Monday, April 12, 2010

There's no such thing as normal..

Ok, so how do we define "normal"? I don't even want to try. Though right now I am a little perplexed at Jessica's measurements. I had traced her a little pinafore from an Ottobre Design magazine even though I had no real idea of her measurements, or what the books measurements equate to in ready to wear sizing. Today I stole her for 5mins and did some measurements, and let me tell you, she was NOT impressed!

But what I find now is she is a typical size 6 (using a few sources here, Simplicity envelopes, online searching, Ottobre) all except her hip which comes up as a size THREE!!! Yes, size 3 hips.. On the Ottobre patterns she actually fits into the "toddler" category and she's 7yrs old!

She measures;
118cm tall
62cm bust
58cm waist (allowing for the little pot belly she poked out, I may have to redo this one)
60cm hips
26cm back waist
39cm outside arm
9cm shoulder width
76cm outside leg  and
53cm inside leg

I don't really know what this means for us. I don't really know how to buy pants that stay up but are long enough, we have this issue a lot. Oh dear.. I need some help! I want to keep sewing, but I don't want to sew things which don't fit. eek!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Holy Smocking!

I went back to a tutorial I was going to try once and never did, by Lia of Lia's Space for a pattern she calls Diamond Smocking. This is done in the "American Smocking" method I believe.

I re-sketched Lia's diagram not for any other reason than I bought my stitches closer together. Lia had a row of dots between which I am unsure it it were intentional or not. This is my diagram, based on the method explained here. Please see the original site for a written tutorial. Very simply take your needle up through the fabric at dot one, down at 2, up at 3 and so on and so forth. The other thing I did slightly different to Lia was I took my needle under just a few threads right underneath the dots on my fabric. It gave me these cute little 4petal type flowers. Lias's method bought 4 dots back together as 1. I probably should have used a larger dotted fabric for this example!!

On my quest to find smocking tutorials using the American style, I came across a great blog called La Sewista! where the author Bunny explains many smocking styles! I had no idea there were so many!! You can read about them here. She lists English (what I always thought was traditional smocking), American/Canadian, Counterchange, Italian Smocking/Shirring, and Picture smocking. In my travels I have also seen variations on the above forms with Geometric Smocking, Dot to Dot Smocking, Lattice, Continental, Grid Smocking... WOW!! Are you keeping up?! Although people who do English smocking (the variety that is pleated before embroidered, often with the pleats let out after construction) typically use a pleating machine it wasn't always so. With amazing precision those pleats were once hand sewn, often using a grid of dots much like the American smocking.

In close reach I found a copy of Australian Smocking and Embroidery Magazine (Issue 45 1998). This magazine is still  printed in Australia and popular world wide. It includes full paper patterns for the garments as well as smocking patterns (called plates) as well as all other kinds of useful info. For example, this particular edition shows you how to use a pleater to pleat a curved panel. The two pictures and examples below are photographed from the Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazine Issue 45, 1998.

Counterchange Smocking
design "Journey of the Heart" by Alexandra Baldwin (South Australia)

English Smocking (combined with Heirloom sewing)
design "Enduring Spirit" by Lyn Weeks (Illinois, USA)

I have absolutely no idea what I will do with my samples of smocking, but I have enjoyed the process and being introduced to some very clever bloggers along the way!!

Delicate and Dainty

I want to make myself a scarf. I don't wear scarves.. Hmm! I'd like to, I just think they look odd on me and I'm never quite sure what to do with them. But I am going to make one all the same and see what happens. I wanted flowers, and toyed with the idea of using all kinds of flowers. In the end I liked the pattern posted at CrochetMe enough that I will just do one very long chain of these sweet flowers. They're quite large. I'm using Bendigo Woolen Mills 8ply cotton which is so soft, like brush cotton, and a Brittany 3.75mm (F) crochet hook. Perfect! In all honesty, I think I should have used a slightly smaller hook so the flowers were tighter. I will see how this goes. I don't like repetitive and I don't like sewing in ends (for every flower there are 2 ends to tidy away). I might dress it up some when it's finished, but for now it really is a case of "let's see where this goes".

Smocking is NOT Shirring

I've been playing around with smocking. American Smocking apparently. I never knew there were two styles, one American the other English. I have a few books that contain smocking info and of course various issues of Australian Smocking and Embroidery magazines but I'd never actually done any! All that pleating and embroidery really put me off. Seems the American style doesn't need pleating, only well placed stitches. I say a post on the OnePrettyThing site for a smocking tutorial and decided I REALLY needed to try it. I dug out some remnants of spotty fabric (let's face it, I am far too lazy to draw all those dots!) and gave it a try. The tutorial I used can be found here.

These were rather large dots each spaced about 1.5cm from centre to centre. I really love the effect it gives! I did this row by row with just sewing cotton and a needle. I may go back over it with embroidery floss. (the measuring tape used is in inches) 

Although Kara at Craftastical! did a fantastic job of the smocking tutorial I still managed to muck it up! Below is the first try, on a much smaller dot printed fabric. The results are pretty cute, though now how it was supposed to be. I do like the zig-zag effect!

One of my pet peeves is people calling things by the wrong terms. This is smocking, it is NOT stretchy. Go for it, make it with elastic thread.. it still wont stretch. It's not supposed to. The stretchy thing you're thinking of is called Shirring! Smocking and Shirring are two very very different things! Shirring has, in the past, been called "poor man's smocking". So, if it's elasticated and gathered do the right thing and refer to it as shirring. It's not smocking. Smocking takes a whole lot more work!

Another common mix up is when it comes to multicoloured thread/yarn. Almost always called Varigated when the correct term is Ombre. Do you know the difference? If you're a yarn lover you really should..

While we're on the "peeved" topic. I am curious why people who sew and flaunt their "designs" are so lazy as to not add arm scythes to their garments? Don't know what an arm scythe is? It's that curve that goes under an arm, where you'd insert a sleeve. Now, most of the garments I am refering to are tanks, ties, halters. There are no sleeves. But for whatever reason these "designers" drag a garment (usually for a little girl) straight under her arms and around her back. It draws the bodice down in front, is awfully uncomfortable to wear, and means the back too will be low. I am guilty of this also. A ladies skirt I reconned into a dress for Jessica in a real hurry. It looks awful! The arm scythe (dip under the arm) makes a garment fit better, sit better, and more appealing to look at. Try it out!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Fluffy bunnies (of the non-allergic kind)

My co-worker (of sorts) asked me last year if I could make a rabbit costume for her daughter. They were going to a themed birthday party and the lil lady had her heart SET on a rabbit. Of course she said "I'll pay you" but I never asked her for anything more than a photo.   I couldn't get the pattern I wanted when at Spotlight so I settled on KwikSew 2711 which had a bunny, cat, dog and pumpkin. The ears were supposed to be wired and a headband underneath, I didn't do any of that!I even managed to sew the hood on wrong way round and unpicking overlocking (serger) stitches was too annoying so I literally cut it off and restitched it.
Nothing about it is perfect, it was only to be worn for 1 night. The tail was stuffed with fibrefill, it does up with a few tabs of velcro (hook and loop tape) and simple elasticated wrists, ankles and about the face. As it was a late early spring party I opted to make it in flannel so it was nice and snuggly and she could wear tights and a skivvy (turtleneck) underneath if she needed extra warmth. It was a couple of sizes too big, but that really just added to the cute factor!!!!! I've only just received copies of the pics.

The view from down low

When I decided to write about photos my daughter took with her new camera, it was this photo which inspired it. I loved her perspective. I can't say I even know where she took this photo other than "Perth CBD" somewhere! Yet, when I posted her photos I missed this one! The one that made me want to tell you all how clever I think my little girl is, how she has such a unique look on things. I've let her loose with my in the park one day with a bunch of her friends and she got some truly stunning photos then! This photo? To me this photo is creativity and perspective and a hint of how she sees the world. A simple yet elegant light fitting on a plain brick wall. Something I didn't notice, but Jessica did.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Bunnies and Bdays

Jessica and I took some time today to stitch a lil rabbit together. We found the pattern at Day to Day but is actually the design of Juliannlaw of Flickr. Jessi is a lefty so I cut out the pieces for her yesterday. We started by stitching on his ears, but the needle I'd grabbed was horrible to pass through the fabric so I did the first ear. After I found a sharper needle, Jessica stiched the 2nd ear with me holding it taught. I embroidered his face, she pulled the needle free. I also made 2 tags from twill tape, one is the date and the other says "By Jessica" so she will always know when she made it. I just used water soluable pen and ironed it. Have learnt the hard way that once you iron those pens they don't budge. At all. Ever! (Jess has a little dress which proves this..).

When it came time to work at the sewing machine her interest waned. She couldn't sit on my lap as the desk is too deep and she had no room for her legs, so she stood in front of me and I sewed and she removed pins. I reduced the stitch speed (love that option on my machine!) thinking she'd be sewing, but she didn't. Just helped guide fabric a few times but was happy taking out pins. When we started turning him right way out Jess rose to the task and giggled a LOT! at one point he had no ears or arms, and the thought that was pretty cool. Finally, onto stuffing. A task she really enjoyed!! To say I was surprised is an understatement. To me it seems the most tedious task, but she loved it. She kept "losing the hole" which made her laugh a lot!

Today is also my 28th birthday. My mum works away on a minesite so I woke up to a call from her this morning. Jessica and Nanna came in not too long later and Jess had chosen me a little teddy ornament which says "A Wonderful Mum". As she had her choice from my mum's entire store, I think she chose well :) Nanna said she could pick something else too, and she opted not to. I like that she was happy with her choice. It's very cute and always nice to have some affirmation. My friends and I went out last night for an Easter dinner a local motel's resturaunt put on. It was $35 for the buffet meal and made for a nice change.
The food was nice enough, I actually felt they could have done better and that the presentation of the room was lame. The bain-marie was in a room all by itself. The rest of the room was empty, and it was a huge room. It looked really sad! For desert they had meringue, pavlova and a fruit platter. A little disappointing to have meringue and pavlova when they're practically the same thing! Cissy didn't even eat desert. She waited til we got back to her house and ate an easter egg instead. So she, Helen and I then watched a DVD and I was in bed by 10pm. Been incredibly tired of late.

When we went outside to take a photo of Jessica's bunny creation, she asked me to watch her on the swingset, which is very typical of her. Swingset, climbing frame, dancing across the floor.. it matters not! She likes you to give your undivided attention. So she was her typical monkey of a self and was showing me how she could cross and uncross her arms while hanging from the top of the swingset. She rarely uses it to swing!! (and yes my yard is a dust bowl. I got tired of playing super-mum and opted to let it die! Though that's only what was lawn, the garden beds [for the most part] are doing well).

Jess must have some real upper body strength. All she ever does is hang from things. She was counting blisters on her hands in the car the other day, I think she said 21 over both hands. Sheesh!!!

Friday, April 02, 2010


I will have to get in the habit of blogging more regularly, then I wont feel so overwhelmed when I do decide to blog. Maybe I should set photos to upload before I go to work so when I come home all I have to do is write!

My little teaser the other day is the most adorable cross over baby jacket. I think the back is too big, the pattern piece was missing so I traced the front, but I get the impression it should have been narrower. The jacket pattern actually used bias right the way around the neck and sleeves, but I don't like bias much. Plus I had a completely un-used roll of the most perfect coloured ribbon! Scored it in a bulk eBay lot of lace. So, avoiding bias, I made my jacket reversible. I sewed the two wrong side together leaving an opening in the back to turn it out. Sorry my pics are crap, it was late! (**see note)   The jacket pattern is Simplicity 9647 size Newborn Babies dated 1980. Will upload a pic next time I am using the camera. Thank you to my friend Toni of ChickChat for gifting me the pattern (and many more! PS. go check out her scrapbookin!).

(**note) As there was no picture people reluctantly bid and as the seller said it was a plastic grocery bag full I figured "who cares?!". Turned out to some some seriously vintage, as well as fun, laces and ribbons. Many of which there were metres and metres of, and I think I paid $6 something for the auction and maybe $6 postage.

My order arrived Friday last week. I bought 2 "self help" books and Carefree Clothes for Girls. Now, I was going to shop "local" on the so called "Australian Amazon" at but for Carefree Clothes for Girls alone they wanted $49.99AUD!! Ouch! Now, the photograph of the invoice to the left is in USD but I can confirm at the time of purchase my total invoice was $63.23AUD! The books totalled $40.36 Aussie dollars and the remainding twenty-two or so was postage. Hmm.. Where would you have shopped as a single mum on a shoe-string budget?

I've been meaning to sew Jessica some winter pyjama (pajama, pj's) out of flannelette. I was horrified when trying to find some online that it was all $24 per metre!! Ok, so Anna Maria Horner and co, your fabrics are gorgeous.. but well an truly out of my budget. Oh how I'd love some Amy Butler, Heather Bailey, Cath Kidston, etc  :(  I love to browse online but it gets a lil depressing after a while. So anyways, can't afford online flannel and live no where near a shop. So looks like I will be either buying jammies for the kiddo or they will have to wait for our next trip to Perth where I can go in store at Spotlight and buy some boring old unprinted flannel for $3.99/m. I might even splurge on a knit to make them more comfy (lacking warmth though).

How you know your kiddo is unwell...
It's 4pm and she is sound asleep in the back yard and not climbing or hanging from that yellow and red contraption she loves so dearly (it's a dome shaped climbing frame).

Unfortunatly when we disturbed her we found she'd had an allergic reaction to who knows what! These reactions are becoming more and more frequent and she's starting to get really frustrated and upset with her lot in life. Just yesterday she was eating BBQ Shapes and both top and bottom lip were ever so slightly swollen. Enough so she'd scratched it terribly and made her lip bleed. After she had some antihistamines and it had all settled back down her lips were all peeling and cracked. Not pretty :( She was really annoyed too as she LOVES Shapes! I tend not to discuss Jessica's allergies here too much as it's such a big part of our real world that neither of us enjoy. I do sometimes wonder if I should be doing more advocacy. While she is anaphylactic (could suffer anaphylaxis) to tree nuts, sesame and latex, her allergies are much more involved. She reacts to a lot more, and her skin prick tests even say she should avoid peanuts, orange, banana and others. We have a great team of Allergists at Princess Margaret Hospital for Children who believe removing foods from her diet which don't cause her any major dramas is more dangerous to her ongoing health. Her diet actually HAS to include banana and peanuts at least twice a week. Jessica also reacts to dust, almost every animal, scented things (like scented tissues and toilet paper). Sometimes it feels like "you name it, she'll react to it". But we also don't put her in a bubble. As a child's most susceptible years are from the ages of 10-25 when they are more independent, ascerting their rights as individuals, prone to peer pressure etc I teach Jessica now that yes your lip is itchy and horrible, but go take some antihistamines and you'll feel better. Or in the case of it reacting in the form of her eczema we apply the creams or run a cool bath. It's important to me that I teach her how to care for her own needs as best I can. I can't and wont always be there for her (as much as that pains me). We have our epipens, and she takes a "medicine" bag with her wherever she goes. I must admit, it's far easier to avoid food and read labels than it is dealing with the latex allergy.