Thursday, 30 December 2010

Best (sewing) of 2010

I do love a good list, and New Year's Eve seems like the perfect excuse for a round-up of the year's creations.

In springtime I was nesting, waiting for baby to arrive. I discovered on-line patterns, and made endless tiny dresses and bloomers while my bump was growing bigger and bigger. Perhaps I should have paid more heed to the size of the bump, as some of the dresses were already small when runciblegirl was born. (No matter, I have a plan...)

In the summer, with babe in arms (literally), I flirted with bags, bunting and baby bootees - quick and simple projects which could be squeezed in between feeds.
The Taxi Tote: an Anne Marie Horner pattern made in a variety of Cath Kidston prints

 In the autumn I was searching for the Sugar City Village Frock, and was so delighted to find it that I had to start writing runcibledays in order to share the excitement! Autumn was also make-do-and-mend season, possibly because I had just discovered Oliver+S, whose reassuringly expensive patterns had to lead to cuts elsewhere in the sewing budget...

The Sugar City Village Smock in a Liberty print corduroy

Winter has been an oliver+s bonanza - working on the principle that those lovely patterns really can become economically viable on a cost-per-use basis - alternating with the ongoing search for the perfect bib.

Could this be it?

(Have there been any disasters? well yes, a few... let's agree never to speak again of the scratchy linen pyjama trousers, or the self-drafted jersey skirt with the disastrously wonky hemline).

Can I choose a single favourite item from 2010? Maybe not just one, but I can pick my top three.

In third place, representing all those little dresses (and with a nod to the o+s obsession) is the bubble dress, made for Christmas in beautifully soft patterned corduroy. And there's a matching bib - hooray!

Oliver+s bubble dress in a Valori Wells corduroy

In second place, a lovely upcycle. I wondered about the camper van set here, but settled on the vroom shorts - so simple to make, and so loved by their owner.

Vroom! - the upcycled cycle shorts

And in first place, my surprise favourite of the year: son#1's cub blanket - almost not a sewing project at all, it's a square of fleece with a hem around the edge and some cub badges sewn on. When I sat down to make it, I thought it would have an outing once a year at a cub sleepover and then languish in the bottom of a drawer. I was so wrong! He uses it every night, and it's a joy to see him snuggled up with blanket and book at bedtime. Once again: so simple, so loved...

Should there be a moral in there somewhere?

Happy New Year!

Monday, 20 December 2010

Germ warfare - reversible aprons to keep the bugs at bay

This fabric caught my eye in the shop and seemed to be saying 'make me into something for the boys...'. It's so rare to find fabulous prints for boys that I was at the checkout before I'd actually thought about what that 'something' should be. Luckily, the lady at the counter had a suggestion: she had used this fabric to make an apron for her brother-in-law. Once that idea had been planted, it was clearly the only thing to do with these multicoloured bugs...

They were very simple to construct: both are reversible with red on one side and blue on the other, so all the seams are enclosed and there was no fiddly finishing. The waist and neck bands fasten with press-on snaps, mostly because I'm trying to foster independence in my boys, and snaps are easier than ties for small fingers. The photo below shows a glimpse of the reverse on each apron.

I used the alternate colours for the waist and neck bands - but the boys weren't very so keen - they felt each side should have just one colour.
At least I'll know for next time!

ps: there aren't any photos of the work in progress - I was too focussed on the end product. But I'm thinking of making another in the new year so could put some photos and instructions together then if anyone would like tutorial - leave a comment to let me know if you would be interested!

Update Feb 11: tutorial (for something very similar) now in place

Sunday, 28 November 2010

I say potato and you say...

One of the (unexpected) joys of this blog is looking at the 'stats' page and finding out who has been visiting me at runcibledays. I love looking at the map and knowing that someone in Portugal - or Chile, or Reunion, or Mexico - has been interested enough to read about my goings-on in England. And I love reading blogs from around the world and getting glimpses into other people's lives.

Every now and then I come across a word or a turn of phrase which reminds me that English is not quite the same language all around the world. When I lived in Queensland I soon learned that 'crook' can describe health rather than morality,  that 'thongs' can be footwear rather than lingerie, and why Australians are so entertained by talk of 'rooting' for a team. There was a whole thread on the O+S flickr group recently about alternative words for crossness on different continents. Even in the relatively contained world of sewing, there's always confusion to be found in the pants / trousers / bloomers situation.

And so, on to exhibit A: the Oliver + S Music Box Jumper...

Front view of the apple jumper 

and the back - with poppers (or maybe snaps?)
Isn't it lovely? I nearly missed this pattern altogether because when I hear 'jumper' I think 'woolly'. Apparently not in America (though I'm ready to be corrected on this one!). Anyway, this is a gorgeously simple little dress, which I'd probably have called a pinafore. The bodice is lined, and with french seams to finish the skirt the whole construction is a delight.

Music box jumper - the inside view.

I'm already making another - in a smaller print this time, hoping it will prove more pleat-friendly.

Thank you for looking, wherever you are!

Friday, 5 November 2010

Rag doll ruminations

I haven't had much time for sewing over the past few weeks, but have had plenty of opportunity (usually during nocturnal feeds) to plan future projects.

But first, a project from the past...

These lovely 'itty bitty dresses', from an online pattern by Made by Rae were made just before runciblegirl was born. I have such good memories of sewing these last spring, with my huge bump, using up tiny scraps of fabric. As it turned out, she wasn't very itty bitty herself, and had grown out of both within two weeks. It was a bit like making dolls' clothes, and perhaps that's what they should become.

So, I'm thinking about making a rag doll - but just how ragged should she be? She'll need to be robust enough to withstand both love and washing, probably lots of both. And I'd like to use some existing fabrics, rather than buying anything new. Maybe old clothes which have a bit of history already?

Now that I'm flirting with toy-making, I'm feeling a more urgent need to make something for the runcibleboys before they are too grown-up. Maybe bears? Sock monkeys? Those little stripey monsters? Or an owl? The rag doll might just have to wait...

Back to the itty bitty dresses,for a moment...

I think of this one as a flower-pot dress, though on closer observation I realise there aren't actually any flower pots there. This is the original pattern, minus the piping (must have been feeling a bit cowardly that day), with snaps at the shoulders to secure the ties.

And this one has been pared down even further into a little pinafore with snaps at the shoulders.

It's a very satisfying little pattern, with a self-lined bodice, and french seams in the skirt, so it finishes itself beautifully. I've read since that it's easy to enlarge by setting your printer to a larger size, so I'll be trying that next summer, and hoping for more than two weeks of use next time!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Embracing imperfection...

Here is the new-look, super-quick 'perfect' bib. I think I've stumbled on the secret of the ideal bib: it must be slightly faulty. Otherwise, you might not want to cover it in goo on a daily basis. (I have a couple of venetian lace bibs - they are really very beautiful - and they have never been near a pea puree, or even a baby).

So wonkiness in the stitching and glitches in the bias tape are here to be celebrated. This  is all about speediness

These are the components:

- a very old flannel.
- two rectangles of patterned cotton, each at least 10' by 13', or a fat quarter folded in half.
- 130cm (ish) bias tape 

The pattern measures 10 inches across, 8.5 inches from neckline to base, and 13.5 inches in total from top to bottom - it's a bit more generous than most, so it will work for very messy babies. The inside neckline measures 12 inches.

And here's the method:

Sandwich the flannel between the cotton rectangles, right sides facing out.
Pin here and there around the sandwich.

Sew through all three layers using a straight stitch to form a wide zig zag pattern,
first from side to side, then top to bottom of the rectangle.

Don't be tempted to cut the bib shape yet, this stitching will save a lot of pinning later on.

Here's a detail photo to show how it should look when it's stitched.

Now cut it out, all three layers together...

... and bind around the edges with bias tape - fold it around the raw edges of the bib, and sew through all the layers using a short, wide zig zag stitch to catch both sides of the bias tape at once. 
No need to pin anything, hooray!

But - my home-made bias tape was just a smidgen too short.  I decided to celebrate this, in the spirit of embracing small imperfections, and patched it up with a contrasting colour.  I'm quite liking it this way - what do you think?

Attach your fastening of choice - I chose the instant gratification of press-on snaps.

All done! - and in super-quick time, even allowing for making my own (slightly too short) bias tape, and for taking photos.

Please feel free to use this pattern for whatever purposes you wish, but I'd be grateful if you would link back to here as runcibledays is still a blog in its infancy and needing all the help it can get.

Do let me know how speedily your bibs come together! I would love to see your pictures on flickr...

Tip Junkie handmade projects

Thursday, 21 October 2010

In search of the perfect bib

Runciblegirl has started eating real food, three times a day, and I spend a lot of time contemplating her bibs, noticing how very few are actually fit for purpose. Some are just too small and dainty to be useful, some are so thin that the slightest dribble soaks straight through, and others are so waterproof that they channel rivulets of pureed veg on to her bottom half. A few are very good in action, but either i) have velcro closures which hunt down and destroy my tights in the washing machine, or ii) are now covered in disturbing (mostly orange) stains.

Two options: I can accept the food-on-clothes situation and dress her to match her meals (that would mean a mostly orange wardrobe) or I can look for better bibs.

Or better still, make some...

Blue-print for the perfect bib

It must be:

Bigger than you might expect 
Absorbent, not waterproof 
Patterned to disguise the inevitable carrot stains.
Snap fastening 

And, ideally, made out of fabric that I already own...

Here's what I came up with:

The front and back are made from and old cotton shirt, with a layer of towelling sandwiched in between, bias binding around the edges, and a press-on snap. They do their job perfectly (hooray!). But - though they look quick to put together, each one probably took almost an hour, what with cutting, pinning, zigzagging the edges, binding the edges...

So, one more criterion for perfection:

Quick to construct.

I'll be giving that some thought for next time.

Thanks for looking - I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions you might have.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bubbles and ice-cream

I've recently discovered Oliver+S patterns, and, like all new converts, I want to share them...

Do you know them already? I've been noticing them for a while, mostly in nice, boutique-y (read 'expensive') on-line fabric shops. They come in gorgeously retro packaging, with paper-doll cutouts of each pattern that speak to me of Bunty magazine (circa 1980) and must surely induce a similar generic-yet-personal response in every woman born in the twentieth century. They have a lovely typeface. They have wonderfully evocative names like 'tea party' and 'school photo', guaranteed to conjure up childhood memories. These are every little girl's dream party dresses, but also practical enough to be worn every day.

The patterns even come in a separate cardboard sleeve, so the little girl wearing the dresses could even cut the dolls out to play with (if she"s old enough to be trusted with scissors). Inspired!

And yet... despite all that it's taken me a long time to buy one. I'll whisper it: the paper-doll pictures, for all their good points, just don't quite do justice to the utter loveliness of these clothes. It was only when I saw them made up in real life that I was smitten. The oliver+s flickr group is very addictive, and every day there is something new and beautiful to inspire.

So, still early days for me.  Here's the bubble dress:

bubble dress front
bubble dress back - with poppers to close

Size 6-12m fits my six month old perfectly, with a little bit of wiggle-room. The pattern was a joy to follow. I'd never done a bubble hem before, but now I know the secret (clear elastic stitched to the seam allowance) I plan lots more.

And here's the Ice cream dress:

pocket detail
All the credit for this one goes to Christine at From an Igloo, who ran a sew-a-long last week.
I might have missed out on this pattern otherwise - it looks deceptively simple in the picture, but the beauty of this dress is all in the little details. I followed the sew-a-long almost to the letter, and only deviated very slightly in using my zipper foot to align the edge stitching instead of doing it by eye using a normal foot.

Oh - and I opted for the smock length option (again, a la village frock) so am thinking perhaps my baby will need some matching trousers? Maybe that's a project for another day...

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

In the orchard

 A celebration of apples, autumn and good neighbours...

The autumn sunshine is so lovely today that it has enticed me away from the sewing machine and into the garden.

It isn't really my own orchard (never mind) but a branch of our neighbours' tree which overhangs the garden wall. And they have, very kindly, given their blessing to a bit of controlled scrumping every autumn.

So, runciblegirl is learning to eat solids on a theme of apple mush. Apple and pear puree is a hit (the pears came from the neighbours on the other side - what can we offer in return?). Broccoli, carrot and apple has also been a surprising success.  Cauliflower, apple and squash is not quite so popular (and who can blame her?).

Meanwhile, it's apple crumble season for the rest of us, or occasionally tarte tatin if I'm feeling the need for a domestic goddess moment. The crumble is mainly a vehicle for lots of custard: the boys have been brainwashed into believing the skin is the best bit (ugh!) and they squabble over who gets to eat it

Back to sewing next time...

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Vroom! Upcycled cycle shorts

Last weekend was the 3rd annual Brompton World Championship.  Just in case that means nothing to you, it's a folding bicycle race around the grounds of a stately home in Oxfordshire, with a dress code that includes 'jacket and tie' and 'no visible sportswear'.  My husband was taking part, dressed in green to match his bicycle, and I had planned to take all the little runcibles for a picnic next to the track so we could cheer him on. But we are fair weather supporters and the weather was not fair at all. The torrential downpour made it look a lot more gruelling and less cucumber-sandwichy than last year (at least on the you-tube version of events, which was as close as I got this year).

Anyway, as I wasn't there for the actual race I thought I could show my support instead with some upcycled cycle shorts for son#2, aged 5.  There's something very satisfying about a bicycle-themed upcycle.

This isn't a tutorial, as such, because there are so many better ones out there. My favourite is at Make Baby Stuff, and includes patterns for baby sizes. This is just larger version using a current pair of shorts as a template, and tweaked slightly to make the most of the 'vroom' T-shirt...

Here's the original T shirt, from last year's Bike to Work day...

... and here it is again, with two leg pieces, each cut on the fold using an existing pair of shorts as a template, and two pocket pieces, which look upside-down in this picture - this means the straight, top sides of the pockets are cut from the hemmed lower edge of the T-shirt, so there's no need to finish them later.

Does that make sense?

Here's another picture which might help...

All the pieces opened out and ready to sew.

This is my favourite bit - the 'vroom' logo from the T-shirt cut out and appliqued onto the front of the left leg piece, using bondaweb and a zigzag stitch around the edge.

The pins are marking the sideseam, and the places where the bottom of the waistband and the seamline at the back will be, to allow the back pocket to be placed centrally.

The pockets are hemmed at the top already (from the T shirt hem) and won't unravel as they're made of jersey, so I just stitched around them with a short zigzag as well. This is the left leg - the right is just the same but without the applique.

Here's the left leg folded right-sides-together and pinned ready to sew the inside leg seam, and the right leg, once again, is just the same.
Here are the two legs ready to be joined together - the right leg turned right-side-out and placed inside the left leg which is still right-side-in. The two pieces are joined along the crotch seam with a stretch stitch.

I've only recently discovered the stretch stitch on my machine (after 25 years I decided to read the instruction booklet) and am very excited that I can now sew jersey fabrics!

Not sure how useful this picture is! The shorts have been opened up but are still inside out. This is the waistband hem, folded over about 3/4 inch to create a channel for 1/2 inch wide elastic. The photo is supposed to show a zig zag stitch just covering the raw edge. The zig zag goes almost all the way around the waist, leaving a 1 inch gap to thread the elastic.

 I measured my elastic by holding it around son#2's waist, then threaded it through the channel, overlapped the ends about 1/2 inch and sewed them together and closed the gap. The waist is just tight enough to keep the shorts up, but still nice and comfortable.

Hooray, Vroom shorts completed!

And this is the back view with pockets.

The fit is more circus short than cycle short at the moment, but son#2 loves them.

Perhaps he can wear them to the 2011 world championship (weather permitting)...

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Village frock - part 2

the village smock, again
I don't plan to return to this dress every day forever after, but I realised my last post was more about the process of writing than the process of sewing.  I love this little smock, and plan to make many more versions over the next few years, but I might approach the pattern a bit differently next time... there was a lot of trial and error involved in this version, and I want to share some of it, to maybe save someone out there from some frustrating hours with a seam ripper.

The pattern suggests sewing the side seams and underarm seams quite early and then forming the button placket afterwards. I left the side seams open until the neckline and placket were all done, and found it much easier to work with the smock that way as I could open it out flat when I was doing the fiddly binding bit on the placket. I'll do that again.

On the subject of the button placket... I was a bit scared of it at first, and tried to miss it out altogether.  The pattern suggests an elastic-neck version without the buttons, and I liked the sound of that (I must have been feeling a bit lazy at the time). So, I made a neck binding to fit the ungathered top edge of the yoke, and tried to thread elastic through it.  Disaster!  By the time it was gathered up it was so bulky that poor elastic could barely hold it and kept trying to ping away from the safety pins, and the fabric was all bunched and puckered. Altogether, a very bad look. I had to unpick it all, and by then I'd lost my nerve for off-pattern sewing and followed the instructions for a while... the button placket was fine, came together beautifully, and is my favourite art of the whole smock now.

the successful placket
I only made one change to the placket, and I'll do the same next time. The patterns suggests sewing the button loops on at the end, but I wanted to cover the raw edges, so I tacked the loops onto the wrong side of the fabric before attaching the bias binding, so the raw edges were covered by the binding. Then I doubled the loops over, and topstitched over the edge of the binding to hold them in place...

These loops are made of ribbon - after my neckline debacle I was afraid that sewing the loops from the corduroy and then doubling them over would make them too bulky.

Just one other thing - because I finished the sleeves without gathering them, I had to cut the sleeve bindings a bit longer then the pattern suggests. I could have gathered the sleeves, but I liked the hippy look for this version.  Maybe for a sweet summer dress in a light weight fabric the sleeves would look better gathered?

Hope this is helpful! I'll be looking back at this next time I make the pattern, just as a reminder...

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

My first post... and why

Why would a luddite like me ever embark on writing a blog?

Generally, I like to write on paper, ideally with a pencil and in a nice notebook, sometimes with a cup of tea next to me as well.

But recently my sister-in-law introduced me to the Craftster website
 and in particular the kids clothing page. I love it! - especially when there's a story behind a project. I love the process of creating something new, and the little bits of history which are woven into each piece.

So, here's a little dress I made last week.

the sugar city village frock - shortened to a smock
 I saw it originally on the From an Igloo blog and loved it, but the pattern was out of print. So I started looking at pictures of it on Flickr, wondering if I could recreate it without a pattern (and realising it was quite unlikely), and happened across a link to a shop in Ohio which still had the pattern in stock. April in Ohio posted it around the world to me, and here it is.

and here's the back view

It all means that this evening I'm feeling quite friendly towards the technology, and thinking it might feel friendly towards me as well.

But there was another reason why this dress prompted me to start writing this.

My husband looked at our gorgeous daughter in her lovely new smock and said, "It makes her look like a hemulen".

I'm thrilled to be married to a man who can critique a garment with a relevant moomin reference (clearly my soulmate) but I'm thinking there are people out there who might appreciate the finer details of the construction, like these three little buttons picking up the colours of the fabric, or their velvet ribbon loops. And I'd love to hear comments from them - or you? -  as well.

and the buttons (quite excited about these)
Welcome to my world! I've enjoyed writing my first post, with a cup of tea close at hand for reassurance. It's all going to be ok...