It was the third one that nearly killed me

OK, so that’s an exageration, but by the time I was finishing the third and final last minute Christmas make I was feeling pretty rough. That’s what coming down with a stomach bug does to you.


Still, if you will leave taping and cutting out the pdf until first thing Christmas Eve morning (the house was blissfully quiet as I was the only one up) and cutting and sewing until after the kids are in bed and you’ve walked your mum home (I’m thinking it was about 9pm, it’s a bit of a blur now), then you don’t have a lot of choice if you need to get it done in time. Let this be a lesson to you me.

I was fairly confident as I knew a tshirt dress, with only 5 pieces (front, back, 2 sleeves, neckband) would be a pretty quick make, but I hadn’t counted on how rough I would feel. I even switched the pedal over to slow mode to help me cope (usually only used when kids are on the machine).

But, I did it, well almost, it didn’t get hemmed until a  couple of days later but it did get worn on Christmas day. And I decided to skip the planned step of adding in some side pockets.


So, this is Nivalis number 2, sized up 2 sizes from last time, one size because the last one is quite slim fitting with not much growing room and the second size because this fabric was a bit thicker and not quite so stretchy as last time (I think it might be ponte). Probably I should’ve only sized up one size as now it’s really quite long, but never mind, she’ll grow.  Also, I left off the tabs this time (that was planned, not just because I ran out of time).

Baby Cthulu Dress

Oh sorry, didn’t see you there, you been there long? Come in, I’ll put the kettle on, move that pile of stuff on the sofa and have a seat.

Things have been a little busy around here, what with ill children and really very tired children and visitors galore and the whole lack of daylight thing. I’ll pop on an episode of The Bridge in a moment – shh, don’t say a word about the plot, I’m not up to date. Anyway, once The Ever Patient Man who currently has Favoured Parent Status (lucky him, apparently I smell today so cannot dish out the regulation bedtime hugs) has put the kiddlings to bed we can all watch it together.


Ta Da

In the mean time, let me show you this dress that I made. Sorry you can’t see it amazingly well in this light, but it’s hidden away in the daytime as it’s a Christmas present for the girl. I hope she likes it, I’m a bit worried about the octopi, but hopefully the colour and the flowers and hearts will win her over. When I went to buy the fabric that I knew she’d like I discovered that they’d sold out, so I got this instead. When it arrived I wondered if I’d done the right thing. Someone tried to reassure me that they look like baby Cthulu. Now I know a few people who like to rock that kind of look, but she is not one of them.  Luckily I don’t think she’s heard of Cthulu so maybe I’ll get away with it. Fingers crossed.


New Neckline

The pattern is the Banana Sweet dress from good old Ottobre 4/2014. The observant amongst you will notice that I missed the hood off, because hoods are not her style.  While I was at it  I decided to save myself some potential sewing headaches and miss the placket* off too, so when cutting out I simply extended the line of the neckline curve to the centre front. When I made it up I was worried it looked a bit small for her head so I widened the neckline at the shoulders slightly and dropped it a bit at the front in an entirely unscientific way. Then I bound it with ribbing, I cut mine 3.5cm wide and 70% of the neck circumference (plus seam allowance) long. Amazingly the neck looks ok despite all my random messing. I will have to see how it looks on (assuming she’ll wear it). Oh and for some reason I decided to apply the ribbing like bias binding, but hand stitching it down on the inside. Not sure why. Not sure I know how to handstich stretchily either. Oh well, I used this finish for pockets, neckline and the cuffs. Obviously I’m a glutton for punishment this week (or just really dissatisfied with the options I know of for applying rib with a standard sewing machine).



Other than altering the neckline, I made it up in the “wrong” fabric (jersey not sweatshirt fabric, a fairly safe swap), added a couple of inches to the length and extended the cuffs too (it was the biggest size for this pattern and I was worried it wouldn’t be long enough, I’m pretty sure it’s wide enough by comparing it to other dresses though, presumably there’s extra ease for added for the intended sweatshirt fabric). I just managed to squeeze it out of my metre of fabric – even after realising I couldn’t place my back and front oppisite ways up to each other (there are clearly upside down hearts, so I assumed the fabric worked either way up, but on close inspection only 1 column in 4 is upside down, so it would look strange if cut the other way around).



So, why choose this pattern then if I was going to change it so much. Well, for the gathers at the sides (front and back). But boy did those gathers befuddle me at times. Here’s the pattern, as traced from the magazine, on my fabric. See the slits going in?  Well, as this is an Ottobre pattern, I still have to add my seam allowance, but I had no idea how to do it to those slits. I reread the instructions several times but could find nothing to help. Just that I needed to add 1cm seam allowance to most edges. (There were exceptions but this wasn’t listed as one).


So I bumbled my way through and as the seam allowances on the slip overlap it ended up like this, sort of like a pinafore dress. Which was fine, until I tried to make the gathers. See those blue arrows pointing in, you have to gather between those. When I tried that, it gathered the top fabric that I’m supposed to be stitching to up too. Unsurprising really when you think about it. The instructions are to sew “darts” (but they’re not marked like darts) by sewing “rows of gathering stitches along lower edges of darts as marked on pattern” (that’ll be between those arrows then) “and gather edges to fit upper edges. Stitch darts; as you approach dip of dart, stitch with gradually narrower seam allowance”. Rereading this several times didn’t help. I could only think that I needed to cut into my seam allowances but that seemed scary without more information.



So I emailed Ottobre and 2 hours later I got a reply, which I think is pretty amazing customer service, especially as my email was in English as was the reply and they’re based in Finland. And what did the reply say you ask? “You need to add 10 mm seam allowance only to the beginning of darts, on the sides. Then you add gradually smaller seam allowances as you approach the tip of the dart. It`s a bit tricky without having 10 mm seam allowances all the way but I`m sure you`ll get it done right. Hopefully this will help you to continue with your project!”

So, confidence bolstered, I drew a line that bisected my angle (please forgive me if I’m straying into geeky maths talk, I really cannot think of another way of putting it that’s clear). Then I cut along my new line just as far as the gathers have to go and no further.


So then, fabric cut, gathers now just gathering the bottom half of the fabric, I sewed it together like a dart best I could, tapering to a point and tying off the ends.


Once pressed it looked ok from the outside. Then I just did the same with the other three. So, I don’t know if that was the right way to do it, but it seemed to work.

After the gathers, it was plain sailing to make. Sew the shoulder seams, attach arms, join arms and side seams in one fell swoop, hem, cuffs, bind neckline. The pockets were a little fiddly as they have curved edges so you’re instructed to gather them around a template to press the sides under, but it was straight forward enough.

Now I just have to wait and see if she likes it.

I’m curious, what’s your favourite way of applying ribbing to a neckline (that doesn’t involve expensive machinery, trying to keep things simple here)? But tell me in a bit, after we’ve watched Saga doing some more investigating in her inimitable style.



*My friend who lectures in English once told me that placket used to be considered a rude word and now I struggle to type it without sniggering.  However I can’t bring myself to explain what it’s a euphemism for, you’ll just have to use your imagination.



Stripes to the max

I used to buy my (really quite small back then) kids clothes from an online store called Nordic Kids. Well, I occasionally did, when they had a sale on. Lovely, bright, unisex, kids clothes (from Scandanavia). And then the store went bust 😦

Well, these days, I’m sewing some of their clothes. And I get my bright and cheery fix from splurging on fabric from Kitschy Coo (click on that link at your own risk). But it does mean that my kids can have bright cheery clothes again 🙂

She practised this pose in the mirror before coming outside for her photo shoot

She practised this pose in the mirror before coming outside for her photo shoot

The stripey t shirt dress I made her before has been getting a lot of use, so I thought she could use another one. Luckily for my bank balance the whole dress came out of a metre of fabric, phew.

yes, the colours are that vibrant in real life. (Looking at the selvage, they're woven not printed)

yes, the colours are that vibrant in real life. (Looking at the selvage, they’re woven not printed)

Without any white in this time (cos, you know, kids, mud, food, felt tip, etc).

Couldn't resist adding the obligatory tissue pocket "upside down"

Couldn’t resist adding the obligatory tissue pocket “upside down”

The main difference is no ribbing this time. Because the pink I had was close, but no cigar (in a so almost right that it was very wrong kind of way). So the neck is a little slouchy. But then, the rate she’s growing, I figure I can live with that.

Twin needle finish (look mum, no serger/coverstitch/fancy expensive machine in sight)

Twin needle finish (look mum, no serger/coverstitch/fancy expensive machine in sight)

Also I interfaced the pocket. Because it Was Not Playing Fair. So I’m extra annoyed at the wonky stitching caused by her brother running into the room and thrusting something into my face while I was sewing. Sigh.

Anyway, I’m pretty pleased with this one. Easy, quick, stylish, practical, bright, no major mishaps, the stripes match at the side. 9/10 I reckon.

This time, I have the eyes on the leftovers for myself…..

Guest Blog Post by the Girl (because, anything he can do….)

I made a blanket.



    How to make it:

First I chose some fabric. Then I cut out two rectangles. After that Mummy drew some lines on it – first it went down from the edge and then around. Then I put pins in it. Then I sewed across the lines. Next I ironed it. Then I turned it inside out. Then I pushed a chopstick into the corners. I ironed it again. Finally I sewed up the hole.



Another one bites the dust

It has been a bit busy around here what with school holidays and visiting relatives and the like. I finally got around to doing some sewing yesterday and I was good. I finished something that has been on my pile for a year.

Last year I had complaints from a certain young lady about her summer school dresses. One sort had pockets, but weren’t twirly enough, the others were twirly, but had no pockets.

So I bought some gingham and made her a circle skirt (not feeling up to making a dress at the time and what could be more twirly than a circle skirt?). I put ric rac around the hem (part of my inherited stash) and made a girly pocket following Lauren’s tutorial. initially she refused to wear it at all as it wasn’t a dress, but I did persuade her she could wear it with one of her white tops in the end. I didn’t take a photo but you’ll have to take my word for it that she looked like a cute mini Judy Garland in a very long circle skirt with a polo shirt and plaits.

Around that time I started a top to match the skirt. I remember struggling to find the exact same check fabric in the shop when I went to buy some more. I used the same pattern as I had for the boy’s shirt. And then I didn’t finish it. And then it wasn’t urgent as it was the summer holidays. And then I still didn’t finish it. And then it was winter. I’ve been meaning to pick it up again since about Easter but I wasn’t looking forward to deciphering where I’d got to with collars and working out how to continue.

What a pleasant surprise I had last night. It just needed sleeves, the collar and pocket (another one from Lauren’s tutorial) were done. The sleeves weren’t cut, I think I’d been trying to work out how to do something a bit more girly, there was plenty of fabric left and I just dug out the sleeve pattern piece from Simplicity 4760 for an easy life.

How I found it

How I found it

I traced out the sleeve twice on a flat piece of fabric. Cut one out. Realised just in time I’d not flipped the pattern piece over, doh. Retraced and cut out the second sleeve (that’s the second time in less than a month I’ve done that now, doh). I winged the constrution, now I’m so used to fitting sleeves, I gathered between some dots on the sleeve had (what else could they be for) and trimed my seam allowance and used the overlock foot on it.

The side/underam seams I french seamed as I’d done that with the shoulder seam – just clipping the corner of the underam before I turned it and enclosed the raw edges (I didn’t think a french seam would work on a sleeve head). I finished the sleeves with some more of the ric rac I’d helpfully put in the pocket to keep safe. The bottom hem was really easy as they were all selvege edges (must’ve cut it at 90 degrees to get that I guess) so I just folded under and stitched in place. I couldn’t find the cute dark navy flower buttons that I’d planned to use from the stash, they’re floating around my dining room somewhere, but I found 4 matching darkish blue ones in the stash that did (she didn’t know about the others so no problem there, she’ll probably get them at some point in the future).

Happy recipient

Happy recipient

And voila, finished in one evening. Guess what, she didn’t want to put it on, said she hated it. But I asked her just to try it and when she realised it looked just like a dress when worn with the skirt (except you can lift it up and show the world your tummy) she now loves it. It’s a little long, and covers the pocket on her dress – I think I made the largest size for growing room. The skirt is no longer a little long, so they don’t really match size wise, but hey, they’re wearable for now and I can make another skirt when she grows out of this one. With hindsight I would have put a split at the bottom of each side seam, but hey. It’s finished, its been worn, it’s now in the washing pile (sigh).

You can see the skirt it was made to match a little better in this one

You can see the skirt it was made to match a little better in this one


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…..

Quick refashions

The other thing that I finally got around to doing in November but then couldn’t get the pictures online was a couple of refashions for my daughter that had been waiting around for a while. First up, take a very shiny sequinned boob tube (what a horrible name but what else can I call it) that was unsold in a shop sale so donated to a charity shop where they sold it for £2 plus some elastic from stash seamed to waistband size….

raw materials

raw materials

Stretch elastic as much as you can and sew to sequinned fabric
quick and dirty sewing

quick and dirty sewing

and get a ridiculously shiny quick skirt (so why did it take me months to get around to it?). Not the best waistband ever but I was unsure how to deal with the sequinned fabric and wanted to handle and sew it as little as possible. Plus this one is just for the dressing up box.

Next up, the age 3 summer dress I bought in the end of summer sales when she was age 2. I don’t normally buy strapped tops (too much sunscreen needed for one thing) but I was won over by the colours and the twirlyness and the bow at the waist with dingle dangle beads.

Take one inaproprite dress

Take one inaproprite dress

Well, next summer when she was age 3 it got worn only once. Because I realised that the purple bodice bit is shaped. It sticks out slightly, like a training bra, but this is for a 3 year old. I found this deeply inappropriate. It got put on oneside to turn into a skirt, but I was a little unsure what to do. Then I found it again and thought I better adapt it before it was way too small for her.
cut off offending parts

cut off offending parts

First step cut off the horrid shaped purple crochet bit, leaving some to fold over and make chanel for elastic. The channel doesn’t meet at the sides due to the shaping, I think that is what put me off before, but I decided to go for it anyway this time.
much better

much better

Turns out it fits her without elastic added (there is already some in the back that was to pull it in). Not sure how long for! I might add some elastic when it needs to get passed on. In the mean time she appreciates the colours and the swirlyness and the dingle dangle beads just as I thought she would. And I like it so much better this way.