Wednesday, 9 August 2017

More new baby clothes

I've probably bored all of you to death as I exhort you NOT to make first size clothes, but probably, like me, you can't resist, and then you may regret it afterwards. In my last post, I wrote about making baby dresses for my newest grand-daughter, and how some of them were too small from day one. In this post, I'll continue on the same theme a bit, but with a few other baby clothes.

They are all easy to make. I'll give you some ideas about free patterns that work for a small baby (though not that small!)

Read on for more information and ideas.

Sunday, 30 July 2017

Back to baby dresses - don't make them too small!

I haven't had to make baby clothes for a couple of years now, so it's nice to have a baby to make things for again.

Unfortunately, I don't often enough heed my own advice. A few months ago, I urged readers NOT to make first size baby clothes for a baby shower. Suffice it to say, I ignored that advice. But - I repeat - don't make first size clothes for babies!!! See my earlier post .

Above is two-week old Ada - in a size 3-6 months dress!

In this post, I'll review some of the baby dresses I've made for Ada from free patterns, and show you my tips (and my mistakes).

Friday, 28 July 2017

Shorts for small girls (2)

In my last post, I wrote about some shorts I'd made this summer for my grand-daughters, using the Craft Passion Kids Shorts pattern. Nice though it is, the shorts from that pattern hadn't entirely worked to my satisfaction. I think the pattern probably works better for boys. 

In fact, Jane completely rejected her pair. And normally, she loves the clothes I make her. So I thought I'd have another go, making something she would think a little bit more feminine. (She wasn't supposed to be a pink, frilly girl. But her childminder has several daughters older than Jane, and I think the girliness of these older girls has caught her imagination.)

Well, she looks happy enough with this outfit - and did actually agree to wear it for an outing to Ham House. I'd used a different shorts pattern this time, and I think these shorts do seem a better fit. To find out more about these shorts and the top she's wearing with them, read on.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Shorts for small girls (1)

I made these shorts for Fleur over two years ago, when she was about 18 months old. I loved the pattern I used, Summer Shorts by Caila Made (and recommend the pattern and tutorial). It's basically an Age 2 pattern, although it is suggested that you can try printing it bigger or small for different sizes within reason.

However, all my grand-daughters are growing! Where did the last 2 years go? So I thought I should do some research on alternative free patterns for shorts.

The first one I came across seemed perfect, size wise, so I launched into making new shorts for the girls. In this post, I'll tell you about my experiences with the Craft Passion Kids Shorts pattern, in size 3 and size 7. In the end, I think this pattern probably works better for boys than for girls, but the pattern and tutorial are offered free, and are straightforward to make up, so I still think they are worth a look. So read on to find out about my experience with this pattern.

Adapting pattern sizing

Recently, I made a number of pairs of shorts using the Craft Passion kid shorts pattern. It is only made in sizes age 3 and age 7 (and the author says the sizes may be small, as they are for an Asian sized child). I decided the age 7 would probably work for Fleur. She's only 3 and three-quarters, but very tall for her age, and mostly wearing age 5-6 clothes. So if an Asian size 7 would come up small, that would probably be OK. Rose is 2 and a half, but I figured the age 3 would work for her. But what to do about Jane, who is 3 and a half, and now starting to grow  into size 4-5 clothes? I decided a bit of interpolation would be needed. It doesn't usually work to just take an even amount off, or add an even amount on all the way round a pattern. In this post, I'll show you how I did it, in case you have a pattern you need to alter size-wise. 

Here is the first pair of shorts made from the size 7 pattern.

Age 7

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Child's apron

I've previously posted about baby bibs and aprons, and aprons for toddlers, but I realised the other day there is still a need for aprons for the girls now they are older. The occasion was a teatime snack for Jane. We'd found some huge, delicious ripe cherries on sale at a price that did not require us to take out a fresh mortgage, so of course we bought lots. And Jane was offered some for her snack. As soon as I started splitting them to take the stones out, I could see a problem looming.  These were really juicy black cherries. Jane (aged 3) refused to take off her pretty dress (too cold) and initially refused to wear any of the aprons I found in her Mum's drawer. One was her sister's, one was too small, one was Mummy's - well, eventually I got her to wear Mummy's, having checked Mummy didn't mind. (Of course she didn't.) But it WAS far too big for her.

So the next day, I looked out the instructions and pattern measurements that I'd used before, free from John Lewis. See the earlier post. And in my stash I found this sturdy cotton fabric, with a great jungle animals print, which had just been waiting for the right project. 

I wanted to make it pretty mess-proof for just such a future occasion, so I made it double layered. I had the spotty brown linen material left over from earlier projects, and the jungle print for fun. I more or less followed the John Lewis instructions, except as mentioned below. Oh, and I didn't bother with the pocket suggested. 

I had to join the spotty material (which was to be the lining) down a centre seam, as I only had a long thin piece left. It was also a little bit shorter than I wanted, by a couple of inches. So I cut the jungle print 4 inches longer, and joined the bottom seam first, pressing it up so that the lining also had a 'hem' of the jungle print.

Next, I made the straps. I sewed them as long straps right sides together and turned them out using a safety pin. After pressing, I oversewed the long seam to stop them twisting, I didn't completely follow the John Lewis instructions, which require you to attach the straps at the end, stitching a box and criss cross to secure them to the outside of the apron. I planned to encase them between the two layers of the apron, so I just finished one end of each of the longer waist straps, and I didn't finish the ends of the neck strap at all.

I intended to sew the two layers together, right sides together, leaving a gap in the stitching to enable turning the right side out. However, I'd already got my bottom edge (because of the seam to join the short piece to the longer piece). So the opening would be on one side seam. Before I sewed the layers of the apron together, I pressed the turnings I wanted to make on either side of my opening, to make it easier afterwards to pin accurately.

I then pinned the straps between the layers (which were of course folded right sides together.). I also folded the straps up a bit inside the apron layers and pinned them together. I didn't want to catch them by mistake when I sewed round the apron.  I pinned all the way round the apron apart from the side opening.

I sewed all round the apron catching in the ends of the straps, except for my opening, about 5" or 6" long, on one side. I clipped the curves, and the corners, and then turned it all right side out with the aid of a thin chop stick. I pressed it, and repinned the turnings I had pressed previously. A quick run round on the machine oversewing the entire edges of the body of the apron, and it was done. Even with  the complication caused by my shortage of lining material, I completed this in a couple of hours. So that was in enough time to be able to take it as a 'present' when picking Jane up from the child-minder - an incentive for her to come quietly and not lark about! 

She tried it on when we got to her home. It's a good fit, long enough and wide enough to cover her dress. In fact it would probably have done so even if I hadn't added the bit to the length. But never mind, it will fit her for longer. She loves the jungle print. The length of the neck strap on someone Jane's age (3) is such that you  need to pull it down and fasten the waist straps through the neck strap.

I'm sorry the focus is not the best on this picture, but you can see how nice the fabric is 

The design actually makes a reversible apron. Apart from the fact that this one had a centre seam down the lining, it could be used either way. 

Jane is 3 and a half, and this came down to her knees - perfect!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Yet more summer dresses for little girls

Yesterday I posted on the subject of the Suncadia knit dress, which is a free PDF pattern and tutorial from Sew Much Ado. Today, I'm trying to do some catching up on the other dresses I've made so far this summer. Two of them have been from the Izzy Top pattern from Climbing the Willow, I have written about those here. And now, in this post, I will write about a couple more dresses for 3 year-old Jane. Her baby sister was due at the end of June (and is now, delightfully, with us). I felt that Jane might feel her new sister was going to get a lot of attention, and so she should have some nice new things too. So both these dresses have gone down well.

Hang on, I hear you say - aren't there three dresses here? Well, yes,  the tiny matching one WAS for baby sister. She'll be known as Ada on the blog from now on.

To find out more about this rabbit dress and elephant dress, read on.

Monday, 17 July 2017

More summer dresses for little girls - Suncadia

I've been busy making summer dresses for my 4 grand-daughters. Yes, that's right, number 4 has arrived! So I'm now making in sizes from age 5-6, down to 0-3 months.

I will do a separate blog on the baby clothes. This summer, I've had to be hunting for patterns for little girls who are no longer babies or toddlers. Here are some of the ones I love, and I'll tell you below and in my next couple of posts, how I made them, and any tricks or tips I can add.


All of them were made using free PDF patterns from the internet. Those shown above come from 4 separate patterns, which were chosen for their versatility. (Virtually all were modified from the original pattern.) These were all made in sizes 3 to 5 years old (for three grand-daughters, between 2 and a half, and a tall 3 and a half). Read on to find out more.

Wednesday, 12 July 2017

Izzy top as a dress

The Izzy top makes not only a pretty top, but can be made a bit longer as a dress. I am a real fan of the free pattern and tutorial by Climbing the Willow. Many thanks to Teri, who was kind enough to put it on-line as a free PDF. However, I now modify it slightly to make it a more comfortable fit (or easier to get on and off). Here are two of my granddaughters in Izzy dresses.

Read more below about how to convert the Izzy top into these lovely and easy to wear dresses.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

Extending an opening below the yoke line

A couple of the patterns I've worked on have had a back opening to a dress or top, but on the pattern or instructions, the opening only goes down to the seam line where the yoke joins the gathered skirt part. On both of these, I have wanted to extend the opening down beyond that seam line to make getting the garment on and off easier. The challenge is not that the opening is insufficient to allow the head through, but that the seam line itself causes a constriction when it comes to getting shoulders and elbows through. Just a little further opening down below the seam is a help.

1. Edge to edge opening

One such pattern, the free PDF for the Izzy top, is one I love, but I've previously had to resort to making a larger size to deal with the shoulders and elbows issue! It is designed as an edge to edge opening in the back yoke, attaching to a gathered skirt. The back skirt in the Izzy top is made all of one piece, cut on the fold.

Here's how I extended the opening.

I took the pattern piece for the skirt, which says ' cut one on the fold'. (But you could do the same thing if you had a pattern with a centre back seam in the skirt.) I added about 1 1/4" to the width, and treated this new line as a cutting line.

I then treated the original fold line as a seam line, but I only seamed from the bottom to a little short of the top - say 2" to 3" short. (Obviously right sides together.) It's important here to reinforce the top of this seam. Having sewed up the seam, I trimmed away the lower part of the seam allowance. You don't have to do this, you could just leave it with a very wide seam allowance, but I think it looks neater to trim it. Note that I only started trimming well below the opening I'd left in the seam, that way you won't have raw edges on show. You could cut it straight across, but I thought it looks better angled as I've shown it.

 The next step was to open the back out, and press the seam allowances away from the seam. Then I finished the edges. If you have a serger, you could serge the edges. I don't, so I chose to do a fairly short (but wide) zigzag across the edges, Alternatively you could use pinking shears or turn in a tiny single hem. But the zig zagging worked for me,

When it came to attaching the skirt to the yoke, this was quite easy. I use a slightly different method from the one suggested in the Izzy tutorial. This is partly because I don't have a serger, and partly because I happen to think it looks neater, I prefer to 'trap' the skirt between the two layers of the bodice. So, having gathered the skirt, i pinned it right sides together only to the outer layer of the bodice, matching the finished edges of the bodice to the edges of the opening I'd created in the skirt. I then sewed it together, pressed it, and pressed the 3/8" seam allowance on the bottom of the lining layer of the bodice. I chose to hand stitch this to the inside of the skirt seam, but you could oversew on a machine if you wanted. For me, one of the great things about making clothes for small people is that the odd bit of hand sewing is quite small. It took me less than 10 minutes to hand sew it all neatly, tucking in the ends. This is how the inside looks.

The other small modification I made was that the Izzy top has only one tab for closure, right at the top (neckline). I chose to add another one further down as well, because my opening is a bit longer.

And voila - a top that opens just that bit further, and should be easier to get on and off.

2. Overlap opening

I had had a similar problem with a pretty pattern from Cottage Mama when I made Christmas party dresses for my grand-daughters eighteen months ago. This pattern also has a back opening for the top part, attaching to a gathered skirt. There was the same issue, though, in that that the waist measurement in itself has little 'give' to go over broader shoulders (or hips / butt encased in a nappy, if you pull up instead of down).However, it is different from the Izzy top in a couple of ways. Firstly the yoke is more of a full bodice that comes down to the waistline. Secondly, the back opening has an overlap, in other words the centre back is not on the edges of the opening, but about half an inch in from each side, with a one inch overlap. 

This overlap opening presents a different challenge if you want to make the opening a bit deeper, as I did. If your skirt seam is in the centre of the back, it's not going to line up with the overlapped edge of the bodice part. If you line it up with the overlapped bodice edge, it won't be in the centre. I spent several nights awake trying to figure this out.

If your opening extended all the way down the skirt, the not centredness might not matter. Sew Mama Sew has made that assumption in this post, but the opening is in the front. I think it might be a bit weird with an opening all the way down the back of a skirt. With the Cottage Mama dresses for Christmas, I played around with adding extra one side of the skirt pattern, then the other side, then a bit more the first side - and I was never very happy with the results. I ended up having to fudge it a bit. You can just about see that the opening goes down below the waistline, but however hard I fiddled with it, I couldn't find a way to get the centre back line of the skirt to be anything other than off-centre!

Maybe I was being extra fussy - I don't suppose the toddler who wore this noticed at all! Eventually I concluded that (for someone of my skills at sewing, or lack of them) I would just have to assume that the "centre" back seam for the skirt would by slightly off centre. After all,  the difference is pretty small. If anyone knows how to deal with this, I would be very interested to hear from them - a search on the internet hasn't given me any more ideas.

However, since I first wrote this post,  I read more about how to add a continuous bound placket - this means you don't need a seam all the way down the dress so the fact that the opening is slightly off centre isn't noticeable. I'll use this approach in future, I think - and if I do, I'll write about it! In the meantime, I'll continue to extend openings below a fixed yoke or waistline seam, unless that seam is elasticated.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Busy busy!

April and May have been very busy months, after a March devoted almost exclusively to making maternity clothes. A lot of catching up to do, as well as projects I wanted to get done before my new grand-daughter makes her appearance very soon. I've had no time to blog about these projects while in progress - that will have to wait till later.

1) Re-do the seams on the pink maternity trousers (the seat seam of which had proved not strong enough for an active mother-to-be)

2) Make some new protectors for the seat belt straps in the baby seat - one had been lost, so I made a new pair. Actually, I might make some for my car. I'm quite short and the seat belt abrades my neck a bit. So I sometimes use a scarf round it to stop the rubbing. This would work better!

3) Cot quilt for the new baby - all the other girls already have quilts, so it seemed only fair!

4) New Izzy dress for Fleur in size 5 (she's 3 and a half, but tall) - more here:

5) New Izzy dress for Jane in size 4 (she's 3 and a bit). (More here.)I do particularly like this photo, as she'd not only wearing the dress I just made, but she's wearing on her back a rucksack I made her - you can just see the straps -  and carrying the holdall for her doll's clothes that I also made. Oh, and the sunglasses were a stocking present at Christmas.

6) A knit top dress in a pale rust zig zag fabric for Rose - size 3 - she's 2 and a half - the Suncadia pattern D49
7) A kimono style onesie in lilac striped jersey knit using the House of Estela pattern T19 for the new baby

8) A kimono for the new baby in pale blue flannel with puppies, from the Carewear pattern PB7

9) Another maternity top with short sleeves also using the pale rust zig zag T shirt material - this time planned also as a breast-feeding top, with a front opening placket. It doesn't look much hanging up, but it looks nice on. And is very practical.

10) A cotton breast-feeding cover-up in navy

11) Enlarge the Widi dresses I made for Jane and Fleur last year. Both are still plenty long enough, but getting a little tight round the shoulders

12) and 13) A baby dress (on the right below) based on the rickety rackety pattern, with a pink bodice and yellow and pink elephants material for the skirt; and a dress in the same fabrics (reversed) for the new baby's older sister (Jane) using a heavily modified version of the Cutting Room Floor peplum top pattern D78.

14) Sunglasses case (nothing to do with babies or pregnant mummies or grand-daughters - those were for ME!)

15) Romper suit for new baby based on the Dana Made It diaper cover pattern - intended to be 3-6 months 

16) Make a pair of my daughter's maternity jeans into maternity shorts - it's too hot for jeans now, especially when you are over-heating - no picture of the finished job!

17) Run up a quick maternity skirt for same (using left over trouser top from Burda pattern that didn't quite work)
18) A tiny circular skirt to go with bought peach and turquoise onesies in 3-6 month size

19) In a similar vein, a tiny dress from the Summer Breeze pattern in 3-6 months, to go with the bought onesies

20) 2 small summer quilts so the grand-children have something to sleep under when they stay in a couple of weeks time

Whoosh! Even though I knew I'd been busy, I didn't realise how busy till I wrote it all down. 

Sadly, (7) and (8) may already be redundant. I'd been preparing for another early arrival, so these were in tiny sizes. But it doesn't look as if the baby will be that early, or that small now! But I'm sure the NICU unit will be grateful for unworn donations of premature baby clothing.

Now to get some of these on the blog - whilst also continuing to make lots of things!

Monday, 17 April 2017

More on making maternity clothes - using maternity patterns

I've recently written a number of posts about adapting non-maternity patterns to work for maternity clothing. These were all for tops. You can find the main link to them here.

I was more nervous about adapting trousers, so I did buy a couple of the very few patterns around. In fact, two of the patterns I bought are vintage ones.

So this post is more of a review of 'proper' maternity patterns, and what I've learned while making them up.

I really did find it very disappointing that the pattern manufacturers seem to have lost interest in making maternity patterns. In fact, they have far more patterns for fancy dress! And overall, they seem keener on making vast shapeless sacks than anything stylish. But if you really hunt around, you can find patterns that work. Below, I'll give you some ideas, and I'll also show you the results.

Adjustable elastic for maternity trousers (or growing children!)

I recently made a couple of pairs of trousers for my pregnant daughter. For one pair, the pattern I was using required you to thread elastic in through the waist band. This was to be via the usual method of sewing up the waistband apart from leaving a couple of inches not sewn, through which you can thread the elastic with a safety pin, sewing the two endsa of the elastic together, and finally sewing up the last bit of the band.

However, I was concerned that if the elastic was tight enough to hold the trousers up early in the pregnancy, it would be too tight later on.

So I invented a method to get round this. (When I say invented, I mean I had to think this out for myself, I hadn't read the idea anywhere else. It's not to say someone else didn't invent it as well!) It has resulted in a band which was snug enough to hold up only a few months in, but will hopefully continue to expand as she does, without becoming constricting or uncomfortable.

I used a piece of 'normal' elastic (about 3/4" width) round the back, measured as a comfortable length to go round the back of her waist. Having measured her back waist, deducted a couple of inches or so, to allow for the fact that you need a bit of stretch. I then joined it to a piece of buttonhole elastic for the front, the same width  (about 3/4"), this I left fairly loose (i.e. longer than the back. I threaded it through the waistband, having left a slit in both side seams of the waistband, and joined the other ends of the two elastics together. I finished the edges of these slits but left them open. I then sewed a button on each side underneath the elastic, so that the button hole elastic could be pulled up tighter to start with, and fastened onto the buttons, and then gradually released as the tummy expands. The idea is to button the elastic twice, once, near the end to stop it slipping back through the waistband, and the second time, to hold it at the length you want for a comfortable fit. It can be adjusted at both the left and right hand side.

Here you can see the effect on another pair of trousers. The button hole elastic is joined at both ends to the other elastic, which is slightly shorter than the back waistband. It has here been pulled through, so the button is first put through the hole nearest where this elastic joins the other elastic. This fixes the stretch on the back elastic. It could be changed of course by first putting the button through a different hole, but I'm assuming there is not too much increase in the girth of the back in pregnancy. Then the button hole elastic is pulled through the slit a bit more, forming a flat loop, and the button is put through a button hole further along to tighten the front elastic.  This happens on both sides of the trousers. Here, it is quite a short loop, implying that the elastic is almost at its greatest extent now. But early in pregancy, you could have it tightened more to hold them up! Eventually you could unbutton all of it if you wanted. 

This seem to have worked well, so I also did the same on other pairs of trousers I made from a modern maternity pattern that made no mention of elastic, but which were very loose at the waist and which tended to slip down rather embarrassingly.

Of course, you can use this method on any pair of trousers for which you want to allow waist expansion, for example for a child. You wouldn't then need to fix the back waist stretch, as you'd want to waist to stretch evenly all round. You would just pull up the elsatic as much as required.

Incidentally, it would be possible to use button hole elastic all the way round, so you only had one join in the elastic. I didn't do that for two reasons. One, it tends to be more expensive than ordinary elastic, so I chose to use it sparingly as needed. The other more important reason, though, is that I have generally found it to be more stretchy (looser) than normal elasatic and I thought it might stretch too much on the back. As it happened, this wider button hole elastic was pretty similar stretchiness-wise to the normal elastic, so I don't think I gained much, as it happened.