Sunday, 24 April 2011

Lazy Mother Skirt

Even though I love sewing, sometimes I find it hard to get the motivation together to start making something. So when the mood finds me then I make the most of it and sew as fast as I can.

After gaining yet more inspiration from Pinterest, the mere sight of these pleats was enough to set me off on a mission to make a skirt for my daughter. First stop fabric, and faced with the whole inventory of M is for make, my daughter chose this lovely Firefly print.

Win for me because it is cheap (I was expecting her to go for some of this) but also a surprise because it is red (with pink of course) and she never goes for red. Bring on the revolution I say.

I was limited by the fact I decided to make this skirt from 2 fat quarters so giving me a fixed width. I measured her waist added an inch for ease and got started. I decided to line the pleats up carefully with the pattern, because (a) I am a perfectionist and (b) it looked nice. So it meant a fair bit of pleating, measuring, realising it was too small, and then re-pleating. I got there in the end. I'd love to give you a tutorial on it, but it was just a case of hit and miss.

I then thought about lining with this, and putting a zip in, but being a lazy mother I decided I couldn't be bothered and went for an elasticated waistband instead. They are much easier to put on after all. This meant adding in a bit more ease so that the skirt would go over the hips. Of course I added in far too much and when the skirt was all put together it was about 2 inches too big around the waist. I have no idea how that happened. So I had to take a couple of pleats out, and re-do the side seam making the skirt feel rather less like a lazy-mother-skirt and more like a spend-hours-at-your-sewing-machine-mother kind of skirt.

Add to this the decision I had made to finish the skirt first thing in the morning so that she could wear it that day when her friend was due in less than an hour and we were both in our pj's with unbrushed teeth and bird's nest hair.

I got there in the end and am pleased with the result.

The pleats run into the waist band which I like, I think maybe next time I would prefer a bit more fullness and got the whole hog and use 3 fat quarters and 2 side seams instead of 1. I would like to make her a gathered skirt next time as these are especially popular due to their whirling qualities. They are however more fabric hungry.

My daughter likes it though, it's nice to see her in bolder colours. She obligingly did some ballet in the garden for me.

So perhaps not such a lazy mother after all. I can't tell you how wonderful it is to see someone wearing something you have made, and for kids, summer is a great time to knock up a few dresses and skirts, I hope I have inspired you to get sewing too.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Dear J Crew...

 Dear J Crew: Please dress me in these outfits 
and provide me with these legs.

My latest addiction, Pinterest has led me to some new and very lovely fashion discoveries. If you haven't heard of Pinterest yet, it is a totally addictive and wonderful way to collate gorgeous images from the internet and see what other people are into too.

If you have ever been researching a project about say, Audrey Hepburn, decorating your home, albino peacocks, dressing your kids in beautiful dresses, then you can store all these images on one mood board rather than a confusing bunch of bookmarks on your internet browser. Oh, and it is totally addictive, but I mentioned that already.

One of my latest trips to Pinterest led my to J Crew. All I know about J Crew is that it's an American clothing company that has clothed Michelle Obama. The wikipedia page about them is disappointing, which is worrying as wikipedia has increasingly become my font of all knowledge.

So, to continue the title to this post...
Dear J Crew, please open a shop in the UK. 

Thanks everso,

I shall demonstrate why using the power of pictures.

Dear J Crew: please dress my first born in these outfits.

Dear J Crew: this isn't my colour, but I still like it

Dear J Crew: I think you know my weakness for stripes, 
and this top is all kinds of stripy

Dear J Crew: I like this pleat action, and you 
make your dresses in about 50 different colours.
Perhaps you would consider opening a shop in the UK?

Dear J Crew: this is the mother of all big-bow dresses 
I would never have cause to wear it, 
but I can admire it anyway.

Dear J Crew: perfect for the school run, a skirt and hoodie,
I will stand out from the other mum, thanks.

Dear J Crew: a 6 year old girl in my life needs this dress.

Dear J Crew: a dusty coloured flounce skirt
yes and yes.

I rest my case, J Crew, I hope you are listening. Those of you who are curious about Pinterest, here's something that will make you more curious, you have to ask to join, and after an agonising wait, they will email you and let you join their club. I can get you in the back door though, send me an email if you want an invite and something to sap away your free time...

ps, thank you to the clever Amy who has informed me that J Crew do have a shop on Net a Porter, so I can get some of their collection in the UK. (Dear J Crew - this doesn't get you off the hook, I want the whole lot).

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Moments like these...

There is no denying that being a parent to two small children can be relentlessly hard work at times. But watching our 2 jump around in the sea on a sunday afternoon with total abandon takes the edge off it a little.

They were straight in the water, the sandy beaches of Wales are a treat for us being used to stony Brighton beaches. 

So next time they are playing their favourite game of winding each other up by repeating what the other is saying until one of them cracks and freaks out. Or displaying less than desirable table manners, I'll try and remember this moment. I'll let you know if it works.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Tote tutorial

A long time ago, I made this tote using birdsong fabric, and you asked for a tutorial. Well almost a year later, here it is! Not my usual efficient self.

The bag is lined and has a base, making it pretty sturdy and roomy. All the raw seams are hidden away so no need to finish them. My bag is still looking as new (well apart from being a bit grubby) after a year of being used nearly every day.

The attachment of the base to the bag is a little complicated, so here is a picture to show you how it works, the bag is upside down in this diagram.

I have made my bag close to the dimensions of the birdsong tote as I know it's a good size for me, but have had to tweak the dimensions a bit to work with the pattern on the fabric I am using. So, I will show you how to work out your dimensions if you want to alter the size of your bag.

I am making a bag that is 35cm wide, 35cm high and10cm deep (as the seams meet half way down the side).

This is how I worked out how much fabric I would need, based on a 1cm seam allowance. The outside bag folds over 3cm and then another 1cm on the top so that has to be added on too.

So I need to cut:

2 x bag panel from the main outside material

2 x bag panel from the lining material (the lining is not as high as the main bag as it doesn't fold over)
1 x base panel from the main outside material
1 x base panel from the lining material
2 x straps from the main outside material

I had to cut my main outside panels quite carefully as I wanted to centre the print and have the stripes in the right place. Take your time cutting out your panels if you are using a print to avoid making any mistakes. Here are my main pieces cut out, in order to save fabric, I didn't bother making the print on the strap symmetrical.

So here is how you make it:

1. Using the lining panels, right sides together, sew the side seams and then press open the seam allowance.

2. On the base panels, on each corner on the wrong side, mark in 1cm from the side, this will be your pivot point when sewing it onto the bag.

3. Mark the middle of the panel with a pin and also on the base, line up and pin right sides together on one side.

4. Starting half way along a long side, sew towards the corner, as you get closer to the corner sew very carefully and make sure you are not sewing through fabric from the other side too. When you get to the pivot point you marked on, stop. Lift the presser foot and pivot round the corner, rearrange the fabric so that you are now sewing together the 2 sides on the short edge (and not including the seam or any fabric from the long edge). This may take a bit of maneuvering.

Carry on, again stopping 1cm from the end of the corner and repeat the process. It is quite possible you will have a bit of spare fabric somewhere along the line, if only a few mm. If this is the case, on the last turn, move this spare fabric up to the corner and incorporate it into a small tuck as it will be less noticeable here than half way down the side.

 a small tuck to take in any excess fabric

5. Next make the straps. Iron them in half, length ways, wrong sides together.  Then fold in the edge of the fabric to the middle on both sides, and iron these folds. Pin in place and sew close to the edge of the fold all the way from one short edge down the long edge to the other end. Take care to sew through both sides.

fold in half, fold sides in to the middle and then iron these folds

6. Next put together the main bag. With right sides together, sew the side seams and then press the seam allowance open.

7. Along the top of the bag, iron over 1cm onto the wrong side, then iron over a further 3cm.

8. Sew the bottom panel on as per step 4.

inside and outside the bag

9. Place the lining inside the outside bag, wrong sides together. Make sure it goes all the way to the bottom, push out all the corners properly and pin the lining to the outside mid way along each seam to ensure it is in place properly.

10. Line up the side seams on the lining and main bag and pin the side seam together. Turn over the 1cm fold on the main bag and then the 3cm to cover the raw edge of the lining. Pin in place all the way round and sew all the way round a few mm from the fold on the inside of the bag. Remember to remove the pins that are holding the lining to the bag.

11. Next, fix the straps to the bag. Fold over about 5mm of the raw edge on the short edge and then pin it to the bag about 9cm from the side seam. Sew the strap in place by sewing a square around the edge and then a cross in the middle for strength. You may need to hand feed your machine when sewing through the thickest parts.

12. Repeat to fix both straps on at each end, I always fix mine on the same side (as shown below) rather than opposite sides. Make sure they are not twisted.

There you are, done!

If you need any more details of have any questions, please leave a comment and I will add to the post.

tote bag made from Echino buses fabric

And don't let me kid you that my bag contains just a pretty book on Japanese patterns, more likely some stones from the beach, children's hair clips, a pen without a lid (but no lid) and lip balm. And that's on a good day.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Sew along complete!

Posts in this series:

1. Sewing from Japanese Craft books - what you will need and an overview
2. Sizing and figuring out the instruction page
3. Tracing out the pattern pieces 
4.  Sewing the garment
5. Making adjustments

I've been busy sewing this week, putting together my top for the sew along. It all went as planned, as per my rough version.

As I always do with this voile now, when I first cut the pieces out, I labelled which was the right side (and whether it was the front or back as they were quite similar) as it's quite hard to tell apart especially in poor light. This time round I managed to get the sleeves on the right way round, first time. Good to see I am learning by my mistakes.

I was thinking of using bias binding in a contrast colour on the raw edge of the neck facing, but didn't in the end as it would have been a bit too bulky. I ironed on light-weight interfacing to the fabric which made the edge quite stable. I also top stitched the facing on the right side to the seam allowance to stop it from rolling out when being worn.

I am really pleased with the end result. I love the pleats around the top, although I do regret centering the pattern  as it means I get a perfect mirror effect down the centre, when something a little less structured would have been better.

The one detail that still bothered me was the sleeves. They seemed a little out of proportion with the top, I think I will at some point hem them a little shorter and maybe play with the pleats to make them lie flatter. I would like some cap sleeves like the ones on my hunting and gathering top from Les Couleurs Francaises. More my kind of sleeve.

I like the idea of making one of the dress variations of this pattern. Like the one on the cover.

So that is it - sew along over. I hope you found it useful and managed to make something or have bookmarked this for a future project. Do send me pics of anything you make as I'd love to feature them here. Happy sewing!