Angel Gowns

I have been heavily involved in a new charity group call Angel Gowns Australia, with me volunteering to be one of the seamstresses for the ACT sub-branch.  This is something close to my heart, as most of my friends and family would be well aware.

My friend Fiona established the group, after being inspired by a group in the USA, called Angel Gowns by Michelle.  Michelle has been generous, passing the patterns on to us for use in Australia.  The patterns for these gowns, have passed through many hands, and I am sure the design has benefited from knowledge passed to seamstresses from hospitals and paediatric units. There are minimal internal seams to rub skin, the gowns are rear opening to allow for ease of dressing, and the ribbon closures don’t require pressure (snaps), fiddling (buttons) or the danger of damaging fragile skin (velcro). Big wide dolman style sleeves with no elastic, mean that little arms aren’t caught when being dressed.

After a request from a donator, I was inspired to produce a gown that was masculine, but still special. I had seen an image of a christening gown with a vest during some time I was cruising online, and I thought it was a natty thing to do. The only barrier, was that I had to draft the vest. I am ok at these things, but not confident. When I designed the vest, it isn’t a vest separate to the gown (therefore requiring more handling of bubby than you need), but rather a decorative element on the front. All of the other frippery used on the gowns is much the same, on the front of the dress, where it can be on show for the parents without impacting on the baby.

This pattern, and the matching tutorial, are free to anyone sewing for Angel Gowns, or any other similar charity (although the patterns may need adjustment to match other gown patterns).  I only ask that you credit my design in some small way.

Vest Patterns

Vest instructions

If you choose to be involved in a special charity like Angel Gowns, please know that you are providing a special memory to parents and family, suffering the grief that comes with going home with empty arms.


White gown with blue vest

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Dear young woman in the black dress

To the young woman in the black skater dress at my local shopping centre.

Firstly, your dress is lovely ……. black, with lace panels up the side of the closely fitted bodice, beautiful swirly circle skirt.

The dress complimented your figure beautifully, highlighting your lovely long legs, shapely hips and narrow torso.

You are youthful, tall, with long dark hair,  and really, I support totally the right of young people to wear whatever they want, whenever they want.

However …………….

Please consider a little more length to your skirts when you are shopping?

Standing up straight it is dead sexy, but there is nothing more startling than to walk around the corner in the meat department, to be met by the sight of a lace g-string, and a pair of beautifully firm butt cheeks right in front of me, as you bent over the trolley to the children.

Wearing the clothing isn’t wrong, but perhaps consider those of us who aren’t expecting that sort of surprise at 4pm on a Saturday.

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Pink and black nightgown

This is my second incarnation of the Seamster (formerly Disparate Disciplines) Yellowtail Cami pattern.  This time I lengthened all the body pieces, with a view to having a nightgown.  I also added a small amount to the side seams (tapered so the back width was the same) to give me a bit of room.

Not ….. happy ….. Jan!

The commonly held belief after the first one, was that the fabrics stretched out as I was sewing, and as such, that was why it was so big. The fabric this time, is a 2 way synthetic knit, quite heavy weight, and not all that prone to stretching out. However, a quick try on before applying the FOE, revealed exactly the same issue across my back (apologies for the shot of my bare back).

Pink and black nightgown

Either my back is super narrow, or this pattern has a huge amount of ease built in, rather than negative ease that the website claims. What can’t be seen is that I also had the same problem with the front …. the front bands ended up almost in my armpits. This time stretching can’t be blamed, because I interfaced the bands, reasoning that the fabric was heavier and therefore needed the support. I ended up cutting close to an inch off the bodice front at both sides, in essence pulling it back to a size 10. I have a feeling that getting the fit how the pattern claims, will require me to do the same with the back bodice. The front V gave me more trouble than last time, so I think I was just lucky to get it right last time. I plan to draft off a new version with these fitting changes, and see how it goes.

The finished result isn’t perfect, but I am hoping it will be a comfortable nightie to wear. Originally I was planning wide bands for the shoulders, and self binding for the back, but the resulting finish was so dreadful, I cut it off, and started again. As a result, I just couldn’t be bothered changing threads to apply the FOE, so we have a “design feature” of black thread on the pink FOE.

Pink and black nightgown

Pink and black nightgown

The hem was finished with roll-edge hemming on my overlocker, but I think next time I will take the time to thread up the coverstitch, as my overlocker did not like all the seams.

I think perhaps, that I might put this pattern away for a while, until I have the patience to spend on getting the fitting just right.

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Baby quilts …… production line quilting

I have always said that production line sewing is tedious, and I never enjoy it.  Yet every year, I subject myself to it, usually convincing myself that sewing the same thing as xmas gifts for my work friends, would be efficient.  Of course, it makes deciding easy, but its boring.   But I can’t really say this about these quilts.  Each is different enough that they challenged me in different ways, and I don’t think I could name a favourite. These quilts are all gifts for 4 ladies I work with. All teachers at the school, one is having her third child, two are having their second, and one is just starting her exciting parenting journey.

What started my decision to make baby quilts as gifts, was the purchase of a flannel charm pack, in the simple adorable range call “Duck Duck Goose”.  This fabric was deliciously lush and soft.  I decided to stretch my beginner quilters wings, and tried out a disappearing 9 patch pattern.  Ok, but the randomness of it, did mess with my mind quite a bit.  I backed with a co-ordinating piece of flannel, and bound with white homespun, reasoning that these will get a lot of wear, and homespun would be more durable than flannel. Quilting was wavy lines.

Duck baby blanket

Duck baby blanket

This quilt is for the adorable J, who is having her third child. The quilt turned out super soft and snuggly, and I think, lovely and old-fashioned with its pastel colours.

So, pleased with the result, I went back to the shop, looking for more charm packs. I found two in the range called “Beddy Bye”, again lovely soft pastels. The first pack I did the same pattern, a disappearing 9 patch, which I backed in flannel too. There weren’t as many squares in this pack, so I added a few of plain lemon, and placed them so I created the little feature squares in the plain fabric. Quilting was in wavy lines.

Beddy Bye quilt

Beddy Bye quilt

This one is for R, who is having her first child.

Back again to the charm pack, “Beddy Bye”, but I was getting bored with the 9 patch. Stretching my quilter wings again, I decided to try out HSQ (half square triangles). An interesting exercise, especially trying to avoid stretching the fabric on the bias which may have caused rippling and puckering. Puckering is your worst enemy when you are quilting. This time I quilted with straight lines, stitching in the ditch to create diagonal lines. This one was bordered with the plain lemon, and backed with the coordinating fabric.

Beddy Bye # 2

Beddy Bye # 2

This one is for K, who is due her second baby. She hasn’t seen this yet, as she’s not due til next term. I hope she likes it.

And to my last one. Try as I might, I could not track down another flannel charm pack. I wasn’t willing to buy the yardage, so I looked around for some cotton charm packs instead. I found this one online, its a lovely boy themed pack, that isn’t too baby. For this one I went back to the disappearing 9 patch pattern, bordered with pale blue, backed with a busy flower pattern, and white homespun binding. Quilting is wavy lines ….. I really like wavy lines.

Sarah's Quilt

Sarah's Quilt

I just love the blue stars and moon fabric. This one is for S, who is having her second child.

I apologise for the huge post, but these quilts have been under wraps for quite some time, so its great to finish them, send them off to the recipients, and get onto the next project. Of course, I have at least 4 more quilts to make, and lots more designed in my head. These things are addictive.


Posted in Gifts and Sewing Galore | 1 Comment

I am a terrible Facebook friend

If you need help with anything, I’ll be there.  If you are sick, I will cook with you.  If you need an emergency babysitter, I will take on your sprogs.  I may not make anything for you at your request, but I will help you do things for yourself.  I will cry with you when you are hurt. I will also laugh hysterically WITH you, when you stuff something up.

BUT …… I don’t recommend being my Facebook friend.

I will not like every single thing you post.  I’ll read it for sure, I will be sympathetic if its sad/bad news, I will be angry if you are, and I will be happy for you if its great news.  But I will not click on a little up-raised thumb to indicate my solidarity with you, and therefore increase FB’s stats on what I might like to have advertised at me.

Games are great.  Play one them myself.  Boring as tit, and very good sleeping encourager.  Not interested in joining the ones you like.  Just saying.

I won’t vote for your beautiful baby.  Oh to be sure, your child is gorgeous, absolutely adorable, cute as a button, and sweet natured to boot.  But, I don’t believe in pageants in the real world, and even less interested in them in the pretend world.  My unwillingness to participate in a poorly disguised data collection exercise, does not make me a bad friend.

I will not like your link or share on my page ……..  the latest charity/disability/disaster meme …. thing.   This is not to say I am a heartless cow that kicks disabled people, doesn’t care about domestic violence, thinks autism is a fad, or secretly opposes marriage equality.    Again, its data collection people, and a risky way to potentially download a trojan.  Its like porn ….. but more socially acceptable.    If you post these pages I will delete and block the sites, with gay and gleeful abandon.    If the post gets tricky, and refuses to be deleted …. you may find yourself unfriended.  Just sayin’.

Motivational posters ……. demotivate me.

De-motivational posters …. are heck funny ….. I may like them.  I may also just laugh a bit, then move on.

Nephew …… keep posting bloody screen shots from your computer game, and I will unfriend you in the real world.

Facebook may be a window into my world, but it is not my whole world.  I will not live vicariously through it, and I refuse to participate in the myriad of little tricks FB plays to try and trap me into it.  So by all means be my friend on FB ….. but if you want friendship, you need to be my friend in the real world too.

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The quest for the perfect t-shirt

Yep, its time to update my t-shirt supply, and I think perhaps, to stop wearing sacks. I am still a fair bit conscious of my “comfort layer”, but I think that perhaps I am making myself look bigger than I am at times. Considering I posted a close up photo of my boobs recently, I need to get past this.

So, this is my experimenting to find a shirt that does two things …… fits well BUT skims rather than clings.

First we have the CZM t-shirt. A nice enough shirt, with a lovely shaped raglan seam. It needs a little grading out at the hips, and probably I need to do my cheats FBA to give the girls a bit more room.

CZM t-shirt purple

And second we have the Jalie Raglan Tee. To start with, I have to say …… I HATE THE NECK BINDING. For whatever reason the neck binding was uber-difficult, slipping sideways under the presser foot, and just generally being a bear. Add to that, that the method ends up with the raglan seams (and therefore the overlocking) showing right at the edge of the neckline. So, future incarnations will have my normal method of binding the neckline. I really like this 3/4 length sleeve, especially coming into Autumn, although I wear this length all winter ….. long sleeves usually end up pushed up. This one, I have already graded the hips out a size, but I don’t think it needs additional room at the bust. I do prefer the shaped hem as well, thinking that perhaps it doesn’t cut me off quite as much as the CZM.

Jalie t-shirt purple

I think you should probably be able to tell which one I like. I have put the CZM back into the pattern drawer, but the Jalie is on the cutting table. I have a lot of beautiful fabrics just waiting to become great t-shirts.

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Chevron Cami ….. and adjusting fit

I came across this pattern company quite by accident. A very new independent designer, I was pointed to their site, through a topic on Artisans Square.

At first look, I wasn’t particularly interested, since their size charts finished at Size 14, and I haven’t been that size in decades. However, encouraged by other sewists productions, I went back and had another look. While the largest size was size 14, the measurements attached to that size fitted my ample girth, with perhaps a little extra needed for my tummy/hips. So, I thought I would give them a try.

Disparate Disciplines ……. an unusual name for a pattern company, but certainly quirky and memorable.

My first foray into the DD world, was with the Yellow Tail Camisole (there is a reason for the different names, but I will let you find that out for yourself).

My first problem, was I think because of the fabric I have chosen to test this pattern with. Its a super soft, extremely drapey, viscose jersey. I have a feeling that at least part of the reason the cami is so big, is that the pieces grew as I was working with it.

But …. big it is. Based on both the body and garment measurements, I cut out a size 14, grading out slightly at the hips to allow for my tummy. The bodice has ended up too wide across the bust, and I had to cut back nearly an inch off the armhole towards the CF, on both sides, just to get the armhole to finish close to the front. I have a feeling I need to cut one or two sizes smaller in the bust area at least. The back is correspondingly too big as well, resulting in me attaching and ripping out the FOE 3 times, in an effort to pull it in tight enough to actually stay up. Its ended up a lot more baggy across the back than the pattern description would have you think. The “v” effect in the centre front is far easier to do than you would imagine, although I did ditch-stitch at the front, as I wasn’t entirely happy at leaving the centre of the inner facing just floating free. This top would respond well to being coverstitched I think.

Chevron singlet

I apologise now for my visible bra, but nothing will convince me to publish a photo online with my girls unharnessed.

Chevron singlet

As you can see, the back is very low

Chevron singlet

Holy boobs batman! ….. yep, but I wanted to show you a closeup of the pointed bit, which I must say, I am pretty darn impressed with.

Chevron singlet

And the side seam. Its hard to see because of the print (and the wicked accidental pattern matching), but the extra width on the bodice, combined with the need to pull the elastic really tight to make it fit at the back, has meant that the side seam is pulled badly to the back.

I think, if I make this again, I need to take it down at least one or maybe two sizes, at least in the shoulders and upper back area. I am also considering reconfiguring the strap arrangement. While a fine strap is delicate, for those of us with ample assets, there is a deep and abiding need for something to cover the heavy duty trussing our girls need.

Overall, the pattern is lovely, with great detailed instructions, and a funky printed envelope to store all the bits in.  Just for my wonky body, it needs a little bit of fine tuning.

Posted in Craft and Sewing Patterns | 4 Comments

Avon ….. business or religion?

A couple of weeks ago, I encountered an Avon rep, touting from a stall at the front of my local shopping centre. Now my usual Avon lady is a bit erratic, and I am lucky to get brochures on time, so I thought GREAT! I can grab a book, and order a couple of things I like.

Instead I copped the full business spiel. I argued that I was only interested in being a customer, got talked into signing up anyway (ostensibly as a “customer member”), and then had to tolerate the whole “business package”, including so-called training. This training involved me sitting with the Rep, and having her read a booklet to me. What struck me most, is how Avon plays on the materialistic wants of a person.

One question asked is “list your hopes and dreams”. Here I think Avon is hoping to play on the desires of your classic SAHM ….. income, new car, pay off the house, and have luxuries …… all things you wish for when you are living on a tight budget. My dreams, don’t centre on material things ……. healthy children, a happy marriage and enough fabric to keep me occupied. And I see no need to discuss those dreams with a stranger.

But then the kicker. You even get coached, on how you sell the Avon business …. not the products, the business …. to friends and family, including phrases you use, aspects you should highlight.

Having gone through the evangelical christian process as a teenager (and never really getting it totally), this approach reminded me markedly of a religious witnessing. You highlight the deficits in a persons life, and then make the group you are touting seem like the only way to take away the woes. Even to the point of saying that you have some visual indication on how you need the group. (just a hint Avon rep: telling a mid-40′s woman she needs a 50+ range of face creams, is just plain insulting, and does not encourage me to buy the product). Its nothing more than a way to play on a persons vulnerabilities.

So, today I cancelled the membership. I just don’t see how I need to support a company that seeks to use the doubts and fears of others, to make money. Avon may think they are doing “good business”, but behaving like a religion does not make it a good business.

Posted in Family | 4 Comments

Love, and SewingADHD

I made a massive number of xmas presents last year ….. oh hang on, I forgot to post about them. Oh well.

Back to the topic. I made a lot … aprons, pot holders, embellished tea towels, a quilt, placemats, table runners, cushions, bags and superhero capes. By the end I was more than a bit burnt out. I took a break from my sewing machine, thinking I needed some space before diving in again.

But, taking that break, also broke my rhythm. I developed what I call SewingADHD …. I have all these projects in my head, all these things I want to sew, and absolutely no mojo to do them. And the danger I have, is that when I don’t sew, I tend to buy fabric. So at present I have about 15 metres of fabric, plus a heap of quilt fabric, that I am attempting to jam into my already overflowing fabric cupboard. As you can imagine ….. its not going well.

Great you say, its a prime opportunity, to go through the cupboard, weed out the stuff you will never sew, and get rid of it. *oh my, I felt a bit faint for a second*

Trouble is, I am in love.

There are times when a prodigious memory does not serve me well. I can remember where I got it from, how much I bought, what I planned for it when I bought it, what I planned for it the last time I spotted it in the stash … and so on and so forth. And I am in love with each and every piece of fabric in my stash.

So you can imagine, removing fabric from the stash is akin to giving away a pet. Its possible I suppose, but too painful to consider. So I rearrange where I can, place a couple of “use it or lose it” projects on the cutting table, and resolve to be stronger next time. I hope my fabric appreciates just how much it is loved.

Posted in Gifts and Sewing Galore | 2 Comments

Know your limits

Despite my protestations that I am not a quilter, its no surprise that I have taken up quilting. But, I have very definite ideas on what constitutes me as a quilter, as opposed to others.

A good friend is a professional quilter. She has a business quilting for others. She is very ….. very good at her craft. In fact I would go so far as to call her an artist, and I am impressed with her talent.

But ….. I know my limits.

I am not an artist. Don’t get me wrong, in order to be a seamstress you have to be creative. And for sure I am creative. I accepted years ago, that I can put together a great outfit, I can sew in a wicked zip, I do baby clothes that are stylish and special, and I can see a problem, and will work away at it until I get a resolution. I can trace Burda and Ottobre patterns from satans own pattern sheet. I am great at coordinating colours, and matching fabric to designs. But I am not artistic.

And so quilting. I like basic piecing. Not complex, not fancy. Basic. I can quilt in straight lines, I can ditch stitch like a boss, and I will condescend to following a wavy line occasionally.

But …. I know my limits.

Today I attempted FMQ (free motion quilting …. what is it with quilters and their abbreviations?). Even allowing for being a rank amateur, I hate it. I hate the lack of consistency, and I find it difficult to work with the concept of moving backwards, sideways, on an angle. And, I don’t like the feel of the quilted piece. Its too stiff and hard. My quilts are for wrapping up and snuggling.

And so, I acknowledge my limits. This is not failure, its acceptance that something doesn’t make you happy, so why force yourself to do it? So You will see plenty of quilts from me …. simple squares and rectangles, quilted with straight lines, occasionally wavy but thats about it. And thats ok!

Posted in Gifts and Sewing Galore | 1 Comment