Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Warm Trousers for Winter

Small children's ankles can get very chilly in our climate, when their socks roll down, or their trousers ride up in a buggy or carrier. Last year I made an extra long leg pair of salopettes out of a recycled anorak for one of the grand-daughters who was suffering the riding up trousers fate. This year, her mum asked me, should I have the sewing machine out, whether I could make some cosy trousers that could go under a dress or jacket. (My daughter knows I always have the sewing machine out!) I had bought some nice midnight blue fleece a while back, and some stripey fabric a bit like ticking, and suddenly, here was the ideal opportunity to use them.

To find out more about how I made these warm winter trousers (and how you could copy them if you liked them), read on.

Friday, 9 December 2016

My Current Top Twenty Free Baby and Toddler Sewing Patterns

I've had cause to be very grateful to people who are kind enough to put free patterns out there on the internet. People who do so ask, quite rightly, that their patterns are not used for commercial purposes. I think that's totally fair. If you are running a business and making money out of producing children's clothes, I don't think it's fair to pinch other people's ideas and patterns. If you are making clothes for your own kids and grandchildren on a not for profit basis, then it's very nice to be able to be part of a community that is prepared to share ideas and patterns. A big thank you to everyone I've linked to here, and to all the other people who share their patterns.


Equally, I've done lots of research myself, and produced the odd design, the results of which I've been happy to share on my blog. So I would also ask that any ideas you get from my blog, or any lists of links, are not just taken and reproduced without any acknowledgement, and especially are not used for commercial purposes.

I'm planning to go gradually through ALL my favourite patterns and post links for them. As a starter, I thought I'd do a 'Top Twenty' of the patterns I've used most over the past three years since my elder daughter was pregnant with my first grand-daughter. Even then, I'm missing out so many great patterns. In due course, I'll do posts for each of the categories, either by age group or type of pattern (e.g. dress, pants etc.) In the meantime, you can find my 'Top Twenty' free patterns after the jump.

Summer Cover-ups and Beach Wraps - Part 2

It may seem a bit odd (unless you are in the southern hemisphere) that I am writing up a post on this subject in mid-December. However, two of my grand-daughters will be travelling somewhere hot and sunny in the Christmas holidays, so I thought my best pre-Christmas presents should be useful on their holidays.

For a tutorial and how to make the pattern for this type of beach cover-up, read past the jump.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Tulip Dresses

It's taken me a long time after making them to get round producing a post on the subject. I've got caught up with writing up all the doll's clothes I made. But now that's done, I'll return to my first love, making clothes and other stuff for my beloved grandchildren.

I can now tell you about another free pattern that I've been loving making. The dress above was the first of three, and I may well make more next summer. To find out more about the free pattern and how I made it up for my three grand-daughters, read on.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Outfits for Dolly - and a New Body!

Here are just a couple of a series of dolls clothes I made recently. (The second has since been adjusted - as you can see it's too cosy a fit round her chest really.)

I must first say that I'm not really someone who is into making dolls clothes. It certainly isn't a pre-occupation, like making clothes for my little grand-daughters is. We aren't, on the whole, a very girly family, considering we have two daughters and three grand-daughters.

But one of my lovely grand-daughters, the middle one, Jane, who's had an operation recently,is currently going through a phase of loving her Dolly. Dolly gets carted around everywhere. Not only that, but Dolly carelessly lost her only outfit early on. It was taken off as part of the experimental phase, just because it would come off. (It probably needed a wash anyway, but somehow it disappeared). So, as Dolly had come naked on holiday with us, I thought it was time to make her a few quick outfits, easy on and off, super quick and easy to make. Otherwise, I feared, if I'd taken too long to make them,  the interest in Dolly might have waned by the time they were made. I've written up what I've done in case anyone else would like to make easy doll's clothes based on my very simple patterns. Dolly is a soft-bodied doll of about 15-16" tall, or about 40cm. However most of the patterns are very easily adjusted for different sizes. These are in increasing order of difficulty, but none are really difficult.

Dolly's Dungarees / Playsuit

One of the outfits I made for Dolly, my grand-daughter's beloved baby doll, was a pair of dungarees, similar to a pair of Jane's own dungarees. I had originally planned to make a short legged playsuit, as all my grand-daughters have been having playsuits for summer (you can read about them in these posts here and here.) However, we are nearing the end of summer as I write this, so I decided to make the legs of Dolly's a little longer for winter. But the pattern I devised will make either.

This will fit a doll approximately 15"-16" tall, about 38-40 cm.

You can find a free pdf pattern and detailed tutorial after the jump.

Red and Grey / White Doll's Dress and Matching Panties

More little clothes for Jane's Dolly. I've written up a tutorial and produced a free PDF pattern for this outfit.

This little dress comes with matching knickers / panties. Dolly is about 15-16" tall (38-40cm), but I think you could easily adjust it for a slightly smaller or larger doll. You can find more about how to make the outfit after the jump.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Top and Pants for Dolly

I've been busy making a few outfits for my grand-daughter's 15" doll. She's had to spend a bit of time recovering from an operation, not allowed to mix with other children until she's back to full strength. So dressing and undressing her Dolly and putting her to bed has helped fill in a few frustrating hours.

This outfit  comprises a little top or short dress, and a pair of knickers to match. I made a pattern, which is easy to copy, and I've written up how I made it up as a tutorial. It will fit a doll 15-16" - but it is quite forgiving and could easily be adapted. And they are ultra simple to make. To find out more - follow the jump!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Dolly's Holdall

My granddaughter's Dolly had proved useless at looking after her own clothes, they were always getting lost. So I made her a holdall to keep them in (and it would also be useful should she go on holiday).

If you'd like to know how I made it (or to make one yourself) I explain it after the jump. This is for roughly a 15-16 inch doll but can easily be adapted.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Dolly's New Body

Poor Dolly's body was looking a bit sorry. She has a solid (though quite soft) head, lower arms, and lower legs, and the rest of her is a stuffed cloth body. Originally she was wearing a nice little sleep suit. But it got taken off, and somehow had disappeared. Since Dolly had been sitting around naked for quite a while, her cloth body was getting quite grubby. The instructions said - do not wash, just sponge the surface. Well, that wouldn't have made a substantial difference appearance wise. (Why don't they make dolls and soft toys more easy to clean or wash effectively?) 

So - I made her a new body. This time, it's a removable, washable one. 

To find out more about it, carry on reading.

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Layered Dresses Using Widi Creations Free Pattern and Tutorial

I found the pattern from Widi Creations for the Mela Dress while on a hunt for something else. So I must first thank Preethi for the idea and the pattern. Please note that in common with everyone who is kind enough to provide a free pattern, she would not want this to be used for commercial purposes.

Being a lazy sort, I originally thought I'd make her one tier version, but once I'd started, it seemed more fun to make the three tier versions. It helped that I had plenty of material, and toning satin bias binding for each of the fabrics, as I'd just been on a run to a new fabric store in town, buying things I liked on spec. So, three dresses made, one for each grand-daughter!

The black and white one (size 4T):
The grey and jade green one (size 3T widths but with the length cut down to 2T):
And the dark blue and dusky pink one (Size 3T):

I like these combinations, of a trim that picks out one of the colours in the fabric.

I'll tell you  more about where to find the free pattern, and how I made these dresses using it, after the jump.

Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Easy Doll's Outfit (to Match Tulip Dress)

I had some scraps of material left after making my grand-daughter a dress, and as she currently carries her dolly everywhere, I thought I'd make Dolly a dress, too. 
Back view:

Dolly's dress was so quick and easy to do, I thought I'd share how I made it. There are also matching knickers.

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

New Summer Outfits - Shorts and Tops: the Shorts!

Recently, I wrote about a beach cover-up I made for my 2-year-old grand-daughter Jane. I had started making this while we were on holiday, so she could wear it then, but it wasn't hemmed or finished. So that was my first job when I got home. Once home, I thought I'd also make some shorts and a top to match. When those were done, I started more shorts and a top for her cousin Fleur. Eventually, there was a third outfit for Fleur's baby sister Rose. Below, you can see their complete outfits.

You can read the details after the jump of how to make the shorts for these beach separates. You can find details of how to make the cover-up here. And the tops are on another post, here.

New Summer Outfits - Shorts and Tops - the Tops!

In my last post, I wrote about the shorts I made my three grand-daughters, you can find out about making shorts for toddlers here.

In this post, I'll tell you about the matching tops.

I do so like the top of Purl Soho's romper suit, by Corinne, that I used the top of her pattern to base all three of my tops on.  (You can see some of the romper suits I've already made using her pattern here.) It's such a good pattern, with such clear instructions, and I highly recommend it. 

The one above, Jane's version, was cut slightly longer than the pattern (to overlap the top of the shorts) and just has a hemmed bottom (1/4" plus 1/4").

Fleur's has two layers, with a flared frill attach to the underneath of the two layers.

And Rose's, which is a single layer, has a gathered frill attached.

You can find more about how I made these, adapting Corinne's pattern, after the jump.

Don't Make Tiny Baby Clothes for a Newborn Baby!

I'm hoping I might persuade you to make something - anything! - other than tiny size baby clothes. If I don't succeed, you'd better have a look at some of my other posts where I tell you my favourite baby clothes patterns. My mission is to offer you lots of suggestions for things you can make or sew that will be MORE APPRECIATED than yet another tiny knitted jacket or cute newborn dress. Look at my post on Baby shower presents for ALTERNATIVES. 

Oh, I know tiny clothes are adorable, and they are easy to make, but...... well, of course, I know that you probably won't listen to me. But bear with me for now.

Let's say, your best friend / daughter / favourite niece /has just announced she will have her first baby. Or perhaps you’ve just been invited to a baby shower! Or - congratulations - you are expecting your first baby. Wonderful news. You are handy with a needle and thread, and / or a sewing machine. So the obvious thing is to get stitching, while there is still time. If you are like me, you probably start all your projects with a search on the internet, and, in the circumstances, you look to see what free patterns exist for new born baby clothes. Well, I can tell you now, there are LOTS! In fact there are more patterns for newborns than for anything else, I think.

But just let’s stop for a moment. Is making cute newborn clothes the best thing to do? The first thing to say, is that new born babies do come in different sizes. So clothes that might fit one new born may be TOO SMALL ever to be worn by your little recipient. How sad if that happened. All your hard work could go straight to the charity shop. Even if you hit lucky on this, and the clothes fit from day one, newborns grow so fast that these clothes might only last for two or three weeks. Allow for them to be washed and dried between wearings. And bear in mind the new Mama will also have received new born garments from several (perhaps many) other well-meaning people. So your lovingly made newborn outfit might only be worn ONCE! Sorry, but it’s true.

This home-made outfit of a blue dress, and a white pinafore with a little blue butterfly on it looked so sweet. Luckily it was made in size 3-6 months. But it won't fit this two-month old baby very much longer! Most women who have already had a first child will know how quickly the first size clothes become redundant.

Or you may find that baby comes too soon, or for some reason may spend his/her first few days or weeks in an incubator. S/he may not be able to wear clothes at all to start with, as premature babies' skin is ultra-sensitive. It may even be necessary to use a blue light on as much skin area as possible, in which case, the baby will not be able to wear anything, but will be laid with just an unfastened nappy beneath. Later, specially designed clothes may be needed to allow for tubes and wires. This can also be a traumatic period for the new parents and family, a matter of getting through one day at a time. Nobody wants to think much about what the baby might wear after this is all over. And yes, I do speak from close family experience here. In our family, we asked people to hold off their kind attempts to offer clothing gifts until much later, when they could be really appreciated. Of course, a very tiny baby may well go through a period when normal newborn clothing, or even smaller, is just the right size. But again, it will only fit for such a small amount of time.

 Who am I to talk? I made a tiny premature baby garment for my grand-daughter that was worn once, possibly twice. She grew! Who knew? This little specially designed top looks pretty big in this picture, at least round the shoulders, five weeks after she was born. 

Two weeks later, it was much too small. I didn't have the heart to make another one in the next size up. She would probably grow out of it before it was finished.

And her auntie knitted a tiny hat, which was, of course, too big, six weeks after her birth - but too tight to wear by the time she left hospital 4 weeks later.  

Those garments have both been mementoed away, and now on each birthday, the miniature hat comes out to be perched on top of her head, so everyone can gasp at just how tiny she was.

But you surely want to make something that will be appreciated and used for months rather than days / weeks, don't you? If so, check out my Baby Shower Gifts post.. You may also find other useful thoughts in my Baby Accessories tab.

Baby Blankets

Baby blankets are so easy to make, and make great gifts. In this post, I'll tell you some very simple (and quick) ways to make them. Whatever you make, start by washing all the fabrics you use. 

First of all, fleece blankets. Ideally I suggest that for a baby shower gift, you consider making one for when baby is a bit older, i.e. when he or she moves out of the Moses basket into a full size cot. The dinky little blankets for the first crib or Moses' basket really only last for the first few weeks. If you want a more lasting gift, do think in terms of the larger cot the baby will move into by the age of six months or so. However, I must admit that I did make Moses' basket blankets for my grand-daughters. These also fitted nicely into bouncy cradles.

For the first size blankets, I bought full size cream fleece cot blankets. These were cheaper than the tiny Moses basket blankets! I cut each into 4, cutting them into 4 smaller pieces. Then I re-hemmed them or bound them  with some satin bias binding. Finally, I stitched a little appliqué to the  corner: teddy bears, rabbits, dogs etc. And that's it! (And you must stitch the appliqués on, don't try and use iron-on ones.)

I also have a couple of posts about making your own appliqués, here and here.  Using these would make the blankets even more inexpensive to make. However, some of my first blankets were made in a hurry, one of the grand-daughters arriving much too early. So the appliqués I used here were purchased ones. Sadly, the teddy bear blanket and cute dog blanket are now no more,  through being very well-used, but here's a rabbit, lion and elephant that survived.

Here are some other examples of the sort of thing you could buy as decoration.

If you can't find reasonably priced full size cot blankets to chop up, you could easily make baby blankets with fleece bought by the yard, or even a full-size adult fleece blanket, as long as it's nice and soft, and is suitable. The advantage of starting with a ready-made blanket is that it should meet all fire-retardant regulations etc. 

The great thing about home-made quilts and blankets is they can be as simple or complicated as you like, and they can be personalised. You can add an initial or name, or even an appliqué that reflects the baby's name, if known. We have one with middle name Rose. Or perhaps your hopes and aspirations for the little one. (Is the mother or father a great musician or footballer? That might provide a nice theme; though if as is more likely, they spend their days staring into a computer screen, or into other people's U-bends, I suggest you stick with bears and rabbits.)

Next, the cheat's quilt. I've given you one method for making cot blankets (or rather crib blankets) above. Here's another very easy one. You can buy ready-quilted two-sided fabrics like these:

Some have an interesting or contrasting backing, others are just plain. If you want a thin blanket, you could just make a nice edge to a single layer or pre-quilted fabric, using bias binding or satin ribbon, perhaps choosing one of the fabrics with a more interesting backing. Or you could use two layers of the same or different designs, to make a warmer and reversible blanket. If you did use two layers, I would run a few rows of stitching across at intervals in both directions, using the ready-made quilting lines as a guide. However, every few rows would be fine. The quilted squares already sewn are only about 1 1/2" apart. You just want to keep the layers more or less together. Then edge with bias tape. An in-between weight quilt could be made with one layer of quilting and one layer of a soft material such as wincyette, flannel or brushed cotton.

There are several tutorials on the internet for other variations on blankets, for example, this one (pretty!).

An finally, a real home-made quilt. If you want to provide more of an heirloom, you could make a patchwork quilt, by piecing the front side, and layering with batting and a backing. I've now made 6, three smaller ones for the cots, and now three larger ones for the transition from cot to toddler bed. There will be more to come, I'm sure.

I'm aware my quilt making is not of the highest level, I don't have a fancy machine, nor the necessary skill to manage more complicated templates. But the children love their quilts. You can read more about how to make baby quilts here, and here. You can also read my somewhat tongue in cheek 'Rules for Perfect Baby Quilts'.

Whichever you make, be assured that a blanket or quilt will make a much-appreciated gift, or if you are making it for your own baby, it will be something he or she will love.

Thursday, 4 August 2016

Summer Cover-ups

A Beach Cover-up

We don't get much summer here in England, but we like to make the most of what there is. Once it hits 24 degrees, out come the shorts and sun-dresses. But - some of us can't take too much sun.

In July, we took toddler Jane,  now 2 and a bit, to Italy for a week, and there, the mercury was hitting 40 - pretty much too much for us pale-skinned weaklings. So it was either - stay inside in the air-conditioning, or - head for the water, whether the pool or the beach, and hope to find some shade.

When we did go to the beach, in the evening when it was cooler, I thought about a cover-up for little Jane and her very fair shoulders. I wanted something very simple that I could run up in a hurry, and designed the one you see below. I half-made it from material I'd taken away with us, without a sewing machine, and finished it when I got home (after she'd worn it!) 

I also made her a whole beach set including, as well as the cover-up, a top and a pair of shorts to match. More about those in another post.

Below, I'll tell you how to make a cover-up like this. This one was intended to protect fair skin. The same pattern and design, though, would work equally well for a towelling wrap for after a swim (or even after a shower or bath!), and I'll be making some of those soon as well.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Baby Dining Seat Harnesses

Home-made baby sitting harnesses (for sitting at table)

When our little granddaughter, baby I, was coming on holiday with us, we guessed there might not be high-chairs / baby seats available, either where we were staying, or in restaurants while eating out. So I thought I’d make a seat harness for travelling. Now we have 3 baby granddaughters, and, when they visit our home, our one purchased plastic booster seat is not enough. So we've also been able to use the harness at our home for the visiting babies. You can see Baby I using it, below,  at the age of about 16 months. But she's been using it since before she could sit up properly on her own.

I'll tell you in detail how I did it on another post, so you can copy my ideas if you wish, and I will also give some other ideas I've found, if my approach doesn't work for you. My design, and those provided free by other people, are intended for personal use. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

More Finger Puppets

I did a couple of posts on designing templates for and making finger puppets earlier this year, and since then I've been making a few more. The children, especially little Jane, like to play with these atop a dolly peg (in lieu of a finger). This is what I call a dolly peg, in case you don't know. My mother used to use these to peg washing on the line, but you can still buy them.

When I picked her up from nursery this week, she randomly picked out a monkey and a penguin from my box of finger puppets, and had them chat to each other all the way home as she rode in the buggy. 

She was intrigued that Monkey has a tail, and Penguin does not. You can see Monkey and Penguin, lower down on this post. If you'd like some other ideas for children's finger puppets, or how to make your own, read on.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

A Third Set of PJs

With three grand-daughters, I often find myself making three of everything! The next pair of PJs were for Rose, the littlest grandchild. I had some nautical fabric that I liked, and had in mind for the trousers, and also some striped T-shirt fabric to make a top. 

I didn't use a free pattern for the top, as it happens. I had a Burda pattern that had been kicking around unopened for some time, so I thought I'd give it a try. It has popper openings on both shoulders. (Well, I think the pattern may have called for buttons and button holes, but as you'll know by now, I avoid these wherever possible. My husband's good with the hammer on the poppers. And I'm rubbish on the sewing machine with button-holes.)
However, there are a number of nice free patterns for T-shirt style tops available. Some with envelope necks, which I think are great for young ones, especially at bedtime. I'll do a whole post on free T shirt patterns one day. 

The trousers were from the Jereli pattern, which you can find details of here.

 You can find out more about the making of this set of pyjamas after the jump.

More PJs

Time to make more pyjamas!  I wrote about Jane's pyjamas with a kimono style top  here. So now it was the turn of  Fleur, my oldest grand-daughter. She also needed summer pyjamas. The Jereli pants free PDF pattern has come into its own again, this time accompanied by the Izzy Top. 

Izzy top in two sizes. (You'll see why two sizes, later.) The material has colourful balloons, and the yoke is lined with a bright cerise material with little white dots.

Jereli trousers, with a minor modification: fasten-up turn-ups, using fabric to match the Izzy top.

Full details of these pyjamas, made from free patterns, can be found after the jump. I'll also expand on how I made them and hopefully provide some useful tips.

Monday, 30 May 2016

Baby Shower Presents

You're a needlewoman. But I'd like to persuade you NOT to make the very smallest size baby clothes! If you want to know why, read my 'Don't make tiny baby clothes' rant, here. You'll probably ignore me, because let's face it, tiny clothes are SO cute. But bear with me. If you like to sew, there are so many things you can sew that will be more appreciated, and longer lasting.

First, here are some ideas for hand-made gifts that are not 'first size clothes'.

  • Larger size clothes! 
  • Bibs 
  • A baby towel or two 
  • Cot quilt or blanket 
  • A sleeping bag 
  • A nursing / changing bag or mat 
  • Playblocks 
  • A sounds bag 
  • A soft toy, or a ball with a bell in it 
  • A mobile
  • A playmat 
  • Toys to hang on a play gym 
  • A hanging contraption for storage of clothes or toys 
  • A soft play book 
  • A teepee 
  • A height chart or wall hanging
  • A dining room harness
I'll elaborate below with  more information and ideas for making some of these.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

Storing and Organising Fabric

Jumpy title!

I've been re-organising my piles and heaps of fabric that have migrated everywhere while I've been so busy on projects with deadlines* that I never seemed to have time to tidy up. Now, everything is organised - for now!

* By deadlines, I mean that we were seeing the intended recipient of the project work over the weekend, so I just had to get finished!

I wonder how other people store their fabrics. I'm sure a lot of people, like me, fall in love with some 'have to have' fabric, without having a specific idea how it will be used. Most of these do get used eventually. Sometimes I love them so much having used it, that I want to get more - and it's then out of stock world-wide! I also have pieces of fabric that are recycled. A garment can get taken apart for some later use. Probably about half of these get used - but at the outset, I don't know what will fall in which half - will be used or binned eventually.

So here's my new storage plan. Some of the see-through bags are much bigger than others, and then they all go in stackable plastic boxes.

Box 1:
  • Felt (mostly squares, but I keep quite small pieces for my finger puppets, as they can be used for eyes, noses, beaks etc).
  • Flannel. I bought various pieces of lovely soft baby flannel when we had a premature baby in the family. Some got used, but she grew so fast that I still have some waiting for another project.
  • Knits. Some of these are purchased, some are chopped up from T-shirts or other stretchy garments. There are also a number of pieces of ribbed knit, to make neckline, cuffs, waistbands etc.
  • Fleece - at the moment there's only one (plain French navy) fabric in this bag! But I've seen some gorgeous fleece fabrics at the store. I might turn my attention to using fleece again in the autumn.
Box 2:

This is my main storage of materials for new projects. At the bottom, there are three bags of pieces. The difference between them is a bit arbitrary, to be honest:
  • Scraps bag. Some of these are really quite small pieces, especially of a favourite material. Among other things, some of them lend themselves to making appliques.You can make applique letters with a two inch square! But I have to be a bit ruthless, or I would have two rooms full of sewing stuff.
  • Larger scraps. Mostly these are left over from projects and could be used to make small items, or to add some interest to a garment made out of a plainer fabric. If you've read the blog, you'll recognise some of them from projects

  • Larger pieces, but where I know there is definitely less than half a metre. Again, most of these are leftovers, although some may be fat quarters that I bought when the girls were tiny enough that I could make a whole project out of a fat quarter. These would lend themselves to making contrasting sleeves or bodices, most would be big enough for a child's sunhat, and some of them are sufficiently even in shape that they could be cut up to make further patchwork squares.
Next, two bags of larger pieces, of about half a metre or more:
  • Bright polycottons and cotton. 
  • Light / pastel polycottons and cottons.

Some of these are cheapish stuff that would be fine for quilting projects, or to make a reversible garment. Others are better quality. I don't distinguish them in the bags, Everything goes in together, organised only by whether they are pale fabrics or bright ones.

Box 3:

Sheeting, towelling, some ready quilted materials, and batting, interfacing, etc.

Box 4:

Everything else! Satins, tartan cloth, mock leather, chiffon, velvet, plasticised material (I think this has a name in the US), and half-finished alterations to, or dismantled, adult clothing. These are mostly fabrics and projects that are not likely to get used for children's clothing.

I feel good now it is all tidied away, but I'm started to feel another project coming on. Oh yes - some pyjama trousers for the youngest grandchild to go with the top I already made her - and she needs a sunhat - and once I've made her a sunhat, I'll certainly have to make one for her sister. I also promised them ponchos / sun cover ups. And the new dinosaur fabric I bought the other day - that's begging to be something for summer!