enough to wear in autumn/winter and entice me to want to make it a bit sooner (and stop those pieces just getting left in a pile for the next six months of so...).

The Saturday Sweet Shop
I promised you a guilty secret, didn't I? With all four girls on a bike ride with Daddy, I'd been to Aldi, and was meant to be popping into town to pick up a couple of bits I can never get there. Oh, and as I was just passing the Saturday Sweet Shop, it would have been rude not to pop in and say `hello'. I haven't breathed a word of this to my darling daughters. They are tucked up in bed. Husband has headed out to work to do some last minute Headteacher stuff, and it is just me and the contents of those white bags...

I had to laugh. The lady in the shop commented on how unusual it was to see me on my own, and I told her my plan to buy myself sweeties and hide them away for a post bedtime treat. As she weighed out the chocolate caramel fudge and Turkish delight I'd asked for, she said, "It's a wonder how you stay so slender with four children!" - subtext, and eating all the fudge you do. The compliment made my day though.

Sophie, if you're reading this at some point in the week ahead (I know you sometimes do) have a sneaky look in my red handbag - I have hidden you a piece inside it. Enjoy - and call it a perk of reading all the way to the end of Mummy's blog! Xx

Big thanks again to DragonFly Fabrics for giving me the fabric used in this post.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Do half hearted selfies and photos taken by children still count for OWOP?

Hello, lovely readers.

SATURDAY - Sunshine Coco goes to the swings.
"I think I've missed your head out by accident, Mummy..." 
It is a grey Saturday morning - we've been to swimming lessons, and now, the three big girls are cutting up bits of coloured paper and trading in sweets (strawberry bootlaces being chopped into not really worth bothering about sized pieces by one in a bid to get some extra Smarties from the person who still has some), whilst we wait for the baby to wake so we can have our usual wander into town for the library and loom bands.
SUNDAY - stripy Coco with Hummingbird infinity scarf
goes to Liberty in London (excited squeal!)
I'm perched on a stool next to them (them knowing I am listening in prevents potential sweet based wars from breaking out), nice large mug of tea and the laptop, as I thought I'd put together a quick catch up on how my Coco OWOP went.

MONDAY - a bit of a chill in the air, so Sausage Dogs with GAP jeans
The week itself went easily, to be honest. Although, I suspect that, when I compare my photos to other participants, I will realise my efforts have been a bit half hearted - both on the photography front, and the styling part of the challenge. But I didn't have much time to take lots of photos each day until I had one that didn't make me cringe, and, it has been a fairly uneventful week of school runs and nothing much else to make me feel inclined to dress up.

TUESDAY - hello sunshine, let's have bare legs with Scooter Coco as I
feel good about remembering to water the plants
This may all sound a bit, well, negative. It isn't meant to be. I have enjoyed wearing my Cocos - but this hasn't been that different to normal, really. Only that a few other patterns would be creeping in, of course. I like wearing things made from jersey, because generally, no ironing is ever needed, and, they are really comfortable and practical to wear around small children.

The reason why time feels so short... (but doesn't she look lovely as she
scampers off to cause chaos in her sisters' room?!)
Making my own clothes - like these Cocos - gives me daily little bursts of joy when I wear them, I can remain in something easy going, and, also something that is totally unique and reflects my own personal tastes. I'm going to keep this in mind, and try not to feel inadequate or jealous of other bloggers when I look at their OWOP write ups.

I am sure I am not the only one who gets a bit deflated when they see things others have made - and I am missing the point when I do. For me, sewing at home is about switching off and claiming some time for yourself, and about the fun of turning the awesome fabrics that have tempted you to part with your cash into the image you have of what you'd like it to be.

WEDNESDAY - "Mummy, those tights are really bright!"
"But, they look nice... don't they?"
I have a minor confession. After making the new camera Coco on Wednesday night, I wore it for the next two days - in exactly the same style. There. Lazy, I know. But who cares, eh? I did the sniff test before getting dressed on the second morning, and all was fine. So, the next time you come across a mum of four (or more) little ones, and wonder how she manages to juggle it all, remember that she might be gleefully cutting corners on laundry by wearing the same things twice (and, encouraging the rest of the family to do the same). He, he.

THURSDAY - new top joy as I wear Camera Coco with teal
chinos from GAP
And that is it from me for now.

The awesome cake shop round the corner is making the technical challenges from the GBBO each week. I have inside information that this week's Swedish Princess Cake is on sale by the slice today. I am hoping there will still be some left by the time we go past...

Have a good weekend, whatever you get up to!

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Snap up a place on a Kitchen Table Sewing class!

The One Week One Pattern challenge is almost over. I've been enjoying wearing my Coco tops so much that I managed to squeeze in time to make myself another, and am wearing it today.

I used some snazzy camera print and blocked it with some stripes for an on trend* monocrome look. As the weather is cooling down, I decided to opt for long sleeves this time.

I'm really happy with how the make came together. It's the second version I have made using blocking, and, I can vouch for it being a process that is speedier and less nerve racking second time round.

And yes, you've guessed it - I'm wearing it today! (Is there a person reading this who manages to resist the thrill of wearing a new make at the earliest opportunity?!)

So, Bedford peeps - who'd like to come and make one of these lovely tops with me?

This is the perfect pattern to buy for someone who has made a few simple things and wants to try making their own clothes.

By coming on one of my courses, you know you'll be venturing into the fun of dress making with plenty of help on hand. And cake. There is always cake...

As well as Coco making, I'll also be returning to children's clothing - making the super cute Dance With Me Dress, which is a lovely garment to make for little girls.

There are a couple of spaces left on these two October courses, so snap one up while you can.

Choose your course(s)

 *I never use the phrase `on trend' in real life - I make a point of never buying fashion magazines, and so can safely guarantee any trend that I pick up on has long been and gone by the time I have noticed it...

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Buying knits: How my Cocos look after six months

Hello everyone.

The run up to OWOP got me thinking about my Coco tops and dresses. The Coco is my favourite dress making pattern because it is so versatile and is a practial thing for me to wear as a mum of four children.

My love of the Coco pattern has persuaded a few of my sewing friends to take the plunge into making things with knits, and, with a complete dearth of places to buy them locally, I have been quizzed by some of them about where I'd recommend when going online.

It's about six months since I made my five Cocos, and in that time they have all been through the washing machine lots. I think now is a good time to give a review of which fabrics have been the best over time.

My Sunshine Coco was made out of Roma Ponte from Guthrie and Ghani and cost £10 per metre.

How well has it kept its shape 10/10
This has a beautiful weight to it and hangs nicely. The fabric has kept its shape and suits the Coco style really well.

Good as new to look at 5/10
Although the lovely mustard shade is still going strong, I'm disappointed by how badly the fabric has bobbled. I've never tried de-bobbling fabric before, but, given how much I like this Coco, I might need to look into solutions for the problem so I can feel as proud wearing it as I did when it was new.

Value for money over time 7/10
I would have given this a much higher grade before the bobbling happened, as I was delighted with the quality of this when the postman first delivered it to me.

I searched high and low for the perfect stripes before settling on this Campan jersey from DragonFly Fabrics. I winced a bit at the price of £19.95 per metre, and nervously waited for the postman to see if it was worth the expense.

How well it has kept its shape 10/10
The Campan jersey has more give than the Roma Ponte, but keeps it shape just as well. It also has a nice amount of weight and thickness to it and suits the Coco.

Good as new to look at 10/10
I cannot detect any signs of wear at all - really pleased with this purchase.

Value for money over time 9/10
Although I cannot bring myself to give it full marks due to the cost, this source of fabric has become the Boden replacement for my Breton tops in the future. It seems expensive, but the quality is worth it over time - a classic looking set of stripes that I can imagine still being wearable in 5 years time.

I came across the next two prints whilst looking for the perfect stripes. It comes from a long time favourite place of mine for fabric for children's clothing, KitschyCoo. Me and those sausage dogs had a love at first sight moment, and I was blind to the £21 a metre fee they demanded to come and live with me,

How well it has kept its shape 9/10
I am happy with this, but as it doesn't have the same amount of weight as the previous two, the bottom of the top has a tendency to curl a bit and needs ironing into submission.

Good as new to look at 8/10
This is still going strong - but I have to say the colours have never been quite as good as they were before I pre washed it ready to make the Coco. But I am not sure how you can get round this with a design that has black and white...? No other complaints though.

Value for money over time 9/10
I am giving this a high score, because, even thugh I don't think it will last as long as the Campan jersey, it gets bonus points for being so unique. I'd have paid a premium for something so unusual had I bought it in a shop.

As already stated, I bought this scooter print from KitschyCoo - and spent £42 on the two metres I needed for a Coco dress. What can I say, other than green is my favourite colour, and I fell for the idea of making something completely different to what everyone else was wearing.

How well it has kept its shape 9/10
Same as the sausage dogs.

Good as new to look at 7/10
Argh! More bobbling... I don't think this is nearly as bad as the mustard coloured Coco, and it isn't getting any worse. Fingers crossed.

Value for money over time 8/10
I'm knocking another point off this compared to the sausage dogs (even though I'd say I like them both for their unique factor) as this particular print just doesn't seem to be as durable.

The spotty Coco was the first one I made. The fabric for this was only £5 a metre from Tissu Fabrics. I have ordered several of their plain and striped interlocks since, and made lots of clothing for my girls with it.

How well has it kept its shape 6/10
About the third or fourth time I wore this, I was walking down the street and suddenly horrified by my reflection and the realisation of quite how much length seemed to have vanished in the washing machine. This was after the usual pre wash I did before making the Coco.

Good as new to look at 8/10
If you ignore the shrinkage issue, the overall appearance of this particular interlock print remains good. That said, the plain versions I have bought from Tissu, which have been worn and washed lots more (children's clothing) have bobbled.

Value for money over time 8/10
Okay, so this interlock may not last as well as others, but £5 a metre can't be sniffed at, especially if it's functional children's clothing you plan to use it for. It was ideal for a first Coco when getting to grips with the pattern.

So, that's my round up of Coco tops and dresses so far. It really comes down to a lot of personal taste factors as to fabrics that tickle your fancy, but, hopefully the comparison of how these garments have held up to day to day wear over time will help when deciding over what to buy.

My winner on points would be the Campan from DragonFly Fabrics, and it comes down to the excellent quality coupled with the classic stripes on offer.

Have you any favourite places to shop for jersey?

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Clemence Skirt

When I received my copy of Tilly's Love at First Stitch, I decided I liked all the patterns in it and wanted to make them all right now.

In a bid to stop myself neglecting my family life because of too much time spent sewing (although, let's face it, there is a fat chance of little people letting you get away with that for long!), and, dare I say it, ignoring all boring jobs around the house, I set myself a limit of one make a month. I also thought this would encourage me to savour the making process a bit more than I am sometimes inclined to do.

Regular readers will have spotted it has been a couple of months since I made anything from the book. I made my first Megan dress in June, and then followed it up soon after with a second, nautical themed one. I have so enjoyed wearing these two beauties all summer long. In fact, I like the Megan so much, I have just ordered fabric for a warmer more wintery version. But more about that another time.

A bit like buses, you wait around for ages, and then three come along at once. 

Enter the Clemence skirt. 

I babysat for my friend Clare last Saturday night. As usual, I went armed with my sewing machine, and this time, a bag full of cut out skirt pieces for three skirts, with pockets too, and waistbands already interfaced. Once the children were all quiet, and I'd helped myself to a tea and a KitKat, I sat down to sew.

You will recognise the bottom skirt from my Megan. I bought a pre cut piece of fabric for £25 on Goldhawk Road, and ended up with enough leftover for two Clemence skirts - one for me, and one for my best friend, Sang. She likes the fabric too, and, as she lives in Nottingham, there's very little chance of us unexpectedly bumping into each other in the street and having a hilarious skirt twins moment.

The fabric for the other skirt was given to me by my friend Stacie as a birthday present. It was exactly a metre, and so I decided to widen the gathered pattern so that I used all the fabric up (I basically just cut a waistband down the length of the fabric, and then cut the remainder into two half metre lengths for the front and back), and ended up with an even fuller skirt.

I did most of the sewing on all three at Clare's. Until I reached the point where I really needed an iron. Oops. I had forgotten to ask her to point it out to me before she left, and I felt too embarrassed/cheeky to interrupt her night out with a `Where do you keep your iron, please?' text. 

So, the unfinished skirts were bundled into the bag. I got two of them finished the following night, while Mark sat beavering away on final preparations for work the next day.

With the older two girls back at school, Charlotte in bed having a morning nap (don't babies have the best existence?!) and the almost school girl sat happily at the table painting, I sneaked out my sewing and finished the last skirt. My artist companion then had the fun of using my camera to take a few shots of the twirlability of the skirt.

I'll be honest and say that initially, I felt slightly underwhelmed by Clemence, and unsure of how flattering I thought it was on me when I finished the first on Sunday night. 

But. Wearing it for a quick little cycle on the school run has changed my opinion. This is the perfect skirt for cycling in. The gathers drape beautifully over the frame, making me feel all graceful and lady like with my pretty mint Pendleton bicycle. I should point out this is a welcome contrast to my almost flashing my knickers not quite decent but cycling with my Megan on anyway look.

And finally, this Saturday sees the start of OWOP. It's my first time taking part - I think it promises to be a fun week of peering at other people's lovely makes being worn in day to day life. I am going to be on the look out for some inspiration of a new pattern to try.

But you're wondering what I have chosen as my pattern to wear, aren't you?

One Week One Pattern 6th - 12th September
The Coco of course. With five of them already made, and another two of the top versions in the pipeline to boost my nice things to wear with jeans autumn wardrobe, the choice was obvious. Can't wait!

Friday, 29 August 2014

Super simple baby (& older sibling) gifts - PART 2

Hello again.

Today's makes have a splashy bath time theme to them. I figure you can't go wrong with flannels and towels as gifts.

Bunny flannels and matching hooded bunny towel
I took one metre of ridiculously soft white Terry towelling and basically had a bit of a play about making a hooded poncho type towel, that I thought would be a nice thing for a slightly older baby.

The towelling came from Plush Addict and is definitely soft enough to be used as a gift for a newborn. The make went together pretty well - it was fun working out how to bring the image I had in my mind to life. It's just a shame my model (Charlotte) wasn't remotely playing ball on the day, and just kept wrenching the thing off and crawling off at top speed in her bid to climb the stairs (naked as the day she was born).

Here's how I made it:

1. Doubled up the towelling, and folded it over again to create a rectangle 38cm wide by 50 cm long (this length is nicely long with room to grow for a one year old).
2. Measured round the baby's head, and added a bit for the hole to be cut (52cm is what I went with - with hindsight, I'd make it a bit smaller, as the hood seems to make the hole appear more generous).
3. Measured from the base of the neck to the crown, and from the crown to the forehead to get a sense of how big the hood should be. My initial measurements were both 16cm - but bear in mind you need to add to this quite generously (about 5 cm all round) so the hood is nice and comfy.
4. I sketched out a hood shape, with the front and base forming a simple right angle, and cut double thickness again, folding the fabric on the line of the front of the hood.
5. Sew the open side seam to make a tube (the other side will be folded, from where you are working with doubled up fabric).
6. If you are going down the bunny ears route with your make (and why wouldn't you?!), now is the time to make your bunny ears, and position them onto the hood.
7. Cut the hole for the head, centre the hood, and sew it to one layer of the hole.
8. Finish all raw edges with home made bias binding to match the fabric you've used on the ears - a big circle for the hole and where the hood is attached to it, and, both bottom ends of the poncho. I'm afraid I didn't measure the exact amounts I used - but 1.5 metres of binding should do it.

When you've finished making the poncho, you'll have plenty of towelling left to make little bunny flannels. Perfect cute little gift for the baby and any siblings, no? My tip here is to make the opening of the flannels wider than you think they need to be. The first time I made flannels like this for my girls, I ended up with them being too narrow to fit their hands into comfortably - d'oh!

One bunny poncho and a pile of matching flannels for the price of a metre of fabric feels like pretty good value to me. Using pretty little scraps from other baby projects means the gifts can all coordinate nicely if you want them too, and turns this simple sewing into something that looks really special and is a pleasure to give as a gift.

Where's Bunny? Matching flannels and baby blankies (Michael Miller fabrics from Plush Addict)
The poncho took me an evening to make - but I think I would be a lot quicker making it a second time, as I wouldn't need to do so much head scratching (yes, it is a simple thing, but it felt like I had to think hard about how I wanted it to be size/finish wise). I hope the instructions are clear enough for anyone wanting to have a go - I'm not sure whether others reading this would want to make one, but I'll put together a proper tutorial if it seems it would be useful to people.

The flannels were delightfully easy to do - and, as you can tell, I took a `wonky is good and part of their home made charm' approach. Again, another nice quick and simple little thing to make that I think would go down well as a new baby/sibling gift.

Do you have a favourite thing to make for little ones?

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Super simple new baby (& older sibling) gifts - PART 1

Hello, everyone!

The school holidays are coming to an end. Today, we've been out to the dentist and got hair cuts sorted. I am gleeful about this last fact, as the new shorter hair cuts should save me about ten minutes in the mornings. The four year old had her first ever proper cut (she's been resistant until now) and has made me go all gushy "Oh, don't you look all smart and grown up ready for school!" with her. 

My Lilou dress fabric is sitting neglected. I don't have the energy for sewing something new and enjoying the challenge, and so, with a couple of new babies on the scene, I thought I'd make something simple that required little thinking instead.

There are several things I made over the course of a couple of evenings, and so I have split showing them to you into two posts, as I'll talk about how to make them yourself (if you want to).

Item number one is almost too embarrassingly simple to share. But, I am going to, because it might inspire other time pushed people with something pleasing to sew and give.

Enter, the blankie! This is two pieces of fabric - quilting cotton and flannel - sewn together. Yes, that really is it. I promised you a simple baby gift idea, didn't I?!

Why do I think this makes an excellent baby gift? Because babies produce a lot of mess that needs wiping up, that's why. Be it sick, dribble... you get the idea. I made half a dozen of these before Charlotte was born, and they have genuinely become the most useful things I have ever made for a little one. More absorbent than ordinary white muslins, and way nicer to look at, I challenge you to find me a new parent not pleased to receive a set of these. And, for Charlotte, a soft home made blankie is the very thing to calm her and settle her off to sleep independently. I don't go anywhere without one (you could probably have a rummage through my handbag on a child free night out and still find one in there).

I've given all sorts of baby gifts over the years - ranging from little boxes of sweetly packaged outfits from GAP when my niece (now fifteen) was born, to all kinds of home made stuff in the years since I've been sewing. Lots of the home made stuff has been pretty fiddly to make, and, to be honest, much of it probably limited in its practical use.

Now, with my mother of four trying to find space for all the stuff that comes into the house with children perspective, I personally have grown to loathe being given things that take up lots of space for little practical value. It may sound ungrateful, but another soft toy is now the last thing I feel delighted to receive into the house, however much my children might like it. So, I limit my giving to being simple, small and practical. Oh, and some yummy food for the new parents to gobble, too, of course.

Michael Miller Rose Tree Delights from Plush Addict
As for sizing, it is up to you. I tend to cut mine so I can get nine blankies out of one metre of fabric. As the home made versions are much more absorbent than shop bought muslins, you don't need to make them as big. I use a large cutting mat and rotary cutter, as I find this speeds things up massively. Once sewn, I chop off the corners, turn the blankie out the right way (remember to leave a gap!) and top stitch all round the edge, before giving it a final press. It takes about an hour to make a set, and this is about the time I can/want to spare on making baby gifts (so I have sewing time for me!).

You know me, I do love me a good vibrant print (or ten). This time round, I got my supplies from Plush Addict. Rather than committing to a metre of one print, I chose four fat quarters. I thought the prints were cute, and appealing to little girls, although they have tons of other quilting cottons to suit all tastes. I was particularly impressed with the Robert Kaufman flannel - thick and soft, it is probably the nicest I have come across, so I will definitely be going back for more the next time someone I know has a baby. They stock it in tons of colours, too (news to me that you could get flannel in so many colours!), so I will try and overcome my attack of indecisiveness next time and branch out into colours for the back.

With the leftover scraps from the blankies, I planned to make something to give the older siblings. Well, this was the plan, any how. What actually happened, was that my own girls saw the fabrics, loved them, and talked me into making something for them instead. Indulged? Yes. I can't help it. At moments when I am reminded that they are little girls, who still enjoy innocent play involving clothes for their toys, and so on, something in me goes weak and I give in to whatever they are requesting. It is my own inner desire to be super mum in their eyes, I suppose.

Michael Miller Rabbit Repeat and ABC Toss from Plush Addict
 Ignoring the fact I have created more work for myself (all three girls have asked for toy clothing/bedding), I find sewing stuff like this very gratifying. And fun. It is quick and easy. It uses up little scraps. There are no rules (more is more with trims and ribbons) and generally, the recipients fall over themselves with pleasure at what you have produced (before going off to wave it under the nose of whichever sibling they fancy making jealous).

It is the first time I have made a shirred dress for a tiger, but I am rather pleased with the results! I know this is a daft thing to sew, but, well... it is almost the end of the school holidays. My brain is a bit frazzled, what can I say?

If you've never tried using shirring elastic, do it! And, what better way to practise than on something like this that doesn't matter if you muck it up? All you do, is hand wind the bobbin with shirring elastic, pop it into the machine, with normal thread up above, and sew. Easier than you would think.

Goodnight, tiger! See you in the morning for more home made baby gift fun.

And finally, I've had a sudden surge in people using my PE bag tutorial - must be the start of term, eh? If you haven't seen it, here is the link - and, here is the fabric I have lined up for my littlest big girl's version, ready for when she starts school in another week or so. (Were her sisters jealous when they saw the fabric? Er, yes, you could say that...)

Best fabric ever?