Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Operation Scarecrow

My dear friend Han who very much encouraged me to start a blog loves a bit of stitching herself. But she's had three adorable kidlets in four-and-a-half years, and helps run a business. So she's had less time than she'd like in which to get crafty.
Han asked if I'd help her with a big project. Not too complex but dauntingly large-scale: making a new cover for her market umbrella. "You can blog about it!" she said, and besides, I had encouraged her to tackle the task in the first place.
Han has dubbed the project 'Operation Scarecrow'
As an extra incentive, I can also have cuddles with this little **girl!!**:
'Do you have permission from my Mama to put my completely edible face on your blog?'
'Why yes I do Miss Winter.'   'Oh, okay then. Continue.'
Probably about a year ago we pulled the old umbrella cover apart, examined the construction and Han traced the parts onto 7.5 metres of calico, which looks like this:
Then it was carefully folded away next to the roll of pricey outdoor fabric that we were both a bit scared to slice into. We let the project marinate. (I love that term! Thanks whoever invented that!) It seemed to really help with this, because look what we sewed up today.
the muslin FITS!
And then, the pricey outdoor fabric was sliced.
yes you can, yes you can!
Phew. That's enough for one day. All tuckered out.
Clem calls her 'Baby Sun', which was some mix-up with her name Winter, but I think it suits her beautifully
Operation Scarecrow continues next Wednesday. We're planning flat-felled seams sewed with some sturdy thick Gutermann polyester thread. Breaking a big task like this into bite-size chunks seems to be working well.
Have you ever tackled an umbrella re-cover, or similar project? I'd love to hear any tips or wise words.
- Jane x

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


I love that my kids love to dress up.
I wish I'd provided the big boys with more dressup clothes when they were younger. But they're pretty good at improvising anyhow.
A few weeks back it was 'Book Week' at school and the kids were encouraged to dress as a favourite book character.

I'm sure Charlie's is obvious: Harry Potter. I ironed the stripes onto his tie. Ribbon and adhesive tape on Salvos tie. The glasses are an old pair of Andy's.
Jasper is Leif from Deltora Quest, which I haven't read but I am so proud of him since he has almost finished it; a hefty book and his first real large novel. He spent a long time drawing 'gems' for his belt.
As you can see the Witchard capes are still getting a good workout; in fact Charlie's is going back to school this Friday when he dresses up for his role as 'creepy narrator voice' in his class presentation of Thriller. They've been working on it all term, I can't wait.
If you have tween-age kids in your house you too may be familiar with the TV show Horrible Histories. We now have a series on DVD and our boys are obsessed.
A couple of nights ago Charlie and Jasper came bouncing down from 'quiet reading time' before bed to present their own Horrible Histories show to us.
It was a bit dark so the photos are not great but worth recording for posterity.
'Cutthroat Celts'
'Vicious Vikings'
'Rotten Romans'

'Savage Stone Age'
'Frightful First World War'
'Incredible Incas'
Entirely their own doing. And here's a couple of examples of their earlier work.
jungle animals

er, wallies
They work as a team. Ah, I love these boys.

- Jane x

Saturday, September 17, 2011

no cute photo today (unless baby ants count, in which case you are about to die of cute overload)

For a few weeks I've been ignoring a trail of wandering tiny sugar ants on the old wooden meat safe that serves as our TV/DVD/stereo cabinet.
I thought they were looking for either water or food, neither of which they would find.
This morning Jasper asked if he and Charlie could play Wii and I said yes, with strict instructions about half an hour each using the kitchen timer etc etc.
Jasper sped off but came back in distress: "the ants have laid eggs in the Wii remote where the nunchuck joins in!"
I found this amusing and enterprising. Jasper did not.
The ants came streaming out.
There was no end of them.
I opened the battery compartment.
If you look closely you can see the eggs in the middle I think are actually egg stage, whereas in the compartment to the bottom left they are more of a larval stage. So organised!
I am still shaking ants and eggs out of this thing. Lucky they're the non-biting, non-stinky kind of ants.
Kind of cool. Nature finding practical use for a piece of technology that's really pretty stupid.
Go ants. Sort of.

- J x

Friday, September 16, 2011

the sweetest sight

My littlest one asleep on the couch amidst homemade comforts.
Made all the sweeter because this little one usually no longer naps.
And it was after lunch on Friday of a long and busy week:
- crazy with work
- Andy interstate since Tuesday
- most of us a little under the weather with various mucous-based ailments
- sun has been rising earlier and so, consequently, has this son
- those rosebud lips had asked me about ten thousand million trillion questions this morning, most of which I could only answer with 'no, not today' or 'I don't know'
- I had laid down on the couch with him, toe-to-toe, and after about an hour came back to consciousness and saw this.
Sweet, sweet sleeping three year old. Even in your dreams you are probably asking me, for the seventeenth time, for something utterly impractical.

- J x

Monday, September 12, 2011

and it shall be a pyjama top

I should be lighting the fire. Or sorting the five loads of washing I've done today. Or checking what that odd scratching noise is coming from the chooks' nesting box. Or cooking tea for my small people, who I will have to drag off to our community childcare centre's AGM tonight. (I am Chair. Can you see the neon 'sucker' sign on my forehead?)
Instead, I will blog about a raglan-sleeve top I sewed for Jasper.

It's fine, but it's not great. I think a lot has to do with my fabric choices.
I used this pattern, which seems to be very well-spoken of around blogland.
yay, they do a size 8 - 14 version!
My cyber-friend Inder has whipped up a bunch of  lovely versions for her little boy.
I really like the fit - not too boxy, and I do like a raglan sleeve.

However I think I should have made the neck band a bit smaller, to pull the neckline in a bit more.

Also, the red (very bright!) is a lovely soft double knit, while the sleeves and neckband are a rib knit. They're both really beautiful quality Hilco fabrics and a delight to sew with. But they have different textures and I think the rib is a bit too stiff for the parts I chose to use it for.
On the eternal thread question, I used a polyester thread and a zigzag stitch. The construction calls for stitching wrong sides together then topstitching the seam allowance down on the outside for a raw edge look that I think should be fairly sturdy. Fingers crossed that these seams hold.
The hems at sleeves and bottom are completely unfinished which is a bonus since that's where my stitching tends to do most of its stretching and snapping.
(Am now simultaneously cooking, lighting fire, blogging and patting self on back for multitasking, which will go pear shaped any minute.)
I will try this pattern again, and I might even just pull out the overlocker and sew it the 'regular' way I would knits. And I'll match the fabric types better. And tighten up that neckline. Then I think I'll be onto a good thing that might see wear beyond the house.
Jasper was excited about the prospect of a new pyjama top though. Trouble is I might have to make some matching pants now.

- Jane x

Saturday, September 10, 2011

sometimes learning is exciting and cool, other times it sucks nasty stuff

What kind of thread should be used for which kind of sewing?
This is a mystery that I've been working through by trial and error. Surprisingly I've found rather little information about it. Today however, this free download popped into my email inbox and has shed some light on the matter. (It's quite a good little e-book of sewing tips.)
Wish I'd seen it before some of my recent sewing with knits.
See, I've been drawn to cotton thread. I love me a natural fibre, and no-one seemed to be giving me compelling reasons to use something else. Besides, mightn't polyester thread potentially melt under a hot iron?
So anyway I sewed this with cotton thread:
Fig. Aaargh

That's twin needle stitching on the bottom hem of this top, which despite the wonky stripes and thanks to some encouraging comments - thank you! - I finished up and have been wearing a lot.
However. A couple of times in the putting-on or taking-off of this top I've heard that dreaded snap! of a thread being stretched to breaking point. See Fig. A above.
And now I realise that cotton thread has a lot less strength than polyester, and is not really the best option for sewing fabrics with stretch.
Silk thread is apparently very strong and has some natural give in it. I've always wondered what silk thread might be for. My local store doesn't sell it but I've seen a large bank of Gutermann silk thread at Spotlight. Is it really pricey? The hedonist in me rather likes the idea of sewing with silk thread.
Also in the sucky department is the fact I used cotton thread for my beloved Miz Mozelle, and when I was reaching around in the car to strap Clem into his seat, I heard that horrid snap! again.
Fig. Bummer
I guess the bias tape has more give in it than my cotton thread. (See Fig. B.)
What kinds of thread do you use? I'd love to hear some other opinions and advice, especially since I am keen to sew a lot more knits.
To end on a less frustrating note, here is a photo of some gingerbread, decorated entirely by Clem and his friend Summer from across the road. I was rather proud of my calm restraint in standing back and letting two three-year-olds slop coloured sugar about.

Totally worth it.

- Jane x

PS - I'm adding this a few days later in case anyone reading may find it useful - I just found this which suggests using woolly nylon thread in the bobbin when doing a twin needle stitch on knit fabrics. I will have to try that, along with polyester thread, and maybe I'll have better luck with my hems.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Miz Mozelle in Nani Iro knit

I'm going to need serious restraint to stop myself creating a vast wardrobe just from this one pattern.
It's the Jamie Christina Miz Mozelle again (my previous version here and here).
This dress is just so comfy and easy to wear. In knit fabric, it barely needs ironing (big points in my book!). The construction is quite simple, with just enough detail and embellishment to make it 'a bit spesh' and a satisfying sew. What's more, it calls for a single button, which is a great chance to go mad selecting the perfect one from the stash.
For my second go I lashed out on some lovely Nani Iro cotton knit, which is so soft and cosy, yet pretty and drapey enough for a dress.
really styling' it up for the camera, in bare feet next to the half-dead mint,
oh and now I see the spray bottle of pest oil in the background, noice
This time I cut the front skirt and bodice, and back skirt and bodice, as single pieces because I wanted to try a bit of shirring at the waist, instead of elastic in casing. I was thinking of going without a waist tie/belt. In fact I miscalculated fabric requirements a wee bit and didn't have enough to cut one as per the pattern piece. (This fabric is only 80cm wide and I ordered 3 metres.) However I needed to cut some fabric off the skirt length in the end and used that to make a thin belt. I did eight rows of shirring. It looks okay without the belt but I think it's probably better with it.

 I looked at all sorts of options for the bias binding but in the end just went with the same cream coloured store-bought I'd used on my first version. Sometimes simple is best.
photographic assistant

 I felt like this dress needed a little embellishment at the bottom. I opened out some more of the bias tape, ironed it flat and overlocked/serged it to the hem, facing up, on the right side. Then I turned the hem under and let the bias stick out at the bottom, and hemmed it up using a plain straight stitch. It didn't need a stretch stitch because of the stabilising effect of the bias tape. In fact one of the great things about this pattern is that even though it uses stretch fabric, most exposed stitching can be done with ordinary straight stitch because it is stabilised with bias tape, and the collar with interfacing.
I'm hoping this will just gently fray a little with washing, and look pretty rather than shabby. We shall see!
This fabric is called a 'double knit' and it literally is two thin layers which are somehow joined by those little diamond shaped bits. Is this what 'double knit' usually is? In any case as promised in the fabric description, it didn't do that annoying curling thing that can make knits frustrating. Fabric... so many mysteries.

- Jane x
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