Sewing for a new bub

I recently gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. One of the things I was most excited about was all of the fun things that I could sew for her, after all, as a child all of my favourite dresses & outfits were things that my Mum had made for me.

I also have a number of fabric scraps that I’d been saving over the years from past projects or from various family members collections that are really only big enough to make something for a baby or small child.

These are the first two things I made for the new bub.

The purple dress was made using a small scrap of corduroy I had from my husband’s grandmother’s fabric collection. I used Simplicity 1205 as a basis for this dress, however it was a pretty small scrap of fabric & I actually didn’t have enough to make the dress per the pattern, so I reduced the amount of gathers in the skirt, thereby reducing the width of the pattern piece. This ended up being a good move because the pattern recommends thinner fabrics than corduroy & I think it would have been too bulky gathering that much corduroy. I also combined the chest band with the upper shoulder portion rather than adding a decorative chest band. I added the trim around the sleeves for an extra bit of fun.

The grey dress was made using a quilted jersey I found at Joanns. I used Simplicity 8346 to make this dress & for once in my life made zero alterations to the pattern. I simply fell in love with this pattern when I first saw it – isn’t it just the sweetest little dress?! This was a lovely pattern to make – it was relatively simple & came together very nicely in a single afternoon. II wanted to make something a little more casual than what was pictured on the envelope, so the quilted jersey was the perfect fit!

Next on my list is to make McCalls M4424 in a navy corduroy.

Halloween 2017

This year was our first real opportunity to get dressed up as a family for Halloween. So of course, it had to be Star Wars! Our little one is still too young for trick or treating but we had a party to go to & couldn’t resist dressing up the whole family.

I was super happy about how this costume turned out, especially since two of the three costumes took next to no time to make.

The Ewok costume was crazy easy to make. I bought this teddy bear suit & removed the bow tie. Then I roughly cut out the shape of a t-shirt out of a bit of brown fabric I had lying round (I used a t-shirt of my husband’s as a guide) & sewed it together. To fit it, I put the bub in the teddy bear hat, the neckhole in the t-shirt became the opening for his face & his arms when through the arm holes. To hold the brown fabric in place all I had to do was cut slits for the ears to pop through. This took me 15mins – I was pretty impressed. The brown drape held in place really well with just the holes around the ears.

I was really worried that the bub would be really upset about being in this costume all afternoon, but he was fine. Normally he hates having hats on his head but he didn’t try to remove this one at all! It was probably because he was too busy holding the giant fake spear my husband made for him (it was cardboard).

My costume was also pretty easy to make, in that it was all clothes from my wardrobe & I didn’t have to modify any of them! The only thing that needed to be made was the helmet. My husband made this for me out of some old Amazon boxes & spraypaint we had lying round in the garage.

The real labor of love though was the Han Solo costume my husband wore. I had actually made this for him 2 years ago for a Halloween party. I’d promised to make him whatever he wanted to wear for Halloween & he’d asked for a Han Solo costume. Within a minute of agreeing to make this costume for him, my husband had inundated my email account with links to Star Wars fan sites explaining how everything had to be made just right. As this was pre-baby & I had bucket loads of time I actually paid attention & spent more time than I care to admit researching the difference between Han’s vests & pants in the different movies (yes – my husband had specified which movie’s version he wanted). The hubby was (& still is) pretty chuffed with the outcome.

In case you were wondering about the gun belt & blaster – my husband made these himself. I helped him with the patterning so it would actually look like what he wanted & hang right, but he did all the rest.

Hope you all have a super fun Halloween!

 

Pleating Fabric

Recently, I’ve been obsessed with fabric pleating. I don’t know how many videos I’ve watched of fabric pleaters making paper molds & pleating fabric. There’s something very calming about watching someone pleat fabric. I think it’s the precision & symmetry of it that appeals to me.

After a while though, I started to think, this isn’t all that hard, surely I could do this at home.

I had a skirt that I wanted a pleated panel for. I had a look in my local fabric store for pre-pleated panels but they didn’t stock many & I didn’t really like any of the colours or fabrics. Then I had a look online. There’s a lot of fabric pleaters out there, but I just didn’t want to pay a huge amount of money for a small panel of pleats.

So I decided to give it a go myself. After all it’s just making a paper mold & baking it in an oven right?

The first time I found out about the pleating process was in this blog post from Poppykettle. This Threads article explained the basics quite well so I started with that & looking back over all the YouTube videos & articles I’d save to try to work out an actual method. This YouTube video was the most helpful for the actual bake temperatures & times. Also, I learnt a bit from someone I met at a supplier workshop (part of my day job as an engineer). By chance, his hobby was folding paper to create different types of expanding designs – he had some pretty incredibly patterns & so we ended up speaking for a while about creating different paper patterns.

The Pattern
I decided on a pattern of pleats that gradually reduce in size. So I set about making the paper mold. For the paper I used painter’s masking paper from Home Depot. It seemed to be a good weight & was the right size for what I needed to pleat, but mostly it was because we already had half a roll of it in the basement that was left over from painting our house.

I drew a series of lines with a ballpoint pen to mark out where the creases of each pleat would be. There were 3 lines for each pleat, an inward facing crease, outward facing crease & an alignment line (I used a different colour for each). The benefit of using a ballpoint pen was that it also slightly scored the paper if you pushed down on it, this made the subsequent folding portion easier.

Once that was complete, I started folding. This took the better part of an afternoon, but was a very relaxing activity.

Now technically you need two copies of the same mold for this pleating method to work, so I just cut mine in half as I didn’t need the pleated panel to be too long. Otherwise I would have had to make another identical mold.

The Fabric
The fabric I used was literally just some cheap polyester I found at JoAnns. The only criteria that I had was that I wanted the same fabric in a few different colours because I wanted different sections of the pleat to be different colours (because you know, why not make my life more complicated).

The Pleating & Baking
At this point I had to go back & start watching videos again to see how professional pleaters do the actual pleating. I tried so many different ways & I just couldn’t get the fabric to sit properly or to hold the paper molds in place properly. In the end I found this video most helpful.

I borrowed the hubby’s clamps & started by clamping the first part of the paper mold down at one end. Then I stretched it out & clamped it down on the other side

I laid the fabric over the mold. Because I had a seam where I had joined two pieces of fabric together, I had to align that with a specific point in the pleat mold. I used little bulldog clips to hold it in place (it was just what I had lying around).

Next I placed the second part of the paper mold on top & aligned the pleating points of both molds. At this point I also undid the clamps at one end & reattached them to secure both molds together, (one clamp at a time so that there was always at least 3-points of pressure on the stretched mold). Finally I removed the clamps at one end & started to re-fold the pleat board together with the fabric. As I went I used bulldog clips on either side to secure the folds temporarily.

I slid a baking tray under the molds (this was to make moving it to the oven easier) & put a heavy baking dish on top to hold the central part of the pleats in place.

I baked the pleats at 180C for 25mins.

The Results
I’m pretty happy with the results for a first try. The pleats themselves hold really nicely, however my technique clearly needs some fine tuning. Firstly, I think I need to reduce the bake time – there were a couple of areas of the fabric that developed little yellow spots during the baking that I want to avoid. Secondly I need to work on alignment – particularly of the seam, this flipped & slipped when I was putting the molds together so it doesn’t look right.

Just another trip to the fabric store

Do you ever do that thing where you go to fabric store with the intent of buying fabric for one very specific project, then leave the fabric store with enough fabric to …. but nothing for your project. Only to come home and find the perfect fabric for your project was in your stash all along???

This is what I do. ALL the time. It’s probably why I have way too much fabric.

On the flip side I am now seriously excited about the sewing I’ll be doing in the next couple of months. Here’s a run down of what I got.

Navy cashmere coating. This is lovely & soft, but it is a little on the thin side for a coat in Michigan so I’m looking at ways I can add some warmth. I bought a satin backed flannel for the lining, which might help a little with wind protection, and was thinking of interlining the coat with Thinsulate material as well.

Cashmere Wool Coating

This Italian wool. This wool is the opposite to the navy, it’s super thick & super warm. I want to make some kind of coat or cardigan type jacket with this, but I’m going to have to be very careful about the pattern selection. Because it’s so thick I don’t want to make a pattern with a lot of pieces or intersecting seams (I am going to struggle to get 4 layers of this wool under my sewing machine foot), plus I worry that would take away from such a lovely pattern. I will also need to get creative when it comes to picking closures & finishes for things like button holes.

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Last of all was this woven geometric remnant. No idea what I’m going to make with it, but I fell in love with the fabric & figured I’ll use it for something! It’s only 3/4 of a yard, so I’m limited to skirts & tops I think.

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Marfy 3520: Making a Muslin

This is my first time sewing a Marfy pattern* so I thought it best to make a muslin, to see how best to put it together (and of course check fit). I’m making Marfy 3520, it’s a dress pattern that I’ve long admired.

In general I was really happy with the first cut. The pattern came together like a dream – with the exception of setting in the sleeve, for some reason I found this quite tricky in this pattern. My only fitting complaint was the gaping fabric above my bust, so I made a full bust adjustment & it now feels a lot nicer.

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I’m not super happy with how the sleeves look though. Its more of a design issue that a fit issue really. I’m thinking I might shorten the sleeves to be elbow length and forego the flounce, but we’ll see.

Otherwise I think its time to cut this one out. The fabric I’m using is a checked wool suiting my Mum gave me a couple of years ago. For the accent features I’m thinking of using some thin black leather.

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*If you’re wondering how a Marfy pattern is different to a ‘regular’ sewing pattern read this.

Christmas Dress 2016

As usual at the last minute (about a week before travelling from the US to Australia with a newborn) I decided that I wanted to make a new dress to wear on Christmas day.

At least this year some sense of reality prevailed & I started off with a decision to make a simple dress with a nice patterned fabric. However, as is usually the case with my sewing, this project’s complexity quickly escalated as I started making alterations to the pattern design.

I started off with Vogue V8723 which is now out of print. Originally I was going to make it as is from the pattern, but then I thought ‘wouldn’t it be nice if that bit of trim at the top of the dress went round the entire time & formed the straps?’, then I thought, ‘Australia is hot, maybe I’ll lower the neckline significantly & make it a summer dress for a hot day’.


This resulted in an afternoon of re-drawing practically all the pattern pieces to accommodate the changes. At the end of the day they weren’t difficult changes, but they required effort none-the-less. To add trim around the entire top of the dress, I basically created a facing pattern & cut out 4 pieces, (inside/outside & LH/RH). Extending the trim to form straps too a little more thought/effort, combining existing pattern pieces & re-drawing. The next challenge came sewing it all together so that the straps would kind of double back on themselves. Basically I sewed the front side of the trim & straps & pressed, then pinned them in place at the rear & sewed the rear of the trim up. It’s a pretty heavy weight woven cotton that I’d bought a year or so ago because it reminded me of pendleton fabric. The trim is from a scrap of navy linen I’d had for god knows how long. I lined the bodice with leftover white cotton poplin from another project. I even managed to find a zipper in my collection that was the perfect length so I’m going to say that this dress was practically free 😉

What I didn’t realise about the dress is how much gathering is required for the skirt, with such a thick fabric it was almost impossible to gather it that much. I manage to gather it & then in some areas I kind almost pleated it to get it to attach to the bodice. The benefit of this though is that it creates a very defined waistline without the need for any petticoats or structure in the skirt. Considering I gave birth just under 3 months ago I was really happy with how the skirt made my waist look small again!


I’m not entirely happy with the fit of the bodice though. You can see it’s not quite right in the photos. Whilst the pattern offers different bodice patterns for different cup sizes, I don’t think I picked the right one (my cup size has obviously changed since baby & I’m still trying to work out how to best fit dresses given my boobs change shape & size every few hours between feedings – if anyone has any advice on this front I’d be happy to hear it!). Because I didn’t leave myself a lot of time to make this dress I didn’t bother with making a toile or fitting it properly, I just picked a size based on my waist & bust measurements. 


This dress is clearly not breastfeeding friendly but given we were at home Christmas day, this was easy enough to work around.

 

The Finished Vyshyvanka

The vyshyvanka that I started earlier this year has been finished!

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I finished it in September a few weeks before the baby arrived in October, but didn’t get a chance to post about it until now, (turns out newborns are pretty demanding).

I’m quite pleased with how the shirt turned out. I basically followed the steps I outlined in my last post to make it. I completed the central section first, then the sleeve cuffs, then the collar.

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The most difficult part was working out an appropriate pattern for the collar & cuffs, once I’d completed the embroidery on the front of the shirt. I did a lot of trials on a scrap of linen to try to find a scaled down version of the main panel. Eventually I happened upon a design I was happy with & went with that.

For this project I really didn’t want to use the overlocker (serger) because I felt it would look to ‘machine made’ so the seams are flat felled. I did run a zig-zag stitch along the raw edge of any encased seams (like the collar & hem) just to be extra careful though.

This was a really pleasant project to work on while I was pregnant. I did most of it in the evenings, particularly if I couldn’t sleep. I’d get out of bed, work on some embroidery for an hour or so & that would be calming enough to make my eyes heavy so that I could go back to bed & go to sleep.

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Making a Very Important Vyshyvanka

I’m pregnant with my first child, a little boy. I really wanted to make something special for him that could be worn for special occasions & then kept or passed down later in life. As my husband is Ukrainian, the obvious choice was a vyshyvanka, (an embroidered shirt worn in Ukrainian national dress). I’ve made a pinterest board of some of my favorite examples (including some more modern examples) here.

I’ve never made a vyshyvanka before & had to rely on my husband explaining to me the ways he’d seen other women make them. Based on that, turns out there’s a few ways of making a vyshyvanka, with varying degrees of time & effort. The easiest way he described to me was to buy the embroidered panels & then affix them to an existing shirt. A more involved (but still relatively easy) option is to embroider the panels onto specific embroidery/needlepoint evenweave cloth & then cut out the panels & sew them onto a shirt. The most difficult method he described to me was embroidering directly onto the material used to make the shirt.

I have a beautiful (but unfortunately unfinished) example of this final method which my husband’s late grandmother made (isn’t her stitching simply exquisite).

It’s a vyshyvanka for a small girl, made with a soft cotton voille. The embroidery was done directly onto the fabric & then the fabric was stitched together to make a shirt.

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Since I like a challenge, & I really wanted this to be special for the baby, I have decided to TRY make a vyshyvanky in this way.

For the moment I’ve purchased a small piece of evenly woven linen. It’s a little stiff at the moment but it should soften up once washed. I plan to wash it once the embroidery is complete. I’ve traced out all the lines of the pattern pieces onto the fabric with a contrasting thread so that I can plan the embroidery to fit perfectly with the shirt pattern.

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I’m going to start with the central panels at the front of the shirt. It would probably be easier to start on the sleeves (also mistakes would be less obvious) but I haven’t quite worked out what the embroidery will be for the sleeves yet so the centre panel will be first.

I’m leaving the collar to be the last piece. This is because this pattern piece is slightly curved so I will have to slowly adjust the embroidery pattern to follow the curve of the pattern piece without making it look curved on the final shirt – this is going to be tricky to pull off.

Finally I’ve made a test section on a scrap of linen showing roughly what the central pattern will look like.

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This is going to take me a couple of months to finish (hopefully I have it done before the baby arrives in October), so don’t expect a finished post for quite a while.

Another New Year Dress

Last weekend was Detroit Malanka, (Malanka = Ukrainian New Years Party). I’ve really been feeling the sewing vibe again so I made a new dress.

I used a metallic silk brocade that I bought in New York last March & added some ostrich feather trim.

The ‘dress’ is actually a high waisted skirt & a separate top. The patterns for self-drafted from basic skirt & bodice blocks. I underlined the brocade with organza to help it sit smoothly without wrinkles & lined both the top & skirt with a silk satin.

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Everything came together pretty easily, so this is a pretty boring story. It only took me about 4 hours over a weekend to make it all. I think the only alteration I will make is to add some beaded trim at the base of the top, just above the feathers, it feels like it needs a little something extra there.

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A New Gown for a New Year

Earlier this month my husband & I drove up to Toronto to go to Toronto Malanka. Toronto Malanka is a ball to celebrate Ukrainian New Years Eve, (or new years eve by the old calendar). The dress code is black tie & so I had to find a gown to wear.

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With all the craziness in the lead up to Christmas I didn’t have time to make a new gown from scratch, instead I decided modify something I’d made previously. I don’t have many evening gowns but I do have a heap of cocktail dresses that I’ve made over the years & a lot of left over fabric (one of the benefits of buying fabric just because you love it & without any real plans for it).

I took a dress that I loved, which had a separate skirt & bodice, unpicked the skirt & used the leftover fabric to make a new floor length skirt. Don’t worry I didn’t waste the original skirt – I sewed it onto a waistband so I could wear it again.

The new skirt was remarkably simple to make. I started with a base underskirt which was a short hair canvas pencil skirt with a silk organza overlay. For the silk brocade overlay I had a single piece of fabric that was 1.5mx1.5m. To make the skirt I folded the fabric in half, sewed the selvedges together & and one of the cut ends together leaving a small opening for a waistline on the bias (the folded triangle in the picture below is the location of the waistline.

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Once this was done I attached the waistline of the brocade skirt to the underskirt to stabilize the waistband. Then all I had to do was add some clasps to close the skirt & hand stitch the folds in place. All in all it took me a few hours over the weekend & another couple of hours hand stitching after work.

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I don’t have much more to say, other than I love this dress.