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.

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I Made My Own Baby Wearing Wrap! Read on to find out how I did it …

Do you know what such a thing is? Probably not if you don’t have / are about to have / know someone who has a Baby.

I cannot promise that this blog is not going to become all ‘baby, baby, baby’, because apparently the little things are all consuming, so I might fail at thinking about anything else at all for a while, which means I’m unlikely to write about anything else. Of course, it’s entirely possible that I’ll just disappear from the blog too.  Surprise!

Anyway, baby wraps are, in effect, just one long piece of fabric.  There are lots and lots of tutorials about how to make one, entitled click-baity things like, ‘How to make a Baby wrap without sewing!’; ‘How to make a baby wrap for $5!’ etc. (I thought I’d give a click bait title a try. Not sure I won.)

Basically, the tutorials are this:

  1. You need a rectangular piece of knit/jersey fabric that is approximately 5 yard/metres long by about 50cm wide.
  2. You can hem or serge the edge if you want, but you don’t need to because knit doesn’t fray, so really that’s it. (Although there are a few tutorials telling you that you do have to hem it in case it frays, and I want to wade in, waving my arms around, but I won’t.)

None of the tutorials told me things what I, as someone who sews and who (sort of) understands fabric properties, needed/wanted to know:

  1. What kind of fabric?
  2. How much stretch?
  3. Which way does the grain/stretch run?
  4. Is it pieced? How did you manage to buy 5 yards/metres of fabric for that little money?!

The last is most significant if you are in Australia.  There is simply no way you will find that much fabric – of any description – for small pickings.  Wraps retail here for around $80 – $150 or thereabouts, depending on the fabric. This is a perfectly acceptable amount of money for the fabric content part of the wrap, without taking into account the labour involved (fairly minimal, admittedly) in the making of the wrap.  A commercial wrap will be hemmed and have a tag/logo.

I did a bit of online shopping research, but nothing really told me which way the grain ran, or the amount of stretch.  Plenty of wraps were made from bamboo knit, which makes sense if you’re selling to an Australian audience (cool and breatheable), as well as from cotton knits with varying degrees of Lycra/Spandex content.  This meant that the stretch was probably pretty variable, but what was optimal?

I asked baby wearing friends what they liked about wraps, which didn’t actually help my research at all (I already intended to carry my baby in some sort of device; I should say I’d ruled out slings, because I did not like the idea of the metal rings. Slings tend to be made from wovens, and would have been great for summer but no, I just don’t like the idea of them.)

One of my awesome friends has moved quite a bit, and in that time had multiple children.  She has used different wraps, and so was someone who could at least say which she liked more and why.  Her favourite was the Moby Wrap, because it had the least stretch. I decided I would mimic the Moby Wrap.

The main complaint about Moby Wraps from the online community seemed to be how complicated they were to wear.  I looked up instructions.  It doesn’t look impossibly complicated.  Also, I got origami skillz, yo. Also also, I used to be a rock climber; I can do complicated things with rope type other things (I just cannot call them by their proper names). I’ll be okay.

My next step of research was to get my hands on a Moby Wrap, because I still did not know how much stretch.  We are trying, as much as possible, to not get sucked into the excessive consumerism surrounding all things baby (you can buy a pram for more than the cost of our touring bikes! Insane.) Gumtree had a bunch (yay! But also, plenty of people said that theirs was ‘rarely used’); I picked one that to get to me would be less than half price new.

When it arrived, it was in excellent condition. I didn’t know whether I *needed* more than one wrap (I think Partner and I can trade wraps when we trade carrying baby?) but thought maybe I would if I chucked one in the wash? Apparently babies are also gross.

From the foregoing, this is what I decided were the answers to my questions above:

  1. Fabric: can be any knit or stretch woven, I reckon.  Any at all.  Your main consideration should be breathability, because it’s probably a good idea to not suffocate your baby. I’ve been to antenatal classes and that’s what they said.
  2. Stretch: A little but not too much.  I suggest less than 20%, and only 2-way.
  3. Grain/Stretch line: You want the stretch to run parallel to the long edge of your rectangle, and perpendicular to the short edge.
  4. Is it pieced? No. No it’s not. But can it be? I don’t see why not.  The internet says not to, because you don’t want any weight bearing seams.

Well, tish tosh to that.

I had an approximately 3 metre-ish long piece of technical fabric, that was wicking, breathable and made from a bamboo/polyester mix (57.37% White Bamboo Charcoal (Tax bamboo), 42.63% Wicking Polyester) that I had obtained from Stretchtex.  I had made a Megan Nielsen maternity tee from it for Japan, and though its properties were good, I did not like the colour on me (too see through!) I was going to have no other purpose for it, and could not see me offloading it to anyone. I thought it would be perfect for a wrap, with the right amount of ‘not too much’ stretch.

3 metres was too little for a wrap, even for someone my size. I wrapped it around me fine, but had no fabric left with which to tie it up.  Your girth is relevant; your height is not.

I added a metre of extra fabric to each end of the 3 metres, by firstly overlocking with wrong sides together.  I then turned that into a French seam, and then faux flat-felled the seam. If that’s not a seam that can hold the weight of a baby, I will simply have to develop awesome baby catching reflexes.

Mock Moby Wrap

My baby holding faux flat felled French seam.

Then I overlocked all the edges, using (for the first time ever!) woolly nylon for my two looper threads.  I increased the width of the overlock stitch to its widest, and decreased the length of the stitch to the second narrowest. Woolly nylon is a revelation!

Mock Moby Wrap

Boringest photo in the universe.

Now I have two serviceable baby wraps. All I need is the baby. I’m making that, too.