Birthday dress

2 years ago my my mum got a much smaller girl a dress for her birthday. It’s green and flowery and she’s worn it lots, on it’s own in the summer and over long sleeve t shirts (when I can persuade her to layer up) in the winter.  Recently it’s been starting to get a bit short and I’ve been trying to gently lead her a round to the idea that it’s days in our house are numbered.

The old (shop bought) birthday dress

The old (shop bought) birthday dress back when it was new

Me:  That dress isn’t going to fit you much longer, we’re going to have to pass it on to one of your friends before long.

Her (with absolute certainty): I will give it away after my birthday. I’m going to get a new dress for my birthday.

I’m being generous and counting her statement as a request.  It’s the only one we’ve had regarding birthday presents so I thought I better oblige. What with me being me and them being ill and half term holidays and all I started it on Friday, 6 days in advance (quite organised for me) and did the finishing handsewing bits whilst watching the Great British Sewing Bee. Get me and my finished item over 24 hours before a deadline!

New birthday dress, made by me

New birthday dress, made by me

  • Design Aim: Similar to her old dress (bodice top, gathered skirt) but a) bigger, b) with pockets and c) with a front fastening (so she can get it on and off herself, after all I don’t have any clothes I can’t get on and off myself).
  • Pattern: I just traced around the bodice of a dress that fitted (irritatingly I couldn’t find the green one) and made is a little wider and a bit longer. After cutting those bits out the rest of the fabric cut easily into two rectangles that seemed a good length/width for the skirt. I hesitate to call it a self drafted pattern, that seems to grand. I did “draft” the patch pocket (which is a little too deep) and I used my previously drafted pocket bags that I made for her school pinafores.
  • Construction Method: I cut 2 of each bodice piece as I wanted a lined bodice. I knew there was a way of sewing them togehter so that all the raw edges were on the inside (with just raw edge at the bottom to attatch the skirt too) because clearly that’s how the dress I was copying was made. I scratched my head tring to work out the topology, I think I was just about there, but then I resorted to the internet and found this lovely tutorial. (I also looked at a sewaholic tutorial that I now can’t find, grr.). The skirt was just gathered at the top and sewn to the outside of the bodice and then the inside of the bodice was handstitched on the inside
  • Any Problems? Gosh, where to start… I cut one of the back pieces by placing the front pattern piece on the fold, so it ended up too wide (as the front pieces overlap for the buttons), of course I didn’t notice this until I tried to sew them together. And I didn’t have any more fabric to cut another piece out so the back piece on the lining has a seam down the middle and the back neckline had to be lowered slightly to match the front. The topstitching accross the top of my patch pocket is in a noticably lighter thread (that was in my bobbin) as I sewed it upside down. I meant to use french seams on the skirt sides but sewed my fabric and pockets wrong side together by m so I just finished them with my overlocker foot instead. I initially sewed the skirt on upside down, with upside down pockets near the bottom. I think there were a couple more but this is getting boring now. The moral is don’t sew when you’re tired!
  • materials: 1 m of some fabric from IKEA , I think it’s cotton, it might be called Rosalie. It’s pink with randomly spaced red dots, like a polka dot pattern that’s been shaken. It’s also a little on the stiff side, I’m pretty sure I prewashed it so that shouldn’t be sizing. The very cool buttons that really make it are from her Great Grandmas stash, they’re red plastic hexagonals, a little shiny, with a loop on the back to attatch them rather than holes (hmm, sure there must be a technical term for that).
  • result?: Thumbs up from her and looks like there’s some growing room so if I’m lucky this one will last 2 years too!
  • concentrating face

    concentrating face

    What a difference a year makes

    About this time last year I rang my mum up whilst she was watching TV – she kept talking to me but the phone call turned into a running commentry on the programme, so I watched it later on iPlayer to work out what she was going on about.

    No prizes for guessing what the programme was, The Great British Sewing Bee.

    And no prizes for guessing that I watched the first programme of the new series last night. I discovered that the triangular pieces I had added earlier in the day from one pair of jeans to the other to make a skirt yesterday were called Godets. And when some of the contestants were confused about understitching I had a big grin because I learnt about that when I made my polka dot skirt.

    But the thing that made me grin the most happened a few hours earlier. We went on a family trip to the shop van (a mobile shop selling local produce – we live exciting lives) and we got there just as the shop had arrived 10 mins late. A little conversation about how lucky it was we hadn’t arrived on time ensued and I explained that the reason we weren’t there earlier was that I was just finishing the skirt that I was wearing.

    J was complimentary about my skirt. And then she started spotting other things I’d made. P and her toddlers headbands (made the other day out of scraps as requested), the circular scarf I knitted my husband that he was wearing as a hatband, the two bags we were carrying (my new spotty one and one from a while ago). When we got home I realised that the skirt my daughter was wearing was that one I refashioned and ahem, I was wearing a homemade item of underwear. 3/4 of us were wearing things I’d made.

    You could make me hair things from that mummy...

    You could make me hair things from those bits of fabric mummy…

    Issy The Toddler is pleased that her headband matches her Mummy's

    Issy The Toddler is pleased that her headband matches her Mummy’s

    And today, my son is wearing not one, but two shirts I’d made at the same time, plus a pair of leggins I made (as a trial for some leggins for me, which didn’t quite work, I’m hoping that pair number 2 fair better before I blog that) and my husband is wearing the almost finished waistcoat muslin that I finally got around to doing (it just needs buttons, todays family outing, a family trip to the fabric shop to choose buttons, we know how to staycation).

    No, I don’t feel like a proficient sewer. I’m not planning to make all our clothes. I would really really like to master making trousers so I can have some that fit. But I’ve sewed loads in the last year and finally conquerred my fear of making clothes. Hurrah!

    Starry Swishy (re)Sycled Skirt

    Today I took 2 pairs of trousers, one with a big hole in an indecent place, the other with a broken zip and thinly worn in critical places and with a little help from one of Erin’s tutorials, I made a skirt….

    Starting places please

    Starting places please

    With added pockets

    With added pockets

    Spot the Stars

    Spot the Stars

    Shooting sar effect

    Shooting sar effect

      2 x (broken trousers) + know how = skirt 
  • Materials: 2 pairs of worn out jeans, one denim, one cordroy
  • Cost: Nothing (I’m not counting electricity or my time)
  • Ease of Make: Very easy – quick too
  • Style: Scruffy hippy chic
  • Help needed: to trim the hem into a vaguely straight line after construction
  • Extra design features:
  • *Back pockets from the cords added to the front as extra pockets (idea stolen from inspired by Erin),
  • *Extra triangles of cord added to the bottom of the denim legs reduce the appearence of the skirt being made from adding bits to a pair of jeans,
  • *Stars in denim on the cord sections and visa versa (idea stolen from inspired by Erin) to unite the two colour sections, reduce the amount it looks like a pair of trousers with a couple of triangles inserted, and just because applique stars look good and are funky (in my little world even if not in anyone elses)

  • *Centre Seams cut out from jeans tied onto belt loops as I can’t decide if I like them or not so haven’t sewn them on
  • Will the stitching hold up to wear?: Hmm, not sure, I will keep an eye on it and change my two lines of brown straight stitch (to mimic jeans topstitching) to a zig zag if necersarry
  • Make again: Possibly, not sure I need two skirts like this in my wardrobe and I don’t have that many suitable pairs of trousers to cut into hanging around but I would certainly help someone else make some
  • Done to a T

    Last night I finally started, and finished a late Christmas present that I’d been cogitating on for a while. It’s a bag, for a child, whose name begins with T.

    T'bag

    T’bag

    It’s made from scraps, recognise that pink fabric for the T? The purple is some home dyed calico from an abandoned project that’s in my stash. And the pocket on the bag is a scrap of fabric from a t shirt that has already been cut up and refashioned but yet to be blogged about. The lining is left over from the Christmas Shirt.

    Now with added frogs

    Now with added frogs

    The idea for the bag came after our children were given Christmas presents by a folky family we know. I wanted to make a present in return and use some of left over fabric that I was making presents for my kids for. Except I wasn’t sure how suitable either material was for bag exterior, so I threw some of the purple fabric I was using to make a waistcoat muslin for my husbands Christmas present (still unfinished, the muslin that is, let alone the real thing) into the mix. Plus for some reason I decided that I wanted to make a bag where the sides were zips, so that it could be used to take some toys out and then zipped flat to be a playing mat. So I bought 2 zips that fully open, the colour choices were rather random, I opted for turquoise. And my daughter chose a button.

    That was as far as I got. But I kept thinking about it. And about how to have zip sides without leaving a big hole for stuff to fall out of. Making two Presido Purse’s helped too.

    Anyway, the thinking must have helped, because it all came together pretty easily. First, I drafted a pattern, based on the zip length.

    Self drafted pattern

    Self drafted pattern

    Basically there’s a long rectangle that’s the bag front, then a very short one the depth of the zips to be the bag base but wider to create tabs that fold inside and prevent things falling out underneath the zips, then another long rectangle to be the bag back, with an extra bit to go accross the top before the trapezium flap. Then whack your favourite seam allowance around the outside.

    Adding the zips

    Adding the zips

    I cut this template out from both my main and my lining fabric. I added the T to the front of my main fabric and found the scrap of purple jersey with a frog on lying about and whipped up a patch pocket and added it to the back. Then I basted the zips in place, face down (right side to right side with the fabric) and facing inwards, unsurprisingly like Erin’s tutorial.

    Close up of the tabs

    Close up of the tabs

    At this point, I realised (luckily before I sewed the lining on) that I hadn’t thought about where to attatch the strap. Normally this is easy, sew it to the top of the sides, but, err, the sides are zips. After a bit of headscratching I worked out that I could probably attatch handles to the fold over bit of the back (between the back and the flap) but that it might work better with D rings. I went and raided my stores and found two plastic D rings and a clasp that had been cut off a long defunct rucksack and some navy blue soft woven tape (hey, the more colours the merrier) and added the D rings above the zips (zig zagged to add strength and prevent fraying).

    Emergency D rings

    Emergency D rings

    Then to add a quick pocket to the lining (I’m a big fan of pockets). I didn’t match the pattern this time, but I did do a quick extra line of stitching to make a pen holder up the side.

    Spot the pocket

    Spot the pocket

    Next I was ready to sew the lining to the main bag, all along the outside leaving just what would be the top of the front open.

    lining sewn to main bag (right sides together) around the outside, leaving the front top edge unsewn (shown on right)

    lining sewn to main bag (right sides together) around the outside, leaving the front top edge unsewn (shown on right)

    Then I turned the bag the right way round, folded my raw edge inside at the top front forgot to press it flat as I had a phonecall and topstitched all around the outside (I went straight down the whole side along line of the zips rather than around the outside of the flaps, so that the line of stitching would create a natural place for the flaps to bend inwards) before adding the adjustable strap to the D rings and putting a couple of hand stitches to hold the bottom of the tabs in place on the inside.

    Strappage

    Strappage

    A few hand stitches hold the bottom of the tab sides in place

    A few hand stitches hold the bottom of the tab sides in place

    Then I just had to put a button hole in the tab and sew on the button my daughter had chosen especially, which had purple, turquoise and pinky red flowers on it that picked up the colours of the bag.
    And voila, a bag with adjustable strap an external and internal patch pocket, that you normally open by unbuttoning the tab but if desired you can unzip the sides too to make a playmat.

    Opened out as a playing mat

    Opened out as a playing mat

    Pretty in Pink?

    So, I have some hot pink shiny metallic jersey foil stuff left from that dress, and it needs using up before it’s too small to make something for anyone I know and/or they’ve grown out of the pink phase. 

    A friend of ours is having a 6th birthday party at the weekend, and I thought maybe I could utilise the left over fabric to make an extra present.

    Quick birthday pressie

    Quick birthday pressie

    I used this tutorial for a raglan t shirt, drawing round one of big brothers baggy t shirts for the pattern (new things always need growing room and he’s not much bigger than the girls). My only issue with the tutorial was working out if I used a different neckline front and back, I finally decided after some peering at pictures and much reading of comments to use the front neckline of big brothers t shirt for both the front and back of the pattern.

    childs raglan t shirt

    childs raglan t shirt

    I didn’t really have any fabric that would work well with the hot pink metallic for contrasting sleeves, so I reversed the fabric I had to make shiny front and back pieces with matt sleeves.  I wasn’t sure how to finish the edges on the raglan seams (I was making it up as I went along), the material doesn’t seem to fray but the recipient suffers with excema, so I folded the raw edges down towards the front (I wasn’t sure how it would take being pressed) and topstitched in a black stretch straight stich.  I added a matt big initial “L” on the front too to personalise it, stitched on in black stretch zig zag. 

    I decided as I went along to do French seams at the side/under arm seam – I should’ve deided this sooner and added more seam allowance really as I think it will be a skinny fit t shirt now as french seams eat up more material, so it won’t last as long now before it’s outgrown, but hey. I made fold over hems on the bottom and sleeves, but folded them the wrong way, (so over twice to the outside not the inside) to get a contrast matt hem on the shiny body and shiny hem on the matt sleeves, again stitchd in black stretch zig zag. The hems stand slightly proud too. 

    inside of seams

    inside of seams

    I tried the t-shirt on my daughter to check the fit before finishing the neckline.  All fine there. I didn’t have any rib for the neckline so I cut an inch wide piece of fabric on the bias to edge it. I thought I’d use the matt side, as I couldn’t contrast both the front/back and the sleeves I decided contrast with the main pieces would be more noticable.

    Pinning the binding on, right side to wrong side of neckline

    Pinning the binding on, right side to wrong side of neckline


    I sort of made up sewing the neckline as I went. I didn’t iron the bias strip into bias binding as I cannot get the hang of my bias binding maker tool, it just makes a raggedy mess and I wasn’t sure how the fabric would take to pressing. I started off pinning the right (i.e. matt in this case) side of the strip to the inside of the neckline, with the end I started with folded over for a neat edge and the other end overlapping it so it didn’t show. I sewed the bias with a straight stretch stitch, then clipped notches on the curve. Then I turned the t shirt back the right way out and folded the binding over twice and pinned it down, making sure it covered up the stitching line from when it was attached. Then I zig zag stretch stitched it down, to match the applique and other hems.
    binding sewn onto wrong side of neckline and clipped

    binding sewn onto wrong side of neckline and clipped

    The final result fit my son, big head and all, so it should be ok for the birthday girl too. All in all this was a quick easy make.   Around an hour, maybe a bit more, but that included breaks and interruptions.  Plus it was practically cost free in materials and yet another confidence boost to my skills at sewing with jersey.  (I did switch to a jersey needle as I have some and used the stretch stitch options, but I don’t have an overlocker, just a normal machine – so don’t be put off sewing knits if you don’t have an overlocker/serger). And I think it looks ok, well actually I think it looks horrendously and shinilly pink, which is a little overwhelming, but then it’s intended for a 6 year old girl, so that’ll probably be seen as a good thing. Also the fabric is quite stiff, so it looks a bit like a wetsuit, but that’s what you get working with this fabric and whilst I wouldn’t like it again I don’t think it will be an issue. But I’m really pleased with the use of both sides of the fabric, which helps tone down the overall effect a smidgen.

    So Philippa, does this count as a scrap buster even though I didn’t have to piece it together?  I have had a request to make hairbands with the remaining scraps…..

    Spotty Bag for me

    So, I was good, I waited for the rest of Erin’s sewalong and I finished my spotty bag, which is my first/second (and I think it’s come out better than the second/first, apologies to the recipient of the other one).  I’m really pleased with the results!

    Spotty Bag

    Spotty Bag

    It’s made from the same ikea fabric as my skirt so now I have even more things to brighten up the rainy days we keep having. There is some fabric left too, and I have plans for some of it…

    I'm happy with my lining choice

    I’m happy with my lining choice too

    (I did take photo’s of my lining. I seem to have uploaded them to flickr then deleted them. Not sure how to get them on here, sigh. You could look at the Seamstress Erin design group if you wanted to see them. Plus there’s loads of other cool things made by other people too, so you might want to look at the group for that reason.)

    The pattern is really easy to follow. Well, it is if you can read. I got into a real tizzy trying to work out how to construct the handle on my last Presido Purse and just did it my way. So this time I waited patiently for the sewalong only to find out that I had misread the instructions last time around.  I sewed my interfacing to my bag handle between the two dots, but along the sides, rather than around the ends. This made my main fabric handle thinner, so when I sewed the lining to it it was thinner and bulkier and wouldn’t turn. This time I realised my error from Erin’s clear photos on the sew along and did it correctly and it looked so much better.

    Also, it helps not to assume that your lining fabric is the same width as your main fabric. Mine wasn’t and I didn’t buy enough. For both bags, I managed to squeeze one handle out despite that by laying the fabric flat rather than cutting on the fold. The other is cut in two pieces and seamed. You don’t notice the extra seam on this one as it’s on the inside. I suppose you could notice it on the other, as the lining fabric ended up being on the outside, but I haven’t had any complaints yet.

    The piping was a new skill for me, I bought some ready made (I know there are lots of how to make piping tutorials around but I thought I’d stick to one new thing at a time) – there wasn’t a lot of colour choice but the royal blue works just great.  And it makes the whole bag look really professional, even though its not applied very evenly (in some places the tape of the piping is showing making the piping stand proud).  I found the piping quite easy to do (although I could clearly beneifit with some practise doing it more neatly), but it did make fitting the front and back panels to the sides a little trickier as it didn’t stretch. For me those seams, on both lining and outer and on both bags (which means I’ve kind of done that seam 8 times), have needed a fair bit of fabric manipulation as they didn’t seem to want to be the same size. I wished there was a notch in the middle of that curve to help match things up.  This time I ended up with some excess fabric on the side/bottom pieces that I couldn’t seem to get rid of, I managed to make a little tuck along my centre seam on both sides that I topstitched down so it doesn’t show. Theres a little tuck somewhere else on one side too but you’d only see it if you were looking for it On reflection maybe I would sew my piping to the side/bottom pieces next time, it might help as it would stop the piece I don’t want to stretch stretching rather than the stopping the piece I did want to stretch. Plus it would be easier to attatch along a straight edge. Except then I wouldn’t have been able to fudge my excess fabric away so easily if it had gone wrong. Oh well. Anyone else have this problem or is it just me?  Maybe my seam allowance is off or something.

    I don't think my fold and tuck of exess fabric along the join line is noticable.

    I don’t think my fold and tuck of exess fabric along the join line is noticable.

    I’m super chuffed with this bag – it is bright and cheerful, stylish, looks proffessional is huge and holds loads. Now I know everyone says it’s huge, I’m a large bag kind of person and I assumed when I read those comments that they just weren’t, but even by my standards it’s huge.  I took some paperwork, 10 library books (mixed picture book/novel sizes) and a bottle of wine home in it without it feeling stuffed. It;s certainly a great take the kids book bags and lunches to school kind of bag.

    I have a few niggles – which are construction rather than pattern related.

  • * I couldn’t get fabric on the ends of the zipper of the inside pocket to line up with the pieces above or below no matter what I did – but that’s just pride, I don’t notice it when I’m using it.
  • * The zip, which was found mysterious, brand new and unlabelled in my stash (possibly inherited, I have no idea why I would have bought it), is 4 inches too long and I would like it shorter but I can’t cut it because it’s metal so there you go – the price you pay for a free zip.
  • * I wish I’d attatched the inner and outer zips so they opened the same way, I didn’t think about that when making it, they don’t and it bugs me.
  • * The interfacing on the handle attatchments is poking out around where I sewed it on, grr. Not sure what I did wrong here.
  • * I just put piping along the side of the handle, which is a look I like, less keen that I left raw edges of piping, gah.
  • * I have one side lined up perfectly and the dot’s from the handle sit amazingly well on top (I cut the handle at 90 degrees to the grain to get that as it turns out my dots are on a rectangular rather than a square grid) – the other side is less well aligned and as a result the handle doesn’t fit as well.
  • * And it has a tendancy to slip of my shoulder, but that is more to do with my slopey shoulders than the bag design (don’t get me started on bra’s – large cup sizes and slopey shoulders are not a good combination).
  • Spot the difference (no pun intended).  One side was cut slightly skew and the handle doesn't line up as well.  (Oh and I did sew across my handle attatchments, but in a line above and below the spot rather than in a cross shape, hopefully still strong but looks better)

    Spot the difference (no pun intended). One side was cut slightly skew and the handle doesn’t line up as well. (Oh and I did sew across my handle attatchments, but in a line above and below the spot rather than in a cross shape, hopefully still strong but looks better with my fabric choice)

    But that said it’s definitely my most professional looking bag to date and I’ve learnt a lot from the pattern that I can transfer to my own make it up as you go patterns (piping, zipped pockets, curved zipped tops).  When I showed him the lining my husband said “You’re making things that don’t look like you made them” now. The finished bag has had compliments too and people are often surprised when I tell them that I made it.  Oh and it does go with my skirt and I don’t think it looks too much, I just don’t have a photo to prove it so you’ll have to trust me on that one.