Sunday 30 December 2012

Waste Not Want Not - Turning a Onesie into a Top

The tricky thing when buying gifts for babies is that they grow so mighty fast, and who knows just what size they will be in any given season.  Both of our girls were born at a decent size (Both around 8 pound 4 ounces), but then gained weight very slowly, making it almost impossible to guess ahead of time what size they will wear.

When each of our girls were born, our friends and family have been so generous with an abundance of beautiful clothing and other gifts.  Of the gifts we're given, there has always seemed to be a couple of items that I have particularly loved, either because of who gave them to us or because they are beautiful designer pieces that I would never go out and buy myself.
In Hannah's case, my absolute favourite clothing piece was this beautiful onesie, given to Hannah by my Uncle and Aunt.  It's made from a cotton floral fabric.  I love the colours, I love the bodice design and I love the buttons down the back.  Sadly, when Hannah was born last Christmas this little onesie was too big on her.  Then because she was slow to gain weight, and because last summer in Sydney was pretty mild, she never had a chance to wear it.  I kept it in her drawer with anticipation of it fitting this summer.  However, when I tried it on her on one of the first hot days of the summer it didn't fit ... well, it fit perfectly on the body, chest, top part, but she was just a little long for it, and I had to strain to get the clips done up at the bottom.  I almost cried!!

I couldn't bring myself to put it in the "too small" box, so I sat it on top of her dresser and looked at it longingly every time I went into her room.  After about 2 weeks of pondering, I realised that I could quite simply turn this into the cutest little top.  Paired with a little pair of ruffle-bottom shorts (a gift from her Grandma for Christmas), I think this is just a gorgeous little summer outfit.  I'm so glad I did it, 'cause it's just too cute to waste.
Since then I've found another onesie in a similar situation - gorgeous little outfit, but too short.  This was also a gift from a lovely friend, so I don't want to waste it.  I think this would work with pretty much any onesie that you want / need to transform into a top, so I thought I'd share how I did this very simple transformation using this second onesie in case anyone is in the same boat!

What you need:
- A cute onesie that needs transforming
- Scissors
- Coordinating bias tape or maybe some lace (if it's too short to hem)
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread

How to do it:
1. Lay out your onesie on a flat surface.  Try to get it sitting as flat as possible.
2. Cut from one side to the other, making sure you cut only just above the clips to give you maximum length.  I did the cut free-hand but it was pretty nerve-racking, so it might be a good idea to use a pencil to draw a line to cut along.
3.  If you have enough length, simply turn the raw edge over 1/4" and press, then turn another 1/4" and pin.  Then sew around the hem.

In this one, the onesie was lined, so I simply hemmed both the lining, and the outer fabric pieces separately.  I made the hem on the lining slightly bigger than 1/4" so that I could be sure the outer fabric would sit slightly lower than the lining.

4.  If you need as much length as possible to make sure it's long enough for your munchkin (as with my floral one) find a coordinating bias tape, then fold the tape in half and press.  Sandwich the raw edge of the onesie into the middle of the bias tape, pin and top-stitch the bias tape in place.  If you need to add a little length, you could use a piece of lace joined to the bottom to make it a little longer.

All done.

This is a really simple transformation, but so rewarding.  I hate to waste clothing, especially when it's been lovingly chosen as a gift, and this was the perfect answer to that predicament for me! 

Wednesday 26 December 2012

My baby is 1!

Hannah's birthday was 2 days before Christmas, yep the 23rd.  I hardly had time to put the birthday party left-overs away before Christmas was here and it's gone now too.  Where does all the time go??

Anyway, this Mummy has not enjoyed admitting the fact that my baby is now 1 year old.  And to top it off, the week before her birthday she went from cruising the furniture and taking the occasional step, to full-blown walking.  This left Mummy a little shell-shocked, but she does look so totally adorable when she's walking, so I guess I'll cope!  The cuteness is topped off by the fact that she's a petite little thing, and still has hardly any hair, so she really does look too tiny to walk ... cute factor to the max!!

To help Mummy cope with the birthday and the walking, what better than to put all that emotional energy into making a little birthday dress for the birthday girl?  I used this tutorial, but instead of doing the stripe match-up thing (which I also love) I used this cute spotty fabric, and just cut a 1 piece bodice-front on the fold.  The best thing about this fabric was that I got it off the "clearance table" at Spotlight a few months back for $4 per metre.  Gotta love a cute and inexpensive little birthday dress.

Anyway, in this project I learned how to make a lined bodice (never done that before), and how to use piping.  I was pretty happy with my attempt, but I will admit that I made the bodice twice ... the first time I forgot to add seam allowance when tracing a T-shirt to make a pattern ... yeah, the poor girl could barely breathe when trying it on, and almost needed to be cut out of it ... was a little small ... oops!  So I made a new one, and it fits pretty well.  She looks so cute toddling around in this little darling of a dress.

Then when Bethany saw Hannah's new party dress, she announced that she needed a new dress for Hannah's birthday too, and it should be the SAME!  Was a good thing I bought 2 metres of this fabric ... phew!
Now I really don't love the matchy, matchy, sisters in matching dresses thing all that much.  But I'm also aware that poor Bethany is feeling a little fragile at the moment with so much attention on all the new tricks Hannah is learning, then with Hannah's birthday as well, and all at the same time as pre-school finishing and all her other activities finishing or changing as she prepares to start Big School in February.  So I decided that it would really do no harm to give them matching dresses, and help Bethany to feel special too.  To keep Mummy happy though, I decided it would be a matching, but not TOTALLY matching dress.  I saw this tutorial recently, and decided to give it a go.  I found a cute white fabric, complete with ready-made pin-tucks, ruffles and lace, so all I had to do was decide which direction to cut it in, and try to get the details matching on the front and back of the bodice, and centred too!  Yay for pre-embelished fabrics!

This was probably the trickiest dress I've made (in terms of sewing techniques) to date.  But having said that, it really only took about 1.5 hours including making a bodice pattern by tracing a T-shirt, cutting out the fabric and sewing.  Not bad really.  This one taught me to do a curved bodice, a totally different lined bodice technique and gathered straps / cap-sleeves.  I really love it, and Bethany just looks so beautiful and grown up.

Oh, and do you like Bethany's new modeling pose ... boy that munchkin can be hilarious ... every time we ask her to pose for a photo now, this is what we get with her ankles crossed and hip stuck out ... oh, and the dress is just perfectly matched with those pink gumboots she decided to wear so she could jump in puddles as we watered our new plants!  Funny girl!  Love her!!
I would love to see any pics of other people's matching, but not totally matching sister outfits!!

Then, of course came the cake.  Now with the silly season upon us, and basically no time (I had 1 evening to get the cake decorated), I decided I wouldn't try to be overly creative and come up with my own design, as this was sure to fail as I pushed to get the cake done quickly.  Instead I went with a tried and true design by my amazing friend Jo, as per her book Fondant Fun (available here)!  My absolute fave are the Owl cupcakes ... so simple, yet so effective.

So that's how Mummy distracted herself from celebrated Hannah's 1st brithday!  Happy birthday to my sweet, cheeky, clever and ever-so-cute Hannah! xx

Thursday 29 November 2012

Santa Sack Party Favour Bags

We've been helping to arrange a regular BBQ dinner at our church as a social activity for those with young families, and last weekend was the last one for the year.  Even though it's still only November, hubby and I decided that perhaps we should make this one feel a bit Chrismassy.

My hubby came home one day and suggested that "we" go to Spotlight and get some "red material" so that "we" could make some Santa Sack lolly bags for the kids.  After I had a little chuckle, I responded that "I" would be happy to go and get the fabric and "I" would be happy to make the bags.  Still, it was his idea, and he organised the rest of the evening, so I s'pose he can have some credit too!  Love you babe!!

Anyway, I went and bought red felt by the metre (instead of the small craft felt squares).  I was surprised at how cost effective this was.  I also bought some ribbon, and some gold-coloured fine cord.
These are super quick to make, and I thought I would share how I did it, in case you're looking for a cute Christmas party favour this year.....
Here's what you need: (I needed 30 party favours)
- 1 metre red felt
- About 10 metres of white ribbon (about 1" wide)
- Thread
- Sewing Machine
- Scissors or cutting mat and rotary cutter

How to make them:
1.  Lay out the felt and cut 30 rectangles 5" x 10"

2. Grab the roll of ribbon.  Line the ribbon up along one of the short edges of the first felt rectangle.  I found that with the felt, there was really no need to pin, as the ribbon just stayed put nicely enough as I sewed.  Sew about 2-3 millimetres from the edge of the ribbon along the very edge of the rectangle .... like so ...
3.  To save a huge amount of time, and a huge amount of thread-cutting, when you have finished the row of stitching, grab your next felt rectangle and line it's short side up right next to the one you've just sewn, then keep sewing straight on to it.  Be careful not to overlap the rectangles.  Continue this process until you have sewn ribbon to one end of each rectangle.  You should now have a long line of felt rectangles, that are joined by the ribbon - kinda reminded me of some kind of felt bunting .... hmmmm Christmas decoration idea maybe??

4. Now, to help the ribbon sit better, I went back to the first rectangle, and sewed down the other side of the ribbon, about 2-3 millimetres from the edge, and continued this through all of the rectangles.

5.  Repeats steps 2-5 on the other short side of the rectangles.  You should now have 30 rectangles that have ribbon on each short end.

6. Now, with your scissors, cut each rectangle apart by snipping the ribbon in between.

7.  Fold a rectangle in half, right sides together, and line up the 2 ribbon sides evenly, then sew down one open side.

8.  When you get to the bottom, grab the next rectangle, and fold it right sides together, and butt it right up next to the side you just finished, and continue sewing into this next one.  Keep going until you've sewn one side of each rectangle, then trim them all apart (Just a little warning in case you're new to sewing ... Whilst joining them all together like this is a huge time-saver, you need to be careful not to let your machine do more than 1-2 stitches in between each rectangle.  A sewing machine is not like an overlocker (serger) and it's easy to get a "cotton-lock" tangle of nightmares if you sew through nothing for more than a stitch or 2).

9.  Repeat Step 8 for the other open side.

10.  Turn your bags out the right way, then fill with goodies, and tie a 12" length of the gold cord around it in a bow to keep everything inside and give it that "sack" look.
And there you go ... super quick and easy Santa-sack party favour bags!!

Monday 26 November 2012

Somewhere, over the rainbow ...

It's been a few weeks since my last post, and that's not because I haven't been crafting, it's just that we have had a break away to recharge the batteries, then returned to find that the world has suddenly become all Christmas-focussed, and I feel like I've been catching my breath ever since ... anyone else feel like that at this time of year?

Anyway, my beautiful niece had her 5th birthday party a couple of weekends ago, and what better way to celebrate than to have a rainbow party.  As she gave Bethany the invitation to her party, she made it very clear that Bethany was to come dressed in "rainbow clothes".  Well, when given a challenge like that this Mummy just can't help herself ... I just had to think of something to make.

I did a bit of an online search and found this gorgeous Lollipop dress.  I haven't sewn much with knit fabrics yet, and really want to give it a good hot go.  I also loved that it seemed like a really quick project.   So off I went in search of some "rainbow" knit fabric to make this little beauty.  I went to my local fabric store, but they had absolutely nothing in rainbow-y style in knit fabrics.  (PLEASE can anyone give me details of a good online shop or a local (Sydney, Australia) shop that sells good quality knit fabrics?)  Very disheartened and with absolutely no idea what I would do instead, I just started to wander aimlessly around the store.  I had a look at some cotton fabrics and some poly-cottons, which both had cute rainbow stripy or spotty designs, but I really wasn't feelin' the love.

Then I came across something I've not paid much attention to before, except for it's cute name ... Seersucker ... love that word!!  Where does that name come from anyway?  I've never sewn with it before, and always thought it was a little dorky actually, but I fell instantly in love with this rainbow stripe seersucker, and this rainbow shirt started to come to fruition.  I vaguely remembered a tutorial I had seen at one of my favourite kiddy clothes blogs.  It's called the Olivia Top, and I had wanted to try it sometime and had saved it on my desktop in my craft to-do file. So I bought the seersucker, and off home I went.
Now, does anyone else find it really difficult to leave some nice, new, untouched fabric alone after bringing it home, especially with a project in mind?  Well I do, and despite my particularly hectic week, I cut into the fabric and got started that very night.  In fact I got started AND finished that night, and definitely stayed up way past my bedtime, but it was so worth it.  I LOVE this top....and thankfully so does Bethany, especially when it was coupled with some rainbow nail-polish.  I learned a few new sewing techniques in this one too which was exciting ... I learned to make bias tape (for the neckline), I learned to make a bodice pattern by tracing a T-shirt, I learned to make gathered sleeves (actually these were my first EVER sleeves at all) and I learned to do a button-front.  Boy it was fun to make.
And I'm glad it was fun, 'cause my sister-in-law has politely suggested this rainbow top would make a great Christmas gift for my 2 nieces!!  Yay!

Oh, and I AM going to try the Lollipop dress out too sometime this summer ... just have to find the perfect knit fabric first!!

Saturday 27 October 2012

Little Birdie Pinafore - my first Tutorial Exchange!!

Just think ... free designer fabric and an invitation to design something, make a tutorial and share it with the blogging world ... pretty much my idea of heaven these days!

First off, I just need to say a massive Aussie thank you to Kym at Fabric Fascination and Totally Tutorials for selecting me as one of 5 bloggers who were able to choose some designer fabrics in exchange for a free blog tutorial.  The fabric bundle I chose was the Valori Wells Nest fabrics, which came with a 1/2 yard of the Paisley, and a 1/2 yard of the Birds.   The moment I saw these fabrics online my creative juices started going overtime, and I fluctuated with ideas from something to go in the girl's rooms, to clothing, to bags and back again.  Luckily, living in Australia I had a bit of time to think and ponder before my fabric arrived this week.  When I saw and touched and measured, my mind was made up.  I decided on a little pinafore dress for Hannah, and some accessories to go with it.  I kind of made a few parts up as I went along to try and showcase the fabric as best I could, and the accessories were definitely an afterthought, but I just went a little crazy over this fabric.

I first designed this little pinafore dress a few weeks ago when my Mum and I took Bethany, Hannah and my Niece to see a local kid-entertainment production of The Wizard of Oz.  The organisers suggested that kids could dress up for the show, and my sister-in-law drew my attention to the fact that this could mean sewing with gingham ... lots of gingham ... which as we know, is one of my favourite things.  So I went all Dorothy, and made 3 little blue gingham Dorothy pinafores ... (stay tuned for a blog some time soon about a Dorothy costume refashion into a skirt that's a bit more wearable for a 4-year-old).

Anyway, Hannah just looked so adorable in this design, especially the little cross-over straps, and when I saw this fabric, I just knew this would be such a cute dress for this munchkin.  

Do you wanna make one too?  Here's the instructions, and I'm so happy for anyone to make these little dresses for personal use, as gifts, or even to sell, but as always, please give credit back to me and my blog.  I'd love to see photos if anyone makes one too ... feel free to email to me!

This tutorial is based on Hannah's size - She's 10 months old, but pretty petite, so this is probably about a 6 month size.  I have indicated how you can adjust this pattern to fit any size.

Here's what you'll need:

- About a yard (or a little under a metre) of fabric (or 2 fabrics if you want to have contrasting fabrics like this)
- 2 buttons, or coverable buttons and button-covering tool like I've used to make matching buttons
- 1" wide elastic
- Sewing Machine
- Cotton
- Scissors or rotary cutter and mat

Fabric A:
- Skirt - 2 rectangles, 16 1/2" x 8" (or measure waist circumference x desired length)
- Bib - 2 squares, 6" x 6" (or measure from waist to mid-chest and cut squares this size)
- Straps - 2 rectangles, 14" x 2 1/2" (or measure from back of hip across back and over shoulder to opposite chest, and cut straps this length x 2 1/2")

Fabric B:
- Wasitband - 1 rectangle, 16 1/2" x 2 3/4" (or waist circumference x 2 3/4")
                    - 1 rectangle, 8 1/4" x 2 3/4" (or 1/2 waist circumference x 2 3/4")
- Bottom Band - 2 rectangles, 16 1/2" x 4" (or waist circumference x 4")

Elastic - Cut a 8 1/4" length (or 1/2 waist circumference)

This is what you should have:

Now, to sew it ...

1.  The back of the skirt.  Take one of the Fabric A large rectangles (16 1/2" x 8"), and the Fabric B 16 1/2" x 2 3/4" rectangle (waistband).  Iron the waistband piece in half long ways.  Line up both pieces along their long edge, right sides together and sew using 1/4" seam.  Remember, if you have a directional fabric like my birds, you want to make sure you sew it the right way, so that when the waistband is flipped up, it's the right way up .... I'm not openly admitting that I had to unpick and do it again ... just a suggestion!!!  LOL!)  Then open out this seam and iron flat.

2. On the raw edge of the waistband, fold over and iron a 1/4", then flip the waistband over to the wrong side of the Fabric A piece and pin along with the 1/4" section folded in so you don't see any raw edges.  Try to line it up so it just covers the last row of sewing my a millimetre or so.

Then flip back over the right side of the skirt, and sew along just in the ditch from the original seam, trying to get all your stitches in the ditch so that they don't show.  I went really slowly, and kept checking the back as I went to make sure the back was being caught in.  Now it should look like this on the back:

3.  Thread your elastic through the waistband using a safety pin.  When the end of the elastic lines up with the edge of the waist band, sew it in place about 1/8" from the edge, then continue threading your elastic through to the other end of the waistband.  When it's through, sew that end too, about 1/8" from the edge.  These stitches will be covered up later by the side seams, but just hold the elastic in place for now.  The back of the skirt is done, and should look something like this:

4. Now for the front of the skirt.  Take your other large Fabric A rectangle (16 1/2" x 8") and your other Fabric B wasitband piece (8  1/4" x 2 3/4").  Iron the wasitband piece in half long ways.  We're not putting elastic in the front so that the wasitband sits nice and flat, but we still want our skirt to gather up in the same way the back has, so we need to do some gathering.

Set your machine to it's longest stitch ... on mine, it's No 6.

Then sew a straight line along the long edge of the Fabric A skirt piece, about 1/4" from the edge.  Don't backstitch at the ends, or you won't be able to pull it through.  As this is on the longest stitch, it may start to gather a little by itself as you sew, and that's fine.  Then lay your piece on the table, and pull EITHER the back or the front thread at each end to gather the skirt up.  Keep pulling until the top of the skirt piece is the same length as your waistband piece, but try to be gentle so you don't break the thread.  Spread the gathers out evenly, then pin the skirt piece to the waistband piece, right sides together.  I find it easier to pin one end, then the other, then add pins along the middle to keep it all together.
Sew the waist band to the skirt piece (put the stitch length back to your normal length first!!).  Open the seam and press flat.  Then, same as the back of the skirt, turn the raw edge of the wasitband over 1/4" and iron.  Then flip the wasitband over to the back and pin just covering the last row of stitching.  Turn back over to the front and sew in the ditch to hide your stitches, but making sure you catch the hem at the back.

Now you've got both your skirt pieces, and that's the trickiest bit done ... great job!

5.  Put your skirt pieces right sides together, pin the side seams and sew 1/4" seams down each side.  Try really hard to line your wasitbands up perfectly, as this just looks so much better on the finished product.  Overlock (serge) or zigzag the raw edges to stop fraying. 

6.  Now to put the band of Fabric B on the bottom of the skirt.  You could totally just hem the skirt and leave it a little shorter (like I did with the Dorothy dresses), or you can add the band.  I think the band is a nice way to incorporate your contrasting fabric.

Take your two band pieces of Fabric B (4" x 16 1/2" pieces), and sew them together with a 1/4" seam at one of the short ends to make 1 long strip.  Iron out the seam, and iron the whole piece in half long ways to make a crease.  Open it up, and pin to the skirt, right sides together all the way around, like this.  Try to line the ends up with one of the side seams, and pin the raw edges of the band pieces together at the end of the round.

Sew around the band piece using 1/4" seam and when you get to the end, sew straight down the ends to close off the band piece.
As with the waistbands, fold over and iron 1/4" along the raw edge, flip the band over to the back and pin, just covering the first row of stitching.  Flip back to the right side, and sew in the ditch to hide your stitches, catching the back of the hem as you go.

Then do a little happy dance at having finished the skirt piece, and maybe a nice cuppa and a chocolate biscuit, then move on to the bib! (Ok, this step is totally optional, but definitely makes the whole process much more fun!)

7.  Take your 2 Fabric A 6" squares, and sew right sides together around 3 sides (using 1/4" seam).  Snip the corners off and turn it through, trying to get those top corners nice and pointy, give it a good iron, then topstitch around the same 3 sides about 1/8" from the edge.

8. Measure your buttons and do a buttonhole on each of the top corners long enough for the buttons.

9.  With right side out, fold the bottom raw edge up 1/4" and iron it well.  Then pin the bib, with those raw edges sandwiched on the inside, to the waistband of the skirt.  I just eye-balled it to get it in the middle.  At this point, it looks better to sew 2 rows, as if topstitching on the front of the waist band 1/8" from each side.  It also looks neater to go along the full length of the waistband, and not just the bib.
Now it looks like this:

10.  Take your 2 strap Fabric A pieces.  Fold in half length ways, and sew right sides together 1/4" down the length to make 2 long tubes.  Use a safety-pin to turn the tubes through to the right side, then iron flat.  Fold the ends into the tube and iron flat, then top-stitch to close the ends of the tubes.  They should look like this: 

11. Turn the skirt inside-out, and lay on the table with the back elastic waistband up.  Measure or eye-ball approximately 1 1/2" from the side of the elastic waistband on each side and pin the strap in place.  I like to attach the strap on an angle like in the pic below so that when the straps are crossed over they sit nicely.  Sew across the strap at the top and bottom of the waistband, and backstitch for extra strength.  The ruffled waistband with the elastic helps to hide the stitches, so don't worry too much about them showing, but do try and use a cotton colour that will blend in.

12.  All that's left is to do is attach buttons to the end of the straps.  I have a thing for covered buttons at the moment, and bought a kit in bulk, so I decided to make buttons to match the beautiful paisley fabric.


And, as a stroke of luck, I managed to get my mini-model to cooperate with modeling the back of her new dress.  A pale pink onesie underneath just looks so cute I think.

But of course, I couldn't stop there.  I decided to try my hand at some headbands.  The first one I made (with the bow) is actually a little small, but would probably fit a new-born.  Maybe one day I'll learn to measure before sewing rather than the other way around!!  So Hannah got a cute little bird fabric one.  Bethany, who was a little jealous that all of "Mummy's special fabric" was being used on projects for Hannah, decided she'd like a bird headband, with a paisley heart, so that one's hers.

I was planning to do a tutorial on the headbands, which I just made up based on ones I've seen on kids around the place, but when I googled them, there are already lots of tutorials out there like this one and this one.  The only difference is that I kept my headbands narrow, and the elastic section is the same width as the headband.  No point re-inventing the wheel with a new tutorial on these. 

Then, with my excitement over this fabric still spilling-over, I decided to have a go at a shoe pattern I saw recently on the Crazy Little Projects blog.  They turned out really cute, but did test this beginner sewer's brain a little.  I love them though, and think they just set off the whole outfit.

One thing that I've realised through this tutorial exchange experience is just how expensive fabrics in Australia are ... I've had a look at the Fabric Fascination shop here and this beautiful fabric bundle is amazingly priced even with the shipping fee, which is very reasonable.  I'm actually amazed by the fact that I can buy beautiful designer fabrics, pay shipping costs to Australia, and still be way ahead than buying fabric here.  I think I'm about to become an online fabric shopping addict ... sorry Aussie suppliers! Plus, how much easier is it to shop online than drag 2 munchkins to the fabric shop, and if it also saves money, it's hard to go past!

Anyhow, a huge thanks again to Kym and Fabric Fascination.  I've loved every minute of my first tutorial exchange, and can't wait to see what the other bloggers have made with their fabrics.