Sunday 24 November 2013

Tutorial - Elephant Skirt with Secret Pockets …Shhhhh!

I found this gorgeous elephant fabric at Spotlight, when I was there to get something else of course … yep I can never ever leave that place without something extra!  Anyway I fell instantly in love with it … like TOTALLY besotted … I might have bought it in 3 different colours … yikes … don't tell Daddy OK!

Anyway, I had some cute boy outfits in mind for the navy blue one for my gorgeous new little nephew.  And this salmon-pink elephant print?  Well I decided to stash it until I had a brain-wave.  Then one day as I was reading a post on one of my favourite sewing Mummy blogs, I saw a post about piping, and how it can change the look of a piece entirely.  My mind went crazy and I decided that piping is EXACTLY what this fabric needed.  And with that inspiration, I came up with this design for the Elephant Skirt for Bethany.  

She needed She wanted … OK, OK, Mummy wanted to make a little tiered skirt with a more fitted-style top tier, so the lower tier poofs out in a feminine, flowy, comfy way … do you know what I mean?  Then part way through the sewing process I thought … why not try out another new technique?  I decided to try my hand at inserting invisible pockets into the side-seams … for collecting secret treasures of course.   What do you think? … You can just see the opening of the pocket in this pic.

Of course, once an idea works … it actually worked!! … I can never stop at just one, so I decided to use some of the navy-blue Elephant fabric to make a matching (but not) skirt for Hannah.  Don't worry, there was plenty left for a cute little outfit for my nephew, as well as a few other things! And don't you just love little girls in Navy and pink!  This is an absolutely timeless colour match to my way of thinking!

As I made Hannah's I snapped some pics so I could share it with all of you … just in case you want Elephant skirts too!

So, here's what you need:
- 1 metre/yard fabric … this is a medium weight woven fabric.
- 1 metre/yard coordinating piping
- 1"-wide elastic … enough to fit round your munchkin's waist, plus 1" for overlapping
- Scissors or Cutting Mat and Rotary Cutter
- Sewing machine and coordinating thread

If you want to make a matching singlet, onsie or T-shirt, you just need:
- A store-bought singlet / onsie / t-shirt
- Some scraps of fabric
- A button-covering kit

How to make it:

1.  Firstly is the math bit, and I promise it's the hardest part … once it's done, the skirt will come together really quickly … just bear with it!
So ...
- Measure your child's waist … Hannah's is 19".  
- Measure the length you want the skirt to be (waist to knee) and add 2".  Hannah's waist to knee is 10", plus 2 = 12". 

- Now for the top tier:  Width = (1/3 x waist) + waist.  So Hannah's was (1/3 x 19") + 19" = 25.3"
                                    Length = A little under half the total skirt length. Hannah's top tier was 5" long

- Now for the bottom tier: Width = 2 x waist.  So Hannah's was 2 x 19" = 38"
                                         Length = A little over half the total skirt length.  Hannah's was 7" long.

2.  Once you've done your calculations, go ahead and cut out your two skirt pieces.  You'll end up with 2 rectangles of fabric.  For Hannah's we had 1 rectangle (top tier)  25.3" x 5", and the other (bottom tier) 38" x 7".

Then, so that you've got side-seams to insert your pockets into, fold each of the rectangles in half long ways, and cut them along the fold so you end up with 4 pieces like this …
3.  Grab your bottom tier pieces (the bigger ones!). Set your sewing machine's stitch length to the longest stitch (mine is Number 6), and stitch a gathering row of stitching 1/4" from the edge of the top edge of each piece.  It will start to gather a little as you sew it, and that's fine!  Remember not to back stitch at the beginning and end!

4. Line up this gathered edge along the bottom edge of your top tier pieces.  Pull EITHER the top or bottom thread from your gathering stitches until the gathered edge is the same width as the top tier piece, then move the gathers along to even them out.

5. Place the gathered edge and the bottom edge of the top tier piece right sides together.  Grab your piping, and sandwich it between the 2 pieces, with the piping raw edge (the edge without the rope in it) matching with your fabric edges…like so….  Pin it well to hold all the layers in place.

6.  Put your sewing machine stitch back to normal length … I usually have mine on 3 … then sew carefully to join the 3 layers.  Do your best to sew right next to the piping "bump".  You can use a zipper foot to help you get closer if you want to, but to be honest, I'm a bit lazy for that, and just try to get as close as I can with my regular foot.  Then finish the raw edges with an overlocker (serger) or by doing a zig-zag stitch along the edge.

Then repeat steps 4-6 with the other top and bottom tier pieces. It's a good idea to iron them at this point.

7.  Now you have a skirt front and back.  This is where I decided to add the pockets.  If you don't want pockets simply place your skirt pieces right sides together, and sew down the side-seams, and finish off the raw edges, then skip to Step 13.  

If you're brave enough to give the pockets a go, grab a piece of tracing paper … I used some brown paper I had lying around.  Draw free-hand a shape like this.  You want it to be big enough for your munchkin to get their hand in at the straight edge.  You can see here that for this 18month size, I made the opening 3 1/2".  In hindsight, I probably could have made it a little larger, so go at least 4", and even a bit larger if you're making this for a bigger munchkin.

8.  Place this pattern on to your fabric and cut 2 pieces, then flip your pattern over to the wrong side, and cut two more pieces.  Match up each piece with it's mirror image.

9.  Grab your skirt pieces and measure half way down the top tier on each piece, then pin a pocket piece in at that point, right sides together, along the straight side.  You want to make sure you picked a piece that sits in the correct direction … see pic below!  Repeat with each pocket piece on each side of each skirt piece.  Tip: Make sure you measure down accurately each time otherwise your pockets won't match up properly when you go to sew them together later.  

10. Stitch down the straight edge of each pocket piece using a 1/4" seam to attach them to the skirt pieces, then finish just that part of the side-seam with your overlocker (serger) or zig-zag stitch. 

11.  Flip your pockets out, then place back and front skirt pieces right sides together.  Pin down the side seam to the pocket, then around the pocket, then down the rest of the side-seam, like this.

12.  Sew along your pinned lines.  When you get to the beginning and end of the pockets, stop sewing, lower the needle manually, then lift the foot and pivot the fabric around to make a nice clean corner.  Put the foot back down and continue sewing.  Then finish the edges with overlocker (serger) or zig zag.  it can be a little tricky with the overlocker on the corners, but just do the best you can by taking it slowly around the corners.

13.  Turn the skirt right-side-out, and admire your work for a second …. or two!  Ok, now finish the top raw edge and the bottom raw edge with your overlocker (serger) or zigzag.

14.  Turn the top waistband down 1 1/4" and iron, then pin in place.  Sew around, making sure you leave a gap of at least 1" in the back to thread your elastic.  I usually mark my opening with pins so I don't accidentally sew right on through!

15. Cut your elastic to your munchkin's waist measurement + 1 inch for overlapping.  So Hannah's was 19"+1= 20".  Using a safety pin, thread your elastic through the waistband, then over-lap the edges about 1/2" and sew them together using a zig-zag stitch.

16.  Insert your tag into the gap you left in the waistband if you're using one, or maybe a piece of ribbon so your munchkin knows which is the back (not that it really matters 'cause in this design the back and front are identical, but it is a nice touch), then sew it closed.

17.  Next turn your bottom hem up 1/2" and iron, then pin in place.  Sew around to finish the hem.

Ta-Daa!  You're done, and ready for some balancing on a piece of string … Do you remember that kid's song … "3 grey elephants balancing, step by step on a piece of string" … and so on … wow that song it totally stuck in my head now!  Oh well!!

 Now, for the singlet … I simply used a store-bought singlet, used a button-covering kit to cover some 3/4" buttons with the fabric scraps (trying to line it up so an elephant was on the front of each button), ironed a small circle-shaped piece of iron-on interfacing to the back side of the singlet as a reinforcement, then hand-sewed the buttons on.  For Hannah's I did just one button, but for Bethany's slightly larger singlet, I did a cluster of 3.  Looks cute I think!

 Hope you and your munchkins enjoy this little skirt as much as we do!  I'd love to see any pics if you make one … just drop me an email anytime!

Make It and Love It

Wednesday 13 November 2013

Product Review: Who Runs your House … The Kids or You?

Now we've all read our fair share of parenting books, right? … at least I have.  I've read some that made me feel totally inadequate, some that I found really helpful and others that make me cringe with the idea of explaining and negotiating with a toddler who is having a screaming tantrum at the shops or some other public place … really, is negotiating at that point actually going to get you anywhere!?!  

While I by no means think I have this whole parenting thing worked out, I do feel like I've learned to trust my gut instinct a bit more these days, especially regarding what works for me and us in our family!  So, when Rochelle of Wordstorm contacted me to see if I'd be interested in reading and reviewing a new parenting book called Who Runs Your House, The Kids or You? by Karen Phillips, I figured there'd be no harm in getting another opinion on parenting…after all, knowledge is power, and all that!  So I received my copy, and while travelling to Adelaide to visit a friend and her tiny new bub last weekend, I used the time in the air to have a read.

And I have to say, I really liked this book.  While I'm an absolute advocate for doing what works for YOU and YOUR family in YOUR situation, I find that the vast majority of tips and ideas in this book were in line with my general thinking.  Things like not being afraid to say "no" and sticking your ground,  how to use "yes" to your advantage, and about ALWAYS being consistent, no matter what.  I also loved the part about following through with threatened consequences.  How many times have you heard a parent threaten "if you don't stop that, we'll go home right now!", only to then witness the behaviour continuing and the parent having no actual intention of going home?  I also enjoyed reading about giving kids choices of acceptable behaviours, so they have the power to choose but the parent is still ensuring good behaviour. 

One thing I was challenged about was how much kids model their behaviour on on how we as parents behave…and since reading this, I have seen a few occasions where I have told Bethany off for something, only to see her turn around and talk to Hannah in the same tone … Ouch!  Yep, I'll be working on how I communicate with my girls … no matter how frustrated and tired I am and no matter how much of a rush we're in.  It's a tough one for me, but it's hardly fair to expect the girls to speak nicely to each other when all they get is nagging from their grumpy, tired Mummy.

Anyway, if you're interested in finding out more information about this book or it's author, head over to the webpage here, and if you're interested to buy, it's available as an eBook for $9.99 ($AUD) or $29.99 for a paper-back version.

Tuesday 12 November 2013

Tutorial: Hannah Needs a Santa-Sack Too!

I have fond memories of my childhood Santa-sack, which was really just a store-bought Christmassy-looking pillowcase-style sack.  I love the memories of excitedly laying out my Santa sack in the lounge-room on Christmas Eve, then waking bright and early on Christmas morning and investigating to see what I might find inside ... so much fun, huh!  So for Bethany's first Christmas, I decided to make her a Santa sack.   When I was designing it in my mind I decided I wanted it Christmassy, but not in traditional Christmas colours.  At the time I was experimenting with green, pink and red as a potential colour-scheme for Bethany's "big-girl room", and decided I'd go with that for the Santa sack too.  So last year, for Hannah's first "real" Christmas (she was born on the 23rd December, so spent her first Christmas mostly asleep at the hospital with Mummy!) I realised I really needed to make a Santa sack for Hannah too.  Ha ha ... any excuse for a sewing project, hey ... especially in the midst of all the other things that need doing just before Christmas.

I decided Hannah's Santa-sack had to be different to Bethany's so that they could easily tell them apart, but not so different that Bethany would feel like Hannah's was better and she had been left with a dud - my sewing has definitely improved A LOT since I made hers.  After a bit of thought, I decided I would make exactly the same design, just in different colours.  I went to spotlight and found some dark pink cotton drill, then came home and rummaged through my scrap fabrics for coordinating colours.  This is what Hannah ended up with ... I like it!

Anyway, I think a Christmas project like this is a really simple idea, but also a bit special 'cause Mummy has made it especially for her girls.  I'm kinda hoping my girls are as sentimental as Mummy is and may actually like to keep these types of things as keepsakes to show their kids.  So, I thought I'd share how I made it in case anyone wants to have a go.  I had planned to post this last Christmas, but you know how it is ... Christmas had been and gone, and I hadn't gotten around to it, so ended up saving it for this year ... with hopefully enough time for people to get one made before the big guy comes down the chimney.  I also think these would make a great gift for a new baby who is about to experience their very first Christmas!! 

What you need:
- 1 metre cotton drill fabric - for the sack itself
- Scraps of 3 coordinating fabrics (a fat quarter of each would be plenty!) - for the picture blocks
- Ribbon or cord (approximately 48-50 inch's or so)
- Pom-pom cord or yarn
- Sewing machine and Coordinating thread
- Scissors or mat and rotary cutter
- Pencil
- Tracing paper

How to make it:

For the Picture Blocks:

 1. From the backing fabric for your block …. mine was some pink gingham … cut out 2 rectangles of equal sizes.  Mine were 12 inches by 9 inches, but really you can make them as big as you like as long as they fit on your sack.  Then cut 1 or 2 strips of coordinating fabric, 2 inches wide and as long as you can get.  These are for the borders.

2. Measure your strips along the short sides of the backing fabric, like so, and cut to length.  Then sew them right sides together along the top and bottom of your backing fabric.  Open them out and iron the seam flat.

3.  Measure your strips along the long sides, including the extra length made by the top and bottom borders, then sew right sides together, open them out and iron them so you end up with this….

4.  Repeat for the other block.

5.  For the appliquéd pictures, of course you can choose whatever christmassy shape you'd like.  I went for a stocking on one side, and a Christmas Tree on the other … basically because these are super easy to draw free-hand.

So, grab some paper … I used baking paper … and draw your appliqué shapes.  Just make sure you draw them small enough to fit onto the middle section of your backing blocks.

6.  Cut out your paper shapes, then pin them to the fabric of your choice, and cut around them like so…

7.  Place the shapes onto your blocks like so, and pin generously to hold them in place.  Then sew carefully around the very edge of your shape, using a small zig-zag stitch to appliqué them in place.  Repeat with your other shape.

8. For my stocking shape, I used this "Snowball" yarn I found at Lincraft to make the fluffy white top of the stocking.  It's actually for knitting scarves, but I thought it worked well to add some embellishment to this stocking.  If you can't find this, you could always use a piece of white felt, or even a small piece of faux fur to give that soft furry detail on the stocking...

I simply wound the yarn on top of the stocking in a zig-zag fashion, then sewed using a zig-zag stitch along the top and bottom of the pom-pom strip to hold them all in place...
 … ta-daa!

9.  Now for the Christmas Tree, I sewed on my triangle then used a piece of red felt shaped like a trapezium (that's what that shape is, isn't it?… geometry was not my strong-point!) to make a trunk/stand.  I then used 2 small triangles of white felt placed upside-down on top of each other to make the star at the top of the tree.  I simply zig-zagged around the edges of each of these felt shapes.

10.  Now flip your completed blocks over to the back, and iron the raw edges under 1/4 inch all the way around and set aside for a minute.
The sack:

11.  For the sack itself, I used cotton drill fabric, and I cut it into 2 rectangles by folding the fabric selvedge to selvedge, then cutting down the fold (which gives you 2 pieces, a front and a back).  I then cut each rectangle to 1 meter / yard long. (Sorry I didn't take a pic of that step, but basically you end up with 2 big rectangles.

12.  Grab your blocks, and pin right-side-up to the right-side of the drill fabric.  Try and centre it as best you can.  Then pin it down making sure all the ironed raw edges are tucked in.  Sew carefully around the edge, approximately 1/8" from the edge, using a straight-stitch.

 13.  Repeat with the other block on the other large sack rectangle.

14.  Now place your two sack pieces right sides together (make sure you have them up the right way so you don't end up with an upside-down picture on one side!!).  Pin around the 2 sides and bottom of the sack, then sew with a straight stitch using a seam allowance of approximately 1/2 inch.  You can then finish off the raw edges using an overlocker (serger) or with a zig-zag stitch.

15.  Turn the sack right-side-out, then iron all the seams.  Open the top of the sack, and turn down the raw edge by 1/2", then by 3/4" all the way around.  Iron, then pin in place, like so!  Then sew using a 1/8" seam allowance to make sure there is enough room for your draw-string.  Make sure you leave a gap of about 1 inch at the end of your stitching, to allow space for threading your draw-string.

16.  You might want to embellish the sack further.  I thought a row of this Snowball yarn sewn by hand around the top of the sack was a cute touch.  Another gorgeous idea would be to appliqué, sew or even paint the child's name across the top of the sack.  How cute would that look!!

 17.  Next measure your ribbon / cord across the top of your sack, then fold back and across the sack again like so.  Let the ends overhand about 2-3" like so to allow space for tying, then cut to length.

18.  Using a safety pin, thread the ribbon/cord through the gap you left in the top hem, then tie the ends of the ribbon/cord together like so.

And there you have it … a special santa-sack, for a special little person.  Hmmm, I wonder what Santa will leave inside this year!

Oh, and if you make one, I'd love to see it!  Feel free to email me any time with a pic!