Desperately seeking unfussy knit patterns for kids

I think it started with Tilly’s lovely Coco dress for grown-ups. Or it might have been the summer Boden frocks, though I could do without the applique. Or possibly the need to replace some M&S gorgeous heavy jersey board-style shorts in a broad pink/white stripe that Small Girl cherishes and has out-grown. Whatever it was, it wasn’t helped by the gorgeous striped organic cotton jersey at Village Haberdashery (right).

I need clean-cut, unfussy patterns for a t-shirt dress and drawstring or elasticated waist long shorts, all for knit fabric, for a six year old. This is proving difficult. I don’t want puffed sleeves, yokes, zips, shirring, gathers, frills or ruffles. I don’t want spaghetti straps, bodices, wraps, faux-wraps or belts. I don’t want a fly front or turn-ups on the shorts. I want a simple A-line dress with short sleeves. Something that the girl can get into and out of on her own and that I can sew up in a heartbeat. She has enough with the frills and trims already, what she needs is easy summer stretchy simplicity.

It shouldn’t be that hard to find such patterns, should it? The ease of wear and laundering of a good stretch fabric lends itself to simplicity of garment design and such a pattern would be great for new-ish dress-makers. An A-line t-shirt dress has to be a classic surely, or does Boden really have the monopoly on design here?

Yet the pattern world is letting me down, the big 4 and indies alike. Even my 12 month stack of Burdastyle can’t deliver. Prove me wrong please, point me to your tried and trusted childrens knit patterns so that I don’t have to scour E-Bay for a cheap Boden frock to take the seam-ripper to. Or I might have to learn pattern drafting, or wait for Tilly to launch a childrens range. Please and Thank you J

All done bar the crinkling.

The Things That Matter quilt is pieced, backed, trimmed, quilted, bound and labelled. The girl secured her Gold Mathletics award whilst I was sewing the label on today and promptly reminded me that I was in breach of our agreement. So the quilt was handed over, and tomorrow I shall sneakily wash and dry it while she’s at school. It’s looking very one-dimensional at present and really needs that lived in, loved, and laundered crinkle. So I shall be washing it at a slightly higher temperature than I feel comfortable with, and will tumble it regardless of how much of a good drying day it might be outside. What’s needed here is a bit of shrinkage.

What follows is a whistlestop tour of its production. I started at the end of January, if memory serves me right, and it’s all but done today 17th March.

Making the top. I used 34 fabrics for the piecing, about six of which were in my stash, the remainder were shiny new fat quarters. Yes, I probably have enough left to make a cot size quilt in stripes. Yes, you surely could do it with rather fewer fabrics. I followed the quiltingdad wonky log cabin tutorial and it worked pretty well for me.

WP_003387Sashing presented a couple of issues for me. Firstly, I made a rooky geometry error and ended up with half my strips being too short. Luckily the shop had a scant metre of fabric left on the bolt and I could buy a rescue from my own stupidity. Secondly, once each 12.5” square was sashed, it become too big to trim to size using my square ruler. So there was a lot of squaring and swearing at the cutting mat on the kitchen table as I wore grooves into the cutting mat and wore out the blade on my rotary cutter.

WP_003463 (1)Making the wadding “sandwich” and tacking all three layers together took much, much longer than I’d expected. Sewing it to the living room rug didn’t help. The effort paid off though. My wadding is bamboo, as I think natural fibres are safer for children’s bedding. The backing fabric, chosen by Small Girl, is Robert Kaufman Spot On Extra Wide in Aqua, which had the glorious advantage of being wide enough for me to cut the whole piece sideways. Thanks go to my parents who generously paid for wadding and fabric, and to my mother’s Good Housekeeping Encyclopaedia of Needlecrafts which guided me through the long process of getting the three layers ready to quilt, and the hand-quilting itself. I used an entire small reel of tacking thread before I even started quilting.

Quilting was by hand, and very minimal. The wadding specified stitching no further apart than 8”, I quilted the centre square of each panel, a larger square a couple of rounds out, and up and down the entire grid of sashing. There was enough going on in the quilt-top without adding in a lot of ambitious machine quilting. I used Guterman Sulky thread, in various shades of pink and cream.

WP_003510Binding was more straightforward than I’d anticipated. I don’t have a link for a tutorial for making the binding but there are plenty out there. I used left over 2.5” and 3” fabric strips, trimmed them to 2.25” and made double-fold binding. The strips were cut on the straight grain and I joined them diagonally to reduce bulk and stress. Then I folded the 5.5metres of pink ribbon in half lengthwise, right sides out, and pressed it. Finally I rolled it up, which was a mistake (the binding twisted as I worked it). I found a great video on ShinyHappyWorld for binding the quilt and followed it to the letter. I have mitred corners!

WP_003521Labelling was fun. I love the look of the ticker tape quilts, where edges are left unfinished, and wanted to use this idea for my labels. Being somewhat of a control freak cautious by nature, my version of “unfinished” turned out to be a machine embroidered border with an outer pinked edge, and back-stitching being used to secure the labels. On the right hand top corner is a rogue fairy, and who doesn’t need a rogue fairy under their quilt to encourage sweet dreams? This was my tiny gesture towards a pieced back. The label proper is on the bottom left hand corner. The WP_003522quote is from Debi Gilori’s book “No Matter What”. I’m also going to attach a “Stitched with Love” label that I won over at GrosgrainGreen ‘s Sew Grateful giveaway, but I need to wash the quilt before I can tell where to sew that one.

Blinding binding & mighty mitres

I’m on the home stretch with the Things that Matter quilt. On Friday and Saturday I made the “blinding” as B calls it, and machine stitched one side of it to the quilt. The present job, in between spells in the sun, is folding it over and hand-stitching the other side. I plan to have it finished, labelled, washed and dried in time for Friday, which is when I think B will get her Mathletics Gold award. If not, I’ll have an extra few days to do a few more random bits of quilting. Anyway, full washup post to follow!

Sew Grateful Giveaway winners

Sew Grateful Giveaway winners

And the winners are… Tara Gries, EmSewCrazy, Laurie and Meri, who should all have emails in their inboxes or spam boxes! Congratulations to you all. Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment, enter and read my blog – I can’t help feeling that I’ve won too with such lovely new blogs to add to my feed. So sorry you couldn’t all win! All entries were transferred to paper, then 4 draws were made by my 6 year old from her Red Riding Hood basket. She’s still marvelling at the number of people with the surnames “Esme” and “Cape” :)

Sewing the seeds of love.


Today is Reflections Day at Sew Grateful. The most recent influences on my sewing have without doubt been the joyous, determined and skilled inhabitants of my Blogloving feed. English Eccentric, Continental Chic, US Coolness, Australian ease and effortless goddam style oozes from every blogging corner of the planet. Reading my blog feed is my daily awe and inspiration, and that’s without paying credit to the remarkable knitters, crocheters and artists in the same feed. You all rock, and I’m grateful to each and every one of you.
Yet, the post that I felt I should really post here has already been written, a year ago. It doesn’t mention any of the brilliant sewing bloggers as I was yet to find many of them, but does consider those who started me in sewing and who kept the embers glowing when I didn’t have a machine. I hope you enjoy it.

Originally posted on Good purl gone bad:

In the eye of the getting-ready hurricane this morning I grabbed Small Girl’s mittens on a string to find that the button attaching one of them was falling off. Seconds later I had thread, needle and scissors and was sewing it back on while my tea brewed. If only the rest of my life could be this organised.

I grew up with sewing as one of the basic home skills. It wasn’t something that needed to be done well or with massive aspirations to improve, just something that was learned and done like walking to school or eating breakfast. One of my earliest memories is sitting in a sunny lawned back garden rather grumpily attempting to mend a ripped dolly after my mother told me that she was busy but would thread a needle so that I could fix it myself. Babysitters would turn up with cut out pieces of…

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Sew Grateful Pattern giveaway!

Let’s do this! If you fancy a pattern let me know in the comments field, please ensure you provide an email address or a blog address I can contact you at. I’m more than happy to post internationally. I’m in the UK, if the size doesn’t make sense go by the bust size as I’m sure inches are the same everywhere. Apologies for the formatting, I am really wrestling to blog without my cherished LiveWriter. Please leave your comments by midnight on Friday 28th February (GMT) and I’ll draw winners at the weekend. Thank you and good luck!

Style 2609, size 16, bust 38″. I bought this preloved from ebay but have not used it as I have a Simplicity pattern that I prefer. Pattern has been cut and used and is complete.

Katherine Tilton for Butterick B5881, multi-sizes 8 -16 (bust 31.5″ to 38″). As new and uncut. I fancied making this in two layers of coloured linen… but I need more structure than this provides. The back does cinch in with a bit of elastic.

New Look 6073, hooded and unhooded capes. Multi-size xs-xl (bust 30.5″-46″). As new and uncut, I went with a vintage pattern in the end.

Sew Liberated Esme Top. Cut to a size 12, this worked up very large on my 38″ bust and I gave it away to a friend who loves it (it fits her far better than me too). I think this is a US 12 rather than a UK 12. The website gives 37.5″ bust for a size 12, but mine worked up larger in a 12. I did have some issues with the pattern – you need to check the errata before sewing. Probably not best for a brand new dress-maker.

Sew Grateful – what a difference a year makes!

This time last year I was a few weeks into a dressmaking evening class, with a short trail of garments of varying success behind me, and my O level Fashion & Fabrics a very long way behind me. I was being teased, tantalised and tempted by a variety of fantastic completed projects on the internet, as well as touched by the generosity of time and skill-sharing by the writers of so many of these blogs. The lovely Amazing Adventures of Tara Cat was my gateway to the seamy side (hopefully she won’t mind that choice of words), and I remember being frankly stunned by the Sew Grateful project in which she shared. I would list more blogs but the sensible thing to do is to update my link list once I’ve posted this.

12 months on, I’ve done two terms of evening classes, bought a new machine and an overlocker, and have worked with jersey and tailoring, carnival costumes and quilts. The Great British Sewing Bee is shortly returning for Season 2, and my list of planned sewing projects is so long as to be almost intimidating. It’s time to give something back.

Join me from Mon 24nd February for pattern giveaways, link sharing and more embarrassingly gushy thank yous….

Edit… anyone with a diary will have spotted the error in the original graphic.. Sew Grateful actually runs from Monday 24th February to Sunday 2nd March. Corrected graphic to follow.