As it turns out, the answer to the question “what do you do if you finish your daughter’s birthday present in plenty of time?” is “MAKE MORE!!” So we did.
On our travels this summer we found a wonderful fabric shop in Innsbruck (spoilers I know and I promise to catch up with the Europe adventure soon) that had an entire wall of cotton jersey in every imaginable print and pattern and at a price that I was more than happy to pay for it. I’ve never actually sewed anything with jersey before, or made any trousers beyond baby rompers but in the spirit of nothing ventured, nothing gained, I set the girls to pick a favourite each and John and I chose a couple for Pip.
Back home I obediently washed and dried and ironed the fabric and then waited to gather some courage. I’d thought I’d try copying some existing pairs like I did in the summer to make Pip’s shorts but then I was reading through some favourite blogs and someone, and they’ll have to forgive me for forgetting who, mentioned the Oliver + S tunic and leggings pattern and it started to look awfully familiar. Sure enough, one quick ransack of the studio later and there it was, and even better, there it was in the larger sizes.
And so rather than starting at Pip-sized and working up, I started with Kitty’s choice, just in time for her birthday. I used the age 10 pattern with no extra length added; it’s a perfect fit in the legs and if it comes up a little high on the waist well that will just keep her all the warmer in the winter.
You know your children have grown when you find yourself sitting on the hall floor to trace the pattern and cut out the pieces; no more dainty little frocks that can be cut out at my desk for me. The pattern is just two pieces, perfect for a first ever effort, and I cut them individually to try to get some pattern matching. I tried tracing the white circles on the first piece onto the pattern and then lining them up when I flipped it over to cut the other side but somehow while the back lined up perfectly, the front is a smidge out. It’s not enough to be jarring to the eye, especially is Miss Kitty wears them twizzled around her legs like a candy cane, but I’ve still not quite figured out why. I think I need to practice with some little pieces to see if I can figure it out.
I have owned an overlocker for a little under four years. It was my Mum’s and as Dad decided that he was unlikely to take up overlocking as a hobby, he gave it to me, and it’s sat on the shelf for all those years waiting for its time. All I remember of the overlocker is that Mum said it was horribly difficult to thread and I was never allowed to play with it. I was in my late teens by the time she bought it so she probably thought I should just get my own.
I tried having a play with it as it was, but one of the spools was nearly out of thread and I didn’t know that you needed to telescope up the thread guides and my first practice sews were the garbled mess you can imagine. So I did what you should probably only ever do once; I pulled out all the thread, grabbed some other spools, opened the book and decided to work out how to thread it myself. It’s painstaking yes, but not impossible, though if I ever run out of thread or want to change colour I’m going to do what the book says and pull it through on the end of the old colour, and it’s given me a much better idea of what’s doing what.
It also sewed much more nicely after I’d read the book – who’d have thought!
In the end the leggings were a piece of cake; three seams and some edging. I also finally got my twin needles out of its wrapper after 15 years of owning my sewing machine for the finishing touches so it’s been a project full of new adventures.
And as Kit has been asking for her leggings, pretty much since we got back from travelling, she was very excited to unwrap them and have them finally made.
But they were finished with a whole clear day before her birthday, and that would never do would it? John phoned me at work the afternoon before the big day, he’d been looking for a big cushion for her to sit on when she curls up in the corner with a book but hadn’t found anything big enough or nice enough to part with the kind of money on the price tag so I was dispatched to John Lewis on the way home. Well none of their cushions were big enough or nice enough either so at 6pm I found myself in the haberdashery department accompanied by a large square pillow from the bedding section, eyeing up the fabric selection. The winner was a Rowan print called Chloe Lollipop, and it, the pillow, my work bags and I squished ourselves onto the train home.
It’s just a simple pillowcase cushion cover, whizzed up in an hour or so but she absolutely loves it; its the cushion she carries around the house with her and takes out into the garden. It’s those kind of times that I am so glad that I can make things. It’s a very simple project, probably one of the first things you’d make if you were learning to sew and yet it meant that I could turn John’s vision into reality, and if that’s not a reason to sew then what could be?
And finally, back to leggings. Because once I’d made one pair and realised just how easy it was, there was really no excuse to hold back on the rest.
I haven’t got to Pip’s yet, but this week I cut out the size five and in an evening made up Elma’s elephants. Truth be told, the age 5 is a smidge on the big side for her, but the joy of ‘too big’ in children’s clothes is that you only have to wait a month or so before it becomes ‘just right’.
Which only leaves Pip; but his boats and monkeys will have to wait for another day!