Saturday, December 31, 2011

Mia's backpack

After making myself some clothes, I thought it was time to switch back to making stuff for Mia. In an earlier post, I mentioned Nicole Mallalieu's book, 'You Sew Girl'. I love this book! Some of the instructions are a little complex, but there are some gorgeous projects in there.

Another sewing project to mentally prepare myself for something was this little backpack for Mia to take to childcare when she starts soon. Actually, we've used the bag heaps already to take along with us when we go out - it's the perfect size for a change of clothes, sunscreen, hat, drink bottle, snacks and some little toys or mini books for her to play with if we need to keep her occupied somewhere.

I love that the straps are adjustable - as Mia's not really ready to wear a backpack around just yet, it means I can lengthen them to fit me and keep my hands free.

Sewing for myself at last...

Late in 2011 I went back to work. A few months before, I thought I would mentally prepare myself by sewing myself some new work clothes. I found a great pattern online for a dress and then found this fabric through an etsy seller for a bargain price (even after factoring in the postage from the US). The colour hasn't shown up very well in the pictures - it looks a little washed out here. Anyway I thought it would make up into a unique kind of dress. I was very happy with the finished product. Not being one for frills and such, I left that part off the dress and kept it plain. I figured that the fabric was enough decoration anyway. The picture of the dress really doesn't do it justice - it looks heaps better on.

The next on the list was this super easy top posted on Sew Mama Sew. I used the fabric to the right for this one and it turned out really cute. With a white camisole underneath it works well.

Next was this red and white print dress. I used wide ribbon for the shoulder straps as strapless doesn't really work for me. I used elastic thread and found the waistline difficult to keep straight. I'm not completely happy with the fit of a dress, but I've worn it a few times with a short sleeved bolero and it looks okay.
This top to the right looks absolutely nothing in this picture - it's another one that really needs to be shown being worn to see how it fits and falls. I made it from instructions from the book 'You Sew Girl' by Nicole Mallalieu. I was especially excited to finally learn how to bind sleeves on stretch fabric.
Another pattern from Nicole Mallalieu's book, I loved making this panel skirt. I had bought the bird print fabric for another project that I hadn't ended up doing and only bought a fat quarter, so I improvised a little with the panel and binding. I was so happy with how this turned out - it is a perfect fit!  There wasn't actually a pattern for it, instead there was a complex formula based on different measurements and then you cut out a circle based on this. Such a great skirt to wear too.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The forgotten sock monkey

Shortly after my last post I remembered this little guy, who I've also made in the last few months. There are so many tutorials for sock monkeys, but I kinda followed this one: So simple to make, and a bargain too! I found these socks on sale for AU$2 and already had all other supplies in my sewing cupboard. Mia loves him, and especially loves the tail. As she  puts everything in her mouth, I opted for sewn on eyes and saved the buttons to put on later. The bow is in a tight double knot so that she can't take it off. When I was looking for patterns, I found a whole zoo worth of other sock animals, so might have to try another one soon.

I've also been making hair clips for Mia, but am a bit afraid of the E6000 glue that I ordered for it - there are so many worrying warnings on the label, I'm not sure I want to put anything that contains it in her hair. I've just bought a glue gun and have more ribbons on order, so stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Spring has arrived

Spring arrived suddenly here in Brisbane. One day it was cold, and the next we were woken by the loud sound of birds in the park and creek next to our house. Sunshine, blue skies and colourful birds made me want to sew Mia some more summery clothes. I'd bought both of these fabrics a few months back when all of the sales were on and hadn't realised they were both full of birds. Coincidentally, since then our little Mia has become obsessed with birds. Although I'm not sure it classifies as a word yet, she makes the /b/ sound every time she hears or sees a bird, and at times even manages to get out the first part of the word... "bir"..."bir". I'd been wanting to try a reversible dress and had been eyeing off this design for a while. On one of my many trips to the fabric store, there happened to be a half price sale on patterns. It turned out very cute, but the sizing is a little big, so is a bit big for her yet. Can't wait for her to grow into it .

For the second outfit, I found this cute little cherry fabric on ebay and picked up a fat quarter for a few dollars. Just enough fabric to make this little top, using the same pattern as I used for the Yui Kokeshi dress. I made the bloomers from the reversible dress pattern, and they also turned out pretty big, but together these look very cute on my little one. 

 I've also been working on some Christmas presents:

A remote control and gadget holder for the couch from in this cute fabric I found at a wholesaler.

These tote bags made from some cute tea towels and a stationery organiser.

I'm in the process of making a few other gifts in preparation for Christmas, and having located some of the wool I needed for Mia's blanket, I'm madly trying to get that finished in time for her birthday. The next new project sometime soon will be some hair clips. Looking around to buy some for Mia, I couldn't believe how expensive they were. I ordered all of the supplies online and could easily make about 50 or more of them for less than what four or six would cost to buy... all supplies have now arrived, so I'll probably start on those in the next few days. I hope she'll keep them in after all that effort :-)

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Knitting, bean bags and my first proper doll

August has been a busy crafting month. After going back to the knitting for a bit, I got through a lot of Mia's blanket and then ran out of the main wool. I posted a picture on my last blog entry - there's a colour stripe sequence and between each colour a few rows of light brown in garter stitch. Sadly no one seems to stock that wool anymore in that colour. I have an excess of the pink from another project, so at least I could finish the blanket with a border in pink if it comes to that.

I've also started knitting a wrap top in a purple wool that I bought on sale a few winters ago. It's a cute top, but I'm not sure if the wool is suitable so it's a bit of an experiment. The pattern's really cute and can be found at Will post pictures as it starts to take shape more.

This great tutorial ( inspired me to make some bean bags. I'd been looking for gift ideas for one-year olds, but I ended up making them for Mia. With a short name like Mia, they're the perfect toy to pop in my bag if we're going out and she loves putting them into and out of boxes.

Some other gifts I've been working on are a simple backpack for my nephew, a stationery organiser for one of my nieces, and a couple of tote bags for another two nieces. The big project for the month though has been completing my first Waldorf doll. With Mia's first birthday approaching in November, my partner and I have wanted to give her a special doll. We've looked at loads of ugly plastic dolls in the shops and then I turned to Etsy and found loads of cute dolls and although I'd love to support another Etsy seller, "why buy something I can make myself for less than half the price" (quoted from my own mother who repeated this same question every time we went shopping when I was a child)?!?

So I searched and found this tutorial: I wasn't sure at first if I wanted a doll that was the same size as Mia, or something small that she could carry around in an Ergo-style carrier, but for my first attempt I thought I'd follow the tutorial this time and I could always make a smaller version next time.

I used a cotton interlock for the body. The feet were a challenge, but worth it to have a more three-dimensional look. The other major challenge was the head. I used an old tank top of mine for the inside of the head and it took me a couple of attempts to get the wadding into a tight enough ball. After sewing the head on, my partner I laughed as we thought that she resembled Mia quite closely. I crocheted some hair from a mohair blend that is a similar colour to Mia's hair. I'm still not convinced that it looks like hair though - she looks a bit like she's wearing a cap. The diaper pattern on the website didn't work for me - I guess it depends how you stuff the doll - so I made my own.

Being such a big doll, we worried that Mia might be scared of her - not a problem at all. Every time Mia sees her she gets excited and wants to clap with her, kiss her and cuddle her. I think they'll be great friends. As we're planning another baby sometime next year, I'm considering making a smaller version.

Monday, August 1, 2011

A break from the sewing frenzy

Last winter, while I was pregnant with Mia, I thought it would be a great idea to start knitting her a blanket. Something she could keep forever knowing that I'd started making it for her before I even knew her. We didn't know back then whether she'd be a she or a he so I'd chosen neutral colours. I found this great free pattern online at and chosen my own wool and colours. The only problem was I was so tired during my pregnancy that I'd get one row done and start falling asleep.

Recently when I'd made up a lot of dresses and gifts from some cute fabrics I'd found, I was at a loss for the next sewing project. That's when I looked in my cupboard and discovered my stash of yarns. Given our recent house purchase and the need to control my fabric spending a little I decided I should use up some of the yarn collection before buying anything else. And I thought it might be nice for Mia to get use of this blanket before her 15th birthday.

After I finish this blanket, I'm set to make myself some winter tops, a scarf and a knitted dress.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Mia's new kimono doll

Mia is at that stage where everything goes straight into her mouth. I've been wanting to make her a doll for some time, but wanted to avoid making one that would have to sit on a shelf for 2 more years until it was safe for her to play with it. After making my first doll a few weeks ago for a friend's baby, I got to thinking how it might be fun to combine a cloth doll with the clothes I'd been making, as well as tackle the problem of making a doll that's safe for a 9 month old to play with. Enter the kimono doll...

I altered the pattern I made for my friend's doll - mostly just changing the face shape. First time around I forgot that I hadn't factored in seam allowances to the original pattern and ended up with a pieces for a doll that would have been rather thin. Oops. Second time round was more successful.

Thinking that the hair is really the major problem for a younger baby, I decided on using fixed cloth hair... the sewing equivalent of lego hair. It took a little bit of trial and error to work out the right shape. The first attempt looked like a Darth Vader helmet.

As far as clothes for the doll, I decided to make the juban and the kimono, plus an obi. I could have made a petticoat, but minimizing the clothes made sense for a doll that's meant for a younger baby. The main reason I made the juban was so that I could experiment with the kimono pattern on some plain fabric first.

The juban turned out well and so I added in 0.5 - 1cm on each of the seams for the kimono so that it would fit nicely over the top. For my next doll, I'll cut a wider lining for the kimono and allow at least 1cm more on each side of the front to give more of a crossover on the front of the kimono. I chose to use the same fabric that I made Mia's kimono dress from as I had some leftovers. I still had some binding leftover from that too, so just sewed two open pieces together along the long sides to form the obi.

On went the face, just simple triangular eyes and a curved mouth using embroidery threads, and a sakura decoration on the hair. Am very happy with the finished product, as was Mia this morning when she met her new doll.

I thought geta (sandals) might be something to add, but I haven't yet decided how to embroider them on so they actually look like geta. I'm also thinking of sewing the obi down at the back so that it doesn't come open when Mia discovers it.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Miscellaneous projects

With my Etsy shop getting stocked and Mia kitted out with some very cute dresses for the upcoming months, I decided to do some gift-making.

First, a baby shower gift. I found this lovely soft cotton with colourful elephants and thought it would be perfect. I was very happy with how it turned out. The diaper change pad rolls up nice and small for the baby bag, and the diaper and wipes case is the perfect size. I used just a bib of Mia's to cut out the pattern for these bibs and they turned out perfectly.

Then, a gift for a 7 year-old soon to embark on a long plane trip. I wanted to make the stationery bag as compact as possible, so none of the existing patterns for fold-out stationery organizers were really appropriate. I cut out four long rectangles on the fold and sewed around each of them separately, before putting them together and sewing around all four of them together. With some home-made binding, I enclosed all the rough edges and added a zipper to keep everything in. On one of the layers, I sewed a pocket, in this case to hold a pencil sharpener.

Next, a cute doll for a friend's new baby, although with the hair and dress, she won't be able to play with it until she's quite a bit bigger. I found a doll pattern and tutorial on and thought she looked very cute.

Finally, another baby present. This chicken comes from

I've made extras of the stationery bag and baby shower gift and these can be viewed in my Etsy shop:

Next? To combine some ideas and come up with a new project! Stay tuned...

Straying away from the theme a little

By the time I made the kimonos for my Etsy store, I was ready for a new project. While not kimono-style, I stayed with the Japanese theme and found a couple of cute prints.

This purple Hello Kitty dress is made as a pillowcase-style dress and should fit Mia by summer.

I bought this Yui Kokeshi Doll fabric and went for an A-line style dress gathered at the neck and with buttons. I was really happy with how it turned out and being a slightly smaller make than the other dress, it already fits Mia. It should look very cute with long sleeves and a pair of leggings underneath.

I made extras of both of these dresses. These can be viewed at my Etsy shop:

The theme of kimonos

I thought that following a kimono theme might be interesting and I found this excellent online pattern and tutorial for kimono-style clothes for children:

I made a few variations to the pattern - making the sleeves shorter and more square, altering the length and adding a belt to the dress.

This kimono jacket and shorts I made for a friend's baby shower gift. I added the shoes, found at I stuck to cottons and used some cute fabric I'd bought on a trip to Japan a few years ago.

I made this outfit for my little Mia from cottons found in the quilting section of my fabric store. Cute!

Then I purchased some gorgeous Japanese cottons from an Etsy seller and made a few other sets which can be found now in my Etsy store:

The beginning...

This last month or so has seen the beginning of a "sewing frenzy", as my partner Richard likes to call it. I've always been into crafts and always sewn a little (it's in my blood), but as my now 8-month old Mia and I fall into a more and more comfortable rhythm, I find myself with more time to spare. As a lot of crafty mums who go on maternity leave do, I've entertained the idea of finding that one perfect idea that would mean I wouldn't have to go back to work when my 12 months of leave are up. I haven't yet found that idea, but I haven't given up on it either.

I think there were some additional factors that have led to the sewing frenzy. We moved house and suddenly had a whole room to dedicate to a shared office and sewing room. And I sadly packed away my almost 60-year old Singer machine and bought a new Janome.

With the Singer I had learnt to sew, and made a few nice pieces of clothing (see pictures below). But as one by one, things began to go wrong with the machine, I knew it was time to replace it. And so began a new sewing era, one where I no longer had to wind on the bobbin by hand and where I could actually lift the machine myself.