Sunday, 30 June 2013

Floral Grainline Scout

From the inside out...

From the outside, on:

  • Pattern: Grainline Scout woven tee - size 8 with a no-dart FBA, extended to dress length. 
  • Fabric: cotton voile from the coupons corner at the Chien Vert. I bought it in my early stash-building days, in love at first touch of the buttery softness and with the Delft porcelain colours, but guiltily not knowing what on earth I was going to do with it.
  • Inspiration: fabric chat with Leila. I caught the end of this one the other week and had a lightbulb moment. I'd never sewn voile before and it was high time to cut into it!
  • Details: All the seams are frenched. Even the armholes! With the unforeseen but hugely satisfying result that the seam allowances and narrow hems are the same width. Did you spot that? Love it.
  • Conclusion: beautifully sewn (if I do say so myself) from a beautiful pattern with beautiful fabric, it's also beautifully cool and comfortable to wear. I'm pretty pleased with this one :-)
  • P.S.: haircut!


Wednesday, 19 June 2013

This Month's Ideas

Bear with me while I indulge in some old-fashioned husband-misleading, would you? Here goes.

G, if you're reading, I absolutely only have one idea this month. I can't wait to get stuck into it!!! Here it is: 

Isn't that great?! Those five-year-old temporary curtains can finally go!! Just like you have been asking me weekly for about the last four years and ten months*!

* that's an exaggeration. I only started sewing again 3 years ago.

:: :: ::

Hahahaha no! He's totally not reading. Let's dish the REAL dirt. Dirt like, it was my birthday. And I discovered that I share it with Jen! (She is a bit younger and a lot cooler than me, but this coincidence compels me to forgive her). I have at least six "birthday twins" that I know of, and I'll just hijack this post again to give a very special mention to one of them: my youngest brother (yes, yes, we'll get to the ideas in a minute. It's my birthday and I'll witter on endlessly if I want to). Belated happy birthday R! And thank you for being the sibling who doesn't care whether we remember to send cards. (We haven't even texted each other yet - I'm waiting for him to go first).

Anyway. This is what greeted me when I opened my presents (after a six bloody a.m. wake up call. Thanks kids!)

Oooh little dance of glee!

The jeans are going on hold until later in the summer, because sarcasm alert it would be totally ridiculous to plan on wearing long trousers with all this hot weather we've been having.

But the others...

I mean seriously, Megan has been practically begging people to make midi-length lined, sheer culottes. It would be cruel not to.

And Nicola, Nicola... I was assuming I'd make this dress in the flowy polyester pictured. But having draped myself in it to colour test against my face (we all do that, right? Several times, both before and after purchase?) it suddenly feels far to warm. So we'll see. Some nice lightweight cotton maybe?

Those with long and meticulous memories might remember that both these fabrics featured in previous ideas as potential Darling Ranges dresses. However I am still scared of the numerous buttonholes so will be steering clear of slinkiness. Plus, ever since that last post I have been thinking just to save Darling Ranges for autumn and do it with sleeves. By which time I will have been sitting on the pattern for over a year [sigh].

(Another detour: I'm thinking of adding a page documenting the fates of my featured Ideas. Kind of: Where Good Ideas Go to Die, or My Project Purgatory. Or, The Ideas Graveyard. What do you think?)

This is some lovely cool cotton lawn I excitedly got out of my stash and pre-washed for some Tofino PJs, thinking I would join in Karen's pyjama party. But, I am way too busy this week to be done by the time it ends, and I just realised there's not enough of this fabric anyway. I'm not a fan of PJ shorts, so I have to do some head-scratching now.

Yet more - I want to refashion these. Shorts: shorter (the length is all wrong but the waist is fab). Sweater: will be, um, something else. A cardigan?

That's if I don't get distracted into making a red knit Scout tee, or a bag with a neon zip, or a sleeveless Darling Ranges out of an old sheet, or, or, or... OK I'M ACTUALLY HYPERVENTILATING NOW. Perhaps I should just relax and knock up a quick little dress for L to take my mind off things.

But in any case I suspect the curtains aren't getting done anytime soon.

Sorry G.



Thursday, 13 June 2013

When good improv goes bad

Today I want to talk about sewing off-piste.  Those times when you decide to just veer away from the pattern directions, or away from All The Patterns completely - freewheeling, doing your own thing, making it up as you go along.

In theory, this is one of my favourite things about sewing your own clothes. You have complete freedom to change things up and turn them around in joyful, creative self-expression.

In theory.

In reality, I hate it. And I hate it because I suck at it. And why do I suck at it?

Because I seem to be suffering from the delusion that improv = shortcut. That taking the off-piste route will get me down the mountain quicker, with more fun and less rules. That I will arrive there triumphantly shouting "Look everybody, look at this SUPER COOL thing that I just threw together using an idea out of MY VERY OWN HEAD!!".
Them stripes don't match and that elastic's too tight!
Conveniently forgetting that, unless you're a pretty good skier already, going off-piste is more likely to end with a broken leg half way down a crevasse than in a victorious swishy flourish. Or - if I've already stretched that metaphor too far, which I think I have - in an ill-fitting, ill-conceived sundress. Or perhaps in a sweater that you really want to love but really can't, just because of a flippy zip.

Yeah. Both those things.

Why is this? When I'm following a pattern I almost consciously raise my game, partly to learn things, and partly so as to do justice to all that effort I'm putting in. Yet about 2 seconds after straying away away from the instructions, I start behaving like: decent seam finishes - why bother? Wibbly hem - whatever! Stabilising with elastic, putting zippers in stretch fabric? Not going to google that, no thank you ma'am!

But I just don't like interfacing in the shoulder seams!

It sits well nowhere

Why? WHY?? I ask you?

Seriously, am I alone in this? What the hell is going on here?

:: :: ::


Sunday, 9 June 2013

Some good reads

If there's anything I love as much as sewing, it's probably reading. There's the kids and the husband, but, y'know, reading has been in my life a lot longer. Plus, I'm totally willing to share it.
So I did some pretty good reads when I was holiday, and since I'm a bit of a dork I took photos of them all so I could remember what a great time I had reading them.  They were kind of so good that I wanted to tell people, and as I don't go to book club, just like I don't have a sewing circle, I'm going to share the love here. If you're looking for some good books, try these!
And while you're at it, ponder this: are there any good novels that prominently feature sewing? Like actual sewing as part of the story, not 'just' seamstresses? It was at the back of my mind for two weeks and I couldn't come up with a single one. You? 

:: :: ::

Bring Up the Bodies is the sequel to Hilary Mantel's hugely successful Wolf Hall. Both follow the life and career of Thomas Cromwell as he schemes and intrigues his way around the court of Henry VIII. They're cleverly written from Cromwell's point of view, with such great wit that to be honest I basically developed a crush on him. I heard that some people found Wolf Hall difficult as it was sometimes unclear who the "he" is that's speaking or thinking - I didn't have a problem with this, and if I had one niggling doubt about Bring Up the Bodies, it's that every now and again Mantel clarifies this with a "he, Cromwell". I felt like slightly talked down to, as I'd kind of liked that about the first book: the plot expected you to follow the machinations going on, and the ambiguity reflected the shadowy politics of the time.  But this is a tiny complaint: the plot, characters and writing of both books are brilliant, and a great window into an interesting period of English history from a rarely-considered viewpoint.

:: :: ::

Peter Carey is a writer I keep coming back to without realising it, and Jack Maggs is a wonderful, lighthearted, easy-to-read pastiche of Dickens' London. Lovable rogues, grocers made good, a maid with a heart of gold and a renegade hypnotist: I can make no comment about this book except that it's an excellent, rollicking story.

Bonus tip: Carey's previous book Parrot and Olivier in America is also brilliant.

[Edited to add: double bonus - picture also features the Sunday Times where I have great fun spotting articles by my friend Nicci. There she is!]

:: :: ::

I'll be straight up about it: Flight Behaviour by Barbara Kingsolver was my least favourite of the four books I got through. Not to say that I didn't enjoy it: I did, immensely. The tale of an Appalachian farming family struggling to make ends meet as the landscape around them moves mysteriously, it's an earnest and open-hearted book - a bit like Kingsolver is inviting you in to her farm to talk crops and climate change over a cup of tea. And that, for me, was the problem - the whole thing just wasn't quite credible enough. I never really felt like the characters or their story had escaped the author's control over the point she wanted to make. Still, it is a good read, and I wouldn't want to put anyone off!
:: :: ::

And finally, John Irving. Has John Irving ever written a book that is not good? I don't think so, although happily I have yet to exhaust his back catalogue (I shall likely feel bereft once I have done). In One Person is his most recent novel, telling the story of a bisexual boy growing up in Vermont. In the sense that the book is clearly 'on the side' of main character Billy and his rainbow cast of friends, it's a politically-tinged book. But, as with all Irving novels, it's the heart and soul of the story that sucks you in. The sometimes exuberant or outlandish people and plot elements are completely outweighed by the gentleness in the telling. It's a beautiful book.
Bonus tip here too: much less 'political' and my runaway favourite Irving book so far is Last Night in Twisted River. Absolutely excellent. Contains plenty of bears.
:: :: ::

So come on then, answers to my question please! Stories abut sewing? Preferably good ones...!


Thursday, 6 June 2013

Birthday crowns for birthday boys

Almost three years ago, I made my first ever birthday crown. It was for L's third birthday. Crowns were not a birthday tradition in my family, but I had seen this tutorial and spotted them on Soulemama's children too, and then it turned out that G had had birthday crowns when he was little as well. No further excuses needed! I set to and enthusiastically sewed up my own version.

This month, I realised just how quickly these traditions become binding. There was pre-birthday crown excitement. I am now obliged :-)

Luckily, I am also happily obliging.

I can't believe he's four already - and such a MAN about it!

He wore his crown on a birthday trip to the playground, where we saw our little friend JJ and his mummy. JJ's birthday is five day's after T's.

Inevitably - of course - this happened:

Because you can't not share the love, can you?

Updated to add: I made previous versions in felt, as seen on L modelling her ice cream dress.

Should you wish to make your own, the tutorial I linked above is in Dutch but the pictures are clear and these are pretty straightforward anyway. I don't bother making a casing for the elastic and can knock one out in about half an hour. They make an excellent, last minute, scrap-busting gift!

P.S. Spot the sneak peek of another recently-finished make... can you guess what it is?


Sunday, 2 June 2013

Two little indians

Dear readers, what's your take on this? :

Is it politically incorrect and offensive to Native Americans? Or do you simply accept it as reflecting the rather less enlightened attitudes of the time and place it was made? Is it harmless for today's children to watch, or do you think that, if they're too young to understand the context, it's unhelpful to expose them to such outdated and inaccurate stereotyping?
Well my two have watched Disney's Peter Pan. And it was not the pirates or the mermaids that grabbed their imaginations but the Red Indians. If they're not playing with the playmobil tepee, they're chanting this Dutch playground rhyme:

Alle indianen schieten met bananen
Pief poef paf en jij bent af!

(All the Indians shoot with bananas
Bang bang bang you're dead!)

(A quick flag up here in case any Dutch or French-speaking parents are reading: this rhyme and plenty of others have been brilliantly turned into rock'n'roll for kids - and their adults - by Ik en den Theo. I cannot recommend their CD highly enough! And if you're in Brussels, watch out for them live, they're excellent.)

Anyway, given all this, it's hardly surprising that when L saw me browsing fabric for skater dresses, she insisted on getting this one:

And then when T saw it in person, he insisted on having a t-shirt made out if it too. Cue some ninja cutting skills (I had to squeeze both out of 1 metre), and... voilà!

The dress is size 5-6 for L, and the t-shirt is simply the skater dress bodice, lengthened, in size 3-4 for T.

Followed by some slightly awkward modelling:

T styles it with torn-to-shreds H&M jeans, and L sports on her right leg some nicely coordinating stitches from an incident with an escalator in Ikea.

Some larking about...

And then some cuddles. How angelic they look!

The key word there being look.

And that, very belatedly, wraps up my spring Kids' Clothes Week sewing!