Monday, April 21, 2014

Fabric Box Tutorial

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll know that on Easter Sunday I was taught by my friend Therese (aka Chooktopia on Instagram) how to make fabric boxes. We went around to Therese's house for an Easter Egg hunt (our daughters are BFFs) and she had made one these fabric boxes for all three kids to collect their eggs in. I immediately wanted to learn how to make them, so while the kids were playing, and the men folk were talking about woodwork or something, Therese gave me a tutorial on how to make fabric boxes.

I put pics of the boxes I made yesterday on Instagram and was asked by a few people for a tutorial. After gaining permission from Therese to do a tutorial, here is how she taught me to make them.


Step 1: Choose your fabric box size and cut out your pieces

You could really do any size, but Therese had measurements for a large (the hawaiian print one up the back) or a medium (the spotty versions and the cross-stitch one in front).

You need 4 pieces of fabric:

1 x patterned fabric rectangle (can be any type - I wouldn't use a silky, soft fabric though. I used Japanese cottons from my stash and a very similar fabric from Therese's stash. She used a quilting-type cotton for the little cross-stitch ones).

1 x plain fabric rectangle (Use something pretty stiff. Therese used an amazing canvas, I used denim and a very stiff linen).

2 x plain fabric squares (same as the plain fabric rectangle).


Here are the different sizes:

Medium Rectangles (cut 1 patterned and 1 plain) - 54cm x 18cm
Medium Squares (cut 2 plain) - 15cm squared

Large Rectangles (cut 1 patterned and 1 plain) - 69cm x 22cm
Medium Squares (cut 2 plain) - 20cm squared.

All seam allowances are 1cm.

I don't press or overlock the edges at all.

Step 2: Join long sides of rectangles together



With right sides together, sew one long side of the rectangle together. Don't sew the other side together.

Step 3: Join short sides together

With right sides together, fold the joined pieces in half width-wise and sew together to make a tube. You might want to put a pin at the long edge seams to align the seam lines.


Step 4: Insert the first bottom


The first part of this step is to round the edges of your fabric squares. You can use a glass as a guide or just eye-ball it.


Once you've rounded your edges, divide the patterned part of your tube into four sections. With right sides together, pin on one of the squares, aligning a pinned section with a rounded edge.


Stitch around the edge, with the patterned part of the fabric facing up. You will need to go slow and ease it around slowly so you don't get any gathers. If you wanted to be extra careful, you could use a long gathering stitch to ease the patterned fabric onto the plain square. 

This is what you should have at the moment:


Step 5: Inserting the other bottom

The next step is to insert the bottom onto the plain section of the tube. Turn the tube back in the wrong way, and repeat what we've done at Step 4, but leave about 5cm unstitched together. This will let you turn the box out the right way.


Step 6: Turn the box out the right way

Using the 5cm gap, push the fabric through the hole so the box is the right way out. 


Step 7: Hand-stitch opening closed

Using your preferred hand-stitch, stitch the small 5cm opening closed.


Step 8: Fill up and admire your box!


Voila! You have cute little fabric boxes to store your goodies in. I have the large one with hawaiian flowers storing some overlocker threads that don't fit on my thread board. The smaller ones are filled with my daughter's various tiny toys that don't have a home. Little animal figurines, doll house furniture, wind-up animals etc.

I can see more of these in my future - how about you? Are you going to make one?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Just an Australian Girl, Up in the Tokyo Streets*

* 5 points if you get my lame attempt at a pop culture reference....

Well, I'm not in the Tokyo streets (unfortunately), but I am rocking around in a Tokyo Jacket by Tessuti. I only became interested in making this recently. I desperately wanted a loose, swingy, casual jacket. The Tokyo fits the bill.




I made this in a medium-weight viscose from Tessuti. A lovely fabric - frays like hell, but drapes in the most amazing way. Didn't slip under the needle either. It has a self-stripe that adds a teeny bit of interest.

I tried on the size extra-small in Tessuti Melbourne one day. It fit, but I perhaps needed a smidge more room across the shoulders. So I made this in the size small. I am thinking for my next one I might revert back to the extra small, but keep a small at the shoulders. This size small feels a tiny bit too big and slips off a tad.

That young girl of mine cracks me up


I left off the pockets. The pattern has you put the pockets on, hem the back section and then join it at the side seams. This means your side seams are not tucked under a hem. That didn't appeal to my anal-retentivness, so I left the pockets off and joined it at the side seams before hemming it. I hand-stitched the hem, and instead of attaching the collar band by stitching-in-the-ditch, I also hand-stitched it. You can sort of see in the picture below.


This jacket is a nice sew. It is rewarding - you get a jacket, but for no where near the effort you have to put into a more tailored jacket. I highly recommend!

What are you sewing this long Easter weekend? I have to sew Miss M a few pairs of pants, and I'm hoping to start sewing a more tailored jacket too.....

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Chambray Obsession: A Spotty Camber

Readers, I dream in chambray at the moment. I see it everywhere. It haunts me, making me believe that every garment should be in chambray. And yet, I cannot find dark denim chambray anywhere. Tessuti had lovely pale stuff, but the colour was much too pale for me. Over summer I did find some dark coloured spotty chambray at Tessuti Surrey Hills. I bought the last of the roll - about 1.6m of it. I   had thought I would make a bomber jacket out of it, but then realised it was too fine.

So I decided to make another Camber Dress by Merchant and Mills. I wear my linen version so much I knew this would be a wardrobe staple, and it only takes about 1.5m of fabric.

Guess who loves her Santa hat so much it is being worn as a trans-seasonal, every day hat? Hint: it's not me or Bessie.  
I made it the same as my last one. Size 14 at the shoulders and a size 10 through the body. I accidentally cut it too short however, so I bound the hem to preserve as much length as possible.



Look at my spot matching down the back through the yoke and dress! Almost perfect.




I love this dress. The chambray is really soft. It is perhaps a smidge too short. I wore it to Little M's birthday party yesterday (a blog post on that to come!), and had to be a little careful with how I sat/bent etc., especially as it was a fine day (phew!) and I wasn't wearing tights.

So, my question is -- where do I find lovely dark plain chambray? Please, if you know, I need all the details!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

The Favourite Pants Copy

For a while now I have been wanting to do something different. Sew something different. Move a bit out of my comfort zone, learn a new skill etc. I don't really have the head space for this, as work is kicking my butt, but once I had the idea I had to start moving.

I decided to start up-skilling by copying a favourite pair of my pants - these relaxed fit, elastic-waist with a drawstring pants from Elk:


I own these - in the 'splatter' print pictured, in a black viscose, and I did own them in an apple-green colour, that I got to wear once. Only once because they met with a cranky toddler in an airport wielding fried rice. Then they met with an overzealous husband wielding stain remover, who may have applied it onto dry fabric, which then resulted in bleach marks all over the pants. Lessons learnt? Never wear new pants while wrangling said toddler by yourself at an airport, and never let husbands attempt to remove stains from brand new clothes.

Anyway, the ruined pants gave me the opportunity to unpick these pants and have a pattern to work with. These pants are pretty simple to copy. They are pleated at the hem, with a cuff to bind the hem, they have an elastic waist and a drawstring casing and they have welt pockets on the back, and welt pockets on the side front. I didn't do either of these welt pockets - I totally wimped out, and decided to do no pockets at the back and in seam side pockets at the front. I wimped out mostly due to my fabric choice - a silk viscose. I'm going to look for something more stable for the next version and will most likely put the welts in. Here is what I came up with!


I think they are pretty spot-on. I will say that the silk-viscose does not move in the same way as the cotton 'splatter' ones I own - I am slightly concerned about the durability of the lighter silk-viscose, but I guess time will tell.






Next time I will put some stay tape on the side pockets (if I use them!).

Copying these pants was remarkably easy. As I unpicked them I drew all over the pattern, indicating fold lines, pleat markings and seam allowances. I also made a list of construction notes - I tried to unpick the pants in the order I thought they could be sewed - I sort of achieved this. In the end I wrote out the order as I sewed these together, so that next time I have my own instructions.

I felt kind of weird copying these. Elk is a small Melbourne business, and I wondered if it was ethical to copy one of their garments. I talked to Michael about it and he asked me if it meant I would no longer buy stuff from there. Ummmm.... no. Since I unpicked these pants, I've bought the shoes I'm wearing in these photos, the shirt I'm wearing in these photos, a necklace as a gift...... and I've requested a pair of these same pants for Mothers' Day in an awesome print that I would never be able to find the fabric for. I don't know if any of this reconciles me copying the pants - what are your thoughts on this issue?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Let's Par-tay: Simplicity 1873

I mentioned in my second-last post that a little while ago I asked my Instagram friends to weigh in on whether I should sew Simplicity 1688 or Simplicity 1873 for my sister's first engagement party (a dinner at Seamstress Restaurant - how befitting!):



Overwhelmingly (apart from two people!) the answer was 1873. Well, you already know that I mashed up the two patterns to make a sheath, but I also did as I was told, and made 1873 for the engagement dinner!


This one is made from an amazing mid-weight Italian cotton with some stretch from Tessuti. I lined the bodice only in blue anti-static lining, also from Tessuti. 


Here are the changes I made :
  • I took 10cm out of the neckline - a standard adjustment for me, but I do wonder what is going on drafting wise. 
  • For the under arm seams only, I used a 2.5cm seam allowance tapering to the standard 1.5cm at the waist.
  • I took a 2cm horizontal dart out of the skirt the entire way around as I had some very odd pouching just above my hips. 
  • I extended the back darts by about 1.5cm as I had excess fabric there. 
  • I lengthened the skirt by 10cm so that I could keep it short with a 10cm hem. I like a really deep hem (5cm turned up twice) in a full skirt. 




This is actually really comfortable. The bodice has some ease in it so it is excellent for eating a huge meal in. Ruth's 30th Birthday dinner was last night - we went to Meat & Wine Co. in Hawthorn. I've been to the one at Southbank a couple of times for business lunches, but the one in Hawthorn is a bit nicer in my opinion. The decor is a bit fancier. I had a very good steak. And a creme brûlée. Then we went back to Ruth's house and played cards for a while. Little M was at a sleepover at her mate's house - although she's had a few sleepovers before, I still feel weird coming back to the house without her there. And my stupid body clock woke me at 7am. Grrr. 

So this is my par-tay dress! I haven't really been sewing for myself of late. I have had lots of birthday presents for kids, and Little M's birthday dress and leggings. I have toiled the Sigma Dress by Papercut Patterns and am really hoping to start that this weekend. Wish me luck!


Saturday, March 1, 2014

Pia in Linen

It will be no surprise to you that I've sewn up Tessuti's latest pattern, the Pia Dress. I have well-documented my love for their designs, in particular the dresses. I'm planning a Tokyo jacket soon, and a Zoe top. When I saw the Pia Dress released, I knew I'd sew it quickly. And I did!


I sewed it in a lovely medium weight enzyme washed black linen from Tessuti. The weight of this linen is amazing, and it is soft and drapes beautifully. I had an issue washing it though - weird slightly raised lines have appeared on the fabric - has anyone had this issue? I pre washed without detergent and the lines appeared then washed with detergent and they remain. Weird.


This is the size small, sewn with larger seam allowances than the pattern provides. I sewed a size small in some linen Anna gifted me, and it was huge and quite unflattering. So I made this black one with approximately 1.7cm seam allowances instead of the 1.25cm the pattern directs you to use. I now have a much more flattering fit.


When they released the pattern, Tessuti showed Lisa wearing hers belted. I decided to give that look a go last night to go out for dinner with my mothers' group. I can't decide which look I prefer. What do you think?



I don't have much to say, review wise. Apart from using larger seam allowances, I shortened the dress by 3cm. Yes, I shortened it!! Amazing.

It was a comfy dress to wear to dinner. We went to Pizza Farro and I had an extremely delicious Margherita with buffalo mozzarella. Yum. I ate the whole pizza - that is pretty unusual for me! Then I had a scoop of homemade chocolate gelato for dessert. It was intensely rich but so good.

I'll leave you with this last picture. I was so tired when I went out. I can't remember if I've told you but my sister Ruth is getting married! Woohoo! We have been wedding dress shopping, and yesterday was an all-day affair. I'm finding my energy levels after working 4 days are fairly abysmal, so after a full day of wedding dress shopping I was bordering on too tired to go out for dinner. I had a small cat nap while posing for pictures….


I'm hoping I get used to this 4th day soon - I need some energy to sew!!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cynthia Rowley Mix-Up Dress: A Sateen Sheath

It has been a month since I last posted! And just over a month since I returned to work. Hmmm… I'm doing 4 days a week for this semester only. I'm lecturing again - a first year course with a lot of students (about 200). Dipping my toe back in the lecturing pond has been both exciting and exhausting. It's been almost 5 years since I last lectured in Queensland - I'm on a bit of a (re) learning curve. Plus I really have extremely limited time to sew. Little M is with Michael on the fourth day, and I don't think has completely adjusted yet. Despite him being her father and being an excellent, hands-on, caring, wonderful father. The mother-kid relationship is certainly an intense one!

Anyway, I'm sure you'd much prefer to hear about my dress! A while back I asked my Instagram friends which of these patterns I should make for Ruthy's (my sister's) first engagement dinner:



Interestingly, everyone bar two said 1873, with the full skirt. I did make 1873 for the engagement dinner (post on that to come!) but I got obsessed with having a dress with the slim skirt. I really liked the skirt portion of 1688 but felt the bodice was not what I was looking for at that point in time. So I spliced them together:


Okay, be honest please. Is the placement of that bottom white flower a bit interesting…….?! Michael assures me it is not, but I have paranoia. I do wish I'd spent more time cutting and thinking about the placement of the print.


The fabric is a cotton sateen from Tessuti - one my mum gave me for Christmas. Ruthy tells me it is a Ted Baker print. It is gorgeous anyway!


I had to make a lot of alterations to get this to fit nicely. Here we go:

  • I took 10cm out of the neckline - a standard adjustment for me, but I do wonder what is going on drafting wise. 
  • For the under arm seams only, I used a 2.5cm seam allowance tapering to the standard 1.5cm at the waist.
  • I took a 2cm horizontal dart out of the skirt the entire way around as I had some very odd pouching just above my hips. 
  • I extended the back darts by about 1.5cm as I had excess fabric there. 
That's only four adjustments - but it felt like a lot. The only thing I am left wondering is whether I should alter the bodice so it is not so cut away at the sleeve-armhole area. The straps do not seem to come in so far on the model in the pic - what do you think? 

I also lined the entire dress, and because I forgot to lengthen the skirt, I bound the hem and sewed it by hand (I would have done it by hand anyway, but usually I turn up the hem twice). 



Like the colour of my lining? Only colour I had in my stash - but I love it!

I really do like this dress and have another one half made (has been half made for some time….). I wore it to work today to attend orientation for my students and felt pretty swish. Professional but young(ish) and not too conservative. I do need to get used to not wearing a sack though. I wear them so often that when I wear anything fitted I feel exposed. Does anyone else have this issue? Which do you prefer a sack or a more fitted garment?