Absence Makes Me Wordier!

It has been a long time.  A lifetime, practically.  (My Baby’s lifetime, boom boom!  This is a joke I have been making a lot. I amuse at least myself.)

On the sewing front, I have done very little.  Mostly because I had very little time, and also very little motivation, but I think my lack of motivation was due to my lack of time.  It is all very circular.  I desperately want to get back to sewing, and I have so many ideas (so many!) but time remains an issue.

On the blogging front, well, yeah.  Things were always winding down on the blogging front.  Social media has changed the landscape, too.  Instagram felt like the perfect place for sewing stuff, but it is annoying for a variety of reasons (mostly to do with being taken over by Facebook), and I wonder if we will go back to our blogs as a result? Possibly, but maybe not.

But lo! Some time last year I was struggling with not-sewing and as a result (the truth is I’m still struggling with not-sewing), started re-arranging furniture.  Look, it makes sense, okay? But not only did I need space – that was not the kitchen table – to sew, I also needed motivation. So I bought a ticket to the Sew Melbourne Garden Party, and it was aaaaages away and I figured I’d manage to make something for myself by then.  You can laugh; I’m laughing as I type.  Even before Baby, it could take me FOREVER to finish something.

Exhibit A:
Prior to falling pregnant, I started making the Deer and Doe Bruyere.  I even blogged about it.  My Bruyere muslin is *still* in the state you see in that blog post.  Partially because even then, the waist was probably going to be too tight, so I faffed and have not advanced any further.  Maybe I’ll return to it; maybe I should now be looking at making the next size up in any event!

I do need new clothes.  All kinds of new clothes.  Outwardly, my body has not changed significantly post Baby (who is insisting that I cease to refer to her as Baby but this is MY blog, Baby, and you cannot read yet, so take that!) but there have been huge psychological shifts (er, I’m responsible for an entire human being now) and discomforts in my current clothes, and I still have lots of wardrobe gaps because, I don’t know, life? laziness?

I have actually been sewing some bits and bobs here and there.  Mostly harem pants for Baby because they are so fun, and I have been upcycling things that don’t fit me anymore into things for Baby.  Harem pants are fun because you get to this point where they just look ridiculous, then you put in the waist elastic and – ta dah! – cute baby-butt pants.

For the Garden Party, I decided on the fabric – bought when Baby was an actual baby with the intention of making a breastfeeding friendly summer dress.  LOL. And then I spent forever dithering about patterns.  I had two in mind in particular: Megan Nielsen’s Darling Ranges (a pattern I bought after Baby’s birth with the intention of making many breastfeeding friendly dresses. All the LOLZ) and Deer and Doe’s Reglisse (a pattern I’ve had for ages but just never got around to making).  I put the pictures side-by-side and left them on my phone, and looked at them randomly as I tried to decide.

Darling Ranges is definitely more me, and I’ve liked the pattern ever since it was released, but my sewing nemesis: buttons! (Well, many things are my sewing nemesis…)  Reglisse sits squarely within ‘party dress’ territory for me.  But I like lots about it (hello, elastic waist and bias cut bodice).  Darling Ranges has pockets; Reglisse does not.  Darling Ranges has a straight skirt; Reglisse’s is a 3/4 circle skirt – dangerous territory for me.

I finally decided I would sew Darling Ranges, printed the pattern, cut out my size and then – Baby got hold of my phone, found the picture and said, unprompted, “I hate this. I love this.  Mummy make this.”  She hated Darling Ranges and liked Reglisse.

Look, maybe it’s not the most sensible thing to have your 2 year old direct your sewing plans, but that threw me.  I dithered some more.

And then the weekend before Sew Garden Party had arrived and I had not even started! I eventually decided to make Reglisse, helped along by the fact that I had traced my size so long ago that I didn’t remember doing it and discovered that when I traced my size I had also modified the skirt to include slash pockets.  Thanks, past me.  You’re a champ!  Thanks to the elastic waist, I decided it didn’t matter that I had traced a size 38 without grading out the waist.  I figured I’d just have a less gathered waist than many.

Serendipitously, I had the weekend before Sew Garden Party all to myself.  So, on Friday night, I cut out the pieces.  I spent all of Saturday sewing it up.  Slowly, with lots of breaks to watch random youtube videos completely unrelated to sewing.  It’s just a thing I do when my partner is not at home.  I had to dredge up from my memory how on earth to sew darts.  I followed the sewing instructions, but not the order, so I had to keep reading the entirety of the instructions to develop a process that works for me, which I used to be pretty good at doing after a quick read of sewing instructions but that muscle memory needs some work.  By the end of Saturday, I had the bodice pieced, the skirt pieced and the waistband done.  All that was left was to put them together.

I went for a long walk on Sunday, and on Sunday night put the whole thing together, packed up my kitchen table so it looked like a table again and let the dress hang in my sewing wardrobe to allow the hem to drop.  That and I did not have anywhere near enough of the right coloured bias tape to do the hem.  The Saturday before the garden party, I dashed off to Spotlight to purchase some bias binding during Her nap and that night, attempted to true the hem and hem the dress.  My truing didn’t work.  I put my dress on and asked my partner how terrible he thought the hem looked (yes, I skewed the result by asking a loaded question) and he tried to be kind and honest by saying it was definitely uneven but looked okay.  I didn’t take a photo.  I went to bed a bit miserable about it, and woke the following morning despondent.  So despondent, I announced that I didn’t feel like going to the garden party anymore.

No one who doesn’t sew would notice; every one who does sew, would.  They were whom I had made the dress for (and myself of course.) And I was sad that my first full not-t-shirt garment in the life of my Baby was not resoundingly successful.  There’s lots tied up in how I felt that morning, having much to do with how I feel about myself now that Baby is in my life, and it took my partner’s unfazed, “Are you going to fix it or wear it?” that had me madly working out how to fix it in the time I had left.

I unpicked the bias bound hem and my partner helped me true it.  My Baby kept asking us what we were doing and then wanted me to true a hem for her (she wasn’t actually wearing any clothes at the time but details, details).  Then Partner and Baby departed the house and I used the overlocker to trim the hem and tried to decide whether to use bias binding or something else for the hem.  I’d cut off quite a lot of hem by now and I like my skirts at knee length.  At this time, it was 11 and the garden party started at 12 and I needed to leave the house! Instead of the bias binding, I decided to do a dodgy narrow hem.  No pinning, just eyeballing.  It wasn’t perfect but it was much, much better.  About 15 minutes later, I was out the door!

The garden party was, of course, lovely.  I arrived an hour late, but I walked in at the same time as Li-ann (@happylat), so at least we both arrived late together! Everyone looked fabulous, it was so lovely to see and talk to everyone again, and I stayed pretty much until the end, gasbagging.  At some point, I started trying to make my way around to all the faces I didn’t know or knew only through Instagram but not in person but I think I got waylaid by Finska, cheese or strawberries and suddenly, people were slowly departing and I was saying bye to people I had not even said hi to!

Oh well, next year!

Sewing with the Giggles

Alternative, more boring but perhaps also more informative title: Sewing for Baby!

Sewing baby clothes is impossibly distracting, especially if your hormones are playing havoc with your emotions generally (I.E. You’re preggers.) Every time I finish something (which given how tiny the seams are and that I’m sewing knits on my overlocker is less than half an hour, I just giggle, and if partner happens to be home, I bring the garment around expecting him to giggle too.  He obliges.)

I borrowed a heap of Ottobre Kids pattern magazines from Helen of Funkbunny, and stuck post it notes all over them. I’m a lawyer and we love post it notes.  I think the legal profession keep post it note makers in business. But I digress. Back to baby stuff:

There was one magazine in particular that had a heap of patterns which took my fancy and which could outfit my baby, due to arrive in Melbourne summer: Summer 2013. Each pattern has a number and name to identify it. I traced off the first four patterns: (1) Speedy Girl Jersey Dress; (2) Star Star Romper; (3) Little Whale Onesie; and (4) Summer Sea Jersey Pants

Ottobre 03-2013 All Designs Page

Ottobre 03-2013 All Designs Page. Kinda my favourite part of the magazine!

I have no idea what size she’ll be, or actually, what size is what as Ottobre helpfully suggests that you measure the kid you’ll be sewing for before starting.  I set off for a growth scan, but didn’t get the measurements I needed (perhaps because I did not ask the sonographer to do so …)

However, the Internet is terribly helpful.  Toni Coward of Make it Perfect has provided an age/size guide chart.

This is not foolproof, of course, she could be born a giantess or tiny.  I don’t know. But it’s enough to be getting on with, and I figure, (a) using knits of different characteristics will lead to different results and (b) she’ll fit stuff at some stage (we just have to make sure we catch the right stage).

My nesting instinct (I assume) has manifested itself in a desire to organise our house (which is, admittedly, pretty organised). I did a quick and dirty wardrobe cull of things I knew I would not wear in the next six months, and was unlikely to wear in future.  Many of them were tops that had been retired from being worn to work, or were tshirts that did not quite fit anymore. I also had a number of fail tees and knit tops that I’d made. From these, I harvested fabric and discovered that most patterns in the baby size range fit nicely out of one of my tshirts, and one of my partners could provide one and a half outfits!

The only pattern that would not fit where the Summer Sea Jersey Pants, partially because the trouser part is just one piece of fabric with only a centre back seam  I’m sure it can be pieced, if I wanted to!

There’s nothing really to say about making these up except for the pleasure, speed and ease. Ottobre’s instructions are perfectly clear, although I did not follow them completely, being au fait with knit sewing and discarding techniques I’m not enamoured of (like knit binding rather than knit bands, which I weirdly prefer to sew in the round rather than flat, and using clear elastic to gather).

I am good and do read through all the instructions before starting, so I know what I can ignore.  I’ve decided sewing instructions are like recipes.  If you’re familiar with the process, make it your way (unless the instructions provided you with some awesome revelation. I have just recently discovered a fool proof way to boil eggs, which has consistently worked four times as hard boiled eggs for me, and once as perfectly soft boiled for him). If you’re not familiar with the process, follow carefully, but then make it your own in future.

FYI, I’m a pretty unsuccessful baker because of my receipe following callousness, but I’m otherwise quite a competent cook.

Here are the results of my first foray into baby sewing:

All from Ottobre 03/2013: #2 Star Star romper; #1 Speedy Girl dress; & #3 onesie. #3 The bird appliqué is my own.

Star Star Romper; 2 x Little Whale Onesie; 2 x Speedy Girl dress.

I made the bird appliqué myself; the whale is from Ottobre.

On a different day, I made myself another pair of Hudson Pants, from blue polka dotted fleece, which I had intended as winter trackydacks. I had enough fabric left I’ve for a matching pair for Her.  Then I laughed and laughed and laughed.

How to Maternify All Your Trousers

Yes, ALL of them.

Although if you want to be comfortable, maybe just ones made out of stretch fabric.

As flagged and promised in my earlier Expandable Belly Sewing post, I also made two pairs of Clover trousers, with some maternity modifications.

These are the maternity changes I made:

  1. Used ponte knit fabric, rather than woven with some stretch (as the pattern suggests);
  2. Didn’t bother with a zip
  3. Replaced waistband with a yoga waistband.

In short, as I had previously decided Clovers were just well fancy leggings, I simply treated them as wider-legged leggings.

I made a black pair and a dark brown pair from ponte I obtained from Darn Cheap Fabrics. Each fabric was quite different from the other, having different amounts of stretch (the black had less stretch), appearance (aside from the colour, the brown was more matte) and behaviour (the brown was much easier to work with).

For the yoga waistband, I simply cut a rectangle of fabric that was my pre-pregnancy waist measurement less a few inches (2 for the black, and 4 for the brown, based on my assessment of their stretchy-ness) by ten inches high, and then sewed the short ends together, folded the now cylindrical tube along its length and attached to the top of the sewn together trouser legs.

These saw me through the second trimester quite nicely, and now I’m in the third trimester, I can still quite comfortably wear the brown pair but only wear the black pair if I know that I only have to be in them for half a day.  They are a smidge too tight now, being a fabric with less stretch.  I suspect I’ll be able to wear both trousers post pregnancy, too, they’ll just look a little bit like trackydacks.

Colette Patterns' Clover trousers, in ponte, with maternity (yoga) waistbands.

Black is hard to photograph. Brown not much better.  You can see the difference different fabric makes, though, in the leg width.

However, as we are getting into summer, both are much too warm. I resolved to make some more legging-type trousers to wear for summer, and that I can hopefully wear post-crazy big belly. I had some grey knit fabric that is loosely woven. I had it in ridiculous metreage (perhaps 4?), which tells me I bought it from the Clear It outlet.  Also, there was a huge hole in the middle, so I had to cut around that.

I cut out a pair of Hudson pants (pattern by True Bias), again with a yoga waistband.  I had enough fabric left for a pair of leggings too but knew that if I simply cut boring leggings, I would end up with a weird amount of fabric which I might add to my scrap collection.  Enter the Steeplechase leggings pattern by Fehr Trade, with its well weird pattern piece that turns into a thoroughly awesome pair of leggings.  Again I cut a yoga waistband.

I don’t think I’ve told you, but I’d previously made 3 pairs of Hudsons: light grey cotton knit; green fleece and stretch denim-look knit.  I love the pattern – goes together really quickly, are definitely trackydacks but don’t look too sloppy. I will next have to try it in rayon, maybe.

True Bias' Hudson Pants, in grey knit with maternity (yoga) waistband.

Hudson Pants

I also haven’t told you I’d made Steeplechase leggings. Two pairs thereof. One out of stretch velvet, which was my wearable muslin and practise garment.  I chose the stretch velvet as it had exactly the same stretch properties as Supplex that I had obtained from Stretchtex for the express purpose of making activewear. I then proceeded to make a 3/4 length pair of Steeplechase leggings, with reflective piping in the curved seams.  They are quite awesome, but i haven’t been on my bike since the end of the first trimester (sad face).

Fehr Trade's Steeplechase leggings in grey knit, with maternity (yoga) waistband.

Steeplechase leggings: Yoke detail.

Finally, as I would be threading my ovelocker with grey, I found some grey ponte in my stash. I cannot recall where I bought it from, but suspect it was Rathdowne Remnants, and I may have hoped to make a Morris Blazer from it, until I decided it had too much stretch to work. From this, I cut a pair of jeggings, based on a pattern from Ottobre Women’s magazine released in Autumn 2014 (05-2014-13 Lampi jeggings). Again, I made a yoga waistband. I made real pockets, rather than mock ones but other than that, followed the sparse, but clear, instructions.

Ottobre 05/2014 'Lampi Leggings' in dark grey ponte (maybe?) with yellow contrast stitching.

The left is more true to colour.  Clearly, grey is also hard to photograph.

I really like Ottobre! This is my first made up garment from the magazines I own (3: Autumn 2014; Spring 2015 & Autumn 2015). I have now stopped my subscription, although I will get one more to complete the subscription when Spring 2016 is released.  I had hoped that because we are upside down from Finland, that I would have 6 months to make up the patterns that took my fancy from a given magazine.  Alas, not so, and therefore I won’t keep subscribing. There are plenty of patterns in my current collection to keep me going.  But I might get a subscription again when I am back at work and have a regular income.  I highly suspect I will add the children’s patterns to my future subscription, because I borrowed a bunch from the Fabulous Funkbunny Herself and they are so very wonderful.

What do I like about Ottobre? I like the aesthetic (simple, kinda classic, a little bit daggy … Not as ‘fashion forward’ as Burda!) and that there are a lot of great knit patterns and activewear patterns.  I think I originally decided to try a subscription for the fleece jacket pattern (05-2014-15), but I have not yet found a good source of suitable fleece (preferably Polartec) in Australia. I will need to, soon, however, as my current fleece jacket is, literally, falling apart! I want to sew, rather than buy, its replacement!