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.

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…?

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!

 

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

Top

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

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