Monday, 28 April 2014

self drafted tshirt, mark II

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The short version of this story is:
I drafted my own t shirt pattern and sewed a tshirt!
It fits perfectly, its comfortable and just how I imagined it. Success!
And it cost me about ten dollars, if that.

The long version is this:
I watched Cal Patch's video on drafting a tshirt pattern, and one on sewing a tshirt, and then drafted and sewed my first tshirt, blogged here.

I was pretty pleased with the finished product but only as a muslin, it had a few issues which I'm still resolving, but it was a tshirt and I learned heaps along the way and I beat my fear of sewing jersey fabric.

Just recently Cal launched a new four part series on pattern drafting; making muslins; adapting patterns; and making patterns from existing clothes.

I've spent the last month watching the series, with more than a few 'a ha' moments along the way. It built on the knowledge I'd learnt in her t shirt drafting class and then took it much further. Cal demystifies the process of pattern making and shows you the basics of different styles. I'm a big fan of her simple and straighforward teaching, and I like her thoughts on life and fashion as well. I've also learnt a bit about sewing watching her make her clothes. Seeing every part of the process is so helfpul for a visual learner like me.

The series gave me confidence to revisit my tshirt pattern. This time I started from scratch and used an existing t shirt that I like to draft the new pattern, but I compared it with my original self drafted version and the original muslin using that information to make changes and revisions.

With my heart in my mouth I cut and sewed the new pattern yesterday.

Success! This time it fits perfectly. The neckband is the right length, the sides aren't too loose and the finish is professional. I love it. And best of all I have a bespoke pattern that I can use to make a million more tshirts.

I read more before attempting my second pattern too. In particular Maria Denmark's blog about negative ease and fitting helped a lot. She has a series about fitting tees which I must more of. She also has a boat neck Kimono tee pattern for free download on her great site. I'm thinking of trying a boatneck next time around.

Because I have an overlocker (serger) I sewed the whole tee with it, except for the bottom and sleeve hems. It makes it such a quick sew and gives a professional finish. I used my walking foot and a narrow zigzag for finishing the hems which helps keep them from distorting.

Friday, 25 April 2014

a week away

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We were lucky enough to go away for a whole week this Easter as it coincided with school holidays and the Anzac Day long weekend.

We went again to a favourite place, Hyams Beach on Jervis Bay.

Amazingly after three weeks of drenching rain we lucked upon the first dry Easter round these parts for eight years, and just the most magical weather ever for mid autumn. We had warm clear days and crisp nights. The sun shone, the sky was blue and the water temperature was perfect for swimming and snorkelling every day. I am feeling most blessed by this amazing week with my special gang. We had lots of laughs and lots of magic days, much relaxing and some adventures.

As usual there was walking, and fishing and jigsaw puzzling. New this year were prawning in the estuary (we caught two!) and lots of underwater filming with the gopro camera I gave Mr Flowerpress for his birthday. As soon as I can work out how to edit and upload I'll show you the huge blue groper I swam with yesterday, or the black reef leatherjacket who stayed still long enough for me to film him. Our videos are a trifle dodgy, but it was so much fun to record all the amazing fish life in this marine park. It amazes me every time I put my head underwater in Jervis Bay, its such a busy world under there!

Anyway I'll let the photos talk for themselves. Wherever you are I hope you had some time off this past fortnight and some beautiful weather too.

Previous visits, and some of my favourite photos, here, and here, and here and here.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

built by wendy 3835

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The Built by Wendy Simplicity 3835 pattern is famous on the interwebs. Everyone has made it, and usually more than once! This versatile pattern is for a top and two dresses with different sleeve lengths and necklines.

Do you know it? Its been out of print for years but still manages to appear regularly on sewing blogs. In fact all the Built by Wendy patterns are popular. And all out of print.

I don't understand why pattern companies, and fabric companies, don't revive some of their more popular designs. I'm sure there are reasons, but when they are still sought after and increasingly rare, I feel like they could do a limited rerelease.

The good news about the 3835 pattern, for me and for you if you don't own it, is that it is available as a digital download from the site along with some of the other Built by Wendy patterns.

I bought the pattern and made this top once a year or two ago. It is a quick sew and takes a tiny amount of fabric. I quite liked it at the time, but wear it rarely because it ended up as they often do too tight across the bust and shoulders, but gapey on the sides where I ended up taking it in.

When I decided recently to finally tackle the world of the FBA, or full bust adjustment, it was this simple pattern I turned to. The FBA if you don't know it is an essential tool if you are a sewer with a larger than B cup. Its also a good first step toward making your own pattern alterations, which leads to more satisfying clothes sewing.

Its taken me a while to learn this secret, but now I'm on to it! My first basic foray into pattern making here also gave me more of an understanding about how it all works, and more confidence to fiddle.

Unfortunately this is a raglan style top and the instructions for a raglan FBA were thin on the ground so it took some dithering around until I just went for it. The only tutorial I could find online was this one. I'm not sure what she does with the dart at the end, so I pressed on and added a dart where one didn't exist before and left it there.

I sewed a couple of muslins with my revised pattern making changes until I was happy with the fit. I actually ended up coming down two pattern sizes. From making a size 16 the first time I sewed this eventually as a 12, using my high bust measurement, adding a FBA and using the size 14 sleeves with slightly extended armscyes to fit. The sleeves are notoriously tight on this pattern.

I then cut the sleeve lengths where I wanted rather than following the pattern, I used the longer dress length sleeve pattern rather than the top as a starting point.

Once I was happy with my revisions I made these two tops in quick succession. I think the blue and white patterned top is the more successful due to the nice drape of this voiley Spotlight fabric which was already in the stash.

But I do love the colour of the blue floral figured fabric and couldn't resist buying it. It has a bit of a starchy, quilty feel but I'm hoping it will wear in a bit. The good news is that both tops cost less than $10 to make and I now have a bespoke pattern that I can make confidently again. And it has given me confidence for altering other patterns.

As usual I hate photos of myself (I enlisted my school holidaying junior photography team for these) but as usual I wanted to pay back all those people who have shared their 3835s online and from whom I've learnt so much. Special mention to the special Built by us Flickr group. Check out my friend Jo's versions, they are all great.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

scatter bricks

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I got the idea for this fabric design one afternoon while cutting orders of my ever popular Bricks print fabric. I imagined a pattern depicting that ever familiar scatter of Lego bricks across the floor. A graphic pattern made up of all the wonderful different colours and sizes of bricks just waiting to be stepped on! I'm sure most families are very familiar with this scene, and many mothers have a lot of experience picking up all those scattered bricks!

I loved the idea of having a coordinating print for my existing Bricks fabrics and can see myself using the different prints together for contrast, as I already do with my different scale Bricks fabrics.

The design came together really quickly just as I imagined it, and I am delighted to see how well it translates to fabric on this crisp white 100% Kona cotton. Graphic and colourful.

I only have a couple of yards of this print for now, a sample size helping! So if you want some of this design to sew with, something for your Lego Lovers or yourself get in quick. Maybe a pencil case, a pillowcase or a cushion cover, get in quick. I'll be keeping a smidgeon to play with myself. I have a little project idea that has been on the drawing board way too long!

The fat quarters are here or email me for other sizes.

As you can see the Scatter Bricks mixes and matches perfectly with the other prints which are all in stock now.

I am hearing great things about the Lego Movie and it is on our school holiday list. Have you seen it? Check out my lego love pinterest board for more Lego mania.

Friday, 4 April 2014



I'm loving having my own pottery wheel here at home. Its been great to be able to practice whenever I get a chance, especially since my ceramics course has ended. I am still a complete beginner on the wheel and I feel like I need to put in the hours to change that. Its also been nice to have time and space to concentrate and learn.

I love throwing but it is maddeningly hard, and I'm pretty sure I'm not alone in that opinion! One day I might have a good day and feel I've moved forward in my skills. But just as I feel I am starting to get the hang of it I will have a session like yesterday when I go back to feeling like a complete beginner and ruin every pot I attempt!

I haven't fired any of my pieces. I'm waiting to collect up a good batch to take to one of the local firing places. I kind of love them though in their greenware or unfired clay forms.

I'm enjoying playing around too with decoration techniques. From my readings there is almost a limitless range of ways to decorate your pots, and in my usual overly ambitious and enthusiastic style I am impatient to try as many as I can!

So far though I've only bought one glaze, a black underglaze. I bought it to play at mishima - incised and glazed pieces like this bird above. I haven't quite got it, My glaze seems to sponge out of the incised marks so the glazing is a bit faint, but I will keep trying. I think I need a wax resist to paint over the outside to protect the unglazed clay before I carve.

The spotty design was made with wet paper cutouts stuck to the clay and then painted over. Another experiment which needs more practice but I do love the dots.

The leaves and flowers are just painted, with the added details on the leaves scratched out later.

I'm sure you can see the flaws in my work, I can!

I wanted to share and document my beginnings here though, in case any of you were interested in ceramics or having a go yourself, but also to have a record of this fun creative journey.

Tuesday, 1 April 2014



Did you join us in meat free week last week. Perhaps its something that you already do regularly. A couple of people mentioned Meat Free Mondays, which sounds like a great way to keep this issue front and centre in the everyday week.

We managed a week of vegetarian dishes, and it was great. I really enjoyed the restriction and how it made us pull out a week of meatless meals from our repertoire. We ate falafel wraps, Malaysian egg curry*, fried eggs on toast (the night we had an early band performance), minestrone, nachos, marinated tofu stir fry and spaghetti squash with something else, hmmm, sorry can't remember!

During the week the Mr and I did something else for our health, we took a day off and drove down the coast together, had lunch at Stanwell Park and swam in the surf. Bliss! It was meant to rain all day but amazingly we had the most perfect weather! And it was such a great way to recharge. We had tried to have lunch for his birthday the week before but things were too busy. I'm glad we waited, it was a perfect day.

This week is another birthday week at our house, a momentous one in fact! My little baby boys turn 13 tomorrow, they will be teenagers!! When I started writing this blog they were just seven, in fact it only seems a blink ago that we found out I was even having twins. I must share that story some day, talk about a surprise!

And now, as my sister helpfully pointed out, from tomorrow we parents will be outnumbered by teenagers! Wish us luck ;-) Actually I love teenagers. Its such an exciting time, difficult in some ways but also an amazing period of growth and discovery. And they are great to talk to and laugh with... on their good days ;-)

There has been some making this last week, of course, there is always making round here!

Cath put the call out on instagram the other day for volunteers to help crochet washcloths for a really fantastic cause directed at young women. I pulled out some cotton from the stash and my dodgy crochet skills and I've made four so far to contribute. Visit her blog to find out more about this wonderful charity which you also might like to help.

I have still been potting away on my wheel too. I like to think that each time I do my skills improve just a little bit. I'm even starting to have slightly more control over the shapes I'm making. My nine week course finished last week, but I don't have all my pots back to show unfortunately as they were still in the kiln at our final lesson.

I've also been working away on some sewing for myself. It feels very self indulgent especially as I'm trying to alter patterns and learn more about how to do that, which takes a lot of time and brain space. As a result the bits of paper and fabric come out every so often and then get packed away mid alteration.

Despite that I think I might just have managed to do my first successful Full Bust Adjustment. I'm hoping this is the missing link in my garment sewing and that from here I will be sewing less shapeless sacks or bandage tops!

I've been experimenting with the Built by Wendy Simplicity 3835 pattern, and I've just finished a fourth muslin which I'm finally happy with. I'm keen to go back now with this new knowledge and sew a Tova or a Banksia top, two patterns I've attempted before with qualified success. When I have some better photos I fully intend to share what I've learned here. I think its such a good thing. If you are anything more than a B cup this is an invaluable modification.

Anyway that's what I've been doing. How about you? How is autumn/spring treating you. Its still muggy here in Sydney, but the nights are finally cooler which I am loving! And the garden is producing its autumn treats, the grasses are flowering and the camellia is out. I do love seasonal change.

* not sponsored but this was a Marion's Kitchen curry. We love these packs, they make a really authentic curry without too much fiddling. I'm so pleased to see she is expanding the range to include some other cuisines alongside the red and green Thai curries we love.