01 02 03 Miss Smartie's Sewing: April 2014 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 24 21 24 21 24 21 24 25 26 27 28 29

Miss Smartie's Sewing

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Monday, 28 April 2014

past projects: Wimbley the ul

Meet Wimbley, he's an ul. I've made this fellow for my boyfriends birthday. It might seam strange to gift a 24 year old man a stuffed toy on his birthday, but Wimbley just had to be made. We've had another owl toy, Wembley, for almost two years now and he seemed lonely. We thought it best to reunite him with his family. We could not have forseen the family feud that followed. Their mother unfortunately named her children after the vowels of the alphabet. The brand of stuffed toys however only sold four different owl toys of the same design. I had to improvise to find the fifth family member.

Our collection of Wild republic owls: left to right: Wombley, Wumbley, Wambley and Wembley
These excellent stuffed animals are made by Wild Republic. The brand advertises them as cuddlekins, and they are purposefully under stuffed. This, paired with their uniqueness (all of their toys are different and many look kind of off or ugly) gives them a unique level of expression. They've also got large flappy weighted wings, these are wonderful in a toy to play around with. They make the owls somehow come alive more. They certainly have a large impact on other people. Most claim that (Wembley in particular) looks menacing and deranged when they meet him. We got so used to how he looks that he just seems slightly stupid to us now.

The decision was simple, I needed to copy our first owl, to make the last owl brother Wimbley. He had to be blue, we knew that too. Here's some pictures and words about the creation process. You can basically use it to copy every project you want.

for the wing I just traced it round from the original,
 then I added seam allowance and pattern marks
I started out by measuring the first owl thoroughly. I used the seams to determine how my pattern pieces should look. You can also just trace pattern paper on top of around shapes in the fabric. (I did that with the wings.) I found that it's more accurate to measure up the rounded pattern pieces yourself, you want the pieces to fit into each other and tracing them isn't always accurate enough. I usually did a sketch of how the piece should look and measured along the seams. I then filled these in along the seams I had drawn. I tried this in pencil on pattern paper and made sure to check the measurement across at some points to. This ensures that the pieces have enough body to them too.

Wembley chilling out surroundedd by suplies for his brother
When making stuffed toys you need a surprising amount of extras. I purchased some animal eyes, some felt, some stuffing and some blue hair to accessorise my owl. The upside is that you can make them out off all of your leftover fabrics, and still have fabric to spare. I chose a withe towel fabric and velour the pane fabrics for the largest parts of the owl. I also needed a plain blue and cut up an old dress I once made for it.

The cutting process took the most time by far. There where almost 20 pattern pieces (almost all rather small) and I had to interline the stretchable fabric I used with a cotton since I didn't want him to lose shape immediately. So I laid out some old cotton and put the fashion fabrics on top and cut both at the same time. This had to be done precisely since the stretchy fabric wanted to spring back and shrink on me all the time. I also used eight different fabrics which made my life unnecessarily difficult.


Wombley is helping me arrange the pattern pieces by fabric


cutting out fabric on top of interfacing, pattern layout for the main and secondary fabric
 Since the original owl has a shaded tummy and I didn't have any fabric that would do, I decided to paint some white fabric with green and blue ink. I rather like the result. Since I've made permanent stains with this by accident before, I'm rather confident that the colour will stay. It also enabled me to give a personal touch, keeping in mind which part of the fabric would become which part of the body. I really like the overall result.

The construction was rather fun, since I like puzzles and this felt like a rather intricate 3D one. I decided not to over think the process and I think that was a good decision. I started of with the smaller parts and then atatched those one by one. In stuffed animals it's important to leave some room to stuff your toy and to turn it right side out in the end, This is most convinient in the back or at the bottom of the toy.  This room cant however be to big or small lest you ruin your seams or the ability to turn the piece inside out.

wingweights

wing outline before turning right side out

topstitching
I started the individual flat pieces, wings an tail. The wings have a little bag filled with some small round weights in them. I substituted this for pepper balls, which might have been a mistake since wimbley smells faintly of pepper all the time now. these bags where filled, then stitched shut and stitched onto the cotton interlining only. I then put the good sides of the wing together on the inside and stitched the side seam, Turned everything inside out and top stitched the feathers on top.
securing the beak by hand (wrong side showing)
cute owl nose
face under construction


face parts ready!
 I then continued with the face. since it's made up out of a lot of very curvy pieces (cutting in to make it curve really does pay off!) I put together the eye pieces first, then attached them to the nose piece as a whole. The nose/beak I just stitched, turned inside out, stuffed and slit through a slit in the nose piece. I then stitched it in place by hand. I've noticed that it's often easiest to prestuff certain smaller parts of the stuffed animal, since you will not have the same opportunity to do it as thoroughly later on and it makes it a lot easier to just stitch it in place.
after attaching the eyes
 The next step is a delicate one: placing the eyes. If you do this wrong your animal can look really cross eyed! Since my eyes where a bit to small for my taste I added a round of felt arond them. I just made a hole in the felt and pushed the eyesocket through, then cut around the eye in an even circle. To place the eyes I measured 1,5 cm in from the point of the eye patch and 1,5 from top and bottom (in the middle). I marked this spot and punched a small hole. Then it's just a matter of pushing the eye completley through and securing it.
browflap attached, looking confused

back view of the head before attaching the back of the head

finished pieces awaiting assembley
 I then did the brow piece, which I later attached to the face. The brow flap became straigth after that. To insert the hair I just cut the upper fabric open and sandwiched the hair in between stitching it shut with a very small seam allowance and zigzagging that into place. Do not do this with fabric that will fray easily, you would have to adjust the pattern pieces then. The brow piece was attached with hand stitches in front and just held in place by a quick machine stitch at the bottom. I then added the back of the head and collar pieces.

attaching the leg
one leg attached, right side, you can see the hole for the other leg
legs attached wrong side
Next in line was the construction of the body. I had given myself a larger seam allowance here, since the pieces weren't as fiddly. I attached the sides to the belly pieces first (side and bottom) and then decided to make the feet. This turned out to be the most challenging of the entire process. I hand basted thee larger pattern piece onto the sole of the foot and then machine stitched it in place. I cut a cross where the leg needs to be attached, turned the foot right side out and stuffed it. I then hand stitched the leg into place, starting at the side leg seam and ending by doing that seam to. I then stuffed the leg too. I then pulled the legs around 1cm through the holes that where now visible in the belly pieces and attached the legs by hand. I felt that pre stuffing them really helped manipulate them and gave me the opportunity to get them stuffed exactly the way I wanted it. 


attaching the wing by sandwiching it between the back piece

finished pieces ready to be assembled. Note the gap in the center back seem for filling

 I pinned and mostly stitched the belly to the collar piece (leaving room for the side seams). I inserted the wings into the back pieces at this point (again by just slicing the fabric open and sandwiching the wings in between. I did the centre back seam first but I left enough room in the centre to fit my hand through comfortably, I just wanted the upper and lower part of the seam done so I could rely on the finished length of those horizontal seams. I attached the sides to the belly parts and then finished by attaching the head to the body and sandwiching the tail part in between the belly and the back. I had to figure out where to put the wings in this process (I ended up letting them out of the back hole).

wrong side out, wings coming through

Halfway out, looking blown away

In desperate need of stuffing!
 After that I was just a matter of turning things right side out and stuffing some stuffing inside. Then I closed off the back seam with some more hand stitching.

conclusion:

My lovley assistant Wombley
I like how this project has turned out a lot. He looks exactly how I wanted him to look. Making stuffed animals involves more hand stitching than I thought it would, but I don't really mind doing it so that's fine. I'm glad that I stuffed certain parts before attaching them to the main body. I've learnt that the order of working can be crucial while working with these fiddly pieces especially in the extremity's but I'm glad I got the feet attached securely in this project. (I found out the hard way while making Kermit once upon a time..). Most importantly my boyfriend loved his gift (although he complains of the peppery smell) good thing he's not allergic. I think the finished product is actually sturdy enough for a child to play with, which encourages me for future projects (or in the hope of avoiding those emergency "my favourite toy is gone and I will never be happy again" moments in a child's life).

I might upload a scan of the pattern pieces, if somebody would be interested. Just comment below if you are.


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Friday, 25 April 2014

I'm into something good...

I've been organising my sewing room lately. My previous sewing spot was an absolute disaster. I haven't got any pictures but I'll draw you one. I have a small space on top of my bedroom where I used to sleep as a kid. I used to be able to stand up there. That was when I was six. Unfortunately I didn't stay 1 meter tall. There's just enough room for a seat in there and I put together something that appears to be a makeshift table for my sewing machine. This was far from ideal. The sewing machine barely fit in there, with only 15 cm room left above it. The table was also very rickety and it didn't help my already horrible organising skills that I had to crawl around to get things. Combine this with absolutely no space to lay out pattern pieces flat except the floor and you get the recipe for a sewing disaster. My sewing space kind of grew there over the years as I stocked up on fabrics and patterns and learnt a lot. It was kind of like a tumor growing on top of my room, in the end bursting open and spilling the sewing stuff all over my room.

Luckily my brother has a good sense of timing. Since he left the house to live elsewhere I got permission to colonise his bedroom too. I had to leave all of his stuff in place though. So now I have a desk (hurrah for flat surfaces that do not make your knees hurt), extra floor room (you know for when things get big) a makeshift cupboard with all my fabrics and stuff, and room for my (finally finished) sewing mannequin. (Too bad she turned out around 2 cm to big for my size all round). I also dug up my own irons, I bought them second hand for 10 euro once and I'm very happy with them up until now. There the old fashioned kind without steam but they will do and are handy when you are ironing on sticky things like fusible facings. I have to get my own ironing board now, since dragging the one we have up two long flights of stairs each time is going to get old really soon.

While organising I found loads of old clothes I made and while slightly embarrassing, they show how much I've learnt since then and that does make me proud. I might make a post about that soon, but not all to publicly since I did do really weird stuff.

I've also been busy finishing off some old projects I will be posting about and a super secret birthday project I'll have to hurry along since my deadline is tomorrow evening. Jajks!

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Thursday, 10 April 2014

sewing plans (madness and babbling)

I bought some new patterns and went shopping the other day. Tons of new inspiration is buzzing in my head!

I saw a lot of lovely retro/modern designs in the stores. It seams the bare tummy is back. I kind of like this as I'm one of those persons that do have a flat tummy. I'm flat everywhere in fact, and sometimes fashion just makes me look like a little kid who is wearing her parents clothes. In hopes that these kind of clothes will flatter me I'm suddenly planning on a whole wardrobe. Somewhere inside of me a small voice is talking about the practicality of having part of your torso bare, but my sewing craziness got the upper hand. For now. I do love the combinations they are making for these designs. Pairing them with an A line skirt of shorts and jeans or shorts. I especially like how normal and everyday most of these look. The neckline variations also seem quite endless. I'm head over heels with all of these possibilities.

I've collected a little gallery of forever 21 examples of this new trend. I love LOVE LOVVEEEE all of these! I especially like the designs with sleeves though. I'm also completely in love with the black lace top with the deep back neckline. I short I want nearly all of these, in some sort of version. I think I'll sift through my pile of left over fabrics to start on some of these beauty's. I want an A line skirt and some retro shorts to go with them as well. Lucky thing there is an extra fabric fair soon.









I've also been eyeing  this butterick pattern for a while now. It looks a lot like the left shirt on the lowest row in my opinion. Well the pattern looks better but I want something different still. Certainly on my to do list now!


To finish of I couldn't get myself not to copy these gorgeous dresses. Although they might be a bit short, I think they are very very flattering. The left one actually reminds me of the Marilyn dress in the seven year itch I spoke of before and the right one has a nice gathered detail in the front I like. It reminds me of some burda patterns I've seen. The middle one is just amazing. Its one of those killer dresses. Hot without being vulgar, classy but with an edge. delicious.

Oh AND I bought the most recent burda style. I must say that it's one of the best they published since I started religiously checking out weather the magazine was any good every month. Witch means in almost 3 years. I love a lot of the designs a lot. I think I will need to make at least three more dresses now. oh well, you can never have enough clothes can you?

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Friday, 4 April 2014

Past projects part 3: the dinosaur dress

I picked up this cute and amazing fabric over a year ago on the fabric fair. It features cute dinosaurs in all colours and shapes. Soon after arriving home I realised that the pattern I planned doing in it would not do at all. It had lots of pleats and I loved the fabric to much to let that happen. Since I originally planed to do a sheath dress in this I didn't purchase a lot of fabric.

Butterick 5603 pattern illustration
I went looking for a pattern with big panels wherethe small and very busy print  wouldn't be overcrowding and I would be able to  make the dinosaurs shine. After surfing the Internet, my eye fell on Butterick 5603. A pattern I've seen incarnated a lot both in stylishly retro fashion and with awesome novelty prints. It were these projects that convinced me because the butterick version looks slightly horrendous. I realised I needed that pattern. Now!! So I bought it as my first PDF printable pattern, since I did not know where I would be able to pick up Butterick patterns here in Belgium.

That turned out to be a mistake. I found the printing facilities a bit weird. (you only get to print it 3 times ever in the same year you purchased it) this got me all worked up and worried since I tried to print it on my laptop, realised I had selected the wrong printer and ended up almost immediately ruining the times I could print. Eventually it worked, and I might just purchase a pattern like that again if I'm really in a hurry.

Taping up all of the pattern pieces isn't that difficult, but it takes some extra time. I'm pretty conflicted about printed patterns since they are usually on normal (stiff) paper. this makes them more durable, but can be anoying when you want to store (the original) pattern pieces away. I spend all of my allotted sewing time preparing the pattern and lost interest in it for a whole while, due to school and real live stuff.

After being on my to do list for more than a year I decided to start work on the dress again. In the middle of my exams, witch is usually the time when I get all sewing obsessed and start watching you tube technique videos. I started doodling design options for the dress. I quickly worked out that I did not want to make the dress plainly as it was, and I feared I didn't have enough of the Dino fabric to make a full skirt as it was anyway. (The first pattern I planned on making had a pencil skirt.)

I put together some of my stash fabrics with the Dino fabric and really liked how a bright green went with the Dino's. I paired this with a slightly stretchy black I had lying around for ages. I thought that it would look good to have some design accents in green and maybe some panels in black because the dress would otherwise look to crowded. I decided I wanted black side panels and I wanted them to continue into the bodice of the dress. The only problem was that the dress there are only six panels in the original dress and the bodice is made up out of one piece. I daringly set out to make my first design related pattern adjustments on an existing pattern.

I ended up drawing my own wide dramatic collar and added a wide strip of green to the hem of the dress to balance this out. I split up the side panels into halves at the darts in the front and the same distance in the back. One part would be black the other Dino! I had to redraw the font and back bodice pieces. The back was pretty easy. I just marked the line I wanted and cut it off. I then added seam allowance and notches. The front was a little bit more difficult. I had  decided on a princess seam and if possible I wanted to eliminate the front bodice gathers, so they would not disturb my dinosaurs. I drew the design line I wanted and then added 2 cm extra ease to the curve in the side. This made shure the dress would curve nicely. I walked the distance of the seam multiple times to make sure the fit would be correct. It all turned out pretty well, but I think I overdid the ease since the bodice fits a bit loosley.

I did do a muslin for this project, but nothing much surprising happened so I happily started sewing. The design lines didn't allign perfectly, but I thought I would be able to fix that later on in the real thing. A dangerous assumption.

While constructing the garment I realised the dino fabric was to sheer and would be see through. I added the green fabric as interfacing. this looked awesome and neat on the table, but the combined stiffness of these fabrics really made my dress a tad wild and poofy.

I used (my first) french seams on the seams in the skirt and lined the bodice. I added some bias band to the hem, but this added even more stiffness and made the dress look a bit weird. after wearing it a wile it the skirt usually settles down a bit so I decided to leave it as it was.

I love the inside of the dress.
Those polkadots and french seams always make me smile.
It was also my first time trying to match up a novelty fabric. I read about it on the Internet and decided to try to match the horizontal seams. I apparently did something wrong there, I think I didn't take the seam allowance of the seams on the sides into account. the dress ended up looking good, so I didn't really mind. Didn't have enough fabric for a second try either.

The most difficult part of the construction was the matching up of the horizontal seam between bodice and skirt. I ended up shifting the fabric around quite a bit. I had to take in some fabric in the black part of the dress, witch was unfortunate because it nearly eliminated all of the wearing ease I needed there, but fortunate since the black fabric turned out to be stretchy enough to accommodate movement and even a lot of eating.

In the end I'm really proud of this dress. I learnt tons of new techniques like french seams and tried out others like matching novelty fabrics at the seams. I used my first printable pattern and my first pattern with seam allowance included. (I can tell you what a revelation!!). I feel like I've learnt ton's (also first time to use interfacing, and invisible zip, purchased bias band) and I cannot wait to learn more.

I went to the (Antwerp) Zoo yesterday and my boyfriend took these absolutly adorable pictures. Thank you so much!



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