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.

A Confession and the start of something Big

I have a confession to make: The last few posts used pictures from a few months ago and I no longer look like such a lean, mean machine.  In fact I’ve become rather large.  And not only because I’ve been eating too much cake (although that has been happening too) but because I’m pregnant :-).  And not with just one little munchkin but two!  That’s right folks – we have twin buns in the oven!  In the long time that I had to think about “when I’m pregnant I’ll do  x, y, z…” I had imagined that I’d be sewing up a storm and designing the ultimate maternity wardrobe that would be comfy and super fashionable.  But truth be told, the energy to do just the absolute minimum is hard to come by some times so sewing has taken a bit of a back seat. I’ve done a bit of (very utilitarian) sewing for the babies but more on that later.

These are two items that I have managed to stitch up and the skirt at least has been indispensible. I think I have worn it at least once a week throughout my pregnancy (so far).

DSCN3012Black maternity skirt:

The skirt is a simple pencil skirt of my own design made from a lightweight black ponti from Remnant Warehouse. I used my pencil skirt block and then added a thick waist band that I folded over in the beginning and now need to maximise as my belly has become so huge.

I used the overlocker for most of the skirt and had to actually take it in at the hips because while my belly is huge my hips haven’t expanded as much. The hem is just done using a double needle.  I’m pretty happy with the results and had intentions of making multiple iterations in various colours but somehow the energy to do that evaporated.

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Maternity top:

For the top I used Simplicity 2029 pattern and added little flutter sleeves so that I could wear it to work.  I have made this pattern before out of a lovely bird fabric.  This time I used a silk remnant that I found on the Tessuti remnant table and have had in my stash for a while. This seemed like as good a project as any to use it on, particularly as I am overheating in just about anything so lightweight fabrics are the way forward!

DSCN3010I added a few centimetres to the front to hide some of the bump but realised that I hadn’t fully taken into account my already long body so really should’ve added a bunch more.  Any way, the top has worked well so far but I think soon the belly will outgrow it!

DSCN3008The imminent arrival of our double trouble also means that I will be even less active in the blogosphere.  I am apologising in advance and will try to provide updates every now and then as I will try my best to keep sewing through the chaos.

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Pattern: My own pencil skirt stretch pattern

Fabric: Black Ponti from Remnant Warehouse

Do it again: Wish I could say yes but right now I’m just focusing on growing babies – everything else is falling by the way side

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Pattern: Simplicity 2029

Fabric: Cream coloured silk from Tessuti

Alterations: Flutter sleeves added and longer in the front.  For next time I would add even more to the front.

Do it again: This is already number 2 of this pattern…but we’ll see

One of the next things I’d like to make (for me) are some nice lightweight cotton nighties that button down the front (nursing friendly). Does anyone have any great patterns for such a thing?

The Lesley Blouse

This fitted blouse was a long time in the making (and even longer time in the blogging!) and is named after my sewing buddy Lesley.

Lesley blouse_frontThe pattern is a self drafted pattern based on my fitted bodice block from my very first pattern making class at Studio Faro. But it took me a while to get my head around collars and cuffs and all the bits and pieces that go into making a button down shirt.  This is where Lesley came into her own, sending me online tutorials for various parts of the shirt and tricks of the trade.  We had a pattern making session together where we went through some of the more tricky bits.  I don’t think I would’ve endeavoured to the end without the encouragment from a fellow sewist.

Lesley blouse_backI made this first version out of an Italian cotton with a little stretch from Remnant Warehouse and a contrast quilting cotton under the collar, the inner collar stand and in the cuffs.  I went with a fairly standard collar, a simple button stand (just folded over section of the two front pieces rather than a separate button stand) and kept all of the waist darts as per the pattern block – that’s 4 in the front and 4 in the back!

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I decided on long cuffs for a more retro look but somehow miscalculated the cuff width and ended up with VERY tight cuffs.  Luckily I can still do up the buttons but I can’t slip my hands through without undoing the buttons.  Oops! I was considering doing sleeve plackets (Lesley had a good block for that too) but decided that I needed to keep it simple for version 1 otherwise it would never get made.  Next time I’ll have to tackle the placket.

Lesley blouse_untuckedI made the shirt extra long to accommodate my long body and so that it doesn’t get untucked when I raise my arms.  I like that alteration although I may need to make it wider at the bottom to get over my hips.

All in all, not a bad little attempt at my first blouse pattern.  I’d love to make it in a fun Liberty fabric or something.  But I’ll have to stay skinny to fit into it with all those unforgiving waist darts!

Pattern: My own Lesley Blouse pattern

Fabric: Italian cotton from Remnant Warehouse and quilting cotton for the contrasts

Alterations: Specific design decisions this time was the long cuff and extra length.  Next time I’ll stick with the extra length (wider over the hips), have short and WIDER cuffs and I might have a go at the sleeve placket.

Do it again: Yup… but maybe not for summer

The MC pants

The ‘MC pants’ were originally named for their ‘Multi-Cultural’ ethnicity but as they came into their own I soon realised that they also liked to own the room, announce themselves to the world and be their own ‘Master of Ceremonies’.  So without further ado, I present the MC pants… ta da!

Multi pants4“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the MC pants show!

I started life a long time ago in a pattern making class at Studio Faro. But as a well fitting block and calico toile, I sat in the sewing pile waiting to be made into something special.  You see, Mary is (was?) a bit scared of sewing pants.  And designing a pair from scratch?! All those bits and pieces of flies, and fly shields and pockets and pocket facings and waist bands…Heaven forbid.  But I’ve gotta give the girl credit, after a successful Me-Made-May, she realised that she needed more pants in her life because otherwise how would be she make it through winter?  So she got out the ol’ pants block and got going on turning it into a real pair of pants.  The idea was that the shape of the toile would stay pretty much as is but with a proper waist band, pockets, fly etc.

DSCN2628A lot of research went into how to cut and sew a fly in pants. This tutorial from Notes from a Mad House Wife was particularly helpful. And the Sewaholic Thurlow sew alongs also provided guidance.  Finally the pattern was ready and it was time for the fabric.  And this is where my Multi-Cultural ethnicity comes in.  You see, Mary had her eye on some tartan and had figured it was time to try her hand at that.  But a pure Scottish lass, I was not to be.  So she had to add some red Xhosa Shwe Shwe into the mix as the contrast on the waist band and pocket inserts. Quite an ecclectic mix but I think it works.  The pocket bags were a bit of left over lining from the Ziggi jacket. The button is a self-covered button made from one of those kits and a bit of the contrast fabric – I have my doubts as to how it will survive the wash.

With Mary’s new-found overlocking skills, I can even expose my insides to the world to show the neatly finished seams…aahh bliss.

DSCN2631Oh and please note the piping around the pockets…gotta love piping.  That idea was almost thrown out the window because it was ANOTHER step in this already long complicated process.  But Sew Maris’s timely tutorial on piping reminded Mary that piping really does add that extra zing.  She put piping on her first pair of pants so why shouldn’t I get it too?!

MC pantsThe legs of the pants did turn out to be rather wide as the original pants block for the legs wasn’t altered at all.  This does pose the risk of people mistaking me for pajama pants but with red shoes it’s more likely people think I’m clown pants! But it’s all good.  With a good fit around the hips and butt, I rock the tartan.

MC pants2Mary did think about matching stripes and tartan but somehow the thought got lost along the way and I’m a bit ‘bummed’ that the tartan doesn’t match up across the…bum.  Better luck next time.

Thanks for listening folks and I’m sure I’ll see you around because I think I’m gonna get out a LOT.”

Phew she had a lot to say!

Pattern: Self drafted ‘MC pants’ pattern

Fabric: Cotton Poly (I think) Tartan from a Marrickville fabric store for a steal, Red Shwe Shwe from Fabric World in Cape Town, left over lining from the Ziggi jacket

Alterations: This WAS the alteration

Do it again: Yup – this was v.1.  The next ones need to be a bit narrower I think

Thanks for joining me.  I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

Another Rose Tie Top

My Purple Rose Tie Top was such a success that I had to make another one.  This time in a black and white satin…but still with roses on it :-).  I made this one as a gift and Dear Husband has informed me that it will be way too big…doh!  Making clothes for other people is so difficult! Any way it’s in the mail so we’ll see how it turns out on the other side.

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I used the same self-drafted pattern as before but I tweaked the back neck so it doesn’t sag as much and I like this result.  The ties are also a bit shorter (more due to fabric limitations than design choice), although I think I prefer the longer ties. The bust dart looks a bit weird in this photo.  I’m hoping it’s a photo thing and not a construction thing.  Could also be that it needs a better pressing.  (Note to self…must make a taylor’s ham soon!)

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Any way I hope it’s not too big and the birthday girl likes it and can wear it (when the weather warms up).  I’ll keep you posted.

I might also have to make one of these for myself…