Wednesday, 27 August 2014

.Zippy Jacket for Perfect Pattern Parcel #4.

Did you hear? The Perfect Pattern Parcel #4 is now avaliable and the theme this time around is BOYS! Boys can sometimes be challenging to sew for, but this Pattern Parcel includes six great boys patterns that will be sure to fill your boy sewing space with lots of inspiration?
After having my Poppy Tunic included in the last Pattern Parcel, I thought it would be fun to be a part of the blog tour and sew something to share with you all this time. It was a hard choice, but I settled on the Zippy Jacket for Harvey. I try really hard to only sew what clothes the kids actually need at the time to make sure they actually will be worn! Harvey is growing out of all of his warm jackets so this filled the spot perfectly.
The Zippy Jacket is a great pattern, a lot faster than it looks and the end result is a trendy jacket that looks just as good (maybe better?!) than something you will buy at the shops. I made the size 18 months-2 years for Harvey who is just 15 months and expected it to be really big on him but the fit is spot on, a tiny bit of growing room but definitley not too big to start wearing now.
I recently bought this fabric from Spoonflower when they had a free shipping offer happening. I have bought Spoonflower knits in the past and although they have a lovely feel, the print fades terribly. Still wearable but a bit disappointing if you are after brighter colours. As far as I am aware, Spoonflower have stopped producing the older knit and one of the replacements is this Modern Jersey fabric. To be honest, I am still not 100% happy with this jersey either. It is suuuuuper stretchy, a bit flimsy and synthetic feeling. (Scroll down and read more about it on this page if you are interested, it is 96% polyester so I guess that explains the synthetic feel after working with cotton jersey knits.) Anyway, I think this fabric would suit girl's or women's clothing better than boys, simply because it is so drapey and looks more feminine but I bought this particular print with the boys in mind so wanted to work out a way to use it for them.
And I did! You can really see in any of the photos, but I completely lined the jacket with a layer of polar fleece. So the outer fabric is really just acting as a decorative shell with the fleece providing stability to the jacket. Not to mention extra warmth, adding the layer of fleece has turned the jacket from light-weight to super duper warm!
I didn't do anything tricky to line it, just used the "flat lining" method of cutting all of the pattern pieces from both the exterior fabric and the fleece (in this case, the fleece is the lining fabric) and then placing them wrong sides together and sewing with them as if they were one piece of fabric. I took a shortcut and didn't bother basting the pieces together, just held them together with pins so it was even faster! I did only use one layer of polar fleece in the collar though as I wanted it to end up a similar thickness as the rest of the jacket.
The only thing I did different to the pattern was to cut the waistband piece 1 1/2" shorter than specified because I thought it looked a little loose on other jackets that I have seen made. Anyway, enough rambling - it's a cute jacket, huh?! And a cute baby...
 So, have I convinced you yet? Go and buy the Parcel! SIX amazing patterns and YOU CHOOSE HOW MUCH TO PAY! But make your payment over $26 to unlock the sixth bonus pattern!

About Pattern Parcel:
Here at Perfect Pattern Parcel, we believe in supporting independent pattern designers. It’s our opinion that indie patterns are just, well, better than big box patterns, and we’re pretty sure our customers think so too. So, we allow customers to show their support in naming their own price for each Parcel.  We also encourage customers to allocate part of their Parcel price to the charity in order to help classrooms in need. Pattern Parcel donates all profits after expenses from Parcel sales to the charity as well. Together we've raised $9,800 towards eliminating educational inequality.

Pattern Parcel #4
Pattern Parcel #4 includes:
Maxwell Top by Shwin Designs
Zippy Jacket by Blank Slate Patterns
Schoolboy Vest by Sew Much Ado
Small Fry Jeans by Titchy Threads
Jet Pack Bag by Betz White

Zippy Jacket pattern by Blank Slate Patterns (avaliable in PPP4)
Natitys, Geo Boys Blues Modern Jersey fabric from Spoonflower
Charcoal polar fleece from Lincraft

Monday, 25 August 2014

.Know your KNIT fabrics: what to buy, where to buy and how to sew!.

I feel like I need to dedicate a post to my love of knit (stretchy) fabrics. It's kind of funny, because when I first started getting into sewing clothing I was not a fan of knits at all. It was all quilting cotton, all the time. While I do still love quilting cotton and all that it has to offer, there is only so much that you can do with it when it comes to sewing clothing.

I often get emails from people wanting to know where to buy good quality knits from and asking for tips and tricks when sewing knit fabrics so I'm sure there are many other people who wonder but don't actually ask! Hopefully this post will be helpful for newbie knit sewers and also for those of you who have more confidence with sewing with knits.
(cowl dress / coastal breeze / mr penguin / hero vest)
I would have to say that more than 50% of my garment sewing is done using knit fabrics now. Once I got over my initial fear of handling knits, knowing what stitches to use on my machines and working out some great places to buy fabrics from I was hooked! If you look in your wardrobe or at your kids clothes, I can pretty much guarantee that most of the clothing that we all wear is made from knit (stretchy) fabrics so it only makes sense that you gain confidence with sewing with knits in order to make clothes that are practical, comfortable and suitable for everyday wear. When you delve into the world of knit sewing you are opening yourself to a huge range of "everyday" clothes from comfortable tshirts to stretchy skirts and dresses to leggings. Because knit fabrics are stretchy, you very rarely have to use zippers, buttons or other closures to get them over your body! And if that's not enough to entice sewn with knit fabrics need hardly any ironing at all (yay!!!)

When I first started sewing with knits I was pretty clueless. My first few projects were a bit wonky but I learned a lot from them! Now that I have had a bit of practise I love sewing with knits, they are really simple and get worn so much. I have done a lot of research, shopping around and through lots of trial and error here's a summary of what I know about buying and sewing with knits...

First of all, I want to talk a bit about the quality of knit fabrics...I don't know about you, but I'm not in the sewing game to save money! (Does anyone actually save money by sewing? Maybe if you are buying fabric from the op-shop!) but really, this hobby can churn through the dollars if you aren't careful! For me, sewing clothing isn't about saving time or money, but is about creating unique items that are exactly how I want them. If I want cheap clothes then I'll go to Target for some instant satisfaction! Personally I don't see the point in spending so much time sewing clothes using poor-quality fabrics. I want my handmade clothing to last and still look good wash after wash and using good quality fabrics is the only way to do that. Having said that, you can sometimes get lucky and pick up good-quality fabrics at a decent price. 

Also, be aware that good quality knits are more expensive than most woven fabrics. But remember that they are always extra wide (150cm +) so take that into account when comparing with fabric that is only 100cm wide. Out of 1m of knit fabric I can make a top for myself or a couple of tops for the kids so it really isn't that expensive when you think about it.
(skippy / joey / basic tees: spy top)
If you are first starting out with knits then I'd suggest sticking with a cotton jersey or interlock fabric. I'm personally not a fan of interlock fabric because it tends to stretch out of shape after awhile, but I'm happy to use it when the hems of the garment (sleeve cuffs, hem, neckband, etc.) are out of a contrast fabric which is going to hold it in shape. Interlock is really easy to sew with because the cut edges of the fabric don't roll up. Cotton jersey knits with about 5% elastine or lycra are my favourite knits to work with. Once you feel confident sewing with knits then you might want to test out some other fabric types - and there are heaps more to try!

I know I harp on about good quality fabric all the "good" I mean they wash and wear well - don't pill or fade, are a decent weight (thickness), and have a good recovery. (Recovery is the amount of bounce-back you get when you stretch your fabric and then let it go.) If you sew with dodgy quality knits then you are pretty much guaranteed to have a bad experience.
(skippy / hoddie top / ninja baby)
This information is mostly applicable to Australian sewers. We just don't have the range of shops and fabric choices as are avaliable in the US so it can be a bit tricky trying to work out where to buy knits from to get the best quality at the best price. I manage to source some great knit fabrics though and want to share my secrets with you here!

Where I live in Tasmania there are no brick and mortar stores to purchase knit fabrics so I have to rely solely on online shopping.  This can be a bit tricky when shopping for knits as you really need to see and feel fabrics to know exactly what they are going to be like. After lots of trial and error (yeah, I put in the hard yards shopping - haha!) Here are some of my favourite places to purchase knits online:

My first port of call when I'm looking for new knits is Crafty Mamas. Lisa (CM owner) works like a trojan and is always stocking her store with the most amazing knits. She specialises in European knits and let me warn you now...once you start sewing with European knits nothing else will compare! I was a little spoiled when I first started my knit fabric stash and stocked up on lots of European knits and it has made me extra picky about the quality of other knits that I purchase now! If you want top quality though, you can always rely on European knits to save the day. Look out for brands like Lillestoff, Hilco, ZNOCK, Okeo-Tex and Nosh. Eurpoean knits tend to be pretty trendy and a bit quirky so are great if you are looking for something different. If you see something you like then you better get in quick because new stock is always arriving and once a particular print is gone then it might not be ordered again. Crafty Mamas also stock other great knits too, lots of solids and some Aussie made. I like this shop because they NEVER scrimp on quality I can be sure to get excellent fabric.

When I am looking for a particular European knit and Crafty Mamas doesn't have it in stock, then I'll check out Dawanda. Dawanda is a type of Etsy platform for European sellers. It can be a little tricky to get your head around, because not everything is in English so it takes a bit of guessing or interpreting! This is the only shop that I have ever bought from and I have always been happy with their service - prompt and clear communication. Make sure you set the currency to your country so that you can see what you will be paying and keep in mind that Dawanda stores do not accept direct Paypal paments. You have to purchase Dawanda vouchers (using your Paypal account) and you can then use the vouchers to make purchases from any stores on Dawanda. Also, the price quoted isn't always the price you will pay - usually I end up paying a little less because Australians don't have to pay the VAT tax which is included in the price. You actually don't make any payments until the seller has confirmed the total price for your order and then you can make changes before committing though. Anyway, it's quite messy and not very straightforward, I don't use it often but if I'm looking for a particular fabric I will muddle through the system.
This is the only US store that I will purchase knit fabrics from because they have excellent postage rates. To buy knits from anywhere else you are paying around $25 postage for 3-4 yards. is way cheaper than that and have a huge range of knits. Usually I will stick with the designer collections because I can be sure of the quality I am getting...Riley Blake knits are great, as are Robert Kaufman Laguna, Heather Ross jerseys and Liberty of London. (Once I did splurge and buy a couple of yards of this beautiful Liberty of London knit and I don't think I will cut into it for a long time!) is HUGE and can be quite overwhelming if you aren't sure what you are looking for. I haven't delved much into the non-designer knits yet because there are just too many to sort through and I don't want to risk getting stuck with a dud but I might test out a few in the future!
(horray! / hero vest / 30-minute skirt / comfy baby)
Ixat is run by an Aussie (I think?) living in South Korea and she manages to get her hands on lots of funky and interesting knits. Shipping takes a long time (4-6 weeks) but they do offer lots of knits that you won't find anywhere else. Everything I have bought from them is good quality so far, a couple of knits were a bit thinner than I expected but that's probably because I'm comparing them with European knits. They also have a sister store: IXAT Extra.

Occasionally I'll buy European knits from the Ottobre store on Etsy. These fabrics are pretty expensive though so I'll only only buy from them if I am desperate and can't find what I am after anywhere else.

Although you can't purchase fabric online from Spotlight, most newbie sewers will probably head into their local Spotlight to source knit fabrics. Personally, I haven't had much success finding good quality knit fabrics in these big chain stores. I always check out what is avaliable when I go in and don't usually walk out with anything stretchy at all. I have bought a few knits from Spotlight that end up being good but I have also bought a few that aren't very good quality and let me down later on. Because of this, I tend to steer away from buying knits from Spotlight - but with the trend of sewing with knits picking up, it might not take them long to catch on and start offering some better quality fabrics. Spotlight doesn't offer online shopping on fabrics which is probably a good thing because you really need to see and feel the fabrics before buying so that you know what the quality is like.

I think I need to mention Girl Charlee here because I have purchased knit fabric from them in the past and I'm sure you see their fabric plastered all over sewing blogs. Personally, I have not been happy with the quality of fabric I have purchased from them and after a couple of orders I stopped buying from them altogether. Everything was thin and flimsy, lots of fabrics ended up pilling and usually the recovery of the fabric was really poor. BUT the fabric is cheap and there is heaps to choose from so that's why so many people sew with it - remember you get what you pay for though and I'm not keen to shop with them much anymore. I did recently purchase some swimwear fabric from them which seemed okay though but I don't have much to compare it with yet.

So, those are the main ones that I look at when shopping online - hopefully a new one or two for you to check out. If you have a favourite online store to share then leave a comment for others to see!
(spy top / summer suits / baby stripes / basic tees)
I'm going to give you my top tips for sewing with knit fabric. There are so many posts on so many blogs that share tips for knit sewing success and they all vary slightly. This is really an area where you have to do a bit of figuring out and playing around for yourself to find out what your personal preference is for sewing with knits. And most importantly - get to know your machines! I've got a few sewing machines and they all handle knits differently so you really have to test your stitches and machines out first.

If you own an overlocker (serger) then use that for all of your inside seams when sewing with knits. An overlocker really speeds things up and makes light work of sewing with knits because you can sew, trim and finish the seams all in one go. BUT...if you don't have an overlocker then you can still have great success sewing with knits using your sewing machine!

I own a great overlocker now, but my previous overlocker was really old and temperamental and didn't always do what it was supposed to do. After a lot of frustration, I gave up using it to sew knits with and have had awesome results just using my sewing machine. It took a lot of trial and error to work out which stitches were the best to use on my sewing machine with knit fabric. Before you start on your knit sewing, I would strongly recommend that you read through your sewing machine manual (boring, I know!) to see which stitches are suited for stretch fabrics and testing those stitches on some fabric to see which ones you like the look of and how well they stretch with the fabric when it is pulled.

After you have discovered what your machine is capable of, then make a simple tshirt to test some stitches out on. If you have a child to sew for, then make the tshirt for them (you could try my Basic Tees pattern) as kids really put their clothes to the test with lots of stretching seams and hems! Make sure that the tshirt is worn and washed a lot so that you can see how the stitches last over time. 
(joey / joey / skippy)
Every machine is different and what works well for someone else may not work for you. For example, I know that lots of people love using a double needle to hem their knits but my double needle stitching always seems to pop and break after a few wears so I never use it any more. But it might work for you, so if you like the look of it, then try it out! And don't despair, if it doesn't work for you, there are lots of options you can try!

Here are some of the most popular stitches suitable for stretch sewing using your sewing machine and their pros and cons (refer to Figure 1. for an example of each stitch):
These are my favourite stitches when sewing with knits on my sewing machine:
  • I use a stretch tricot stitch for all of my seams that will not be visible from the outside of the garment. 
  • For most of my topstitching that will be seen from the outside of the garment, I use a triple straight stitch on my sewing machine. I like to use this stitch when I'm sewing binding down from the front of the garment too. 
  • I love using the mock cover hem stitch when hemming garments.  
  • If there is ever any decorative topstitching to be done then I like to use a honeycomb stitch.
Phew! You made it to the end!! I've been wanting to write this blog post for ages now, but kept putting it off because I knew how long it would be!
I hope this information is helpful to anyone delving into the world of knit sewing or for those of you wanting to find a few more sources for purchasing knit fabrics.
If you have any personal sewing preferences or other favourite stores to purchase knit fabric then leave a comment with your thoughts - I would love to hear from you and I'm sure other readers will be interested in what you have to say too!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

.Skippy with a cowl neck.

Sorry for the overload of Skippy and Joey posts, but they each have a lot of variations and it is my job to show them all to you - we are slowly getting there!
I know I play favourites a lot when it comes to me-made clothing, but this new Skippy dress tops the lot for my Winter wearing.
I only made it two weeks ago but I have to have a quick think as I go to get it out of my cupboard each time to make sure I haven't worn it too many times in a row...don't want to get a reputation as the girl who wears the same outfit over and over again!
So this variation of Skippy features long sleeves and a cosy cowl neck. The method used to sew this cowl neck onto the dress results in a twisted, drapey look. I wanted to make sure that it didn't end up looking like a skivvy and this method gives a more sophisticated finish. Of course, if you wanted it to look more like a skivvy, you could always attach the cowl in the same way that all of the cuffs and bands in the dress are attached.
The fabric for this dress is really lovely. A nice mid-weight jersey with loads of stretch that my friend bought for me from The Fabric Store in Sydney. I love it and am glad that I choose it for this cold-season Skippy dress.
These photos were taken when I went away for a girl's weekend with my Mum, sisters and sisters-in-law. We stayed at Low Head in these cute Pilot Station cottages and had such a lovely getaway - free from all home responsibilities. We went on slow walks, lounged around, laughed so much our tummys hurt, ate way too many treats, went out for a fancy dinner, took fun photos at the lighthouse and even played some funny games of sardines in the dark and reverse charades! It was a great weekend spent with special ladies at the most beautiful place.

And incase you were can do awesome cartwheels in the Skippy dress!

Monday, 18 August 2014

.Sidekick Tote.

Last week we said goodbye to the our lovely family daycare lady. Once my kids stop day-time naps, I send them to her house once a week so that I can squeeze in a work day amidst the business of life with four kids. She isn't just any family day carer either - at Cindy's house the kids do the most amazing things! They get dirty (like really dirty!) discovering all sorts of things about nature, they make their own paper and do crafts from recycled materials, lots and lots of cooking, felting, the most imaginative role play including a special fairy who steals children's lunch boxes and hides them around the house and so much more. Going to Cindy's house was such a treat for my children and we were sad to see her retire.
I wanted to make Cindy something special to say thankyou and goodbye and thought that she might like a new bag to tote her belongings around that is big enough just for her stuff now that she isn't carting around nappies and wipes and drink bottles for the littlies!
After a quick look through my patterns I settled on the Sidekick Tote from Noodlehead. I made a Sidekick Tote for myself a couple of years ago and still use it all the time.
I made the large sized bag with the flat front pocket. For the exterior fabric I used some linen/rayon blend fabric with shot cotton on the top section to add a colour pop. The pocket fabric is an oldie by Echino and the bag is lined in the same. Once again, the recessed zipper top (that Anna does so well in her patterns) is my favourite feature of the bag. The only thing I did differently is to use cotton webbing for my handles because I really don't like making bag handles from fabric! And I don't think they look good after lots of use either.
Noodlehead, Sidekick Tote pattern
Robert Kaufman Brussels Washer linen blend in natural
Kaffe Fassett shot cotton in eucalypitus
Echino Bonbon in green

Thursday, 14 August 2014

.A Winter weather Joey dress.

I'm back with another version of the Joey dress today. This one is made with long sleeves and a snuggly cowl neck. And you know how much we love our cowl necks around here!
This dress is really cosy, and that Heather Ross strawberry knit fabric is so soft and cuddly.
The hem of the long sleeves are bound with a strip of fabric, I like being able to use a contrast fabric for the binding for a more playful look - the contrast suits this particular dress nicely. The contrast fabric is a solid from Lillestoff. I can't remember the name of it now, but it is a lovely deep plum colour.
The Joey pattern is avaliable at a bargain price of just $10 until 8pm tonight so get in quick if you want to save yourself some dollars! This is such a great dress - with short, 3/4, and long sleeve lengths it is definitley a pattern you can sew all year 'round!
Make It Perfect, Joey sewing pattern
Heather Ross, Briar Rose knit, Strawberry in lilac
Lillestoff solid plum 

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

.Knitting project: Zigvest.

Hey, hey! I knitted something! It only took me a year and it's not a Honey Cowl (there have been 10 of those)!

This pattern is the Zigvest from TiKKi.  It's a beautifully written pattern, but boy did I experience some grief with it! All problems caused by my own inexperience and foggy mindedness, but I got there in the end!! I used some Luxury 8 ply yarn in Koala from Bendigo. This is a good, economical yarn...personally I wouldn't wear it directly on my skin, it's a bit too itchy for me, but I'm pretty picky about how fibers feel on my skin. Great for a vest that will be worn over other clothing though.
This vest is definitley the most advanced pattern I have knit. It was all good until I had to split for the neckline and then for some reason I just couldn't get the zigzag pattern to continue properly all the way up to the shoulders. I tried at least 10 times to get the pattern to continue, with no luck. I even had help from my clever knitty friend and my Mum and I just couldn't pull it together! I think that the main problem is that I left the vest unfinished at this point for many months because I had hit a roadblock, then every time I picked it up to try and finish it I became more and more confused because it had just been so long since I had worked on it!
I was determined to just finish the thing and my Mum suggested that I stop the zigzag pattern at the neckline and just knit some plain rows up to the shoulder seams in place of the pattern. I was a little apprehensive to start with as I thought it would end up looking tacky but the back of the vest is all plain and I don't mind the look that I ended up at all. And....I FINISHED IT!

Tommy is so skinny that his chest measurement came in at the size for a 3 year old. I didn't think to add length to the vest (duh!) and there was a growth spurt somewhere there in the 12 months that it took for me to finish it, so I don't think we will get more than one Winter's wear out of it. At least I have Harvey to hand it on to in a few years time!

As painful as it was to finish the vest off, the bulk of the knitting was smooth sailing - I was so proud of myself for getting the zigzag pattern to look as good as it does...not a bad effort for my first attempt! I did learn a lot, it is very wearable and Tommy loves it so that's all that matters, right?!
So, now that I have finished this vest, I'm trying to decide what to cast on next...I have a strict "one knitting project at a time" rule which is great incentive to finish something off! I'm leaning strongly towards a shawl - maybe this one or this one. But I did just look through TiKKi's patterns as I was linking to the Zigvest and am feeling tempted by her new Posy cardigan, or perhaps the Ferris Wheel or even something for me - maybe a Summer Festival or Lizzie cardi? Decisions, decisions...

Have you knit any of these??

Monday, 11 August 2014

.A long-sleeved Skippy.

Today I want to show you one of the sleeve variations that comes with the Skippy dress pattern. The pattern includes three different sleeve lengths - short, 3/4 and long. I have already shown you the 3/4 length and this dress today shows the long sleeve length. 

I made this dress from a merino wool knit, it is a little more turquoise in colour than the photos show and it is the warmest fabric to wear. A friend picked it up for me from a local fabric store so I can't really tell you much more about it other than it is merino wool. I was expecting it to be a bit itchy, but it has quickly become my favourite knit fabric for sewing special garments with. Although the fabric is quite thin, the warmth it gives is unbelievable. When I first made this Skippy dress, it was a frosty morning the next day for school drop off. I wore my dress without a jacket and was surprised at how warm I was. Because the merino wool knit is super stretchy is it also really comfortable to wear.
I didn't have enough merino for the skirt of this dress, so made the skirt using a Lillestoff print that is another one of my favourites. I love this combo, and I love the way that by combining two different fabrics for the skirt and top pieces, the dress actually looks like two different items of clothing! I have had many people tell me that they "like my skirt" when I'm wearing this dress! This one has also made it into the "favourites" category and is in heavy rotation in the wardrobe!

Remember, both Skippy and Joey are avaliable at a special introductory price for just $10 until Wednesday, so if you want to pick up these patterns at a great price then don't miss out!
Make It Perfect, Skippy pattern
Merino wool knit in turquoise
Lillestoff, Smila Roses in petrol
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