Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beginnings and Endings...2011 in Review

I can't believe the year is almost over...where did it go? It's been a tumultuous year, in more ways than one. Beginnings and endings...and so of course, sewing had to take a backseat, not least because it has become associated with an ending. I don't think I really did anything but try to remember to breathe, and to take each day as it came, sometimes each hour, each minute for much of the year, and to try and teach my children to do likewise. It was a reminder to me, Dr Organised, who was frequently chosen to speak to new interns about organization and keeping accurate patient records, that just when you think it's all under control, you realize you never were in control. It's been an exercise in humility. And in patience. So my year has been a blur, but finally, it's falling into some semblance of order again. I'm on my own, with 4 children, aged 5 to 10 months; I've had to switch from O&G to General Practice part time, for the income, and the family friendly flexibility it's known for; it happened when i finally realised that all i really want is to be a full time mother and wife and to be looked after. Clarity comes at a price. I've found a nanny to mind my children 2.5 days a weeks when I shall be working; I've found another lady to help with cleaning once a week; I've decided to homeschool my children for the time being, and have found a friend of 7 years who lives in the same suburb, to share the load with. I've purchased a digital slow cooker to enable me to continue to cook healthy nutritious meals even on days I work.I'm continuing to educate myself wrt religious studies and classical Arabic online, and am considering a Masters in Counselling if General Practice gels. Looked at like that, I guess I've accomplished more than it feels like. As to the sewing...I miss it, but for months, I've stayed away from the sewing room, feeling nausea or panic at the thought of going in there again. To the extent that I wondered if I ought to find another hobby. Start over. I miss it. My girls ask when I'm going to sew for them again, with them. I've still purchased some fabric and some patterns for them, but... The children ask why it is summer (albeit a cool one), and they don't have nighties as they did last year. Why I never did get around to making their ball gowns for the princess ball. This might be TMI, but mine is not a popular blog, nor is it for any reason other than, primarily to document my (sewing)life, for me. My sewing life had a huge spanner thrown in 2011. With everything set to happen in 2012, and the ensuing busy-ness, I am determined to see if sewing is still what I want to do. I want to overcome my fear, my negative associations, my ennui. I'm toying with the idea of making myself do exactly what this blog was for- sewing 1/2 hour daily. Forget the fear of failure, or of turning out crap garments, or of wasting fabric; the fabric sitting in that room is wasted anyway, unless I do something with it. I'm inspired by Mena Trott's determination to sew a dress a week. Ambitious, but I am hoping to do a garment a week. So. I'm hoping to start with basic clothing for my children, moving on to sewing for myself, since post baby #4 and the unexpected events, I lost over 10 kg in a month and since have regained it all and more the last few months...I now have a part of my abdomen that is no longer firm, but protrudes. I lost my milk supply completely and so, my bust is back to a non nursing size, but my waist is wider than it has ever been, even in late pregnancy as are my hips. I'm shocked at my size ATM. It's demoralising. I used to be a RTW Australian size 10-12 post baby #3, and pre baby #4. I'm loathe to sew for myself right now. My mind refuses to accept this might be my new size, and I don't like the look of me in the mirror, now a RTW 14 (top)- 16(bottom), not least for health reasons, since I've always been a firm believer in primary prevention medicine. So. 2012, hopefully, will be a year of figuring what I want, for myself and my children, in every area of our lives, and on more endings, if that is fitting. Of course, with endings come new beginnings...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Getting back on the horse...

It has been a while. A lot has happened and my sewing mojo has been lost, definitely even though I have been dreaming of sewing for some months now. Not enough hours in the day I guess.

So forgive me if I post something relatively basic and banal today, it is a start.

Oscar the Owl. My eldest, Saajidah, 5 years old, and I made it together. She did most of it, and I helped her. It took about an hour, which is pretty good I think. Much of it was spent undoing her stitching when my back was turned with the other 3 kids hanging around, but still.

She now wants to do more, and I guess that is the main aim.

Saajidah has a Princess Ball coming up December 11th, and she is desperate for me to make her a "gown". ??? I am feeling excited, which is a good thing, right? Any suggestions on patterns? I have some Burda patterns, as well as a couple of patterns I bought for my girls to make for their Eid dresses, before things went pear shaped.

I have Burda 9550, and I like the View A. And a rating of 2 is not too bad right?

I also have Burda 9534, and I like View A again, though the rating of 3 is intimidating...

And from Carina Gardner Patterns I ordered, for Eid originally, these patterns for my girls:

So I do have a choice...any advice? I'd like them to be able to wear these again and again, so practical fabric choices would be the way to go, but would that take away from the "ball" element?


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Betz White Mini Izzy Tote Bag

I have been away longer than anticipated.

I don't know how other bloggers out there manage to continue to sew in huge numbers with young children, and even new babies (yes, Katie I am thinking of you).

I'm exhausted with 4 children full time, a husband who is hardly around yada yada yada.

Enough of that.

I finally managed to sew some in the last couple of days. Given the wadders, I wanted something easy and gratifying instead of more disappointment.

My eldest has begun religious classes and has books she needs to carry to and from her lessons. So I decided to make her a tote bag. Of course, her sister who isn't quite old enough to join her, wants one too. And of course then, eldest daughter's friend, whom she goes to classes with, wants one too.

So I began with this tote bag by Betz White's Make New or Make Do patterns, the Isabella tote, only making its mini version, Izzy.
Please forgive the flourescent lighting effect, and the crookedness of the band. It is actually pretty even, I'm just holding it up by one finger to take the photo.

It was a nice straight forward pattern, lined; with tucks. Clear instructions.

The only thing I didn't like was, for that much money for a pattern, I'd expect a pattern template instead of having to draw it myself.

The finished size is 11 inches by 9 inches by 3, which is a perfect fit for daughter's books, if a big snug. If I wanted to add an inch all over, is it simple maths to do so, or do I need some more complicated method of calculation, especially since the pattern pieces consist of a lined bag piece, and a band that fits on the main piece, and tucks into the main bag piece?

The next size, Isabella, is a finished size of 14" by 11" by 5".

Anyway. Onto the second attempt tomorrow I hope, if the children behave.

It feels nice to finish something!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Wadders R Us...

I feel like I have completely regressed in any sort of sewing ability I have (laboriously) acquired over the last 2 years, as sporadic as it has been.

Our daughter is just over a month old, and is a joy, much like our other children. I'd keep going if I could:-) but that is another story:-)

I have been doing some sewing, unfortunately, none of it successful.

Just prior to giving birth, I sewed up a muslin of Kwik Sew 3513, which has been on my to-sew list for some time.

The test fabric I chose, is a similar coloured knit, an interlock I think, in a navy blue. I figured, if I needed to tweak the garment a bit, it would not be a loss, since blue is not really my colour palette.

Based on my normal measurements, and allowing for belly (being 37 weeks pregnant or so at the time), I chose to make it in a large. Big mistake. I was swimming in it, even at 37 weeks pregnant. It was falling onto my hips, off my belly. And to quote my husband, it was "frumpy" and unattractive.

Not that attractive took precedence over comfort. But still...I had lengthened the skirt to ankle length also, and that was a nice exercise in fiddling and tweaking patterns, but the end result, I am sorry to say, was very very disappointing.

I do want to try this again, and I'll stick to the long length, but probably go with a medium, or even a small. It is super easy to construct, consisting of literally 2 seams or something ridiculous like that. Shame about the size discrepancy and the frumpiness factor. Although Shannon managed to make 2 skirts from this pattern and looks pretty good in them:-) No frumpy there...

Then, more recently, I cut out McCalls' 5794 for my girls. Enough for 5 tunic tops to be exact :
I cut it out in a size 4, which was closest to their measurements. I used a poly/cotton small floral print that my girls chose for the first top. The neckline calls for bias tape, and I even made bias tape of my own, to complement the top

I was deliriously happy at this stage. The neckline looked lovely, I was/ am getting better at binding necklines (on wovens anyway), and even the cap sleeve with gathers went in rather nicely, I think.

And then of course, the bane of my life, so far. The attachment of the bodice to the gathered skirt, with an elastic CASING no less. What??!!!
At this point I was ready to cry. The attachment put the bodice and V neck into all sorts of puckers where previously there was none. And the gathering was uneven, and ...yes, frumpy.

And to add insult to injury, I had purchased this fabric from The Fabric Cave, at approximately $3/metre. And I barely managed to get enough for one tunic from it. Or so I thought.

Yes, it is upside down. But printed at the edge of the fabric, in very large letters that do not and will not wash out, is this. And by the time I noticed and tried to shorten the tunic, it was almost a crop top. So...I figured, live and learn. Lessons learnt for tunic tops number 2, 3, 4 and 5.

Finally, the last couple of days, I cut out (finally) the first of several pairs of pants I am hoping to make my eldest girl. She has just turned 5, and is tall and skinny. 107cm about a month ago, and still fits in a size 2. RTW pants just fall off her now. So using the pants pattern in McCalls' 5794 also, I got out some quilting cotton remnant I had left over from the Waste Free Lunch Bag I made early last year.

I cut out a size 4 after checking the length against DD1, and fiddled a fair bit to fit the pieces on the remnant, including cutting out one piece at a time.

I did not have enough to make a regular length back piece, so I decided to add a design element, and add ruffles/ a seam to make up the length deficit. All seemed okay, and it was not until I was putting the pieces together that I noticed that in trying to use up all the fabric, I had actually cut out one of the pieces so that it has no complement.
SO then, I decided since I was actually sewing, instead of dreaming of sewing, that I would just continue, use this pair as a muslin, check length, fit etc, and then proceed to the next pair.

I had 4 kids underfoot while I was doing this, which might explain the next step.
At this point, with 3 kids hanging off me and waking their month old baby sister up repeatedly, I think I should stop.

I don't feel any more tired than usual, though clearly I must be, to have made so many mistakes, and silly ones at that.

Never mind. Tomorrow (or even tonight) is another day. Maybe I'll try again when the kids are in bed, and I am not quite as distracted/ tired/ whatever.

I'm sure practice makes perfect. Or something close to wearable?

Friday, February 11, 2011

A New Addition to the Family...

Not much sewing at all. The spirit has been willing, but the flesh weak...the heatwave, then trying to cook and clean and get ready for impending labour.

We added a new member to our family yesterday, at 5.59 PM local time, a little girl, yet to be named, weighing exactly 3500g (7lbs7oz). Labour was hard and fast (less than 1/2 hour once I got going), and a friend kindly took our other kids so I had my husband around for support for the first time since we were having DD1, which was lovely.

Here she is with our eldest, who will be 5 in two weeks.

The kids have all been expecting her, even our 20 month old son, who ran in and was all over her, calling her "Our bibi...". They have been trying to kill her with love, and the hardest part is keeping her safe from their love and exuberance. Still, far better that than jealousy/ envy/ dislike/ ambivalence :-)

We stayed in hospital for the requisite 4 hours post birth, and left after 22h00 to come home to our own beds, as I have done with all the children. DH is now recovering from his exhaustion by napping with our daughter:-)

I'm nowhere near as exhausted and worn out as I was with DS so hopefully I'll get back on track a lot faster this time around, and who knows, I may even get up to sewing sooner rather than later!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Organising My Stash

38 weeks pregnant, and summer has finally arrived in Sydney, it would seem. And here I thought we were going to escape the worst of it, due to the devastating floods in Queensland, and the subsequent rain and cooler weather.

This week has seen temperatures far more normal for Sydney in summer, including a predicted (but not reached) 42 degrees Celsius for Australia Day, which was yesterday. We stayed indoors for the most part, with fans on, shutters down, amusing ourselves quietly. Even in the absence of airconditioning, and a pool, we stayed fairly comfortable in the 35 degrees C heat here.

I haven't been doing much sewing, much as I would like to. In this heat, standing for more than 15 minutes has me feeling faint, so tracing out patterns, or cutting them out is a task in and of itself, in order to get to the sitting and sewing stage.

So I decided to do something sewing related while sitting; organising my pattern (and to come, fabric) stash on my Mac.

Connie in Canada posted on PR in response to a question on stash organising software this post in December last year, and it was the first I heard of Bento 3 for Mac by Filemaker. Others on the PRDU regional thread raved about this software for organising their fabric and/ or pattern stash, and I was sold.

My copy arrived from about 3 weeks ago, but I have been busy finishing 3 online courses on Sunnipath/Qibla in their global intensive, and so Bento had to wait.

Now that I have been fiddling with it, I can't say it is the easiest software to work out, but maybe that is just me. I had tremendous difficulty with it initially, and kept giving up and coming back to it, but a couple of days ago, I stumbled across Filemaker's "solutions" page, where they also have a template exchange and came across several free sewing related template, thereby saving me the hassle of making one myself, like Connie did.

I have spent much of today transferring my patterns from iPhoto to the database in Bento, and while I have much work to do on it, I finally figured out how to modify the best of the templates, to suit my needs. It is not the most intuitive program, in my opinion, and I was almost set to throw it all in, when I finally figured it out, so I figured I may as well share, in case anyone is as challenged as I.

I have taken the pictures on my iPhone, so they could be better quality, sorry.

I tried initially to make one from a blank template, as Connie did, but found it too much of a struggle, because it does not come with a manual/ instructions. It was not until I came across Bento Template Exchange and found several free sewing pattern templates using Bento for download, that I began to have some idea of my options.

Of the five or so templates I downloaded, this was probably the best/ most comprehensive:

This is how the form came originally, with 3 "pages", the first for the pattern itself, with options for entering Pattern Company, Pattern Number and an image of the Cover Photo/ Pattern as well as an image of the back/ technical drawing.

Page 2 allows you to enter fabric details, namely yardage and notions.

And Page 3, allows you to make notes on modifications and any points of note when the project is completed. The template maker also has sub-divided the patterns into collections/ categories, such as "Misses' Tops" "Children's Clothes" etc, which I initially found useful for classification purposes.

Like I said, most comprehensive of the templates I downloaded, and I began to fill the template with my Kwik Sew patterns and my Jalie patterns, with what I could. I could not for the life of me determine how to add to the original form however. Yesterday, though, I finally figured it out. You ADD to the fields not by adding to the column on the left bottom, and then once your field is created, you can draaaaaaagg the whole field onto the template itself, and arrange size, placement etc as you like.

So, with the initial (and probably final) changes I made, here is what I have ended up with, as an example:

I wanted to add a box for Pattern Title, for those titles that don't use numbers eg Oliver + S patterns. I also wanted to use a dropbox to categorise my patterns, in addition to the pattern companies, like so:

I think this is a more economical use of space on the same form/ page. I also added a sub-category in case a particular pattern has more than one garment type on it (eg Misses' top and dress, or in the case of Jalie patterns, where the sizes go all the way from children/ toddler to adult plus sizes).

Additionally, I also added a box for Pattern Description, and one for a URL so that I can link my completed project to my blog, or my review on Pattern Review for easy reference.
I finally added a box for keywords for ease of searching for patterns. Their search box is pretty nifty; i.e type in Jalie, for example, and all Jalie records will come up, and you can choose what you are looking for on the basis of your search terms, which I think is also more intuitive than using the original categories that the template maker used.

Finally, yet to be completed, on the second and third pages, I added some modifications as well, as yet WIPs. To the "Fabric" page, I added image boxes for the picture of actual fabric that I end up using, as well as a photo of the finished garment. And on the final page, for notes, I added boxes for dates of garment construction, for my own reference.

So this is what my final Sewing Patterns Template looks like on my Mac:

 My Page 1, or Form, entitled "Cover", modified from the original above, to these two above, with the changes I mentioned.

My Page 2, or "Fabric" form, with yardage, notions, and image boxes for fabric used and photo of finished garment.
And finally, Page 3, "Notes" form, with final notes on construction, and any other relevant information.

I also purchased the iPhone Bento app (AUD 5.99), since my 2 year old HTC phone died and Bento was the main reason  I decided to go with the iPhone. So now with the Bento app for iPhone, I can sync my database on Bento with my iPhone, and have begun to have access to a database on my mobile of my pattern stash, to avoid duplicates when out shopping. Once I get the yardage photos from the back of the pattern covers loaded onto the templates, it will also mean that it will be an easy reference to look up how much of a fabric I need to buy for a given pattern, if I come across something suitable.

Lastly, Bento is also great for many other applications, including organising family life, student life, tasks, calendar and more, so I think, now that I have finally managed to figure this out, I will get good mileage out of it, when time permits!!

And of course, once my pattern stash is organised, I can always plan to move on to the *ahem* fabric stash :-)

Monday, January 3, 2011

2010 in Review - Sewing Wise

It is only really in 2010, I think, that I really got any sewing done on a somewhat consistent basis. Not much, but looking back, more than I thought I had accomplished.

In total, between January 2010 and December 2010, I sewed 13 different outfits. Not much, for sure, especially compared to some like Katie who managed to make a whopping 162 outfits, which included some knitted items, for her family. Must be the Type A personality :-) but I admit freely to being envious of such productivity!

Having said that, 13 self taught and self sewn items is something of a miracle for me anyway, and I feel more confident and comfortable beginning a new pattern by myself than I did at the beginning of 2010.

Here is the tally:

Recycled Denim Bibs - scraps of woven cotton and recycled denim- 05/2010.
Simplicity 2815 (OOP)- Girls' and Boys' Pants and Tops - 04/2010.

that *darn* kat undies - 01/10

And here, are the pictures of the finished items. I wanted to make a collage, but could not find a way to do it using my Mac. So a slideshow it is...

For 2011, my goals are simple, given that there will be a new baby, hopefully, throwing a spanner in the works in the next month to six weeks, probably for several months!

1. Keep sewing, a little at a time. Over on PR , I hope to join in several sewalongs (1. Sewing for baby, toddler and child; 2. Thirty minutes a day sewalong; 3. One garment a month and  4. Stash sewalong), and at least one contest, the Fabric Stash Contest, which began on the 1st of January. Unlike wardrobe contests, which require co-ordination of fabric and patterns, which is a bit much for me at the moment, a contest like this maximises my ability to keep doing what I have been doing thus far; sewing whatever I please, in whatever quantity I choose, with the only criteria being the age of the fabric in my possession. Perfect.

2. Keep on trying to work out knits. Alison notes that rib knit is among the hardest/ trickiest knit to sew, and has suggested I might want to work with a more stable knit, like cotton-lycra, so I might try that next, for Kwik Sew 3513 and Kwik Sew 3703.

Kwik Sew 3513

Kwik Sew 3703
The dress will be a welcome addition in this summer heat, for the last few weeks of the pregnancy, while the skirt, if it works out well, will go nicely with the Jalie tops I want to make, and convert to allow for nursing.

Apart from that, I have some kiddy sewing planned, and have traced out some Kwik Sew romper patterns, both for my son, now 18 months, and the baby.

Additionally, my eldest, who will be turning 5 just after the baby is born, in February, is tall and thin. She is 107cm tall, and still fits into a RTW size 2, so for proper lengths, I am going to have to bite the bullet, and begin sewing more for her. Size 5 RTW pants keep falling off her, as do size 4, even though they are the right length.

So I think, all things considered, I will have plenty of sewing with knits (and woven) experience under my belt if I get around to completing even half of these projects! Wish me luck!