Monkey business


From the sublime to the mundane – after the stress of The Dress, I needed to sew something quick and fun. So I made some knickers! I’ve included a couple of pairs I made late last year in this post.  They were for one of the kids and I made them out of old tops, using some worn out undies as a template. They’re pretty cute I think, especially the pair with the hamburger on the bottom, even if it did have to be cut off centre to fit. I made a couple more pairs but they’re in the wash.



The monkey pairs were run up this evening using the same method, cutting up an old pair as a template. And I shame-facedly present the sadly holey evidence of why they were only fit to be chopped up. I bought the cute sock monkey fabric from Spotlight intending to sew more underwear for the girls but they all proclaimed the monkeys too creepy.  Apparently button eyes are scary.  Which is weird because I think they’re cute. Whatever, I claimed the fabric for me instead. I could have got 4 pairs if I’d cut a couple of the backs upside down but I decided I wanted my monkeys upright.



The elastic is from the most amazing stash I picked up a few weeks ago at a Lifeline op shop.  By my reckoning there’s about 150m for $28. Isn’t it awesome!! So obviously I need to make lots more undies…

Simple blue cardigan



All I wanted for before Christmas, (so I could wear it with my my red and white striped dress!) was a plain, short, slim fitting, navy cardigan. Something from Dangerfield would have been perfect but I’ve sworn off them as sadly they aren’t on anyone’s list of ethical manufacturers. I couldn’t find one anywhere else on the ethical list either, so I decided to make one.

I scored the perfect rib knit at Spotlight. Dark navy, not quite as much stretch as I’d like but a nice weight. I generally like my cardigans close fitting and usually buy a smaller size than my regular size, so I looked for a t-shirt pattern to use. Ottobre 2/2006 fit the bill. The pattern pieces are the same size as my actual measurements. I just cut the front in two separate pieces and added on several extra cms for a twice folded self-facing. I also shortened the pattern, but shortened the back about 3 cm more than the front and cut across the hem to match them up.

The main pieces went together very quickly, but the important thing was to work out how to finish the hems and bindings to a good standard. I thought about binding the neckline with a strip of the knit itself, but didn’t feel confident I could get a good enough finish at the front corners, which are obviously really obvious if they’re not well done. I also thought about using bias binding, but I wanted something with more stretch. The answer was some narrow fold-over elastic which Milly spotted in Lincraft. First I stitched a flat piece up one side of the front (the side that would have the buttons attached). Then to do the neckline I also didn’t fold it over, but used it flat, sewing it first to the inside of the neckline, wrong sides together; then turning the whole width to the outside and stitching it down. At the top front corners I then wrapped it around to the inside and hand stitched it in place, tucking the raw edge under. The sleeve and bottom hems are done with a double needle.



Over the years I’ve learned that one of the secrets to a good finish with home sewing isn’t just knowing what you can do, but knowing what you can’t do. My machine (and me) have our limitations… so sometimes if you’re just not going to get the finish you want it’s better to look for a way around it. I bought this machine as a super-sale-bargain two days after my previous 20-year-old one broke down for good. I’m very happy with it overall, but very disappointed with its button-holing. Plus it doesn’t have the capacity to regulate the presser-foot pressure. My old machine was more basic in many ways but did have a knob for presser-foot pressure which was very handy. Anyway, I had a few tries at doing button-holes on scraps but there was no way I was ever going to get them looking good on the knit. With the reasonably thick facing and the rib, the pressure of the foot was too much, and despite being interfaced, the knit was stretching out of shape and looking horrible. Not what you want on the front band of a cardigan! So, easy solution – I’ve left it buttonhole-free. I tend not to do up my cardigans anyway apart from a single button so I’ve put a hook and eye at that point, with the hook hiding behind the button. If I decide I want to do more of it up I might put some more hooks and eyes on but it’s all good for now. I think I’ve managed a store-bought standard if I do say so myself, and it’s a perfect weight and style for wearing over dresses and singlets to work.



I am completely in love with this pattern and this fabric. The fabric is the most wonderful puffin print in gorgeous organic cotton French terry. I bought it intending to make something for one of the kids, but when it arrived in the mail I loved it so much I selfishly kept it for myself. Unfortunately since it was going to be kidswear, I only bought 1 metre so it took a fair bit of creative playing around with the layout to squeeze the pieces out, but with a few very narrow seam allowances I triumphed in the end. The collar and cuffs both had to be cut in two pieces to fit them in and the bottom hem has been sewn with bias binding since it’s slightly shorter than it ought to be. The bias looks great though, a nice case of a compromise resulting in a better finish.

The pattern is McCalls 7061 and anyone could be forgiven for thinking they’d never seen this cute cowl pattern before, because the pattern envelope is a serious contender for Worst Pattern Envelope Photo of All Time. I mean WTF McCalls?? Fluffy pink camo print and blue neck bows?! I made view A pretty much as is except for leaving out the bow, and also left out the small amount of shaping in the side seams as I wanted a boxier shape. I do love a cowl neck in a knit since it means not having to faff around with binding or ribbing and gives a lovely professional finish. In the photo above you can see how few scraps I had left, which is sad as I would have liked to make something else from this beautiful print. The good news though is that it’s available on Spoonflower so I can order more if I want to.

I’m clearly not the only one who loves puffins, as I wore this last week on casual day at work and as well as a few compliments from colleagues I had two random people at the shops tell me they loved it. Shallow I know, but it’s nice when people like what you’ve made!

Cheap, cheap, cheap!

The $2 dress – made out of a dress I bought from an op shop, which was actually brand new with tags, but had a ripped seam. It is Ottobre 3/2008, #12, with the back changed into a yoked style, so as to let me take advantage of the skirt part of the original dress being already hemmed and attach it in one piece. The ties from the original dress make good hairbands. The plan is that it will look good with a black skivvy and leggings worn underneath in winter.

And a little striped top I made a few weeks ago out of leftovers from the surf top of a year ago. I have yet to manage a keyhole fastening that isn’t too bulky once the button is put on, so I don’t think I will try it again, my machine isn’t up to it. Much easier just to make the head opening big and stretchy enough not to need a button at the back.

Old-fashioned girl

I’ve had this fabric for yonks, so long I can’t even remember where or when I bought it, but I think it was about 8 years ago. I still really like the colour combinations but somehow it also has a bit of an outdated feel to it. I’m not quite sure if it is outdated enough to be retro-cool or just old, but I’ve decided I don’t care, so there. The patterns are Ottobre yet again. I realised miss 3 has grown so much since last Winter that nothing she owns will fit once the cold weather arrives, so I’m getting an early start on making a few warmer clothes. I also picked up a beautiful velveteen Osh Kosh jacket in the exact same red at an op shop on Friday – bargain!



I would say I am an on a roll, but it’s more like a manic obsession LOL.Here are some capri pants from Ottobre 3/2009 – black stretch denim with aqua top-stitching. I nearly had a conniption trying to do all the top-stitching, the thread was proper top-stitching thread and kept snapping, even though I had a nice thick needle and had loosened off the tension! Liam’s t-shirt was quickly run up while watching Doctor Who. It is Ottobre 1/2006. I think I have finally conquered getting a good finish on binding the neck of knits, this is pretty much perfect especially next to those chubby cheeks – aren’t they adorable!

The twirly skirt is a full circle, cut using the lines on my cardboard cutting board, with elastic threaded through an attached waistband, for which I actually needed to dredge up some maths and work out the length I needed using pi!!  The frill is about 3 times the circumference of the hem.

Surf brand-ish

I’m probably kidding myself, but I think Milly’s new sweatshirt looks a little like one of the surf brands. I was having trouble finding ribbing for the cuffs and band, so I ended up buying some stretch velvet. It is sparkling in the photos with the flash, but it doesn’t really sparkle in normal light, it just has a slight sheen to it that helps it match the marle of the pink part.The pink fabric was a gift, ages ago, from Belinda, in an EB Valentine’s day swap, along with the heart buttons and applique!


A quartet of shortettes

This is one of those moments when I get to justify my enormous and overflowing scrap-basket, which includes various bits and pieces from the last 15 years of sewing.

Some of them have been through four house moves, like the tiny floral which was leftover from a dress for toddler Matilda. Some are more recent, like the blue floral, which was in a $2 bag of sheeting offcuts I scored at the op shop a couple of years ago. So many scraps means essentially free shorts for little Milly. My favourites are definitely the hippos, made from Ikea fabric which I thought was too rough and scratchy for delicate toddler legs, so I fully lined them with some very light soft voile (also from the scrap basket). I turned the hems and waistband outwards purely to stop the rough fabric from chafing and was rewarded with a rather serendipitous and charming cuffed effect.

The little top was made a few months ago from an Ottobre pattern and is not my best sewing but I’m attempting to catch up and blog all the 2008 sewing that missed out on its 10 seconds of fame.