Friday, 31 July 2015

The Joys of a Rotary Cutter

You know what it's like when you discover a tool and wonder how you ever managed without it? I know I'm late to the party but I've only just discovered the joys of using a rotary cutter. Don't ask me why, I guess I just figured that a pair of scissors has sufficed for the last fifty years, not unlike those who thought a hurricane lamp would do when everyone else was installing electric light! With the fervour of a true convert, I'm singing the praises of rotary cutters to all and sundry.

What's so good about the rotary cutter you ask? “How do I love thee, let me count the ways.” Well, first is accuracy, second is speed, third is fun! I can't stop cutting things! Like these strips of leftover interlock for garden ties.

The first pattern I cut out was yet another pair of harem pants for the munchkin (this makes six pairs now). The previous ones were cut out with the scissors after pinning the pattern to the interlock. This time I laid the pattern on the fabric, weighted it down with some little cans of tuna (in springwater) and zipped (carefully) around it with the rotary cutter.

It gave a very accurate edge, the only down side being the possibility of cutting a whisker off the pattern itself which would, over time, alter the pattern outline. Maybe tracing around the pattern with a tracing wheel or a marker and removing the pattern before cutting would solve the problem.

I can see this tool being the solution to the difficulty of cutting out really slippery fabrics like the one mentioned here which distorted as the scissors lifted it to cut giving dips and bulges in the cut edges.

Using a rotary cutter requires a suitable cutting surface as the blade is extremely sharp and pressure is applied in the cutting process. I guess you could use a piece of particle-board but you would eventually get grooves in it. 

The ideal base is a self-healing craft board that doesn't scar when cut. They come in many sizes and are not cheap but worth the investment (a good Christmas wish list addition). Mine is just a small 30 cm x 45 cm which I use when making greeting cards. I managed with it for the little harem pants by moving the fabric, but a larger board is going on my wish list.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Easy to Make Apron

Apron done. Definitely a bargain at $1.50 for this sturdy Hoad fabric.

I've made lots of these aprons for the Rylstone Woodfired Bakery and they make great Christmas presents.

The bib is finished with a facing piece, the neck loop inserted between bib and facing.

The curved section is turned under and stitched, continuing around the top of the bib.

These aprons would make a great project for a school-aged stitcher. In fact, I know a lass who started making aprons as a teenager, her mum took them to her weekly netball games and she soon had more orders than she could deal with. At $35 a piece that's good pocket money! Last I heard she'd branched out into bags as well.

Monday, 27 July 2015

This Week's Fabric Find

My favourite charity shop fabric find this week is a sturdy cotton from the Hoad Country Ways Collection.

The piece is just 1.25 metres in length which will be oodles to make that new apron I've been promising myself. And the price ticket?


Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Blue Peter Shirt

So, you remember that $1 piece of fabric I bought last week?

Well here it is made up:

What do you think? Is that a bargain, or what? I've called it the Blue Peter Shirt, purely because the colours remind me of the BBC's Blue Peter show badges, a tenuous connection because no ships are included in the fabric pattern and the blue is rather darker and … well anyway, I just like the name. Do you know that show has been running since 1958? Does that make it the longest running TV show of all time? Okay, getting back to the shirt …

I used the same pattern that I used for the Touch of the Orient shirt, Simplicity No 6410 (1985), with a few modifications.

I really like the collar on View 4 and I decided to do the pin tucks this time and alter the hemline to curve up to the side seam in the front and down to an exaggerated shirt-tail at the back.

I added some shape to the back with princess-style darts.

I'm a three-quarter sleeve girl so I added to the sleeve length and pleated it into a cuff (hard to see in this photo because of the fabric pattern).

Finishing a curve is always problematic. Turning up a narrow edge is fraught with difficulty and can curl up when finished, using a binding is not appropriate for this application and neither is an overlocked edge. 

My solution was to add a facing of lawn and then topstitch around the entire perimeter of the shirt. I couldn't be happier with the result. 

The curves are perfect and the facing adds a little body to the shirt-tail, hopefully preventing it from curling up when worn.

My first thought was for white buttons (boring) then these lovely mulberry-coloured ones caught my eye. They are from my mother's button collection and date from the 1940s I'd guess.

As it's winter in Australia and today's temperature in Melbourne is forecast to be around 13 degrees Celsius (brrrr), I may not get to wear my Blue Peter shirt for another few months.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

How to Make Harem Pants for Toddlers

These incredibly easy to make harem pants are all the rage for the toddler set. Not only easy to make but super comfy to wear. And—bonus—they're made from dad's still-good-but-no-longer-worn tee shirts. Refashioning! I love it!

A ten year old could draft this pattern. Start by ruling a rectangle 14 inches (35.5 cm) wide by 17 ½ inches (44.5 cm) long on whatever paper is to hand. Draw in the curves using the measurements on my drawing, no need to be too fussy, the stretchy tee shirt material is quite forgiving. You'll need to cut a front pattern and a back pattern, the back being curved up and the front scooped down. I've included a seam allowance of 3/8'' (10 mm).

To ensure that both sides match, cut out one side then fold in half and trace around before cutting out the remaining side.

This size 1 pattern will fit nicely on a man's tee shirt.

An overlocker makes sewing these pants a cinch but you could use a conventional machine and a narrow zigzag stitch to allow a bit of stretch.

Sew one side seam then open out and Overlock the waist edge and the bottom leg edge of the seam just sewn. Sew second side seam then overlock that bottom leg edge. It's easier and neater to work while garment is still open. Now, sew the inner-leg seams in one continuous sweep.

Turn a narrow hem on leg edges and machine stitch, stretching a little as you go.

Cut a length of ½'' (13 mm) elastic to fit waist, allowing an inch to overlap. Turn waist edge over to make a casing for the elastic, making sure it's wide enough to thread the elastic through. Stitch all the way around leaving a small opening to insert the elastic. Attach a safety pin to one end of the elastic and thread through the casing. Overlap the ends of the elastic and stitch in place. Stitch gap closed and you're done.

Pretty good eh?

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Fabric Find of the Week

Best charity shop fabric find this week? That would have to be this pretty cotton print— 3 ½ yards/metres for $2! Oh, hang on, they were having a half price sale so that makes it $1.

This fabric is saying shirt to me. The pattern I used for the Touch of the Orient shirt might do the trick with a few modifications.

Simplicity No 6410, dated 1985

This time I'll button it through and add the sleeve from Views 1 & 2 but stick with the collar from View 4, turning it back instead of leaving it up as I did for the Touch of the Orient version. I'll use the tucks down the front and add princess style darts to the back for a shaped line, and perhaps a curved shirt tail.

Stay tuned for the outcome!

Friday, 17 July 2015

Sew Easy

My sewing room is tiny but check out how good my machine setup is!

Large desk with the Husqvarna, small table with the overlocker, and swivel chair to change from one machine to the other. Brilliant.

There's also a big built-in cupboard with draws, shelves and hanging space plus two deep bookcases for storage and books. Oh, and an ottoman with a lot of material, and the ironing board. Everything I need except a cutting table. I go to the dining room table for that. All in all, a vast improvement on previous times when everything had to be done on the dining table. Nothing stifles the urge to sew more than the thought of hauling out the machine only to put it away again before dinner.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

The Frou-Frou Scarf

My frou-frou scarf came about because of a piece of fabric leftover after I made this dress for my granddaughter to wear to a wedding a few years ago.

The fabric was so slippery and unmanageable that I stuffed what was left in the box and hoped never to find it again. It floated to the top the other day just when my overlocker arrived back from the repair man. I wondered how the machine would cope with the flimsy stuff and am pleased to report it stitched beautifully.

I overlocked the four sides of a large rectangle and decided it would make a good wrap or scarf but it needed a bit more work. I thought perhaps some ruching might give it a bit oomph. I stitched all around the edge ½ inch (13 mm) in from the overlocking with shirring elastic in the bobbin.

Hmm, maybe some more shirring was needed. I wound another length of shirring elastic on to the bobbin and started shirring rows about 5 inches (13 cm) apart. It wasn't until the final row was done that I decided it was a success, very feminine and … frou-frou. 

It looks good tied but I also made a black satin scrunchie for a slightly different look.

If you want to make one too then here's how:

Cut a rectangle about 36 inches (92 cm) x 60 inches (152 cm) and overlock edges.

Using tailor's chalk, mark seven rows evenly spaced down the length of the fabric. Marking at this stage will make sewing easy once the rows start to scrunch up.

Wind the shirring elastic onto the bobbin of your standard machine. Wind by hand without stretching the elastic. Insert as usual in the bobbin casing, thread top with normal cotton and set stitch length to maximum.

Stitch all the way around, right side up, ½ inch (13 mm) in from the overlocking.

Now sew down the rows that you marked with chalk, right side up again, backstitching to secure at start and finish of rows.

Pull threads through to wrong side and trim.

You'll notice that the shirring has resulted in the long side becoming the shorter side.

Pull the diagonal corners to offset the rows of shirring.

Now wrap up and enjoy your Frou-Frou Scarf.

Tuesday, 14 July 2015

The Lazy-Summer-Days Top

I made this top to wear in the heat of summer where its loose fit and open armholes were perfect on a hot day, but I've discovered that it's quite handy to drop over a roll-neck sweater in the winter.

The only difficulty about making it was dealing with the slippery fabric particularly suited to this drapey style. Click here for some neat tricks from Tilly and the Buttons about working with slippery fabrics.

The one pattern piece needed is a shape for the neck opening. As long as it fits over your head it can be as big or small as you like.

The Lazy-Summer-Days top is made from a single length of fabric folded in half lengthwise to form front and back. My fabric measures 56 inches (142 cm) x 37 inches (95 cm) which allows for narrow machined hems.

Sew the hems on all four sides of the fabric before finishing the neck edge or the side closures. This will prevent excess fraying if the fabric is inclined that way. To achieve a neat edge on the very slippery fabric, I tacked all the way around before machining. Tedious, I know, but it was worth it.

Cut a facing from the pattern you used for the neck and sew in place.

A row of stitching 5 ¾ inches (14.5 cm) in from the finished edge creates the side closures, leaving a gap of 7 inches (18 cm) for armholes.

I'm a pattern size 10 and not very tall so the measurements would need to be adjusted for your size.

I finished the outfit with a simple scarf made from some leftover fabric.