I thought I would write about something a little different this week. I have had the privilege of having a close look at a handmade garment which has been passed down several generations babies in my husband’s family. I believe it was originally made for my father in law by his mother- it’s his christening gown.
As far as I can tell, the whole of the gown has been sewn by hand. It must have been a real labour of love, because the stitches involved are tiny and beautiful!
There are actually two parts to the gown, an outer of white broderie anglaise, and a pale blue lining. I guess the blue lining must have been a little prone to fraying because all the raw edges have been enclosed. The side seams are felled seams and there is a double turned hem.
The neckline and armhole edges have been enclosed in a narrow self fabric binding, which it is hard to tell, but I think is cut on the bias.
There are little metal snaps sewn into the shoulders for ease of getting it on over a babies head too.
On the outer dress, the side seams have been left raw, but most of the other seams have been enclosed in a white cotton bias binding. The two back bodice pieces have been carefully cut to use the selvedge edge to help stabilise the opening in the neckline.
The seams attaching the bodice to the gathered skirt have been carefully topstitched, I think to help the gathers and seam allowance to sit flat.
At the back there is a pair of tiny thread loops to close the back neckline. They are just so neat and dainty!
Having a close look at such a special garment has been a lot of fun. I can see the hours of careful sewing that must have gone into creating it and it is a real family heirloom as a result. It makes me consider my own sewing, and while I am improving my finishing and hand sewing all the time, I don’t think I have ever sewn something with quite the same level of care and attention as there is in this little gown. Definitely something to think about for the future. Which of my makes would I want to become family heirlooms to be handed down through the generations.
The last few months I have been off to a flying start with my make 9 plans, so I decided to keep that going by sewing up this Honeydew Hoodie for Toby. He is growing so fast at the moment and has already grown out of the Dandelion Dungarees I made him before Christmas so it seemed like a good time to make him something new.
Like the dungarees, this is designed to be a reversible pattern so I needed to choose two co-ordinating fabrics in a similar weight. It seemed like a good time to use up the remnants from my Oslo cardigan, and I chose this grey, black and red camper van print for the contrast. Both have the same grey and black colourway so I thought that they would look cute peaking out from the cuffs and hood.
I decided to go for the 12-18 month size to give some growing room. Toby often seems to have shorter arms than things are designed for, but because the cuffs are designed to be turned back to show the reverse I thought that he could just grow into them when he is ready.
In the midst of the creation of my Taylor Trench, I fancied a quick win, which is why I paused it to work on this for a few days. It was very quick and easy. Just 4 pattern pieces so both quick to cut and simple to sew.
I’m still not certain that my snap setting is perfect. They sometimes feel a bit delicate, so I think I need to reinforce the jersey a little more in future. These star snaps are pretty cool though. They just have plain circles on the reverse to go with the printed fabric side.
Doesn’t he look cute. He is growing so fast, and moving quickly too which did make our photo shoot a bit tricky!
This gets me to between a third and halfway through my make 9, so pretty good for the first 4 months of the year. See my Oslo Cardigan and Virginia Leggings for my other completed projects, and I’m part way through sewing up another at the moment.
This may be of less interest to those of you who only follow my blog for the sewing, but I have something that I’m very proud of to share! This is by far the largest and most complex knitting project that I have undertaken. It might not look like much, but I knit pretty slowly, and had to learn quite a few new techniques in the process of making this little cardigan.
The pattern for this cardigan comes from a West Yorkshire Spinners pattern book called Bo Peep Storybook. It is a really cute book of baby and child patterns, designed to be knitted with their Bo Peep luxury baby wool. I chose the ‘under-the-sea’ colourway from my local knitting shop, which I figured was a good gender neutral colour, without sticking to the traditional white or yellow!
This jumper has taken me almost 18 months to knit to completion. I think it might have taken longer if I didn’t realise that it needed finishing now, or it would be too small by the time I did! It has taught me a whole bunch of new skills, from different ways to make stitches, picking up stitches on an edge, and has improved my sewing up of knitting no end.
Putting Toby in it today to take some photos, I did feel really proud. A project that takes so long has you really invested in the process as much as the final result. Every time I finished a piece or section of the instructions I got another new boost of motivation to work my way through the next part. It actually has made me consider knitting something else, possibly even a jumper for myself, though I know that will be an even bigger process to complete.
The button band is not quite as per the instructions. I got a little confused over the counting of stitches as I cast off the buttonholes. I now know how it should have been done, but I’ve made it work and I’m happy. The buttons weren’t chosen until right at the very end, and I wanted something bright and jolly. The great thing with buttons though is that I can change them out for something different in the future if I want something a little more neutral. Toby seems to like fiddling with them, so I’m taking that as approval.
I did quite a bit of research about the best way to get the buttons attached, and decided on using small backing buttons on the inside. I’m hoping that is will help to distribute the load of doing up and undoing, and will help to protect the knitting itself.
I think the make of a good project is one which motivates you to learn something new, and to then to use the skills you have been developing on the next project. This one definitely did that, and Toby looks so cute wearing it too!
Last year I found it really helpful to think about which of my makes hit the mark, and which were less successful with my hits and misses, so I thought I would have another go this year too. I think most of my sewing has been fairly successful this year, though I have just done a wardrobe clear out, and a few handmade clothes did get the axe, so its certainly not perfect yet.
So here we go:
Top 5 Hits
Amber tops and Dress
I practically lived in my Amber tops during the last part of my pregnancy when it was hot and my bump was huge. Even since then, I must wear one at least 2-3 times a week because they are one of my most practical options for feeding in too. I particularly love my Amber dress because I think it looks fairly stylish and is so easy to just throw on, and my Amber hack layering tee also gets a lot of wear under shirts at the moment. I think the reason they have been so successful is because they suit my lifestyle as it is right now, not how I might wish it was. They are also made in good quality cotton jersey, so they have survived lots of washing and grabbing straight back out of the laundry pile!
This is another item of clothing that regularly gets taken straight from the clean washing pile to be put back on. When I first made it I wasn’t sure about the style on me and this was really intended as a wearable toile. However, the oversized nature of it has definitely been growing on me, and I love how easy it is to throw on. I would love to make another (possibly multiples) as again it fits my lifestyle right now really well.
Modified Toaster Sweater
I made this Toaster sweater right at the start of the year with some very special Atelier Brunette fabric. I’m pleased that I used this very special fabric in something which is comfortable and practical. I love that it fits over my Archer shirts, and the crew neck is more practical with a collar. I’m even really pleased with my decision to go for contrasting gold topstitching.
Ultimate Wrap Dress
This dress is another make that I love because I tweaked the pattern to create what I actually wanted. I hacked the sleeve into a little flutter sleeve, modified the cross-over to be a little higher and added an empire line seam to make it fit over the bump. I have worn it a bit since the arrival of baby too, though I think it might now need re-hemming to take out some of the extra length that I added to the front. I’m looking forward to being able to wear it again next summer.
I have made a mountain of these tops for Toby and as gifts, and I’m sure there will be more. I particularly like hacking them to have poppers at the neckline while he is small, but the pattern goes up to ages 5-6, so I’m sure I will make more as he grows. It’s a free pattern too, so what’s not to love!
There were a couple of other patterns that I would have included, but I thought it might be cheating to include patterns that made it onto last year’s successes like the Mens Metro Tee and Grainline Archer because I knew before I got started that I would love them! I also thought that perhaps I couldn’t include the skirt that I am currently sewing, even though I’m pretty sure it will be a hit because I haven’t actually worn it yet! Another that came close was the Dandelion Dungarees because they have seen a lot of wear in the last few months and the popper hack definitely worked there too. I think the things that I have included demonstrate that I’m getting more confident at hacking patterns to get what I actually want from them, not just putting up with the parts that don’t work for me.
Top 5 Misses
Considering how much I love my Oslo cardigan, it seems a little strange that I’m not such a big fan of the Kinder Cardigan which is pretty similar. I think it is down to a couple of issues, one being that the pattern is possibly even a little more oversized than Oslo. The other being that the Ponte I made it in is definitely more structured so it ‘feels’ bigger. I did like some of the construction methods, and the pockets though, so I’m tempted to adopt some of these for my next Oslo cardigan attempt.
Technically this was made in 2017, but I was never really going to wear it until this year. I’m not sure if it is just because it is such a large expanse of single colour, but I didn’t really hit it off with this Blossom dress. I love the fabric, and the Anna Top that I squeezed out of the offcuts, but the dress hardly got worn. It probably doesn’t help that it looked a bit strange before I had a big enough bump, and by the time my bump was bigger the weather was warming up. This hasn’t survived a recent wardrobe clear out because it looks ridiculous again without a baby bump. Perhaps it would have been better as a top.
A more recent make was this Lucia Top. It was a great way to kickstart sewing again being really simple, but I’m not a massive fan of the fabric. It’s a bit too shiny and ‘polyester’y. It has survive the wardrobe clear out, but only to see if I will wear it during the festive season when red and shiny seems more acceptable. If it doesn’t get worn it might have to go too.
There is nothing actually ‘wrong’ with this Lily Top, it just doesn’t get worn as often as I thought it might. I did wear it while I was pregnant, and I do sometimes wear it now to feed, but I wasn’t 100% pleased with the finishing techniques and there are some areas that I don’t think are going to be all that robust. It’s not a total fail, though I don’t think I would make the pattern again.
Again, there is nothing ‘wrong’ with this skirt, but I think it suffers from not suiting my changing body and style. I have been wearing a lot less that sits actually at my waist because I don’t find it that flattering at the moment. Perhaps that will change in the future and I will feel better wearing this skirt though. With hindsight, though the pockets are really useful, they just draw more attention to an area that I feel less confident in at the moment!
I think several of these projects have suffered from the difficulties of guessing what sorts of things I was going to want to wear as my lifestyle and body have changed. Hopefully now that thigs are starting to settle down I can make more informed choices for next year and get more of them right!
This is my latest baby pattern attempt, the dandelion dungarees by Poppy and Jazz which is an offshoot of Sew Over It. I thought the promotional photos were all super cute, and I love dressing Toby in dungarees so this seemed like a great pattern choice.
The pattern is reversible so you get two looks in one which is lovely. I really like cuffing the ankles so that you can see the contrast fabric from the inside.
The instructions were really clear, and I think this would be quite a good first knit sewing project because the seams don’t actually need to stretch and get sewn with an ordinary straight stitch. The only tricky part is ‘bagging out’ the legs, but the instructions do explain pretty well.
I did make things rather trickier by hacking these dungarees to have poppers between the legs. It does make it much easier to change nappies, but I can see why they didn’t include it in the instructions because it did make construction considerably more awkward. I’m really pleased with them though, and even chose a few different colours of snaps to close them with.
The straps also have two sets of snaps so that I can change the length as he grows.
I’m definitely going to have to make some more of these dungarees. I’ve been eyeing up all the cute printed jerseys in my stash and working out colour combinations. Even with all the snap setting they were a pretty quick sew. Plus, they were another of my ‘wildcard’ entry make 9 patterns so I’m really onto a win there!
My sewing has definitely slowed down a bit since having a baby, but I do have some plans for the autumn. I need some more long sleeved tops, as does Matt so I’ve gone back to my favorite cotton spandex from Girl Charlee in Sage Green and Dusty Masala.
With regards to my make 9 plans its going pretty well and I’ve decided on a final couple of things to add as my wildcards. I’m going to sew the Poppy and JazzDandelion Dungarees for Toby (and if I get time a co-ordinating Honeydew Hoodie), and I could do with another wintery Archer shirt for which I have a perfect cream speckled brushed cotton from Fabworks last year. So my make 9 now looks like this:
6 made (some several times), 1 in progress, and 2 yet to start. I feel like that is not too bad. The Taylor Trench and Archer shirt are pretty involved makes, though I have made the Archer multiple times before. The dandelion dungarees should be super easy though. I have some cute Fabworks elephant fabric which might work.
If I get time, I could also do with another Oslo cardigan. The one that I made at the start of the year is in constant rotation, and I’ve been discovering that cardigans are much more convenient to breastfeed in than jumpers, and its getting too cold to be without layers.
This is not a dressmaking project, but something much simpler. I’ve been finding my sewing time much reduced these days so this is just a quick project, but one that I have been getting a lot of use out of! We have been using reusable cloth nappies, and it occurred to me that it wouldn’t generate any extra washing to use cloth wipes as well. The wipes would just be washed along with the nappies. It is possible to buy cloth wipes (we have some of these which I use for babies face/hands), but I figured that I am competent with a sewing machine so I simply dug out an old towel and set to work.
These wipes are made from an old microfibre towel which rarely got used. An ordinary cotton towel would also work just fine, but this towel is both very quick drying and not very bulky so it seemed perfect for this project. I cut 15cm squares, rounded off the corners and then went around the edge with my overlocker to stop them from fraying. It has been a great project to do in small batches while baby Toby is asleep or content for a few minutes.
Once the cloths are complete, I keep them in a basket next to our changing mat. They can be moistened with just plain water, but I have been using a spray bottle and have mixed a few simple and baby friendly ingredients. Here is my approximate “recipe”:
A few drops of Lavender Oil (for scent and its antibacterial properties)
200ml cold water
In fact, we now keep some of these wipes and a smaller spray bottle in the nappy changing bag so we can also use them when we are out and about too.
I know for most people reading this, nappy changing and baby wipes aren’t part of your daily routine, but perhaps if you use make-up removing wipes or other similar products you could also consider using something like this. Research by Water UK suggests that baby and facial wipes account for over 90% of the contents of sewer blockages and ‘fatbergs’ because they don’t break down or biodegrade, and contain plastic. See the full report here, but I’m willing to try and improve the situation by cutting out the need for these wipes as much as I can. Let me know if you give it a go too. All I need now is to make a little bag to contain the wipes in the changing bag and make them as convenient as possible.
While I was waiting for baby Toby to arrive, I was making good use of the time to sew up some more tiny outfits from all my jersey scraps. A couple of friends have also been expecting little ones, so it seemed like a nice idea to make a little outfit for each of the new arrivals.
The resulting outfits look very smart, and have been happily received their new owners.
I even remembered to sew a tag into the leggings to help tell the front from the back!
Because babies cannot be relied upon to keep clean for long, I thought that a couple of dribble bibs in co-ordinating colours would make a good addition to the outfits. These are just triangles of bright quilting cotton, backed with some soft sweat-shirting. I used Prym colour snaps as closures because they come in so many fun colours and designs.
The other bib is just a simple outline, again with snaps to close it. I did a bit of scrap quilting in pretty coordinating fabrics.
I love putting together baby clothes. Its just such a good use of scraps and special fabrics!
A couple of weeks ago I posted about my hack to the Brindle and TwigRinger Tee pattern to give it a popper opening/closure and make it easier to get on and off. I thought that I would put together a proper tutorial. This method will work for any t-shirt pattern with a shoulder seam, and doesn’t have to be limited to just children’s clothing. You could just as easily use the same method to add a fun feature to an adult jumper too. I’m using the Ringer Tee pattern pieces again simply because it is a readily available and free pattern so any of you that want to give this a go, can!
The pieces that we are altering are the front, back, and the neckband. You will first need to trace off new copies of these pieces in the relevant size. Leave space around the pieces for the modifications.
The Ringer Tee has the front and back pattern pieces cut on the fold. We are going to make the pattern asymmetrical, so you may find it easier to trace the pattern piece off complete so that it can be cut on a single layer.
Decide how much of an overlap you want at the closure. I chose 1/2″ or 13mm.
I also decided that because it is a jersey pattern, and jersey does not fray I was happy to leave the inside edge raw or overlocked, rather than concealing the cut edge.
Step 3: Front Pattern Piece
You need to know what seam allowance the pattern you are working with uses. The Ringer tee has 6mm seam allowances.
Draw the seam allowance on to one shoulder seam. (the blue line in the picture)
Draw on another line which is 13mm (or whatever overlap you decided on) from the seam line. With my 6mm seam allowance this makes 7mm extra length in the shoulder. This extra area is shaded in green.
Step 4: Back Pattern Piece
Draw the seam line onto the same shoulder as you did for the front. (It will look like the opposite shoulder because the pattern piece is effectively back-to-front.) See the blue line below.
Draw another line twice the overlap away from your seam line. If you are using a 13mm overlap, this new line needs to be 26mm from the seam line. The extra area is shaded in green again.
Step 5: Neckband
Your neckband needs to have the total additional length added to it. This means the length added beyond the seam line. In my example that is 27mm. (13+26-6-6=27mm)
Step 6: Cutting out and first shoulder seam
Cut out the pattern pieces. Cut a tiny notch at the seam allowance line on the front and back shoulder on the side which was modified. Sew the other shoulder seam (the one without the pattern alterations) as in the pattern instructions. Press the seam to the back.
Step 7: Neckband
Fold and press the neckband in half. Stitch it to the neckline. Press the seam down towards the body of the top. It should now look like this, with the neckline finished, and one shoulder open.
Step 8: Prepping second shoulder
Finish the shoulder seam allowances if you wish. Press over 13mm on the front and back shoulder seams. Use a strip of fusible hemming web to keep the fold in place while you complete the rest of the construction.
Step 9: Prepping the overlap
Overlap the back shoulder over the front, using the shoulder seam notches to align properly. Use pins to keep the overlap in place.
Step 10: Sleeves
Insert the first sleeve, matching the shoulder notches to the central notch of the sleeve. Once it is sewn, this will keep the overlap in place.
Insert the other sleeve.
Step 11: underarm and Side seams
Sew the underarm sleeve, and side seams together in one continuous seam.
Step 12: Cuffs and Waistband
Sew the short edges of the sleeve cuffs and waistband. Press them in half wrong sides together.
Sew the waistband and sleeve cuffs to the body.
Step 13: Attach snaps to open shoulder
Attach snaps to the open shoulder seam, aligning the two halves. I used two snaps on this 3-6 month size, but on larger sizes it might be better to use more.
You may wish to use jersey snaps like these which have multiple prongs because they are less likely to pull out with time and wear. I generally use Prym vario pliers to apply snaps. Much easier than all the hammering!