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.

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 12

It’s been a funny week. I finished a couple of things, but nothing I really feel is worth blogging (though, maybe I should talk about the Belcarra Blouse . . . I like it, but I have thoughts)

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I finished up two pairs of (fruit-themed) shorts for Squirm. Fruit themed shorts is definitely what happens when you let your toddler choose the fabric. These are Kids Shorts (with a cloth nappy alteration) from Dana Made and I could probably sew them together in my sleep. I use french seams on all the inside seams for comfort and contrasting fabric inside the pockets.

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I finally finished up my second Belcarra blouse. This is pretty much a wearable muslin and it’s a bit tight at the side. I just used pre-made biased binding for the neck and then added a couple of buttons near the neck for interest.

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Then it was on to making another pair of Thurlow shorts with a few alterations – I still wanted the leg to be longer and a bit thinner and I widened the darts a little. I used a blue drill from my stash and used some patchwork cotton (which I’d bought to make shorts for Squirm) as the lining. (BTW, you can get the lining out of 1/2m of fabric if you cut creatively). I always struggle making darts and pockets with chalk, so I gave tailor’s tacks a go (using the Sewtionary) while watching Gilmore Girls (it’s my first time watching it – avoiding spoilers is hard). The tailor’s tacks worked really well, though I might use a few more loops on the ends of things. I also changed my overlocker thread for the seam finishes.

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Some parts of the making went really well, but others left me a little more ‘meh’ – my standards keep getting higher 🙂 I need to go back to my original pattern and play with a few things where I think I’ve become inaccurate with my tracing and altering. I love the pockets though.

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An almost final shot with just hemming to go. The waistband feels much more secure, but I need to play with the legs more – there’s more fabric on the inner legs than I like. I probably need to do some more adjustments in the front as well. The back looks great, but I had a shocker of a time trying to get a bum selfie 🙂

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My husband was home from working away at the end of this week, so we went for an adventure into Brisbane City – coffee, play at the Botanic Gardens, raid two bookshops (Folio Books has some GORGEOUS fashion and design books) and massive burgers for lunch. Then yesterday we celebrated his birthday with family and a lopsided very chocolatey cake – nice way to end the week!

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.

Fitting Thurlows: The Post-Alteration Muslin

This is the post where I’m going to be emotional about pants.

Like a lot of women, my body started changing when I was a teenager, with the biggest change in my lower half – bum and hips. And I hated it – it seemed out of proportion with the smaller top half of my body and it definitely didn’t suit the ballet exams I was trying to pass. I continued to hate it for years, although a few holes were poked in that hatred – a boyfriend (now husband) who thought I had a good bum, a (female) workmate who complimented it out of no where, even the fuss over Beyonce’s butt helped a bit. I’m only just now, in my thirties, coming to terms with my shape.

But no matter how happy I was with my shape, I still detested shopping for pants – it was just impossible to find pants that fit. Fitting waist and hips simultaneously never happened. I always had ‘gap’ and bum crack issues. And they always seemed to bag in places you don’t necessarily want bagging.

The Fall/Spring Essentials Sew Along kicked me into action to sew my first pair of pants and I made a pair of Thurlow shorts. To be brutally honest, even with Sewaholic’s reputation for pear shapes, I was skeptical that the pattern would work for me. I made a 100% straight size pair of pants for wearing around the house and somehow came up with the best fitting shorts I’d ever worn. But they weren’t perfect.

So, with a deadline in mind (I told my husband I’d work on them this week while he’s away) I sat down to work out the alterations I needed. I decided not to go overboard with alterations, but go with three basic ones, using the Colette Pants Fitting Cheatsheet as a guide. My goal at this point wasn’t a ‘perfect fit’ – I just want a pair of shorts I can wear in public and I’ll keep working towards the perfect fit. (Oh, I also played with length and narrowing them in a little)

For the front, I learned that although I have post-baby-pudge a little higher, I actually have a very flat belly right down low (my lower body is a ‘unique’ collection of curves . . . ). So there was a heap of excess fabric in the front where I really didn’t need it – and once I saw it on the Thurlows, I realised that it was the same on all my RTW pants (well, all four pairs which currently fit . . . )

I did a flat-belly alteration here, following the guides from the Coletterie sewalong. I guess some people are really mathematical about these alterations, but I admit that I kind of just guessed at how much to cross the pattern over.

When I made the shorts up (a muslin with an old bedsheet) I could feel the improvement already. It’s held together at the fly with pins, so the extra bulk there might change it and I’m sure I can tweak it a little more, but the folds are gone and it’s an immediate improvement.

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For the back, I did adjustments for my full, low bum – though more on the full side than the low side. It’s not a great photo, since I’m twisting to get it in the mirror, but there’s definitely less ‘shorts up the bum’ as well as less fabric pooling. And, although I think I’ll still tighten the waistband a little (and that extender at the back is a thing of BEAUTY, Sewaholic) I was able to sit down and the waistband didn’t droop to unacceptable levels!

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This will sound a bit silly, but after trying on the muslin, I just about dissolved into tears. After so many years of having to accept pants that didn’t go near fitting well, I’ve managed to make a few adjustments to a pattern and make a bedsheet muslin which looks better than anything I’ve ever worn. The thought of being able to wear flattering shorts was almost overwhelming – I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to make them, since I’ve never been able to buy them.

There’s plenty of things to discuss and talk about and be critical of in the sewing blog community, but this is an example of the time that people should be proud of what they put out there, because it can make people feel this good. Without the Fall/Spring Sew-along, I might not have been pushed into action. Without a pattern designed for women with shapes similar to me, I might not have had somewhere to start from – and I might have become discouraged and given up. And without the Thurlow sew-along from Lladybird, I wouldn’t have had the resources to be able to make the pattern and be able to work out where I could improve – using the skills shared by other bloggers.  Plus, there was lots of encouragement.

If you sew and haven’t tackled pants or shorts yet, I encourage you to give them a try. Find a base pattern to work from, use the resources on the internet, take photos and be brave. Now I’m off to choose some amazing fabric for some new shorts.