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

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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