Saturday, January 30, 2010

Little Wooden Doll Kit

First off, there is nothing original about this project -
it's been around from before I was born, which is saying
much. I remember reading about it as a child and being
somewhat frustrated that we didn't have in Singapore this
wonderful craft haven of a store known as Woolsworth at
which the books recommended buying these supplies. Fast
forward several decades to this wooden peg/clothespin/
spool people movement that has taken over crafty blogland
and it becomes clear that a craft like this has staying power.

This weekend Emily had a birthday party to attend and she
decided her friend needed "some kind of craft supplies" for
a gift. Good answer, Emily. We ordered these wooden parts
here (where we always buy our wooden stuff, and
always in
bulk) and made some "samples" for
a craft kit for the birthday girl.

Then we did a little more shopping and some digging
through our craft supplies stash (which is even larger
than my fabric stash) and put together this kit:

I thought I'd take some photos and share in case
someone someday wants
an idea for an unhandmade,
unplastic, unTarget
gift for a little girl. We included:

  • sheets of craft felt
  • chenille stems
  • ribbons
  • wooden doll parts - stands, heads and clothespins
  • acrylic paint
  • white glue (we personally don't use this for anything but paper mache, really, but it was a child-safe option)
  • paint brushes
  • a template for the dress (5.5" circle with tiny hole in the middle and two slits for the arms to stick out)
  • a completed doll for a sample, since we were disinclined to write up instructions

And as we didn't have a single receptacle in the house
to contain everything, we made a bucket out of cardboard.

Then we glued another doll to the cover and had
ourselves a craft kit (just add scissors)!

I'd have liked to leave it as is, but Emily loves
wrapping, so we wrapped it up in fancy paper.

Note: the wooden bits are available at craft stores like Michaels and JoAnn in small quantity packages, too. We just personally like having lots and lots of craft supplies at home for emergencies (e.g. bad lulls during playdates). We even have bulk quantities of paint brushes in multiple sizes that Dad (my dad) buys from art supply stores in Singapore and sends by post. Dad has such great taste in gifts. Our whole family is a little nuts that way.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Narnians sewing

Mrs Beaver, packing necessities as they prepare to leave home for the flight for their lives, "I suppose the sewing machine's too heavy to bring?"

(from The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, chapter ten)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Dream Bolts

Bought my first bolt today at JoAnn - 20 whole yards of Pellon craft fuse aka craft-weight fusible interfacing. Used my 50% coupon so it was a steal. This is not the first bolt I've bought in my life, of course (tsk tsk), but it is the first I've bought since moving to the US. I felt like I had achieved the equivalent level of obsession that I had when I lived and sewed in Singapore. The cutting counter staff (my arch nemesis) drawled at me when I handed over the plastic-wrapped bolt, "You want the whole thing?" I told her yes and didn't roll my eyes (this was too solemn a moment for disdain).

Anyway, that got me thinking - 20 yards of 20" interfacing is hardly anything by way of boltage but wouldn't it be fun to fantasize about what I would buy by the bolt if I had the money and storage space at home? Here's my list:
  1. Natural canvas
  2. White duckcloth
  3. Black canvas
  4. Black 600 denier nylon-backed packcloth
  5. White blizzard fleece
  6. White 2 mm wool felt - the really good kind (that my mother claims is from Japan).
  7. White broadcloth
  8. Natural muslin
  9. White flannel - the good kind, not the sort you can peer through the weave of
  10. White knit
  11. Craft fuse (got it!)
  12. Heavy sew-in interfacing
I am almost afraid to go on. Everything on the list is black, white or natural. And solid, of course. Nothing worse than an entire bolt of print fabric, especially when that print goes out of style. No apparel fabric on the list, either. I considered white twill for a moment - it is an extremely useful fabric but a whole bolt? If the captain of the Love Boat hired me to make uniforms for his crew, maybe.

So, let's share now - what's your dream bolt? Or ('fess up - we're all friends here from the same support group) what have you bought a whole bolt of recently?

Friday, January 22, 2010

Narnia and the North!

So the title is a bit misleading but hear me out. We've
been reading a lot of the Chronicles of Narnia lately.
The girls have been galloping through the house on their
stick horses, cloaks billowing out behind them, calling out
to one other in faux British accents. I am thinking that
it won't be long before one of them asks for a bow and
some arrows. And Narnian costumes. Mmmmm.

Yesterday I asked the girls what they wanted to do after
lunch and Jenna said, "crafts" (of course). So we cut up a
corrugated cardboard box and made ships.

Emily's was the Dawntreader,

Jenna wanted a princess figurehead

and Kate had no opinion so we left the prow of her ship bare.

We started out with the basic ship, which was just
a flat bottom with two symmetrical sides.

These were hot-glued to the bottom, meeting at the bow
(front). A smaller, trapezoid-shaped piece of cardboard
was added to the back to form the stern.

If anyone is interested, here is the pattern - I thought I'd
trace it out and save it here in case we want to make these
again - like if we ever did a nautical-themed birthday
party. The ship is about 14" long and too big for a single
sheet of letter paper, so there is some cutting and
pasting to put the pattern together.

Two strips of cardboard were also glued across the
middle of the boat, each with a hole to support the
mast and sails. This way the rigging stays vertically
stable without glue, and is removable for easier access
to the deck during play. We started out with just
one strip, planning to hot-glue the mast to the
bottom of the boat, but the girls wanted it removable.

Next we added the figurehead and tail

and a command bridge and helm (steering wheel
thingy)- made with cardboard and toothpicks.

The mast was made from a dowel and a popsicle stick.
I'd have liked the masts to be taller but all we had were
these precut foot-long dowels. The sails and flags were
construction paper that the kids decorated.

The girls spent the pre-dinner hour fancying up their ships -

yes, Kate, too! -

then loaded them with passengers

and sailed off into the sunset. You could just read
Ariel's thoughts: "Attina was right about land couture -
puff sleeves! At my age! If not for my contract
with Disney.....grrrrr....Soon as I get off this boat
I'm firing my wardrobe manager."

Today we continued with anchors

and lifeboats.

I suggested we have an actual sea battle involving
cannons (bubble tea straws and playdoh cannonballs),
battering rams and gangplanks. And turn Kate's
oversized dinghy into a real pirate ship and play
Roman galleys (minus slaves) and Asterix and Obelix
meet Caspian and the Pevensies. Oo, crossover
pretend play. Chilling possibilities.

Sadly, the girls chose to stick to leisurely cruises,
traveling playmobil circuses and princess tea
parties at sea. Alas.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Dress for Winter - A Summary

I hope you enjoyed following along with the winter dress
series! I picked four styles without sleeves, zippers or
button plackets because I've heard that many of you
think you'd rather not try those yet. Instead, you got
lots of practice in facings and buttonholes! Are you
in a drafting coma yet? Here is a look back:

Pleated skirt with yoke

Pinafore with pleated skirt
Jumper with buttoned shoulders
Gathered jumper with yoke
Wouldn't it be fun to do a tutorial series just on
pockets sometime? Real fun ones, I mean, not just
patch pockets in different shapes. I remember
an apron I embroidered when I was 11 - grandma
sewed these fascinating V-shaped gathered
welt-type pockets in the front for hiding my hands!

I also remember a comment from long ago about
sleeves, so that might be another fun tutorial
series to think about - changing the basic Tshirt
short sleeve into a puff, or a flare.
Another recurring
question I've received in comments is how to add /
whether one can add sleeves to things like jumpers
and sleeveless dresses. The short answer is no - the
armscye is cut differently for a sleeved garment and
a sleeveless garment like a jumper that is
deliberately made roomy around the armscye
for layering over an undershirt.

So many possibilities! And so many dishes to
wash/baskets of laundry to fold in the time
that I have, drat it.

Last year, some of you said you wished I had sons so
I might do some boy clothes. Looking at the amount
of toys I already have for our girls and the time I
already spend in just the girls' section of clothing
stores, I am glad I only have daughters. Still, I hear
what you are saying, and yes, in the very near
future, I will, Lord willing, make one boy garment!
Yes, just for you! See - I already have the fabric for it:

Whom in our house I can cajole into wearing it for
photos, will be tricky, though, since Emily and
Jenna are both in a Dresses Or Die phase, and Kate
will choose a clothing-optional lifestyle whenever
she can get away with it!

Dress for Winter IV - The Gathered Jumper Part I

The fourth and last winter dress is another jumper -

this time with gathers below a yoke. This is possibly
my favorite of the four outfits in this series, mainly
because it screams "crisp!" and "apron!" and "dolly!"
I made an earlier version last winter here, and drafted it
in three sizes for the three girls (a bit overachieving, on
hindsight). Just for fun, though, I thought I'd show you
how to draft it from the
pleated pinafore bodice pattern.

Step 1
  • Take the pattern for the main bodice (we don't need the waistband) - mine is brilliant purple for visibility.
  • Draw a horizontal line to partition off the yoke. Make the yoke as high as you like. Mine was about 1.75".

Step 2 Write "yoke" on it, and draw an arrow to remind you which edge to place on the fold of the fabric.
Now this will give you a sort of curvy yoke, which I like,
but it can be a teeny bit tricky to attach to the main
dress later if you are one of those I Only Sew Straight
Lines purists. So here's how to er.. cut corners,
if you pardon the pun -
make a rectangular yoke:
Step 3
Measure the width of the line where you cut the yoke off. Mine was about 3.75".

Step 4 - Inserting the gathers
Take butcher paper/newspaper/drafting paper and draw a vertical line roughly the same distance (I rounded mine down to 3.5" - no reason) from one long edge.

Q: Why? Why? Why? Why?

A: Patience, dear reader. Scroll down and follow along. All will be revealed.

This column is just extra width that will become gathers in the middle of the dress.

Step 5
  • Place the yoke-less bodice pattern on the line like so and trace around it.
  • If you like, you can write "gathers" in the column, just to remind yourself what it's there for. Or to stop yourself freaking out.
  • Remove the original purple pattern and lay it aside.
  • Now look at your new pattern - notice that it is the same shape as the old pattern, except that it is wider. Notice also that it is roughly twice as wide (at the yoke line). For simplicity throughout this entire blog, each time I introduce gathers in a garment (shirring, ruffles, gathered skirts etc), I use a general rule of thumb: the pre-gathered width is roughly 1.5 to 2 times that of the post-gathered width. This is completely arbitrary. Some people like more gathers (like if you made this a maternity dress!) and some like less.

  • For the front of the dress, I'm going with the "2 x" ratio. You pick what you like.

Step 6

Measure your child and determine how long you want the dress to be.

Q: Where do you place the top end of the measuring tape? Do you just randomly plonk it on some point on the child's chest?

A: If you like. But I took mine from the height of the armpit. If you look at the pattern, the yokeline is just a little higher than the bottom of the armscye. Given that jumper armscyes are generally loose around the arm, I'd say the armpit is a good point to start measuring from. So measure from the armpit to the knee, or wherever you want the dress to end at. If it ends up a little long, you can always trim the bottom hem in the later stages.
  • Moving on now - mark off on this distance you measured: mine was 20" from armpit to knee.

Step 7
Draw a horizontal line from that mark - this is your bottom hem. The longer this line is, the wider the flare of the A-line will be. Mine was about 8.5".

Q: Back up! Back up! How did you get 8.5"? What is it - some magic number?
A: No. It's completely personal preference. I've been drafting a while now, so I sort of know what sort of slant I like in my A-lines. BUT I know that is extremely useless information, so here's a secret: it is perfectly OK to get an old dress from the closet that fits well, and measure how wide the bottom hem is. Or estimate. Or look at a commercial pattern that you have. Bearing in mind that there are gathers in this dress, I picked a less-flared A-line to avoid having Emily swim in a tent later. If there were no gathers, like in the buttoned-shoulder jumper, I'd have liked a wider flare.

Step 8
  • Draw a line connecting the bottom of the armscye to the open end of the bottom hemline. This is your new side seam.
  • Scratch out the old (vertical) side seam.

Step 9
Curve the bottom hem up gently to meet the side seams at right angles. No, don't use a protractor. Usually it needs to be raised by about 0.5". You can refine this in the final stage when you are actually sewing the bottom hem.

Q:Yes, but why right angles?

A: So that the hemline continues through the side seam in a smooth line without pointy corners. Law of reflection, if you remember Physics from school.

And with that, your main dress pattern is done!

One last step now:

Step 10 - Drafting the armscye facing
  • Take the original yoke-less pattern from Step 5.
  • Cut a curved strip off the armscye. It should be of uniform width. I wanted mine narrow, so I used 0.5".
  • Write "fold" on the bottom end - the one along the side seam (not the yoke).
  • Toss the rest of the purple pattern in the trash.

Drafting summary:

You now have three pattern pieces

as well as a rectangle for the two straps. I didn't show
how to draft the straps because um, how shall I
this... it's a uh... a long skinny rectangle.

Go to part II for how to cut and put this jumper together!