About thecuriouskiwi

Everyone’s got to be a little nerdy at something and I am a nerd with a sewing machine. Obsessed with collecting patterns, fabric and buttons, welcome to my nerdy little world…

Sewaholic Protea Lonsdale

I made my first Sewaholic Lonsdale dress in late 2014 in a Joel Dewberry print. I really liked it and always intended to make another version with a couple of tweaks but, distracted by other patterns, I never got around to it.

I’m a big fan of Sewaholic patterns and I’m really sad that after Tasia sold the business on it just kind of…died. I like and own a lot of indie pattern brands and Sewaholic was in the small group of brands I hold in really high regard. Her fit and instructions were always on point. She used clever and interesting construction techniques and she always listened carefully to her pattern testers and the community.

At the start of this year I finally remembered to make another Lonsdale and the fabric that called out from my stash just happened to be another Joel Dewberry print!

I only had 2.7 meters (3.9m required) but I’m never scared of a good game of pattern tetris and I usually win.

Remembering that my first version was very long I chopped 10cm of the skirt pieces. Then I thought I was being very clever and efficient cutting the back bodice pieces in a single layer in between all the bigger pattern pieces…well that was the theory…

Oops!

This is efficient, if you remember to flip the pattern pieces! Luckily I had one more scrap just big enough to re cut that piece.

I always found the bow at the back of this dress really uncomfortable. It would dig into my back when I sat down or leaned against anything. I could get in and out of the dress without having to undo the bow so I actually cut the ties and stitched them to the back tabs after a few wears.

For this second version I wanted to insert them into the top of the bodice. This meant I could cut the neck ties shorter but I still had to add a join to get them out of my fabric length. These extra seams are completely hidden in the busy print.

That’s kind of about it. Excluding the ties and using an invisible zipper I made this dress exactly following the instructions for a change.

So here are lots of pictures (and eventually a cat):

My usual spot under the Kowhai tree was too shady so please enjoy the mint textured concrete of the lower section of my house. It kind of works 😉 It will be changing colour sometime later this year.

A sunbathing Harriet eventually decided to come over and “help”.

And that’s that…oh wait, I forgot:

Pockets!

Which is the perfect opportunity to suggest a fantastic podcast all about the history of clothing and in particular this episode about pockets and why we should appreciate them even if declaring your love for them is becoming a bit clichéd.

May all your clothes have perfect pockets!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – Sewaholic Lonsdale, variation a, size 12

Skirt shortened approx 10cms, back halteneck tie omitted (ties captured in top seam at back of bodice)

Fabric – Joel Dewberry, Cali Mod, Protea in Midnight

Other notions – Interfacing, thread, invisible zipper

Previous versions of this pattern –

Back to school…Shoe School!

In September last year I went back to school…

Shoe school!

Lou recently relocated her Shoe School from Dunedin to Wellington and offers 1 and 2 day workshops for pattern making, leather sneakers, sandals and a 5 day workshop in shoemaking. She studied shoemaking in Australia and has twice been to Tokyo to intern with a Master shoemaker.

I enrolled in the 2 day sandal workshop.

The first day started in Lou’s fabulous workshop located in Newtown. While we waiting for everyone to arrive we explored.

Sewing machines…of course

Beautiful leather

Tools, thread, Franken-shoes…AND A KITTY!

We began by talking about our inspiration images and sketching our ideas.

I had been working on a Pinterest board with way too many ideas but ultimately I narrowed it down a Chie Mihara sandal. My goal for the weekend was to replace my worn out “Romies” with a more “grown up”, sophisticated, me-made version.

“Romies” in NZ refer to a specific Roman sandal style that both genders usually wear to school in summer. My pair was made in NZ by a company called HealthForm. I don’t think you can get this brand anymore and it’s sad to see that all the examples I looked up online are made overseas.

This is my second ever pair of Romies, they are at least 10 years old, they last a long time (or at least this brand does). After wearing them for school most people never wear them again. When I was at school the manufacturers realised they were getting really popular and so they went from a cheap summer shoe option (~$10) to an overpriced one (~$50).

I bought my first pair later as a grown up and loved them. They take a little while to wear in, you’ve got to persevere until the leather straps gets nice and supple and the sole molds to your foot curves.

When I wear my romies in summer they get noticed. The comments are all good, people usually reminiscent of summer school days. I guess it is is a bit odd to wear them as a grown up.

After sketching and chatting we started to look at the leathers and discussed accessories. My roamies would need a buckle so I grabbed a few of those first.

I swayed between so many leather options, it was too hard to choose. I saw a lot of sandal inspiration using a bold colour with a metallic. I came so close to using the green and gold however I kept coming back to the simple and timeless brown of my original idea.

My next pair of sandals could be more extreme, the second goal of the weekend was to come away with something I loved and could wear all the time…but I still used a little of the gold for some fun bling.

Next we drew around our feet. It was weird to see my foot like that, it looked so flat and…huge! But just like in sewing, when you write down your measurements, accuracy is more important than flattery.

We then adjusted some base patterns to suit our sandal design.

The whole process for me was very similar to sewing. From picking fabric, the right pattern, making adjustments, it’s the same methodology.

We tested out pattern in paper first and made adjustments.

(Also super proud with myself for remembering to paint my toenails)

“ghost shoe”

Next we transferred our modified patterns to cardboard, adding on seam allowances and noting strap and other critical placement points.

Pattern card matches nail polish, check ✔️

And then it was time to cut the leather. I also cut out some lining leather which was glued to my outers.

Rand was attached to our soling next. This it glued on, the stitching is just decorative.

We chose our soling and EVA foam. Layers of EVA foam will add of thickness to the sole and also create the heel.

I covered my insole with more lining leather

My ankle strap was to be hand sewn on – I used a punch to create the holes in both my strap and shoe. The buckles we’re attached using a rivet.

And then things started to come together really quickly.

After another check for fit there was a flurry of gluing and trimming.

First the straps…(outside because the glue is very smelly!)

Then the EVA foam and soling.

The glue is heat activated. After it dries on both sides we used a heat gun to get it tacky before joining the pieces. I wooden roller helped to apply pressure.

Lou did the scary skiving and trimming part – that blade is sharp!

Insoles were tacked in place and…OMG they were finished!

Here’s a comparison with my old roamies above.

The fit is really comfy and I was so happy with my colour choices in the end.

Bling, bling!

Yay!

The 2-day course was a lot of fun and with only 4 of us we got a lot of teacher time with Lou and her assistant. This is an expensive pair of sandals but there was nothing we did in the course that couldn’t really replicate at home so with a few purchases I’m looking forward to trying to make a second pair by myself.

If you’re even vaguely interested, are in Wellington, or could get here for a few days, then absolutely DO IT!

13/10! I really want to do the 5-day shoe course next.

Rifle Paper Co La Sylphide

Have you ever had that feeling that you are the only person in the entire sewing universe that doesn’t own a particular fabric?

I give you the Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Rayon Challis, Birch Floral in Navy:

Last year it felt like EVERYONE had this fabric and the more I saw it the more I wanted it too.

So I caved.

I don’t blame anyone, this challis is so silky and drapey. And as far as I was concerned there was only one pattern in my stash that was perfect for it.

I’ll give you a hint:

Why stop at five La Sylphides when I could have six?

I cut this one out in April but it took me a little while to finish.

2018 was The Year of Distracted Sewing. I started many projects and kept getting drawn into more new projects, putting the most recent one aside for a few months at a time. I think an early winter shelved this dress until I finally found some focus in the second half of the year.

I’m not suggesting I’ve stopped getting distracted in 2019, oh no, I’m still all over the place with my sewing decisions but so far this year I have at least been finishing things! 😉

I found the perfect matching coral buttons at Pete’s Emporium.

The Papercut La Syphide was a great choice for this pretty flowing fabric and I really love the colour combo on me. In fact this is one of my favourite makes of all time and I love wearing it.

The Wellington wind loves it too!

It will work great with tights in winter too.

I took these photos in Spring just as our Kowhai tree was reaching peak flower.

I love this tree, even if it does make a huge mess. we’re so lucky to have such a large, mature tree in our backyard.

Here’s a close up of the bell-shaped flowers.

The Tui flock from everywhere to drink the nectar. They’re loud, boisterous birds with very unique calls. Some days I lose count just trying to gauge how many are in the tree.

By October all the flowers are gone and the whole tree looks a little dead, all bare branches and brown seed pods but it’s not long until it’s lush and green again with new leaves.

Here’s to new beginnings!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern –Papercut Patterns La Sylphide dress, straight size S

Skirt lengthened approx 16cms, side seams taken in 1.5cm at the waist

Next time I’ll try an XS

Fabric – Cotton + Steel Rifle Paper Co. Les Fleurs Rayon Challis, Birch Floral in Navy

Other notions – Interfacing, thread, buttons from Pete’s Emporium

Previous versions of this pattern –

Like a motorbike? The Pfaff 332-260

The Pfaff 332-260 came from Wainuiomata in a cardboard box and later that day it was joined in the boot by a Brother.

It was, of course, filthy.

The machine hasn’t been inside it’s own suitcase for many years, the zipper seized shut.

The jewel of an original manual that the seller was so excited to offer with the machine is water damaged and many of the pages are stuck together.

Two of the dials are seized and while others move with force they do so unhappily.

She cost me $18.50 and she needs some work.

The top cover came off easily revealing all the little fingers and internal dials that work the stitches.

And the years of grime.

Just a little TLC made an improvement but there is still work to be done.

I have a service manual with beautiful diagrams like this:

Inside the tin were some things that belonged and others that definitely did not.

Umm, a shuttle?

I love her little collapsible table that reveals the free-arm when stowed.

It has a clip on extension.

She’s from the 1960s and I’ve been looking for one ever since someone told me they were “chain-driven, like a motorcycle”.

It’s not exactly a chain but the timing and drive belts are really interesting and unlike anything I’ve seen before. They’re multi-stringed and held together with metal cleats which slot into the grooves in the sprockets, driven by a 30-watt electric motor.

I’ve read it’s very hard to find replacements.

Along with the manual there should have been a double sided stitch dial card that revealed the dial positions for a vast array of embroidery stitches.

I easily found a pdf of the card online, there are 80 stitches in total. On my to-do list sometime I will print it off and make a working copy of it.

While working on this machine I kept thinking, “this must be the heaviest VSM I own by far!” and that got stuck in my head so much so that I decided I’d have to check.

So I got out my highly accurate (not) scales and decided to fat shame all those lumps of metal and the plastic ones too. Here’s how it shook out:

Brother 190: 15kg
Singer 99K-13: 13kg
Apollo HA-1 Generic: 13kg
Pfaff 332-260: 11kg
Bernina 125: 9kg
Singer 348: 9kg
Bernina 1150MDA: 8kg
Janome 1000cpx: 8kg
Elna One: 6.5kg
Elna 2130: 6kg
Singer Featherweight: 5kg
Harriet for reference: 4kg

The Pfaff is not the heaviest, easily beaten by the Brother 190 boot buddie, a half-sized Singer and it’s clone. All the modern machines are in the middle between 6kgs and 8kgs.

And no surprises for the lightest, living up to it’s name.

And because I put something down on the floor and paid close attention to it of course the Sewing Cat wanted to play as well.

It’s no use arguing with a cat.

Meet the rest of my VSM collection here.

More photos of the Pfaff here.

 

Sewing for Christmas and babies, part three: 2018

I promised you cake and cake you shall have! Sewing will also follow later in this post.

My nephew Harvey has his first birthday in September 2018 and I was asked to help with food. I offered to make the cake because I had an idea and if I’m helping with something it should at least be fun for me too.

(I’m sure if I didn’t mention it you wouldn’t even notice but please ignore the lack of splash back in my kitchen. I finally chose tiles the following month but of course they had to come from far far away and didn’t arrive until late December. They’re actually being installed as you read this!)

I began the night before the party with Sally’s Baking Addiction Easy Homemade Funfetti Cake (a new recipe for me that turned out to be delicious) and some sketches…

I didn’t really have enough hands to take progress pictures but here it is crumb coated the morning of the party.

I used the Chelsea Basic Butter Cream Icing recipe for the crumb coat and the final icing.

Some blue food colouring, smarties and pink wafer biscuits later…

And here it is at the party with all the other food:

The one year old babies didn’t seem impressed but I was really happy and the adults loved it.

Ok, sewing!

For Christmas 2018 I added to my nephews Christmas decoration collection. To follow on from the cake success I decided a festive dinosaur would be appropriate.

Anything can become festive with the addition of a Santa hat.

My sister said when they opened it on Christmas day H tried to eat it which apparently is a good sign.

Nerdy Husband also liked the festive stegosaurus so our tree got one too.

I made one other decoration for 2018, inspired by this Etsy listing.

Except for the stitching on the dial I think this one is mostly glued together. It felt a bit weird to use glue for a sewing machine ornament so I kind of did my own thing…

Oh and when I said “one more”, I actually meant three…

One for me and one each for two fabulous ladies I know.

I’ve had these tiny wooden cotton reels in my “I don’t know what I’m going to do them but I have to buy them” pile for a while. They were the perfect size.

I did tack the paperclip “needles” and bamboo kebab skewer “thread spools” in place with some glue.

I formed the flywheel around a bit of cardboard and stitched the sides. A large bead helped me attach it with thread.

I didn’t think about the weight of the thread spool so the hangers ended up needing to be under them for the machines to hang level.

Pretty cute, huh?

They look good on our Christmas trees too!

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – 

Fabric –  Felt from my stash

Other notions – DMC Stranded Cotton, ribbon, miniature wooden thread spool, bamboo kebab skewer, paperclip, beads

Sewing for Christmas and babies, part two: 2018*

*This time with no Christmas because I’ve realised this needs to be a three-parter so that’s stuffed up my post titles. Stick with me, Part Three does have Christmas…and cake.

In June of 2018 J, who I work with and was a few weeks away from going on Parental Leave, approached me shyly in the photocopier room. Her sister had given her their old Baby Björn Bouncer frame but had lost the cover. She had found a pattern on Etsy and was wondering if she bought it would I be able sew one up for her for payment.

I took a look at the link she had on her phone, the “pattern” cost just over $12.00 which kind of offended me. Maybe I’m over-reacting and perhaps this isn’t how it went down, but if you’re going to trace a pattern off something existing, don’t go and sell it to people for $12.00 (I’ve bought physical copies of complex designer Vogue patterns for a fraction of that), it’s just rude.

I really like J, she’s a real sweetheart and I was secretly flattered that she approached me. I also couldn’t take her money. I was excited to make something for her future little girl and also up for the challenge. I told her if she bought and pre-washed the fabric I would happily make it as my gift to her. But I also told her not to buy the Etsy pattern, “Leave it to me”…

I went back to my computer and found a free version within 30 seconds. I downloaded it and printed it off and went to show J. I explained that I wanted to test the pattern by assembling the paper pieces first and then I would work out how much fabric she would need to buy. We talked about what fabrics would be appropriate and where to buy the cutest prints from.

The pattern is by Twee emmerkes water, you’ll find the pattern here.

So not only is this pattern free but the author even checked with Baby Björn that it was ok for her to share it on her sewing blog. Perfect.

It’s hand drawn but is well laid out, has all the notches marked and includes a test square so you can check printer scale. There is also a layout plan of how the sheets go together on the last page. It could use a few numbered notches to help you work out which piece attaches to which but it’s not that tricky to work out. I’ve paid money for much worse.

I assembled the pages that night and drew up the extra pieces as described (see the tracing paper pieces to the right in the second photo).

I read over the instructions and added the names to each piece which are only numbered. Then I “sewed through it in my head” and it looked promising.

The only thing I couldn’t find was an accurate seam allowance. The instructions say “Sew on pressure foot width” but sewing feet come in lots of different widths…I walked the seams of a few of the pattern pieces, one pairing suggested 0.5cm and another suggested 1cm and since this is all hand drawn I shrugged my shoulders and sewed with a seam allowance of 0.7cm which is a bit less than my current presser foot width.

Apart from the loose seam allowance suggestion I only found one real error in the instructions. Step C: Assembling the front states, “Place the belt between the markings on piece 3, with right sides together.” – there are no markings on piece 3, there are on piece 2 but as far as I could tell from photos this is not where the belt should be attached, as this is the back seam of the seat area. I decided that the belt should be attached to piece 3 as instructed and relocated the notch from piece 2 to the front edge of piece 3.

Picture for clarity:

While I’m at it, if your belt is different fabrics inside and out then the wrong side (or inside) of the belt should be against the right side of piece 3. I’ve got photos coming up, don’t worry, you got this! 😉

The pieces lined up more or less with J’s measurements too.

So I messaged J, “great success” and because we’d discussed making the bouncer in two fabrics I told her to buy 1.2 meters of the main fabric (112cm wide quilting cotton) and 40cm of contrast.

You guys, she bought The. Cutest. Fabric. Ever.

Numbats!

I actually died when she showed me. So cute.

The contrast fabric is grey with Japanese styled clouds which you’ll see later. Both fabrics were a little on the thin side however nothing some over-zealous interfacing with an ElnaPress couldn’t fix.

I did some tests first and went with the thickest stuff I own. I’ve had this in my stash for ages. A remnant from when I was learning to sew and just starting to use interfacing. I bought some that was way too thick. It was really great to finally have a use for it!

Next I cut out very carefully so that I didn’t decapitate any numbats.

The original pattern calls for buttons on bias tape ribbons to hold the belt. I’m a bit nervous when it comes to babies and buttons (nothing smaller than a film canister I remember being told…people don’t even know what film canisters are these days right?). So I went with some red hammer-on snaps from my stash that match the highlights in the fabric perfectly. I told J I would swap them out for something more robust if she felt the closure wasn’t strong enough.

In fairness to the author, the instructions do say, “Use big buttons (1 inch diameter) and attach them firmly to the ribbons…Do not forget to check the buttons regularly, especially after every machine wash.”

Always sign your work

Everything went together smoothly, all pieces lined up well.

Here is the belt stitched to the front edge of piece 3, I would call this the seat bottom.

All the seams are sewn and then overlocked so that I can be machine washed. It really didn’t take very long to make, maybe two hours tops. I probably spent more time interfacing than sewing.

I had fabric left over because J bought extra. I tried for a while to piece out a small dress but there wasn’t quite enough. I ended up making 3 dribble bibs, a basic triangle with a button hole at one corner to poke the other end through. I forgot to take a photo of these.

I wrapped everything up and gave it to J promising I would make adjustments to the cover if it didn’t fit the frame. It looked so good and I was really nervous. I’d shunned the paid pattern for a freebie and assumed the seam allowance, but guess what…

It fitted perfectly!

I was so relieved and it looked really cute on the frame.

The belt seems to be located correctly and below you can also see the “ribbons” I made for the other side of the hammer-on snap fastening.

Want to see something even cuter?

Aww! Hello baby E, stealing the cuteness from the numbats! ❤

THE DETAILS:

Pattern – Soft balance baby bouncer pattern

Fabric – Cottons from Spotlight (selected by J)

Other notions – Heavy interfacing, hammer-on snaps, cute baby (by J)

Sewing for Christmas and babies, part one: 2017

I saw this meme somewhere, it made me smile, you might also relate to it:

I don’t make New Years Resolutions but I am kind of over being behind with my blogging! So to get me started this, and the next post, are going to cover a lot 🙂 and then hopefully the writing keeps happening because I do miss it.

In late 2017 I was to become an Aunty and to welcome my nephew into the world I wanted to make him a soft toy.

I had in my head this photo of me and my little sister beside a huge Pink Panther toy. She’s still fairly brand new which puts me a 3 & 1/2 years old. I’m not sure if this photo was supposed to be part of a series but I like the idea.

On Etsy I discovered DIY Fluffies and accidentally bought 6 patterns including this ridiculously gorgeous Giraffe that I liked so much I decided I had to copy the fabric choice as well.

Apologies in advance that a lot of these photos were taken at night time on my old phone.

Note the beautifully illustrated instructions.

I picked up the brown and yellow spotty cottons from Spotlight and all the felt I had in my stash.

The pattern comes as a single A4 file with two pages of instructions and two of the pattern pieces, one of which you need to print twice. The instructions suggest cutting out the pattern pieces then drawing around them on to the fabric while adding your 1cm seam allowance. I added my seam allowance to the paper pieces instead before cutting out. They also say “seam allowance doesn’t have to be very precise” but on such small pieces I disagree.

I really enjoyed making this little cutie but it did come with it’s fair share of challenges.

First of all the tail was the hardest piece to turn! It’s so narrow and getting past the join between tail and tip was almost impossible…I’m not sure how I’d try it next time…maybe catching a long thread in there while assembling so that I’d have something to pull through the tail, like how a bodkin works, to get it started.

The ossicones (dictionary lesson: that’s what giraffe antlers are called, I checked. Try and use it in a sentence later today) were only slightly easier.

But if I thought the tail was hard, that was nothing compared to the tiny hoofs!

Pinning them enough to get a smooth sewing line and then trying to fit them under the machine foot was so difficult. Sewing black at nighttime didn’t help either. I used a narrow foot but I still had to unpick all the little caught sections so many times!

My favourite part of this pattern is how the legs come together. They have a gusset which means all four legs end up independent and tubular. The giraffe stands sturdily on it’s own, it’s quite clever.

The head was a breeze.

The ears get caught in the horizontal seam at the back of the head but the ossicones are stitched onto the head surface. I stitched these on pretty securely but part of me is still a little worried. Next time I’d add a second horizontal seam so they could get sewn in similar to the ears and work out a way to get them to stand upright.

Overall I’m pretty proud of this little cutie. A few tricky bits but ultimately it was worth it and fun to see it take shape so quickly.

It took A LOT of stuffing and the final giraffe is 37cm tall.

Here it is with my nephew H. I’m not sure how old he is in this pic, he still looks pretty new but he has found his smile 🙂

I actually made two of these giraffes simultaneously. So now you understand why I emphasised the the tail and feet issues, they were doubled for me!

A good friend of mine J was expecting a couple of months before my sister so it made sense to double down and make giraffes for all.

P loves his Giraffe too:

As well as a giraffe for H I also started a tradition of making and sending a Christmas decoration each year. I find the endless plastic toy adverts that bombard us leading up to Christmas so disgusting that I wanted to make something a bit more meaningful. It later years I’ll start adding educational toys or books to accompany them.

For his first ever Christmas I thought a stocking would make perfect sense.

I sketched out the pattern myself and even had a go at some hand sewn lettering.

It’s basically to layers that I decorated first. These were then sewn together with a white rectangle folded over the top. You can’t access the inside of the stocking.

I’m not sure how he’ll feel when he gets to 18 and has 18 handmade ornaments from his crazy Aunty. Hopefully he appreciates them…eventually…we’ll see 😉

THE DETAILS:

Pattern –

Fabric – 

  • Cottons from Spotlight and my stash
  • Felt from my stash

Other notions – Hobby fill, buttons, DMC Stranded Cotton, ribbon