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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Raiding Gertie

Carrots, potatoes, and my nautical Megan Dress
I've just carried out a raid on Gertie. And it isn't even the first time this week. Today, it was potatoes. Only then I noticed we had enough carrots for a meal (probably the only occasion this will happen, I hasten to add) and so pulled those up too. And a very prickly cucumber (are they meant to look that unappetising?!) and one solitary strawberry. 

I'm enjoying Gertie a lot right now. Several times most days, I pop out the back door and take the few steps down to the vegetable patch to see what's been happening. It seems like everything is growing like mad right now. My humble little plot is a jungle. The runner beans are grabbing onto the tallest sunflower, and the tomatoes are fighting their way through the runner beans, while the peas are frantically clinging onto the tomatoes and trying to get themselves noticed. And, hidden in the middle of this crazy border are the potatoes. I really did not think things through - or expect everything to get so big - as, I must admit, squeezing in to harvest the potatoes is no easy business. I am already beginning to wonder about which bit of the garden I might be able to take over in order to have a bit more vegetable growing space next season.

Marigolds (from Gertie) and the tea cosy my friend Annabel made for me
The girls got involved last weekend, joyfully stood round a big plastic tub in the garden, scrubbing newly dug potatoes. There was mixed enthusiasm about actually eating them. Two of the three bigger ones joined in with my `Oooooh, aren't they fluffy!' enthusiastic commentary over lunch, whilst the Middle Girl remained as fussy and obstinate as ever about eating something that was not cheesy pasta.

I am pretty much clueless about what I am doing. I have a few books on growing vegetables, but I must admit that my main source of information comes via my weekly meet ups with my friend Sarah, who is my official gardening guru. This week, she reassured me that my onions were behaving normally (they had drooped) and that it was probably about time to harvest them. And so, after waiting for a couple of sunny days (as per Sarah's advice), the littlest big girl and I pulled them all up and laid them out on the ground to dry out a bit. A couple of days later, I attempted an onion plait, as a way to enable me to hang them up for storage. This was really good fun - and, resulted in a lot less squeals than I usually have to put up with when plaiting hair. I am not sure the utility area is the best long term home for the onions - there is already a faint whiff of onion about the place now - but it will do for now.

I finished my second Megan dress last weekend. There's not much to say about it that I didn't already say in the post about the first version, except that this time I went for a chunky exposed zip to complement my nautical themed choice of fabric. I like it!

I think my next Love at First Stitch make will be a Clemence Skirt - I have a couple of pieces of fabric in mind for two versions. Whether I get them made in time for my holiday is another thing. I am already accepting this is unlikely to happen, not least as I have two girls who are very keen for me to make them Happiness Halter Playsuits first...! They liked the one I made so much, that they want to all be matching. I am weak when it comes to these requests - a big part of me thinks it is lovely they want to do it, and they probably will have grown out of wanting to parade around in matching garments by next year. Oh, and I have a couple more rompers cut out and ready to be sewn for Charlotte - also before holidays. Maybe if I leave them all laid out on the table (like in the Elves and the Shoemaker) I will come down the next morning and find they've all been made?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Autumn Sewing Courses - NOW BOOKING!

Hello, it's me again. And today I am checking in with a short little post to let you in on a secret.

I'll be taking a break from sewing over the summer - yes you read it right. I am going to step away from my sewing machine. I know, I know. Hard to believe. But, it's not long until our holiday to Devon (wheeeeeeee!), and I don't think I can fit my sewing machine into the car, once it is full of children, buckets and spades and the gazillion other things we'll need to take on holiday.

But. Thinking ahead, I have been plotting the autumn sewing plans. Some personal projects I want to do, and also my new sewing classes. There's a few shiny new ones in there, and some old favourites are returning.

Also new this time round is that I have made the switch to online booking. No more hunting for stamps and a cheque book. You can see what's available and book from the comfort of your sofa.

Full course details are here and I'd love you to take a look if you'd like to learn to sew and live in or around the brilliant place that is Bedford (am not even going to apologise or try and hide the fact that I love my home town).

Here's a work in progress Flashback Skinny Tee (with butterfly embellishments as requested by my four year old a while ago), which is one of the new courses on offer.

And, knowing that sewing gets a little bit addictive, I am running a special offer of a free workshop place for people who decide to go ahead and do more than one course with me.

I'd love some help spreading the word about all this. If you happen to be near Bedford, please do share the links if you're on Twitter or Facebook. If you link back to me one way or another so I know you've shared, I'll add your name into a hat for a free workshop place, by way of a thank you. I'll draw this competition on 25th July.

And finally, talking of competitions... I got the biggest girl and the middle girl writing out names and pulling one out of a hat (actually, it was an empty baby milk tin, but never mind) again today. Emma Eames is the lucky winner of the Lisa Lam patterns. Please email me, Emma, with your details, and I will pass them on to the publisher for them to send your patterns out to you. Yay! Well done!

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Dance With Me Dress BLOG HOP

Hello again. I'm back with another one of Lisa Lam's new children's dress making patterns. This time, I've chosen to make the dress - and it's the youngest member of the family who is on the receiving end of a Mummy Make. Well, with only a couple of days to go until her first birthday, I thought the girl deserved a special dress for the occasion. 

The patterns are meant to be for girls aged 2-6 years old, so I shortened the skirt a bit and was an extra half a centimetre generous with all seam allowances. The adjustment has worked, and the dress fits. In fact, as I have turned the skirt up a fair bit, I might even get lucky and put her in it next year - perhaps with a ruffle at the bottom of the skirt to add even more length if need be. We'll see.

Anyhow, back to the make. I enjoyed making this. It was the first time I had made a placket, and I had fun learning how to do this.

I added in the bias binding trim between the bodice and the skirt, and I am pleased with the effect, as I think this detail breaks up the print quite nicely.

I like the fact the bodice is fully lined - I think it makes the inside of the dress look as neat as the outside. And, as I hope this is a dress that will be kept, and pulled out of a box for Charlotte to look at in years to come, I took the trouble to hand stitch the bodice lining to the skirt, to make it look extra neat.

As I was cutting out the dress, I had a flash of inspiration. The thing that could make this outfit even cuter, I thought, would be matching frilly knickers to go over the top of her nappy.

Readers, if ever there was a frivolous sewing project guaranteed to bring a smile to my face, this was going to be it. Oh. My. Goodness. Cuteness overload. Charlotte is at a time of life when chunky thighs are a thing to be celebrated and admired by one and all. Putting them into these knickers just adds to their beauty and general `Oh, those legs have just got to be squeezed' appeal.

She'd like you to know that it is not easy being the youngest in a family of four girls.

After the rush of helping Mummy get everyone out of the house and to school on time, there is still a lot to be done. Towers to be knocked down.

Cups of tea to be made.

Music to be made.

People to call.

Rolling over to model Mummy's latest make (even though she can see I am busy).

It really is non stop. And then, when the big girls get home again, well, they just want entertaining, and it's all smiles and tickles to cheer them up after a busy day at school.

What does a girl have to do to get a quiet moment to herself?

There is still a teeny bit of time to enter the pattern give away. If you're really keen, you can enter twice - once with a comment here, and also leave a comment on the Happiness Halter post. Both patterns are ace. I'd recommend them. They are available to buy - but you have a decent chance of winning a copy of each by commenting here. The cut off is midnight tonight. I'll announce the winner in my next post, and the publisher will send the pattern directly out to the lucky person.

Oh, all right then. For a super easy bonus chance to enter a third time, Tweet me @kitchentablesew the answer to this question. What book by Roald Dahl do you think we've just finished reading? Clue, it inspired the littlest big girl to choose the fabric for both makes (which is Foxtrot by Michael Miller in case you're wanting some for yourself).

Good luck!

Monday, 7 July 2014

Happiness Halter Playsuit BLOG HOP

Hey there. I hope you've had a good weekend. Today's finished project is something special - a brand new pattern by the Bag Making Queen, herself, Lisa Lam.

The Kids Dressmaking Blog Hop with Lisa Lam

I've no idea how her publishers got hold of details of my little blog, but I am pretty pleased to have been asked to take part in a blog hop to promote the patterns. There are some of my favourite bloggers taking part!

I've been making things using Lisa's patterns ever since I rediscovered my love of sewing as an adult. Her blog was the first sewing blog I ever read - she must take a big share of the responsibility for getting me well and truly hooked! I used to enjoy all the free tutorials she put on it - I can clearly remember the rush of pride I experienced when I put a hidden zip pocket inside my first bag, all thanks to Lisa's clear instructions.

My husband would joke she was like the sewing world equivalent of a drug dealer - tempt a person in with a few easy to achieve projects with nice beginner friendly colour photos for each step and let them gleefully realise sewing is something they can do; have a shop that sells all the shiny bits and pieces you need to make your bags look professional; write a book just in time for when your sewing groupies are ready for something harder; then another... you get the idea.

But, if you are reading this and in need of one, Lisa is a great dealer to pick. I was flabbergasted when I once had need to call her shop over something, and realised it was the Bag Queen herself willingly answering my bag making questions in such a friendly and patient manner. As a result, I always tell the girls and guys who come onto my courses that when looking for a project beyond basic cushions, that you cannot go far wrong with a copy of The Bag Making Bible and a couple of contrasting half metre pieces of fabric that you love.

But hang on a minute, you say. There's not a bag in sight in these pictures. Correct. Lisa has become a mummy, and, like a lot of mums who sew, has found it impossible to resist the lure of making something lovely for her gorgeous little one to wear. So, she has turned her pattern designing talent towards children's clothes. Her aim in doing so, is to help us all create something that will be totally unique, and, I think, special enough to earn status as an heirloom piece to be handed down the family.

There are two pattern booklets to choose from, both designed for girls aged 2-6 years old. Each includes three options so that you can vary your makes a bit and get good value for money out of the designs. I have made something from both booklets - and, at the risk of cuteness overload (for that read `waffle') in one post, will be showing you the Dance With Me Dress I made for Charlotte on Wednesday.

My littlest big girl was with me when I opened the email inviting me to take part in this blog hop. Sensing my excitement, she asked what all the fuss was about, and then wasted no time in telling me which of the patterns she liked the best. Half an hour later, she and I had chosen the fabric for her playsuit - it is called Foxtrot by Michael Miller, and the plain contrast is Mustard from Bella Solids, both are from FabricRehab. I adore this shop. (If they are reading, I would be so happy to be sent something lovely to make another something lovely out of. Just saying...)

This took me a little longer to sew than my usual children's makes. That said, I like the finished result. And more importantly, the littlest big girl does, too. You can see from the photos that she has tested its play credentials. And also, she was extremely careful not to spill her dinner on it yesterday, so that she could wear it again today when she went to pre school. Now if that is not a ringing endorsement from a child, I don't know what is.

As already hinted, this took a while to make. I cut out the pieces on one day, and did the actual sewing over a couple of evenings. If you are doing the same, I'd recommend labelling all the different pieces for the ruffles and trims, as I managed to confuse them at one point, and sewed the wrong bit onto the neck.

I made one adjustment, and that was to swap the two straps (that were meant to tie in a bow or knot at the back of the neck) for a single strap that fastens at the front with some Velcro. I think most children in the age range the pattern is intended for would struggle to be able to wear this outfit and dash to the loo and independently do it back up again. The solution I have come up with works - but, if I was making it again, I would try a slightly approach of adding some elastic into the neck strap casing (as well as the Velcro), so that there was a bit more ease around this area.

The instructions for the patterns are every bit as good as I have come to expect from Lisa Lam. There are plenty of clear colour photos of each step that support the written instructions nicely.

Although the actual designs themselves are a bit more fiddly than I would normally bother with for children's clothing, there is nothing difficult about it. Given that I might have overlooked this pattern (mainly because I have plenty of basic children's patterns to draw upon already) I am glad the opportunity to make it landed in my lap - I think the finished garment is worth the effort, and (more importantly) it stands up to the test of being fun to play in.

Both the bigger sisters now want playsuits! Lisa, if you're reading this, an option for an almost eight year old girl would save me some time trying to size up the pattern myself... ;)

And finally, you want to see that first ever bag, don't you? Well, I think the bag has long been lost (probably in our house move last year), but here is a slightly blurry picture of what it looked like.

The patterns are available to buy now. I've also just noticed that Lisa's second bag book is currently massively reduced in price here (I already have it, and am plotting the bike bags to go on my pretty new set of wheels).

I'm sure you'd like the chance to get your hands on both sets of patterns for free, wouldn't you? The publishers have kindly offered to send one lucky reader this prize. To enter, just leave a comment below. And, for a second chance at entering, come back and see me on Wednesday, where I'll be showing you how Charlotte looks in the Dance With Me Dress.

In the meantime, the next person on the blog hop is Follow the White Bunny - tomorrow. Enjoy!

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Rocking her romper (with her chunky little legs)

It's been a few months since I made Charlotte's first romper

She's been a busy girl in that time. With just a week to go until her birthday, she has out done her three big sisters on the teeth front for her age (she has 6, and yes, they are sharp!); she can shuffle herself across the room to get to her sisters' toys; she has quite a character of her own, with a variety of ways of getting a laugh from her sisters (the attention seeking cough followed by a big grin being her favourite method); but, is still bald as can be.

Making a beeline for her sisters' toys, including the original Wonky Wilma
As already discussed, the experience of trying to put poppers into jersey left me so annoyed that it has taken me this long to summon up the motivation to make any more.

The thing that motivated me most to make more rompers (apart from Charlotte bursting out of the old one) was knowing that I had some AWESOME fabric lined up ready to make them with. This is the first of three pieces of super cool and crazy prints I have from KitschyCoo - it would be a crime to sewing if I wasted the opportunity to make rompers out of them. 

 I get lots of people asking me about where to buy jersey fabric from. I have to be honest, and say it can be a lottery, especially if you are buying online.

I first discovered KitschyCoo two years ago. I immediately fell in love with the smile inducing designs I saw on Amanda's site. KitschyCoo doesn't stop at fabrics, either - Amanda has designed several patterns to tempt you into the world of making things with jersey (the Skater Dress is one such pattern I have bought and plan to make soon).

I don't know what Amanda's own personal philosophy on children's clothing is, but, judging by the unique business she has created, I suspect that comfort and fun feature as highly for her as they do for me when I am thinking about what I want to make for my little ones to wear on a daily basis.

The price of the prints may seem a bit steep if you are new to the site and comparing it to, say, plain interlocks you can buy elsewhere for a lot less. But, I have found to my own cost at times, that when buying jersey, this is a case of `you get what you pay for'. My clothes go through the washing machine a lot of times, and the same is even more true of the clothes worn by my girls. Items like this Nellie the Elephant Tee are still going strong two years after they were made. The only problem I have with the prints is the girls tend to like them a bit too much - the Middle Girl still insists that Nellie still fits her and won't really be persuaded to hand it on until she has a replacement she likes just a much.

Anyhow, back to this make. I made it using the `R' is for Romper pattern from Sewing for Boys. I just about squeezed the 9-12 months size out of half a metre. There is enough fabric left over to consider making a Flashback Skinny Tee with a funky Bambi front to it. But, readers, we all know the arguments that would cause...

The making came together a lot more smoothly this time. If you ignore the dodgy neckline, that is. I tried simplifying the pattern by leaving out the front neck poppers, and just have it pull over Charlotte's head. I need to modify it on the next romper, as the neck is a bit too big on this version. Still, having unpicked it once, I am not going to bother again. This is good enough, considering Charlotte will outgrow this by the end of the summer, and, let's be honest, will spill all sorts of food over it, in the process.

The Popper Problem seems to have been resolved by adding a strip of selvage edge cut form some quilting cotton inside the orange ribbing you see. That, and creating a tiny pin prick hole through all layers of fabric before attempting to pierce through and apply the poppers with the pliers. The popper process only took me about fifteen minutes this time, and, as yet, none of them have ripped through the jersey. Fingers crossed.

So, her she is. My gorgeous little baby girl, who brings bucket loads of joy to her proud parents and sisters on a daily basis. I can't believe she will be a year old next week!

Monday, 23 June 2014

Megan Dress

Hello lovely readers!

After the total failure of the stripy romper, I am relieved to tell you my sewing mojo came back on Saturday night - I finished my Megan Dress. Cue happy dance. Or, happy bike ride.

Look what I bought myself with the money from selling my dear old little silver car - this mint green beauty has entered my life! I've been a reluctant cycler, dragging my heels at any suggestions of family bike riding action, and, preferring to drive behind in the support vehicle, and turn up just in time to join in with the cafe bit of the outing.

What changed? Well, with Charlotte getting big enough to go in a bike seat, and with even the littlest big girl (finally) breaking the all important peddling faster than walking pace speed barrier, it was getting harder to think of excuses not to join the cycling gang. My biggest gripe had been bikes just weren't that comfortable (or pretty, but I couldn't admit to that one). I'd admired my friend's Pendleton for a while - and she very kindly let me borrow it from her for a couple of days to see if I liked riding it. I did. And, judging by the uber cute kicking and gleeful squeals from Charlotte, she did too. A perfectly timed sale at the shop meant I hastily reserved a version of my own.

I won't bore you with the details of the first family ride. All I will say is the route out was green and glorious - we cycled alongside the beautiful river in Bedford until we reached Danish Camp (a bit of a let down if you're expecting actual Vikings, but the setting is perfect on a sunny day, and there is a bouncy castle that amuses the children in return for whatever overpriced options you have selected from the menu). The ride home would have been fine, except for the flat tyre on the biggest girl's bike (meaning she and her Daddy and his back seat biker had to walk the entire way home) and the now over tired wailing baby seated behind me for my cycle home with the middle girl. I am told the walking cyclists had to be bribed/motivated with the promise of milk and biscuits at the Kiosk in the Park on the way home, which did the job (along with threats to leave them behind) and they eventually arrived home about an hour or so after us. Still, you can't have it all and life with a gang of little ones doesn't always run smoothly, does it - but next time we'll take a pump with us!

Anyway, the dress.

Yes. Back to the dress.

This is my first proper make from Love at First Stitch. I'd said I was going to do one a month - mainly to force myself to slow down and take my time over some of the details and steps I often miss out, like making a toile.

I did that a couple of weekends ago. It worked out fine, with no adjustments needed. Phew. I moved on and cut out the actual dress pieces, so they would be ready to sew the next time I had a spare evening to devote to the dress.

So, Saturday night came, and I had a couple of friends round to sew with me. I don't know if you sew socially, but this is undoubtedly one of my favourite ways to spend an evening. We natter away, and, okay, so the sewing usually goes a lot slower than it would if working alone, it is so much more fun to gossip together and have a good old catch up. Plus, your friends are on hand to coo in all the right places and offer help (or just laugh) when things go a bit wrong.

Luckily, all went pretty smoothly. By the time my friends went home, I was just starting the invisible zip. We all know how these can go one of two ways - either right first time or they end up being fitted and unpicked about three times and still not being quite right. The sewing gods were obviously smiling down on me - not only did my zip go in nicely first time, the print was so pleasingly matched up that I even pictured in my head how the scene would pan out if I was on Sewing Bee and Patrick was critiquing my derriere (purely for the sake of the pattern matching, obviously). Tell me I am not the only home sewer who, when basking in moments of success, let's their imagination get carried away with them and sees themselves on the Bee..?! Okay, moving on.

The fit is good. Looser than I would have imagined, but I quite like this, as it makes the dress easy to move about in and it feels nice and cool on a hot day. And, it goes nicely with my bike. Shallow, I know.

I'll definitely be making another Megan. I have the fabric lined up already - also from the Goldhawk Road day out during NYLon14. The next one will be a lovely nautical number, and that is all I am telling you for now. But first, I have used the remaining bit of fabric from this dress to cut out something else from the Love at First Stitch book. I know, I know I said one pattern per month, and it is still June. But rules are dull. And if you can't break your own rules, when can you? All I'm saying is that the next make I have planned and cut is super simple, and will be a little bit more cycling friendly.

Watch this space!

Come and join me in the one make a month fun -
go on, help yourself to a button from the right hand side of this page... :)

Is anyone else making something from Love at First Stitch at the moment? I'd love to be nosy and see what you're up to - you can Tweet me @kitchentablesew if you feel so inclined. Bye for now!

Friday, 20 June 2014

The Popper Problem

Today, I realised something I was sewing had gone so wrong that I threw it in the bin.

Now you're all wondering what was I making, and what had gone so badly wrong that it wasn't worth doing what we'd all normally do, which is to make a cup of tea, have a few biscuits, and come back to it later, right?

I'd been making a second romper suit for Charlotte. I cut it out straight after finishing making her first romper. That one felt like such a success, that I was motivated about making another for her. Actually, a few. You know me, full of optimism about how much time I have to do these things!

With these dresses fresh off the sewing machine, I let myself be persuaded (by the owners of the dresses, of course) to make a matching romper with the leftover scraps. I just about wangled it, and felt very clever.

And then the pieces sat cut out and not sewn for a couple of months. Plenty of other things got made. Other more exciting things, I guess. For some reason, my motivation to make that particular romper had vanished.

It all boiled down to The Popper Problem. Having found how fiddly and annoying poppers are to apply (they took longer to get right than the entire romper did to sew), I was reluctant to revisit them. And worse than that - one day, one of the poppers on the fabulous green scooter romper tore through the jersey, leaving a hole. Oh, bother and drat to that. (I still dress Charlotte in the romper, by the way - I think life is too short to worry about little imperfections with clothing.)

So, I did what a lot of us do, and went on the internet for supplies. I bought some sew in popper tape, in the hope this would be a good solution to The Popper Problem. 

Still, my heart wasn't really in the project. Unsure whether it was a lack of confidence over how good the popper tape would work out, or whether it was just that I wasn't feeling the romper love any more, I decided to force myself to make the project that I'd cut out. It had, after all, been bothering me that I had left something unfinished for so long, and had been merrily moving onto new shiny sewing projects to satisfy my urge to sew. I felt guilty.

Well, dear friends, let me tell you, the lesson of this failed project is that guilt is no reason to sew. If your heart isn't in it, it is usually for a good reason. In this case, I didn't want the striped fabric I had cut or the popper tape to go to waste. This clouded my judgement about the project generally. 

In my desire to just sew the romper so that I could move on and make something I would enjoy more, I just ended up wasting a few hours of time (as well as the materials). 

I'd had my doubts about the popper tape because I thought it was a bit stiff and scratchy. But I plodded on anyway. It was only when I had reached the penultimate step in making the romper - attaching the poppers that go in between the legs - that I realised how unsatisfied I was with the whole thing. I'd been right in my doubts about the popper tape - there was no way I was ever putting Charlotte in the romper if I finished it, because it just wasn't going to be comfortable for her to wear. There is no point in making a thing to wear - especially for a baby - if it is stiff and scratchy. There was no point in doing the hems. 

And with that, I threw the whole thing in the bin and felt much better. 

I made a large tea, ate a few biscuits, and came back to The Popper Problem. 

I think I have found a solution. Which, given that the shiny new printed jersey I have been itching to make some rompers with is still there waiting for when I am ready, is just as well.

But for now, I am going to enjoy sewing something else. Four words to bring a smile to my face after this failure: Megan Dress Sewing Tonight!