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1  SEWING IN GENERAL / Sewing Machines: Discussion and Questions / Brother QC2000, Pfaff Ambition 1.5, Husqvarna Viking Opal 670 or Janome 8200? on: May 05, 2014 10:13:54 PM
So my sewing machine died and I want a better one. I sew several times a week - mostly garments for the children, sometimes garments for me, and occasionally quilts. I'd like to do more quilting in future years, and I want to get a decent machine I can grow into (without, you know, shelling out $10,000.) I don't plan to ever do much machine embroidery, so I don't need an embroidery machine.

Based on my research online, an absolute maximum budget of $3000 and a chat with the guy from my local sewing machine shop, I've narrowed it down to four:

Brother QC2000 ($2229)

Pfaff Ambition 1.5 ($2000)

Husqvarna Viking Opal 670 ($2000)

Janome 8200 ($2800)

So, any advice or ideas? The Janome 8200 comes with about 20 feet and a ruffler, which is cool, and a side table; but it's only 860 stitches a minute, although I doubt I sew fast enough for that to be a problem. The Brother QC2000 has 1000 stitches a minute and has more stitches, plus it's cheaper, so that might be a better option. But then, Pfaff has such a good reputation...

Ugh. This is worse than buying a car. Anyone?
2  CLOTHING / Clothing for Kids: Completed Projects / Merida costume for my six-year-old on: March 27, 2014 03:21:20 PM
DD does archery and loves dressing up and Brave, so a Merida costume was kind of a no-brainer for her sixth birthday.

Looking the dress up online I was astonished to find that it's not dark green at all. At least, there's blazing controversy. Apparently it's meant to be a dark, tealy blue which looks green in some lights. Looks green as heck to me in 90% of the film, but who am I to contradict the filmmakers? (And it did resolve a long-standing question in my mind as to why Merida merchandise featured a random blue dress that wasn't in the movie!)

Strangely enough I couldn't find any dark tealy blue fabric, so I bought a nice forest green and overdyed it with a dilute navy blue. My first time dyeing anything and I was a little nervous, especially when the fabric looked black immediately after dyeing - but lo and behold, it turned out perfectly. One day I'd be sewing it and thinking "Man, that dye didn't take at all, this dress is GREEN", and the next day I'd be thinking "Wow, I should have diluted the dye more, it's completely navy." Basically, it looks green in the light and blue in the shade; which is pretty cool! (Now watch as I fail to dye anything the correct colour ever again...)

I adapted two Ottobre patterns for the dress. The overdress was a long-sleeved winter dress I'd made DD before - lengthened, de-collared, widened at the hem and notched at the slightly lowered and widened neckline.

Most of the Merida cosplay I've seen just adds small 'peekaboo' sections of white to the sleeves and neckline. But it seemed fairly clear to me that Merida was wearing a chemise or underdress, so I decided to make the costume in two parts. (Probably easier, actually!) The underdress was a basic raglan-sleeved peasant top, lengthened and shirred at the neckline and sleeve cuffs. I didn't want the ruffles to be too bulky, so I finished the raw edges with a narrow zigzag instead of hemming them. I don't have any separate photos, but DD loves the underdress so much she's started wearing it as a winter nightie!

Anyway, here it is. It ain't perfect, but DD loves it.

3  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Two breastfeeding-friendly dresses on: February 17, 2014 01:20:07 AM

I love wearing dresses, but breastfeeding ones aren't easy to come by. I'm not big on the rather bland grey or black jersey dresses with crossover V-necks, designed to highlight one's magnificent breastfeeding cleavage, which I don't have. I've made do with shirt dresses (that button down the front) and the occasional zippered dress, but I was really craving something Modclothy that didn't bisect my torso. (I've been breastfeeding for a while...)

Sooo, I made this. It invisible-zips under the bust. The fabric doesn't stretch, and I doubt this pattern would work for someone with a large difference between band and cup size. But for a modest B-cup it works just fine. I used a rather ugly Ottobre Women bodice pattern which originally had topstitching and sleeves; self-drafted a skirt that flared at the hips (Empire waists make me look pregnant), and added the band-and-bow doohickey. Time-consuming, but not hard.

This one, version 2, was designed as a pinafore. (Actually so was version 1, in theory, but it ended up too tight to squeeze a blouse under!) I made the bodice a little looser and added an invisible zip at the back. The band on this one goes right round the back, so the zip can be a little longer (it starts just before one side seam and ends just after the other.) Makes the breastfeeding thing a bit easier. I also put pockets on it, because pockets are awesome. Here, I'm wearing a tulle skirt underneath:

These are currently two of my most wearable dresses. I really like the pattern, and will probably adapt it at some point for a wiggle skirt. I think it'd adapt quite nicely as a maternity dress too, with the high waistline. At any rate, after wearing buttons and zips down my front for years the blank acreage of chest gives me a ridiculous amount of happiness. Hope it inspires some fellow fashion-frustrated breastfeeders!
4  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / Film noir coat dress on: November 04, 2013 08:35:10 PM
One of my New Year's Resolutions this year was to sew myself six garments. I make most of my children's clothes, but I'm skittish about sewing for myself (all that fabric to ruin!) And I never have anything to wear, because I don't like/look terrible in/can't breastfeed in/can't afford storebought clothes. So.

I did finish the six garments (and with two months to spare!) - and a few deadlines helped. This dress was created over about three days for a friend's film noir-themed 21st birthday party. I ran into a few annoying construction issues, and if I hadn't had the deadline (and NOTHING else to wear!) it would undoubtedly have ended up wadded at the back of the sewing cupboard. I'm glad it didn't, though - I like it. Smiley

I started with a Butterick coat pattern. Flared each panel a bit towards the bottom (in an Eiffel Tower-type shape, not A-line) and lengthened the hemline by three inches. Changed the back of the dress to a V-neck in an effort to make it look more dressy and less coaty. Altered the collar. Threw out the sleeves completely - they were really badly drafted. Pulled horribly and cut into the arms unless they were right down by my sides. (Some Googling informed me that this was due to too deep an armscye. The things you learn!) Anyway these were long, looseish coat sleeves and I wanted tight 3/4 length ones.

It took about five tries to get the sleeves even remotely right, and I'd try again if I made the dress again - mine are just a wee bit too tight, and the elbow dart I added in a fit of fanciness is a little too high. They're a vast improvement, though.

Then I self-covered buttons for the first time - so much fun! - and made a big ol' sash, and I was done. The dress doesn't fasten below the buttons and sash - it doesn't tend to fall open, but I wear bike shorts enough just in case. The dress is lined except for the sleeves. The buttons are just for show - I used these huge metal snaps I cannibalised off a hand-me-down years ago and never thought I'd use!

(And yes... most of these photos are sideways. *I* dunno. Tilt your head, it's good for your neck.)

5  CLOTHING / Clothing for Kids: Completed Projects / Knit 'flapper dress' for my five-year-old on: November 04, 2013 08:19:18 PM
So I needed to make DD some Disney princess costumes in which she could climb and run around. I decided to make the bodices of the dresses with little peplums and leggings, instead of full-length dresses. So I needed a basic stretchy-fabric bodice pattern to adapt for the various princesses.

Out came the Ottobre magazines, and I found a T-shirt pattern with slightly gathered sleeves. So I made up a test T-shirt, just to see how it looked.

Whereupon I went "Huh, that's cute", and remembered DD didn't have many summer tops. So I stopped off at the fabric store and got half a metre each of some nice pink and green knits. I was going to make two T-shirts, with swapped-colour sleeves. And then, halfway though cutting out the second one, I decided to make it into a dress.

A few of my more ambitious ideas had to be sacrificed due to a lack of fabric, but here's the finished result.

I didn't quite intend the bodice portion to be so long, but never mind - gives it a Roaring Twenties vibe. DD LOVES it. I think it's the flower.

The best part is, sewing all these T-shirts kept me occupied until my new Ottobre arrived this morning, with a perfect princess bodice pattern inside! Yay for procrastination. I made another T-shirt with the pink and green (double-layered sleeves cut on the fold, a centre-front pleat at the neckline and a little bow with two pearls down the middle for decoration), but the camera's currently not charged. I should really have made the T-shirt first - having fallen in love with the dress, DD will barely look at the T-shirt!
6  CLOTHING / Clothing: Completed Projects: General / 50s-ish sailor dress on: March 29, 2013 03:12:43 AM
I've always loved twirly dresses with fitted waists, but they were never around... until I started being pregnant and breastfeeding, which meant 99% of them weren't wearable! I have a bit of a mental block about sewing clothes for myself, but one of my New Year's resolutions was to make myself six garments this year. This is number one. (Yeah, I'm not exactly ahead of schedule...)

I designed it myself. The bodice was drastically altered from a rather ugly Ottobre button-up shirt pattern; the skirt was my first-ever circle skirt. Construction issues included an unflatteringly boxy top; a complete dismantling and feminising of the bodice; the subsequent addition of an invisible side zip so I could get back into it; a peculiar lack of fittedness once it was all sewn back together; a vague plan to shir the waistband; and finally the helpful suggestion of a friend, namely "Buy a belt". Well, duh. $2 later at the op shop, the dress looked a whole lot better.

Pardon the photos - my husband and five-year-old daughter took 'em, and their skill levels are comparably dubious.

I love the twirliness of the skirt. It could really use a tulle petticoat, but I'll buy one - I've worked with tulle a few times lately, and the stuff is the devil.

Anyway, it's not perfect, but it's one of the very few... indeed, possibly the only garment I've sewn myself which I feel able to wear out of the house without embarrassment. So that's a start!
7  CLOTHING / Clothing for Kids: Completed Projects / Lots of clothes I made for my son and daughter - pic heavy on: November 01, 2012 12:37:57 PM
'Scuse the mass post; I'm going through some photos in a lame, half-hearted attempt at organising them, and found a bunch of clothes I'd made.

Here we go...

This was a cute little spring jacket from Emma Hardy's Making Children's Clothes. It didn't fit for long, sadly.

My daughter is modelling a messenger bag I made for my nephew. Sadly, said nephew's father took one look at it, declared it a handbag and no son of his, etc, and banished it. I hear the nephlet has since unearthed it and uses it to carry around his toy cars, though. Heh.

Here's DD in a party dress I made from a modified Ottobre pattern. The skirt's a little longer and fuller than it should have been, to accommodate twirling preferences; and I accidentally bought fabric in a narrower width than the pattern stated, so I had to add the curved yoke thingy and do some fancy cutting to avoid running out of fabric!

And here she is wearing the apron I made for the birthday girl. It's meant to tie around the waist, not the bust, but what can I say - DH took the photo. A heavily modified version of another Emma Hardy pattern - I basically just kept her idea of a cutout neckhole and ties round the front.

I made this whole outfit for DS: the shirt before he was born, the biblet copied from one my sister sent me, the waistcoat and trousers from Ottobre.

Another waistcoat and trousies, both Ottobre. I love Ottobre! He's not unhappy in this photo, just temporarily worried that his tummy button has gone AWOL. Don't worry, he found it.

Another shirt and Ottobre shorts:

Going back in time a bit, a heavily-modified Ottobre overall pattern. These were made from the fabric of one of our groomsmen's shirts! They were big medieval-type shirts, so there was plenty of fabric to work with.

And a not-so-flattering shot of the baby in another pair - the same pattern, but much closer to the original.

And here's DD modelling the Snow White dress I made her for her fourth birthday. Naturally, the dress isn't ironed in the picture - the sleeves look better when they are. That was in May, and the dress is now distinctly worn and dingy-looking around the bottom, has been repaired twice, and is nearly too small. I'm making her a Cinderella costume for Christmas, based on the same pattern, but sized up and altered.

I'm pretty sure I've done more sewing than that recently, but that'll do for now!
8  CLOTHING / Clothing for Kids: Completed Projects / Starfleet Baby on: October 31, 2012 11:55:33 PM
A friend of ours had a surprise 30th birthday party, and the theme was "geek". So naturally, we dressed up geekily - my daughter in a Captain America tutu (her choice), DH as a Sith lord, and the baby as a Starfleet officer. True to form, I ran out of time to make my own costume and ended up going as a medieval/Renaissance... pirate... wench... gypsy... thing, in borrowed garb.

Upon arriving at the party, we found that the birthday boy's family had intended "geek" quite differently. They'd all dressed up Revenge of the Nerds style, with pocket protectors, taped glasses, op-shop-ugly clothes and, apparently following some stereotype of which I am unaware, fake freckles. (Seriously, is that even a thing? I can see pale skin, even pimply skin, but freckles? Since when were freckles a geek thing? I mistook one kid for Pippi Longstocking...)

And to top it off, the birthday boy's mother took one look at my Starfleet-clad baby and cooed "Awww, he's little Luke Skywalker, bless him!"

You can choose your friends, but they can't choose their family. Anyway. The baby.

His name is Miles and he has blondeish curls, so naturally I should have dressed him up as Miles O'Brien. But I've never been keen on that Engineering mustard yellow, and I couldn't find any in the correct fabric anyway, so I threw his odds of survival to the wind and bought some red.

Then it turned out I'd misremembered the uniforms, and didn't have enough red for a TNG-style uniform. Cue much googling, until I found a Voyager command uniform with minimal red. Not a huge Voyager fan, but meh; I figured it would have to do.

And here is the lad himself. A credit to the Federation, if I do say so myself.

9  KNITTING / Knitting: Discussion and Questions / Pure wool for newborn/baby projects - snobbery? on: September 05, 2010 08:08:02 PM
I'm pretty new to knitting, but we've decided to TTC baby number two; so I'm trying to get ahead with some handmade baby items. Smiley I bought some lovely yarns on sale the other day - a few wool/cashmere blends, and some that are a mixture of wool, alpaca and acrylic. I kinda cringed at the acrylic, but they went soft and were cheap and the right colours, so I got them!

Anyway, I was thinking (while knitting, naturally!): is it really important to use pure or near-pure natural yarns for baby clothes? If I spend heaps of money on pure wool, will I just end up dressing my newborn in DD's hand-me-down cotton sweatshop onesies because I'm too tired and busy to handwash the woollen garments? Would I be better off with bamboo, or acrylic, or...? Do people choose wool for babies because it's more comfy to wear, or just because it seems like the Thing To Do?

I'll definitely use up all the yummy yarns I have, but I'm wondering if I should stock up on other kinds of yarn as well. Any BTDT advice appreciated! I want baby clothes that will last, not fall apart; but I can't afford to buy the super-deluxe yarns either.
10  KNITTING / Knitting: Discussion and Questions / Can I sorta selectively shrink my knitting? on: June 25, 2010 08:01:38 PM
I just finished a pair of arm warmers in a sort of criss-cross open pattern (diagonal eyelet stitch, I think it's called). Being a newbie knitter and not using a pattern, one arm warmer is slightly bigger than the other - so instead of keeping itself up, the top sort of droops down to my elbow.

Can I somehow shrink one armwarmer or at least its top half? I dunno... pour boiling water on it or something? :p It seems a bit late to block it as I've sewn it up, and I'm not sure blocking can actually make things smaller anyway. The wool is a possum-merino blend, if that makes a difference.

Any help hugely appreciated - I do NOT want to re-knit this!
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