Sunday, 26 June 2011

Girl's flouncy tulle skirt

I'm honestly, secretly, jealous of little girls these days - growing up in chilly Yorkshire back in the Seventies, our clothing was for the most part practical. I don't think I ever got to wear this kind of girly, tutu-like skirt. Yes, I dressed my Sindy doll in them. But never myself.  Now you see them everywhere and girls young, and even a bit older, are bringing out the flounce. And I'm all for it...

I found this super simple tulle skirt tutorial on My Life A Happy Circus - a copy of a brand skirt selling for plenty of bucks:  J-Crew Skirt Knock Off.

No difficult waistband here - the layers of gathered netting are simply sewn straight on top of the underskirt. Perfect for first attempts at gathering and working with tulle for the sososewer!

I opted for a 16" waist, and 9" length, as my little girl is rather petite. I used a simple polyester lining fabric rather that a knit, so I needed to overlock edges and do a proper hem.

The end result - not bad at all - the mistakes I made:  not matching up one of the side seams of the tulle with the underskirt (oops!) and the not so neat gathering thread are hard to make out under all the frou-frou netting, though I'd recommend choosing a thread that matches the tulle exactly.

Lucky Lila gets to twirl around in layers of pretty pink frills to her heart's content. Mummy is jealous...!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Little girl's pillowcase dress

After unwrapping my new machine, admittedly a little giddy like a child on Christmas morning, I played around with a few controls and stitches before diving in to a new project - my first item of clothing in donkey's years!

I used a pretty cotton print, a couple of rather fancy ribbons and some satin bias tape - never tried it before but thought I'd give it a go...

I used Emma Hardy's "Making Children's Clothes" for the pattern for her "toddler dress" - this turned out to be a wise move, as her pattern is simple to use, but also creates a nice dress with higher front neckline than back.  It's a little short for older girls, at 14-15 inches, so I would extend the length but this should be simple to do.

I combined this pattern with the brilliant tutorial at Little Big Girl Studio: Pillowcase Dress Tutorial.  This provided me with adequate lengths and kept the design a bit more simple - i.e. no lining but bias tape trim.  I used an elastic casing as I wanted to try my hand at elastic, particularly using my new elastic machine stitch!

All in all a very simple project - start to finish in one afternoon/evening (and this for a novice using a new machine!).  The results are really great.  Here's hoping my little girl likes it...

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Children's quilts

I first got out my sewing stuff (and borrowed a friend's sewing machine) when I wanted to try out making some pretty quilts for the children - big advantage, they're relatively small!

My first attempts were REALLY simple, but small successes give you the confidence to carry on so it was a great way to get back into the world of sewing.  I then made matching pillowcases for the boy and girl set, and was feeling mighty pleased with myself!

Next step:  quilting proper.  Well even this was so simple - I used the quick-turn method (so no border), and my so-so sewer cheat's trick - ready-made Japanese quilt backing.  Can you still call this a quilt?  Hmmm, not sure.  Aran's quilt first: I used fat quarters which weren't equal sizes, but I just went along with it for a more "homemade" look (if it weren't already..!).  For Lila, I used my nice new rotary cutter for equal rectangles and a fairly haphazard selection of pink/green prints for a boho girl's blanket.  Oh, and a pretty little heart applique.

The final touches for both:  I decided that they're really only ever used one-sided, so I added a few buttons to add a little something extra...

Et voila!

Mini quilt for Partnership Quilts project - Tokyo Quilt Festival 2012

Our Bangkok Sewing Crew's unofficial "leader" Annie is getting us into quilting (some of us with a little persuasion!).  To me, the idea of a bed-sized quilt fills with me some trepidation and even a small dose of dread.  So it's a brilliant idea to kick us off with mini-quilts.  And we're talking tiny!

For the Tokyo Quilt Festival 2012, the Partnership Quilts  project aims to sew together hundreds of 20cm x 20cm square quilts and sell the larger finished pieces to raise money for victims of the Japanese Earthquake earlier this year.  The whole idea is explained much better here by the Pink Penguin blog:

My first foray into 'real' quilting was therefore a very small project - perfect!

My theme was "A walk in the park with my dog...".  But actually, it was just an excuse to use up some of my sausage dog pattern fabric.  I can't even begin to guess how many "Noodles" (yes, our gorgeous little miniature dachshund) there are in our house...!

Inspiration and intentions...

I had a great meeting with the Bangkok Sewing Crew (yes, our new name) yesterday, and Rachel shared her experiences with bias tape making.  It looked deceptively simple - but I am sure that's just with practice...

Anyway, it had me thinking, I have so many ideas right now, projects happening and projects planned that I can't quite keep track of them all.  For my own sanity, I'm going to make a quick list of some of these, and the (online) sources of my inspiration...

1)  Hooded towel and washcloth set:

Courtesy of

I really do love this site - they have simple, clear instructions, gorgeous prints and fabulous ideas.  I'm going to try make a towelling/cotton print hooded towel with a pretty Japanese butterfly print for a friend who's expecting a baby girl soon!

2)  Simple layered skirt with tulle:

Courtesy of

This looks so easy that even for a beginner like me I believe I can do this - it's interesting that with this skirt the tulle is just sewn right on top of the underskirt, with a raw edge left showing - it could look cute, or it might just look amateur - we'll see...

3)  Pillowcase dress:

Courtesy of
Or maybe:

I found a gorgeous little green pillowcase dress in Big C (shhh!  don't tell anyone!) for my dearest daughter and I thought I'd copy it - but actually these tutorials are very clear.  Will be a nice project to try for the Dress a Girl Around the World cause too.

4)  Stuffed letters:

Had a peek around the beautiful Lottie & Max store and saw so many gorgeous things to buy - except the rather steep price tags!  One must-have for the kids bedrooms are their stuffed letters, but at 1,000 baht each ($33) I thought maybe I could try for myself...

Courtesy of Lottie & Max

When I looked further into this online, I found this super-cute tutorial on how to make a little stuffed magnetic alphabet - perfect for all those fabric scraps!

Courtesy of

Anyway, will get cracking!

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

My royal wedding tea party, complete with bunting...

This doesn't really belong in a sewing blog, BUT there was a small amount of craft involved in making our pretty homemade bunting for our little royal wedding tea party!  Pinking shears, ribbon and a stapler was all that was required to put together metres of the stuff in no time - not very professional, but it did the trick! Thanks to my cousin Lois for doing the elbow work for this one!

Here are some pics of our fun afternoon...

Colourful cupcakes, scones and strawberries

Macaroons and fine bone china

The very popular sausage twists

Bunting over the table

Tutorial: Simple applique with fusible web and zig-zag stitch

Here is a quick run-down on applique with fusible web - a thin mesh of glue which attached fabrics to each other when heated.   I use fusible web with no paper backing for the purpose of this tutorial.

What you need:
Fusible web
Main fabric
Applique fabric
Scissors x 2 (fabric and general craft)
Iron (steam preferred)

Step 1:  Prepare pieces
Cut out fabric and fusible web for the shape you want to applique.  Make sure the fusible web is cut no larger than the fabric shape, and no bits peep out from the sides!  Place them on the fabric where you want to stick them.

Step 2: Iron the pieces together
Place a piece of cloth on top of the fabrics, to prevent fusible web coming into contact with your iron.  Using a hot iron, on a steam setting, iron down the fabric.  Check that the fabrics are glued well together before putting your iron away!

Step 3:  Sew on the applique with a zig zag stitch
On my machine, you select a zig-zag stitch and a narrow stitch (between 0 and 1 length) - the length depends on how you like it - try it out first on a scrap piece of fabric first.  On my machine the settings look like this:

It takes a little practice at first, but after a couple of tries, especially on the corners, it'll come!  A simple technique, but a nice effect!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Tutorial: Easy drawstring bag

Drawstring bags are one of the simplest sewing projects, yet one of the most useful!  Small ones can be whipped up as gift bags for kids' parties, and they're perfect as gift bags for birthdays, Christmas and for giving food gifts such as bread and cookies.  Also great for shoe bags for storage, and sports kits for children.  I made these three super-girly personalized bags for my nieces overseas for a little summer dress gift.

NB. This tutorial doesn't cover the letter applique.  See here for instructions.

What you'll need

  • 2 x rectangular pieces of material the same size
  • ribbon or string - 2 pieces of length equal to twice the width of your rectangular fabric pieces, plus 4 inches
  • safety pin
  • iron/ironing board
  • sewing machine
  • pins
  • pinking shears (optional)

Step 1: Prepare simple hems

With wrong side facing up, fold down and press a 1cm hem on both pieces of fabric.

Step 2: Sew hems

Still with wrong side facing up, sew the hems down, on both pieces of fabric, then press.

Step 3: Sew pieces of material together

With wrong sides facing up, measure and mark 2 inches down from the top on each side, on each fabric.  

Note:This assumes you will be using a narrow ribbon for the drawstring - this width is double the width of the drawstring hole - if you are using wider ribbon, you will need to increase this width.
Place right sides together and pin.  Sew around the edge, starting and ending at the 2 inch mark, and leaving a 1cm border. 
Optional: trim edge and finish with zig-zag stitch or serger, or alternatively leave pinked if you have cut using pinking shears.

Step 4: Prepare and sew fold for ribbon insert

Fold and press at 1 inch point (i.e. half way to 2 inch mark and the start of your stitching.  Repeat with the second side.

Pin around the bottom of this fold, ensuring that you fold over the seam allowance as you go. 

Stitch close to the bottom edge all the way round both sides of fabric.


Step 5: Insert drawstring 1

Using a safety pin on one end insert one ribbon inside one of the stitched 'tubes', entering the second 'tube' on exiting the first, so the two ends of the ribbon meet again at the starting entry point.

Tie in a double knot.

Step 6: Insert drawstring 2

Repeat with the second ribbon, entering the opposite end to the first time, i.e. where the ribbons are now tied.

Step 7: Turn inside out

Turn inside out and press.  Voila!  One easy drawstring bag!