Where’s Spot (Kids Clothes Week: Oct 2014)

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When you work as a teacher in the primary system and you build your own classroom library, you tend to have a lot of picture books. Which can make it hard when people want to buy books as gifts. When people asked what to get for Squirm for his first Christmas, I started thinking about classics we didn’t yet own – one was my little sister’s favourite series – Where’s Spot by Eric Hill. As Squirm’s grown older, he’s fallen completely in love with his Spot books and it seemed like an excelled Kids Clothes Week choice.

The plan for this outfit started with the shorts. I wanted to include the lift-the-flap feature which the Spot books are so well known for. The obvious place for these was the pockets and I decided to make them so they lifted up completely with text underneath. I used stash fabric for the shorts and fabric from an old pair of shorts of mine for the pockets.

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I used the Clean Slate shorts from Blank Slate patterns – the version with no front pocket or fly – and drew pieces to create the back and front of the pocket. Each piece had 2 pieces of fabric (4 altogether since there were 2 pockets) and then the top of the pocket was top stitched to the bottom. They were then basted to the top and sides of the shorts so they would be held by seams when it was sewn together.

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Under the pockets I cut out 2 ‘speech bubbles’ done in ‘Spot style’ and stamped ‘Where’s Spot’ on one side and ‘I’m hiding’ (one of Squirm’s favourite sayings on the other. I sewed these on, first with a straight stitch, then a very short zig zag. Then I just sewed the rest of the shorts together as normal. I’ve become a real fan of these shorts – there’s a lot you can do with the variations offered and they’re really easy to make up.

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For the shirt, I used the Blank Slate ‘Just a Jersey’ pattern. First, though, I created the end of Spot’s tail to tuck into the yoke of the shirt. I used a scrap of stretch corduroy for the tail, topped with some more fabric from my old shorts. This was backed with the same fabric as the yoke, so it didn’t end up too thick. Then I sewed the neckband onto the yoke and arranged the tail, sewing it on before I added the front and back of the shirt.

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Squirm absolutely loved this outfit. He loves finding Spot’s tail, loves holding up the pockets and was 100% happy to pose for photos. Again, I think I’ve created shorts that will go with a lot of other clothes, but they have a lovely little twist you don’t find in RTW. I’m really looking forward to making more clothes like this even if it’s not Kids Clothes Week.

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Sadly, I won’t finish the last piece I started for KCW before we head away on holidays. It’s partly finished, but needs a neckband and arm bands before it’s complete. I really like it, though, so I’ll make sure to share it when it is complete.

Rules of Summer (Kids Clothes Week: Oct 2014)

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The theme for Kids Clothes Week this season is Storybook, and it’s one I’m embracing whole-heartedly!

Each Christmas we have a tradition of Squirm receiving a book from us, but my husband is the one who chooses it. Last year he chose the (now award winning) Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan – one of our very favourite authors. This is a richly-illustrated, look at relationships between siblings and free time and story telling and I highly recommend it. It’s also one of Squirm’s favourite books.

So, it quickly became an obvious choice for this Kids Clothes Week

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The actual outfit was pretty basic – shorts made from the Clean Slate pattern and a t-shirt from the Tee Times Three pattern, both from Blank Slate Patterns. However my original idea for the t-shirt changed when I started putting together this pile of fabric

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Using red and orange fabric from my stash and orange and red-pink fabric from old clothes of mine, I decided to colour block the front, back and sleeves of the shirt in rough strips. I traced the pattern, drew in cutting lines, then traced it again to include seam allowances. I was absolutely sure I’d made mistakes doing that, but in fact it all came together really nicely. Some of the strips I joined ‘back to front’ so that I’d have the dark overlocking stitches as features. They were then sewn down, extra strips of fabric were added and rows of stitching were included.

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Once I had the pieces all together, it was a pretty simple job of making the shirt. I did sew one sleeve on ‘back to front’ to get the same overlocking feature. All was going incredibly well until I broke my first overlocker needle which meant the neck wasn’t quite as neat as I’d hoped, but it still came together nicely.

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With such a busy shirt, I wanted more subdued pants. I also wanted some shorts which would go with a lot of Squirm’s wardrobe – I’ve felt like we’ve been going a little too ‘novelty’ with some of his shorts these days. I started with this picture:

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I wanted to use the quite subdued colours with the splashes of red. I decided plain shorts, but with red and orange ‘ears’ poking out of one of the pockets. Then on one leg I wanted to include the clothesline and the red sock – which of course started it all . . .

The main issue with the shorts was the fabric. It was scratchy and frayed, so I underlined it with a cotton print. It worked okay, but I would have chosen something with more quality if I’d been buying fabric for this project instead of clearing out my stash.

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I really love these shorts and the little touches which connect them to the book without being in your face.

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Finally, Squirm is old enough for me to get some really good photos. He wanted to walk to the local playground this afternoon, so I dressed him in his new outfit, took advantage of the overcast sky and realised just how much Shaun Tan inspiration you can find in your local suburb. (Warning – the next bit gets really picture heavy – I was overwhelmed with the toddler who’ll let me take photos and the inspiration of Shaun Tan)

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I had an absolute ball making this outfit – I was almost sad when I was done. Shaun Tan writes and illustrates such beautiful books – it was so much fun to be inspired by that.

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How my week looked: October 19

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My week started with a toddler-free trip to Spotlight. My husband was home on Monday (he does FIFO work at the moment) and stayed at home with the toddler so I would have the freedom to hunt down patterns. When I got there I discovered that all the patterns – including Vogue – were on sale for $5 each. And once I used my Spotlight card that came down to $4.50 each. So I splurged a little, got some new shorts to play with, some hat patterns, jeans, blouse and a shirt dress. Lots of fun in store. Plus there were some lovely fabrics in the clearance section which I just had to bring home with me . . .

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My Kids Clothes Week (starting tomorrow!) will be cut a bit short this week because we’re heading away at the end of the week. So I’m only really preparing two outfits and anything else will be a bonus. Going with the Storyteller theme I’ve planned one outfit around Where’s Spot and another around The Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan. The latter involved every scrap of red or orange knit fabric I had and my son absolutely fell in love with that pile. (If you haven’t read Shaun Tan’s books yet, I recommend getting right onto that!)

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My fabric from the Remnant Warehouse sale arrived. It was pretty, especially the pink and green jersey.

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My sewing plans for the week changed slightly when we were invited to the birthday for a 3 year old girl. I had dreams of making a pretty dress, but I don’t know the girl very well and had to guess her size. Because of that, I decided a knit pattern would be best especially a pair of nice pyjamas and a bag to put them in. The present was very well received and should fit *phew*!

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One final piece of sewing – I finally hemmed my second pair of wearable Thurlow shorts when I realised all my shorts were in the wash. They fit really well, but sadly the fabric pilled where it rubbed together which was deeply annoying. Guess I’ll just have to make more of them . . .

Finally, here’s my lovely Squirm wearing his mum-made-outfit at the party today. It was held at a lovely boat themed park on the Brisbane River and he was terribly excited about all the boats – play and real.

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Have a great week – I’m not sure if I’ll post photos next week or the week after, I’ll see closer to the time. In the meantime, there should be some Kids Clothes Week posts

How My Week Looked: October 5th

I want to try and share more of my sewing life on the blog. Too often I don’t blog things I make because I haven’t got photos all done nicely. Or I do photos and it’s been so long since I actually made the item, I forget all the making details. So, I thought I might just share some photos each week, some of items, some of sewing. A bit of a glimpse into sewing and my life, I suppose 🙂

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I got the waistband onto my Thurlow shorts and got to tent them out properly . . .

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. . . before getting into ‘scary-buttonhole’ territory – which really isn’t that scary . . .

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. . . and I had a pair of finished, wearable shorts (blogged here) which I could wear in the big scary public.

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And I celebrated by taking my son to a usually busy playground. Which was empty. During school holidays. It was strange. (He enjoyed climbing though)

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I played with lengthening and (unsuccessfully) curving the Scout Tee pattern and making it from a rather ‘meh’ feeling Spotlight knit. It works, but I’m not thrilled. I’ll see how I feel after a couple of wears and washes.

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I did learn an important lesson about checking the tension dial after a toddler’s been near your sewing machine, though . . . (unpick, unpick)

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I prewashed some fabric and took advantage of gorgeous weather to hang it

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There was an ongoing discussion about who needed the tape measure more. Apparently it makes a wonderful dance prop

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I organised my patterns finally and cleared all the fabric off the couch in the living room

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And finished up with a little toddler shorts sewing. Fabric chosen by a 2 year old.

So that was my week. Completely normal, but with a real highlight in finishing the shorts and a feeling of ‘phew’ with organising the patterns.

Wearable Thurlow Shorts

So my biggest goal of the Fall/Spring Essentials Sew-along was to get a pair (or a few) of wearable shorts. I thought it was going to be a long and complicated process. Turns out, it didn’t take as long as I thought it would and it wasn’t really as complicated as I thought it would be. It was an awful lot more emotional than I thought it would be though!

So, I started with a straight out of the packet Thurlow Shorts pattern to get an idea of where I’d need to make alterations. These were the very first pair of pants I’d made for myself, so I had no idea what kind of alterations would be needed. Then I played with a flat lower belly adjustment, a full butt adjustment and some low butt tweaking and ended up with a muslin that made me cry.

Then it was onto the real thing. I used a fabric which I think I picked up at East Coast Fabrics. It might be a suiting fabric? (I’d definitely still learning my fabric types). It feels divine, anyway and is a really good weight for shorts.

As well as the shape alterations, I lengthened the legs (I’m not a fan of short shorts on me – I definitely prefer them to head towards the knees) and tried to make them less flared at the bottom. I also changed things slightly in making them, adding the belt loops at the same time as the waistband which looks so much neater.

And here they are . . . (And apologies – the photos seem much darker than when I took them. Just squint a little, tilt your head to the side and it will look like the seal of the President . . . oops, bad West Wing joke)

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(Obviously the photos I take are not as good as the lovely photos my husband or father in law take . . . )

They’re not perfect. I’m still trying to find a finishing technique which makes me happy. I bound some of these seams, but that’s not practical for the whole construction. I’m thinking I might just use the overlocker to get a consistent finish. I think I need to make them longer again – I’d like a longer hem – and I still need to work a bit to get the shape I want at the bottom of the shorts. I also had a few strange wrinkles in the fly, which was obviously a sewing issue, but I couldn’t figure out where the issue was!

Fitting wise, they need to be tighter at the waist. I think I’ve taken them in all I can at the back centre seam, though – any more and I’ll get a funny shape around the welt pockets. I think there’s 2 options I can take – making the darts a bit wider at the top or taking the seams at the side in a little more. Either way, I think I’ll need to drop the bottom of the zip down a little so I can get the shorts over my backside.

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The fit over my backside was really good, but I could possible curve the back crotch seam down a little more, just to reduce some pooling. I could also make some alterations to the front since there’s still some wrinkles there – however, I’m a little cautious about over fitting the shorts and having no ease for sitting. I think I’ll get the waistband right first, then reevaluate.

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I have washed these pants (they’re currently on the line) and they seem to have held up to my ‘chuck it in the machine’ washing techniques well. I’m really, really excited about making more – living where I live, shorts are practical about 8-9 months of the year and necessary for around 6 months, so having a collection of well made and well fitting shorts will make my life so much easier.

I know a lot of people are nervous about making shorts or pants – I definitely was concerned about how much time the fitting would take me. The truth, however, is that I could try on every pair of shorts at my local shopping centre and not find a pair that fits like these. They look really strange off my body – no one would ever be able to sell them as ready to wear. But when I put them on, they fit and they’re flattering and they make me happy – worth the time to achieve that. In the end I made 2 1/2 pairs of shorts to get a wearable pair – 1 unfitted, 1 muslin, 1 final product. In terms of making, the first ones took the longest – I had to get my head around the instructions. The fitting took a long time in terms of tracing and adjusting, but the muslin took no time at all to sew up. The final product was really quite quick to sew – I knew what I was doing much more than before and I didn’t have to fret over things so much. And subsequent pairs of shorts will just get quicker. (Plus I can transfer my shorts fitting to pants fitting next winter – score!) It’s hard to guess how much time it took me altogether – I grab sewing time around nap time and evenings when my husband works away – but definitely not as long as I thought it would take. I highly recommend trying to make your own pair and I recommend the Thurlows as a starting place if you’re a pear/hourglass shape. Hopefully you have an experience as happy as mine.