Chilly mornings just got cosier!

Well, for one small person anyway 😉

Big brother has been in need of a new dressing gown to keep him warm on chilly mornings. As in, he was still squeezing into one meant for a 1 year old… So ages ago we chose a lovely beach towel from IKEA (when it was in the sale, obviously 😉 ) and I intended to turn it into a new ‘big boy’ dressing gown.

But then the towel got put away and it slipped down the to do list. Until this week that is! I actually intended to start on Wednesday but I forgot I hadn’t prewashed the towel, so that had to come first. No point putting in all the effort of making something, just to have it shrink or warp in a strange way on the first wash.

So by Friday I finally had that magical combination of prepared fabric, the desire to sew, and little brother napping. Project dressing gown was a go!

I drafted a quick pattern based on big brother’s measurements, with some growing room to ensure it lasts him a while. I also used every shortcut I could think of to make it as quick and easy a project as possible.

For example:
* there are no side seams as I cut the whole body from the width of the towel with the arm holes cut out

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* the loops to hold the tie are the offcut pieces of the selvedge edge, just trimmed to the seam line.

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* I used the hemmed edges of the towel for the bottom hem and the sleeve ends so there was no hemming needed.

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So with minimal sewing we ended up with:

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One very grown up looking little man! And it must be comfy because he said “mummy, I really love my new dressing gown. I’m going to wear it all day till bedtime!” Which, I think, is about as big a compliment as you can get from a three year old 😀

Now, I haven’t included a copy of my pattern here, would you be interested in it? Comment below and let me know, and if you ask really nicely I’ll try to find the time to do it! 😉 haha

A special thank you present

I go to my local breastfeeding support group on a Tuesday morning and have always enjoyed the supportive community of mums we have there. We’ve helped each other through bad latch, thrush, mastitis, nursing strikes, cracks, you name it, someone’s asked about it. And a big part of that support has come from the lovely midwife who lead the group.

But, sadly for us, we found out that Gemma was leaving to work on her other venture teaching natal hypnotherapy through Positive Birth Scotland. Now I’ve not been to any of her classes, but I’ve used natal hypnotherapy myself in both my labours, and Gemma is so lovely that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend contacting her if you are in Edinburgh and interested in trying it for yourself. It helped me through two completely different births: the first in hospital where I had no control of anything and a distressed baby, and the second a calm (ish! It was still giving birth!) home water birth. And I even use the relaxation and breathing on a daily basis to help me keep my cool.

Anyway, I made Gemma a little thank you present to go along with the flowers and cakes we all chipped in for (I also made my raw date and cashew cookies), a little breastfeeding embroidery to remind her of her time with us:

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I’ll be honest I like this so much I might make one for myself!

Tutorial: Transforming a polo-neck jumper to a maternity* cardigan

*I’m including the ‘*’ as this isn’t specifically a maternity project. But the finished article is suitable for both maternity and regular wear so is a good project for anyone to try.

I bought this jumper in a charity shop about a year ago, for the enormous price of £1. Big spender, me 😉 I just loved the colour of it and I’m a fan of cabled jumpers in general. But I didn’t really like the neck, it was just that little bit too tight to be comfortable for me. So after wearing it once it hit the back of the wardrobe and has been there ever since. Which is a shame as I still like the colour and I still like the cables. So it was time to transform it into something I will wear.

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I could have just taken off the top and made it into a crew neck jumper, but by opening up the front as well and making it into a cardigan, I’m able to wear it now over my rapidly expanding bump, and it will be great for when baby comes and I’ll be spending hours breastfeeding.

The transformation was actually very easy. First thing I did was identify the centre of the jumper, which turned out to be the centre of a cabled row. Then I very carefully cut up the front of jumper using a nice sharp pair of scissors. Don’t be tempted to use general purpose scissors, as it’s the sharp edges which give you a clean cut and stop the fabric from shifting.
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I only cut as far collar, as I have a faint notion of reusing the ribbing from the neck, but you could quite easily open up the whole of the front.

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As you can see from the photo, there was quite a thick band joining the body of my jumper to the neck. I decided that this would become the new top edge of my cardigan, so I cut parallel to its top edge, leaving about 1cm of ribbing to finish off the neck line.

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Looking like a cardigan already!

Next step is to finish off the cut edges to stop them fraying. I sewed along each front edge and around the neck using a zig zag stitch. Alternatively you could use an overlocking stitch as both will seal the raw edges.

I found that the zig zag stitch left the edges with a slightly frilly lettuce effect as it got a little stretched going through the machine. If this happens to you, don’t worry about it as you can reshape the edges at the end when you press your cardigan.

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One thing to be aware of when finishing your raw edges, is that there will be a lot of little pieces of fluff will come off your cardigan and some of these will end up in your machine. Once you’ve finished your raw edges it’s a good idea to clean out all the fluff to keep your sewing machine running smoothly.

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The final step was to create the new finished edges. To do this I pinned under the raw edge, so that a knit row was the new edge and folded far enough over that I could sew up the purl row to hide the stitches.

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I used a straight stitch to sew the seam, and I sewed very slowly to make sure the same amount of fabric was sewn under the whole way down. I also found I had to take the pins out at least 5 – 7cm from the needle in order to get the best result.

At the neck seam I decided to finish off my cardigan by hand as, unlike the front edges, there was nowhere to hide the stitches and I didn’t have any thread that closely enough matched the colour to blend in. So I used a whipstitch along the inside of the thick neck band, making sure to go slowly and check that my stitches weren’t coming through to the right side of the fabric.

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As a final touch I also did some hand finishing along the front edges. However if you were converting a jumper made entirely in stocking stitch you could skip this step by sewing a double line instead. As I was trying to hide my stitches I decided that a hand finish would be neater and more invisible. At every cable I simply put in a few stitches joining the wrong side of the cable to the raw edge. This is enough to keep the raw edge away from the finished edge, and to stop it from curling around into view when the cardigan is being worn.

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Finally give the new finished edges a good pressing to help them into the correct shape. This will help to take care of any remaining excess from the stretching earlier. Then slip it on, pose, and enjoy your new creation! (Silly face optional! Haha, I should explain I had a toddler trying to climb up my leg at the time!)

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Note: you could add a top button if you fancied, like Delia does here. She also uses fabric to finish off her raw edges, giving a (probably better!) finish to the front edges. But still, I’m happy with my creation 🙂

Tutorial: Transforming regular leggings into maternity

As I mentioned here I am having real trouble finding any trousers that fit over my low down baby bump. Even the type that are cut incredibly low are a bit too diggy the second I sit down. And anything that does fit when I’m sitting down, will fall off when I stand up. Not really the best look to be flashing my pants at everyone followed by a pulling up the trousers dance!

So I thought I’d give leggings a go in the hope that the nice soft fabric will work against my poor squished bump! But have you seen the price of some pairs of maternity leggings? I mean really, for what is essentially exactly the same product with a little more fabric round the waist, I’m not sure why they cost so much more. (OK, so in the grand scheme of things they aren’t expensive, but I still object on principle.) And it also annoys me that most shops only stock their maternity clothes online. At a time when my body is a different shape at any two points throughout the day, never mind week to week, I’d rather spend my money on something I can try on first.

So I picked up a pair of regular leggings, which I knew fit eveywhere except my tummy, for £3, and set about turning them into maternity leggings.

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It was actually a very simple transformation, all I had to do was remove the elastic from the front half of the leggings and sort out the waist band. Easy!

*At this point I’m going to apologise for the quality of the photos, my camera was having issues with the colour balance, and the dark thread on black fabric was really hard to capture. I’ve used dark grey thread instead of black in the hope that it will show up (at all!) but I’ll also explain each step along the way so hopefully it’s clear what I’m doing.

The first step was to take a look at how the waistband of the leggings was constructed. In my case the elastic was sewn into the seem so it was a little (but not much) more compicated than if the elastic was free to move in it’s own casing. In that case all you would have to do would be to fix the elastic at the side seams, open up a little hole to remove it from the front half, sew up the hole and you’re done!

But if your elastic is sewn in like mine, then start by sewing a straight line to reinforce the ends of the elastic. Do this at the back side of the seam, so that you can open up the waistband at the seam for access to the elastic. I used a triple stitch to make it as strong as possible. Repeat the process at both sides.

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Then carefully unpick the side seams to give you access.

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Now we’re going to unpick the waistand along the whole front of the leggings. Do this carefully with a seam ripper to not damage the fabric. Once it’s opened from side seam to side seam and the elastic is free, you can cut the elastic out.

At this point I tried my leggings on, and they fit perfectly. The remaining elastic at the back was enough to keep them fitted, but they were soft enough round the front to be really comfortable even when sitting down.

Finally I re-sewed the waistband. If you don’t want to include this step you don’t have to. As the fabric for leggings is usually jersey, it doesn’t need to be finished as it won’t fray. And if you don’t plan on wearing them with some little cropped top then noone will be any the wiser!

I will finish off the waistband to show you how to do it. Basically you’re just resewing along the same line that the fabric was stitched before. If, like me, you don’t have an overlocker/serger then you can easily do it with a zigzag stitch. (I’m afraid I’ve never used an overlocker so I can’t tell you how to do it that way) The zigzag stitch is necessary as you want the seam to have some stretch, otherwise it defeats the purpose of this project! A basic straight stitch would either not stretch, or would try to do so and break.

Pin the waistband in place and sew all the way along the front. You might find (if you’re naughty like me and don’t use the proper needle for jersey fabric… Must buy a new one!) that your zigzag skips in places so you end up with a couple of straight stitches in the middle of your row. I’ve now worn my leggings, complete with these minor imperfections, for a few days and there is still plenty of stretch in the fabric along the waistband. So if the same happens to you, don’t worry about it. So long as the vast majority of your seam is a zigzag then it will do the job just fine 🙂

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And here are the finished leggings! (Sorry, again, terrible tummy selfie alert! But I wanted to show you the end product in action.)

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Pattern Testing for Delia Creates!

I have been so excited to tell you guys about a lovely little project I got to work on recently. I was extremely pleased to be chosen as a pattern tester for the fabulous Delia from Delia Creates. Do you read her blog? If not you should definitely pop over and say hi. She has all sorts of wonderful project ideas for sewing, crafting, diy, and some yummy recipes too.

Delia recently put out a call for pattern testers for a pleated pencil skirt. And this is one item of clothing I have desperately searched the shops for, eventually coming to the conclusion that I must in some way be the wrong shape as nothing ever fit me properly. So it was with high hopes that I filled in my application and sent it off.

Luckily I had the perfect fabric in my stash, a lovely light, chequed wool and coordinating pale pink lining, one of those sale purchases that I never quite got round to using.

The finished pattern costs $10 (US) and for that you get a pdf with the pattern and a set of detailed instructions to guide you. This means you print out the pattern pieces at home, but you probably knew that already 😉 Delia has cleverly created the pattern so that there are only two pattern pieces, one with markings on it for the front, back and lining pieces, and the waistband, thus saving on paper and cutting and sticking time. A lovely touch she has included in the sizing of the pattern is instead of labeling the sizes with numbers, they all have lovely complimentary names. I was size “enchanting” which did make me smile as I cut out my pattern pieces.

I found the pattern pretty easy to follow, the only thing I wasn’t familiar with was inserting the invisible zip as I’d never used one before. Simply because my local fabric shop doesn’t sell them, not from any great fear! So I was also pleased to learn a new technique, even if I did have to do it twice as I want satisfied with my first attempt! Delia’s instructions are clear and lead you through the construction process with a nice mixture of both drawings and photos to guide you.

And here is my finished skirt:

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The fit is great, and it hugs all the right places with enough room to comfortably breathe and sit down. Very important when sewing with a woven fabric with no stretch! The pleat gives plenty of room to walk and at just below the knees, the length is sure to complement any figure.

All in all I give this pattern a big thumbs up! I’ve really enjoyed my first pattern testing experience and I can highly recommend giving it a go if you too are desperately searching for the perfect pencil skirt, or even if you just want a fabulous skirt to add to your handmade wardrobe!

What I’ve been up to this week!

Hello all! It’s been a busy old week for me, with lots of things to make, places to go and people to see. I’m not complaining at all, it’s been great to have so much to do!

The week started off by going to a friend’s flat to watch the end of festival fireworks. We let young sir stay up late to watch them with us and he loved it. It was so sweet to see how excited he got about the sudden eruption of colours in the sky, especially when he kept checking everyone else was watching too.

Then the beginning of the week was taken up with finishing off some sweet little embroideries I was making for my friend who has just had her second baby. I made two, one for the new baby and one for her new big sister as I didn’t want her to feel left out:

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I really enjoyed making these. It’s been a while since I did any hand embroidery and I was very pleased with how they turned out, and more importantly my friend really liked them so all the work was worth it!

Then I had to whip up a kilt outfit for a lovely little man who is off to a wedding on Sunday and needed something to wear. He’s only 3 months old, and I think he is going to look adorable in this:

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The teeny tiny flashes are possibly my favourite part of this outfit. They just look so cute in such a small size!

And then this morning I was really excited to take delivery of our new bathroom suite! I cannot wait to have it all installed and take a lovely long soak in the bath. I know our current bathroom works fine, but really, who ever thought that a brown suite, bronze swirly tiles and wood panelling was a good look? And in such a small space! I really hope I won’t look back on some of my own design decisions in years to come and wonder the same thing!

I hope you’ve all had a lovely week and have a great weekend planned!