Friday, December 19, 2014

Book review and a dress for the wishing tree: Sew Sweet Handmade Clothes for Girls

I was recently received an email from Brandon from Tuttle Publishing asking if I would like a copy of the latest Japanese sewing book - Sew Sweet Handmade Clothes for Girls.  Of course I would!  The only condition was that I make something and blog about it.  My pleasure!!  I love emails like that!

I love Japanese sewing books and have made a few pieces in the past here, here and here.  Good news - this one is available in English so is super easy to follow.  The instructions are digital drawings with the exception of a couple of sewing procedures that are photographed (below is creating a button placket) 

Below is an overview of the patterns in this book.  The sizing is 1-2; 3-4; 5-6; 7-8  with the addition of two patterns also being sized for women.

A few details about this book:
- Patterns are overlapped and are all stacked on two sheets of large paper that are folded and placed in a pocket at the back of the book;
- Each pattern is only colour coded in black and red so you need to search for the letter that corresponds to your chosen pattern - the pattern then needs to be traced and cut;
- Seam allowances need to be added;
- Styles are reasonably simple and many are appropriate for the beginner sewer;
- The books is beautifully laid out and a pleasure to work with - drawings are detailed with written instructions to accompany them.

I pondered over the book a while after deciding to make this dress.  It is sleeveless with a high stand up collar, button placket, faux front pockets with gentle gathering under the front and back yokes.

I made mine in a wool/cotton blend check that I was given by a friend.  I am not sure how old the fabric is - it is from my friend's mother who was a seamstress in her day and loved fabrics. I was lucky enough to receive a big box of her fabrics. 

I cut the yokes and button flaps on the bias for some contrast.  Although I learnt to sew years ago, this is the first time I have created a button placket - it was heaps of fun to follow the steps and see it come together.  I am very pleased with my first attempt!

Although this dress suits Isabella very much, while I was sewing it, I decided it would be a dress we would donate to the wishing tree - this is a charity initiative organised by the Salvation Army whereby you place a marked gift under a christmas tree at our K-mart and the gifts are then distributed to those in need.  I hope a little girl enjoys opening this gift for christmas and I will just have to make another one for Issie one day!!

Isabella was once again in a silly mood for the camera but I managed to take some acceptable photos this afternooon...

I sewed up size 5/6 for my petite 6 and a half year old.  I would say the sizing is on the small size for this dress (mostly with dress length) but can't say for other garments yet. The author and pattern designer for Sew Sweet Handmade clothes for girls, Yuki Araki states in the book that she has designed the clothes to be worn "now", ie. not with room to grow into. The collar looks like it is mismatched in height in the photo below but in real life it's not...I promise!

I can imagine this dress with long sleeves, tights and boots too.

Thank you very much Tuttle Publishing for offering me this lovely book. I can highly recommend it!! If you would like to buy a copy, you can here:)

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Three Christmas dresses

Today I am sharing three sweet dresses I made my girls to wear on Christmas day. Do you remember that Laura (from Craftstorming) and I hosted The 12 Days of Christmas last year?  You can revisit the round up post here (you can see the dresses I made the girls last year there too). We were both a bit in need of a break so decided not to host this year but we are both sharing some festive sewing today. You will see a sneak peek to Laura's post with link at the end of this post.

Anyway, on to my dresses!!  I spotted this stunning dress by Diorella through An (StraightGrain's) Sew and Show the other week (stunning yes??) and saw that the dress design was an upcoming dress pattern by Farrah from Mingo and Grace.  When I saw that "Blake" was released, I bought it right away. (I have just noticed that Farrah is having a sale on her patterns too!)

I love this pattern!  It features a fitted bodice with cut away armholes at the back (I think this is referred to as racer back?).  It has large box pleats and sits above the knee.  The dress is fully lined and the underskirt is gathered which gives the dress a lovely fullness and structure. The dress closes with an invisible zip. The dress also has a large hem (2-3 inches depending on your preference).  I hand stitched mine just because.  I do love myself a big hem.  Below you can see the lining.

"Blake" is Farrah's second pattern.  She also released "Charlie" a few months ago.  She has done a superb job on this pattern.  All the instructions are digitally drawn and the whole pattern is very 'pleasing' to view and to work with.  I was a little confused with the placement of the pleats at the side seams - they are designed not to line up with the side seam so that the hidden pockets are even more hidden! But checking Farrah's amazing drawings I realised that I hadn't made a mistake and the mismatching of the pleats with the side seams is intentional (I forgot to get the hand in pocket shot!) I can imagine this pattern made up in satin, sateen or taffeta as a flowergirl dress.  I can also imagine it looking gorgeous in pinwale corduroy with tights! I know I will be making more Blakes for my girls.

Here are the girls in front of our pine forest - just the spot for Christmas photos!!  We have sent some of these pics to Stefan's family in England.  We do it every year.

Juliette pointing at the cow in our neighbour's paddock that she exclaimed had escaped and was walking up our hadn't.

We have painted some of these pinecones silver and will put them on the table for Christmas. We are looking forward to hosting my family in our house for the first time this year.  Stefan actually cut one of our small pines at it is now beside me as I write this post with lights and tinsel on!! Perfect!

The fabrics I used were all purchased from the lovely Frances from Miss Matatabi.  Emily's dress is Hatbox - Tiger Stripes in green by Alexia Abegg for Cotton and Steel, Isabella's (my current favourite fabric) is Japanese fabric arrows - not currently available in this colourway.  But you can see another colourway here (yes blogger spell check, us Aussies spell 'colour' with a 'u').  Juliette's dress is made from Homebody - Tacks in rust by Kim Kight for Cotton and Steel.

Thankfully I managed to take some natural smiling/laughing shots of the girls as Stefan was pulling funny faces to amuse them.

I am so happy with how these dresses turned out!!  Now would you like to see what Laura made?  How cuuuuuute!!! I can't wait to see.  Laura prints fabric like a pro!!  Head over to Craftstorming to see!!

Sunday, November 23, 2014

A top for me....for a change...

Today I am taking part in an Aussie hosted series called 'Constant Change'.  It is a series hosted  by two of my lovely blogging friends - Jenya from While she was sleeping and Renee from Nearest the pin

When I first got the invitation from Jenya and Renee, I planned on starting and finishing Emily's 'big girl' quilt as she will soon be graduating from her cot into a big bed. But I did not have enough time, and instead  I decided to make something for myself for 'a change'.  

I am very used to being behind the camera but not so comfortable in front!  Juliette took some of these photos, but I needed Stefan to step in for a couple! One thing about my wardrobe that has not changed in many years and that is that I live in jeans and tops/shirts and usually a pair of ballet flats. My wardrobe is also full of quite an array of cardigans - I have had a soft spot for them since I was a teenager.  

I made this pattern up - traced from a top I already own.  It is like a smart T- shirt.  There is a curved hemline which dips down further at the back.  the back has a small yoke and the neckline is faced. The fabric is a lovely linen blend from Miss Matatabi. This particular print is not longer available, but you can see another colourway here. I have worn this shirt two days in a row and it feels really nice to wear something I have made.  

Thank you Jenya and Renee for the inspiration and for having me!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

When we were young: petit a petit and family

Hi there! I am really excited to have another instalment in my When we were young series.  I plan on making this series more regular than it has been this year...time just ticks on and all of a sudden, months have gone by!  

Today I have an amazing sewer, designer, pattern maker and kids' style guru guest posting today! Celina from petit a petit and family! Celina makes amazing things and always goes to so much effort for her kids.  She recently made this gorgeous dress for her little daughter Elsie for our I (heart) Marcel Marlier series. Celina has a huge following on pinterest (around 3,000,000 follow her pins!), and she always makes clothes that are just a little bit different (and very cool!). I love Celina's Friday dress that she is currently drafting.  It seems to me that Celina is fantastic at anything she puts her hand to. Oh, did I mention she also co-edits the amazing free e-mag: STYLO along with Jess from The Sewing Rabbit...It is amazing! 

Over to the lovely Celina....

Where were you born/where did you spend your childhood?
I was born in Brighton - England, then moved to Rabat - Morocco at the age of one and half and finally moved to Montreal,  Quebec - Canada at the age of 5. 

Here I am  around 5 years old and actually still have this dress. Elsie will be able to wear it this summer.
Who did you grow up with?
I grew up with my mom and dad and my little sister, she is five years younger than me. 

Did you have a childhood ambition?

Besides playing and having fun, no not really. 

What did you like doing when you were little?
I loved to dance. I also really liked dressing up and organizing plays with all the neighborhood kids. 

Do you see any similarities between yourself and your child/children?
I do see some similarities, my daughter is on the shy side especially when you first meet her, she also loves to dance, hates the cold and loves to create a mess just like me.  Apparently my son is stubborn and gets that from me! I beg to differ.  He doesn't like to break the rules, I used to be the same as kid, never cross at a red light or eat a grape at the supermarket without paying. I used to love the stage and both my kids love to perform and put on a show. 

This is my kindergarten school picture. My first year in Canada. 

Do you live far from where you grew up?
I pretty much live in the same neighborhood.

Where do you live now and who with?
I live in Montreal, Quebec, Canada with my husband and two kids Elsie (5) & Mathis (7). 

I remember growing up and loving to dress up in beautiful clothing. I was lucky to have an older cousin who gave me all her clothes which were imported from France or Italy. She had the latest fashion and most gorgeous styles and I was lucky enough to have them handed down. To this day my cousin who lives in Paris still gives me some of her clothes and I get that same feeling of excitement as I did when I was kid. I also remember loving to wear dresses so much so that one day my father took all my dresses and put them in garbage bag and threw them out the window, because I refused to wear anything else. The thing is we were living in Canada and let's get real, dresses are not practical in minus 20 degrees weather. My daughter is going through a similar stage right now, she is actually obsessed with wearing tights and everyday she asks me if she can wear some. Soon it will be too cold to wear dresses, but I thought it would still be fun to make one for this occasion.

As I was looking through my photos I came across this plaid dress which I thought had that vintage late 70's feel but yet could be very contemporary. Especially with all the plaid being in style this fall. And how perfect is that my daughter loves to wear turtlenecks, perfect for layering and wearing our dresses longer.

I went fabric shopping and after searching for a while I ended up in upholstery section and found something that was close enough. The dress is self drafted, I should have made the sleeve a little wider to mimic the original style but ran out of fabric.

Physically my daughter and I look nothing alike, she is such a little brunette with big black eyes and olive skin, she does have my eyebrows and hands ( poor her!).  I feel like this little dress brings us a little closer- I know it's silly, but it's just how I feel. 

My daughter absolutely loves the dress and was so excited to see it was the same as mine, she didn't want to take it off. I am sure she will be wearing this quite often and be a new favourite. It is wide enough and long enough that she will be able to grow into it. 

I am lucky to have a few dresses from when I was a kid that my daughter will be able to wear, but actually sewing this dress has brought back so many memories and the expression on my daughters face when I showed her my photos was priceless.

Thank you so much Suz for inviting me on this really special sewing series, it was such a lovely experience to live. And posting on your birthday makes it that much more special.  A very HAPPY BIRTHDAY to you! Sending many hugs from across the world! xxx


This is amazing Celina!!! I love the dress and your photos.  I am so glad you enjoyed the experience and that Elsie loves her new dress and that she can look just like Mum did!  Thank you so much for sharing and for your birthday wishes too!!!!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A new dress design

I am excited to show you a new dress design I am working on. This is the first prototype and it only needs a few modifications to make it just as I want it. 

The dress features an open and piped 'eton' collar with small accent shirt buttons. An eton collar is a little like a peter pan collar but it sits up more where the collar and neckline meet. I made mine so that the collar fronts intentionally do not meet. Between the collar fronts, the bodice is drawn together with an elastic casing (at top) followed by rows of shirring. The skirt is gathered in the centre front and has accent rectangular piped pockets.  This version has extended sleeves.  There will also be long sleeves for those of you approaching winter!  Below you will see the back features another elastic casing to give some more shape to the dress. This will be one option for the back, and there will also be the option of a thin tie back.

Emily is fairly short so I intend the finished dress to sit just on the knee.

Have you noticed there are no closures? The elasticised neckline means you can pull the dress straight over the head.  Easy to wear and comfortable to play in! The bodice front and back are lined. 

These are the small modifications I have made so far to the pattern I am drafting.  I have raised the bodice line by 2cm as I want it to sit higher - this will elongate the pockets. On future dresses I will cut the elastic in the top bodice casing shorter so it draws the neckline in a bit more.  I have extended the line of the extended sleeve to make it a little more pronounced.

This fabric is thrifted - a vintage bed sheet! The ochre piping is made from store bought bias binding.

The lining is a Michael Miller spot I have had for a while (I don't remember the name). 

Do you like it? I am waiting on some cotton and steel fabric from Miss Matatabi to make up my next dress. Can't wait!!