Thursday, 18 September 2014

A Sketchbook Shirt for a Duck

Last night was P's first School Concert. (it was also my regular French class which involves adult conversation, some wine, good cheese...). I'm sure you know which I attended.

I did the right thing and went and watched my little duck on stage. It went a bit like this: "Quack. Ooooh, lovely mud. Quack" then along with 24 other little prep kids, all dressed in check shirts, jeans and gumboots, they did a little dance. (they weren't all ducks. There were cows, pigs and horses and one appropriately bossy Mrs Wishy Washy)

So, my kid's first ever school concert required my first ever school concert costume. The notice came home from school the week before, saying they needed Jeans (got those), Gumboots (check) and a Check shirt (nope...).
But I did have one of mine that I had set aside when I did my big wardrobe clean out thinking it would be perfect to cut up for the kids one day. It was a Country Road shirt made out of Lyocell - which I hadn't heard of, but is a lovely soft, fine weave with a silky, soft feel. Checking that Wikipedia link, it turns out it's Tencel without the brand name rights. Makes sense, 'cause that's how it feels.
Anyway, I had thought it could easily make a sleeveless blouse for A. I had not envisaged trying to cut a long sleeved, size 6 Sketchbook shirt for P. But I did, and check out the photo of the remnants post cutting!

I am so proud of that! I had to unpick every seam. I thought and thought about how it could all fit. Thought I had it sorted but it was late and didn't start cutting. Thank goodness, as I'd failed to realise the check pattern was decidedly unidirectional and I would have muffed it big time. More thinking, more laying out pieces and I finally got it sorted.

I managed to cut every piece (I'd almost resigned myself to a different fabric for the inner yoke and the under collar) and I even added 1 inch to the length and 3/4" to the sleeves. Woohoo!

I didn't allow myself to entertain the idea of much pattern matching, but did try to get the front pieces and at least the uppermost placket to match. With some freaky sewing luck, one side seam also matches perfectly (but not the other) and bizarrely, without the slightest intention, the upper and under collar were absolutely spot-on.
An in-progress photo that had to go immediately to facebook!

Kind of pointlessly exciting because once that seam is pressed and the collar stitched you'd never notice, but weirdly thrilling all the same, hey?!

Speaking of stitching, I edgestitched and topstitched everything, giving it more of a country feel. The sleeve seams are pressed towards the shoulder and edgestitched and topstitched too. The side seams were flat felled, which is so easy to do with lovely soft, fine fabric. I've previously only done it with denim and thicker terry knit and found it to be a truly painful way to sew seams. This fabric resold me on the idea.

I had really wanted the back yoke on the bias, and while it's got a line of needle holes across it from an old seam, I managed it. The main back panel is cut about 1/2 an inch off the fold making the box pleat a bit scanty compared to the original pattern, but that was my only concession required to get it all out of the one thrifted shirt.

You can't beat this pattern for instructions like the sleeve placket. So neat and satisfying. (what's not looking so good is photos using the old D80 camera body and pushing the ISO in order to avoid using the flash - so grainy)

Love the fabric, love the pattern, LOVE the challenge of getting it all cut from one old shirt and REALLY, REALLY LOVE my little duck!

Monday, 15 September 2014

... and a Metro T for me

When I was busy making Flipper's Father's day T-shirt, I figured with the pattern instructions out and the overlocker threaded with grey, it was probably the right time to make the Liesl & Co Women's Metro t-shirt for me!

Mine's a straight XL (oh that hurts to type, but it's the truth). I measured between the L and XL and followed the pattern's advice to size up a little. Also, this fabric is a pretty thin viscose jersey and would be very underwear ugly if it was too clingy.

The size turned out perfect. the shoulders sit right, the armholes and sleeves are not too big, but there's plenty of freedom and swing throughout the T-shirt to avoid any tightness or lumpy bits.

Just showing off my side seam matching, but also having a laugh as the written words make as much sense when you read over the seam as anywhere else. I have to admit to ignorance and say I don't know if it's a famous poem or just a fairly random collection of words. There's a reference to Baudelaire thrown in, just below my neckband are the words "empty womb" and my left breast bears the word "ennui". All sounds about right!

I think there might be enough leftover to make a T-shirt for one of the kids, which would put me on theme with the upcoming Kid's Clothes Week.

kid's clothes week

I kind of like the idea as the print itself seems somewhat inappropriate for a little kid, but is in a very appropriate storybook style font! It reminds me of a book of poetry that I have which includes some translations of Villon, a very ribald poet. How my son would love a T-shirt with a quote about  "a fart such as no toxic beetle ever puffed forth".

What does the theme Storybook suggest to you?

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

It's all about the men

This Sunday just gone was Father's day in Australia. According to Flipper it was just the second day of Father's Weekend, which comes at the end of Father's Week which of course is only the last week of... (you get the picture)

Anyway, it was also the second weekend of spring, and it was forecast to be a day like this:

So I got up early, rode to the shops for some croissants, piled the family into the car and drove them out to the countryside to see my parents.

I'd been making a gift for my dad for father's day...

It's the Newcastle Cardigan by Thread Theory. I can't say enough good things about the pattern. It's beautifully presented, perfectly drafted and the instructions are impeccable.

I had initially bought the paper patterns from the Parkland Collection thinking I'd make things for Flipper. I ran the idea of this cardigan (obviously I didn't use the C word) past him, suggesting some of the double sided windproof fleece that P had here. He was interested but perhaps not convinced.

Flipper has a particularly long torso and I was keen for a test run in some other cheaper fabric. But then when I spied this dark grey sweater knit with a kind of faux cable pattern it became clear that the test run was going to be for my dad.

Their chest measurements and arm lengths were similar enough, but the waist measurement did differ somewhat (sorry dad). The patterns are described as being an "athletic fit" which presumably means pretty slim.

So, using the pattern pieces I'd already lengthened and drafted for Flipper, I added a Grandpa waist adjustment (seen above).

By now I was starting to have invested a bit in this project and the underside of that grey sweater knit is horrible. It appears to have a kind of black interfacing backing. It's scratchy and unpleasant. I figured my dad is probably as fussy as I am, so it would have to be lined.

I used a nice cotton interlock from Spotlight in a kind of moss grey colour. Lining it saved me from having to finish any seams (yay) and turned out to be very easy as I kept all the facings exactly as they were intended.

Infuriatingly I'd recalculated all the buttonhole spacings after lengthening the pattern, but then somehow mucked up transferring the new markings to the fabric. It wasn't until I'd sewn and cut the bottom two buttonholes that I realised my spacing was out of whack, and the next three buttons would never fit. I had to evenly space just two more buttons. It doesn't matter, but the pattern is intended to have five buttons, not four.

Photoshoot time arrived and my dad was either busy or had wandered off somewhere... (sorry dad ;) ), so Roger, who was also visiting, and was very keen on the Newcastle Cardigan (Christmas present sorted) stood in as man model number one.

And he worked it!

The pattern comes with options for a regular or wide shawl collar, and for the front and back yoke panels. I chose the yokes and the regular collar (view A).

I used the same fabric for the yokes but cut them on the bias. Saves on matching stripes you know!

The fit is fairly snug, but it feels so incredibly cosy (yep, I kept trying it on while I was making it!) because of it. With the jacket styling it works really well as a halfway between a dressed up blazer and a comfy ol' cardi.
I didn't get any photos of the insides before handing it over, but since Roger's commissioned one of his own, I'll take some pics along the way when I make that one. We were also talking about adding some welt pockets on the front for hands, or just for a wallet. I think they'd have to be smallish to prevent distorting the way the front lays....
Then my dad wandered back and reclaimed his Father's day gift for a bit of modelling himself.
Thanks daddy! He was a good sport, given that his gift was presented with the following advice: You don't have to like it, cause I had fun making it so I hardly care. You do, however have to model it for me for the sake of my blog. If you don't like it I won't be offended, so long as you realise there is no plan B present. Oh, and happy Father's day,
And now, since too many dads is never enough, here's the third:
Flipper scored my second ever bit of man sewing with a Metro t-shirt by Liesl + Co. It's a straight XL size in a cotton lycra. No extra length added and it's still a great fit.
I used some of the great Ottobre ribbings that I bought a while ago for the neckband. It's not quite the exact same light grey marle but near enough and the recovery is great. I'd possibly cut the neckband a tiny bit narrower next time.
The monsters came from a hilarious kid's book about manners called Being A Pig Is Nice. I traced them and cut a freezer paper stencil. The kids then roughly mixed some fabric paints and sponged the paint on, doing one monster each. Once it was dry I added the eyes and hairy bits. The wording is a t-shirt transfer which I deliberately made very small so that he wasn't walking around with a huge happy father's day message across his chest.
While Flipper has said the Newcastle cardigan isn't his style and has vetoed me making him one, he is very happy with his Metro t-shirt and has said yes to more of those as needed. I get to sew the Newcastle again later on for Roger, and dad was still wearing his one the next day.
happy times!

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Little Things to Sew : Cover to Cover Challenge - and the winner is.....

So now it's time to draw the prize for one of the Cover to Cover Challenge sewers...

Remember this?

The Fabric Stash is kindly giving one of you the chance to splurge on some of their wonderful fabrics. There is some beautiful fabrics in the store, and if you shop the $6 bargain section you could score more than 8 yards of fabric!
Working from the final PDF scorecard I printed off everyone's names and put them into the hat.
Actually, with about 300 entries from 76 sewers, a Bucket Hat (project 5) wasn't big enough. So the names went into a Messenger Bag (project 4).
(NB: Juliamom2009 aka Janice who is our sponsor, and myself were not in the prize draw)
Then the kids got dressed and ready to help with the prize draw.....
A wears an Art Smock (project 10), Tutu (2), Mittens (1), Penguin Backpack (9) and Cozy Winter Hood (11)
P wear a Bias Trimmed Apron (6), Bear Carrier (18), Red Riding Hood (16), Bucket Hat (5), No-Tie Scarf as blindfold (3) and had assistance from the Bear Puppet (20)
Then, with as much pomp and ceremony as possible dressed up like that, they drew the winner from the Messenger Bag (4) while standing on the Travel Quilt (15) in front of the Puppet Theatre backdrop (21)....
And the winner is.....

She had completed 9 of the potential 21 projects. Here is Elizabeth on Flickr. Go check out her beautiful Art Smock and the cutest baby in a bib ever!
And her blog, with more of those beautiful kids is here
Congratulations Elizabeth. I hope you enjoy a shopping spree courtesy of The Fabric Stash!

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

No-tie pencil scarves : Tutorial over at Oliver + S blog

I was sitting in a coffee shop a week or two ago and I saw a picture of some gorgeous knitted pencil scarves by an Etsy seller Sara Carr.

The scarf in the magazine was navy and red, with a touch of gold. Exactly P's school uniform colours and I went home and immediately set to work to make him one from the leftover fleece from his sweaters.

I don't knit, so mine is a sewn version using the No-Tie Scarf from, you guessed it, Little Things to Sew.

With the North Americans heading into autumn, and back to school, the lovely folk at Oliver + S were keen to have me write up a tutorial for their blog.

So I'm back at my blogging home away from home. Click on the button below to see how I did it

In making another for the tutorial I've also made a birthday present for a little friend of A's who is having her 4th birthday soon. Sorted. Now I just need to resist the temptation to make an Elsa costume to go with the birthday party theme. I think I'm strong enough! ;)


Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Little Things to Sew: Cover to Cover Challenge - final scorecard

As the Little Things to Sew Cover to Cover Challenge was drawing to a close this weekend I received this lovely email from Wagyu Burger:

That letter made me happy in so many ways. Firstly she used the phrase "busting my balls" which cracked me up, and then when I thought about how she was making stuff she didn't really need, and then having fun with it, and with her little kid, and that I was somehow a part of that....

Well, I got a bit choked up, to be honest.

You see it's you guys who have made this Challenge such fun for me. I love seeing new pictures popping into the Flickr pool, and I love seeing the "Want to go all the way with me" button on your blogs.

For those of you who are still making projects from the book, and perhaps thinking you will finish them all one day, here's a new blog button for you to indicate that, while I've rolled over and gone to sleep, you're still trying to reach your goal!


There was a great flurry of last minute photos added to the Flickr Pool and special mention has to be made of Fork and Needle who got 5 more projects thrown in at the last minute (check out her blog post). Knowing she's in New Zealand, I really appreciated her honesty in respecting her own personal time zone deadline!

So, here's the updated, final version of the PDF scorecard. (link here)

I've printed off everyone's names to go into a hat (Bucket Hat, project number 5, of course!) to draw the gift voucher from our awesome sponsor The Fabric Stash.

Your name will be in the hat as many times as you have unique, completed projects assigned to you on the scoreboard. I'll try and draw the prize in the next day or two when I can wrangle the kids into helping me, so stay tuned. The winner will be contacted by Flickrmail.

If it's feeling a bit anticlimactic for you, I can only offer a very warm virtual hug, and the reassurance that I will always be interested and enthusiastic about every project you make.

Please keep submitting projects to the Flickr Pool and keep your own tally of which projects you have left to go. I would be delighted to continue to interview anyone who completes the whole set, or to host anyone on the blog who figures out a clever twist to one of the patterns, or just wants a platform for anything related to Little Things To Sew.

Thanks everyone, it was great!

xx Lightning McStitch

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Little Things to Sew: Cover to Cover Challenge - I made it.

Remember last October, when I announced I was going to go all the way and invited you to come along for the ride?
Well, I've done it. I've sewn my way through Little Things To Sew.

I broke my sewing machine on Thursday (don't ask me how, it may have something to do with sewing over pins all the time), so I hand to hand sew my final project.

That wasn't so awful as it was a gorgeous Spring weather here and so while the kids did laps of the pump track on their bikes, and Flipper took photos, I sat on the grass in the sunshine and made my little bear puppet.

The kids quickly named him Olaf and gave him a bit of a personality, which I'm afraid may be wholesale plagiarised from Frozen. (as an aside: is it bad that my daughter has been invited to a Frozen themed party and I have NO desire to make a costume? In fact I'm thinking a small size pair of blue dishwashing gloves will suffice!)

Anyway, Olaf and I got chatting and he decided to interview me, in the same manner that I've interviewed the other sewers who have completed my Cover to Cover Challenge so far.

But first he wanted to go home and have a series of photos taken so that he could dominate the interview with his cutaways (Also known as "noddies" Current affairs satire here in case you'd rather watch that than read the interview ;) )

Q: As a sewer, what was your favourite project in the book?

A: From the sewing aspect, it would have to be a tie between the Art Smock and the Explorer Vest.

The Art Smock has lovely French seam finishes, comes together so quickly and easily but ends up being a really well finished project.

The Explorer Vest is much more like home territory as it's really kid's garment sewing. The pockets are all neatly constructed and the topstitching makes it very satisfying and professional looking.

Q: Which project was the favourite from the kid's point of view?

A: They're not here to ask right now, but for the large part it's been the most recent. You're looking pretty popular right now, little bear.

Some projects are used rarely but always bring joy. The Puppet Theater is the best example, they love it, but just tend to forget to get it out.

The Penguin Backpack is in very regular use as A's daycare bag. P is wearing some Mittens for the cold morning rides to school. I've made countless numbers of Bucket Hats and they come out for the whole summer season, and during winter P has loved having his Travel Quilt on his bed. I'd say there haven't been any dud projects!

Q: Were there any projects that you found difficult or got stuck on? If so, why?

There were only two that cause me any real grief. The first was the No-Tie Scarf. I am perhaps a bit too literal when it comes to the written word, and when the instructions said to "turn inside out" something  that I'd just sewn right sides together, I became baffled. It already is inside out, I decried...

As it happened you turn it right side out, and yes, I was being a bit pedantic. If it helps anyone else I've made four in total now and will have a tutorial for the Pencil scarf on the Oliver + S blog soon.
The other project that caused me trouble was my first Messenger Bag. That was purely down to my choice of fabric. Not far from our house is a canvas awning manufacturer and I'd asked them for some Kevlar strength offcuts to patch the knees of P's pants. They gave me enough to make the bag, so I did. Man that was tough to sew. I bent countless pins, broke a few needles, and finally the light bulb blew and I finished it off sewing the bias binding after midnight in the dark. It's a really cute bag, and worked well as a kindy bag for P.

My second Messenger Bag went together much better using a standard canvas fabric. However I found the pocket flaps ran a bit small so I redrafted and recut them. It was a gift and I was happy to recently see that it's been getting daily use.
Q: Were there any projects that you wouldn't have made except for the Cover to Cover Challenge and the need to make them all? Which one(s)?

Oh, wow.....

This is awkward {long pause}....

You know, now that you're here little bear, we all really like you and couldn't imagine our family without you in it.

......But I guess you have to understand there was a reason why you came last.

Don't be sad. Like everything I've made from Little Things to Sew, even if I was ho-hum at the start, I've been delighted with the end result. I've drafted off the larger size Bear Puppet pattern too, so I thought I might make you a mum and a dad one day. How'd you like that?

That's better.

Q: Would you be happy, uninterested or horrified if there was ever a Little Things To Sew Volume II? 

Possibly all three emotions at once! I'd be really happy 'cause I know they'd be cute projects. I'd be completely uninterested in sewing them right now, but I know I'd have to buy the book straightaway anyway. I'm a bit horrified at the thought, as, knowing me, I'm sure I'd end up making everything just for the sake of the challenge all over again. Mostly, I think it would be great!

Q: And finally, what's next? 

Right now I'm looking at an unfinished Newcastle Cardigan that just needs buttonholes. That Thread Theory pattern was an absolute delight to sew. Having been brought up (in a sewing sense) on Oliver + S instructions I can't say enough good things about the Thread Theory pattern.

But, I need the sewing machine back from the repair shop to finish that. The kids then want to make Flipper a painted t-shirt for father's day, and I've had an idea for a completely overlocked raglan dress for A. I want to play with my overlocker and try to make it look like a flatlocked seam.

I suspect I may have pledged some bias-trimmed aprons and oven mitts for the School fete cake stall table.... (oh dear)

So, there we go. The Cover to Cover Challenge has come to an end for me.

But what about you? Well, I have no idea what time zone any of you live in, so I'm leaving the official finish time to some time after every possible spot has seen out the end of August 2014. For those of you in French Polynesia or little US island outposts, you have heaps of time. I hope all the Samoans have sewn their last stitch already!

I'll be back in a day or two with the final PDF scoreboard and then we'll draw the winner of the Fabric Stash gift voucher shortly after. By the way, if you don't like your odds in the lucky prize draw, you could just go shop at the Fabric Stash right now as there's a Labour Day weekend sale on!

Here's my collage of images of (nearly) all my Little Things to Sew projects. If you don't already have this sewing book, what can I say?... you should.