Category Archives: sew sew

Lots of elephants and a giraffe

Happy new year, team! I hope everyone had a jolly Christmas and a spendid New Year. We had a lovely Christmas at Mr V’s parents’ house with the whole family and then we whipped down to Devon to welcome the new year with my friends.

Beach

We swam here on the 1st of January to wash the old year away! It was frrrrrreezing, unsurprisingly.

Anyway, I thought I’d just update with some Christmas sewing I did for the tiny nieces and for the homemade secret santa that we do at New Year.

First up, I made our toddler niece a dress with elephants on it.

Every little thing dress elephants

It’s the Every Little Thing Dress pattern from Schwin Designs, which I bought in their Black Friday sale.

Not going to lie, I pretty much hated sewing this dress. My sewing machine kept ripping thread, my gathering kept messing up, my iron got dirt on the white bit of dress… basically everything that could go wrong, did go wrong! (And most of the things that did go wrong, were my fault either that day or at some point in the past.) Eventually I called it a day, whapped some polka dot bias tape on it to cover some sins and accepted how wonky these elephants are on the back.

Every little thing elephant dress back

I was a bit aware that making clothes for babies and toddlers is more of a present for their parents than the kid themselves, so I wanted to make a simple softie to match the outfits I’d made (the baby niece got these polka dot dungarees).

So, using this Little Softies Zoo Pattern (amazing, so well designed and written!) I made big and little elephants in the same fabrics.

Little Softies elephants

I was happier with how the baby elephant turned out. It really felt like I was short changing the toddler niece as I wasn’t happy with her dress or elephant and I was thrilled with her baby sister’s dungarees and elephant. Oh well, luckily she’s only two so she didn’t care!

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I was thrilled to get this message from the nieces’ mum a few days ago: “I spent a long time this morning trying to get a picture of the girls playing with their elephants but they move too much! I hadn’t even set it up, they absolutely love them!” (She really liked the dungarees and dress too!)

I didn’t have much time to make my present for homemade secret santa so I decided to stick with the Little Softies pattern, adding a giraffe to the mix. I made them out of lovely printed felt and did a bit more embroidery on them (as they were for an adult). I still realised that I’d essentially made a 29-year-old a baby toy, but she seemed to like them!

Felt elephant and giraffe

I only managed to snap a picture of these with the iphone after I’d given them, so sorry there’s not much detail.

So that’s the last of my pre-Christmas sewing all caught up! Homemade secret santa marked one year since my first sewing project since school (pyjama cat). It’s been really fun – I’ve loved learning so much and nothing beats the feeling of making a whole new thing out of fabric and thread.

I’m looking forward to sewing a lot more in 2013. I’m also hoping to get a lot more technically proficient and make many more wearable garments.

Making the felt elephant also ignited a new love – hand embroidery – so there might be a bit of that too!

Embroidered flower

I made this last week. The really rough petals and leaves are from before I got the embroidery hoop…

Did you make any Christmas presents this year? I wanted to make more but ran way out of time (I owe Mr V some pyjama shorts!). Next time I’ll start earlier, because I’ve missed my selfish sewing.

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DM Buttons in Soho

Attention all UK sewists! Do you love self-fabric buttons but hate making them? Or like me, have you never made them but suspect any attempt to do so might end up in a cloud of swearing fury?

Fear not!

Whipstitch overmost baby dungarees 09

Ack, should have got my buttonholes done professionally too!

When I had nearly finished my baby dungarees, I got to thinking about buttons. I loved how the lining contrasted with the outer fabric, but felt this didn’t happen as much at the top as at the bottom, so some fabric covered buttons might bring the whole thing together.

But, ugh, the lining fabric was this ridiculously fray-prone brushed cotton fabric and I did not exactly relish the thought of making fabric covered buttons out of it (despite this excellent tutorial from Gertie).

I also really wanted sew-through buttons instead of shank buttons, just for a personal preference. So I got to googling and it turns out that DM Buttons and Buttonholes in Soho does sew through buttons in the size I wanted for just 30p – and they do it by post for an extra £2.

Here’s a bit about the history of DM Buttons, by Carol Alayne at tailoringforwomen.com: “Once upon a time Soho was home to many specialist trades but it’s more than likely that DM Buttons is one of the few survivors, trading out of the same building it was established in nearly 100 years ago… The sole proprietor is David Miller who took over the business from his father, who took over from his great aunt.”

Whipstitch Overmost

I excitedly popped a swatch of fabric (I eyeballed how much and think I was a bit generous) and a cheque in the post. (Then…. I did more research and realised what I really wanted was eyelet buttons, not sew through buttons – as sew through buttons are inappropriate for such a fray-prone fabric, so I emailled DM Buttons and we had a conversation and in the end we decided to go with shanks buttons after all and I’m really happy with them. Because I’d already sent a cheque, David changed my order from four sew-through buttons to five shank buttons, which I think ended up about ten pence in my favour.)

(If I ever really really want eyelet buttons? I found that Harlequin do them by post for £1.20 a pop, as well as a dizzying array of other buttons and custom haberdashery!)

So was it a waste of money to pay someone else to do something I could DIY? No. In the end I paid £3.20 for five buttons, delivered to my door. That compares well with either buying buttons or buying a self-fabric button kit.

DM Buttons

I know there’s only three buttons here – I’d already sewn two on!

 I’m thrilled with how the buttons look and I know they’ll stand up to toddler wear and tear better than if I had made them myself. In future, I’d send any teeny buttons I wanted covered off to DM Buttons and probably attempt to do larger ones myself, if the fabric was right.

Additionally, if I still lived in London I would definitely think about getting them to do my buttonholes for me on any particularly precious items. Just look at how quickly they do them! This would be worth it for me if I had used particularly precious fabric and worked really hard on a garment and didn’t want to risk ruining it on the last step… But more than the convenience and quality of using a specialist button maker like DM Buttons, I am happy to pay a bit extra to use them just because I’m so happy they’re there. Skilled and specialist artisans should be treasured. I know my five buttons won’t be keeping them afloat (Carol’s article suggests it’s mainly the local theatre costume trade that does, along with film, opera and the tailoring trade), but I love that they still do buttons by post for home sewists like me.

How do you decide whether to DIY to support a craftsman? Is there a specialist trader near you that you love giving your money to?

Christmas bunting with lace trim

If you follow me on instagram, you’ll know that last week I started making bunting for our wedding (I’ll post about this at some point). Seven months (eeep!) is a long time to make the amount of bunting I need to make, but I knew that I’d get side tracked into other projects so I should give myself plenty of time.

Sure enough, I’d only sewn wedding bunting for two evenings when I got distracted by making some Christmas bunting as a present  for my mum’s birthday on Wednesday.

Without further ado… here it is!

She has a lovely mantelpiece to display this on, we don’t, so I had to stick it to the wall with masking tape.

I love it.

The birds are cut out from this Ikea fabric (£3 a metre!), and appliqued using my sewing machine. I outlined some of them in straight stitching or a zig zag stitch for emphasis. I was surprised at how many different birds were hiding in the fabric!

I used the same fabric on the back of the flags (because I have about a million metres of it. (I also used it here. )

I bought the two different fabrics for the front of the flags from the remnant bin at my local quilting shop. I picked them up a long long time ago but I think they were around £3-4 each for just under half a metre.

The red tape at the top is a red woven ribbon from the same quilting shop and the lace is from there too.

I attached a tiny bell (5p each) by hand to the bottom of each flag.

Even though it was only stuck up with masking tape, I loved how jolly it made our living room, so maybe for my next project I’ll get side tracked into making some Christmas bunting for us!

PS. I’m so sorry to bring Christmas to your blog reader so early! I just made this and love it so much I had to share!

Happy birthday apron – McCalls M5825

 

A long, long time ago, I bought an apron pattern because I figured it would be a good intro to sewing with patterns for a beginner like me, without having to worry about fit. But then, I never actually sewed it – I got on with quilt making and eventually made a few tops and dresses from patterns and discovered it wasn’t all that bad!

So the pattern sat there unused until Karen started her apronalong, which gave me just the kick I needed to dig out this pattern in order to make a present for my friend’s birthday. I’m so happy with the end result that I have to admit it will be a pang to give it away…

I used an Ikea checked fabric as my main fabric. It’s nice and tough for proper cooking, which my friend who will get this apron does a lot. I took the fabric shopping with me so I could hold it up against other fabrics to use with it, and eventually settled on one fat quarter of this lovely Kokka Wooded Forest fabric, which was pricey for a fat quarter at £4.50 but I think it really made this apron feel really special!

The pattern itself didn’t have a waistband, but I felt the two fabrics really benefited from a hit of red in the middle so I added one. This added quite a few headaches as to how to construct the whole thing, but I got there in the end! I think the instructions and construction of this dress would be nice and simple if I’d stuck to the waistband-less version.

The pockets and the bodice are both backed with denim (still left over from this skirt and this dress!), which I didn’t really take a picture of but you can see it peeking out here:

(Isn’t it weird how taking pictures on your dress form from certain angles can seem a little pervy?? – This one definitely did)

Best picture ever, though, right?

For the waist ties, the pattern calls for the normal “sew a tube, turn it inside out style”, but I totally messed mine up (cheap polyester plus badly applied interfacing plus hurried trying to turn it inside out). I was fed up of trying to turn stupid tubes inside out and I wanted to finish it up without going out for nice ribbon (plus the shops were shut), so I made my own ribbon out of some polka dot bias tape and the feather stitch on my machine. I love how this turned out! Talk about a happy accident.

I used the same feather stitch to finish my hem, which came out really bulky because of this fabric being decor weight. I also messed up and put the skirt on the apron wrong side out (so the less attractive side of the hem is on the outside). Oh well!

Thanks Karen for the kick I needed to finally make an apron!

How I made a button up pillow cover

My thoughts are with any readers currently hunkering down for a night with Sandy. I hope she’s kind and you and yours are all ok.

Although I’ve sewn all sorts of things this year, one thing that I’ve been delaying is sewing cushion covers. I don’t know why! I decided to take the Autumn Pinterest Challenge as the kick I needed to finally make an old pillow fit our new space a bit better.

So, inspired by this pin from Make It Love It…..

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and this one from Sew Much Ado….

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I made this!

The first pinspiration doesn’t actually have an opening behind the buttons (it’s a fake placket), so I read the second tutorial for a general idea of how to go about it and then winged it.

Here’s what I did:

(I apologise, this tutorial is a bit rubbish… as I was making everything up as I went along it’s a bit confusing to people who don’t live inside my brain… Maybe I’ll make another one with better pictures if I ever find another cushion I want to cover!)

1) First I ironed the old pillow cover so it was as straight as possible, then I held it up against the new fabric and drew directly around it with a fabric marker to create a template the for back of my pillow. I then added two squares extra all around for a seam allowance and cut it out.

2) I drew around the old pillow again for the front of the cover and again added the same seam allowance. Before I cut it out, I added some extra width to make button plackets with. To figure out how much extra I needed, I held my button up against the fabric to decide how wide I wanted the placket to be (five squares) so I added that, then an extra two squares seam allowance so I could turn it under the placket to enclose my raw edges (like a hem). I wanted a placket on both sides of the button opening to avoid puckering, so I doubled this figure (7 squares x 2 = 14 squares) and then added that extra width to the original cover size. (Still following?)

3) I cut out some iron on interfacing the total width of both my plackets (14 squares) and then ironed it onto the fabric, slightly off-centre on the pillow front. Then I cut down the middle of the interfacing and folded (and ironed) my two plackets into being.

See how this is five squares? The two squares seam allowance are tucked in the middle.

4) I top stitched down the edge of both sides of both plackets, then added button holes to the outer placket and hand sewed buttons in the same places on the inner placket.

4) Then I did my buttons up so the front cover was all in one piece and sewed the two sides of my cover together (right sides facing), then clipped the corners, turned it inside out and popped it on the pillow form.

This isn’t really clipped enough but I didn’t want really sharp corners.

5) Then, I fell in head over heels in love with it and spent the rest of the evening telling Mr V how much I liked our new pillow. He humoured me for about the first ten times I said this… But luckily my mum came over on Sunday and she always says things like “I can’t believe I gave birth to her! I’m so proud!” when I show her things I’ve made.

6) Then my mum went home and Mr V got really bored of me petting the pillow, so I spammed my blog with pictures of my new cushion:

(Hmm, should have plumped the sofa cushions before that last one)

(BUT, do you see how the cushion matches the cabinet curtain? Love.)

Budget breakdown – My fabric was an Ikea remnant leftover from the cabinet curtain so I’m calling that F-R-E-E (£7 per metre if we’re counting), the insert was from a cushion that we already owned, so also free (and looking at it, I suspect the person that made the original cushion made it for approximately 65p using this cheapie method as one side of the stitching is red), and even though I purchased the buttons ages ago for a different project, I never opened them so they get their full price of 99p for three. (If you suspect you’re local to me, email and I’ll tell you best source for lovely, cheap, wooden buttons).

So there we have it. What did you make for the Pinterest challenge?

With big thanks to Sherry from Young House Love, Katie from Bower Power, Carmel from Our Fifth House and Sarah from Ugly Duckling House for hosting the Pinterest Challenge!

Here are my other Pinterest Challenge posts, in case you missed them:

Summer 2011: I made a postcard hanger from an old frame

Fall 2011: Vintage printables in your shower

Spring 2012: Tiny house paper night light (free printable!)

Summer 2012: My first wearable garment – a halterneck denim dress

Instant French bistro

Hello blog friends! Here’s a quick and silly post for a Monday morning. I hope you had a lovely weekend.

My mum and step dad came over for Sunday lunch yesterday (Mr V roasted a chicken, yum). I wanted to lay the table with a table cloth, but we didn’t have one that fit our table, as in our old flat we had a smaller, square one.

But! I did have three metres of Ikea’s Berta Ruta fabric in my stash. So… I draped it over the table, cut it off (neatly along the line of checks….

et voilà! Instant French bistro dining for four. All it needed was a jug of red flowers to complete the scene.

I liked it so much that I intend to sew it up properly for future use. (I think I’ll round the corners and edge it with bias binding, but more of that when it’s done).

Hot pink floral sorbetto top

Hello, my pretty.

Are you bored of hearing about sorbetto tops I’ve made yet? Too bad, because I’m not bored of making them!

This one was actually made out of necessity though – I have lots of cardigans and jumpers (sweaters!) that just don’t work with any tops that I own, normally because the neckline or sleeves were wrong. I decided a nice wide necked sleeveless tank would fit the bill and luckily I knew just the pattern!

Front/Back – should’ve ironed it.

I won’t go into too many details. I omitted the pleat because this print was so busy I thought plain would be best. The fabric is some type of cotton (I think) and I made it much the same as my Sorbetto dress, but I only added a few inches to the bottom rather than, you know, a skirt.

With apologies for my dorky face and the silly mirror picture.

Buttt, I should have extended it in a much “flatter” way – I continued the curve at the bottom of the pattern and ended up making a weird sticky-outy-peplumy-kicky bit at the bottom that I don’t like, so I’ll need to remedy at some point (I won’t document this as I’m sure it’ll be a bit of a hack job!)

Yup, definitely should’ve ironed it. You can see my rookie dart addition in the bottom right picture.

I love the way this top looks from the inside! I french seamed the sides and did a small double fold hem. My bias facing is so much neater than it was on the sorbetto dress (see for yourself there!), so if I wanted to next time I could put the facing on the outside. I really trimmed the seam allowances (with pinking shears) on the neck facing in particular and it really made a difference, so I’ll be doing on the armholes too next time (tip from this great post ).

This dress fits differently to the two other versions of this pattern I’ve made (first one is here). It’s a lot roomier – there was so much excess at the armholes when I tried it on before binding that I added an armhole dart (that sounds complicated and like I know what I’m doing– I just pinched and pinned the excess while wearing it and then sewed along that line). I don’t think I cut inaccurately, so it’s probably just because this fabric highlighted the excess (it’s stiff-ish), but it seems a bit bigger all over. We’ll see.

This fabric cost me £5 at the beginning of the summer (I bought a metre and have scraps left for wedding bunting). I think the bias tape was about £2. The pattern was free.

I started printing the pattern (I tore my old one) at 1pm on Sunday, and by 5pm I was completely finished. I think about an hour of that was assembling the pattern (I did it slowly because I was watching the Sopranos at the same time) and I also stopped for lunch. I hope next time will be quicker still.