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…?

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!

Sew Must Go On: Forgiving Floral Shirt

Soon after the birth of the munchkins I realised that I needed many more button down shirts for quick nursing access.  Also all those cute little nursing for discreet breastfeeding weren’t really going to work with the twin feeding that was taking up most of my time.  As much as I like my pattern for the Lesley blouse, I figured, I needed something that was a bit more forgiving and hid some of the mamma ‘magic’ that was still sitting around my waist. And so the Forgiving Floral Shirt was born.

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The pattern is an adaptation of my Lesley Blouse: I left out the waist darts, made the sleeves less fitted and the cuffs not as wide (more normal!). Everything else is pretty much the same but I used quite a light interfacing for the collar and the lightweight fun floral makes a whole shirt much more casual.

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Needless to say, it took quite a while to come together and even longer to photograph and upload here but I think it came out pretty well and I enjoy wearing it.  The photos above makes it looks like the bottom doesn’t line up properly but I think that’s a function of not properly ironing the shirt (who has time to IRON??!!) rather than a terrible sewing faux pas – although it’s highly likely it doesn’t line up 100%. The other thing I don’t really like about the finished product is the button holes: I tried to forego interfacing on the button stand and instead fold over the front piece fabric to create some stiffness. But I think the fabric is too light for that and my button holes don’t look amazing. They work but they look a bit home-made…if you know what I mean?

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The fabric was a piece given to me that initially I thought was Liberty of London but I think it’s just pretending to be such high class!

Fun shirt…that I hope to wear more this winter.

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Pattern: My own Lesley Blouse pattern with a few key alterations

Fabric: Lightweight Floral cotton from the fairy godmother stash. Thought it was Liberty but actually think it’s just wanna be Liberty

Alterations: No waist darts, re-drew the cuffs to be narrower, less fitted; Double checked the shirt was long enough and the shaping at the bottom provided enough slit on the side.

Do it again: Perhaps…but watch out for the non-interfaced button stands if using lightweight fabric.

Sew Must Go On: Saltspring in Blue

While it may look like I have only been sewing and crafting baby stuff, I have in fact managed to eek out a few projects for myself. As cute as the baby gear is, one has to make a few selfish projects every now and then and I know that as a blog reader if you’re not in the same baby stage as me, the baby stuff gets exceedingly boring. So here we have the first of me trying to showcase the non-baby projects I’ve been working on. The biggest challenge I have found is actually getting pictures of the projects because inevitably a baby will be escaping from a stroller or screaming her lungs out right in the middle of the photo shoot. I’m also working 4 days a week now so time is very limited and the household is chaotic. But the ‘Sew Must Go On!’.

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For a while now I have been really impressed with Sewaholic’s patterns and really enjoyed the Renfrew tops that I made here and here. I was also inspired by all the gorgeous Saltspring dresses that I saw around (like Amy from Sew Well’s Blooming Saltspring in Blue). So I ordered the Saltspring pattern a while ago but needless to say it remained untouched for a long time until now.

The fabric I got on a trip to San Francisco a few years ago and I think I bought it under the illusion that it was silk but I’m pretty sure it’s not (given the price and the establishment where I found it). I did also try the burn test to check if it burned or melted – is this a conclusive silk vs acrylic test?  Any way, I liked the big bold blue print and it feels lovely and silky.

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I took a it of time trying to get the pattern placement right – note ‘heart’ on my chest and centered patterns on the skirt – that’s no accident and I’m amazed it turned out! Cutting out the pattern in a silky fabric is never easy and always a bit fiddly but i got it done in the end and my sewing machine seemed to handle the fabric like a star. I did assist in using a microtex sharp needle.

I like how the dress came together and I love that it has pockets! The billowy bodice is also better than I expected and the neckline is a nice cut without being too revealing. One thing I should’ve done (and I wish I had reread Amy’s post before I started the dress as she suggested it) was to leave out the back zipper. I can get into the dress without the zipper (the waist is elasticized) and I think it makes the back sit weirdly and not lie nicely. I suppose I could remove it and just sew up the seam but that will have to be a project for another day.

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(I think this photo is where I noticed Twin B launching herself out of the stroller and the photo shoot came to an abrupt end).

I am hoping to get some wear out of this dress before the weather turns too cold although I have realised that maxi dresses are not that conducive to having small children because they grab the dress and you have no hands to hold up the bottom when you’re climbing stairs etc. And grubby paws don’t go well with silky fabrics. All these things I never knew!

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Pattern: Sewaholic’s Saltspring

Fabric: Silky satin from a store in San Francisco

Alterations: None; but I should’ve left the back zipper out

Do it again: Hopefully. Maybe a short one next summer…

Nappy factory

For a long time (ie many years before the girls were born), I had thinking about, researching and even buying supplies to make my own modern cloth nappies (MCNs) – diapers for you yanks out there.     

 
I know it’s a bit of a weird thing to have dedicated so much creative energy to way before I could even use such things, but I was intrigued and quickly became committed to the idea for environmental, cost and health benefits. Also I think the modern cloth nappies you can get these days are so much cuter than disposables. When I discovered I was having twins I still wasn’t deterred even though people thought I was crazy and made comments like:  “You must really love doing laundry!”. But the challenge was set and I embraced it whole heartedly. 

I did lots of online research on patterns and fabrics and made a bunch of prototypes before the girls arrived. Then once I had actual models I could tweak designs and figure out what worked best for us. Once I had a pattern that I liked I spurge do on some awesome outer fabrics (waterproof PUL) and made about 12 nappies that are still in every day use. 

   

Each time I hang up a load of clean nappies I think: “Another pile of nappies that didn’t go to landfill – yay!”.  

Ps I realise that I may need to do another post on nappies with more of the technical details…for now just enjoy the pics! 

Aussie Christmas dresses

Not only is Christmas a time of friends, family and too much food; but when there are two babies in the house it’s a time for ridiculous Christmas themed outfits! Besides the essential Father Christmas and Elf store bought onesie, I managed to carve out some time to make Aussie Christmas dresses for the girls. 

   
 
The fabric is a cotton that I found at Lincraft and I just love the Aussie animals on the red one. The pattern is simple self-drafted pattern based in another dress. It’s just a lined bodice that ties at the shoulders and a gathered skirt. The fit around the chest isn’t amazing but it was definitely fine for a dress that sadly will only get a few wears. I did max out the dresses’ exposure by making sure the girls wore them 4 times over the holidays!