First of the DIY Spring frocks

It’s been so long since I’ve made a dress like this, with a fitted bodice and a pleated skirt. The design is very similar to one of the first few dresses I ever designed and made from scratch. If I was still living in Australia, I’d probably still own those dresses, but the nature of moving overseas calls for ruthless culling and I’ll freely admit that I have a few small regrets.

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To craft this pattern, I draped both a muslin and the fashion fabric directly onto my mannequin. I find draping gets the best fit for me through the bodice. I did a rough calico for the bodice, but draped the skirt fabric directly on the mannequin. The skirt is a very simple design, just two pleats and some whopping big side pockets.

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Because this was the first fitted (woven) bodice I’ve designed or made for a long time, I chose to use an invisible zipper down the front of the dress. I actually quite like this style of fastening, but I had another sneaky reason for placing the zipper in the front. I didn’t sew a full muslin of the dress so I wasn’t fully confident that the bodice fit wouldn’t need a bit more tweaking. I knew it would fit well enough but I wanted the opportunity to aim for perfection, as well as be able to accurately adjust my pattern pieces for the future. I’m reasonably flexible, but there’s no way I can pin out a CB seam accurately on my own!

As it turned out, the fit was pretty good. I only needed to let the waist out by 0.5cm on each seam and this was easy to do by reducing the seam allowance at that point when inserting the zipper.

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The fabric is a medium-heavy weight embroidered cotton. It has the most amazing texture and structure due to the black embroidery and it suits the design of the pleated skirt perfectly. You can see how the skirt holds it’s shape. I tried to be clever and freestyle a back cutout into the pattern once I’d already commenced sewing the bodice. However, I didn’t like the way the edges sat so I inserted some silk organza between the fabric and the lining. I probably could have used elastic along the cutout edges to bring them in towards the body instead of the organza. I’ll remember that next time.

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Overall, I’m very happy with the fit and feel of this dress. It’s a simple, elegant design that I’ll get a lot of wear out of. I’m also happy to have a TNT fitted, princess-seamed bodice pattern in my arsenal. It’s been something I’ve been meaning to make for over a year now.

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Sew sweetness bag contest

Introducing my Naughty Secretary Bag.

 


It’s a far cry from this sorry thing I have been carting around for the past few years. I love it, but it has definitely seen better days. It was one of the first things I ever sewed.

But these days I seem to be sharing it a lot. And yes, that’s the expression I get when I ask for it back.
 
 
Making a new bag has been on my to-do list for the past six months or more, but the allure of dressmaking, and jacket making, and pants making…I could go on…is just that bit too strong for me to resist. So, I never really got past purchasing my fabric (and I am very good at purchasing fabric!). I just love the French script on my new bag. The story is Le Petit Prince.
 
 
And check out this secret message I was able to include on the bottom inner lining panel.
 
 
This fabulous bag was made using a Sew Sweetness pattern and it is absolutely perfect for my mummy bag requirements. It is a massive tote that I can happily (and stylishly) carry everywhere, and yet it is completely machine washable. You can find the free pattern and tutorial here. There are so many amazing tutorials and free patterns on the Sew Sweetness site that it took me a while to decide which one to make.
 
The instructions included with the pattern were simple to follow and I love the idea of interfacing the lining as well as the external fabric. It gives my bag a whole new dimension of sturdiness.
 
I would highly recommend having a go at one of the Sew Sweetness bags, especially for anyone new to sewing. Making bags is just so incredibly satisfying, without the hassles of improper fit (in clothes patterns) that can easily deter new sewers when starting out. I learnt to sew by making totes using a Vogue pattern that I have since passed on to a good friend in the hopes she will discover her own sewing joy. But I would rate this Sew Sweetness pattern right up there with any of the Vogue bags I have made in the past.
 
Go on, give it a go! And don’t forget to show me some pictures when you do!
 

Tory Burch handmade by Coco


My eldest daughter started ‘big school’ at the beginning of this year and she has been lucky enough get a particularly lovely Kindy teacher who is caring, engaged with the children, and who seems to genuinely know my child (at times better than myself!). So I knew we would get to the end of the year and want to give her a thoughtful gift that would reflect our gratitude (and hopefully suit her style).

It is quite early to be thinking of Christmas gifts, but today was one of those rare opportunities when Miss Three was out shopping with her Nan, my littlest imp was sleeping, and I had my big girl Coco all to herself. Given the cost of the materials, this was a job I was not going to attempt amidst grabbing hands and over-zealous helpers.

I saw this great idea for making a little clutch using Tory Burch laser cut leather on the Fabric Store blog.

 

Now this particular material costs about $220 per meter! But the beautiful thing is that you only need a teeny tiny length. It cost me $45 for my remnant and I will be able to get two clutches from this, plus have some spare bits left to use as trim on outfits or make a small purse. So for less than $20, Coco has made her teacher a super stylish little clutch that we really hope she will love.

I loved the idea of this project because it was something my daughter could do mostly on her own. She was so excited to get started.

And only needed a little help from me to untangle those leather cords every now and then. It was also lovely for us both to spend some quality time together doing what I love most.

She is so chuffed with her creation and has already snuck a little handmade drawing inside it. But she does assure me that she “still loves me more than Ms W”.

Christmas bags for my girls

To cut a long story short, the last house we rented was bereft of curtains when me moved in. But it was only a short term lease and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on something simply to block out the light and heat. So off to Ikea I went with my three year old style advisor in hand, to purchase some cheap and cheerful heavy weight fabric that we could whip into some simple curtains. In the end, we were out of that dodgy old house quicker than anticipated and I was left with several metres of colourful, near new fabric that had been chosen by a pre-schooler. I was not at all in love with this fabric, but I hate waste so I decided to upcycle it into little ‘Bento Bags’ for my girls as part of their Christmas present. 

You can check out the tutorial for making these great little bags here. I omitted the waterproof fabric lining as these will just be play handbags for my girls. But I agree that they would make fabulous little lunchbags with the right fabric.

Ayumi from Pink Penguin guides you through the construction of these little bags so clearly that you really can’t go wrong. I actually discovered this tutorial last year and had a wonderful time making them for all my nieces birthdays in 2012, albeit in slightly prettier quilting fabric. Despite the fabric combinations not being totally to my liking, I am still super happy with how they turned out and I know my girls will absolutely love them. I highly recommend giving this tutorial a shot. It is the perfect project for beginners!