Monday, 27 March 2017

Hop's new dress

M's sewing aspirations are high and just lately she's moved on from drawing countless pictures of dancers in varying pretty dresses, to wanting to make the dresses themselves. Sadly her lack of sewing skills have led to her improvising, which means making clothes for her toys from paper.

These creations take hours to design and then make, but being paper and held together with tape are not particularly robust. The first outfit ripped when she tried to dress the toy, so after some thought M's solution is to:
  • Make the dress bigger than the toy
  • Use a dress form - in this case a few toilet rolls
Hop's dress on an improvised dress form.
The dress being modelled by Hop herself.

It may not look like much, but there is a lot of design and knowledge about clothing wrapped up in this dress. If you look there is a bodice and a full, layered skirt. The bodice itself is decorated with bows and the whole garment is sized to fit (albeit large with extra room so it can be put on and taken off) a specific toy rabbit.

I'm impressed.

M tells me she is making Hop some pyjamas next.

In the meantime, I've started trying to improve M's sewing skills but it is slow going. Sewing without an end product is not terribly exciting and it is not a craft which lends itself well to instant results. The results are faster than something like knitting or crochet, but you still need to have patience.

For this reason over the past couple of weeks we've worked some threading and beading, making some dream catchers, wind chimes and necklaces.

We've also done some actual needlework, with real needles...
Making a pompom necklace and working on our French colours.
Patchwork cat wearing her new necklace.

A flower stitched onto card.
A heart stitched onto card.

In the meantime I've been altering costume for M's upcoming dance show. The costumes may have come from a theatrical supplier but they do not take into account the real shape of small children. Fortunately I've been able to limit the alterations to shortening straps and adding extra velcro.

Saturday, 11 March 2017

It turned out alright in the end

I started work on this shawl collared waistcoat back in November, based on a pattern from "Custom Crochet Sweaters (Dora Ohrenstein)". It was not overly complicated but had the novelty factor of being worked vertically with increases based on changing the stitch height.

Everything started well and I made good progress, but misunderstood the increase instructions and didn't notice until I had almost finished. I wouldn't have been happy with the finished result, so I ripped the whole garment out and remade it, finally placing the last stitch on Christmas Eve. By this point I had lost the love entirely so put it aside, only taking it out last month to reluctantly sew it together.

I'm glad I persevered though as I think it turned out well.
Shawl collared waistcoat.
 Worked up in Wendy Mode DK on a 5.5mm hook I had to rework the pattern a fair bit as usual, I couldn't make gauge, this is why I got lost on the increases. My interpretation of the word 'repeat' and whether it includes the original instruction on what to repeat, differed from the designers intended meaning. As I had to adjust most of the stitch and row counts, it is easy to see how I got confused.
Stitch pattern.
The stitch pattern combined dc and tr in a cluster, reminding me of my favourite baby blanket. It was easy to memorise and works up quickly, which is why I was able to make this whole garment twice in under two months. The only delay was I couldn't face sewing it together.
I fastened the front with a single snap as recommended by the pattern. The stitches had to be stabilised, by darning into the clusters to produce a firmer fabric before sewing the snap on. The only real issue with the design is the curl on the bottom of the front pieces. I tried steaming the area before making up which helped a little but didn't completely eliminate the problem. As Wendy Mode is 50/50 Merino Wool/Acrylic I didn't want to do more for fear of killing the yarn.

So in summary, this should have been a quick and easy made which was complicated because I couldn't hit gauge so had to rework all the numbers. It was however completely worth the effort as it is a lovely waistcoat and has already made it into regular circulation as part of my wardrobe.

Friday, 24 February 2017

A full day at the Arts Centre

Yesterday was a very full day at our local Arts Centre, starting with this energetic and full audience participation version of Peter And The Wolf. Absolutely packed studio performance. Great fun.
M moved to the very front to dance and act out the story.
The packed studio meant I was sat towards the middle of the room and persuaded M to go sit at the front with the other children. M wasn't too keen to start with, but once the concert started she engaged with the performance, answering questions, joining in and making suggestions.

After the concert was over we enjoyed an indoor picnic hiding from Storm Doris which was raging outside, then went to take in the current exhibition in the Mead Gallery.

There were only three installations and the first was a bit lack-lustre, but we walked around the corner and M stopped, stunned.
M stopped and said 'Wow!'
M showed great restraint here. She desperately wanted to touch and to get underneath the thing. It isn't every day you see hundreds of pots and pans suspended from the ceiling. Instead she walked around it, viewing the installation from every angle she could while standing a good couple of metres away.

She turned around and had another 'Wow!' moment, but refrained from touching as I stood by.
Time for dinner.
I love introducing M to art and talking about what we see, which is why we drop into art galleries and museums on a fairly regular basis. I know a lot of six year olds might not be so appreciative, but M thoroughly enjoys anything art related.

As usual, The Mead had set up a creative space following the current themes in the gallery. M enjoyed playing with cutlery on an OHP, telling stories, singing and moving things around.
M has fun with cutlery and an OHP
Then she got creative.
Making a thing.
Another girl was talked to and consulted on how to use the resources available. Staff and gallery visitors were talked to. Singing happened. I helped where requested. which meant wielding sticky tape (there was no glue) under close direction. Fun was had, until at last a very tired little girl declared she was finished and we could go home.

Even I got involved, drawing the following with graphite sticks when not facilitating M's creative needs.
Mummy's effort.
A long day, which left M very inspired and me very worn out!

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Jazzy's new dress

We bought M a small dress up doll for Christmas called Lottie, who is modelled on a 10 year old girl and went down very well. M decided she needed a friend and dug out Jazzy, who sadly (after 3 years of play) had lost her clothes. Jazzy felt sad and while Lottie offered to lend her friend some clothes, Jazzy is very short and the clothes were too big.

M asked if I could help.

Together we talked about the kind of clothes Jazzy needed, drew some sketches and settled on a pretty dress. M insisted that it should be blue, but I explained I only had white fabric to hand, however I would make it appear to be blue. M was sceptical but Jazzy really needed a dress so agreed.

M fetched her tape measure and we got to work.
Taking careful measurements.
Once the teeny, tiny doll had been measured we drafted out a bodice pattern, which I cut out of white cotton remnants. The skirt was a simple rectangle cut to length and sewn to the bodice.

I used a sewing machine to edge the pieces before sewing the main seams. The skirt was hand gathered then pinned in place before sewing. In all cases I used a .5cm seam allowance. 

Once the dress was assembled I decorated it with blue Sharpie, adding little dots to make a ditzy pattern. M was fascinated and had a go on a piece of fabric herself along side me. Once I was satisfied I no longer had a white dress, I ironed the whole thing which fixed the colour.
Jazzy's new dress which still needs to be closed at the back and have trim added.
At this stage all that was left was to sew on some trim and to close the back. The main problem with sewing the seams was the tiny size of the pattern pieces which made it hard to keep the fabric steady under the presser foot as I sewed. The solution was to ditch the machine and hand sew a piece of ribbon around the waist and little piece of trim to the hem.
Jazzy in her new dress.
Once the trims were on, I hand sewed the back closed and folded over the remaining edges. M doesn't like velcro so I added a press fastening to close, which disrupted the line a bit but did the job.
The back view.
Over all not a bad first effort. Jazzy was delighted with the result. She donned her new dress and ran off to play with her friend Lottie as soon as the last stitch was placed. Of course, Jazzy and Lottie are now planning the rest of their new wardrobe, so I may soon be called upon to sew tiny clothes again. Time to step up my efforts in teaching the small person to sew I think!

Useful Links
* Lottie Dolls -