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 🙂

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.

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…

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!

 

Kimono Style dressing gown

I found this cotton at Ikea and with it’s Japanese style print and dual tone colour scheme it was just crying out to be a Kimono Style dressing gown.  So that’s what I did.

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For the pattern I took guidance from Erin’s knit robe for bridal shower presents.  I also looked at To Be Continued and another one that I can’t find now! In the end the pattern was a combination of multiple patterns plus looking at my own winter dressing gown.

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The whole thing came together pretty quickly (yay for overlocker on most of the seams!) and I like how the contrast fabric works with the colar band.  The sleeves are pretty wide but it sort of goes with the Kimono-esque design.

IMG_6441I also added slits up the side for ease of walking. I’m hoping to get lots of wear out of it this summer.

I am pretty happy with how it came out.  The one thing that is a little disappointing is that the fabric is quite stiff and I was hoping for a softer cotton feel.  Hopefully after a few washes it will be better.

Any thoughts on how to make cotton more supple and soft?

Pattern: A combination of a bunch of online tutorials

Fabric: Fish and Fan printed cotton from Ikea

Alterations: First version of my own patter

Do it again: Maybe…but I’m not sure how many gowns a girl can have!  Next time definitely pick a really soft fabric

Stretchy Sewing: My First Renfrew

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I have seen Sewaholic’s Renfrew all over the blogging world for a while now and finally succumbed to trying it out myself.  Part of me felt that with my new found pattern-making ‘skills’ I should be able to put together a decent stretch top pattern and so resisted the temptation to buy stretch patterns for a while.  But then I tried the Renfrew.  And what bliss.  The notches line up.  The cuffs and waist band and neck bands all fit together well and it all came together really quickly.  Nice work Sewaholic!  The most frustrating thing about the project was painstakingly sticking all the print-at-home bits of paper together and that was totally my fault for being too impatient to wait for a pattern to arrive in the mail.  I really liked the choice of cuffs and waist band to finish off the sleeves and bottom because those details are still the downfall of my stretch garments.  I just can’t get them to look fabulous. But with a nice cuff/waistband, I’m one step closer.

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(The back seam of the cowl looks like it’s off centre in this pic but it’s just the way it’s sitting here – really it’s not like that!)

I cut a size 10 based on my bust measurement but I feel that it might be a bit big.  I might try a size smaller next time and have considered giving it a bit of shaping at the waist.  But this loose comfy fit also works well.  I tried view C complete with gorgeous full cowl neck and three-quarter sleeves.  I think next time I’ll go for long sleeves because if it’s too cold for short sleeves, I’m all bundled up and if it’s too hot for long sleeves I want short sleeves!  So I never really know where three-quarter sleeves fit in.

The other awesome thing about this top is I did it ALL on the ‘Old Babe’ Overlocker!  I am in love.  Serging up a storm! This is just the start of the storm ‘serge’! I probably should’ve done some top stitching to keep the seams lying flat but I loved how quick and easy and NEAT it was to whip up a garment on the overlocker.  I know the pro’s among you would be horrified to hear that I used mainly black thread but it was all an experiment to see how my first overlocker garment would turn out.  And I think it turned out pretty well.  I might be pre-empting disaster here…but it looks like with an overlocker you can get away with all manner of sins …in terms of thread colour any way.  Don’t worry…I will change colour when I need to do a light coloured piece 🙂

Pattern: Sewaholic’s Renfrew

Fabric: Cotton knit in a greeny/aqua colour from a Marrickville fabric store

Alterations: None

Do it again: Absolutely! Maybe a size smaller, long sleeves.  Might try it as a dress or even mix it up with a bow like Amy’s version from Sew Well.

Do you have any serger secrets to share?  What did you learn from your Renfrew or what variations have you tried?

 

A Sorbetto Top for Mom

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Earlier this year when I was visiting my mom, I was itching to sew so I raided her (very meagre) fabric stash.  I found a skirt that she had bought because she liked the fabric but it had been folded up too long in the store and had ripped along a fold line on the first wear.  She had been saving in the hopes of fixing it.  But I took one look at it and said “No, way!  It wants to be a top.”  I printed off Colette’s Sorbetto pattern and away I went.

I cut a size that matched my mom’s bust measurements and added a bit of length as I had found mine too short and sewed it up. I had just enough fabric to get it in.  I left in a bit of a hurry so I left my mom with the job of hemming it – but she did a stellar job and look at the great result! I’m pretty chuffed with the repurposing of a skirt that was destined for the bin.  Now she just needs some warm weather so she can wear it.

Pattern: Sorbetto by Colete Patterns

Fabric: Repurposed skirt made of a lightweight floral polyester blend

Alterations: Added some length to the top

Do it again?: I think there’s always room for another Sorbetto…when summer comes around again

 

The Transformation of Edith, the Gossip chair

For the month of May, besides wearing Me-Made items and trying to finish up some sewing projects, I have been taking an evening class on furniture rehabiliation and upholstery.  Our teacher, the wildly talented and passionate Maaike of Maaike Furniture Resurrection, fearlessly led us through unchartered (for me) territory of ‘real’ furniture upholstery. And so a dream was realised and Edith was given a second life.

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I met Edith when she was in a very dark place in her life.  She was abandoned on the side of the street, her vinyl skin faded, and her inards falling out. I could see she had potential and with a bit of love could be restored to her former glory.  So with an awkward walk home, carrying a decaying Occasional chair, I saved Edith from Furniture Death Row and the fatal crunch of the Monday morning rubbish truck jaws.

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Dear Husband was not highly impressed to have his precious garage space taken up with a dust bucket so Edith was relegated to the balcony to await the furniture resurrection workshop.

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And so began the journey of my Thursday evening escapades at Maaike’s studio in Darlinghurst with friend, Rochelle, forgotten dinners, fun music, broken nails, sore hands, dusty clothes and huge smiles and an enormous sense of satisfaction.  The first step was to strip Edith right down to her naked self.  Every tack and staple had to come out.  All her guts and rotten springs were removed and she was left as bare bones and vulnerable – which she didn’t enjoy. But it gave us a chance to envisage the new Edith.Image

I then set up the structure of webbing pulled tight (with nifty little jigs) and nailed in with tacks.

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New springs were added and painstakingly stitched onto the webbing and knotted and tied down with string that was stapled to the frame.  This is to make sure the springs don’t shift and only ever spring up and down rather than warping forwards or sideways.

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A layer of hesian went over the springs and more stitching and knotting to hold them in place.  Then I stitched in some ‘bridles’ which were stuffed with teased coconut husk.  This was a seriously dusty exercise and had me sneezing all evening.  And Edith suddenly looked all wild and scary and I had a hard some seeing how she’d get her elegance back.

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But another layer of hesian plus a clever roll on the front edge under the hesian and she started looking like a chair.

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Two layers of foam came next  – one on the top, and a thinner one to the frame edge. And then a layer of flock to smooth out some of the edges.

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And finally the top fabric goes on.  I chose a gorgeous vintage upholstery fabric from Maaike’s stash.  I think it’s of silk (maybe polyeser given it’s 70s history) with a metallic sheen and payful green geometric shapes.  I LOVE this fabric but I’m not going to lie it was NOT the easiest to work with.  It doesn’t always sit well, I had to be careful of matching shapes and every now and then it decided to rip (the most terrifying sound ever).  But we managed to hide most transgressions and it was well worth the effort.

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Bottom done. Back getting it’s foam over webbing and hesian.

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Nearly there…

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A bit of coffee sacking for the back, more flock and the final cover piece.Image

Ta Daaahhhh.  She’s done!!  One beautifully elegant and graceful Edith and one Very happy Mary :-).  Edith now has pride of place in our home although no sweaty cyclists are allowed near her.

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Edith is already attracting attention on the World Wide Web on Maaike’s Facebook page.  And I’m looking forward to a long happy relationship.  When I showed a picture of the completed Edith to a friend she said “ooh…it’s a Gossip chair!  You sit with your friend, sipping your tea and gossiping.”  Well I only have one Edith (for now)  so she and I will be doing the gossiping 🙂

Thank you Maaike for a fabulous workshop and thanks, Rochelle for joining me on the journey.  What’s next?

 

 

Ziggi is a WINNER!!!

I am so excited to annouce that my Ziggi is a winner!  She won a prize for ‘Best use of fabric’ in the SewMaris and StacySews sew-along.  Check out the announcement at Sew Maris’ blog here.

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All that stripe manipulating and orientation planning was well worth the effort.  And I’m so glad I made the push to finish the jacket in time.  What I didn’t mention previously is that I planned the stripe orientation quite thoroughly by sketching the stripes on copies of the pattern cover image to see if it got the ‘look’ that I wanted.

The other winner is Rachel of CoreCouture who made not one, but TWO gorgeous Ziggi jackets with meticulous craftsmanship.  Congratulations, Rachel!

Did I mention that I’m SOOO excited about this?! This is the first sewing-related ‘contest’ I’ve ever won!

So what do I win??? 

Chloe from Style Arc has generously donated the prizes and I get to choose a gorgeous Style Arc masterpiece as my winning pattern. What to choose…what to choose?  Do you have any suggestions?

I love the Catherine Dress. (image from Style Arc)

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And the Alisha dress (image from Style Arc)

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Or maybe something more wintery like Sammi or Sara…? (image from Style Arc)

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I wish I had a reason to make (and wear!) the gorgeous Pippa dress. (image from Style Arc)

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Without the guiding lights of SewMaris and StacySews to lead me through the rocky bits I might have to opt for a less that “Experienced Sewer” pattern.

Have you tried any of the Style Arc patterns? Which ones are your favourites? Do you have any suggestions on which one I should pick?  I’d love to hear from you.

From the Back of the Closet: The Gardening Shirt

My ‘From the Back of the Closet’ series will cover some of my older pieces that are now well worn and well loved but haven’t yet made it onto my blog.

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My gardening shirt is a great addition to my wardrobe and is used regularly in the garden (not my own sadly but a wonderful community garden nearby) to protect my arms from the harsh Australian sun.

The pattern is a New Look pattern for a tunic – I’ll have to get back to you on what exact pattern it is. I wanted a shirt so I cut it off short for a shirt but I think if I made it again I wouldn’t cut it off quite so short :-).

DSCN2085The fabric is a lovely lightweight striped cotton that I got from Lincraft.  It is a perfect summer fabric because it is cool and breezy but still provides some protection from the sun.

DSCN2079The sleeves end in cute little cuffs with a button. I chose a blue and white striped button that went suprisingly well with the fabric.

DSCN2082The back yoke in the pattern is a single piece cut on the cross grain but I made it into two pieces and cut it on opposite bias grains to get the chevron effect.  I quite like how it turned out.

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All in all, a great little shirt that travels well, needs no ironing or special treatment and is great for summer days when you don’t want to expose too much skin to the sun. The photos from this post were taken in the beautiful Rosendal, Free State in South Africa.

Do you make ‘work horse’ pieces that are made for their practical purpose rather than beauty?