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!

To dye for

A while back, I happened across this inspiring blog post about dyeing fabric.  And then a few months later, I happened across this post on fabric painting from The Fabric Store (you will have to scroll down to past halfway to see their beautiful work). Needless to say, I took it as an omen that I had to have a go!

Sallie from the blog site Sallioh has been wonderful enough to provide some beautifully detailed instructions on how to dye your own fabrics. She sets a high bar with her creative designs on silk, so I am not ashamed to say that I shamelessly copied one of her prints.

Now, I have never done anything like this before, but I was lucky enough to have quite a large piece of ivory/white silk crepe de chine in my stash. I ordered my chemicals and dyes online from Kraftkolour using Sallie’s ingredients list. As I live in Australia, I found it a bit difficult to find Blue Dawn/Synthanpol, so I took a stab in the dark and purchased Dynazol Washof instead.

The chemical list was all a bit foreign to me so I probably made a few mistakes. My thickener was a solid alginate which I probably should have dissolved in the warm chemical water at the start. I found it a bit difficult to stir it into the dye water since it separated into lumps instead of making a nice thick dye that I could paint on my fabric a bit easier. So my finished dye was a bit more runny than I liked, making my designs bleed a little more into the fabric.

One of the best tips on the Sallioh blog was to tape two layers of plastic to the floor so you can roll up your finished fabric in the top layer for storage until the dye is washed out. Not only does this keep your floor spotless, but trying to move or roll the freshly dyed fabric is a recipe for disaster. One end of my fabric was a bit longer than my top layer of plastic and moving this at the end resulted in smudged dye and runs on my fabric. Elsewhere, the dyed fabric just stuck to the underlayer of plastic and I rolled it up carefully, then folded it away to wash out the next day. Perfect! I simply used my surplus of plastic double/single mattress covers you can easily obtain from most storage warehouses for a few dollars. (Don’t ask!)

So this is what I ended up creating. I am pretty pleased with the results and have a bit of an idea on how to use the fabric. But I also think I can do a lot better next time. It has certainly broadened my knowledge on use of textiles. I know I will never look the same at a plain white remnant of fabric when I next go shopping!

The birthday shirt

It makes perfect sense that my first sewing blog post is in someway connected to my ever supportive (and tolerant) husband. I am pretty lucky. He lets me set up my sewing table in our living room, holds his tongue when I rev the machine while he is watching TV. He even sent me out to buy a new (much more expensive machine) when my first budget one had some problems…possibly from the 24hr use it was getting. I think perhaps he was also hoping a better machine would come with some kind of noise filter.

A few years ago, he started suggesting I make him a business shirt. But I shied away from this project for at least a year. I know my husband quite well and I know how fussy he is with his business attire. He likes quality. The fabric quality was never going to be an issue as Tessutis (in Surry Hills – my second home!) has the most beautiful selection of Italian shirting fabrics. But I did doubt my skills to sew the perfect shirt. I still feel that sewing a business shirt is quite technical. You really have to take your time to line up all the stripes and keep the edges and collar perfect. In any case, I bit the bullet about a year ago and sewed him his first business shirt. He was delighted. It worked out great. I used a vintage shirt pattern which fit him nicely, but the collar shape ,being vintage, was probably not quite his style.

 

Butterick 3364 – I just lengthened the arms a few inches for him.

 

 

 
 
So since this first shirt, I have made him another two which have been better each time, since I have learnt more about interfacing and experimented with French cuffs and a slightly different collar shape. Hubby has suggested I put a project management board above my sewing table so he can add his project requests (read shirts, shorts, jacket) to my job list and then he will know how his order is progressing in my queue.
 
As much as I love sewing all things and anything, I am actually now a bit bored of this pattern. I’d also like to see if I can learn some different construction techniques from a different pattern. So for his upcoming birthday this year, I thought I would try a new pattern. I have selected some lovely stripes from Tessuti Fabrics and I was thinking I might put a tiny bit of hidden colour behind the collar and cuffs, using a bit of Liberty of London floral. I wasn’t sure when I purchased the floral, but it is growing on me and I am starting to think that it might actually make a great men’s shirt on its own…too loud?
 
 

 
 
Not totally sold on the look of the Kwik Sew pattern pieces as they look a bit wider in the back than the vintage Butterick and I loved the fitted look of the other shirts I made Nick. I am toying with the idea of adding some back darts anyway but will cross that bridge later.