Coco Loco: Three / Five Coco Tops

I loved sewing up a very quick lady skater dress from this gingham ponte so much that I immediately cut out a Tilly and the Buttons Coco from my leftover fabric. I am a chronic overbuyer of fabric, so usually have big enough offcuts that I can make something "proper" out of them. I still have more even after this top is finished! Perhaps enough for a baby pinafore dress. Wouldn't THAT be cute?! 

I was a bit worried the gingham would look weird as a top. I’m still not sure to be honest, but it has proved very useful as a warm, practical, easy to look after kind of garment. My only gripe is that this fabric bobbles terribly. In these pictures the top is about 3 months old, so has been worn and washed a bit, but not a huge amount. I don’t know if you can see but it is very very bobbly. I’m a bit disappointed but I know now I should invest in better quality ponte di Roma. This ponte also didn’t have the same type of stretch or the weight of ponte I have used before. It’s rather odd. As soon as I looked at these pictures I threw the thing away. The gingham is way too stretched out over the bust, so that coupled with the bobbling made the decision easy. It’s not a good look.

Library Card Top (Tilly & the Buttons Coco pattern)
I made my lovely sister a pair of Coco tops for Christmas, in solid magenta and a navy and white Breton stripe. I liked the idea so much I made myself a matching pair! The Coco is such a great, quick sew, and a very practical item of clothing for my life right now. I can see why the Breton tee and jeans is such a mum uniform. It just works! The same with short hair! I seem to be conforming to stereotype here but again, it just works! Haha.

HTO Top 
For All the Family Top. Camera could not capture the magenta colour!
The navy and white stripes are my favourite. I am not sure what is going on with the Coco sleeves. I often have this problem as I am an apple shape (thin arms and legs, all my extra padding in the middle), so the sleeves here just look a bit baggy. Must fix.

For Christmas I got a twin needle - finally! - and was so excited to try it on my pink Coco which was still not finished. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that my machine doesn’t do the kind of twin needle finish I was hoping for! This is the only stitch on my machine that looks remotely like what I was after, and that produces these stitches:

It looks ALMOST how I had imagined, but because it’s a stretch stitch it is not just straight lines of stitching. Is this normal? Does anyone else have a Janome 525s and know how to get it to look like two lines of normal stitching?

To add insult to injury, just when I had decided it didn’t look that bad and I’d just go for it on the neckline, sleeve hems and hem, disaster. I had got all the way round the front of the neckline when the needles jammed going over the thick shoulder seam. Drat. By the time I had freed it all, the twin needle was bent beyond usefulness. It would have hit the throat plate if I had used it. Well, I wanted to get the top finished so I just finished the rest with zig zag. At least I had done the whole of the front neckline with the twin needle before it got bent. Design choice. Ahem.

ANYWAY I am not in love with these tops, but they are simple, and that’s exactly what I was after. 

They got worn lots but now, months on, the navy striped one is bobbling horribly too. This fabric wasn’t even that cheap (though it was from an eBay shop I hadn’t used before), so I am a bit annoyed about that. 

The quest for the perfect Breton top continues!

Baby Sewing - Drew Leggings

During my last little stretch of maternity leave I made a couple of things for my baby.

I have had the Drew leggings pattern from Spit Up & Stilletos saved for yonks, so I thought I'd use up some jersey leftovers and sew some leggings for the baby. It's a great easy pattern, and very quick to sew up. The only downside is that putting in the elastic waistband is a bit fiddly, and so neither of mine were very neat. I think I need some elastic that's not quite as firm.

I made a red pair and a goose/ducks pair out of jersey offcuts, both in size 0-3months. The sizing comes up pretty small so I'd actually say they're more Newborn size.

Here they are on our little girl at 2 weeks old. Look how little she is. You think you won't forget but you do.

I also made a floral pair in size 12-18 months, our little one's current size. These have ended up super long, longer than her RTW 12-18months clothes. I'm confused about the sizing but I do still love these leggings. For now she is wearing them with the cuffs turned up. The cuffs are from an old T-shirt I was throwing away about a year ago. By "throwing away" I mean "cutting off the best bits of and adding them to my jersey stash for just this kind of thing."

We love a print clash!

Well, I should go and immediately cut out ten pairs of leggings in various sizes and production-line sew them. I SHOULD. I will add it to the ever growing list!

The Red Wren - from Pregnancy to Breastfeeding

Having read about how successful Zoe's Colette Wren dresses were both for pregnancy and for breastfeeding, and of course seeing how gorgeous and effortlessly stylish they looked, I had my heart set on making one for myself.

I bought this red lightweight jersey from Minerva with my birthday money in February, cut it out in March but only finished this dress in early May when I was 38 weeks pregnant. So rather than attach the skirt to the bodice a few inches higher up to make it a Maternity hack like Zoe did, I decided to make it up as normal so that when (if!) I got my waist back after having the baby, the dress would have a more flattering line. I really didn't want to make anything that I couldn't wear after baby was born at this point! It seemed like such a waste, especially since the last few weeks of pregnancy saw me mainly mooching around the house and the park, not really needing any special clothes.

Er, sorry about the dodgy mirror selfies. They're all I have of this dress! These pictures were taken the day before I went into labour. It was SO HOT, and every day I would go for a stride round the park to try and bring on labour. It worked!

Anyway, the dress worked out perfectly. While still pregnant I just hoiked the waistline up to above my bump, and afterwards it worked really nicely as a comfy but smart-ish nursing dress. Zoe was right, this style really is perfect for breastfeeding. I know the red makes me look a bit like the Special K lady but I'm embracing it. She always looks pretty happy!

Things I changed / would change when making this pattern again:
  • I cut the skirt length to the largest size (XXL). I did this so I'd have good bump coverage for when pregnant but I actually quite like this length anyway.
  • I cut the skirt back on the fold since I had enough fabric.
  • I used ordinary elastic to shirr the waist of the skirt rather than clear elastic. It's such terrible advice in the pattern instructions to use clear elastic for the waistline shirring - it just is not stretchy enough. I knew this really when I cut it but doubted my instincts and went with the instructions anyway. I should have trusted myself, as I ended up ripping that clear elastic out and using much stretchier ordinary elastic instead.
  • the sleeves were massive on me. I've left them as is for this version but will definitely make them much smaller next time.
  • next time I think I will make the neckband pieces doubled over rather than have to turn and stitch the hems
  • I don't have a twin needle so I used zig zag stitch on all the hems. I'd like to try a twin needle next time as I think it looks much neater.

This is 6 days postpartum in the dress, on our way for baby's check-up, our first trip out with the pram! I was operating on another plain entirely of course but I remember thinking it would be a good picture for this blog post, whenever I finished it. So there we have it! Blog post finally published only 10 months after making the blooming dress! Haha. Better late than never! These babies do keep one busy!

A Gingham Lady Skater Dress

Hello hello, if there's anybody out there! It has been such a long time since I posted. Needless to say I have been consumed by motherhood, but now, 6 months in I feel like I'm slowly getting back to myself, and feel ready to sew and blog again.

My incredible daughter is napping upstairs, and after 5 and a half months of refusing to, she is now happy to nap in her cot! I cannot tell you what a difference this makes. I had time to take blog pictures! Not great ones, mind, but I'm not fussy! She is wonderful and she has taught me so much already. I adore her and I feel enormously grateful that I get to be her mama.

Honestly the first two months of her life were a blur. A very happy but crazy blur. I did sew a tiny bit, as one day she napped for ages and I seized the opportunity to whip up a quick pleated skirt (I was sick of having nothing that fit me!), and that felt great, but then we moved house, to the beautiful Cotswolds countryside! That was crazy with a 3 month old, a very timid cat, and in a car that was on the verge of breakdown. Embarrassingly we have been here 3 months now and we are still not fully unpacked!!! Consequently there was a huge sewing drought until about 6 weeks ago.

I decided I needed to carve out some "me" time, and that I would use some of the evenings after our little one had gone to bed to do some crafting and sewing. It felt so SO good! It was only once I began this project that I realised how much my soul had missed it. It felt like coming home. So I whipped up this Lady Skater in a couple of hours flat on my overlocker, and I love it. It's nothing fancy, it's not my neatest work ever and the print at the waist seam doesn't quite match up, but I honestly don't care.

Dimming of the Day dress (Kitschy Coo's Lady Skater pattern in Gingham ponte from Minerva Crafts)
Worn with wellies and a teething necklace for practicality!
There's not much to say about the sewing, I made the same sizing as my Flibbertygibbet dress, as that still fits me (it used to be a bit big), and I sewed everything up on my overlocker. I did a zigzag hem as I still don't have a twin needle.

Told you the print at the waist seam really doesn't match up. Also, check out how wonky our new house is. I love it (except for the creaky floorboards!)
Yep, the print should match on the neckband too, and this one DOES bother me (just not enough to unpick overlocker stitching to redo it)

Zig zag hem
I love this dress, and the reasons are fivefold:
1. It is stretchy and practical for mama duties and for countryside walks
2. It's made of lovely snuggly warm ponte
3. It's suitable for all seasons with the right accessories!
4. It's a forgiving cut on my mum tum
5. The print is fun and it makes me feel more like me

That's a belt, not my bare midriff
Full disclosure: I actually never wear this with a belt. It gets in the way when wrangling a wriggly 6 month old baby. But it does look better with one so I put one on for the pictures.

None of my lovely handmade dresses fit anymore, bar a couple of jersey or ponte ones, but I'm hopeful that by the summer they'll fit again. In the meantime I will have to get sewing a new wardrobe! Every cloud has a silver lining, eh?!

I still have a couple of things to blog that I made towards the end of my pregnancy, so I will be back with those soon. I am also going to make a blind for the nursery, some more practical clothes for me, a Christmas stocking and of course a few Christmas gifts. As usual I have too many ideas and not enough time! Wish me luck!

Tees for Two

Hello, sewing friends! It has been a while since I blogged, which really was unintentional. I made these two Cara tops MONTHS ago, and photographed them shortly after, and then promptly forgot to ever blog them. How embarrassing. Anyway, here they are!

Arrows Tee (Megan Neilsen's Cara maternity top pattern)
After my first edition of the Cara top, my old, inherited overlocker well and truly broke down. It was very iffy during the making of that floral Cara tee, and by the time I had finished I had to admit there was something badly wrong with it.

So, I made my second Cara on my normal sewing machine using a zigzag stitch, my walking foot and a ballpoint needle, and it was absolutely fine! So if you want to make jersey clothing and you don't have an overlocker, do not fear! It is not only possible but very easy and stress-free to sew jersey on a normal sewing machine.

This arrows jersey was from Sew Over It, and I bought it yonks ago, but I think they still have stock of it. It's a really lovely quality & weight, and it sewed up like a dream with no rolling at the edges. Thumbs up from me. It's a 4 way stretch and I wanted the arrows to run horizontally so I cut it on the cross-grain.

Here I am with my body double at the Knitting & Stitching Show a few months ago!

At the Knitting & Stitching show I also bought some lovely duck-print jersey for another tee (or is it goose-print? Not sure), and a new overlocker! Hoorah! I tried LOADS of overlockers out, and as my budget was rather squeezed (our impending arrival is making me more spend-sensible!), I went with the Janome 8002DX. I really couldn't spot any difference in sewing on this one or the next price bracket up, and after all, overlockers all do the same thing, so I snapped it up for around £200.

I have to say I am really chuffed with it. It's such a smooth sew, absolutely no complaints whatsoever.

Anyway, for my next Cara I went with 3/4 length sleeves for the changing weather, and I love this one too. This jersey does roll though so the hem is always rolling up which is a bit annoying.

Goose ducks tee 

These pictures were taken when I was 30 weeks pregnant, and I'm happy to report that there's still plenty of room in them now at 38 weeks! If anything they look better as I've filled them out more. I really have lived in my maternity jeans and Cara tees, so if anyone out there is expecting and wondering which sewing patterns would be useful, I would definitely say the Cara is top of the list!

I'm on maternity leave now, and while I wait for baby to make his or her entrance, I am hoping to get some last bits of sewing done. We shall see!

A Bloomin' Lovely Cara tee

Eliza top (Megan Neilsen's Cara pattern)
I blooming love this top! As I mentioned in my maternity sewing plans post, lately I have been wearing anything that fits, which has been pretty much exclusively jersey basics for a good while. I've been getting so bored with all the black and grey I've been wearing, and longing for some colour and fun prints. 

Enter: colourful fun print jersey from Fabric Land which is just beautiful. Such good value too, £3.99 a metre and great quality. I will be browsing more of their jersey section for sure! 

I decided to make a Megan Neilsen Cara tee with this fabric, and thought it would be a good idea to make the long sleeved version for winter. Then I can always lop the sleeves off to the short length when the spring weather comes. Hopefully this will work out and this top can cross seasons easily! 

I made a size medium, going by my usual pre pregnancy size. I'm really happy with the fit, it has plenty of room left for my bump to grow more but doesn't look too baggy now - amazing! Also super duper comfy. Big thumbs up. 

My one fit gripe is that the shoulders are way too wide, which is a bit of a surprise to me because I actually have very broad shoulders. Hey ho, it doesn't bother me very much. To be honest I don't even think I will alter the shoulders for subsequent versions of this pattern (oh, there will be more!), since it's such a short-term make. 

The only alteration I made was the sew the long sleeve seam at 7/8" rather than 5/8". The sleeves were really baggy on me, but I do often have this problem as my arms are disproportionately slim! 

Construction wise I loved this make and really, truly enjoyed sewing this. It was such a quick sew - only a few hours start to finish! And I am not a quick sewer so I can imagine some of you speedier stitchers would have had this whipped up even quicker. 

Excitable mama-to-be

On another note, I am having some real trouble with my overlocker. I think I'm going to have to take it to a repair shop for an expert opinion, since I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on with it. It was absolutely fine, then one day just started skipping stitches, the tension kept going weird (even without me touching the dials!) and now just behaves erratically overall. I have rethreaded the thing more times, and more meticulously, than I thought I could stand to, and have adjusted the tension so many times and in so many ways - I really don't know what else to try. It's the fact it keeps changing without me twiddling any knobs that is making me think maybe it has a fault. Any advice welcome! 

Good timing, overlocker, just when I want to make all the stretchy clothes!!! Haha. 

Well, I shall leave you. I'm sure I'll have another Cara top to show you soon! 

Why I Love Handmade: An Incredible Gift

I'm sitting here weeping, happy sad tears. I've just received the most wonderful, truly special handmade gift, and it has just brought home to me why I love handmade things. The love, time and care put into a handmade gift is never lost, it stays there, and can be felt years later. 

A dear family friend has just sent me this gift, a beautiful crocheted shawl my mum made for her when she was having her youngest. Of course our family friend treasured it, used it often and her son and first grandson were even christened in it. Now she has sent it to me, so my baby will get to use it, a shawl made with love by his or her grandma, who would love them so so much. 

My mum passed away almost ten years ago, and of course I miss her very much. She was an amazing lady and she also loved making things, and she instilled in me my love of making and sewing. Since being pregnant I have been thinking of her a lot, thinking of what it would have been like if she had been here, and also what an incredible mum she was. If I can be half as good a mum as she was I will be happy! Being pregnant and already feeling the bond between me and my unborn baby, I have a new kind of appreciation of her as well, for everything she went through for me and for everything she gave me as a mum. I couldn't have asked for more and I'm just so grateful I got to spend 20 years with her!

So now, having this shawl that she made has made me so incredibly happy. It's a way for me to feel that she is here with me and the baby on this huge new adventure, and it will remind me of her in the best way. When I'm finding things difficult hopefully it will help remind me of mum and remind me to follow her example. 

I'm incredibly touched and grateful that our family friend has treasured the shawl for so long and made the thoughtful gesture to pass it on to me. It's so so kind and it really means the world to me.

It has also reminded me why I love making things, why it is a special and wonderful thing to create, and that the time and care put into special handmade items will always transcend the years and be much much more than just a beautiful gift. Friends, when we make we put a little bit of our soul into what we are making. Energy cannot be created or destroyed, just transferred. I think this applies to crafting, too. 

Love to all. Keep making, beautiful people.