Sunday, 15 November 2015

A Giveaway: The Three Bears Sleeping Bag PDF Pattern

I thought that with Christmas rapidly approaching, I might do a giveaway of my Three Bears Sleeping Bag pattern, just because these beds make such a lovely gift for small (and even not so small) children. Just say hello in the comments to enter (or make a suggestion on the conundrum below if you happen to have any ideas). I'll choose three entries to receive a copy of the PDF pattern, so do make sure you leave a way of my contacting you, if it isn't easily discoverable online. As you'll see further down in this post, these sleeping bags are good for any kind of creature and I've also written a post to help you solve any fitting problems for irregularly shaped animals, entitled Unwieldy Antlers and Other Sizing Issues.

So, to the conundrum I mentioned above: I wondered if you have any memorable gift ideas for marking a big-round-number-birthday? When my husband celebrated his thirtieth birthday, I gave him a box filled with thirty pebbles, each with one of his best qualities, or one my favourite memories of him, written on in silver ink. To celebrate Nell's first birthday, I created a book for him that told the story of her first year with us, which he loved (there is nothing quite so good as giving someone a gift that leaves them watery eyed!). I'd like to do something similarly personal to mark his fortieth birthday which falls just after Christmas, but I don't feel like I've settled on the perfect idea yet. I've been thinking of making a photo book with a few photos taken from each year; making another handmade shirt (just one though, not forty, with a birthday message stitched somewhere inconspicuous inside); asking my children to reshoot spelling out a message throwing body shapes; or doing some other variation around the stitched lined paper theme, but I'd really love to hear any of your own creative ideas that you might have stored up for marking someone's birthday in a special way as I'd love some inspiration.

Anyway, back to the sleeping bags! I thought you might like to see some of the amazing sleeping bags others have made from this pattern. It's so much fun seeing them all lined up together; the same, but also completely unique, each with their own creature nestled inside that's special to someone somewhere in the world. The bag above is made by Nicola Berry (whose child has exactly the same bear as my own daughter, which features in the photo at the top of this post!). Here are some more lovelies from my Flickr pool and sent to me via email:

From left to right, sleeping bags have been made by Julie Bridgeman; Bridgid Todd; Nicola Berry; Chris Best; Elizabeth; Wendy Rabung.

Although it's called the Three Bears sleeping bag pattern, it seems that it's less often bears that reside in the beds; when I was looking through my Flickr pool I noticed that monkeys feature very heavily.

From left to right, sleeping bags have been made by Julie Bridgeman, Katie B, Stacey Pinique, Julie Bridgeman

And here are some other creatures in their bags:

Jamie Seifert, Libby Dillard, Katie Allcorn, Mysedan1, Katie B, Chris Best, Lila James, Sally, Heather, Julie Bridgeman, Stacey Pinique, Jamie Seifert. 

Aren't they all glorious! And below are some close ups of the incredible detail people have added to their sleeping bags - the hedgehog is paper pieced (even though it looks so perfect that it actually seems like it's printed). The embroidered flower on the pillow blows me away - I would love to put my head on that if it was bear-sized.

As per previous roundups, Heather Ross fabric features heavily and rather magnificently (the fabric used on the second photo down in this post, as well as the trio below are all made from Heather Ross designs). I still rue the fact that I've never had any of her designs in my stash - an anomaly that I can't make sense of.

I think that's it for now. Thank you to everyone who has made things from this pattern and shared photos with me (irrespective of whether it's appeared here!) - I absolutely love seeing them all and hope that you don't mind that I've shared your sewing here.

To enter the giveaway, just leave a comment saying hello or make a suggestion on the conundrum I mentioned earlier in the post and I'll announce a winner soon.

Florence x

UPDATED: This giveaway is now closed. Thank you so much for your lovely comments and ideas. The winners are: Teresa Stanulis, Sarah-Lou and Winter Tree - I'll email your patterns to you today. Thank you so much for taking part. x

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Two Seasonally-Inappropriate Dresses

It's now November, so this post feels more than a little seasonally inappropriate; like eating pumpkin soup in June. But it feels better to record the taste of the pumpkin soup at the wrong time of year, than to never record it at all. Or something like that. 

At the start of the summer, I fell in love with an electric blue dress in Oliver Bonas, above, but it was oddly bulgy under my arms where the curve of the inset panel had been joined, so I decided to try and make something similar myself. I haven't made many fit and flare dresses and for some reason (which now eludes me), I didn't feel like drafting the pattern myself, so I did quite a lot of research trying to find something that exactly resembled the shop's dress, which has darts perpendicular to the princess seam lines as a really lovely design feature (you can only just see it above). I couldn't find anything quite right, so eventually I compromised with princess-seamed Dress No. 9 from the Japanese sewing pattern book by Machiko Kayaki, called Pindot, Coindot, Polkadot. It's quite a few years since I've used a Japanese pattern book and I didn't especially enjoy the experience of returning to trace out a pattern from a spaghetti junction of overlayed pieces, but once it was cut, I was really happy as my bodice toile seemed like it was a perfect fit with no changes (you'll find that by the end of the post I've decided this wasn't entirely the case).

I used the No. 9 skirt pattern, but altered the pleats to replicate those on the Oliver Bonas dress, but I didn't think to go the whole hog, so my skirt is far fuller and my neckline lower. I took these photos in a rush when I was about to go out in the dress for the evening in the middle of a heat-wave that now seems a very distant memory. Unfortunately, because these photos were taken in a rush, there's not really a great photo of how this looks at a distance, apart from this curious, slightly blurred, photo where I look like I'm...well goodness knows what I'm actually doing, but I think I look like a footballer who's about to spit on the floor. I do frequently try on different personalities in my head - Sarah Lund from The Killing while doing the supermarket shopping wearing something similar to her trademark Faroese jumper; Bobbie from the The Railway Children welcoming her father home on a misty station platform while wearing a winter beret (although my friend, Ben, broke it to me that it has more of a Bob Marley vibe than a Bobbie Waterbury one to it. Damn him.), however, I'm absolutely sure that spitty footballer isn't a persona that I recall experimenting with. Apologies.

Anyway, moving on, let's talk construction. This pattern being written in Japanese and the pictures not overly helpful on this occasion (which is rare for a Japanese pattern - they're normally incredibly transparent), I went my own way. I hadn't sewn princess seams since a few summers ago and it seemed that I had left any knowledge I'd gathered firmly in the past. I made four bodices before I was completely happy with my curved seams (although only three are shown here). 

I think it's going to need some bullet points to define the mistakes I made with each bodice! 
  • On the first bodice, I used french seams (this version isn't pictured, but it looked completely normal). Unless the fabric is incredibly fine, this probably isn't the most sensible move. The seams were actually perfectly smooth on the outside, but just felt 'wrong' when I tried the bodice on and I knew it would bother me. 
  • For bodice number 2, I sewed the curves with the regular 5/8" seam allowance and clipped the curves...but I think asking the two curves to fit together with that big a seam allowance was too much and the tiny creases that formed with the strain of doing this were irksome (photo above, bottom left) and having set the initial creases into place with an iron, they couldn't be ironed out later once I'd trimmed back the seam allowance sufficiently. 
  • Weary, but not defeated, for bodice number 3, I trimmed the seams down to 3/8" before joining them. This worked perfectly. But the well-behaved iron was downstairs where my husband was asleep (I think I was past midnight by then), so I took the dysfunctional iron prone to overheating tantrums out of the bin in my sewing room (why? why? why? Why did I keep refusing to believe the iron was actually faulty?) and thought to myself: if I put this on the silk setting, it will surely be fine. But the thermostat was definitely broken. In just a few short presses it had made the fabric shiny and unwearable and puckered it horribly too (above, bottom right). At which point I went to bed. 
  • Finally, success. The next day, I remade the bodice with 3/8" seams, clipped well at the curve, and pressed with a functional iron and all was well with the world (above, top photo). 

I'm really pleased I spent so long over that stage though as I found it was a good brain-refreshing experience both in sewing techniques and my own stupidity. I'd focused on quilting more than dressmaking in the year before and some things seemed to have fallen out of my head, especially in combination with using a 5/8" seam, instead of a quilter's 1/4" seam allowance. The photo below makes the bodice look a little odd and sadly I didn't look at the photos before I left the house so that I could take another one while standing nicely. Additionally, it's amazing what you can sometimes see in a photo that you can't see when standing in front of a mirror, but on seeing it later, I decided I could have done with shortening the bodice a little as well as standing properly. 

The fabric is the organic cotton sateen that I mentioned in my Summer 2015: Fabrics for Dressmaking post, but instead of the navy blue, this is the, now discontinued, airforce blue colour. There are two sides, almost identical, but one with slightly more sheen. As I wanted to wear this dress as a sundress, I chose to use the completely matt side. I wish they still had the fabric in this colour - it's lovely.

Moving on, I made the dress again and did the skirt COMPLETELY differently! Less flare, different styling on the pleats, a shorter bodice and a few other nit-picky things. This time in a Nani Iro double gauze that I've had sitting in my fabric drawers for about two years and which is possibly one of my favourite prints ever. Here it is mid-construction, above. I hadn't yet cut the skirt out and I took at least an hour deciding whether to continue the profusion of flowers down the centre of the dress or whether to just cut the skirt with a more random pattern placement on the lower half. Even months later I am still kicking myself over my decision to continue with intense flower placement, because it was the wrong decision. A horribly wrong decision. And it completely ruins the dress for me, because from a distance, it looks slightly like someone has thrown a can of paint at the dress.

You can see how much nicer it looks from the back (below), where I had cut the pattern completely randomly.

In a slightly gloomy attempt to see 'what could have been', I tried the dress on back-to-front. It was a vast improvement, not only with the print placement, but also with the realisation that the princess seams on the back panel (which are far gentler having been drafted to accommodate shoulder blades), were a much better fit across my chest. If only I hadn't been left with strange ghost breasts on my back, wearing it back-to-front would have been a perfect solution!

At that point, I was two dresses down: one that I wished had a less full skirt and a shorter bodice; the other that looked slightly more paint-splattered than I'd like. Both with a bodice which I could finally see could have been fitted far better (isn't it odd how you often don't see something at all at first and then the moment you notice it you find it intolerably obvious?). As the summer was drawing to a close, I made a third and final version from Robert Kaufman's denim chambray, with a much-adjusted pattern piece for the bodice. That dress had no problems with either paint attacks or gaping bodices, but sadly, I didn't get a photo of it and the idea of wearing anything less than a thermal bodysuit until next June isn't an appealing one. It's one thing to write seasonally inappropriate blog posts in November, quite another to actually take photos for one. So that post will probably have to wait for another year.

In other matters dressmaking related, over on Instagram I'm taking part in @BimbleandPimple's 'Sewing Photo a Day' challenge, which carries the hashtag of #BPsewvember. Amanda has given a theme for each day and anyone taking part just posts a photo based on that theme and hashtags it so that other Sewvemberists can see it. It's a really wonderful way of discovering other dressmakers and seeing some inspirational finishes, but mostly getting to know others in little bite-sized snippets each day. Often stopping to think about the way you do a particular thing can be thought-provoking, so I'm enjoying taking part, even though I'm not always remembering to take a photo for each day while it's still light, so have missed a few. Also, some of the topics make me think more of quilt-making than dressmaking when it comes to my own sewing, so it won't be entirely dressmaking-related for me. Although it's now the 8th, I don't think it's too late to start taking part!

Finally, two questions: is it possible that in one year I could have fallen victim of not one, but two appliances with faulty thermostats? If a new washing machine felts a jumper where the label said it could be washed at 30 degrees and which was definitely set to wash at 30 degrees (I know that because I actually double-checked it at the time), is it more likely that the fibres reacted oddly or that there's a fault with the washing machine's thermostat? I've never felted a jumper that I washed at the right temperature before, so I'm interested to know if impromptu felting can be a freak thing? The composition is 33% viscose, 23% nylon, 20% lambswool, 20% cotton, 4% cashmere (so there's really a bit of everything in there!). It's now small enough to fit a teddy bear.

My second question : does anyone petite/knowledgeable in these matters, have a recommendation for really good 40 or 60 denier tights? Marks & Spencer's 'extra small' seem longer than ever before and result in horribly wrinkly ankles. Although they're hidden by winter boots, it would feel far nicer to have less ankle-wrinkle accompanying me around the house indoors. While last year, I wore nothing but skinny jeans for the entire winter, this year I'm favouring skirts and dresses even for dog walks and the lack of well-fitting tights to go with them is a low-level frustration that it would feel nice to have a solution to.

Florence x
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