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Welcome to my Blog

I am a grandmother to 4 little girls. I blog about the things I make for them, review patterns, provide tutorials on how I've dealt with techniques or problems, which I hope may help others, and give links to the (mostly) free patterns I use. Every so often, I do a 'Best of..' post listing the best free patterns I've found under specific headings - babies, girls, boys etc. Enjoy the Blog!

Thursday, 31 December 2020

2020 Christmas dresses Part 1 - The first two, using Simplicity 9379

As in previous years, I made Christmas dresses for all the girls. Sadly, we were not able to spend Christmas together due to lockdown. But at least they had something to wear for our Zoom calls! First, here are the two dresses I made using Simplicity 9379. for Rose (5) and Fleur (7). You can read about the other dresses in this post - the assymetric dress, and in this one, the red A-line dress. 

Monday, 28 December 2020

More towelling wraps

Over the past few years, I've made simple towelling cover-ups for my grand-daughters - just something they can wear over a wet swimming costume to play around the pool. If that's what you want, you might like to check out these other posts for how to make really simple and quick cover-ups. 

However, you'll note those are all 'summer' cover-ups. When I started this post, two of my grand-daughters had restarted their swimming after lockdown, in an open air pool. But by this time it was winter, down to about 11 degrees centigrade, and with the changing rooms not open, the only choice was to change or wrap up on the pool side in a biting wind.

Something urgently was needed, and I threw together these two new hooded towelling wraps to cover them up, with the idea being that they could get changed underneath them. Here's one cheeky monkey in her towelling robe. It does button up at the neck, but she wanted to play rather than model.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Swim Robes - Pattern review and additional tutorial

Needing some quick swim cover-ups for two of my grand-daughters, I had made some simple ones out of towelling (see this post) . However, they weren't really going to be warm enough for the coldest part of winter, what with having to change outdoors. And in timely fashion, I found a Facebook post from Laura Bolwell of Designed for Daisy, with information about a pattern and tutorial she had designed for a three-layer swim robe. Her pattern was very reasonably priced on Etsy, so I hastened off to buy it, and set about making not just two robes for those two granddaughters, but 4, for all 4 of them.

As a reviewer on Etsy pointed out, this is not a project for complete beginners, but in the course of making 4, I learned some tricks to make it easier, so I'm sharing what I learned here. Note that this review and my tutorial will only help you if you have bought Laura's pattern and tutorial.

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Some great ideas for children learning to sew (or adults!)

I am so often asked for ideas for things that can be made by children, or indeed, adults, who want to learn to sew, that I thought I should write up some of them. Here, I will be focusing on children, but many of the projects I suggest are equally appropriate for adults. There are one or two ideas here for things that can be hand-stitched - well, almost anything can, it may just take longer! But I would almost always suggest that children learn first to do some hand-stitching before attempting to use a sewing machine. That way, they will learn some techniques which will always stand them in good stead.

Of course children can be different ages and in different circumstances when the situation arises. It's different teaching a five-year-old from a ten-year-old. However, I'm not going to offer any advice about what age is appropriate for a child to use a sewing machine, or what machine to use - you know your child best. I personally think simple is better to start with. You might want to get a guard for the machine, though, especially if the child is young.

Constructing a sewn item can also teach several skills: mathematics, to calculate sizes and seams etc; design; following written or video instructions; taking care of safety; and of course fine motor skills. And there can be so much satifaction at producing a usable, wearable, or fun item.

So read on for some ideas that may work for you, whether you are teaching a young relative to sew, or students at a school.

Monday, 26 October 2020

Easy Skirts - Part 3 Flared and part circular skirts

 I've already told you about two other types of skirts that are pretty easy to make, without a pattern, i.e. gathered skirts, and circular skirts. This is a fully circular skirt. 

This is a type of flared skirt - it is a smaller fraction of a circle, rather than a complete circle.

There are several reasons why you might opt for a part circle. So in this post, I'll explore those, and show you an easy way to make them.

Saturday, 24 October 2020

Easy Skirts - Part 2 - Circular skirts.

In my first post about easy skirts for girls, I wrote about gathered skirts. I think they are the simplest to make, use very little fabric, and don't need a pattern. But there are other types of skirt which are also pretty easy to make, and many of them can loosely come under a heading of circular and flared skirts. The main difference is that gathered skirts are usually made of a simple rectangle of fabric, so that there is as much fabric at the waistline as at the bottom hem. This can sometimes make them seem a bit bulky at the top. In contrast, a fully circular skirt will be a complete circle (often likened to a doughnut) so it has a wide hem and not too much fabric at the top. But you can also make skirts I'm calling 'flared' as a sort of catchall. They are some fraction of a circle, three-quarters, half, or even just a quarter. They will all have more fabric at the hem than at the waistine.

This is a gathered skirt:

This is a fully circular skirt:

And these two are flared skirts. I'll cover flared skirts in part three.

Many such skirts can also be made without an expensive pattern, if you are prepared to make a few measurements and draw a pattern for yourself. But you can also get patterns if that's what you prefer to work with.

Wednesday, 21 October 2020

Sew a Little Seam Movie Night PJs pattern review

I had this jersey fabric with large dinosaurs* that had been picked out by my grand-daughter for a pair of pyjamas for her birthday. So all I needed now was a pattern! I had two PDF patterns, both freebies, and I wasn't sure which to use. So I asked a question in a Facebook group I belong to, the Baby and Kids PDF Sewing Patterns Group: "Opinions please - Ellie and Mac Grow with Me pyjamas, or Sew A Little Seam Movie Night pyjamas - for an size 8-10 year old and a 3-4 year old? And why?"

* It's called Stof of Denmark Avalana Organic Jersey – Dinosaurs

I fully expected to get views in favour of both, but in fact the responses were almost all for the Sew a Liitle Seam Movie Night pyjamas, so that made my decision a lot easier! And below, you can find out how I got on, and whether I agreed with those views.

Thursday, 15 October 2020

Sweatshirt Tunic from Life Sew Savory - a review and a fun idea

 I'd been looking at ways of using up some of the multiple colours of fleece scraps in my stash, and just in time, along came Emily Thompson of Life Sew Savory's with her great Sweatshirt Tunic pattern. I'd had an idea for some time of doing something like a rainbow because I had so many colours, and hence the sunburst was born. I think the Life Sew Savory pattern works really well.

You can find out how to make it here (or anything with a sunburst  design).

Enlarging a pattern - a tutorial

You know how frustrating it is when the pattern you love doesn't quite go up to a big enough size? It is sometimes possible to enlarge it a bit,  though I don't recommend trying to alter a newborn pattern to fit a ten year old, or a 7 year-old pattern to a women's XL. In this post, I'll show you how to make something a size or two larger. 

Sunday, 4 October 2020

Easy Skirts - Part 1 - Gathered skirts

 Some skirts are so easy to make, I'm amazed when I see paid-for "patterns" for very basic skirts. In fairness, there are also a lot of people who provide a pattern and tutorial free, as a come-on for their paid-for patterns. I don't have anything to sell, so I'm just going to tell you how to make easy skirts for girls, with no charge! And I'll also suggest a few embellishments to make them fancier, if the basics are just too basic for you. Here are just a few of the many, many skirts that I've made for my grandchildren over the past few years,

This will be a short series of posts on how to make simple skirts, and for this the first, on gathered skirts, read on. (Links to the others at the end.)

Saturday, 26 September 2020

Dinosaur Memory Matching Game

I got the idea for this dinosaur memory matching game from a Facebook post.

 I'd made one of my grand-daughters a playsuit using this great fabric, and I had only scraps left. There were 9 different dinosaurs on the fabric, and there were fortunately enough scraps for me to be able to cut out two of each dinosaur.

To find out how I made the matching dinosaur game, read on.

Monday, 14 September 2020

Pattern review - Made for Mermaids Bonny Leggings

I have quite a few free leggings patterns, so I thought I's start trying them out. The first to try, which is easily available, was the Made For Mermaids (M4M) Bonny leggings.

Swing Tee Shirts - Pattern review of Life Sew Savory's pattern

I'd had a metre of this cotton spandex unicorn stretch jersey fabric in the stash for a little while, and I'd been looking for the right project. 

Two of my granddaughters, sisters, had both decided they wanted it. With only a metre of it, I had to think carefully if I was to get two garments! . Their Mummy said they were most in need of tops, so it seemd like a good opportuntiy to try the free  Life Sew Savory Swing Tee pattern, which has been on my to do list for a while. you can find out how I got on below the jump!

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Another Sweet Rose Dress

I'm a fan of Life Sew Savory's Sweet Rose dress, it's easy to make up, and versatile, too - you can make it an every day dress, or a real party dress. I wrote a fuller review of it here. The earlier dresses were in sizes 3 and 6. But it works for an older girl too. 

Saturday, 8 August 2020

Another A line variation

Regular readers will know that I love a simple A-line dress.  I think it is the most versatile pattern there is, as well as being comfortable and practical for play. My latest version for Ada, 3, featured a double frill at the hem. 

Ada was quite taken with this new dress, and didn't want to take it off.

(Oh dear, look at the little scar on her knee! These girls do like to run around, fall off their bikes, trip over a log and so on.)

This time, I'm not going to give you a detailed tutorial. I've covered many aspects of making dresses like this in other posts. (See the end of this one for links.) I'll just point out a couple of features. One is the back neck closure, seen above and below. I made a little tab to enclose between the dress and lining, and put a small piece of interfacing between dress and lining on the other side. Then I applied a little Kam Snaps set. It's quite hard to see on the pictures, because I used a black Kam snap. I've found the girls like quite a deep back neck opening on a woven A line dress. Although it's not hard to get over their heads with a smaller opening, they all have broad shoulders and don't like having to wrangle their elbows through a too small gap. Even little Ada likes to dress herself without too much help now.

The other feature on this dress was the double frill. The lower one is a straight gathered frill attached to the bottom of the skirt. I had cut the skirt a few inches shorter than full length, to allow for the frill. There was a lot of frill, about double the bottom of the skirt. My preffered aproach to gathering is to split the gathering thread at least in two - occasionally on a very long frill, into 4. The approived method seems to be to run two gathering threads all the way round - two, in case one breaks, (And theoretically to help you get the gathers more even.) I long ago abandoned that idea. I find it easier to run one gathering thread around half the skirt, and another round the other half, overlapping the ends. 

I think you can see the overlapping gathering threads here. 

The advantage of this is that you can pull from both ends (Being careful not to pull them right through.) On a long frill, you have to drag an awful lot of fabric along the gathering thread, so the shorter that is, the easier to do. 

Before I started to pull up the gathering threads, I pinned in 8 places before pulling up the threads. Then I could easily see how much more gathering was needed.

And then put in more pins in between as I gathered.  Here it is all gathered up ready to sew. (You may notice I had overlocked all the edges before I started. I don't have an overlocker, but I use an overlock foot on my sewing machine to finish edges.)

I sewed  the gathered frill to the skirt, pressed the seam upwards, and then sewed a line of over-stitching to hold the frill neatly.

The second frill is fundamentally the same, except that you are attaching not to an edge. but to a line with fabric above and below. To do this,  I measured up from the top of the lower frill and marked a row of dots with a washable marker pen, at the level I wanted the top of the second frill. I gathered the frill to fit that line, and attached it upside down, right sides together. Then I flipped it down, and again overstitched, but this time with the seam pressed down, and I sewed over the frill rather than above it.

Another A line dress down! I'm afraid that by the time it was finished, she'd already grown, and it's a little shorter than I intended. But there are two possibilities as she continues to grow. One is that it becomes a top to wear with leggings. The othr is that I attach yet another frill to the bottom!

For more ideas about A line dresses, how to find patterns, etc, do a search on A line in the search box. But here are a couple of links you may find useful if any of the techniques here have you a bit floored. 

Here's one about neck closures

And another about gathering a frill.

How to make paper bag skirts / shorts/ trousers

In my previous post, I talked about my inspiration for making paper bag tops to a pair of trousers (or pants) for a toddler. In this post, I'll talk about the other kids' clothes that followed this idea, skirts and shorts, and give you general tips for making them. You can read about the trousers here.

Paper bag skirt

Paper bag shorts

Another pair of paper bag shorts

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Link page for Quiet Books

I have done several posts on the topic of Quiet Books, and then I have trouble finding them all again - let alone the trouble anyone else would have. So this post simply gives you links to all of them in one easy place!

Friday, 24 July 2020

Layered A line dress

I bought some lovely 100% cotton fabric while I was in Southern India, including this pretty digital print in lilac and pink. I probably knew as I bought it which of my 4 grand-daughters would be the most keen to have this, and I also knew she would want something that would spin.

This started as an A-line dress, cutting it off at high hip level to make an A-line bodice,. Then I added two curved layers, the topmost layer being about three quarters of a circle, and the bottom one more curved than the first layer (it was more than a full circle). I had in mind the idea of the opposite of a black hole shape, I believe called a white hole. I'm not enough of a mathematician to understand the geometry, but I think it's that each of the bottom circles is wider than the one above, increasingly so. That's the sort of effect I wanted to achieve!

To design the layers, I took off the part of the A-line pattern below the bodice and applied the 'Slash and Spread' method to make it even more flared for the first layer, and then redrew and slashed and spread again to increase the flare on the bottom layer. 

 I gave the bodice part a central back seam, so that I could provide a good neck opening. As this was woven fabric, it wasn't going to pull over her head without a neck opening . Here's the back, showing that seam.

And here's the front, showing the neck facing. I designed the neck facings by drawing round the neckline and armholes of the bodice front and back patterns, and then drew a bottom hemline for the facing by eye, to give a nice curved shape.

There is just a very narrow hem on the bottom layer, about 1/4" and 1/4" turned in.

I don't have a serger / overlocker, but I had bought an overlock foot for my sewing machine, and I thought it worked quite neatly on the seam finishing.

The tab fastening (with a plastic snap fastener) was sewn in between the neck facing and the bodice.

Here's the finished dress. 

And here's the proof it spins!