Monday, 14 December 2015

A break from sewing

In all the frenzy of Christmas sewing (tote bags, mice, bunting, pouches), I realised that I actually missed knitting! Thinking of projects I could start, just to take a break from pinning and sewing was tempting, but I actually did have one knitted project to finish.

Back in July, a friend in the UK requested an alligator scarf for her daughter. I usually make this little girl a knitted hat every Christmas, but this year, she was determined that what she REALLY wanted was an alligator scarf. Thank goodness for Morehouse Farm Merino! They have the best alligator scarf pattern we could find online, and even have a baby version, more suitable for little people. Unfortunately, they don't ship to Singapore, but luckily I was going to Canada to visit family, so had the Baby Alligator Scarf kit shipped there. The yarn was lovely to work with and the pattern is really easy to follow.

This will be quite a well-travelled scarf. It came from the US to Canada, then went to Singapore, is now being shipped to New Zealand, and will return to the UK with its (hopefully) happy owner! 

I have several other knitting projects I'm itching to start on, but have to use all my self-control to finish the Christmas projects first. Then of course I do have two small children demanding a pig and a dinosaur!

The march of the mice

The tale of one mouse (Milly - see the previous post) led to an order for 17 (yes, SEVENTEEN) small stuffed mice for Christmas gifts for the staff in a friend's research lab.

My first proto-mouse was pretty cute, I thought, made with scraps of leftover fabric from a bag project.

Then it turned out that our friend needed 17, and was hoping for mice in more 'normal' lab colours (i.e. black, white or brown). This actually turned out to be a good thing, because I could use black felt (no need to sew right sides together and turn it out), and stick on eyes rather than hand-embroidering them. Thank goodness for self-adhesive red rhinestones!

Here's my assembly line of mice parts:

And here's the army of 17, ready for delivery!

I confess I was going to give them pink noses and whiskers but I ran out of time and steam, so whiskerless they are...oh, and apparently black mice have black eyes. Who knew?!

I thought this was the end of the mice, but a certain little boy is demanding his own mouse now, so I guess I can't pack away the black felt just yet.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Meet Milly

My sewing room (well, the small study I share with my husband!) floor is covered in bits of thread, fuzz from felt, I have projects stacked up on every possible surface, the ironing board is always open...yes, it's Christmas project time! And as usual, I have left EVERYTHING to the last minute. Somehow sewing Christmas gifts in August, while it would be a smart thing, never seems to happen.

First up from the sewing Milly the mouse!
In one of those serendipitous moments, I found a book in my local library called Sewn Toy Tales from Melly & Me. I fell in love with all the toys in it, so ended up buying it. This was months ago, and after searching for just the right fabric, I finally made my first little creature. She's called Mabelle in the book, but I renamed her Milly. Despite the fiddly work (those arms! that nose!), I was pretty pleased with the end result. She's about to be shipped off to London for my niece, and I think I'd better send her quickly, because my children are developing quite an attachment to her. My daughter is especially fascinated by her nose! My next project from the book is either a pig (special request from my son), a dinosaur (for my daughter), or a lion (for my nephew). Of course, that's after all the other Christmas projects are finished!

Friday, 20 November 2015

Oliver + S badminton dress

After the recent success of the Popover Sundress, I decided to try another Oliver + S dress - this time, the Badminton Dress. You can make it as a top with skorts (in my line-up of projects do to soon!), or as a dress. This is one of the few paper patterns I own from Oliver + S, so I was quite happy to skip the steps of printing, cutting, taping and tracing before I could get to cutting the fabric!

I did modify the pattern a bit. The original pattern calls for a scalloped hem in the same fabric as the main dress, but it seemed that a contrasting hem would look better this time. I cut a bias 3 1/2" wide and had to play around a bit with the length, and thankfully it worked out. Although the neck edge and shoulder ruffle do require a bit of patience, there are no zippers or buttons to worry about, so all in all, it's a great pattern to work with.

I found this wonderful organic cotton from Cloud 9 Fabrics designed by Sarah Watson just by chance when wandering through the sale section in Sing Mui Heng. At the time I didn't have a plan for it, so I bought the 1-yard minimum and decided I'd find a use later. A friend has asked me to make her daughter a dress with the same fabric...luckily it's still on sale! And of course I couldn't resist adding a few more pieces to my stash. Who knows what they'll turn into?!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

oliver + s popover sundress

I recently read an article by someone saying that all her sewing projects seemed to take on a 'one step forward, two steps back' theme. I know the feeling...some days, it feels as though I use my seam ripper more than my sewing machine. I recently finished the Mojave dress from the Seamwork magazine, and although it's supposed to be a 3-hour project, I seemed to spend half that time correcting mistakes (I'll blog more about that dress later). Maybe I shouldn't have started it when I was jet-lagged (!), but the frustration led me to look for a quick and easy project that I could hopefully finish with less errors.

Enter the oliver + s popover sundress...

I've had the pattern for a while now, but only just got around to sewing it a few afternoons ago. Luckily I had ready-made bias in my stash, so I searched for fabric to match (backwards, yes!), et voila! The recipient was quite pleased with it and it has been widely admired. Funny when something so simple gets so much attention. Maybe it's those orange bows?!

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Cushions (or what to do when you're bored)

Every so often I look around my house and have an overwhelming urge to change something. Maybe it's the children's toys strewn around every room, or reading too many articles about fancy houses where every room is perfect, I'm not sure. While changing furniture is a bit excessive (and we can't just keep adding more furniture), it's a lot easier to update the small things - cushions!

Given the battering and abuse that our throw pillows generally receive, I wasn't going to embark on anything fancy. I've already made a cushion for our cedar chest using silk (and made my own piping out of silk), but after that got the Crayola marker treatment, 'washable' was the key.

On a recent trip home to Canada, I found some cheery fabric in teal, brown and green and so the new colour scheme for our living room was born!

The cushion on the left was a made using the left-over scraps from the first two and probably worked out better because it's slightly smaller (so the cushion looks fatter).

I bought 0.5m of each fabric (115cm wide) and got 3 cushion covers for 40cm square cushions. Now my challenge is to find complementary fabric for more cushions - we need at least 3 more. Hopefully it's not too hard, or I might have to make a special request for more of the same to be mailed from Canada!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

The Quilt!

For years I've loved quilting shops - the way they display their fabrics, the gorgeous quilts on display and the colours! If only all fabric stores looked liked that, it might inspire more home sewists. But I never thought I'd actually make a quilt. I wasn't sure I had the patience it seemed to require to cut every piece just so, and to keep everything lined up and symmetrical. I know sewing, in general, requires patience and attention to detail, but this seemed one step too far for me. brother and sister-in-law shared their happy news that they were expecting their first baby! I could have knitted something for them, but given that this baby has two expert knitters as grandmothers, it seemed pointless. Then, just by coincidence, I discovered this great post on the Miss Make blog. Finally a quilt that didn't have straight lines! I really liked the wonky pieces and the freedom to use any fabric I wanted. So began my search for just the right pieces of fabric that would have meaning for my brother and sister-in-law and would tell a little story. In the end, I got most of my fabric in the UK from Stone Fabrics and Tikki Patchwork, and a few pieces from Sing Mui Heng in Singapore. Given how much time I spent drooling over fabric online, it's a really good thing I didn't have time to visit Stone Fabrics and Tikki Patchwork in person this summer!

The Miss Make tutorial took me as far as finishing the front of the quilt. For the rest, I consulted a good family friend who makes wonderful quilts. I admit I'm being slowly drawn into the quilting world, and may just try my hand at another quilt. I'm just not ready to invest in a free-arm quilting machine yet!

Saturday, 26 September 2015

Bags, bags, bags

Ever since I can remember, I've loved bags. There was always a reason to have just one more, for a very specific purpose. You couldn't possibly use the 'folk festival' bag for a weekend trip, for example, and the weekend trip bag wouldn't possibly work for the 2-month jaunt around Europe. And we're not talking luggage here, but tote bags, hand bags, book bags, shopping bags...the list is endless. Needless to say, over the years I've accumulated quite a collection. Funnily enough (and luckily for my husband), I never developed an obsession with expensive leather handbags, but I have discovered the joys of sewing my own bags.

A few years ago, a close friend in Edmonton introduced me to the Amy Butler diaper bag pattern and I was hooked. As luck would have it, when I returned to London, I found more Amy Butler bag patterns on sale, which I of course had to buy. I've since made myself the Reversible Sunday Sling as a swimming bag, lined with water-resistant fabric. I've also made it as a diaper bag for a friend, and as a knitting/sewing bag for my mum. 

Both those bags have lots of nice details and pockets, but my current favourite is the Swing Bag, which seems to be discontinued as I can't find it on their website. I've made it three times with slight variations each time. The first I made with Amy Butler prints, but those are hard to find in Singapore. 

This one was made with a lovely Japanese cotton canvas (found in Chinatown at Malin Textiles), thick enough that I didn't have to line it with canvas as suggested in the pattern:

The black and white one was a gift for a friend, and she suggested a pocket for a phone would be a good addition, as well as some way to close the bag. so I made this one:

I added a button closure tab and cell phone pocket. In theory this bag is reversible, but the pocket would end up on the outside, so I suspect whoever ends up with the bag won't be reversing it very often! I didn't intend on keeping this bag for myself, but I might just give in to temptation...

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

Boxy Pouch...Take 2

After the mathematical miscalculation that resulted in the first boxy pouch being rather small (although perfect for small toiletries or golf tees!) for the friend who requested it, I had to try again. I'm sure there is some sophisticated method to calculating exactly how big your rectangle of fabric has to be cut based on the desired height, width and depth of the finished pouch. I am not that way inclined, however, so I used my own method, and luckily, it's just the right size!

I used the tutorial at Make It Modern as a guide.

If you cut your fabric 5" x 7 1/2", the finished pouch measures 4 1/2" long x 2 1/4" high x 2 1/4" wide. The corners are mitred 2.5cm in from the corner, and approximately 5cm across to get the boxy look. 

For a bigger pouch (finished dimensions 6 1/4" long x 3" high x 3" wide), you'll have to cut your fabric in a rectangle measuring 10 1/2" x 7 1/4". I also discovered through some trial and error that you need to mitre your corners 4cm in from the tip to get the right boxy effect. And you'll need a longer zipper, of course. 

I used medium-weight interfacing on both, but because the small one is lined in plastic-coated fabric, I think it holds its shape a bit better.  

Off to make yet another boxy pouch - this time a small one with an outer loop for my father who wants to use it for his golf tees!

Monday, 21 September 2015

Puppet Show Shorts

Moving to Singapore a little over two years ago meant my knitting slowed down dramatically (who needs sweaters in the tropics?!), but I did start sewing a lot more, largely for my children. I soon discovered that, a little unsurprisingly, sewing patterns for little boys from the major commercial pattern makers were...well, ordinary. So began my exploration of what more lay out there in the great world of sewing, other than what I could find in big fabric stores (like Spotlight, here in Singapore). And this is how I discovered Oliver + S. I admit I was first attracted to their cute paper doll graphics on the patterns, but after spending far too much time going through the blog, the shop, and reading reviews, I was convinced to buy a few patterns to try for my two little ones. Living in Singapore meant the shipping costs for paper patterns were quite high, so I opted for digital patterns. I'm still not sure if I like the process of printing, cutting and sticking together the patterns myself. My local print shop apparently does not have the large format paper needed to print all the pieces on one page, so every so often, my floor is covered with little strips of paper. Luckily my children seem to find these great fun to play with!

One of the first things I made with an Oliver + S pattern were the Puppet Show Shorts for my daughter.

The pattern directions are really clear, and other than the time it took to assemble the pattern pieces, these were really fast to make. I love the pockets and they fit really well. I'm inspired to make lots more, and in this weather, shorts are a year-round wardrobe staple!

Friday, 18 September 2015

Sewing, knitting and writing about it all....

My great-grandmother taught me how to knit when I was 7 years old. I still remember trying to get a consistent row of knits and purls while my great-grandmother, my grandmother, my mother and several great-aunts sat in the room, busy with their own knitting projects. I dreamed of the day when I'd move beyond the slightly wonky rectangle to an actual project that looked as intricate as everyone else's, with cables and lacy patterns. I'm proud to be a fourth-generation knitter, although I still haven't perfected the art of watching TV while knitting (and actually watching TV rather than just listening to it while keeping my eyes on my needles!).

My mother taught me to sew when I was 8 (late, in her books, since she was sewing her doll's dresses when she was 7!). After many hours of lessons in hand-sewing, embroidery, using the machine, and several mishaps with the serger (one which led me to swear off sewing for several years), I am happy to say that I not only love sewing, but spend far too much time hunting for new and exciting patterns, and am trying to learn the more technical details of modifying patterns. I also seem to have inherited my mother's inability to pass over a beautiful piece of fabric ('I'm sure I'll find something to do with that!').

Living in a tropical climate means that I am knitting far less these days, but sewing a lot more. In some ways, this isn't a bad thing...sewing a garment is a lot faster than knitting it, but it is harder to watch TV and sew!

Over the years, I've knitted, sewn, and cross-stitched more for others than for myself. I'm hoping that by writing about my adventures in 'making' that I'll have a way to document and remember all the things I give away, as well as all those I do end up making for my family or myself! project #1: a little boxy pouch, yet to find a home.
Little boxy pouch - thanks to for inspiration

It was meant to be a lot larger, but thanks to my poor engineering skills (more on that later!), it's a bit tinier than expected. I'm sure someone (maybe me?!) will find a good use for it...