Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tutorial: Last-Another-Season-Kids'-Pants

No matter how much I tell my kids to stop it, they keep growing. If only we all had such an excuse for acquiring new clothes. To top it off, my boys often don't get fatter, just longer. Hah, wait until they're 25 and all those gingerbread men start to show on their waistlines.
Whilst I'm not sure my 8 and 9 year-olds would go for this solution, I'd inflict it freely on anyone of preschool age.
Just grab some fun, contrasting fabric and make those pants legs longer.
oh yes, it's that chenille again
Here's what I did with this pair of my nephew's jeans.

These old favourites are size 1. Nephew is four and a half. Baby pants tend to be big around the waist and backside to accommodate nappies/diapers. Once kids are toilet trained, some clothes take on a whole new life again. These jeans also have that fabulous adjustable elastic in the waistband.

The turn-up cuffs were worn, so I chopped them off.

Measure the leg bottom width, double it and add 1 inch for seam allowance.
6.5 inches x 2 = 13, + 1 inch s/a = 14 inches

Cut 2 rectangles of fabric, the width calculated above, and depth of extra length you need in the pants, plus 1.5 inches for seam and hem.
obligatory cutting mat shot

Fold cuff fabric in half, right sides together, and sew up the side seam with 1/2 inch seam allowance. I zigzagged the raw edges separately so I could open them out, to reduce bulk when hemming.

Slide inside-out cuff over jeans leg and pin edges, right sides facing. Line the cuff seam up with the inside leg seam.

Stitch all around with a 1/2 inch seam allowance. I then zigzagged the raw edges together.

Turn the cuff down and top stitch, catching the seam allowances underneath. Start at the inside leg for a neater finish.
here is where my little old free-arm Husqvarna would come in handy, except it's at the repair shop

Turn the hem under twice, pin and sew, starting from the inside leg.

Repeat for other side. Give it a press and you're done. Admire silly pants on your cute child!

Here are some well-worn ones I made last winter. I bought Clem some new size 3 track pants but the waist was far too big. So I took his size 1 track pants, with perfectly fitting waist, and lengthened them.
when I used a thinner cotton fabric, I doubled it and sandwiched around the bottom of the pants leg
The red chenille pants (I'm going to have to buy shares in a chenille factory somewhere) were made from a Japanese sewing pattern book. I've made this pattern three times and I love it. Just threw them into this photo to record for posterity. Clearly I have no problem dressing my child like a Muppet.

- Jane x

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

creative beasts

I've been a little quiet on here. My family has been consumed by this very worthwhile event. My dear other half is artistic-directing and putting a large part of his soul out there, to bring amazing international arts experiences to young people. I'm a very proud, exhausted arts widow right now!

This is Jasper with his hand-made version of one of the 'Creative Beasts' that are the mascots of the festival.
- Jane  x

Saturday, March 19, 2011

simple and satisfying sews

In the last two days I've managed to complete three separate sewing projects. Look, I sewed a real cat!
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These fluffy faces (well the green ones) are 'Softies for the children of Christchurch'.  When I bought the chenille from Simply Fabrics (on Magill Road here in Adelaide), the lady at the counter asked me what I was making. When I said toys for Christchurch, she gave me a most generous discount. What a lovely gesture.

I am keeping an eye out for any crafting donation plans for Japan now. If anyone hears of any, please let me know.

I also made a few of these key fobs, which I like very much.

I received a kit for one as a lovely bonus in a fabric order from here. It's great because it's lightweight but standout enough to make it easy to locate, and you can slip your hand through the loop rather than clutching a bunch of keys. A friend at work mentioned she'd like a couple and I bought a whole bunch of the makings just lately. I had in mind the Heather Ross moon fabric and it worked beautifully, if I do say so myself. A couple have made their way into our key bowl and these I will offer to my friend at work to select from.

This morning I looked at my old, old pillowcase and declared it disgusting. So I whipped these up.
fabric is 'Betty Dear' by Darlene Zimmerman for Robert Kaufman
They go with precisely nothing in our bedroom. However I hope they'll give me the inspiration to continue sprucing up that space.

Do you like our lawn? After watching a movie featuring a French country manor, we decided it's not completely overgrown and unkempt. It's simply 'French style'.

- Jane  x

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

fig and banana cake (or, necessity is the mother of invention)

First, I want to acknowledge the tragedy in Japan and say how helpless I feel. I have made a donation to the charity suggested by verypurpleperson, who lives in Tokyo. I made softies for the Queensland flood victims. I've signed up to do the same for Christchurch. There's just too much of this going on in the world. I feel awfully lucky to live where I do.

So. In my lucky part of the world, life goes on. And so does cake.
not the prettiest of cakes, so I accessorised
I invented a cake! I've made it twice now so I know the first time was not just a fluke.

We've had a bounty of figs around these parts. I won't call it a surplus because I'm yet to experience too many figs. We love 'em. We have a small tree, but after putting the word out that we're a fig-lovin' family, they've been rolling in from all directions.

Some were looking less than their best after a few days. A fig-lovin' friend at work suggested baking with them, which I hadn't considered. So now I present the improbable but delicious

Fig and Banana Cake.

Almost healthy!

1 cup wholemeal self-raising flour
1 cup fine semolina
3/4 cup soft brown sugar
2/3 cup powdered milk (this was part of the 'necessity' - we were out of fresh and I had this left over from some other baking)
1.5 tsp mixed spice or other spices of choice
2 tbsp LSA mix (ground linseed, sunflower seeds and almonds - I usually have this around, it's easily left out or substituted for other chopped nuts)

120g butter or marge, melted
2 - 3 over-ripe bananas, mashed (I put over-ripe ones in the freezer to keep for cakes)
3 eggs
5 or so ripe figs, chopped
1/2 cup water (roughly)

Mix all dry ingredients well. Combine wet ingredients and mix into dry. Add more water if needed to make a good cake batter consistency. Pour into large, greased ring tin (I use one of those flugelhorn, erm, hugenflopff, whatever, pretty ones!).

Bake at around 170 degrees Celcius for about 45 minutes, or until a skewer only just comes out clean. I do this on non-fan-forced. I find my cakes turn out better that way.

Tastes great with natural yoghurt. It hasn't lasted long enough in my house to experiment with any icing ideas. I call that a cake success.

I think the figs could be substituted with various other fruits, fresh or dried. Dried pear for some reason sounds appealing. Grated apple might work nicely, and then pump up the cinnamon content.

I'm sometimes surprised at how much fruit you can actually put into a cake. I have a banana cake that I am still pushing the limits with, to see how many bananas can go in without it turning out all wrong. I think I'm up to nine large bananas.

What's your favourite fruity cake?

- Jane x

Sunday, March 13, 2011

almost vanished in a world of tie-dye

This weekend, along with the ridiculous number of other festivals trying to squeeze into one month in our fair city, Womad has come to town. This stands for World of Music, Art and Dance and I seem to remember it having something to do with Peter Gabriel in its inception. It's a delightful, massive, family-friendly event in our grassy, tree-filled Botanic Park.
Mobile phone pic of people I don't know, waiting for a band to start. Clem thought the curvy bit above the stage must be a train track. This is just one of multiple stages through the park.
Not too long after you wander in the gate, a henna tattoo might seem like fun. Then you go for an organic juice. The kids make stick sculptures in the dirt. You admire some Papua New Guinean singer/dancers. See a man riding a giant chicken. Then browse the stalls. Ooh, look at that yak-wool hoodie! That basket made of recycled... something! That hand-knitted string headband!

At Womad, regular people let their inner hemp-lovin, Combi-drivin', hula-hoopin', dreadlock-wearin' hippie hang out.
I did, at least, wear my Birkenstocks.
It's a lot of fun with the kids. But if they weren't there, we might actually get to see some music, like back in the good old days. Oh well.

Meanwhile, progress has been made on my next Negroni. Snail's progress, but progress nonetheless.

This Denyse Schmidt fabric is a gorgeous cotton voile from the 'Greenfield Hill' range. I think I will still get around to the Liberty fabric, oh yes. Let's call this wearable muslin #2. I have used Peter's instructions to turn the Negroni pattern into a shirt with collar stand and button placket.
I'm proud of my pattern-matching across the front.
I so loved this fabric online and I still think it's a fabulously cool print. But can you see how the pattern goes in perfectly vertical lines, and mildly sloping horizontal lines? Agh... a nightmare for cutting and pattern matching.
The back yoke is cut on the true bias, which looks a bit like a cutting mistake.
If you cut on the 'true bias', it looks wonky. But then, the whole shirt looks slightly off-kilter.

I simply won't bore you with how many times I've had to fiddle, unpick, re-sew, re-cut etc to get this far. I sort of get cocky when I've done something before, and then it ends up taking twice as long. But here I am.
Agh, my eyes, my eyes!
Pockets? This was my loose attempt to see what bias-cut pockets would look like. I think, unfortunately, I will need to pattern match, to avoid the whole thing becoming one complete optical nightmare. One pocket, perhaps? I think pattern-matching two pockets, plus flaps, would be out of the question. Any thoughts?
- Jane x

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Seemed like such a good idea

Wanted: noticeboard listing THINGS TO DO to get ready for school each morning. I'm all about self-help for my kids at the moment.
Bright chalkboard paint, meet the wall opposite my big boys' bedroom door.
Cue fun with chalk, cute photo opportunity and a self-satisfied feeling.
Fast forward to midnight, when my husband wakes up in an uncontrollable fit of sneezing.
Next few days, my skin feels dry as a desert.
Chalk dust indoors? Apparently not such a good idea. (Cough, splutter, vacuum, apply more moisturiser.)
I'm hoping it's just the super-cheap big chalk sticks we had on hand. Will try to find some dustless chalk. How did teachers cope, back in the day? Does anyone have any experience with different chalks?

- Jane x

Monday, March 7, 2011

Singer 319k, the Green Machine

I love old machines. Mechanical devices where you can see this-connects-to-that; solid things with wheels and levers and gears.

And so I introduce the lovely Singer 319k, which I use for most of my sewing.
two-tone green, it's a racing machine!
I bought her (her?) for $35 at a disposals store, when my beloved Singer Blue Magic was potentially unrepairable. (That's a story for another post.)

She was a bit grubby, but shined up nicely with some orange oil cleaner. I spent, ahem, a bit more money having her serviced and replacing her bobbin case. However, she's been purring like a dream ever since.
Tilts back to access bobbin case, and stays like that until you release the hinge.  Not the easiest bobbin arrangement I guess but the bobbin holds a really decent amount of thread.
She's heavy; heavier I would guess than my three-year-old, despite being made of "lightweight cast aluminium".
The very sixties carry case clips on securely but it makes me nervous carrying it only by the handle.
She was one of the first Singer zigzaggers, and also has a number of other 'built in' stitches via these nifty levers on the top, which remind me of a typewriter. They engage cams inside the machine. The plain front lever engages replaceable cams on the outside, for a whole heap of other stitches. Cute, huh? Not that I use them.
This is the bobbin winder, with adorable colour-matched green rubber wheel. The original belt was green, and intact, but sadly wore out.
The only drawback with this lovely beast is that it requires special needles which have points ever so slightly shorter than your average. These are only made by Schmetz these days. They're comparatively expensive and not stocked many places. But my sewing repair shop has them and I've also found them online.
this is the trickiest part to master, essentially stitch width on the side and needle position on the top
This machine feels smooth, solid and relatively quiet. I just love the look and feel of her, which I appreciate every time I sit down to stitch. A lot of people find that sort of pleasure in fancy new machines, I'm sure. My criteria for a perfect sewing machine? Whatever makes you excited to sew.

- Jane  x

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

faux chenille blanket and friends

Finished objects post! Early in the year I joined up for a 'pass it forward' handmade pledge on Facebook. I receive something handmade from a friend, then I have to make things for five friends, who in turn have to make things for five friends and so on.

Two of the friends who joined up for my offer have baby girls on the way. Naturally, I was excited to make their gifts first, since I only have boys. Our floor has been awash with teeny scraps of fabric in girly hues never before seen in this home.

Ever since I saw this tutorial I had been keen to try one of these faux chenille, or cut chenille, baby blankets. I am so thrilled with how it turned out. It hasn't fully fluffed/frayed yet but I've only washed it twice and we don't have a dryer, which probably speeds the process. I think I'll just leave it to keep fluffing in the hands of its intended owner.
Would that be more Anna Maria Horner fabric? Bingo.
pink, frilly, eek, girly!
It was a fair bit of work. As others have said, probably 4 hours worth of sewing lines. Maybe an hour of snipping. Not to mention, the way I did the binding meant I had to hand-sew the final edge of it down. But sometimes I find that sort of repetitive manual work rather therapeutic. There's something very real to show for it in the end. As opposed to say, cleaning the house which returns to pigsty state depressingly soon. Or paid work, which so often seems to be full of compromise or never even sees the light of day. Yes. Simple, repetitive, soft and cuddly can be very good.

I used an Anna Maria Horner quilting weight cotton for the back, and four layers of Kona cotton. I only cut through three layers for the chenille, leaving two layers intact for extra strength.

I bought the Kona cottons online, which was a bit of a gamble on colour matching. They were a bit more icecream-ish than I expected. In the end though I'm delighted with the result. Here I've fluffed it up a bit more to show the layers. Sorry I keep saying 'fluffed'.
fluffed, fluffed, fluffed, fluffed, fluffed
Moving along, I made some bibs for another little girl-on-the-way. More of the AMH print and some pink baby cord and yes, more chenille! Bought variety this time.

using some of my pretty old button stash
Finally, this was finished a couple of weeks ago. It's really still the 'test garment' and I must get my butt into gear for the final shirt. Anyhow, this is Andy about to head off to work today, actually wearing something I made him. Yay!

my sweetie, bravely tolerating the homemade floral shirt
Have you finished any pleasing projects lately? Do you find repetitive manual work can sometimes be soothing?
- Jane x
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