Mini Making part 2

I’m in a bit of an irritating sewing slump at the moment. I’ve got a pile of things cut out and ready to go, and I just don’t want to sew them! I think it’s partly because I’m feeling guilty for neglecting my studies a bit, so I’m going to give myself a break from sewing and blogging until I hand my research proposal in (in a couple of weeks, hopefully), and then I should get my enthusiasm back! In the meantime I’ve got the second pile of baby clothes I made up to post about…

First up, more from Ottobre! I made this lot up at the same time as the tiny pants from my other post, so they don’t have any seam allowances either… Both patterns are super simple, the leggings are just one pattern piece, and the sweatshirt is two (plus a neckband). The stripes are merino sweatshirting, and the navy and mustard for the leggings are merino jersey scraps. The floral sweatshirt is made out of a scrap of Liberty cotton terry, which came out of a bag of scrap remnants I bought ages ago from The Fabric Store. It was just big enough to squeeze the pattern onto!

Sewing up this striped top was when I first realised I hadn’t added the seam allowances, I thought the neck hole looked too tiny for babywear and figured I must have made a mistake! It is pretty small, so I’ll take it back and add a keyhole in the back if it doesn’t go over the wee girl’s head. I found the iron on transfer in a sale bin, and had to buy it, it’s so cute! I topstitched it on as well as ironing it on, just for added security.

For this second sweatshirt I avoided the neckband all together. The cotton terry has significantly less stretch than the merino, so I just folded the neckline under and stitched it down. Hopefully it’s big enough too! I sewed a little twill tape tag into the back of this one, and into the back of the leggings, as they’re pretty similar. I figured that sleep deprived parents don’t need any extra puzzles when they’re trying to wrangle wriggly babies into their clothes!

The other gift was a pile of Purl Soho bibs, made up in this cute coordinating dog fabric which my mum picked out for her colleague. I made these the same as my first lot, except I used Velcro instead of press studs on these ones. Much quicker to sew on, and the parents I asked seemed to prefer Velcro for ease of use as well. I used the join between the two pages of the pattern to determine my ‘colour-blocking’ (pattern-blocking?) point, it was very easy but I think they’re pretty cute!

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Kochi Kimono

Hi team! This is another long delayed blog post, I sewed up this Papercut Patterns Kochi Kimono last spring, but I’ve only just got pictures of it. I was planning on making another one in a Japanese cotton that I bought in London, and I planned to post them together, but I didnt have enough cotton in the end so it ended up as as this skirt. Then I planned to make a lightweight version in a wool/silk blend, but that hasn’t happened yet either…so you just get my original version!

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I made variation 1 in a fairly hefty felted wool blend from deep in my stash. The pattern does say you can use any type of woven fabric, but I think this is probably at the upper limits of what works for this garment! It’s heavy and stiff, but I actually love the severe, architectural look of it. It seems like a pretty deliberate contrast to a standard silky kimono jacket, and I like it, even though Hamish said it was very batty art teacher-ish! I love the split hem and the big roomy pockets, though the pockets end up being a bit weird when I have it done up.

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I made a couple of changes to the pattern to accommodate the thickness of the wool. I narrowed the sleeves by an inch at the armpit, tapering to nothing at the wrist and hem, to get rid of some excess bulk there. The fabric still forms pretty large folds at the underarm, but I’m beginning to think that’s just the way kimono-style sleeves sit. If anyone had a fix for this let me know! Of course, that fold would be much less obvious in a softer fabric…The other change I made was to omit the ties, and replace them with a length of grosgrain ribbon on the left hand side, and two gunmetal D rings sewn into the seam that attaches the neckband on the right. I love the more industrial style of this closure with the rest of the jacket, I thought bows or ribbons would be a bit soft looking, and it’s not too silly looking when it’s undone.

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I didn’t finish any of the seams, as this felted wool doesn’t fray. If I had known how much I would end up loving this I would have bound the edges with something pretty, but never mind! I hand sewed the neckline binding over on the wrong side, so at least that’s nice and neat. All of the other hems are topstitched.

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I’m definitely going to make another version (or two) of this for next summer, I just need to remember what a fabric hog it is! I had 1.5m of the Japanese cotton, but as it was only 110cm wide I couldn’t fit the sleeve piece on. I think it would be especially nice in velvet or satin for a dressy jacket, something which is definitely missing from my wardrobe…

 

 

Adventures in Brioche (knitting, not cake)

I had planned to start this post with a bit of waffle about how I had knitted a cowl that was perfect for crisp Autumn mornings and keeping me warm while waiting for the train, which would all have been true, but last week it seemed we had skipped autumn entirely and plunged straight into winter! We had hail and freezing southerly gales blowing straight off the fresh snow on the southern alps, as well as spectacular thunder storms, it was all very dramatic and unexpected!

This is the Gully Cowl, knitted in Brooklyn Tweed’s laceweight Vale yarn. It’s lovely and smooth and soft, and I love how squishy and three dimensional it is in this brioche stitch pattern! I initially meant to pick the pale pink version of this yarn (Arabesque), but I put the wrong colour into the Holland Road Yarn website when I was buying it and ended up with this slightly darker, muddier pink (called Barberry). I actually love it, on reflection the pale pink might have been a bit too wish wishy-washy for my pasty winter face!

This pattern really challenged me, having never knitted brioche before! Getting into the slip stitch/yarn over rhythm took a while, and then once I had my head around that I found it nearly impossible to undo any mistakes I made! The extra loops from the brioche yarn-overs just confused me when I was trying to TINK back to any errors, and I just got into a terrible mess.  I must have ripped it back and started again about three times before I wised up and started adding a lifeline. I had about three lifelines running though my knitting at any one time, once I realised how much it sucked to find a mistake after you had moved your lifeline up…

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I love the Art Deco inspired shaping and curves in this cowl, its just beautiful! The cowl is knitted flat and then stretch blocked before being seamed. I actually hesitated briefly before knitting this because it was seamed, which is patently ridiculous as the seam is only about 30cm long. Not at all the same as seaming a jumper or anything tedious like that! I used blocking wires to stretch the finished cowl out to the dimensions in the schematic, and I love how straight the edges turned out, it made the seaming even easier.

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I love how this cowl turned out, it really will be the perfect lightweight scarf for chilly spring or autumn mornings. I found it was useful even in the freezing driving rain we had this week, as it’s small and lightweight enough to tuck inside the collar of my fully zipped up raincoat. It stayed dry, unlike a my regular scarves which tend to get wet and then slap me in the face with a soggy end, and it was insulating enough to keep the southerly from blowing into my hood and down the back of my neck. I enjoyed knitting the brioche too, once i got my head around how it worked! I’m considering making another version of this pattern but using the beautiful skein of 4 ply MadTosh merino light I have in my stash. I can’t see any reason why it wouldn’t work, as long as I size up my needles appropriately, right? It’ll just be a bigger version of this one, hopefully!

Mini Making

I’ve reached the age where my friends are all starting to have babies (which is lovely, but alarming. I’m sure we aren’t old enough for these things. Yes I know I’ve just turned 30, shh). Obviously, I’m using this as an opportunity to make lots of tiny cute things for them! I’ve given two sets of gifts so far, so I’ll post about those ones now and the other ones later, so that I don’t spoil the surprise in the unlikely event that the recipients read my blog…

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First up is this super cute little jumper. It’s the Livingston pattern by Nadia Cretin-Lechenne, which I fell in love with when I saw Abbey Morris post her version on instagram. I love the cute button up neck and the loopy texture on the front panel, and it was a fun wee pattern to make. I couldn’t figure out how the stitch pattern worked until I started knitting, but you slip two stitches for two rows, and then move them two stitches to either side with a cable needle on the third row. Simple and effective! Knitting the front flap was easier than I expected, though I did have to fudge it a little bit and do some tidying up at the edges of the openings when I sewed the ribbing down at the bottom of the openings on either side.

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I used Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino for the first time on this project, and it is so nice to knit with! It’s so soft, and the stitch definition is lovely. I initially bought two balls, intending to make the newborn size, but my friend is having a large baby according to her recent scans so I decided to make the 3 month size instead! I had to put a rush order in to get another ball so I could finish it in time for her baby shower, but it all worked out fine! He’s due at the end of the month, so if the sizing is right we’ll be in the middle of winter when he fits it, which would be perfect. I picked some plastic tortoiseshell-ish buttons out of my stash, I like that they’re fairly neutral but not boring.

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To finish off the gift I made up a couple of pairs of tiny sweatpants using some merino sweatshirting left over from my other projects. I used the Streaky Legs pattern from Ottobre Magazine (Spring issue 1 Kids from 2015), there are so many good patterns in that magazine! These pants are super simple, just two pattern pieces (front/back and cuff), and they’re so cute. The sizing is done by measuring the height of the child, which is a bit tough when a) you’re making a gift, and b) the kid is still in utero, but I had a guess and hopefully they’ll fit! Stupidly I didn’t look at the instructions, because they were so simple, but if I had checked I would have noticed that there were no seam allowances included in the pattern. Unfortunately I didn’t pick that up until I was checking to see how much elastic to put in the waistband. Being a European pattern from a magazine I should have expected that there were no seam allowances, so it was a bit stupid of me. Hopefully they’ll fit for a little while at least!

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For my other baby gift I made up a couple of baby bibs and a little sun hat in some super cute matching cotton. I love that there are lots of uses for craft cottons when making baby stuff, there are so many gorgeous prints that I would never use otherwise! I used two free patterns, the Purl Soho Bib and the Oliver + S Bucket Hat. Both patterns were really easy to use, and I love the results for each!

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I chose a woodland themed cotton from Stitchbird Fabrics for these gifts, as the baby I was making them for is a Canadian/Kiwi and I thought he would appreciate the bears and squirrels (eventually). I paired the cotton with more remnants from my stash, the orange is the left over linen from my Harvest Tee. I thought it was a slightly unexpected colour to pair with the muted colours of the cotton, but it matches the squirrels and deer and I liked the contrast!

The bibs were a very quick and easy sew. I used a scrap of blue drill (left over from Hamish’s first Jedediah shorts, I think) and sewed on a patch with my favourite bear on it, so that everything wasn’t too visually similar. For the backing I used a nice squishy cotton sweatshirting, with the looped side facing out. I just couldn’t find toweling anywhere, and buying a towel to cut up seemed messy and a bit wasteful when I could just use sweatshirting! Hopefully it’ll do the job just fine…

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It turns out sewing baby gear is a great stash buster, I’m so glad I’ve been holding onto all of my merino scraps! baby stuff is nice and quick to sew up too, perfect for fitting in around other projects. Expect to see a few more teeny garments being made in the next few months…

Teal Shift Dress

A few posts ago I mentioned that I was trying to sew more for others, as my wardrobe is rapidly reaching bursting point. I made linen shorts for Hamish, and at the same time I made a Pauline Alice Xerea shift dress for my lovely Mum. She was looking for a nice breezy dress to combat the hot weather we were having, but something that was still stylish and nice enough for the office. I’ve got a few sack and shift dress patterns in my pattern library, so I got her over to have a look, but  wasn’t surprised when she picked Xerea! I thought she would like the pockets and the shape of the dress, and she did. Then she picked out a lovely teal milled linen from The Fabric Store, and I got sewing!

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The first thing I did was lengthen it by about 30cm. As drafted the pattern is really short, and Mum is several inches taller than me, so I thought I would hedge my bets and add loads of length that I could trim back later! It turned out to be about the right length, I trimmed off 2cm and then turned up a 3cm hem to get it sitting just at the knee.

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We also opted not to add the short sleeves on, so I trimmed the armscye back a centimetre or so and then hemmed them with the same bias tape I used around the neckline. This is the third time I’ve made this pattern, and it always comes together really quickly and neatly! I love the princess seams/dior darts/curved pocket combo (not that you can see any of those details particularly well in this plain linen, but they’re there and are really nice), and the V neck at the back is also a lovely detail.

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The only thing I’d change for next time would be to scoop the front neckline out slightly, as Mum finds it slips backwards a bit and can become a bit restrictive, depending on how she’s sitting! She’s worn it heaps, which is gratifying, and we’re talking about trying out a long sleeved woolen version for winter. I think I’d change the back neckline to be a standard high curve, drop the front neckline, and add a centre back seam with an invisible zip for a winter version. Or maybe put a keyhole and button in the back yoke? I’ll need to have a think about it!

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Maybe I’m coming around to sewing for other people, it is nice when you can make something for someone who really appreciates it! It’s a chance to make stuff that I wouldn’t necessarily make for myself either, which can be fun. Though I think my sewing time this year is going to be a bit limited now that I’m back to studying, so it might be a while between sewing projects for other people…

Thanks for modeling for me Mum, I’m glad you like your dress! xx

A Special Dress

I think this might be my favourite thing I’ve ever made. It’s the dress I made for my 30th birthday last month, and it feels perfectly me! The fabric is my favourite style of small-scale abstract print, in my current favourite colours, and the style is comfortable but also dressy enough that I think I could probably wear it anywhere. A win all around really! (Thanks to Emma for taking some photos of it while we were having a drink on the waterfront last week!)

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I used the Named Helmi Tunic pattern, with a couple of small modifications. I wear my first Helmi all the time, but I usually end up wearing a belt with it so that I don’t feel swamped by all that fabric. I really like the drawstring waist feature on my Southport dresses, so this time I added an internal casing and a self fabric drawstring to cinch the waist in without the fussiness of a belt. It was a really easy adjustment to make, I just cut a narrow strip of self fabric and sewed it to the waist seam when I was sewing the skirt to the bodice, and then turned the raw edge under and top-stitched it down to create a narrow channel and to hide the waistline seam allowances. The drawstring passes through two tiny buttonholes that I made in the skirt in line with the edges of the button placket (before I sewed the drawstring casing closed, obviously). The other change I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves to cap-sleeve length. I used the Scout Tee sleeve as a guide for how long I wanted them, and then drew in a slight curve to the hem using my french curve.

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I used the collar pieces from the shirt view of the pattern, it has a lovely shape and I really like the size. I do find that it wants to overlap at the centre front a bit when I have it buttoned up to the top, I must have not been precise enough with some of my seam allowances. One thing I did try really hard to do was avoid any twinning in the pattern across the front, and as you can see I failed miserably! I forgot to take into account the concertina fold that makes up the hidden button placket, and ended up with some serious pattern replication across the front. I was pretty bummed when I first laid the two front halves together and saw that I had done, but I’m hoping that that’s one of those things that only someone who sews would notice! I used little pearlescent pink buttons, which match the pale pink smudges in the fabric, but I didn’t realise that even the one at the collar would be essentially covered up! I added some hand stitches between the buttonholes at the edge of the covered placket to stop it from flapping open, which I’ve noticed my black one does, which helps to hide the buttons even more.

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And now about the fabric… I love it so much! It’s an Atelier Brunette viscose print called Moonstone, in the blue colourway. I bought it from Miss Maude specifically to make this dress, and I was so happy when I opened the parcel and ended up with a lap full of this gorgeous fabric! It’s so smooth and soft and cool to wear, just gorgeous. I’d love to buy some more, just in case (but I’m not going to, because stash busting). It was pretty expensive, but I love it enough that I don’t mind! I gave it the full VIP treatment, it’s all french seamed on the inside (including the armscye seam) because I couldn’t stand the thought of putting it through the overlocker. Unfortunately I forgot that Named uses a 1 cm seam allowance, so I have some very tiny french seams… They were a bit of a fiddle to sew, but I got there in the end and they look lovely and neat! I considered hand sewing the hems, but I decided to just sew them on the machine. They match the topstitching on the collar and the waist, and the tread I used in an exact colour match so it isn’t very obvious.

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I wore this dress to a couple of birthday celebration drinks (I managed to spread my birthday across an entire week, I would recommend it!), and was very comfortable in it. I love it even more now though because it’s also the dress I was wearing when Hamish asked me to marry him. I love that I have so many happy things associated with this dress, it makes it even more special than the fact that it’s just my favourite handmade garment!

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(I said yes, of course)

Squeezing in one last sundress

When the latest Tessuti pattern popped up on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago I bought it before I even considered that the end of February might not be the best time to be making sundresses! Our summer has been absolutely spectacular though (best one in Wellington for 60 years, apparently), so I thought I would bump it up to the top of my queue and hope I’d get the chance to wear it.


I used a length of milled linen from The Fabric Store (I’m sure you’re all shocked by that choice) which has been in my stash since last summer, just waiting for the right pattern. I love the colour, but I was slightly alarmed when I tried the dress on to check the strap length and realised that it was almost an exact match for my skin! I didn’t realise that I was ‘vintage blush’… Hopefully it doesn’t disappear too much against my torso.


There are some lovely details in this pattern, the top-stitched pockets are very neatly finished, and I love the split hem with its mitred corners! I shortened this pattern in a couple of places, I took an inch off at the waist and another inch half way down the side splits, and then I ended up taking an inch off the upper edge of the front neckline too to compensate for my short upper torso. I also shortened the straps, but I did that by pinning them while I was wearing it so I’m not sure how much I took off them.


I also took it in 1/2” at the top of each of the side seams, but I still have a bit of gaping under the arms. If it fitted any closer I think I would need to add a zip to get in and out of it and I like that it’s an easy pull on style, so I’m just ignoring it! I might try taking a narrow wedge out of the CF on the fold next time too, to see if that helps it sit more snugly in the upper chest.



I made a long skinny fabric tie for a belt, I just cut a 2” length right along the selvage and sewed it into a tube. I was very glad to have my loop tuner when I was trying to get that right side out! Even then it was a bit of a struggle getting all 2m onto the length of the turner, I should have left the opening half way along rather than at the end. I really like it belted, but I’m surprised how much I like it just hanging straight too. I thought it might be too shapeless, especially with the length, but I think it looks pretty stylish really!


I wore it out to the Newtown Festival yesterday, hot off the machine! I stuck a tee shirt under it as it was so sunny and I didn’t want to worry about reapplying that much sunblock, and I think it looks ok layered too. I should maybe stick to plain white tee shirts though, as the striped one definitely shows through the linen. I have plans to make another one (with a few changes) for layering in autumn out of some gingham linen, and I’d love to make a fancy version out of some lush mustard silk CDC that I’ve been hoarding. And maybe another one for next summer, in Caper linen from TFS…