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 🙂

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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!

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!