Art class Ottobre children’s t-shirt

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My little boy LIVES in T-shirts. He doesn’t have to wear a uniform for pre-school, so he puts on a t-shirt pretty much every day. Although he’s not quite four, he wears age 5-6 clothes so he’s grown out of some of the really fun prints and appliques you find for toddlers.

And although t-shirts can be found pretty cheaply on the high street, it’s really hard to find t-shirts for boys his size that feature something other than dinosaurs, sharks, superheroes, stereotyped messages, camouflage or vehicles. And in our house, we’re sick of all of those. For a pretentiously middle-class t-shirt that doesn’t feature any of these, the going rate seems to be £15 and up.

In my head, I think I should be the sort of mother who can easily whip up a batch of neatly made t-shirts with a custom fit in a selection of fun fabrics. It doesn’t seem to be that easy, but here’s my latest attempt.

The pattern

This time I tried a dropped-shoulder, long-sleeved t-shirt pattern from Ottobre Kids issue 2015/1  on the site. My little boy has narrow shoulders and I wanted to see how a dropped-shoulder style would look on him.

Fit

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I cut the pattern with no alterations to see how it would fit straight out of the envelope, and it turned out oddly long in the arms, so I think the shoulder was too wide still. It’s a little large on him, but the weirdest thing is that the neckline turned out a lot wider than you would usually get on a boys’ t-shirt. (Are Finnish children oddly broad in the shoulders with thick necks?) So I won’t use this pattern again for George.

Fabric

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How cute is this print for a pre-schooler? It’s by Rae Hoekstra, and it’s from Cloud 9 Fabrics’ 100% organic cotton jersey range. I’d say it’s a medium-weight jersey – almost interlock weight. And I think Rae has even used the other colourway to make an Astoria sweatshirt. It was £9.50 per half a metre, but I was hoping I would get something that would last a long while.

The downside of using 100% cotton, of course, is that without some spandex content, the fabric doesn’t have great recovery. I did know this, but I got distracted by the lovely print and forgot. It’s also printed just ever so slightly off-grain – aaargh! Not a lot, but when I thread-traced down the grainline it definitely shifted across the print by around 1cm over 1m. Disappointing, at £19/m.

Sewing it up

I cut the pieces so there would be a complete line of pencils along the hem, and along the sleeve hems, and then sewed it up on the overlocker. As with the last Ottobre T-shirt I made, I ran into trouble with the binding. I’d love to know what I’m doing wrong here, but the pieces didn’t seem wide enough to do the job properly, and when I stretched both fabrics to sew it on as per the instructions, the cotton jersey didn’t recover and I ended up with a sort of lettuce edge on the neckline and both cuffs…

The sleeves were too long anyway, so I cut the binding off and just did a simple folded hem instead. (Well. I say simple, but the cuffs were too narrow to go around the 12″ circumference free arm on my machine, so I had to negotiate sewing them from the inside while stabbing myself with all the pins…)

To get the neckline back into shape, I ripped out the binding and switched it to a band instead. Then I washed and steamed the shirt furiously with the iron to get it to shrink back again. It seems to have worked, at least for now.

George loves the print and he’s got it on today, so I hope it’ll be popular.

Have you made t-shirts for your children? What fabrics and patterns would you recommend? And where can I source fun t-shirt prints that have enough stretch and enough recovery?

 

 

Pester power Christmas pudding children’s pyjamas

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Since Christmas, when I made him some quick Christmas pudding-print PJ bottoms, my not-so-little boy has been asking for a matching top. I fancied having a go at a proper, traditional pyjama top with piping and a notched collar, so I went on a pattern hunt for the children’s equivalent of the Closet Case Carolyn, or Lisette for Butterick 6296.

The only one I found was this Burda PDF pattern, which was reduced (so possibly soon to be discontinued?) It’s labelled as for boys, but obviously it would work for girls if you swapped the buttons to the opposite side. The sizing covers roughly ages 3-8. These had exactly the look I was going for, and as it was a PDF I could get started straight away. Hurrah.

I was slightly worried when I opened the PDF file and discovered there were no diagrams at all in the instructions. Never mind, I thought gaily, it’ll be fine – I’ve sewed lots of Big 4 patterns and I can probably use the Carolyn sewalong to help with the tricky bits.

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I set to printing, cutting, sticking, tracing and re-tracing the pattern and adding seam allowances (yes, it’s one of those…). I used the same quilting cotton fabric as for the bottoms. Sadly, it’s not printed straight on the grain so I had some awkward choices about whether to go with the grain or the pattern in places and not everything matches up neatly. I made a batch of bright red piping to pick out one of the colours in the fabric and I love how cheerful it makes them.

When it came to sewing them up, these are the MOST minimalist instructions I’ve ever worked with.

Sample instruction:

“Set in sleeves.”

The pattern doesn’t tell you what to interface, or what diameter of piping to use, and it doesn’t even mention notching, clipping or staystitching – each of which is critical to getting the collar sewn on.

But where I really ran into trouble was where the piped, notched collar meets the lapel. On reflection, my piping cord was too thick. Then I carelessly missed off one of the pattern markings, leading to me cutting some of the piping too short and having to piece it. That made getting the collar lined up a bit of a nightmare and I’ve had to fudge it a bit. (And the Carolyn sewalong?  It’s not a full sewalong, and it uses a slightly different facing method so I wasn’t able to crib much from it.)

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Not perfect, but luckily my three-year old is far less of a perfectionist than me.

I made one deliberate change to the design – my three-year old hasn’t mastered buttons yet, so the closing is done with Velcro instead – you can see the stitching for it on the front edge if you look closely. But he can now take the pyjamas on and off himself, so that’s all good.

I made the size 116cm (roughly age 5-6 – he’s tall), and it’s turned out a little broad in the shoulders, so next time I might make them narrower, or I could equally go down a size and add a bit of extra length in a loose-fitting garment like this.

Overall, it’s ended up as a borderline wearable toile, but given the trouble I had with this pattern, I’ll settle for that and hope to make a better fist of it next time. After all, he’s only going to grow.

Have you wrestled with any patterns that aren’t big on instructions? And where do you go for help with the awkward bits?

A super-speedy reusable Santa suit

So it’s World Book Day today and my son’s pre-school has decided to take part in the dressing-up charade parade. So, what to go as? Father Christmas – in March – obviously!

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The trainers really make the outfit, don’t they?

After a brief flirtation with making a complete costume from this Butterick pattern, I opted to do more of a quick and dirty re-fashion – which wouldn’t take long and wouldn’t involve buying lots of fabric specifically for this project.

Instead, I bought:

  • one pair red jogging bottoms
  • one plain red sweatshirt
  • 1.5m of 10cm-wide white fur fabric for the trim
  • a novelty hat and beard set – we must be the only family in the land without random Santa hats lurking in a drawer anywhere.

And from my stash, I used:

  • 50cm of 5cm-wide black felt for the belt
  • a scrap of yellow felt for the buckle
  • thread.

The fur has dropped fluff absolutely everywhere, so it looks like someone’s tried to murder a cat in my sewing space! (To limit this, cut through the backing fabric only, trying not to cut the fur itself.)

Sadly the cuffs on the age 5-6 sweatshirt and trousers turned out to be too narrow to fit around the free arm on my machine, so I had to hand-sew the fur onto those. The felt belt and buckle were sewn on with a quick zig-zag stitch. I kept all the stitch lengths fairly long and I deliberately didn’t use any iron-on applique paper for the belt buckle as I’m hoping to take it all off afterwards.

To sew on the fur trim around the tummy, I used my walking foot and a zig-zag stitch to attach the fur from the wrong side. The walking foot kept it fairly stable, and it wasn’t as hard to sew as I’d expected even though I was attaching a stretch fabric to a non-stretch one. I used a denim needle, because that was in my machine already and I couldn’t be bothered to change it didn’t really know what to use and it seemed to work fine, so you might like to try that. The best thing about fur is that your stitches don’t really show through it – at least not once you’ve fluffed up the sewn-down fur with a pin to cover it.

After today, I’m hoping I can unpick the stitches,  de-fluff everything and return the jogging bottoms and sweatshirt to something like their original state – so they can then be worn and torn into oblivion as part of his ordinary wardrobe!

Did you make a spectacular costume? If not, you’re in good company – and you might enjoy this post from parenting blog Hurrah for Gin about the tyranny of World Book Day…

 

Knitted Flax jumper

Finally! After what seems like an age, I’ve cast this little jumper off my WIP list and into being – just in time to get some wear in this final month of winter.

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Mr Mini Wardrobe doing a spot of modelling. He’s styled it with his favourite ‘dogs on the bus T-shirt’ and pull-on denim joggers. I sometimes wish I could have his wardrobe.

[Note: I’ve made the decision not to share identifiable pictures of my son online, so although his face would definitely enhance these pictures, I’ve deliberately cropped it out here.]

It’s a petrol blue colour, which I love, and which my littlest man seems to like too. I wanted to steer clear of the colours you see all over the shops like navy, scarlet and charcoal grey and knit something I couldn’t have bought. The yarn is Rico essentials soft merino aran superwash in colour 025, which is soft, not itchy, just about machine washable and suitably snuggly.

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I like the garter stitch panel detailing that runs across the shoulders and down the sleeves, although he says he prefers the stocking stitch pattern on the body!

The pattern is the (free) Flax sweater from Tin Can Knits in age 4-6, since Mr Mini Wardrobe is a very tall 3 1/2. This is a pattern that gets a LOT of love on Ravelry. Ah Ravelry, how I love perusing the endless possibilities you offer. But how easily I forget that virtually every other member is a more experienced knitter than me… Which is probably why it took me so long to finish this jumper. I chose the pattern because it’s graded ‘easy’, and suggested as an ideal first sweater project, and also because I wanted to have a go at knitting on circular needles. I just neglected to practise anything other than a swatch on circular needles or double-pointed needles (DPNs) first…

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It’s knitted top-down, in the round, and those increases that form a raglan sleeve shape at the shoulders were the fun bit.

Circulars I found OK once I got going, but it took two surgeries with my Mum (who lives 160 miles away!) before I worked out how to use DPNs successfully. And after I’d frogged the first sleeve eight times I couldn’t face doing it for a ninth, so it’s a bit wonky in places. I’m calling it characterful. By the time I got to the second sleeve, something had clicked, so that’s come out much neater and more even. If you’re a fellow beginner, this pattern also includes ssk decreases, kfb increases, 1×1 rib, pick up and knit, a backwards loop cast on, and some fiddling around with stitch markers to keep track of the garter panel.

I blocked it before I took these pictures and the fit is not bad, as you can see. Like his Dad, he has narrow shoulders, so the almost-boat-neck design means it’s a little too wide in that area. I added an inch to the body length to make sure it wouldn’t be too short, and (given how long it took me to knit), I think this was a good idea.

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Now I’ve got the hang of it, I’m tempted to cast on another one straight away for my son in the next size up, and also the version in 4-ply yarn (Flax Light) for me. But realistically, I should probably try a different sweater pattern where the width of the neckline/shoulders wouldn’t be so critical to the fit.

I’ll have a rummage around on Ravelry, of course, but can you recommend any simple sweater knitting patterns I could try next – for children or for adults? And should I ditch DPNs and learn the magic loop method instead?

 

 

Children’s pyjama bottoms – with added Christmas puddings

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This is the only Christmas make I attempted this year, because I couldn’t face that awful situation when you’re rushing out to buy things on 23 December in lieu of the planned handmade presents that you haven’t finished in time. Even so, it still wasn’t finished quite in time for Christmas!

Back in the autumn, just before I began my stash diet, I spotted some reduced Christmas pudding fabric in Doughty’s in Hereford. At only £5/m I couldn’t resist enough to make a quick pair of pyjama bottoms for my 3-year old son. It’s quilting cotton, rather cotton flannel, but I thought it would be fun anyway.

The pattern is my trusty pyjama pants pattern Simplicity 2290 (other versions here and here), which includes children’s sizes from age 4-5 upwards. My 3-and-a-half-year old is a giant among his classmates at 110cm, so I traced the smallest size for him. Because they’re loose fitting trousers with an elasticated waist, there’s not a lot of fitting to do – just shortening the elastic to size and turning up the hem.

They’re a little on the large side at the moment, but I think they’ll be perfect for next Christmas. Although obviously, the proof will be in the pudding (groan…)

 

Top five pyjama patterns for Christmas

Pyjamas. Pretty much my favourite item of clothing throughout the winter months. So whether you’d like to make a pair to see you through to spring, or some for a (very lucky) friend or family member, here’s my shortlist of pyjama patterns to try.

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In order of difficulty:

  1. Simplicity 2290 (pictured above). Possibly the easiest pattern in the sewisphere, Simplicity 2290 doesn’t technically bill itself as pyjamas, more as ‘lounge pants’. But in a soft cotton flannel they’re cosy, comfy and pretty much perfect for lounging or sleeping. The pattern is suitable for wovens or knits, although it doesn’t include a top so you’ll need to supply your own T-shirt. Sizes include children’s (roughly age 5+) up to adults with 49″ hips.
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I’ve made Simplicity 2290 three times so far and they’re all still in rotation.

2. Oliver + S children’s knit pyjamas.

This is more of a hack than an off-the-shelf pattern but I actually prefer the look of these to Oliver + S’s official pyjama patterns. The link takes you to a post on the Oliver + S blog, which shows you how to addd cuffs to children’s knit patterns. So if you start off with the Oliver + S School Bus T-shirt and Playtime leggings, you can then add cuffs to create perfect pyjamas for the small people in your life. Oliver + S Patterns are beautifully drafted with clear instructions, so as long as you’ve sewn with knits before then you shouldn’t have any problems running these up in time for 25 December. Sizes 6m-4 years and 5-12 years. Alternatively, you could use the tutorial to hack any long-sleeved T-shirt and leggings patterns you have (for children or adults), adding cuffs to create super-dooper pyjamas.

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Ottobre magazine is a good source of children’s knit pyjama patterns – like these

3. Tilly and the Buttons Fifi pyjamas.

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I tried this pattern earlier this year, and although it’s not a straightforward sew, I think it definitely falls into the intermediate category because the instructions are so clear and well explained. Designed with summer lounging in mind, this camisole and shorts set works well in cotton lawn or voile, but you could also try silk for added ooh-la-la. Sized for up to 47″ hips.

4. and 5. Lisette for Butterick B6296 and Closet Case Files Carolyn Pyjamas

Try as I might, I really couldn’t separate these two. They’re so similar in my mind – traditional button-up pyjamas with collar, pockets, elasticated waistband and piping with options for shorts and short-sleeves.

You can copy Liesl Gibson’s own version of B6296 in Liberty lawn, and I love Allie J’s double gauze version of Carolyn in which she replaces the piping with ric rac.

Neither of these patterns is a quick make, what with all that piping to do. And they’re both pretty fabric hungry at around 4m of fabric for the long-sleeved, long-legged option so you’ll be investing some serious time and money in your perfect pyjamas. But they will probably remain your perfect pyjamas for years to come.

Have you sewn any or all of these patterns? And are you making pyjamas for anyone for Christmas?

Rainbow bicycle pyjama top

Since I finished the bottoms for these pyjamas in August, my son’s been asking for a matching top. Pester power can be applied to sewing, it seems.

The fabric is the same organic printed cotton jersey I used for the bottoms, and an earlier T-shirt. It’s a fun design, but it’s printed slightly off-grain and it pilled disappointingly after one wash.

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The pattern is from Ottobre Winter 2015, and I made size 110cm, with no alterations for this first attempt. The sizing seems fairly generous to me; these aren’t skinny fit pyjamas.

Now Ottobre instructions are pretty brief, with no diagrams. And although I’ve now made a few knit tops with neckline binding, this was the first one I’ve tried with a placket opening. (Am I right in thinking this style is often called a Henley?)

That part didn’t go so well. I just couldn’t work out how to get a neat edge on the ribbing I used for the binding without it becoming incredibly bulky. After two attempts at folding it under and ending up with a huge knobbly bit on the end I got grumpy and just cut the ends off.

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When it came to topstitching the neckline, I wanted to make up for the fudging on the corners, so I used yellow and green thread in my twin needle to blend in with the different lines in the rainbow ribbing. (NB This is a really quick way to lose your sewing sanity.)

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The twin needle stitching is almost invisible – I’ve lightened this picture so you can make it out more easily.
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I love the cuffs. I used a decorative stitch on my sewing machine across the seamline to hold the raw edges of the overlocked cuff in place. (Coverstitch machine owners would, of course, use that instead.)

As with the top, my overlocker didn’t like dealing with four layers of the ribbing at once and chewed up the fabric. Would adjusting the presser foot pressure would help with this, or is four layers just too many?

Either way, my son’s pretty happy with the results and they’re getting some wear already.

 

Ottobre bicycle PJ bottoms

After my Sallie jumpsuit earlier this month, I had the overlocker all set up, so I thought I’d whip up a speedy stashbusting make for my son. He’s growing so quickly at the moment that he seems to need something new almost every month. (No, I do not make it all!)

As I’d hoped, there was plenty of the bicycle print jersey left over from his coat lining and T-shirt, so I chopped into this again to make some pyjama bottoms. I used the same rainbow-striped ribbing from the T-shirt to make the cuffs.

The pattern is from Ottobre magazine, issue 6/2015, and it’s graded easy, so it’s a nice straightforward make for a beginner. Plus there are only two pattern pieces so there’s not too much tedious tracing either.

I used my overlocker to sew it up, switching to my sewing machine just for the waistband casing, and to topstitch the cuff/leg joins.

The trickiest part is stretching the ribbing as you join it to the leg pieces. This ribbing didn’t stretch very much, and my overlocker didn’t enjoy starting at the edge of the seam and chewed it. Next time, I would definitely follow May Martin’s advice and start stitching on a scrap, feeding the garment through once the machine has got going.

Overall, it’s a lovely simple make that doesn’t use much material. I’ve still got plenty of both fabrics left, so hopefully there’ll be a matching top in the offing soon…

 

 

 

Learning new knitting skills

Part of a blue sweater knitted on circular needles.

I’ll readily admit that I love learning new things (at my own pace, when I feel like it!). I sometimes lack the patience to keep practising long enough to make them perfect, but I’m trying to be better at that.

And what better time to learn something new than when you’re on holiday? I spent last week relaxing on the coast of the lovely Llyn Peninsula in North Wales. (I say relaxing, but my two-year old son doesn’t actually stop from 6am until 7pm, so it’s all relative…)

Image of an empty sandy beach with a headland in the background.
You can’t complain about the crowds in North Wales.

There definitely wasn’t room in the car for my sewing machine, so I took my latest knitting project instead. There was neither TV reception nor an internet connection in our cottage, so once Mr Wardrobe and I had completed the regulation almost-impossible jigsaw I broke out the yarn.

I’m using the children’s Flax sweater pattern from Tin Can Knits, which looked ambitious but not impossible. If it turns out really well the pattern includes adult sizes so I could make one for me too.

I’m only a quarter of the way through but so far it’s shaping up well and I’ve enjoyed learning new skills including: using circular needles, swatching in the round, stockinette stitch, the kfb increase and lots more knitting pattern terminology. (Eat your heart out, Albus Dumbledore.) All standard fare for more experienced knitters, but each one has been a learning curve for me.

To complete this project I still need to learn how to put stitches on hold on waste yarn, how to knit on double-pointed needles, something called the ‘backwards loop cast-on method’, and how to block my knitting. I’ll be finished in about a year, then!

Do you like learning new skills, or do you purposely avoid techniques you’ve never tried before?

 

 

Ottobre children’s T-shirt

It’s all about the knits here at the moment. This week, I wanted to try out a technique I haven’t used before – binding the neckline with ribbing, rather than a jersey band. So I asked my two-year old son to pick out his favourite knit fabrics from my stash and hunted through my Ottobre magazines for a suitable pattern.

He chose the bicycle-print organic cotton jersey leftover from his latest coat for the front and back. And we agreed on beige jersey (purchased from Fabrics Galore at Sewing for Pleasure in March) for the sleeves. He really wanted to use the rainbow ribbing I found in Stone Fabrics, and it goes surprisingly well with the colourful bikes. The pattern is number 17 from Ottobre 3/2015 in size 104cm and has a two-piece raglan short sleeve.

I don’t do a lot of tracing, so that was a mild annoyance, along with adding on the seam allowances by hand. Because he’s long and lean, I also added 2.5 cm to the length in the body.

This was a quick make, made even faster by using a four-thread overlock stitch for all the main seams. I spent some time puzzling over how to apply the ribbing because there were no instructions with the pattern, but I eventually located them tucked away in the back of the magazine. And them promptly did something different!

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For the hems I fused on some seam interfacing before pressing them up and topstitching with a twin needle. The seam interfacing really helps prevent the puckering and twisting you can sometimes get with a topstitched hem on knit fabrics. But it does also restrict the stretch a bit, so I’d like to try another method next time – maybe bands, as demonstrated in the Renfrew top sewalong.

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I’d love to show you how it looks on him, but so far he’s refused to wear it. I’m trying not to take that personally. Toddlers, huh?