Saturday 23 February 2013

Nap Time Knit Dress

I have to admit that I've been a little afraid of knit fabrics.  I'm always confused by which one to buy, which needle to use, to zig-zag or straight stitch etc etc.  But a few weekends ago, in a moment of insanity bravery, I decided I'd give it a go.  I had some pink knit fabric left over from another project, and thought I'd have a go at designing and making a little drop-waisted dress for Hannah.  It was one of those VERY unplanned projects, that I decided to do just after I put Hannah down for her nap, and just kind of made up as I went along.  I chanced some pics along the way just in case it worked out well enough to share, so there's a little tutorial for this dress here too.  I'll tell you how I made it, but also how I would do it differently next time, now that I've learned a little more about knit-fabric sewing.

Here's some general tips I've learned for knit-fabric sewing:
- It's best to use a ball-point needle, and good quality thread.  The ball-point needles push between the knit fibres rather than punching a hole, thereby decreasing the chance of laddering or holes in the fabric (thanks Mum!!)
- For neckline / arm-hole binding you can use the same knit fabric rather than finding a matching rib fabric, but either way cut in the direction of the maximum stretch, then cut your binding piece slightly smaller than the neckline / arm hole and stretch the binding as you sew.  It sits much nicer that way.
- You can zig-zag if you want to get the most stretch you can out of each seam, but to be honest, I don't love the way zig-zag stitch looks, and I haven't had too much trouble with broken stitches or anything just using a normal straight-stitch.
- Oh, and all horrible-ness can easily be covered up by a piece of ribbon ... yeah that cute waist-ribbon wasn't in the initial design I had in mind!!  More about that below ... 

Here's what you need:
- A bodice pattern, or you can just trace one from a T-shirt that fits.  I learned that trick here, and love that I can get a pattern piece together so quickly and easily and be sure it will fit.
- Knit fabric - about 1/2 metre would be plenty for this little dress.
- Coordinating thread
- Ribbon for the waist
- Sewing machine
- Scissors, rotary cutter, cutting mat

The Steps:
1.  Make a pattern... I had a basic bodice pattern drawn up from when I made Hannah's birthday dress, so I laid this on a piece of brown paper, then traced around it, adding a seam allowance and lengthening to make the top length that I wanted.  (As Hannah was asleep at the time, I just kinda guessed, but it would help to measure down from your munchkin's armpit to where you want the top to end).  Once you have drawn up your pattern and cut it out, cut the fabric on the fold as indicated on your pattern for the front and back pieces.

2.  Sew the shoulder seams and side seams (with fabric right-sides together), then turn right-sides out.

Note: If I did this again, I probably would not sew the side seams until I had completed the bias-tape along the arm-holes.  This little arm holes were mighty fiddly having already been joined by the side-seam.  

3.  Now to make some bias-tape for the neckline and arm holes, use some more of your knit fabric and cut long strips (as long as you can) along the direct of the stretch.  I did mine 2" wide.    

4.  Next iron the strips in half long-ways, then fold each side in to the centre and iron, so it looks like this:

5. Now, this was the trickiest part for me.  I basically sandwiched the edge of each arm hole, and the neckline in between the bias-tape so no raw edges were showing, pinned it to hold it in place, then sewed very carefully about 1/8" from the edge of the bias-tape all the way around.  When I got the to end of the arm hole or neckline, I cut the rest of the bias tape off, leaving about 1/2".  Tucked the edge under and sewed it down.

Note: If I did this again, I would make sure I stretched my bias-tape a lot more as I sewed to draw the neckline in a bit ... the neckline on Hannah's dress is a little big, and drops off her shoulders while she plays, which is annoying ... well she doesn't seem to care, but it's annoying for Mummy to watch!

6. Next I measured the width of the waist (the total circumference that is), and multiplied it by 1 1/2.  So, my dress's waist circumference was 20".  Multiply this by 1 1/2 = 30".  This figure (30") is the width of the skirt piece.  So, cut a rectangle which is skirt width (30") x 8" (which was Hannah's skirt length).  You can always make it longer or shorter depending on your munchkin.

Next I ironed one of the long sides under 1/2" and hemmed it (I find it much easier to hem skirt pieces before they're joined to bodice pieces).  Then, folded the rectangle in half (right sides together) and sewed a seam to join it into a skirt piece.

7.  Now I sewed a row of stitching on the loosest stitch setting (on my machine it's no. 6), about 1/4" from the edge, right along the raw side of the skirt piece.  Once your row of stitching is sewn, pull EITHER the top or bottom thread to gather the skirt piece up.  

Fiddle around with the gathers to make them sit evenly, and gather to fit the bodice piece like this:

8.  Pin the skirt and bodice pieces (right sides together) like this, then sew carefully around approximately 1/2" from the edge.
So, at this stage for me, my machine decided to hate me and kept missing stitches and catching gathers that I didn't mean to catch.  I found out later than I was using the wrong needle.  I had a universal needle on my machine and should have been using a ballpoint.  The knit-fabric sewing I've done since then with a ballpoint needle has worked out much better!  Anyway, after I re-did this seam about a gazillion times, and I got it to a reasonably acceptable state, I was so frustrated I decided to cover it up with a cute little ribbon waistband.  So much cuter, and I never have to look at that horrid seam again!

9.  So for the ribbon waist band, I found a coordinating piece of ribbon, pinned it over the horrid seam, and top-stitched it in place both around the top and bottom of the ribbon, as close to the edge of the ribbon as I could go.  I then took a little scrap of ribbon, folded both ends under, and secured it with another tiny piece of ribbon wrapped around the middle and sewn down.  Then simply sewed this in place off-centre on the front.  

This little waistband is now my favourite part of this dress.  Funny how the mistakes / negatives can lead to better stuff, huh ... kinda like life ...hmmmm ...deep!!  Ha ha!

And here's the finished product ... super-cute!

Love those chubby little knees!

OK, so I think I'm on my way to being a knit-fabric sewing convert.  Now to source some good knits in Australia ... my local fabric store has pretty much nothing other than plain colours, especially for fun kid clothes.  Any tips on good knit fabric suppliers ... Australia or overseas, online or shops??

Friday 15 February 2013

I made a Geranium Dress ... well a mini one anyway!

So, on lots of the blogs I follow, there has been a huge interest in the Washi Dress by Rae of Made By Rae.  This is a Mummy dress, rather than a munchkin dress.  I think it's cute, and Rae now sells patterns for it.  I've been pondering it, not sure if the style would suit me, or if I would even be brave enough to try making something for myself, but I love how there's lots of variations available with the pattern from a top to a maxi dress to added sleeves and lots more.  

Anyway, recently Rae released a free pattern online for a Little Geranium Dress, which is basically the baby version of the Washi dress.  I couldn't resist giving it a try, and here's how it turned out.  
Now this is a small pattern, but Hannah's pretty small, so it fits her and I cut it off a bit shorter so it's actually a top rather than a dress ... too cute, huh! (oh, and after three Somewhere Over the Rainbow tops, and this little Geranium Dress, I think I'll retire what's left of this fabric!  I've had enough of it now ... too much of a good thing, and all that!)
So, now I'm really tempted to give the Washi a try for me.  We'll see if I can find the perfect fabric, and enough guts to give it a go.

Oh, and I couldn't resist showing this little back view of Hannah ... she's finally starting to grow some hair!!!!

Tuesday 12 February 2013

A heart outfit for Valentines Day ... and some more gorgeous fabric to play with!

Well, first thing's first with this post ... a huge thanks to Abakhan Fabrics who sent me this beautiful Hearts and Dots fabric to use for a Valentines Day tutorial, and thanks also to Totally Tutorials for hosting another awesome tutorial exchange, and for picking me to participate in this one.  Who doesn't love some free fabric in exchange for a chance to play around with a new design!?!... especially when the fabric is as beautiful to sew with as this one!

Here in Sydney, Valentines Day is in summer, and I particularly love that day 'cause it's also my birthday.  Anyway, I thought a summery little outfit was in order for this one, and I've been toying with some designs for shorts for a few months.  I'm finding that at the level I'm at with my sewing, I can follow instructions well, but don't really understand the piecing together process properly.  To try and improve on this, I decided to design and make a few articles of clothing for the girls without patterns or tutorials to help me ... just a feel-as-I-go type thing.  The first thing I made was a pair of lined shorts for Bethany with a ruffled top.  This first pair (see some pics below) just have plain hemmed bottoms.  So I thought this tutorial exchange would be the perfect opportunity to have a go at a pair of shorts with a turned up cuff.  I have never made anything like this before, but the idea came from a pair of shorts Bethany had as a toddler.  They're yellow with a beautiful floral fabric lining, so when the cuffs are turned up the floral fabric can be seen.  I love these little shorts ... they should fit Hannah soon too I think which will be great! (That's the awesome part of having two girls ... the re-wearing of all the cute stuff!!)

I decided to make fully lined shorts because, well ... I have no overlocker!!!! (well, not yet anyway ...  I've been not-very-subtly hinting to my hubby that I would really appreciate one for my birthday ... we'll just have to wait and see I guess!)  Anyway, the great part about making the shorts lined is that you can hide all of those unsightly seams that cause fraying and just general "blerk"!!  I know you can zig-zag or using pinking shears to reduce fraying on raw edges, but I just find that no amount of this stops the dreaded fraying, and it's so frustrating for something you've made lovingly to end up looking so yuck!

I also decided to add a ruffle top to the waist-band, 'cause it's just cute!! ... so much cuter than a plain waist-band I reckon, and really no more tricky!

Anyway, do you like them?  Wanna make some of your own?  Here's how to do it ....

What you need:
- 1/2 yard of main fabric
- 1/2 yard of lining fabric (mine is just a plain red cotton)
- Coordinating cotton
- 2 coordinating buttons
- 1/4" elastic
- Sewing Machine, scissors etc
The How To:
1. Make a pattern - I used the method of tracing an existing pair of shorts ... I originally learned this method here, when I made these shorts.  For this pattern, instead of making 2 pattern pieces (front and back), I made 1 piece.  The shorts are cut on the fold, so there is no side-seam, just a crease.  It sits nicely and is even simpler to make.  As the shorts are a baggy style, I also used the same pattern piece for the front and the back ... they fit perfectly fine, and once again, it makes the whole thing lots simpler.  After tracing the shorts, and adding a 1/4" seam allowance, I also added 1 1/2" to the top, and 1 1/2" to the length.  This allows for the waist-band turn-down, and also for the turned up cuff.

2.  Using the pattern you just made, cut 2 from the main fabric, and 2 from the lining fabric.

3. Place the main fabric pieces right-sides together and sew the top seams together, using 1/4" seam.  Repeat with the lining fabric.

4. Sew the inner leg seams on the main fabric, starting at inner part of the leg hole on one side, and ending at the inner leg on the other side.  Repeat with the lining fabric.

Carefully snip some slits  around the crotch seams of both pieces ... be really careful not to snip in further than your seam, or there will be a hole in the crotch.  Never a good look!

You should now have what appears to be 2 kinda-short-shaped pieces ... one from the main fabric and one from the lining fabric.

5. Turn your main fabric piece right-side-out, and iron it.  Then iron the leg holes under 1/4 inch all the way around.  Repeat with the lining piece, expect keep your lining piece wrong side out.

6. Carefully insert the lining piece into the main fabric piece, to make one pair of shorts instead of 2.  Pin the lining and main fabric pieces together around the leg holes with their wrong-sides facing.  It helps to line up the inner leg seams on the lining and main fabric and pin in place first.

Make sure your 1/4" hem is tucked in all the way around.  The sew (top-stitch) around the bottom of the legs approximately 1/8" from the edge.

7. Repeat above with the waist, then give them a good iron.

You should now have one pair of shorts, with no raw edges showing anywhere ... yay for that!

8.  Fold the waist down 1 1/2" from the top and iron, then pin in place.  Sew around the waist-band, following your stitching line from Step 7, and leaving a 1/2" gap between the start and end of the row (so you have space to insert the elastic later!)

9.  Measure 1/2" from the line of stitching you just completed, and sew another line parallel all around to make a casing for your elastic.  You don't need to leave a gap in this row.

10.  Measure your munchkin's waist, and add 1" (for overlap), then cut elastic to length.  Use a safety-pin to thread your elastic through the casing, trying not to get it twisted.  Then, using a zig-zag stitch, overlap the ends of the elastic 1/2" and sew together.  Stretch the waist out and allow your elastic to be pulled in to the waist-band.

11. (Optional) - Bethany has a thing about NEEDING to know which way her clothes go, by finding a tag.  Even though it really doesn't matter with these shorts, as the front and back are almost identical, I have started sewing a little piece of ribbon in the back, which shows the back for Bethany, and also closes the gap we left for the elastic in the one step ... like so!

12.  To make the side straps, cut 2 rectangles of main fabric 2 1/2" x 3 1/2".

13.  Fold in half long ways, right sides together and sew.  Then sew a "V" shape, and trim the excess fabric off.

12.  Turn the side straps through to the right side ... I found this easiest by using my scissors to force the end out like so ...

13. Measure your buttons and make a button-hole at the pointed end of each strap, then iron the strap, and iron the raw edge under 1/4".

14.  Iron the each shorts-leg up 1 1/2", then unfold, and pin the strap to the lining fabric just above the iron mark like so ...

15.  Stitch the strap in place ... I sewed a rectangle, and a diagonal line across the rectangle to give it strength.

16.  Fold the cuff up, and measure where your button needs to go, then sew in place.

Da-Dahhh!!  All finished.  I'm pretty happy with mine ... how did yours turn out ... I'd love to see!

Anyway, as an added bonus (and due to my current knit-fabric addiction), I decided to make a matching T-shirt.  I used this pattern and up-sized it to fit Bethany ... I love how this sits on the girls, especially the little gathered bit at the front.  This is a great one for a knit-beginner like me.  Then I just appliqued a matching heart from my Hearts and Dots fabric to make it all matchy and super-hearty for Valentines Day.

So, another huge thanks to Abakhan Fabric and Totally Tutorials, and Happy Valentines Day to all!

Oh, and here's a few pics of the other lined pair of shorts I made for Bethany recently.  This was my first attempt at the "lined shorts" concept, and I will admit that when making these I pretty much undid every seam at least once before I worked it all out.  But I like them, and I think I'm now getting an understanding of pattern shapes and piecing and how it all works ... so much fun!!