Shwe Shwe Janneke Christening dresses

I know that traditionally christening robes should be long, white, delicate and frilly.  But I don’t generally follow the rules so the ones I made for my girls are short, bright pink and orange and made from sturdy cotton Shwe Shwe.

I love the designs and colours of this traditional Xhosa fabric and have made a skirt for myself, used the fabric for accents to more corporate clothes and fun zipper pouches.  The trick is that the fabric is quite narrow so it works well for clothes for little people and is a bit more challenging for adults.  I got this fabric from Fabric World in Cape Town.

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For the pattern, I wanted an easy, flattering and cheap pattern (who doesn’t?!) that would work well with the fabric.  I stumbled across Sisko by Mieke’s Janneke dress which looks gorgeous.  I love the fabric choices of her various iterations.  The one catch though is that the pattern and instructions are all in Dutch?!  Luckily, as a born and bred South African, I am fluent in Afrikaans which is a close relative to Dutch but there were a few words that I had to Google to make sure I was getting my fronts and backs all correct!  I cut the biggest size which I was hoping would leave some room to grow but my littlies are growing so fast that I don’t think I’ll get too much wear out of them.  They are also becoming incredibly particular about what they wear: the favourite blue or orange T-shirts are pretty much a staple; any dresses are usually a fight; and any desire of mine is usually not acceptable!

The pattern came together pretty easily.  I love the box pleats in the front and they work out nice and crisp with the ShweShwe fabric.  I made my own piping out of bright green bias binding that I had made for the orange snuggly sleep sack and I love how it complements the bright pink and orange and makes the green accents jump out.  Instead of the facing procedure suggested by the pattern (I had a hard time deciphering it…), I used Kitschy Choo’s tutorial on How to Make a fully lined bodice.  It’s a great tutorial and makes the whole step-by-step process a breeze!  This is such a brilliant technique – I wish I’d known about it for some of my own clothes.  I am definitely going to use this again.

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The dresses came out really nicely although I fear the girls have already outgrown them.  All that hard work for so little air time…

Pattern: Sisko by Mieke’s Janneke pattern

Fabric: Pure cotton traditional Three Cats Shwe Shwe made by DaGama; Bought from Fabric World in Cape Town.

Alterations: I used Kitschy Koo’s tutorial for the lined bodice

Do it again: I’d like to make a bigger version but I’ll have to brush up on my pattern grading skills because I used the biggest size available on the pattern 🙂

Crochet Owl Hats for Twincesses

Cold winter weather makes my fingers fidget and I have to get going on some woollen crafty project.  Crochet is my distraction of choice and I’ve realised that choosing smaller, achievable projects is the best way to achieve (somewhat) instant gratification.

I have been eyeing out Repeat Crafter Me’s awesome crochet animal hats for a while now. Last winter I crocheted an ear-flapped hat sans eyes and animal bits but really felt like it was lacking. So this winter I dived in and made not one but TWO owl hats (aaah life of a twin mom crafter!).

I love the free patterns that Sarah from Repeat Crafter Me so generously shares and as I mentioned, these cute owls were top of my list.  So I had no trouble deciding what to make.  I love the ear flaps and the cute ear tufts.  The pattern is easy to follow and came together nicely although I did have to Google a few of the crochet abbreviations but I think that’s standard practice because I can’t keep those different stitches in my head from one winter crochet session to the next!

The yarn I used all came from my stash (except I did have to top-up on purple halfway through). I used:

  • Real, hand spun, raw 100% wool from the Orkney islands (!) in grey
  • Green, purple, white and yellow cotton yarn leftover from my blanket projects.  I used a double strand because I wanted a chunkier yarn, tighter stitches and it needed to match the grey wool
  • The additional purple is a cotton blend from a local wool shop gem called Wolmart.

A side note on the Orkney wool: Years ago when my sister graduated from Edinburgh University, my family went on a cycling trip from Glasgow to the Orkney islands (as one does…) and while exploring the islands I heard the fascinating story about the local North Ronaldsay Sheep. These sheep have adapted to living on the tidal flats between the ocean and the sea wall and subsist on only sea weed. They eat at low tide and then escape to higher ground at high tide to digest their meal.  Their digestive systems have had to adapt to their interesting diet and they would probably suffer if they had to eat grass.

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Needless to say, after hearing about these sheep, I HAD to track down some of their wool so that I could thread their story through my own creations. I meandered through the wool shops of the little villages and did eventually find some authentic wool which I have been hoarding since then.  And what better project to use it on that warm owl hats for my girls.  The wool was so great to work with and felt so good in my hands.  I’ll have to come up with another suitable project for the rest of it!

I had thought that the separate eyes and beak would be complicated and irritating to attach to the hat, but it wasn’t a problem at all.  The pattern also suggests adding black buttons in the middle of the eyes.  I left these off (at the suggestion of hubby), but I may consider putting them on in the end…

I made the ‘toddler’ size hat in green first but after Little A took a particular liking to the “gweeeenn” one, I realised that her plus size head probably wouldn’t fit into it for much longer, so the next one in purple was in the ‘child’ size.  It’s a little big but I think a better fit and at least there’s a chance they can wear it next year too.


The girls love their owl hats – particularly the green one – and if it’s one item of winter clothing we can get them to put on voluntarily, then it’s a definite win!


Summary:

Pattern: Owl hats from Repeat Crafter Me in size Toddler and Child; I left off the button eyes…for now.

Yarn: Pure wool and cotton

Do it again?:  I’m keen to make matching adult ones for mom and dad!

Lined Yaletown dress for summer days

I made this dress a while ago, but like so many of my projects that end up in the cycle of wear, wash, repeat I didn’t get to take any photos and didn’t get around to blogging about it.  Back when I made the Saltspring in Blue, I had been eyeing out Sewaholic’s Yaletown pattern as another great option for a breastfeeding mom who needed work clothes to be a bit more forgiving for a few months.

The pattern came together really easily and I love the stretchy waist line and no zips or buttons! I didn’t include the button closure at the front for ease of access for nursing but I also quickly realised that I would need to wear a camisole underneath.

The fabric I used was a lightweight poly cotton from the Remnant Warehouse in Sydney and although the fluttery-ness of the fabric goes well with the pattern I am disappointed that it’s not 100% cotton.  I can definitely feel the difference. (Oh dear…turning into a fabric snob!).  The fabric is also rather see-through so early on I realised I would need to line the dress.  At least the skirt portion.  My decision not to line the bodice went hand-in-hand with the always-where-a-cami idea.

With the lined skirt came in interesting dilemma of how to deal with the in-seam pockets.  Does one make pockets in the outer fabric AND the lining and make sure it all lines up?  Do the pockets somehow float between dress and lining?  Or do you make a slit in the lining so that pockets can be tucked through the lining?  I’m not sure what standard practice is in this situation but I went with the last option: split the lining for a section of the side seam, finish the edges and let the pocket poke through.  This seemed like an elegant enough solution and it seems to work well for me without unnecessary bulking up of the fabric.

The pattern includes a fabric belt but the dress also looks great with a wide belt tight around the waist.

Pattern: Sewaholic’s Yaletown Dress

Fabric: Lightweight poly cotton from Remnant Warehouse in Sydney

Alterations: I lined the skirt portion and didn’t put the catch or closure on the front cross over and just prefer to wear a camisole underneath.

Do it again: If I find the right lightweight PURE cotton.

Made by me gifts

When I have the time, I really like to make my own gifts rather than finding something at the shop.  As well as being thrifty (sometimes) and creative (sometimes!), I like to think the time, effort and love that went into the gift is more than it would be if I’d bought the gift and… it means I don’t have to go near a mall – a huge bonus for me!

Christmas is usually crunch time with many many gifts to make, buy, think of.  This past Christmas, I managed to make quite a few of the family gifts for the women (women are so much easier than men!) and my go to idea was a zipper pouch.  I made some in cotton Shwe Shwe off cuts and then also some in a cream canvas that I had hand printed with the girls previously as part of an “art project”.

The pouches are all lined (sorry no picture). The Shwe Shwe ones are lined in bright green cotton and the hand print ones are lined in PUL left over from my nappy making.

The pattern is basically one that I’ve figured out as I went along but there are hundreds of tutorials out there and I particularly like the ones by Ros from Sew Delicious because they are clear with great pictures and it looks like she’s made a few thousand pouches in her time!

When I started running out of time and energy for sewing zipper pouches (and realised that my family has increased in size since I’ve returned to South Africa!), I fortuitously came across some plain canvas shopping bags.  I them snapped up and had lots of fun making hand prints with the girls.  I did consider trying to be a bit more creative (I’ve seen fun versions where hands are turned into owls, feet into butterflies etc) but my artistic skills weren’t going to extend that far.

Here’s little B demonstrating how it’s done: 

The gifts were very well received and I had fun putting them together.  Now for ideas for this year…?

Chevron hand-printed Christmas Tops

For Christmas, I wanted to make outfits for the girls but of course I was quickly running out of time and my sewing agenda was focused on Christmas presents and christening dresses (more on that later).  I was cute Christmas tutus in the shop and thought “I can make those” but my smart husband made me realise that the time and fabric cos would be far more than just getting them at the store…which is what we ended up doing.

Nevertheless, I was determined to add my own little bit of spice so, after the success of the Halloween t-shirts, I decided that painting Christmas t-shirts would be fun.

But this time I also wanted to get the girls involved in helping me make the shirts :-).

I used electrical tape (only because I didn’t have any masking tape) to tape off a chevron design…

…got the girls geared up in the their Ikea ‘hazmat’ suits (fantastic plastic coverall aprons) and set them loose on the t-shirts with hand printing.

Our lack of green paint meant that our Christmas Tree design came out quite red with a bit of blue in there too.

I peeled off the tape, added a stenciled yellow star (not pictured), and voila! We have modern, designer chevron Christmas t-shirts!  It was a really fun project and so great to get the girls involved in the creation.

Twinkle Twinkle Halloween outfits

Despite all the current chaos in our lives, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make something cute for the girls for Halloween. 


I was inspired by a cute onesie I saw at Cotton On but they stopped at size 12mo so my big babbas weren’t gonna squish into those. So of course I decided to make them! 


I have never screen printed anything or even done much in the way of fabric painting but after this debut, I’m hooked! Why didn’t anyone mention how fun it is to paint stencils onto fabric?! I got some fabric paint from the hardware store plus some contact plastic (the heavy duty type you use for drawer liners) and then two plain white vests.  

I drew some test designs (ok I traced from the screen of my phone!!) and then cut them out of the contact plastic with a craft knife. I stuck the plastic onto the fabric and painted using a sponge to dab the paint on. Let it dry and voila! 


Next was to create the text for my Twinkle t-shirts. A little more difficult and fiddly but I got it to work. Same procedure but just made sure the yellow star stayed away from the black paint. I reused the same stencil for both shirts and it worked fine to use the same one twice. In my early experiments I used he same stencil multiple times and I think the limit it three times. 


And voila! Two little Twin(kle) tops!

I made sparkly skirts to go with them. A simple circle skirt with while fold over elastic sewn in at the waist band. And the fabric didn’t even need a hem! Hoorah! Super easy and fun and my little ‘B’ loves her skirt! Little ‘A’ who is still crawling doesn’t love it as much 🙂


Our short trick-or-treat escapade was a fun little outing. And I had to show fellow twin mom the shirts.



I’m definitely keen to try more screen printing! I’m not sure I can even classify his simple stencil paint job as screen printing but it’s fun nonetheless.

Super Snug Sleep Sacks

When we first arrived in Cape Town from Sydney I was reminded that June in Cape Town is COLD.  My little bunnies were freezing in their camp cots on the ground and they were quickly getting too big for their sleeping bags. So, of course, the solution is not to go out and buy a replacement but rather make new sleep sacks. (Why do we do this to ourselves?!).

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Armed with my mom’s ancient, but immensely reliable, Elna Lotus sewing machine and a bit of internet research I started the process of making sleep sacks. I checked out DIY Mommy’s cute fleece version  and Small Dream factory’s instructions as well as measuring off our existing sleep sacks and scaling them to bigger sizes thanks to this chart that I can’t seem to find the original source to.

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For the one, I chose a fun orange ladybird cotton and a yellow monkey/cupcake flannel for the lining and the other one is a purple dog print on the outside and blue farm animal flannel on the inside.  I spent quite a bit of time looking for the right batting. I really wanted organic cotton but it’s really hard to find.  And I really didn’t want synthetic but that’s the most common batting around.  Eventually I settled for a pure, rough, wool which at first I thought was a bit dirty and not pristine enough for my babies, but as I got to know the material better I started to love the bits of Karoo bush and tiny twigs mixed in with the wool.  I imagined the happy, free-roaming sheep gladly giving up their winter coats and was pretty certain that no chemicals or major factory processes went into the making of the wool batting.

I drafted the pattern and from the beginning wanted a zip on the side to avoid zips scratching little chins and necks. I cut out the fabric for the first sleep sack and after consulting with hubby (my design consultant), we decided the neckline and arm holes looked too small. So I made cut them a bit bigger.  But…we wrong…after I made up the sleeping bag and tried it on a munchkin, we realised that the neckline and arm holes were now too big!  So for sleep sack number 2 we went back to my original design. And now we have one that’s a little looser than the other.

Sewing the sleeping bags wasn’t the easiest task mainly because of the batting.  I first sewed the batting onto the lining with parallel stitch lines and quickly realised that I needed another layer of fabric between the outer and the batting to stop ‘threads’ poking through the outer layer and also to help with the sewing. Next I sewed in the zip, turned it all the right way around and then finally added biased binding along the top edges of the sleep sack.  The very final step only took place about 3 months later (ie a few days ago) when I added the snaps into the shoulder straps. Until then I just used safety pins which worked ok but I much prefer the snaps!

I am pretty happy with how they turned out and they have definitely worked in keeping the girls snug in winter.  I am also much happier with the snaps that the dodgy safety pins.  Now with summer well on its way, I’ll have to think about making some cooler ones for warm summer nights!  It’s never over is it?

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And the twincesses FINALLY have their proper cots back and are out of their travel cots after 3 and a half months of waiting for our shipment to arrive!

Pattern: My own Sleep Sack pattern based on internet research and existing sleep sacks

Fabric: Printed cotton outer, lightweight cotton inner liner, pure wool batting, cotton flannel lining, zip and hand made complementary bias binding

Alterations: On the orange one I made the neckline and armholes bigger…mistake.  Stick to the pattern!

Do it again: I might have to make summer ones next!