Wednesday 22 April 2015

The Simplest Summer Maxi Dresses Ever!

Have you ever noticed that section at the fabric-store with the pre-shirred fabric on the bolt, and wondered what you would make with it?  I discovered it a number of years ago now, when Bethany was about 4.  There was a bolt of plain pink pre-shirred fabric on the 'specials' table and it was a dusty pink that I just loved dressing Bethany in at that stage.  I bought some, and made a little dress for her, complete with some silver ric-rac along the hem ... I was in love with that dress!!  In fact I must remember to get it out next summer for Hannah ... It'll be just her size by then ... the joys of having little sisters to pass cuteness on to!!
Anyway, I was recently gifted these gorgeous printed pre-shirred fabrics from a friend who was having a clean-out of her craft things.  She has 2 girls with a similar age-gap to ours, but who are now finishing primary-school and heading off to high-school, so wouldn't be interested in these fabrics any longer.
Lucky for her (or should I say, us!!) I have two girls who most definitely are interested in these fabrics, and who will never say no to a new dress.  And seriously, with this pre-shirred fabric, I made both of these dresses in less than an hour.  These fabrics didn't even make it to my fabric shelf!!

All I did was this ... 

1. Measure around the girls' chests, and cut the fabric in one piece to the same measurement.  
2. Right-sides-together, sew a seam starting at the top shirred section, down to the bottom, joining the fabric into a tube-dress, then finish the seam with either an overlocker (serger) or with a zig-zag stitch to stop the raw edge from fraying.
3. At this point I tried the dresses on, and decided on a length (I wanted a maxi-style dress, but I also didn't want the girls to trip over whilst playing in their dresses, so I opted for a just-above-the-ankle length!)  I trimmed the bottom of the dress, allowing an additional 1 inch for the hem, then turned the hem under by 1/2", then another 1/2" and sewed it around.
4. Using the off-cuts, I made the straps by cutting strips 1 1/2" wide, by 10" long (you could change the length depending on the size of your munchkin!!).  Fold them in half long-ways, right-sides-together, and sew down the long side.  Use a safety pin to turn the tube right-side-out, then press with the seam to one side of the strap.
5.  I attached the straps to the inside edge of the dresses, folding the raw edges under, and sewing a small square across the fold end of the strap, back-stitching firmly several times to make sure there are no strap malfunctions mid-wear.  I just eye-balled the placement of the straps, trying to make them even on each side of the dress, and making sure I kept the seam at the middle-back of the dress.  I like to place the straps closer together at the back and slightly further apart at the front as I find this stops the straps falling off little shoulders whilst the girls are playing. 

And seriously, that's it.  There's even time spare to stop and smell the roses *cough ... crepe myrtle!

Sunday 19 April 2015

Free Tutorial: Foxy-Loxy Lacey Pants

Don't you love it when abstract ideas meet inspiration?  Well that's how this project came about.  I'd been pondering about making a little pair of knicker-bocker-type pants for Hannah that were based on a little pair of gorgeous Sprout-brand pants both my girls wore when they were babies.  I loved them, and was so sad when I had to finally admit they were too small, and take them out of Hannah's draw.  They were lacey and girly and just plain cute!  I just knew I needed to make a pair in a bigger size, but I couldn't choose a fabric, and the design just hadn't come together in my mind.

Then, one day when I was perusing blog-land, I came across this adorable free pattern by CINO for a cross-stitch fox t-shirt.  And in that instant, this whole project came together.  I knew I had to make this little fox top, and that I had finally made up my mind on the fabric for those pants.  It was time to cut into my stashed fox fabric (you might have seen me previewing it on Instagram and Facebook) ... and here's how the little outfit turned out!
 I love this little outfit almost as much as I loved those original little baby-pants, and we've had some great comments from people when Hannah's worn this outfit too.  My favourite was from a school mum who knows I sew, and asked if I made this outfit, then went on to say that she loves my handmade stuff because it's just so different from anything you can buy in the shops ... for me that's pretty much the highest compliment a crafty Mummy can receive, and what makes that even better is when my kids ask to wear their Mummy-made clothes.  Melts my creative heart, and I'm determined to squeeze as much into these years where they love what I make, before I suddenly become the dorkiest, most uncool, embarrassing person in the world to them and they just can't wait to go shopping to buy the exact same clothes as their friends ... dreading that day, huh!

Anyway, you can find the pattern for this little fox cross-stitch here, and this was lots of fun ... a 1-evening job and I just used a store-bought tank top, and stitched whilst watching TV.  Super-effective! 

And if you want to make your own Foxy-Loxy Lacey Pants, with their little lacey pockets of cuteness, this is for you ...

You Need:
- 1/2 metre / yard fabric ... this is a printed cotton poplin (1/2 metre was sufficient fabric for Hannah's size 4 pants)
- Shorts pattern, or a pair of short / pants that fit to make your own pattern (I used the Kids Shorts Pattern by Made, which is my go-to shorts pattern, but you could always draft your own pattern very simply like I did here).
- 1 metre / yard lace or your favourite trim
- 1 yard 1/4" elastic for the waist and legs.
- The usual: Sewing machine, overlocker / serger (if you have one), coordinating thread, scissors

And here's how I did it:

1. Measure your munchkin from their waist to just below just below their knee, and add 2 inches, then take your shorts pattern, and cut the front and back pieces out, extending the length to your measurement +1" for the hem.  So, for Hannah, her measurement waist to below-knee was 16".  Her pattern pieces therefore measure 17".

2. Grab a scrap of paper, and draw a pocket pattern as per the one below (you could make it a little bigger if you're making a much bigger size)
... then cut out the pocket pattern and use it to cut two pockets from your fabric like so ... you might like to fussy-cut to make a feature of your fabric if you're using a cute one like these foxes.  I decided on a sleeping fox and a sitting fox ...

3. Finish the edges of your pocket pieces with either an overlocker / serger or using a zig-zag stitch to stop the pockets fraying on the inside.  The using your iron, press the top edge to the wrong side by 1/2" and the other 4 sides by 1/4" like so ...

4. Flip your pockets over the the right side, and attach a piece of lace to the upper edge, using a single row of stitching at the top of the lace.  This will sew down the top fold at the same time.  Press the over-lapping edges of the lace to the wrong sides of the pockets.

5. Grab the back pieces of your pants, and lay them flat on the table, with the curved edges in the middle like so.  Then arrange the pockets in the mid-upper section, making sure they are level with each other so you have level pockets in the end.  Pin the pockets in place, then topstitch them around the sides and bottom, approximately 1/8" from the edge, and ensuring the folded under edges are tucked under.  It's also a good idea to back-stitch at the beginning and end to give the pockets extra strength.

6.  Now you can assemble your pants as per the pattern instructions ... if you've drafted your own pattern, you simply sew the two back pieces right-sides-together at the top curved seam, then the same with the front pieces.   Attach the front to the back right-sides together at the inner-leg seam.  Then, right-sides-together sew the 2 side-seams, and you'll end up with assembled pants like this ...

7.  Now for the waist ... press the top edge to the wrong side by 1/4", then fold over another 1" and pin in place.  Starting at the back seam, sew the waist-band down as close to the edge as possible, making sure you leave a 1" gap at the end of your stitch-line to allow space for threading your elastic.  Then, again starting at the back seam, sew a second row of stitching 1/4" from the top edge of the pants to make your top ruffle.

8.  Using a safety-pin, thread your waist elastic through, overlap by 1/2" and sew ends together...  
... You can then stitch across the gap to enclose the elastic.

9.  Repeat this same process with both leg hems, but before threading your elastic ...

10. Pin and sew in place your leg lace/trim approximately 2-3" from the bottom of the hem.  If your using a less-busy fabric, you could even do 2 or 3 rows of lace at the base of the legs ... cuteness plus!!

11.  Then you can insert a length of elastic into each leg which is long enough to comfortably go around your child's calf ... Hannah's leg elastics were 10".

... you now have a cute little pair of knicker-bockers that look like this ...

... and this ...

... and coupled with her fox top, like this ...

 ... and when she's about to jump of the garden wall, they look like this!

These are really comfy versatile little pair of pants that are great for playing and pre-school and generally Hannah-ing around.  I can see a few more pairs of these in Hannah's future!  Hope you like them too!

Saturday 4 April 2015

Tutorial: A-Line Knit Dress

Well, it's the night before Easter and I thought that was the perfect time for a little tutorial.  Do you remember the Summer Jumpsuit tutorial I posted a few weeks back? ...  And remember how I mentioned that I had just enough fabric left for another little project? ... Well this is it!  I managed to JUST, read "JUST" get this gorgeous little dress for Hannah out of the remnants, and it was worth the squeeze,  'cause this has become a favroutite of hers.
This is that awesome light-weight knit rayon fabric, and I just love the drape of it.  I had a simple little dress in mind for Hannah, and this fabric really was perfect for it.  I made it a little large ... on purpose .... really!!  It'll totally still fit next summer!  And I added a little floppy, droopy bow to add some interest to the front.  I like it!

Anyway if you thought the Summer Jumpsuit or my other recent High-Low Play-time Dress were a quick and easy sew, then this will be an absolute breeze for you.  In fact, the evening I made Bethany's jumpsuit, I just went straight on and sewed this right up afterwards.  Might as well strike while the iron's hot and all that! ... No really, the iron was literally still hot from pressing the jumpsuit, so I thought I'd just get straight to it!!

And here's what you need ... 

1. About 1/2 yard/metre light-weight knit fabric (I used a knit-rayon), maybe more for a larger size.  Hannah's is a size 4.
2. A tank top/t-shirt pattern, or a tank/t-shirt that currently fits.  This is a great freebie tank pattern if you're making size 3-8.
3. Coordinating thread
4. Sewing machine, scissors

And here's how I did it ...

1.  Grab your tank / t-shirt pattern (or make one using the technique I used here - if you're tracing a shirt/tank, don't forget to add 1/4" all the way around for seam allowance).  Fold your fabric in half long ways, and cut front and back pieces out, extending the top to the desired dress length, plus 1 inch for hemming, and taper the dress shape out from the armpit to make the dress an A-line like so.  I did the front first, then used my front piece as a pattern for my back piece so that I had identical front and back pieces.

2. Sew the shoulder seams, right-sides-together, and finish the edges with an overlocker (serger) if you want to, though for knit-fabric it's not too important as it doesn't fray.  (Oh, and I used a 1/4" seam allowance throughout!)

3. Measure the neckline, and cut a strip of fabric that is the same length as your neckline x 2 inches. (for this project I wanted the neckline / arm holes to be un-gathered and to sit flat, so I made the neckband the same length as the neckline).
Don't worry if it's not exact ... that's the beauty of knit fabric ... you can always stretch it to fit!

4.  Fold your strip in half (right-sides-together) and sew down the short edge to make a circle.  Then fold the whole neckband in half width-ways, right-side-out.  Lay your dress pieces open like so, and pin your neck band to the right-side of the neckline like so, lining up the seam on the neckband with one of the shoulder seams, and the raw edges of the neck band with the raw edge of the neckline.

5. Finish the raw edge (if you're a little addicted to overlocking like I am and can't bear to leave the edge unfinished!) ...

... then topstitch around the neckline, joining the seam allowance to the dress all around, like so.

6.  Now do the same with each arm-hold ... measure the length....

... cut and attach arm bands that are the same length as the arm-hole by 2 inches...

 ... finish the raw edges (if you are doing that) and topstitch the seam allowance to the dress.

7.  Now place the dress pieces right-sides-together, and sew down each side-seam (and finish them with the overlocker if you want!)

8. Press the hem under 1/2 inch, then sew around the hem as close to the raw edge as possible.

9. Now for the bow ... Cut a rectangle of the same or a coordinating fabric measuring 6" x 4".

10.  Fold the rectangle in half long ways (right sides together) and sew together to form a tube.  Push the tube right-side out, then tuck the raw ends in by about 1/4 inch.  Secure with a pin, then topstitch to close each end.  You'll end up with a rectangle like this.

11.  Take another scrap of fabric and cut a rectange 3" x 1.5".
Fold this rectangle in half right sides together and sew to form a tube, then turn right-side-out (use a safety pin attached to one end if you need help turning it through).

12.  Wrap the small tube around the large rectangle, like so, forming a bow shape.  I then hand-sewed the small rectangle ends together right where you can see my thumb holding the pieces together.

13.  Flip the bow over so the join is on the back, and attach with a pin to the front of the dress just below the neckline and to one side like so.  If you want the bow to sit out straight like this you could sew down each side of the bow, but I quite like it flopping down, so I only attached it at the centre.
14.  Use the sewing machine to securely sew the centre of the bow to the dress.  I sewed a short line of stitches each side of the centre like so.  Be sure to backstitch to make sure the stitches don't come undone.

And there you have it ... this has to be the easiest dress to make, and it's just as easy to wear ... or so Hannah tells me.  She has loved the light-weight coolness of this dress over our lingering summer heat this year, and in fact wore it today with a little short-sleeve cardi over the top now that our weather has started to cool, and it's been a rainy kind of Easter weekend so far.
Oh, and I'm seriously hoping a new colour range of these lovely weight fabrics comes out before next season, 'cause it's a great fabric to sew with!

Anyway, that's it for me tonight ... I'm off to wait for the Easter Bunny (and maybe make a last minute Easter outfit for Bethany to wear to church in the morning) .... bought the new collection from Shwin & Shwin today, and can't wait another minute to give the Stella Tunic a whirl!  

Hope your Easter Sunday is happy, chocolate-filled and blessed.  As a Christian, I'm blown away every time I'm reminded of just how much love our Father in Heaven must have felt for us to send his Son to die on our behalf.  I hope that this Easter you feel even the tiniest amount of love like that from those around you ... because, guess what!?! ... it's nearly Sunday, and HE is Risen Indeed!