Wednesday, 29 January 2014

KCW day 3- the Charlie sweatshirt

OK, OK, it's not a sweatshirt.  It's more of a t-shirt, because it's made of cotton jersey and not sweatshirting.  But the pattern is Schwin and Schwin's Baby Charlie Sweatshirt, so that's what I'm calling this post.

Yesterday I drafted the pattern pieces in different sizes (the pattern is free and only in 6-12mo), and this one I've sewn up is a 12-18mo for Felix.  With a fluffy minky collar in some turquoise minky which arrived at the weekend from Plush Addict.  I have a teensy bit of raccoons left so maybe I'll make him another pair of jeans, just like the ones I made for Oscar.

On a slightly different note, I'm so pleased with how far my metre of raccoons has gone!  I bought it from Kitschy Coo way back in November when there was a Black Friday sale.  Amazing prints like this don't come cheap!  But I've made:
Sleeves and appliqué for t-shirt (2-3 years)

Bimaa t-shirt body (4-5 years)

Charlie sweatshirt x2 (6-12 mo, 12-18 mo)

Cuffs etc for jeans

Ad if I'd have been cutting it more carefully, instead of all different projects one at a time, I'm sure I could have been even more efficient.  I do have a lot of scraps left though and these raccoons make irresistable appliqués.  I may only have scraps left, but you haven't seen the last of these little guys yet!

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

KCW day 2: back to the drawing board

Okay, so there's no actual drawing board in the Pocket Fox household.  By 'drawing board', I mean 'dining table'.  I've spent a lot of time there today, tracing and cutting.  I haven't sewn anything, but I've definitely spent well over an hour on activities leading up to sewing clothes for children!

Last week this amazing blog post by Schwin and Schwin popped up in my inbox.  I've been looking for a baby's sweater-type pattern for a couple of weeks now, as I've been asked by a friend at work to make something for his newborn nephew.  I have a lot of patterns, but they're mostly either too girly and fancy or too plain and t-shirty.  He wanted something to be worn over a t-shirt or sleepsuit, so I was thrilled to see the Charlie sweatshirt pattern.  And did I mention it's a free pattern?  How brilliant is that?

So I printed it and cut it and made up a 6-12 mo which is the size the pattern comes in.  I made it up according to the pattern except for adding a bit to the length of the body and taking that length away from the waist ribbing.  It looked like the ribbing would be disproportionately long, otherwise (although in the pattern photo it looked perfect!).  I also drafted it down to a 0-3 months-ish sort of size and made that up too.  I kept the neck the same size, as babies have big heads and they don't like being dressed, so I figured a big neck hole would be good.  I also added some width to the neck ribbing for the little sweater, as I wanted to try a super soft, warm, minky collar, and minky doesn't have a lot of stretch.  At all.  As I've learned to my peril in the past.

So here were my results:

I love them!  The 6-12 just about fits Felix, though it's a bit on the short side.  Maybe because he's 14 months now.

So that brings me to today's work.  I've drafted the neck onto a slightly longer and narrower body pattern for 0-6 months right up to 18-24.  I wanted to make one for Felix to wear (so I needed a 12-18) and also one for the new baby.  While I had all my tracing stuff out it seemed sensible to do the other sizes too.  I've made the waist band less tall, and I've also made two sizes for my necks- one for ribbing and one for minky (or anything else with just a little bit of stretch).  Will I have a chance to sew Felix's tomorrow?  Who can say?  Watch this space!

Monday, 27 January 2014

Could these be the best baby jeans ever?

Yes.  The best I've ever seen, anyway.  What's not to like?

I've made a lot of tops for my boys, and keeps meaning to make some trousers.  But trousers didn't seem to have the same potential as tops for being interesting, and different, and using the funky prints I love.  So I've been collecting patterns for trousers, and reading blogs about other people making trousers, and so on... And finally decided to get on with it and make my own!

I finally found the inspiration to start with the Basic Pocket Pants pattern by Sew Liberated, from the book Growing Up Sew Liberated.  I was super excited to get this book for Christmas and it definitely lives up to my expectations.  The basic pocket pants are exciting because they use contrasting fabric for pocket binding, waistband and a huuuuuuge deep cuff.  So rather than plain denim like most trousers, I could use something gorgeous from my poor neglected stash of woven fabrics for the contrast.  Hooray!  I'm not a big fan of jeans on small children (because they're boring) so this pattern looked like a good option for me.

A year or more ago I bought 5 metres of black denim to make my own babywearing bag.  I needed a 5m continuous length to make the strap for my Onbag but only used about a metre, plus a bit off the width of the rest.  Leaving an almost complete width which was 4m or so long.  It was just crying out to be made into jeans.

So... I made up a pair of jeans for Oscar.  They were pretty good, but I knew I'd want to make some changes before making another pair.  The fit wasn't right for him.  They were far too long, for one thing.  I made them in age 5, but had to cut 3" off the bottom of the legs.  I think he would have been about 8 before they were short enough otherwise!  I also wanted to make a ribbing waistband.

So I took some ideas from the pocket pants (the contrast binding, the big cuffs, the decorative 'itch-free finish'), and drafted some pattern pieces from trousers which fit the boys well at the moment.  I added a back pocket.  I added a ribbing waistband with sewn-in elastic to prevent curling.  And the result was well worth the effort.  Have you ever seen cuter baby jeans than this?  I defy you to find me some!

It wasn't all plain sailing.  I added a bit of length at the back to fit over his cloth nappy, but I drew it into the pattern backwards.  So when sewn together it made a V shape instead  of a ^.  I had to cut it off level with the front.  Won't make that mistake again.  No more silly mistakes and no more drawing patterns on a Friday night after a long day at work!  Still, the jeans are a good fit- just a bit lower than I meant them to be at the back.

While we're on the subject of the back, look at this gorgeous little back pocket!  It goes half way to his knees, because his legs are so short.  But it looks great still.

The inside of the front pockets is lined with foxes, to match the binding etc.

I've also sewn up another trains pair:

And a pair which use a knit fabric for the binding and cuffs.

And my favourite feature of all:

Yes, I've finally found a use for the woven ribbon which matches the raccoons fabric.  I wish my own jeans looked like this!

It's the start of Kids' Clothes Week.  The idea is to sew kids' clothes for an hour a day, for a week.  So these are a good start (though I didn't sew them all in an hour!  All I had to do today was finish off the trains and raccoons).  It's a good start!

Thursday, 16 January 2014

What does the fox boy say?

Finally got round to sewing up my fox bimaa.  I have been promising Oscar he could be a fox boy for aaaages, and now he can!

The whole thing is made from cuddlesoft minky fabric from Plush Addict.  It's super soft and soooooo strokeable.  A bit polyester-y on the inside, though- if I was making this for the shop I would probably line it, but I can just make sure Oscar wears a t-shirt underneath.  Plush Addict do stock plush fabric lined with jersey, but not in orange (and it's not as soft as the minky- nowhere near!).

I made little sticking up ears with white on the front, and a cute little tail.  The photo doesn't do it justice- it's all bunched up here but trust me it's great!

This is a size 5-6 width-wise, but a 4-5 length-wise.  It really needs the extra width as the minky doesn't have as much stretch as a normal jersey fabric.  And it's quite thick too, which adds extra bulk, so it's still a slim fit.

I not going to lie- sewing with minky is not much fun.  It slips and slides and always seems to be stretching (or not) in just the wrong places.  But the end result is definitely worth it!

Thursday, 9 January 2014

Whitton Artists' Co-operative

I'm so excited to be selling some of my clothes!  Just before Christmas, a 'pop-up shop' opened just around the corner from me.  It's run by the lovely Sylvie from ArtboxUK who is a fellow teacher by trade.  She's formed the Whitton Artists' co-operative and when I spoke to her I was the 17th local artist/craftsperson to be exhibiting and selling in the shop.  For those who are familiar with Whitton, the shop is where Just Dancing used to be.

Sylvie is also starting to get workshops up and running in the shop, and I might be teaching crochet.  Eek!

Here are the things I currently have for sale:
Good luck to the Whitton Artists' co-operative, and do call in for a look if you're local!

Friday, 3 January 2014

My un-spiration and the battle against sludge

A lot of mums of boys (myself included) moan about the lack of choice for boys' clothes. It's hardly surprising. I went out and about yesterday and whilst on my travels, snapped a couple of pics of little boys' clothes sections in shops. Take a look:

Note to retailers- if you identify one of my pictures as being in one of your stores, then shame on you for your drab and unimaginative selection of boys' wear.   If you want me to remove the picture, contact me and I will.  Although presumably you are happy with these clothes so you might want to consider this as free advertising. ;-)

Anyway.  A couple of things to note.  Firstly, though you can't see it here, the size of the selection.  Row upon row of girls' clothes... And one for boys.
Secondly, the colours.  Let's list them.
Black.  Grey.  Sludgey brown.  Sludgey green.  Blue.  Red (mostly a dark and dirty sort of shade of red).  That's about it.
And finally, the prints.  Cars.  Tractors.  Army camouflage.  And... is that... an enormous skull?

Now I guess this is fashion and I'd be the first to admit I don't know much about it.  I know the big retailers do, and that they spend millions on market research.  I know that trained designers design these clothes, and I know that people buy these clothes.  I buy these clothes myself- I don't hate (all of) them, but to me the clothes I buy in the shops are mostly the best of a bad bunch.

Despite my lack of knowledge about fashion (and lack of interest for the most part), I know what I like for my children.  I like bright, bold prints and colours.  I know that kids are not little for long.  My boys will be wearing blue, black, grey and brown clothes (most likely) for almost their entire lives.  So why shouldn't they, at the ages of 1 and 4, wear yellow?  Or orange?  Or bright green?  Why shouldn't they wear funky animal prints?   And why shouldn't little girls wear these things, either?  Maybe they're too busy wearing pink and dressing up as princesses?

Or maybe the only reason children don't wear interesting clothes is because they're not out there, in the shops, for us to buy for them?  It makes me sad.  I know I'm very lucky to have the knowledge, the time and the resources to make my boys things like this:

Oh and what's this?  A whole rail of gorgeous, bright clothes!  Notice the contrast between this and the rails in the shops above (I don't mean the fact that this rail is clearly being used as a makeshift baby walker).  This rail is going to a new home tomorrow (exciting!).  I'll tell you more about it soon...

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Tutorial- fake layered sleeves

I love the look of fake layered-style sleeves on my boys' clothes.  I think they look so much nicer than a plain long-sleeved tee.

When I first started making t-shirts I had no idea how to get this effect with my normal sewing machine.  I don't have a serger, and my twin needle and I don't see eye to eye (I think the point of having a twin needle is to make two nice parallel lines. My twin needle, on the other hand, thinks its job is to do one nice line of stitching, and skip 9 out of every 10 stitches on the other line.  I have tried all sorts of things to solve this problem, but none of them work.  None of them.  So to punish it, I have put twin needle away in a box to languish sadly and reflect on the error of its ways).

So I made up a way to get the fake-layered look, and I'm pretty pleased with it.  The only thing I use which is not totally basic kit is my overcasting foot (Or 'magical brush foot' as I like to call it) but you could do this without- just substitute a zig-zag close to the edge for step 3.

Here's how it goes (with apologies to any metric/imperial purists- I think and work in both, depending on what suits a particular task or measurement.  So there are bits of both scattered throughout):

1. Take the normal pattern piece you were going to use to cut out your sleeves and decide where you want to cut it.  You want it to look like a short sleeve with a long sleeve underneath.  For an inset sleeve, I cut about 1 or 1.5" below the bit where the sleeve seam starts (for a toddler tee).  The joining and fake layering is going to mean you lose about an inch of sleeve length so you may want to add an inch to the lower sleeve to compensate for this.  I find most of the patterns I use seem to have super long sleeves anyway (or maybe my kids have short arms?  But I don't think so) so I just cut my pattern piece into two.  What you end up with is two pattern pieces for your sleeve, and two pieces of fabric like this:

2. Pin the pieces RST along the join.  I'm a very lazy pinner and these pieces are the same length, so I just pop in a pin at the middle and far end.

3. Use your overcasting foot and a wide zig-zag stitch to overcast the edge.  The stitch needs to be reasonably long, too, or your fabric will go all bunchy and wavy.  I use a 2.5 length here.

You end up with something like this.  See it's a little bit wavy?  That will flatten out nicely in the next step.

4. This the the tricky bit.  Actually it's not tricky at all, but it's the trickiest bit of the process.  Turn your sleeve right side up and roll the upper sleeve over the lower sleeve piece.  I do this by feel- I don't measure or anything.  Though you could, of course, but I find it works fine without.  You want about a cm (3/8") underneath, and you will be able to feel if it's nice and even as you fold and pin it.  If you look at the pic here you can just about see the line underneath too:

And this is what the back will look like:

5.  Now sew a line to secure the fold with a straight stitch, on the right side.  I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide for this bit, which gives the perfect width.  You need a long stitch (I use a 3.6) to give the line a bit of stretch.

6.  Stitch a second line, parallel to the one you just sewed.  Your aim is to get it to look like you used a serger or a twin needle to do this.  You probably want a gap of about 4mm or so, but I just use the side of one of the toes of my clear presser foot to guide me:

And that's it!  The back looks pretty tidy...

And the front looks fab.  The upper sleeve is loose a bit over the lower sleeve, giving the illusion of one shirt on top and another underneath.  Hooray!