Pattern-making exercise

So I’ve been secretly itching to make children’s clothes again, now that things are going pretty well with Piggledee. I used to make a lot of things for Miss M to wear when she was a baby, using commercial patterns (mostly from Japanese sewing books). But when she turned about two and a half, she began to be choosy about what to wear — flatly rejecting several of my lovingly-made outfits. Never mind it took me hours, or that I splurged on precious fabric like Liberty of London. She was unkind and ungrateful. I didn’t take those rejections very well, and I stopped making her clothes.

But now I want to try again, for several reasons. First, ready-to-wear clothes don’t fit Miss M properly. She has a stocky body with no bottom. Pants just fall off her butt. Dresses that fit her chest have sleeves that are too long. And so on. It makes sense to make it myself so things will fit her better. Second, I want to try my hand at pattern making. Not that I don’t like commercial patterns – I do, there are so many cute designs out there. But I’ve always wanted to know the logic behind those patterns, so I would understand better how to modify those pattens properly. Third, and most importantly, I am a huge Project Runway fan.

I used this book as a reference. Metric Pattern Cutting for Children’s Wear and Babywear, by Winifred Aldrich.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made a basic body block using a combination of Miss M’s measurements and the standard measurements for 3-4 year-olds. This was a bit confusing at first, and I had to read and re-read the instructions several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For my first project, I wanted to make something rearlly simple. Also something that doesn’t require button holes because my sewing machine is broken in that regard. I decided to make an apron, like this one my mother had bought in Japan a while ago… and which is now a little too small for Miss M.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cute, isn’t it? I totally ignored all the good design features like pin tucks, lace trim, the button closure, and even pocket. I copied the basic body block onto another sheet of paper, and drew over it to make it look like an apron.  The square neckline looked tricky to sew, so I made it round. I also made the yoke longer so I wouldn’t have to factor the armhole curve into the bodice pattern. The back will be closed by two sets of ties.  Simple, simple, simple.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love that children’s patterns are so tiny each piece fits onto a regular A4 printer paper.  The bodice part doesn’t have a pattern – it’s just rectangles (about 1.3 times wider than the yoke) to be shortened with a gather to fit the yoke. Can’t get any simpler. I used a home decor fabric I had in my stash, and sewed up a trial version this afternoon. Here it is!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have to disclose that I had made aprons like this before, using a modified commercial pattern. So I knew how to put it together already. But the point of the exercise was to make the pattern from scratch.

I think it looks decent and wearable… if somewhat wider than I had imagined. Does a girl really need 12cm of ease around the chest? Hmm. Maybe for something like an apron, which may be worn over a sweater. But for a dress, maybe that’s a bit too much?

The yoke should have been a little longer as well, because around the armhole, it got a bit too bulky and unsightly.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can’t wait to try it on Miss M when she comes back from visiting her grandmother. Then I’ll adjust the pattern and make a proper version – this time maybe with pin tucks and a pocket.

Then my next project will be… a jumper skirt. Not sure how to do it without a button hole but I’ll find a way.

So much fun.

——

Later: I did try the apron on Miss M. At first she was in a rejection mood, but when I pleaded “But Mommy made this for you! Can you please try it on?” – she brightened up and decided to wear it. The difference between 2 and a half and 3 and a half may be that she now has a budding sense of compassion. Or appreciation for other people’s efforts. Maybe.

Anyway the apron was a perfect size for her over winter clothing. It could be a little longer though.

Introducing…. a perfect bib

It took me a long time to make bibs for my shop — because, aside from the fact that everyone else was making it, I am not a big fan of bibs. Bibs basically look all the same, they cost about the same, and frankly, they all look silly and undignified on kids no matter how you dress them up with pretty fabric. In fact, the prettier the fabric, the sadder it looked to me. And plastic bibs? Total abomination.

That’s why I hardly ever used bibs for Miss M when she was little. I made her a few bibs for her mealtime mess, but even then, I preferred to dress her in aprons instead, or I just resigned to washing her clothes more often. It didn’t bother me.

Then Mr. A turned up, and he was a natural-born drooler and spit-upper. As a breastfeeding baby, you could count on him to spit up every single time, staining not only his clothes but also mine, the feeding pillow, and the bedding below. In between feedings he drooled buckets, especially once he started teething. I was amazed how fast his clothes got soaked wet, and poor thing, if I didn’t change him fast enough he would develop rashes. So for Mr. A, a bib was a sheer necessity. A survival item even.

Now, while I still think bibs look silly, at least I understand why parents need them. So, with that in mind, I strove to make a perfect bib for my shop. A perfect bib would be:

  • comfortable for little ones to wear – must be lightweight and extremely soft around the neck.
  • absorbent! A bib is no good if a stream of drool rolls right past the surface to soak the tummy area.
  • offer good coverage without making your little one look like a frill necked lizard.
  • cute but in an understated way.
  • closed by a snap: easy to put on and off, but difficult for little hands to yank it off.
  • versatile – from newborn to toddler, and for messy eaters and well as droolers (or both).

And here it is — a perfect bib!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you know this is the softest, lightest, and super absorbent 100% cotton double gauze from Japan. For the backing, I used organic cotton jersey, which is not only light and incredibly soft, but also absorbent. It has a beautiful white colour. If you wore this around your neck, you wouldn’t want to take it off because it’s so warm and cozy. The adorable elephants print is just sweet enough for little ones without being a try-hard.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It is pretty large for babies, offering great coverable. And you can use it all the way through toddlerhood and beyond (if you wish) — here is Miss M loving the pink elephants bib.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Does wearing matching bibs foster sibling love? Or wait, is Miss M saying “go away, it’s my photo shoot”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which colour is your favourite? The bibs are now available in my shop.

Little things

I have been making little things lately for upcoming markets (in particular a school market at  Lorien Novalis (Sydney) on July 23 and Mathilda’s Market (Sydney) on August 27). I thought my market collection needed something small, pretty, useful and wallet-friendly. So I started with pincushions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These pincushions didn’t come out as I planned. My plan was to make $5 pincushions that are super, super-fast to make, using scrap fabric I had been hoarding, and hence doesn’t cost me anything. Well, as I started with simple two or three-patch pieces, it got boring. I wanted something prettier, something a little more precious. So I ended up making mini log cabins (or technically, I think they are the beginnings of a pattern called “courthouse steps”). Very pretty!

And then Mark suggested that I scent these, so I thought, why not? I do happen to have an embarrassingly large collection of essential oils from my other (now forgotten) hobbies (making soap, perfume, and natural skincare products, if you must know). And if you were to scent these cushions, how boring would it be to use something so ordinary like lavender. I chose Rosewood Brazil, which is exquisite (and expensive).

I love these pincushions, especially when they look all cozy together in a basket. But I beat myself up afterwards for spending hours and hours on something that is supposed to be super simple and inexpensive. My business brain has been defeated by my creative brain, yet again.

So, to atone for my pincushion indulgence, I also made these popcorn bags, a la Gymbaroo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are the simplest bags, about 6″ x 4″, filled with popcorn. At Gymbaroo they called these bean bags, and use them as a stimulating toy for babies, or for target throwing for older children. You can play with them in a lot of ways basically, which is why I love simple toys. I used popcorn just because the beans I had in my pantry were large and menacing looking. Popcorn seemed more friendly.

I’m happy that I made at least something that’s pretty and wallet-friendly. And useful, too – if your kids are in need of a snack, just rip one of these open and make popcorns!

Double gauze

Today I received another shipment of Japanese goodness:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Double gauze! With baby elephants in an assortment of colours. And blue “working cars” print. Just how cute are these fabrics?

Double gauze is my newest object of infatuation. It is the softest, cushiest, most snuggle-able cotton fabric ever. It is also extremely lightweight – it’s like air. If you have never seen one in person, it is like cheese cloth (or muslin in Australia) but with two layers of them fused together to make a more dense, workable fabric.

In Japan, people make children’s clothing (even adults’ clothing) with this material. It is especially perfect for baby clothing and accessories because of its incomparable softness, lightness and absorbency. This type of fabric may not be Japan’s invention, but only in Japan does it come in such wonderful range of children’s prints.

What will I do with these double gauze prints? Why, make accessories for babies of course. I’ve been wanting to make things for babies. But the usual suspect of baby items – you know, bibs and wraps and such – didn’t inspire me creatively because they are so overdone. I mean, go to any retail shop and you’ll find an overflowing amount of pretty baby goods. I thought I had nothing new to offer in this market. But now I do!

Actually I’ve been making washers lately with double gauze and organic cotton jersey or bamboo terry (towel material). These are divine – so soft, absorbent, and just a delight to hold in your hand. Useful, too, for wiping little noses and as a wash cloth in bath. I just listed a few in my shop.


 

 

 

 

 

 

Stay tuned for other baby items using my brand new stash of Japanese double gauze.

Introducing – daycare bag

I had been thinking of making a daycare bag for my son for a long time. There doesn’t seem to be anything cool out there in the shops, except plastic backpacks with commercial characters on them. I thought I’d make a fabric alternative to those large backpacks, but I kept wondering — does it really have to be a backpack? Who’s going to carry something so big and heavy? Not my 16-month-old son for sure. It’s either me or Mark. And if it’s the parents who carry a daycare bag, then it sure doesn’t have to be a backpack, because we are not wearing them like backpacks. That would look silly.

What we needed then was a large tote bag of some kind, with some pockets for nappies, sunscreen and a drink bottle (but not as crazy on the pocket front as a proper nappy/diaper bag – we don’t need to store our keys or phones in there), that are “adult” enough for us parents to carry but at the same time not too adult — because it’s for our little ones after all, and black or brown would be too gloomy.

So I kept thinking. And finally this week I came up with the right design.  I love this bag.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daycare bag (blue dots)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coming up with a new design is my favourite part of all. Sometimes my concepts don’t work out at all, and sometimes it takes a few trial and errors. This time though, I think I’ve pretty much nailed it the first time. I love everything about it – those large dotty print (cotton linen canvas from Japan), the oval-shaped bottom, the colour combination, the huge outside pockets with magnetic snap closure, the adjustable shoulder strap, and a little side pocket inside to hold a water bottle. I love the “drape” of the bag, or the lack of it.  It is a pretty sturdy bag with a good shape, and not too slouchy. Yet when you carry it on your shoulder, the bag looks more rounded in shape, like a bucket, and very stylish and playful.

Most of all I love this fabric combination that strikes the right balance between “adult” and “child.” It even transcends gender, and dads can carry the bag as well as moms. In my humble opinion anyway. Plus if you are not too keen on a million pockets, you can use it easily as a nappy/diaper bag. It’ll look great on a stroller.

I will list them in my shop soon.

More cushion happiness

I’ve become addicted to making patchwork cushions, it seems. Who knew it would be so much fun? All the creative joy of patchwork, with none of the laborious repetition needed to complete a proper quilt. All you need is one block of patchwork (instead of a dozen or more for a quilt), add a very simple backing, and voila, you’ve got yourself a pretty cushion to admire and cuddle with every day. Instant gratification.

I’ve always loved house quilts, but never made one before. I thought it would be perfect for a child’s cushion.

At first I tried to make it the lazy way again – eye-balling everything like how I made those log cabin cushions. But it didn’t work this time. I couldn’t even get the window size right. This cushion needed a bit more planning. So I taped up a few pieces of white paper to the size of 45cm x 45cm, the finished size of a cushion top, and drew a house on it with a pencil. Then I measured the drawing to work out the size of each piece needed. It was like a puzzle – and great fun.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I like how it turned out, but if I were making another, I would make a few changes to the pattern. The house could be slightly larger, and the yellow border slightly narrower. I could add more fun features to the house, like a chimney. But then again, there are so many other quilt designs I’d like to try out as a cushion. So many ideas. So little time.

Meanwhile a corner of my son’s cot looks a little happier.