Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Wiksten Tova number 4

Not that I'm trying to get my money's worth for buying the pattern, but sure... after four Tova Tunics, I have to agree with myself, it was not a bad buy!

I really wish I had a lovely solid colored and textured linen to do this tunic in, but alas... no such thing for sale in my little corner of Africa. So I made yet another one in the lovely combination of white bedsheet from the open-air second-hand market, and the inset and collar with fabrics from Denyse Schmidt Hope Valley Collection.

I am not that happy with the patterns and colors on this combo. But I had to pick colors that my friend I was making it for would like, so I compromised on my own ideas. She really liked it, though, which is all that really matters in the end.  I should have cut the collar so the lines went lengthwise and not horizontally. I do NOT like how that looks all. One thing I am happy with, though, is having added a facing in the same fabric as on the front to the front opening. You can't really see it in this picture here, but I promise, it's there! And it is very visible when worn. It was one thing I really didn't like with the other ones I made (following the instructions to the letter). Since the neck opening falls open from the lack of buttons or closures of any kind, the cream colored backside of the Hope Valley fabric was showing a lot more than I wanted it too.  Here, I have remedied that by just cutting a second pair of those horizontal front pieces and adding them as a facing.

I got a lovely action shot of my pregnant friend Fabi wearing it too, but then forgot to copy in to my computer before hubby sold the iPhone....  so now it's deleted. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My very first self-made pattern!

So my little girl got this whole huge bag of hand-me-downs from some friends when we were in Mexico last spring. And there was this one razorback tunic in there that I just loved to bits and it was the cutest thing ever. But the thing is, toddlers grow. And they tend to grow out of stuff, no matter how cute it is. So!I thought, I really need to make a copy of this in a bigger size. But how does one do that? Well... I did not want to rip the whole thing apart. She can still wear it a few more months. So I laid it down on my table and started folding and tracing to the best of my abilities... and pretty soon I had a pattern! I added a centimeter here and there to make it a little bigger, and then I added the seam allowance before I traced it again on pattern paper and started cutting.

I will not go into the details of all the errors I made in the actual construction of this little tunic. When I think about it now, they are such obvious no-nos that they make me blush just thinking about it... But after some pretty hefty seam ripping and redoing, the result was pretty sweet. The yoke is fully lined, and the lining is slip stitched to the seam in the back, so it looks totally perfect on the inside too. The side seams are French. Oh, yeah, I went all out here.

But I'm far from completely happy. 

My first mistake was the fabric I chose for the yoke. It'ss way too sturdy and has no ... NO... stretch. So even though the tunic is sleeveless and has a 12 centimeter button opening in the front, its hard to get it on and off. Next time, I'll try something more stretchy, like maybe a stretch denim?

Mistake 2: The button holes. Oh. Dear.  I will not show an up close picture of them. I SHOULD have done them in yellow thread, but in my still-newbie innocence thought they would look nice in white, since all the other contrasting was done in white. The yellow would have covered my poor work more... I don't know why they turned out so badly. I've never had that happen before. Maybe it's the toughness (and many layers right here) of the yellow yoke fabric. In the yellow fabric's defense, it was born as a sheet (thrifted), so who can blame it for not being apt for garmenthood...?

The shorts are made from MADE's Kid pant pattern. They are the flat front variety, which I have come to really like. And they sew up in like 20 minutes flat, even with French seams. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The World's Softest Undies.

Love! At first sight! Or touch!  I came across this panty pattern in Crafterhours' blog called "Rainbow Undies" and thought... hm! Those look OH-SO-COMFY for my littlies, but really, who has the time to sew underwear?

I, apparently. Because yesterday, after the printer seemed to be working again after some trouble with the USB cable, I went trigger happy with my paypal account and purchased not only this pattern, but also the Juniper pants pattern by Colette Patterns. I turns out that after the picture of these undies had been marinating in my mind for a few days, the will to sit down and sew a tiny little garment like underpants was strong enough that I went for it. And I have no regrets. None.

First, I just cut up a tank top of mine that had fallen out of favor and made a pair from that. Call it a muslin. Call it whatever. When I pulled those babies up my son's legs and felt the softness of that yoga waist band and the cute way the fabric hugged his little boy butt, I was sold. There is no scratchiness in this underwear. It is just pure. awesome. softness.

So as soon as my  hubby got in and started playing with the kids, I went running back to the sewing machine and made a pair for my little Princess K. Just as awesome.

This morning, I cut into some "real" fabric (read: not upcycled, but purchased from the fabric store) and made this cute pair of helicopter undies for Chiquitin, and a purple and pink little number for Princess K. They are wearing them right now. While watching "In the Night Garden" on the iPad and rolling around on the floor, being toddlers.

And they are comfy in their underwear. Yay!!!

So if you have the time (it only takes about 30 minutes, cutting included, and using a conventional machine) to sew some super soft undies for your kid... make a run for it over to Kitchy Coo and get your pattern! The body of the pants have only one piece, so there is no crotch seam, just the two side seams. Soft goodness. (No, I didn't get anything in return for shamelessly promoting somebody's pattern. I just thought it was worth saying something good about it, so I did.)

**Disclaimer 1: I do not have power to use a steam (or dry) iron when our generator is not on, so if you think the undies look wrinkled, it's because they are. They have never been pressed. It is what it is. Sewing in West Africa is not like sewing other places.

**Disclaimer 2: If you thought the helicopter on the front of the undies is upside down, you were right. This is what happens with directional prints when there's only one pattern piece. The print is going to be upside down either in the front of back. I chose front. It seems my kid is running away from me more than towards me, so I prioritized making the butt side look right. As an added bonus, he will see the helicopter the right way when looking down on his underwear. See? It's all thought through!

Linking up with Tatertots and Jello Weekend Wrap Up Party.  


Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Self-drafted: A-line skirt

I participated in my very first sew-along this month! It was organised by a member of a sewing forum I frequent (in my native Norwegian) called

The purpose of the sew-along was to construct our own patterns for an A-line skirt (starting with a basic skirt block based on our own measurements) and then sew a skirt from the pattern.

I really enjoyed the process, and learned a lot!

I  started out making a muslin, but then I decided to add a zipper to it, so I could practice installing a lapped zipper, which I'd never done before. After doing all that work, it felt so wrong to rip apart the skirt to adjust the pattern, so at first I didn't. That was a big mistake! After cutting and basting my "real" skirt from a really blingy Wax print, I realised it was way too big, and I had to go back to the muslin, cut it apart at the seams, and redo the pattern by cutting off a lot of excess in the side seams.

I added a center back zipper (lapped)

and side pockets in a coordinating teal cotton fabric. I also added a simple waistband after lowering the waist about 6 cms

In the picture on top, I am showing the skirt with my daughter, who is wearing a dress I sewed for her about a year ago.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Yet another adventure in the art of shopping in the dusty streets of a West African town

This afternoon I took my bike downtown to the market to see if I could find some string. I was a woman on a mission. I needed some sort of string that I could use to stuff my bias tape with to make piping. I didn't feel like risking all my needles by sewing across the metal center of the clothes line I used last time. But alas, it was not easy. I went to several little shops, and all they had was this rough, thin rope used for clothes lines and what not. I looked and looked, but started to feel a little discouraged. So I asked myself: What can I use that looks like string, but is probably something else. Then I had a light bulb moment. Shoe laces! That's it! The round kind of shoe laces would be perfect to make piping with. It's not too rough, its pliable, and it does not have metal in the middle. Perfect! So I found a shoe shop with lots of shoe laces hanging from rusty nails up in the roof, and bought me four pairs of shoe laces. At 400 CFA a pair(almost a dollar) , it felt like I was being taken advantage off, but Tabaski (Islamic holiday) is only two days away, and everything is more expensive in the days right before it. All the shop keepers want some extra cash for the holiday, I guess. Now I'm happy, I have the supplies to make piping for more Toddler backpacks!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Toddler backpack

After I suddenly found out my friend's daughter was turning two last week, I finally had a great excuse to purchase Rae Hoekstra's awesome toddler backpack pattern. I mean... I'm sure there are backpack patterns to be found for free all over the sewing blogosphere, but why get free milk when you can buy a whole cow? Ahem..

(please excuse the crappy iPod pictures.... I finished hand stitching the lining to the inside of the pack in the car on our way there, so I didn't have time to take any pictures with my nice camera first. And I totally forgot to take a picture of the awesome lining and inside pocket!) 

Anyway... I'm a sucker for things that are already thought out that I don't have to measure and guesstimate, so this pattern was a find.

Where we live, there is no Toys-R-Us or anything even remotely similar. The only toys available for sale are crazy expensive, crappy "made in fill-in-the-blank" things that last my toddlers an average of 1/4 day before loosing pieces and parts that really matter, such as the wings on planes, wheels on cars and so on. SO.... whenever I can, I try to make presents instead of supporting the crappy-toys industry.

Here's my daughter modelling the backpack. Gotta love how much it makes her look like a "big girl"!

So I made this backpack for little Savannah. The pattern calls for about two yards of piping, and Ay! There's the rub. Because where do you get piping in Guinea-Bissau?  Answer? No, I haven't found any yet. But I did find a string formerly used to tie a mosquito net in place, and it seemed the appropriate thickness to make some piping. Trouble was, it was only about a yard long. So once I'd finished making the first yard, I had to go looking for more string. And found none.  Then it ocurred to me that my clothes line (with metal wire inside) is about the same thickness, so there I went, cutting down a yard of clothes line to make more piping. When sewing the piping to the fabric I had to watch carefully not to sew into the metal wire and break the needle. Ah, the adventures of living off the JoAnn grid!

Linking up to "What I wore Sunday"

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Finished: Self-drafted Toddler PJs

I found this ugly green top at the thrift market almost a year ago, thinking "gee, that fabric looks cute, but the top is hideous". So I negotiated the price and brought the thing home, and there it sat, for a long time. It was an adult size top, quite a wide one at that, so there was plenty of material to cut from to make a size 2T pyjama.

 Inspiration only struck this week, though, I had been eying some hand-me-down pj pants of my daughter's that looked darn cute but a little, well, tired. So I traced a pj bottom that fits her to make a pattern, and sewed up a cute little PJ pant for her. Then I remembered this image I'd seen of one of the Oliver & S patterns. It was a crossover front top, (while quite different from what I made) and I thought it would make a cute coordinating top for the PJ bottoms. So I found some tracing paper and a ruler and played around a little with a tank top pattern I made earlier, and came up with this.
Here's Princess K and her brother having fun with some pre-bed-time train track engineering.

These PJs were featured by Crafty Cousins! In the very first linky party I attended. How cool is that?

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Washi Dress or Tunic, what will it be?

I am very excitedly printing my washi dress pattern as I write this! I've been eying that dress since Rae first blogged her "original" washi dress, some time this summer. I even made a copy based on what I saw in the pictures, and had the muslin sewn up and everything. But then she said she'd be doing a pattern, so I let it sit and decided I'd just wait for the pattern instead of doing all the work of figuring out the design myself. This will be very exciting...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Perfect skirt lenght

I came across this cool little thing today on a blog called The Sewing space. Check it out! And while you're at it, see all the cool garment making tools this blogger offers!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

"More Grey" - in white

I just wanted to quickly show the latest T-shirt I made for Chiquitin. It's cut from the same “More Grey” raglan T-shirt pattern in Ottobre 4/2011 that I've made before. Here, I used the white knit from a T-shirt given to my hubby from our internet provider. It featured a huge "Orange" logo on front and back, and hubby didn't feel like advertising them by wearing the shirt, as we're not too happy with the service that comes and goes with no warning. So I figured... let's not let this nice knit go to waste!

The sleeves are cut from an old shirt of my hubby's. And since my kid's such a star, he got a star on the front of his shirt. I really love the fit of these shirts. The ones I've made are size 98, and they fit perfectly on my two-year-olds. They are SO easy to make, ESPECIALLY if re-purposing fabric that's already hemmed, like t-shirts. All I have to do is sew the sleeves to the front and back, and attach the neckband, and pronto!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Fabric shopping in West Africa

Where I live in Guinea-Bissau, the fabric stores are few and far between (Read: there are none). That is, if you define “fabric store” as a business that sells apparel or quilting fabrics of the kind we are used to in Europe or America.  In our town, there’s no reliable electrical supply, so all the local tailors use foot-powered Singer machines that only have straight stitch. That means that sewing with knits is out of the question, something that obviously causes the demand for knits to be nil, which means nobody sells them. 
One of the great tailors of Gabu, working on a borrowed Singer while his buddies enjoy a cup of Warga, a local favorite tea with enough sugar to keep a soccer team hyped for a whole game. Just sayin'...

So what fabric CAN you find here? You can find African wax prints. In abundance!  Most women around here wear elaborate hand made dresses cut from these colorful, large printed fabrics. What’s interesting, too, is the way these fabrics are woven and sold. The print runs perpendicular to what I’m used to from fabric shopping in the North.  The width of the fabric is 43 inches or 110 cm, which is the average height of a wrap-around skirt. So if you wanted to make a wrap-around skirt (AKA “pano” in the local jargon), all you had to do was finish the side edges, preferably with a fancy ribbon, and sew some darts around the top edge, attach some ties, and voila! You have a skirt! Wrap-arounds are not normally hemmed around here, the selvedge is left on, and that’s how it keeps from raveling. 

Women at a wedding
The way it’s sold, too, is different. You can’t ask for any length of fabric you want, as it’s not sold from rolls or bolts. It is sold in lengths of 2 meters. Usually, a precut “package” is six meters of fabric, all in one length. You can sometime negotiate for just one “pano , or two meters, but it is generally frowned upon.  This is because, the sales person will then have a harder time sell the remaining two “panos” (or wrap-around skirts) to another customer. Most people have a whole outfit sewn from their three panos, including a wrap-around skirt and a fitted blouse, as well as a rectangle to use for head wear. What they do with the leftovers, I’m not sure, but I’d say “childrens’ clothing” is a good bet.  A lot of embellishing is used, and elaborate designs are made from satin bias tape and all kinds of colored lace ribbons and ric-rac. 
Me wearing a "pano" wrap around skirt with 

fancy trim

There are other kinds of fabrics available too, but so far, I’ve only seen them in very large quantities, so I’ve never purchased any myself. These are cotton fabrics with a kind of shiny surface that is used for fancy African clothing, both men’s and women’s. 

Now, if you’d like to sew with something more western-like, you’d have to go to the fuka, or open-air second-hand market. There, you can find vintage bed sheets and clothes, including t-shirts made with knits. Those are the only knits available here. My kids run around in several t-shits made from repurposed fuka finds. It’s ok for making clothes for toddlers, but I guess it would be harder to make anything other than t-shirts or tank tops for adults since the sizes require more yardage.  This is why I travel with fabric in my suitcase when I come here… 

Friday, September 21, 2012

Wiksten Tova Tunic 1, 2 and 3

I came across this pattern at the “Spring Top Sewalong” hosted by Rae this last spring. I saw many people had made the top and got curious about it for myself. So I purchased the downloadable pdf pattern and (after printing and taping the pieces together) started to sew. Since I don’t use a lot of sleeved shirts around here, I decided to make a sleeveless version, and bound the shoulder seams with white bias tape. After posting it on my favorite Norwegian sewing forum, the Sykroken, somebody told me how, when nixing sleeves from a pattern with sleeves, one should ideally adjust the curvature of the sleeve opening so it goes a little higher than the sleeved version. You need that extra wiggle room when you wear the sleeve, but not for a sleeveless. So I learned something new that day, but of course, the tunic was already finished, so I didn’t have a chance to incorporate it then. 
Tova # 2

This first tunic was made with a white sheet from the “fuka” also known as the open-air second-hand market here in the African town I live in. The contrast panel is cut from a pillowcase found at the same market. The pillowcase was from IKEA, which I find hilarious, as I have always loved IKEA, and growing up in Norway it was a household name. So when I find linens in the second-hand shops here that originated in IKEA, it feels like a little bit of home is catching up with me. 

The second Tova was started right after I finished the first. For this one, I got bolder, having finished my “muslin”, and decided to cut into some Denise Schmidt fabric for the contrast panel, and even chose a second print for the inside of the neckline and the center front. But then I started on Tova # 3 and number 2 got stuck in the pile of UFOs. You see, a neighbor pointed out that one of our new friends, who was seven months pregnant, had a urgent need for maternity wear, and I offered to make her a blouse. So I took my  Tova pattern and added some extra with to the front, and this time used short sleeves. This Tova  is also made from a white vintage sheet and Denise Schmidt’s Hope Valley collection. This is actually the only Tova I’ve made that features the original gathering in the front, as for the other two, I chose to pleat instead. I quite like the gathering, and now wish I’d done that for one of my own… I’ll just have to make a fourth version, I guess!
Tova # 3 - the maternity version

This was the very first time I ever made something with set-in sleeves. And I was really happy with the result.  It’s so easy to sew for people who are slim and actually fit in the “standard” measurements. For myself, I usually have to grade the pieces up somewhat, and for a newbie like me, that can prove a challenge. I did three different tries with different sleeve shapes for my third Tova (actually number 2, but it was finished  third), and was never successful. I ended up doing a cap sleeve, but while it looks ok when my arms are down, it’s too tight for comfort when I raise my arms.  I’ll have to work on my alteration skills some more!

I will post the picture of the final Tova in a little bit. For now, my kiddos want to go outside and play!
I have now posted the picture of Tova # 2.  (The kids did not stay outside playing until now, two days later, but you know how it goes...)

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A material adventure

I said the other day that I’d write a post about the retacerías where I went fabric shopping in Mexico. A few months back, we travelled to Mexico with our kids to visit my husband’s side of the family and our friends there. They live in the border area of Baja California, and one of the upsides of living that close to the US is the amount of stuff you can buy there that you don’t necessarily find further inside the country. That goes for all kinds of things, not just fabric, but for the purpose of this blog, my focus are the fabric stores. 

I had been looking forward to going out to buy fabric as I remember from my days of living in Mexico how cheap fabric was and how many people actually made their own clothing or had it tailored for them. At the same time, I also remembered that most of the fabrics I’d seen were made of synthetic fibers, so I was a little wary that I wouldn’t find a good selection of cottons to buy. Since I have been living under the  African sun, all I ever buy are natural fibers, as I prefer clothes that breathe and allow humidity to escape.   

I had no clue where to begin shopping, and just told the taxi drive to take me to a big fabric store. My expectations were mostly met there. It was enormous and had an awe inspiring notions section, but most of the apparel fabric was synthetic, and while beautiful to behold, not anything I’d venture into wearing for now. I still bought heaps of fabric, of course, and probably miles of ribbons and buttons in all the colors of the rainbow. For several days, I lived in the deception that this was all I was going to get out of my Mexican fabric shopping experience. Until. I. found. The. Retacerías. 

Oh. My. ! Turns out there are a whole bunch of stores, all conveniently located next to each other, that specialize in selling leftover fabrics. I never asked, but I presume they come from clothing factories either in the industrial frontier zone of Mexico or the south of the USA. There’s nothing wrong with the fabric, but since it’s end of bolt and leftovers, you don’t get the very long, continuous yardage. But boy, do you get your money’s worth!  Per meter price runs from 20-35 pesos, or 1.50-3 dollars. Once I got bitten by the bug, I never wanted to leave! 

There were mostly knits, single jersey as well as thicker sweater-kinds of knits. I also found lace knit fabrics and awesome stretchy denim. It was a fabric shoppers paradise! Of course, in retrospect , I’m kicking myself for not taking pictures of this glorious place, but the reason was that I didn’t want to carry my big DSLR camera around, as that would have been one more weight to carry… I preferred carrying fabrics home!  If you are ever going to travel to the northern cities of Baja California, check out the retacerías!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Mary Poppins and her twin brother

Ok, so maybe Miss Poppins doesn’t actually have a twin brother, but little Princess K looked oh-so-Mary-Poppins-ish  toting this umbrella around our neighbours’ yard last Saturday.  And since she does have a twin brother, I get to use this title today.

Both kids are wearing t-shirts that I made from the “More Grey” raglan T-shirt pattern in Ottobre 4/2011. The original design features long sleeves, but where we live, long sleeves are not needed, so I just cut the sleeves short. 

After a very unsuccessful first attempt at this pattern (I had no clue how to attatch the ribbed collar) I have to say I LOVE these t-shirts! So much, I made one more, which will be featured some time soon when I get around to taking a picture of it. 

Princess K’s shirt is part refashion. I got a ladies’ knit top at a flea market and used the fabric for the bodice. I love how you can save so much work by taking advantage of the existing hems when refashioning a garment! The pink sleeves are from a knit I sourced in one of Mexico’s “retacerias” or “leftover shops”. Those shops are worth a post all to themselves, as they are SOOO much fun for fabric lovers! 

Chiquitín (pronounced Tshe-kee-teen, meaning “little one” in Spanish) is also wearing a refashion fabric. I got the orange fabric at the same flea market, come to think of it. It was a men’s t-shirt. Sadly, when I went to wash it the first time, it got mixed with a tie-died blue top that totally stained all the other clothes I bought that day, and there are some visible stains, but since I can’t get new knit fabric around here, I decided to use it anyway. 

His bottoms are made from one of the Tie Dye Diva’s patterns. The “way cool” shorts. I love this pattern and have used it twice already.  Princess K is also wearing a Tie Dye Diva bottom. I made this diaper cover back when she still wore (fabric) diapers, so they are way too big now that her bottom is diaper-free. But they’re still cute, though!