Friday, 22 May 2015

A Carnaby Cape for my mum

When I found this gorgeous double faced Italian wool coating fabric at The Fabric Store I knew it would be perfect for a Carnaby Cape.

But,... I already have one and so I bought some of the fabric ('cause it was half price!) and stashed it away for a mother's day gift. Well I was a little late due to all that cross stitch, but on the third Sunday in May my mum got her winter cape.

Against black clothes it's looking quite brown, but it's really a kind of charcoal grey/brown and the main side has a soft, cuddly face almost like a cotton fleece. The reverse side is a true camel colour and has a slight herringbone pattern to it. It's thick, warm and divine. The kids would happily have kept this fabric just for rolling themselves up in.

To show off the double sided nature of the fabric, the Carnaby Cape seemed the perfect choice.  However, I didn't get my fastidious approach to tasks as a gift from aliens. It was most certainly inherited. So, if I was going to sew for my mum it was going to have to be good enough and there'd need to be some alterations to the finishing of the cape.

Also, due to the two sided nature of the fabric it wouldn't allow for the hem to be left raw as per the pattern. It was going to need at least hemming in some way. I hunted through my stash to see if I had a suitable fabric and discovered that a pewter/bronze striped linen was perfect if I used the reverse side.

Then, with the childhood memory of the phrase "that's lovely Shelley, but it's not your best work is it?" ringing in my ears I set to work. (I'm having a bit of a laugh here as I never had any pressures as a child that weren't self inflicted, but then there were no prizes given out for half arsed efforts either)

So I finished the shoulder seams with bias binding....

.... and all around the front and back facings and button tab too. Don't ask me how, but both times I've made this cape I've managed to get the buttoning side reversed. It's meant to button on the right shoulder not the left. I cut the facings the wrong way up then have to imagine all the instructions in reverse. It would surely be easier to get it right from the start. For reference: Cut the already block fused facing pieces form the fabric right side up!

The buttons are actually the same decidedly brown buttons that I used for my cape (I'd bought 4 when I only needed 2) but when used upside down they are perfectly camel coloured.

The bound buttonholes really are lovely to sew. Knowing that the cape wouldn't be lined like my one is, I paid more attention to the insides and was careful not to use too large a piece of interfacing that would stick out beyond the welts. Again for reference; 6x8cm rectangles of interfacing are perfect.

To highlight the double sided fabric I cut the belt from two 10cm wide strips instead of 1x20cm wide strip. I folded each strips long edges to meet off centre. That way, when I put the two strips together I can offset the joins so that there isn't a weak spot or ditch in the centre of the belt.

By this point I was quite pleased with how the insides were looking, so of course I couldn't leave the edges of the bound buttonholes alone and have them ruin the show...

Yep, I bias bound the bound buttonholes!

I was apprehensive that stitching from the inside might result in some very wonky rectangles on the outside. But since the welts were nicely centred, when I stitched in the ditch to hold the bias binding in place it turned out to be as good a topstitch around the welts as if I'd done it from the cape's right side. Phew.

This wool is a bit heftier than mine and doesn't drape quite as softly. But hopefully, out in the country, in the middle of winter it will be an easy thing to thrown on to brave the cold outside.

And speaking of brave.... thanks to my mum for making her first modelling appearance on the blog. It's kind of a condition of receiving anything handmade that you have to wear it for a blog photoshoot.

She did a great job modelling, don't you think?

 I mean...

....She did a pretty good job. But not her best work ever.... :)

Thanks mum! Happy Mother's Day

Saturday, 16 May 2015

When I asked what he wanted for his birthday....

.... curiously he didn't answer "cross stitch".

But that's what he got!

Gift giving time is always tricky with this bloke. Ask him what he wants and he'll usually answer "world peace" or something equally Miss Universe worthy. The trick is to give him exactly what he really wanted but didn't yet realise he wanted!

....And what child of the 70's could resist a Galactica Space Invaders cross-stitched T-shirt?!

This idea came about when I was browsing Japanese Amazon for embroidery magazines after making this little shirt. I came across a book of cross stitch patterns for Pacman and other video games, but they were much more of the hand held console era, and when I showed them to Flipper he simply said "I'd prefer Galactica"

With those few words I had my mission.

Searching for ready made cross stitch patterns didn't yield any results. So, I grabbed a bit of graph paper, sat out on the back verandah in the sunshine with a sick kid who was home from daycare for the day and got drawing.

I downloaded an image off the 'net and created my own cross stitch pattern. There are 4 main variants of the enemy fleet and the active shooter is a bit different to the reserve fighters. In total there are 33 spaceships, a few bullets and a little Game Over tag on the back. Each ship is about 1 hour's work for me, so starting this a week out from his birthday meant that every spare minute and many late evenings were spent stitching!

Thankfully, my parents, who are evidently blog readers and pay attention, had bought me a thimble for my birthday (along with an autographed, no less, copy of Thimbles of Australia). My birthday is just a few days before Flipper's, so my last night of cross stitching was done with a happily thimble protected finger! (and the Giro d'Italia had started so I got to see Gerro take the first pink jersey while sewing until 2am))

After the birthday rolled around, and I'd caught up on some sleep, I decided to digitise my first ever cross stitch pattern and make it freely available to any other insane soul who feels the need for sharing some Free Downloadable Galactica Space Invaders Cross Stitch Pattern love!

The pattern is positioned to fit on an A4 page and still be legible, but the shooters and the Game Over tag should be repositioned from where they are on the page. I used DMC 14ct/inch soluble canvas and the finished fleet ends up about 24cm x13cm.

Pattern: Liesl & Co Metro t-shirt for men
Size XL - note to self: add about 2cm to sleeve length
Fabric: Stable cotton interlock with rayon jersey for neckband (due to lack of black ribbing)
Extras: Cross stitch pattern as above using DMC25 embroidery thread colour 169 - probably a bit thick and some of the detail is lost. Topstitching type thread may be better

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

We love Jean Paul Gaultier: Culottes for all!

If you live in Melbourne and went outdoors at all over last summer, you probably went to the exhibition The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier at the NGV.
We did, of course! And can you guess how happy I was when P looked at the mannequin of Jean Paul himself and declared his outfit was cool....
Well, the Oliver + S Lunch Box Tee and Culottes pattern had just been released so I was all over this idea, and with that teeny bit of encouragement from the boy I was convinced it had to happen. I'm over on the Oliver + S blog today talking a little bit about boys wearing culottes. Here I'm just going to scatter some pictures around while I ramble on about the exhibition.
If you didn't get to see the exhibition then stick around, even if you're horrified by the idea of my son in culottes, for more pictures. You can also see the overview and themes of the exhibition at the NGV website by clicking the banner below 

The exhibition was an outstanding success for the gallery. On my first midweek visit in November it was nice and quiet, but returning on a weekend in January was bedlam!

Of course there were corsets

A great feature of Gaultier's work is his humour, that and a fair dose of sexuality. The kids were fascinated by entire body suits of stretch lace with beading and tiny beads perfectly sewn to represent pubic hair and nipples. Hilarious when you're 6! 

My 4 year old, however, was initially quite freaked out by the mannequins. While some had plain, blank faces. Quite a number of them had video projections of a model's face onto the mannequins blank, white face. Their eyes followed you around the room, they smiled or winked at you, or struck up a conversation with themselves in the mirror.

The intricacy in some of the work is breathtaking. A little beaded nipple might not seem too complex, but how about that cheetah "pelt" above?...

All beads!
That was one of the garments in a room full of appropriated cultural dress. The fact that almost every world culture was represented, somehow made the appropriation of their cultural costume seem cool rather than wrong!
I was smitten with some of the more wear-able dresses (wearable if you're Cate Blanchett or Kylie Minogue that is). The blue dress below is divine. The flowers are of the same jersey as the dress and "simply" twisted and stitched into place. Genius.
But P was definitely taken with the London punk look from the 1980's. I don't know if it was the denim, the tartan, the boots or the mohawks but he was loving it.
So I set out to find some tartan wool to match JPGs culottes as closely as possible. He already had the perfect mariniere top which my mother in law brought back from a Mediterranean cruise - as an aside, I really wish I'd photographed every t-shirt my kids have scored from her travels. Over the last 6 years there have been t-shirts from all over the world with Antarctica being the only continent not yet represented!
I found this fabric at Eliza fabrics. It was very cheap and very scratchy. I'd always imagined these would need to be lined anyway, so they were, and the look of surprise on his boyish face when his bare legs felt slippery lining fabric for the first time was priceless!
I cut the waistband in two pieces also so that the scratchy wool wouldn't be anywhere on the inside, and used some cotton for the inner waistband.

The other part of the exhibition that P was interested in was the graffiti art and some incredible big murals by RONE. I didn't get any pictures but there's a blurb here about his collaboration with the NGV.
We have some very impressive graffiti art near home (including my workplace building) but the local architect's wall is more subdued and was an appropriate colour scheme for our photo shoot.
To get the Lunch Box Culottes to be closer to the Gaultier silhouette I took out a lot of the flare of the leg. I dropped a vertical line down from underneath the pockets and of course, that allowed me to pattern match the tartan on the side seam too. I also pinched about an inch out of the width of the back pattern piece. They're a modified/narrowed size 6 with the length of the size 9.
So what does he think? Well, he loved them to bits until it came time to sit down to dinner. Then, even with the lining he said he could feel the itchiness on his legs. I suspect that may mean they get much less wear than he'd initially thought.
I had no expectation at all that he'd like them. I was delighted that he was so into the idea and I really like the look. Which is much more than can be said for Flipper. I suspect he's appalled but is trying not to say anything.
I love the idea that when you're young you can wear what feels good and makes you feel good. Doesn't mean he's getting a Mohawk any time soon though!

To see more of the exhibition and to hear Jean Paul talking about his work, there's a very charming interview by Virginia Trioli here. His story about his teddy and the invention of the conical bra has probably been told many, many times, but he still sounds enthusiastic and charming.
I love the fact that I've learned to sew, as a project like this one combines all my favourite things. A light hearted dig at the world of fashion with a knock off, an out there outfit for the kid, a chance to use another Oliver + S pattern and a family trip to the gallery for the inspiration.
I sew to amuse myself and I had a lot of fun with this one!
If you get a chance to see the Gaultier collection somewhere else in the world (I think it opens in Paris soon?..) then you should go. But I'm sure Melbourne put on the best exhibition!

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

TRON Legacy: Film Petit Gatecrash #2

Cue the Daft Punk soundtrack...

"this is going to be quite a ride"

I'm gatecrashing my favourite blog series of all time; Film Petit. If you haven't heard of Film Petit, it's the hilarious blog series from Skirt As Top and A Little Gray where they, along with a guest blogger, sew clothes or costumes for their kids based on films.

I haven't (yet) been officially invited to play, but that didn't stop me with my Kill Bill Vol I outfit here. And today, you guessed it, I'm busting into the room again with my kids dressed in their new TRON pyjamas!

This was not just a fun idea, 'cause the kids actually needed, like really needed, new pyjamas. I was busy making lots of fun stuff and ignoring the dire need for pyjamas, when the call for the Twisted Trousers pattern tour came through.

Next thing, I'm taping and tracing a pattern and cutting fabric on the living room floor while Flipper's watching a movie. Suddenly it dawned on me that I had the perfect pattern for some pyjamas that I wanted very much to make! I wanted to make TRON jammies!!

(apologies as the photography goes down hill from here. We've had miserable rainy weather and if I get too carried away with post image manipulation I never get to bed!)

The Twisted Trousers were the obvious choice for the pants. Instead of narrow, corded piping I thought I'd add some wide flat piping. I really wanted glow in the dark fabric, but that's not readily available so I went hunting for something else.

At GJ's I found this "waterfall crush stretch velour". It was perfect as I needed the stretch, the velour-iness made it look like it glowed and the "waterfall crush" bit I presume refers to the uneven surface which reflects the light even more.

There was some vigorous debate about who would be the baddy and who would be the goody. I detest the notion of goodies and baddies and both Flipper and I have been heard to tell the kids that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter" many times. Still, I wasn't going to sew matching outfits, too boring. Both kids definitely wanted to be baddies, but A also liked the blue colour best. Sorted. She is a baddy who's even more bad by virtue of being disguised as a goody. Check out this baddy face:

Being my third and fourth pair of Twisted Trousers the pants came together in no time. Or at least they would have if that waterfall crush stretch velour wasn't as awful to work with as it sounds. It was slippery where I didn't want it to be and grippy when it shouldn't be. What I thought would be quick overlocker sewing turned into hours of pinning and basting first.
I omitted the faux fly and waist ties and added cuffs at the bottom. Mostly 'cause I knew they were going to be super long and the cuffs would keep them from falling over their feet!
Laura had kindly given me a copy the Rowan Tee pattern as well as the Twisted Trousers. The Rowan Tee already has the option of a sleeve and shoulder stripe and cuffs, so all I needed to add was the front stripes. - although I ended up doing piping along the sleeves in the same way as the pants rather than using the pattern's stripe option.

The costumes of the main Tron characters were too detailed for what I was doing, so I went with the style of the Daft Punk costumes

I cut the front pattern piece and then added seam allowances to insert the piping. To keep things smooth and comfy - they are pyjamas after all, I've topstitched the seam allowances down with a narrow double needle stitch.

Apart from printing off the cheat sheet I didn't really consult the Rowan Tee instructions at all. I imagine they're every bit as good as the Twisted Trousers were. The sizing I chose was the same as the trousers (sizes 4 and 6). I should have thought to add sleeve length as P is a veritable monkey with those arms of his.

The black knit is incredibly soft and the kids absolutely ADORE these pyjamas. When you can model your new jammies with a mum sanctioned fight scene then what's not to love, right?

It was pretty wild for a while, then they ran off and fetched some Frisbees to use as Tron discs. Of course, that's what we were missing!

So last night I sewed up a couple of Frisbee covers. Have you ever thought you might stay up late to sew neon velour piped Frisbee covers? Nope, me neither, until last night.

I can't see there being much of a need for a pattern tutorial for a Frisbee cover, but if you're ever in need of some tips then drop me a line. When it comes to Frisbee covers I'm your sewing blogger!

A's come down with a bit of a cold, so she wasn't really up for another fight scene. At least not to the extent that her brother was. You kinda get the feeling he's liking his pyjamas, right?

Anyway, she was definitely up for striking another serious baddy face. Are you ready?.....


As much as I love the neat looking button up pyjamas or frilly nighties, there's a lot to be said for comfy knit tops and pants that the kids can easily get on and off themselves. There'll be more of these sets in the future, for sure.

Although they'll undoubtedly be plain pyjamas next time, as the idea of a nightly battle scene before bed is starting to wear thin...

Still, it's been fun!

Thanks again to Titchy Threads for the patterns.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Twisted Tuesday pattern tour


Hi, I'm pretty excited to welcome you to the start of the Twisted Tuesdays blog series showcasing the Twisted Trousers pattern by Laura of Titchy Threads.

Before we get started let's outline the deal. I was given the pattern for free in exchange for sewing it up and some blog advertorial. That's cool with me. Obviously it will influence me somewhat, that's been proven over and over. But I hope you'll trust that I'm as honest as I can be....

Well, I love them! The Twisted Trousers are a great compromise between smart trousers and comfy track pants. They've got all the details of a good pair of jeans or slacks with front and back pockets and a coin pocket, but with the kid friendly comfort of an elastic waistband.

And they're twisty, of course!

The side seams twist around to the front and the inseams twist to the back. It makes for a very odd looking pattern piece and consequently they take a little more fabric when cutting than a straight seamed trouser. They way they twist I can't imagine anyone's going to start plaid matching with this pattern!

But with a solid fabric and the optional piping, the seams look awesome!

I went all out with this pair and piped the pockets as well. The instructions are there for adding piping everywhere you could possibly want to, or for skipping the piping and keeping it simple.

I'm not going to pretend this was a quick sew. It wasn't. But oh boy was it worth taking my time over. Come on, let's have a look at the insides...

The front pockets have a pocket bag, which I thought was snazzy enough, but then look at that little facing as well to prevent any inside pocket peeking out. Just perfect!

The instructions for the pocket bag had me sew a French seam, and boy does it give a nice finish.

They were looking so neat, I started to feel a bit let down by the colour of my interfacing on the faux fly. Why didn't I have pinkish interfacing in my stash to match this denim?! Given that there's no zipper, using fabric as sturdy as denim I don't think the interfacing is necessary. Feel free to skip it so your insides look their very best!

The back pockets didn't want to miss out on being fancy. They're lined!

By a very happy coincidence (or due to having too big a fabric stash perhaps) I happened to have some coral Ottobre ribbing which was a perfect match for the waistband.

The only negative in making these pants was nothing to do with the pattern; but trying to neatly insert the cheap grommets that you can buy at the large chain store fabric shop is a complete shit of a job! The accuracy required to strike those things vertically enough to get them to insert cleanly is simply not achievable by a human. I'd suggest buttonholes, or buying a better grommet set.

For A I made a straight size 4 and the fit is just fine. I could possibly have made the elastic in the waist a little tighter, but hey, I sew after the kids are in bed, so it's guess work a lot of the time.

I could have stopped there, but it was actually P who needed more long pants for winter. You know you're enjoying a pattern when you plunge straight back in for a second go.

His are size 6 with 2" length added. This is definitely a pattern where the length needs to be added where the pattern indicates. Those twisty legs aren't going to let you cut a longer hem! I split the pattern, added the length and re-drew the line and it all came together perfectly.

I thought some jeans style topstitching would show off the twisted seams nicely. All that required was a slightly different order of sewing the legs so that I could have the side seam flat in order to topstitch it.

By this time I wasn't referencing the instructions as often as I had first time, and I really appreciated the Cheat Sheet that was included. The main instructions are detailed, photo heavy and best viewed on a tablet or computer. But for repeat sewers, the brave, or those who just hate having to refresh the tablet screen (me!) there is a non illustrated cheat sheet of instructions which can easily be printed and kept on the sewing table.

I was starting to impress myself with these jeans too, so I figured I should go all out on the back pockets. A bit of back pocket embellishment is what makes jeans jeans if you ask me.

P is kind of halfway between the toddler fondness for an elastic waist and the big kid ability to be bothered with buttons and zippers. These pants will hopefully look enough like jeans, but feel enough like trackpants to make him happy to wear them.

I used some quilting cotton to make my own cord for the waist. It's more decorative than functional, as the elastic waistband is a full circle. I learned my lesson about pants that need the cords to be tied to keep them up when I made the Sandbox pants for him.

A thin cotton shirting for the pocket bag makes such a difference when you're sewing a thick denim like this. That's the kind of detail I like a pattern to have. That, and notches everywhere and marks for positioning pockets. The Twisted Trousers pattern had all that going on.

So, it's a resounding two thumbs up from me. Plus, if you know what you're doing, the ability to print only the size you want is pretty cool. I wanted both the size 4 and size 6, so I selected both of those layers. Well that was daft, cause then I get one print out to tile together and then I have to trace it anyway.

Still, I don't like cutting paper print outs of PDF patterns to use as they just don't handle nicely. I was probably always going to trace the pattern, but now I wish I'd just printed the lot so that I wouldn't have to print it off again when the kids have outgrown these sizes. Lesson learned.  - and I will need to print it again as the pattern goes up to size 12 and I'm sure I'll use it many times.

Printing in grey scale (cause I'm cheap and my printer ink is pricey) made it hard to see some of the lines for the size 4 pattern. The main pattern sheet can be printed A0 size so there was no excuse not to just take it down to the print shop. Yay for international standard sizing!

While I was tiling the pattern and tracing it, Flipper was watching a movie on TV. I realised I had in front of me, the perfect pattern for a Film Petit gatecrash. (sorry Kristin and Jessica, I couldn't help myself. I'm gatecrashing your party again!)

So, to see another two pair of Twisted Trousers, and my kids going completely mental, come back tomorrow! It's going to be fun...

....and don't forget to stay tuned to the Craftstorming blog for the rest of the Twisted Tuesdays pattern tour. Today you can take a virtual trip to Spain and check out some more Twisted Trousers at Diario de Naii