Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Lemon Drop

Over here, we're starting to say goodbye to Summer. We've had 2-3 weeks on constant rainy weather, it's getting darker in the mornings and the doona's back on the end of the bed (although usually pushed down to the bottom).

But the Lemon Drop Dress is like a drop of sunshine that has been keeping winter at bay.

The pattern has options for a dress or tunic length, with or without a ruffle at the bottom.

And the gathered pockets are just gorgeous.

There is an amazing technique for getting the binding on the pockets just right.  I must confess that I often have to go back and add a little hand stitching her or there to catch binding I might miss. But my stitching was spot on with these pockets.

Tie Dye Diva patterns were some of the first pdf sewing patterns I tried, so it's pretty special to be able to test a pattern.

As usual the pattern is well written, with a good level of words and pictures. There are plenty of tips to help you get a great finish, and a beautiful garment.

This dress is a size 5 that has been lengthened to a size 6 (for my slender girl). There are instructions on how to do this included in the pattern. The fit is meant to be a little loose and flowing. Perfect for warm summer days, or for allowing room to pop a t-shirt underneath.

I dare say this dress will be still on high rotation come the cooler months, with a long sleeve tee and a pair of leggings. It's very versatile, and great for twirling.

For this version I used a vintage sheet for the main skirt, a fat quarter for the bodice and pockets, and some random broadcloth from my stash for the straps and pocket binding. I really struggle to combine two or more patterned fabrics, so I'm pretty pleased with how the purples pinks and oranges work together in this dress.

Can we just take a moment to reflect on the fussy cut placement for the front bodice .....

.... and behold the wonder of snaps covered in matching fabric (how close are the oranges in those fabrics!). I read about it in the latest issue of One Thimble (affiliate link), and now I can't get enough of fabric covered snaps.

The pattern is also available for American Girl and Wellie Wisher dolls. We have an Australian Girl doll that I have yet to sew for. Unfortunately, she has had a hair cut, and a sharpie tattoo on her calf, so no pattern testing for Annabelle. But I think a matching dress is on the cards.

The pattern is reduced to $7.50 (US) for release, and can be found here.

As an extra bonus for making it all the way to the end of this post, here's one more photo of a dress made with an earlier version of the pattern. This one has a ruffle (included in the final pattern), and the final version is a little looser in fit.

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

A Gingerbread Birthday

Miss 6 has never been particularly fond of cake (although, give her some cheese, crackers and sauerkraut and she's happy). So she came up with a fantastic idea for her birthday cake.

A gingerbread house! We had finally found a 'cake' that she would happily eat.

Following in that theme, we had a gingerbread party.  We decorated gingerbread men, pinned the bow tie on the gingerbread man, and had a gingerbread pinata (rather over-engineered).

I was pretty pleased that I managed to bake and assemble a gingerbread house (rather than put together the easy Aldi version).  I was very brave, and handed over the undecorated house to be decorated by the guests.

The inspiration for Miss 6's Birthday Dress was a Pinterest search for "Gingerbread Dress". I remembered I had a large piece of brown shirting that was just the right colour. I added in some red buttons, extra large white ric rac, some red spotty ribbon and some red gingham (reclaimed from a shirt that was destined for the op shop).  Altogether I'm pretty happy with the look, and think I managed to fill the brief.  Given the weight and lower breathability of the shirting, I lined it in red cotton lawn. I'm a big fan of a contrast lining.

The pattern used as the Sis Boom Gabriella Fae. I wanted something with a high bodice, and puffed sleeves.  The pattern has a great number of options for sleeve and skirt lengths, and Miss 6 was particularly taken with the bow on the waistband.

For a puffier skirt, I used the width measurements for the Latona Dress. The bodices were similar sizes so I knew they would work.

Last time I made this dress I realised that it uses a standard dress zip. I generally prefer invisible zippers (I'd argue that they're actually easier to install). It wasn't until I got to the point of inserting the zipper that I realised that the bodice construction meant that I couldn't bag the lining.  So I ended up just sewing it in, then tacking down the zipper tape and seam allowance so they were kept out of the way.

The bow was a little different to the pattern instructions, being two pieces of ribbon rather than shaped sections of fabric. After some prodding and stitching I ended up with a shape I liked, and sewed it on. The ribbon I had was slightly too narrow to use as the waistband, so it was stitched on over the top. The bottom of the ribbon overhangs the top of the skirt slightly.

All was ready and set for the party. But half an hour before the start .... the zipper broke.  The section of the bodice with the ribbon is really stiff (the ribbom doesn't bend much), and caused the zipper not to 'zip together' properly.  So in 17 minutes I managed to removed the old zipper, and insert the new. We zipped up the dress as the doorbell rang. And so, I have a white (not so) invisible zipper in a brown dress - but it zips up nicely and no more trouble.

So far I've not managed to take 'beautiful' photos at a party. There's usually so much to be done that getting a photo of the cake is about as much as we manage.  These photos were taken recently, at a local reserve. I'll have to remember this spot for photos, it worked out pretty well (until the camera battery went flat).

So that's her last big birthday bash for a while. There will still be cake next year, and maybe even a new dress, but no lollybags, parties and the rest of the shebang.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

The PenUltimate Pencil Case

So this pencil case idea is pretty cool. But there is always the possibility that there are better ones out there - so we have the PenUltimate Pencil Case!!!!!

Basically, it's your standard lined zipper pouch, with added elastic loop thingies to hold your special pencils in place for easy access.

The design was my son's idea.  Before we went on holidays I made both kids a new pencil case, and filled it with brand new pencils. An important piece of preparation when you're about to spend over 24 hrs each way on the plane, and countless hours driving all over the place (and thoroughly enjoying it too I might add). When we got home, he asked me to add some pieces of elastic to the inside, to keep his lead pencils nice and handy.

It was a pretty good idea, so I did. Of course, by that stage, the whole pencil case was already sewn up, so any stitching on the inside was visible on the outside (except if I had handsewed it, but I wanted that elastic to stay put, so that wasn't an option). And the ends of the elastic were rather visible too.  All up it was a little messy. But he was happy with it, and my daughter requested the same mods.

So when I offered a new pencil case as a birthday present for one of Miss 6's friends, I decided to add the elastic sections, but 'properly this time'.

I adapted Noodlehead's Open Wide Zippered Pouch tutorial (medium size) to have the lining cut in 3 pieces. That way the ends of the elastic could be sandwiched neatly between the seam allowances, and no extra stitching would be visible on the outside of the pencil case.

It's a pretty neat hack, and if you read on, I'll walk you through it.

What you need:

  • material for outer and liner
  • standard dress zip (longer than the pouch you're making)
  • rulers (I use my quilting ruler & a metal ruler)
  • marker (washaway or similar)
  • needles, thread, pins, scissors
  • hair elastic (like the ones below - they are cheap, have good elasticity and are flat & wide making them good to secure in place)

First off is a little bit of maths. I have found elastic secured 1.5" at each end, with stitching in the middle is a good size for a standard pencil. The elastics are positioned 1.5" from the top of the case (where the zipper is).

The measurements below are for a starting rectangle size of 9"x 12" (the middle size Open Wide Zippered Pouch), but you can adapt them for whatever size you want.

Here is a diagram of how it should look when it's all together. (the thick black lines are the elastic)

But we need to add seam allowance (1/2") for the middle section. So for a piece 12" wide, we need to cut the following:

  • 6.5" x 12" (bottom section)
  • 2.5" x 12" (middle section)
  • 2" x 12" (top section)
You can cut the other side the same (for two sets of loops), or as a straight 9"x 12"piece. And don't forget to cut two pieces for the outside of your pouch.

Fold the middle section in half, then press with an iron, then in half the other way, and press. This will give you a centre point, and straight centre lines to work from.

Use a removable marking implement  (I will use chalk, washaway marker, washaway pencil or heat disappearing pens depending on on what I'm marking) to indicate where your elastic will sit. I marked two lines 2" away from the centre line (orange lines), and then marked 1/2" in along each end of those lines, as well as the centre line, (pink lines)

Pin your elastic in place along the orange lines (and centre line if you want a bit more stability). Stitch the elastic in place just inside the seam allowance. I went back and forth with a tight zig zag. And stitch again at the centre of the elastic to make two pencil sections.

Here are my machine settings for the zig zag

And here's my trusty tool for making sure the elastic goes under the presser foot nicely.  Sometimes it gets a little stuck, so I help it along with my seam ripper (keeps my fingers away from that needle). I find this also helps keep the elastic square as I'm sewing.

When you've stitched on your elastic it should look something like this. I stuck a pencil in there to check the fit.

Once you're happy with your elastic placement, stitch the middle section of fabric to the top and bottom lining pieces (1/2" seam allowance). Then carefully press, with the seam allowance away from the middle.  I will generally use a pressing cloth for this step, as the elastic can melt with too much heat.

Then topstitch along those two seams. The elastic is now held secure with 3 lots of stitching, and no exposed ends. Here it is all neatly sewn in place. (this was taken after the pouch was completed - so the zipper is visible)

Complete the rest of the pouch according to the tutorial directions (here's the one I generally use Noodlehead's Open Wide Zippered Pouch).

And then enjoy your super cute pencil case, with spots to keep special pens or pencils easy to hand! (or make one for a friend, relative or random stranger).

Friday, 24 February 2017

Megan - the skirt next door

So - have you ever had that one skirt. The one that was easy to wear? That fitted in all the right places? That you could wear without having to worry about whether your tummy was sucked in enough? That let you walk normally, sit on the floor, hop in and out of cars without a worry? That was a flattering shape, and could be dressed up or down?

For me ... Megan is that skirt. The skirt next door - not all that much to look at at first glance (at least this version - you should see what the other testers have whipped up), but once you get to know her, totally gorgeous, lovely and amazing.

The Megan skirt, by Designer Stitch* has just been released and fits the bill for my favourite skirt.

The pattern has 3 different views. This is view B with pockets and a contrast centre panel.  And might I say that the pockets are just fantastic. They don't interfere with the line or fit of the skirt, and are big enough to fit a phone, car keys and other essentials.

For this version I decided on a denim skirt. I believe it's always good to have a denim skirt in your wardrobe. They're so versatile. Good in summer or winter (or in between)

As the skirt had a contrast centre panel, I played with the denim look, by using the wrong side for the centre and top of pockets, and adding detail with trim along the pocket lines and contrasting topstitching.

The skirt does up at the back with a zipper. I used one with metal teeth that I rescued from an opshop find. And added more topstitching down the centre back seam.

The pattern includes great instructions for inserting the zipper.  My yoke seams are slightly out of whack as I ended up restitching the zipper after removing the basting stitches. Next time it will be spot on (I promise).

I couldn't find upholstery or topstitching thread in the colour I wanted, so used a cotton thread, and triple stitched the topstitching.  For this stitch the machine goes forward one stitch, then back one stitch, then forward one stitch again, before repeating (forward, back, forward - forward, back, forward).  So each stitch is sewn three times. This means that more thread is visible for each stitch, and the topstitching is more visible - a feature of many denim garments.

Adding trim to the pockets was pretty simple.  I toyed with the idea of adding it across the bottom of the centre panel as well, but the hem has a slight curve (not too good with with trim), and I wasn't sure where the hem would sit, so it would mean unpicking and restiching the panel seams to bring the trim into the seam allowance.  Check out this mini-tutorial for adding trim.

Let's talk about the fit of this skirt for a minute. I love a-line skirts, they're generally a flattering shape, and work well at a variety of lengths.  Usually, my hips are a size larger than my waist, so I adjusted the pattern as normal. But when I tried on my toile/muslin/first attempt.  I had a bit of extra fabric floating around where the bony part of my hips are. See, my hip measurement (the widest part) is actually around the bottom of my bottom - the 'saddlebag' area.  So the a-line of the skirt provides a little more room than other styles.

To adjust the pattern for my 'proper' version, I pinned the toile in place along the side seams so that it fitted. Then I laid my pattern piece over the fabric, made note of where the pinning stopped (ie where the width was ok). Then retraced my lines from the smaller size to the larger so that the new line hit the larger size at the point I'd just marked. And now the skirt falls nicely off the widest part of my hips.

If you'd like your own Megan Skirt, head over to the Designer Stitch pattern store.  The pattern is on sale for release - $8 (US), until Friday 3 March.

PS - In case you've been looking at these photos wondering "what is that amazing top she's wearing". It's a Bridget Top, also by Designer Stitch. This is a short sleeve variation (cufflet) in rayon). I promise to tell you all about it soon.

*this post contains affiliate links. For any patterns purchased I receive a small commission, at no extra cost to you. The opinions, sewing and attempts to have photos without hair blowing in my face are all my own.

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Adding Trim

Just a quick post on adding trim to the top of slash pockets.

The pockets in this post are made with one piece folded back upon itself to form the pocket bag.

There is a straight line across the top of the pocket. This is important for this trim.  Because of the width of this trim, it won't sit flat on curves - so looks best on straight lines.

Once the pocket is constructed, and everything is sitting nicely, I use fabric glue to carefully position the trim.

The trim extends all the way to the edge of the pattern piece, so that the edges are caught in the seam allowance in later steps.

The top (back) of the pocket is then folded out of the way, and the trim is stitched on to the front and lining of the pocket (two layers).

For this trim, I followed the pattern along the edge, experimenting with different stitch lengths and thread colours until I was happy with one that blended in as much as possible.  You may want to consider using invisible thread to sew your trim if you don't have the right shade of thread.

Sew the trim on slowly and carefully, keeping your line of stitching straight, and making sure the trim doesn't buckle as you go.

I sewed this trim down top and bottom so it was secure, and flat against the garment. Other trims (such as fringes or braids) may only require one row of stitching.

And you're done! Something different to liven up a garment. And you're not limited to pockets - just plan ahead, find some straight lines, and (where possible) seams to hide the raw edges, and thereare  lots of possibilities for adding trim.

In case you're wondering the skirt in this post is the Megan Skirt by Designer Stitch. (affiliate link)

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Annalise by ModKid

After testing the Aubrey for MODKID last year, I was excited to have a look at their latest pattern -

The Annalise top and vest.

It's a top or vest.  This is the top version with a closed skirt/ruffle. The vest opens all the way down the front

Contrary to common styling these days, the top has a low-high hemline. That's low at the front and high at the back.

So yes, when you have a peek at the back, she is wearing shorts (they're just not super visible from front on, and she's not carrying on like a monkey).

There are some lovely details in this pattern. The pintucks are just gorgeous. This was my first time with pintucks so I was a little nervous, but the instructions walk you through the process so smoothly it was a snap.

Incidentally, I was originally going to add snaps to the front of this dress, but couldn't find the ones I liked, so went for snaps instead.*

I was a little unsure of the styling and fabric choice on this one. I didn't ask her for help choosing which fabric to use, and it's a lot more ruffly than most of her other clothes.  But it's a winner! It definitely passed the hug test on first viewing**

There are options for using vintage (or not vintage) lace at the ruffle, and even neckline.  I picked up a few cards of lace at the op shop the other week, so added a layer to the bottom ruffle. It's a really sweet touch.

One of the cool features of this pattern is that it is trans-seasonal.  Right now it's crazy hot, so this is nice a cool to wear in summer. But in winter, you can team it with a long sleeve tee, leggings (or pants), and even a slouchy cardigan for a little extra warmth.  The relaxed fit makes it great for layering.

This version is made in a poplin I had in my stash (it was going to be matching mother/daughter dresses, but has found some other uses lately), it's a pretty firm fabric, to the ruffles are quite 'sticky-outy'. I'd like to have a play with different fabrics. A nice soft rayon for summer (lots of lovely drapey ruffles), and a soft wool for winter warmth. So many possiblities.

The pattern will be on sale for release, and is available at the MODKID Etsy Store. Head over there to have a look at the pattern, and check out all the other great MODKID patterns. Use the code ANNALISE2017 for a 40% discount on anything in the Etsy Store!
And don't forget to check out the MODKID Fan Group for more tester pics, and other MODKID happenings.

*One Thimble Issue 14 has a fantastic tutorial for covering snaps with fabric that I'm keen to try out - what a shame it came out after I sewed this one. Maybe next time.
**If she hugs something once it's finished, that's usually a good sign.