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 🙂

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…?

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.