Friday, 30 December 2011

Here comes the sun...

There's something about the Cath Kidston shop that I fall for every time. As soon as I step inside I completely believe in the CK world of eternal summertime, with strawberries for tea and boating on the river - never mind that I'm wearing woolly gloves and boots, and the nearest river is miles away. And then I start buying fabric...

Maybe this print would be better suited to an apron, but even back at home it still has a hint of sunshine about it!  This is my muslin for the lovely meringue skirt from the new Colette pattern book. If you know the pattern you'll see that it's been extensively tweaked: the scalloped hem on the original might have been a bit much with this floral print; and the stiff canvas fabric holds its shape so firmly that I chose to trim a bit from the side-seams to straighten it.

The biggest triumph? An invisible zipper! The book's instructions are so good I didn't even feel afraid, and I'm delighted by its invisibility. Somehow I managed to set the zip too low and had to add a button at the waist, but luckily it was one of those happy accidents that end up looking almost intentional.

Don't look too closely, though! It's still a bit scrappy.

So now I just need to wait for the weather to catch up with my wardrobe...

Happy New Year, everyone!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Herman the cake #2 (and #3, and #4)

It's been a measure of Herman's popularity that since I last wrote about him here he's been baked and eaten three times without ever having his photo taken. This last time, though I was prepared, and had my camera ready as soon as he came out of the oven, still in his baking tin.

This, of course, is Herman #4. In his previous incarnations he's been out for tea with friends, sold well at the school fair, and been the highlight of several lunchboxes. He's also lived up to his billing as a 'friendship' cake: delivering jars of sourdough gloop offers the perfect excuse for an impromptu coffee and catch-up.

In keeping with previous pets, Herman has grown smellier over time and the children have lost interest in maintaining him - whilst expecting him to remain part of the family forever. Luckily, Herman-talk on the internet says it's ok to freeze him in his uncooked form, and that he should recover when he's thawed (not something I'd try with the goldfish). So, we'll cook him one more time, Santa will get a jar of sourdough mix on Christmas eve, and then it's time for hibernation.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Linking and thinking - a small post about the O&S puppet show dress

I've just bought the Oliver+S puppet show pattern - now available as a PDF, and taking instant pattern gratification to new levels. I would probably have bought any pattern which O+S chose to make available digitally, just to encourage them to produce more, but I was especially excited that they chose to start with this one because I've been wanting for ages to copy Janimal's amazing Snow White version.

But, while I wait for my little girl to learn to recognise the Disney princesses (and it might be a long wait, with my husband hard at work protecting her from their dubious influences) I've found another puppet-show-a-like to keep me going. Teal, from the wonderful 'Abney and Teal' wears a long-sleeved version with patch pockets and a gingham trim. Off to look for fabric at once...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Knock knock...

Who's there?

It's my friend Justine at the door, with a bowl of gloop...

... and some (well-used) instructions...

... for a sourdough cake called Herman.

I'm very excited about having Herman in our family, having been wanting to try a sourdough recipe for ages. The children were dubious at first, but have started to enjoy him now: they come downstairs in the morning and ask 'is Herman still alive?', and they enjoyed feeding him his first top-up of flour, milk and sugar. It's like having a very quiet and undemanding pet. He does smell a bit - somewhere between 'delicious' and 'odd' depending on your perspective - and needs less maintenance than the cat, but slightly more than the goldfish.

Someone once told me that pets are very important to children because they teach them about death - she was a child psychologist, and she recommended hamsters for their short life-span. 

Back to the cake - as I'm not sure where that last sentence was leading - we're now on day 6, Herman is bubbling away happily, and we're still planning to eat him at the end of the process.

Photos to follow...

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Buttonhole bliss

The new sewing machine has made the whole process of creating buttonholes so easy that it almost feels like cheating.

No more press-on snaps.

No worrying that the machine might suddenly decide to eat my nice new creation.

Buttonhole bliss!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

How much is that prom dress in the window?

I read somewhere that the secret of successful de-cluttering is to take as much pleasure ingiving a thing away as you would have had from keeping it (perhaps that should read 'hoarding it').

It was such a clever insight that I'd love to attribute it properly, but can't find my source now. I thought it was from this article by Oliver Burkeman. Maybe the original article was de-cluttered for the online version, and that particular gem got edited out.

Anyway, it rings true for me: I love it when I pass the children's clothes on to friends and neighbours, and get to see them in action again on even smaller people, and there's always a sense of satisfaction in finding just the right new home for retired treasures.

But, sometimes there isn't a new home to be found, and when I cleared out my wardrobe earlier this year, I just bundled the casualties into bags and took them to Oxfam. The space in the wardrobe was reward enough.

Or so I thought...

This week I walked past the Oxfam shop, and there was my little black dress in the window, all styled up with a feathery hat and sparkly necklace... This was one of the first 'proper' dresses I made for myself, and it went to a lot of black-tie dinners and dances, about 20 years ago when I had the figure and the lifestyle to suit it. Then it languished in the wardrobe for a long time, before I eventually de-cluttered it away. 

It was a thrill to see it again so unexpectedly. It looks ready for a few late nights and parties this winter - hope it has fun!

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Tra la la la la...

A quick link to a very good idea... it starts on Friday, so there should still be lots of sewing time ahead.

12 Gifts of Christmas Blog Hop

Usually I put off sewing for Christmas until well into Advent, and then go shopping instead. Maybe this year will be different? 

Friday, 7 October 2011

A runcible wordle

For those with busy lives and little time to linger over details, here's the whole of      runcibledays (to date) encapsulated in a very lovely word cloud.

Do try it for yourself - click on the cloud and it will take you to the wordle site where you can make your own... you can play with different fonts and colours, reshuffle theclouds, even omit any words which don't appeal (though that feels a bit like cheating). 
Have fun!

Wordle: runcibledays

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Buttonhole Blues

My sewing machine is old and weary. It's four-step buttonhole is now more of a 27-step process, and every buttonhole is an adventure (not always a good thing). When I see the word  'button' on a pattern, I reach for the press-on snaps...

Sometimes it works out serendipitously and the snaps get lots of compliments.

(Like these lovely pearl snaps on the Dr Who shirt)

But, sometimes I pine for real buttons...

(wouldn't they have been nice here?)

(and here?)

(and maybe here?)

A new machine is on its way... 

(but shhh - I haven't told the old one yet)

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

A place for everything (or, storage solutions, writ small)

The runcible household is on the verge of a complete reshuffle: runciblegirl's bedroom will become a bathroom, the bathroom will become a staircase to the loft, and the loft will become two new bedrooms. 

And then there will be a place for everything (and everyone), and everything in its place.

My neighbour, who knows me well, understood the loft project immediately. "Imagine all the wonderful built-in storage", she squeaked. 

Husband looked a bit harrassed.

But, whilst waiting for Ikea / Conran nirvana, I've started my storage odyssey on a slightly smaller scale. Son#1 has a bunk-bed with a tiny little shelf, and is always losing things over the edge. It's a long climb down the ladder in the dark, and soon, given the season, it will be a bit chilly outside the bed covers, so he needs a storage solution now.

And here it is:

The front view - the red spotty pocket is elasticated along its top edge, and has been sewn vertically in two  places to create three little pockets.

The back view, with two strips of velcro...

... (now you see why I needed the ribbon - it covers the stitching for that velcro)...

... and the velcro holds it in place over the rail of the bunk.

Finally, the action shot - with torch and handkerchief safely in their pockets.

I wonder what the third pocket will hold?

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Making pants while the sun shines: ruffled bloomers tutorial

Thank you to all those who left nice comments about the ruffled bloomers last month. 
Here, at last, are some instructions!

You can download the template here .
It should print out at the correct size on A4 paper with the printer set at 100% scaling.

A note on sizing - these are made to fit my 16 month old daughter. The size is determined by the elastic at the waist and legs, so they could easily be made smaller or larger. Soft, super-stretchy baby elastic would allow for flexibility and growing room.

You will need to trim the right side of the paper along the ends of the printed lines
(although if your baby is in cloth nappies you could leave it untrimmed - the extra couple of inches might come in useful).

In addition to elastic, you will need: 

Three strips of fabric measuring 1.5 inches x width of fabric, finished on one long edge (I cut and finished these in one go with my lovely overlocker).

One bloomer front, cut on the fold using the template outline.

Four bloomer back pieces: A, B, C and D (from top to bottom).

Two bias strips for finishing the leg holes.

Ruffles first:

Gather the unfinished long edges of each of the ruffle strips until they are each about 16 inches.

Bloomers back:

Lay one ruffle onto piece A, with right sides together and the gathered ruffle edge aligned with the bottom of piece A.

It should look like this. (The ruffle is a little longer than the bloomer pieces - I find it easier to trim it later once the whole back has been assembled).

Now lay piece B, right-side down, on top of the ruffle, aligning the top edge of piece B with the bottom edge of piece A, so the ruffle is now sandwiched in-between. 

Pin the three layers together.

And stitch with a 1/4 inch seam allowance (apologies for the upside-down picture above).

Press all the seam allowances up towards piece A, and topstitch through all layers above the ruffle to encourage it to lie flat.

Now it should look like this...

Pin the first ruffle out of the way, and repeat the same process to attach piece C to piece B, with another ruffle in-between.

And then attach piece D to piece C, with a third ruffle...

Bloomers back completed:

Side and gusset seams:

Place the front piece on top of the back piece, pin the side seams (making sure the ruffles are lying nicely) and then trim ruffle ends.

Sew the side and gusset seams with a 1/4 inch seam allowance. 
(I did this with the overlocker to finish the seams at the same time).

Fold and press and 1/4 inch hem at the waist, then fold again and press a 1/2 inch hem to form a casing for the waist elastic.

Sew around the waist, leaving a little gap to thread the elastic later.

Bias casings for the legs:

Fold and press a 1/4 inch hem along one long edge of each of the bias strips.

Then stitch the unfolded long edge of the bias tape around each of the leg openings, right sides together, with a 1/4 inch seam allowance.

Press the bias tape to the inside and stitch along the folded edge to form a casing for the leg elastic, leaving a small opening to thread the elastic.

Measure the leg and waist elastic to fit your baby, thread through, and sew up the gaps in the casings.

Beautiful spotty pants with ruffles!

 (And the front view too).

Do let me know if you make some!

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

sorbetto sundae

This is the Sorbetto top from Colette patterns - the stuff that sewing obsessions are made of. 

It only has two pieces (front, back), and can be cut from less than a metre of fabric. The fit is forgiving, yet still flattering, and it pulls on so there are no fiddly fastenings. And, best of all, it's available as a free download.

With so much to recommend it, you can't blame me for having got a little carried away...

Despite my frenzied mass production, I've yet to make this patterns in its original form. It lends itself so readily to a bit of adaptation that it's hard to resist tweaking a bit. The Sorbetto proper has a centre-front pleat, sewn down and pressed outwards, and decorative bias tape on the outside. The bias tape I had on hand was nothing special, so it had to stay hidden, and the pleated front just kept evolving away from the original...

I started out with this: pleat inverted and left open. It was a purely practical choice based on allowing a bit of extra tummy room in case the pattern proved un-generous in its sizing. I needn't have worried - it just right (though Colette works in American sizes, so I did have to measure myself and check the chart).

No pleat at all here - I cut with the fold of the fabric on the pleat line instead - because I didn't have much of this silk and was trying to eke it out.

A fully lined version, double-layered as this cotton voile is more or less transparent. No bias tape for the facings here, as the lining does that job instead, and no pleat either.

The pleat is back, still inverted, with buttons down to the level of the darts. This is copied wholesale from JohannaO's photo on flickr, perhaps my favourite variation so far.

And finally, a summery Sorbetto with gathers where the pleat should be.

Truly, it works every time! This pattern is pure sewing therapy at the end of a long day.
(And I can hear the Colette website calling me back to spend some actual money next time...)