Saturday, February 16, 2013

Medieval Merriment

In this crazy world where just surviving and getting the boring jobs done can seem to take up every spare minute of the day, it is easy to not even bother to find out what is going on in your own backyard.  Lately I have been trying to make more of an effort to find out what is happening locally and make the most of it.  Today we went to a local Medieval Festival which is a biennial event and we have been to four times now.  It is a fantastic day out and the kids both completely loved it.  There is an international jousting competition, other forms of medieval combat, archery, stalls and a whole medieval village set up to have a look around.
Here are some snaps we took while we were enjoying our afternoon.
First up the jousting:

A lot of people dress up to go and Mr A decided to wear his knight's costume but it seems his little sister wanted in on the act.

A medieval battle:
Mr A helping Miss M get a good vantage point for the second round of jousting.
A look around the medieval village:
We got Miss M's name written in calligraphy, Mr A still had his from last time.

Grinding wheat for flour

The cooking station

Getting ready for the action

We really are lucky to have such a fantastic event so close to us every 2 years as it's something that you don't really get to experience at any other time.  If you ever get a chance to go to something similar definitely go.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

All about Ottobre

In the past week I have had two different people ask me about the Ottobre mags that I am always harping on about in my sewing posts.  Thanks Renee for the idea of a post dedicated to Ottobre, I will try and cover everything I can think of about the pros and cons of the mags without waffling on too much.  First of all I am in no way affiliated with Ottobre but I do love their mags so it may end up appearing like a bit of an advert ;-)

What are Ottobre Mags?
Ottobre are Finnish sewing magazines which come out 6 times a year.  There are 4 children's issues each year (one for each season) and 2 women's issues.  I have been very lucky to be gifted a subscription as a christmas present for the last few years but I would continue my sub anyway as a bit of a no-brainer.

Because they are based in the northern hemisphere the magazines do arrive out of season for me but I don't mind this at all because it usually takes me a while to decide on pattern, fabric and then actually get around to sewing.

What's inside?
Each of the children's magazines contains 35-40 patterns and each of the women's magazines about 20 patterns.  I find there is a really good selection in each issue from good standard basics to the patterns with a more tailored finish and more 'special' outfits. In the issues I now have in my collection I can pretty much find anything I might want to sew for the children from underwear and sleepwear to tops, jackets, jeans, trousers, shorts, dresses, skirts and even swimwear.  I find there is usually a good split of girls and boys patterns in the children's magazines and I find the boys patterns fantastic in comparison with any of the major 'shop' brand patterns.  They seem to have a lovely attention to detail which means you can either not bother with some of the detail for a good basic pattern or go all out and make something with a real 'shop bought' finish.

How do the sizes work?
Being a european publication all the sizing in both the children's and women's magazines are european. The women's magazines go from a 34-52 which is the equivalent to 8-24 with most patterns covering the entire size range.  The childrens magazines covers sizes 56-170cm which is approx nb-size 14.  The european sizes for children are based on height and a bit confusing but there are lots of conversion charts available online.  The children's magazines are split into 3 sizing groups (babies/toddlers/boys and girls) with the patterns generally grouped to reflect these, although some basic patterns will cover a wider range.  There is also a fantastic measurement chart in each magazine which also details how to take the measurements, so I just measure the children at the start of each season and use those measurements to choose the appropriate size for a given item (which may differ between tops and bottoms).

How do you use the patterns?
All of the patterns come printed on large A0 pattern sheets within the magazine and need to be traced off for use.  It is all a bit daunting at first but they are all colour coded and each pattern piece is clearly numbered so it's not actually too bad once you get going.  I trace all my patterns onto a really lightweight interfacing I bought cheap.  I find this really good as it is easy to see through for tracing but reasonably durable and easy to use when it comes to cutting out.  Each pattern piece I trace I also label with the magazine issue, pattern number, pattern piece and size, and I always check the magazine that I have got all the pattern markings (there are schematics of each pattern piece with the sewing instructions).  One advantage I find of tracing off the patterns is that it is really easy to customise them as you go, for example for mr A I always make a size 98 with 110 or 114 length and I can easily do this for my base pattern as I trace then just reuse it :-)

The cutting and sewing.
The biggest trap of these magazines to those not used to using european patterns is that seam allowances are NOT included in the patterns.  I generally just add these on as I cut however it pays to read the sewing instructions before cutting because often hem allowances are included and seam allowances don't need to be added to bound edges (and if you do you end up with neck holes way too small for kiddy heads, lol).
I find the pattern instructions pretty good.  It does pay to read through them first and sometimes they seem a bit complicated but generally if you break it down and follow things one step at a time it all works out okay.  I find included lots of good tips for getting a nice finish on things like joining linings, hemming etc, and each magazine has a few extra illustrated instructions for things like bindings, collars and plackets.  I guess it does help to have some general sewing knowledge and occasionally I decide to do things my way (which is usually a cheats way) instead of what is stated in the pattern.

A few final thoughts.
For the price I think that these magazines are great value for money.  There are very few issues I have that I haven't made anything out of, more often I have used several patterns from a single issue.  So at $20 for 40 patterns it doesn't take long to look like a good deal compared for $15ish for one pattern from the shop.
I did find it a bit time consuming looking through all the mags each time I was looking for a pattern but each issue has a double page showing schematics of all the patterns which I have now printed out and put in a folder for easy browsing.  These include what sizes each of the patterns is in so it's a great way to quickly locate and compare patterns.
Another thing I really like is you don't have to subscribe.  You can go online and order single issues either from Ottobre themselves or one of their agents and even better you can go onto the website and actually browse through every issue to see what is in it before committing to purchasing.
The fit of the patterns is the only thing I think I haven't commented on.  I have found the fit pretty standard and they do often state if a pattern is a looser or slimmer fit.  Some of their wee girls tops and dresses do run a bit wide but there are some good reviews from people who have sewn the patterns up online so you can check that out and adjust size accordingly if necessary.

So on the whole what do I think of Ottobre?  I love them!  I wouldn't be without them and rarely sew from anything else for the children these days.  Is the tracing of patterns a bit of a pain?  Yes I guess but I tend to do a whole lot in an evening while watching tv.  Would I recommend them?  Definitely.  If you haven't tried one before find a single issue you like and buy that to start from, it wont be long before you get hooked, lol.  I would doubly recommend them if you have any boys to sew for.  I can even see patterns in them that will be acceptable to most tweens/teens.

I think that is everything but if I've missed anything crucial let me know.

Friday, February 8, 2013

FO PJs for me

Yes you read that correctly I actually made something for me for a change.  The story goes something like this.  I bought some gorgeous fabric with a print of Venice on it last year with no idea what I would make from it.  Then a couple of weeks ago I realised I needed more summer pj's and couldn't really justify going to buy them with a house full of fabric.  I had a look through my few issues of Ottobre Women and found a pattern and then checked and I had just enough of the gorgeous venice fabric, woohoo.
So with nothing to lose (apart form fabric I loved) I embarked on a new sewing mission.  I made a size 34 of the pj's in otto 5/2011 (patterns #1 and 2) and I am really pleased with the finish and the fit.
Although these are made from cotton and not a knit fabric they are really comfy.  I somehow managed to cut the upper bodice back piece out upside down which is kind of annoying but never mind.  I also had to juggle the fabric a bit to get the shorts out and could only match the print on either the front or back.  I thought I had matched the front but it was actually the back but again it's not the end of the world.  One wee feature I do really like of the pattern is the use of scolloped underwear elastic as an edging, quick and easy and gives a nice finish.
So there we go, all up to date for now, but with the chaos of term time work/school/daycare routine I fear the crafting with slow down a lot over the next few weeks.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

FO T-shirts for all

With the school holidays here I have managed to get a little more sewing done than normal - woohoo.  I seem to have gone a little t-shirt crazy, and have more planned but here is where I'm at with them so far.

I got this gorgeous roadway knit fabric towards the end of last year for my car loving boy.  Again this is an ottobre pattern (do I ever use anything else?  Well yes but not very often) 3/2010 #14, in a size 98 with 110 length.  The plain knit fabric for the sleeves and the ribbing were from stash.

A really quick t-shirt to whip up and the boy seems happy with it.  Fit is good although I may add a smidgen more length to the next one (or two).
Having sewn this up I couldn't help but imagine this fabric in teeny tiny baby size, and luckily for me a friend had a wee baby boy :-)  So here is Mr E's wee t-shirt.  Pattern is ottobre 3/2011 #12, in size 62, sewn exactly to pattern.  I chose an envelope neck pattern this time because I think they are nice and easy to get on small babies.

And finally Miss M is never one to miss out so here is a quick wee t-shirt for her too, ottobre 3/2008 #2, size 80 with 86 length.  I was a bit nervous this would be a bit small as I have been sewing mainly size 86 for her lately but it was already cut out so I threw it together anyway.  In this patternt he front neck gathering is done with a gathering thread instead of elastic and I never seem to be able to get it even when I do it this way (never again lesson learned), so yes the neck gathering is a little off to one side.  I'm pleased with how it turned out with the white binding though and again fabric from Mum's stash.

And the fit turned out perfect.  I like where the neckline sits and it is a good fit for both width and length, woohoo.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

FO A fairy hoodie

This is a wee project I have had in mind since I purchased the fabric last year.  The fairy sweatshirting I got from a lady who was selling off a massive amount of fabric that had belonged to her mother (and I mean bolts and bolts of fabric).  I may or may not have increased my fabric stash somewhat from this sale ;-)
Anyway I thought Miss M might like a wee hoodie with fairies on and since I had some time off work for the school holidays I tried to get some sewing done.  The pattern is from ottobre 1/2012, number 22 and I made a size 86 for Miss M.  The only change I made from the pattern was to omit underarm panels in a contrast colour and I also sewed the cuff and bottom bands on slightly differently (partly due to laziness and partly from not reading the instructions carefully enough).

The bright pink knit fabric I used for the hood lining and front facings and the lavender rib were both from Mum's stash :-)
And a close up of the fairy pockets.

On the whole the pattern went together really well.  It was my first time doing a lined hood with a band around the neckline and I am pleased with how well it all sits.  I did have to put the zip in twice because the pockets were way out of alignment the first time, but we live and learn.
And finally on Miss M.  The fit is good apart from the sleeves being a little too short which is slightly annoying.  If I use this pattern again I would either go up a size or add extra length to the sleeves.

FO Matilda Cardigan

I haven't done a lot of knitting this year at all, I have been in the sewing groove for a while now, but I did finish off this wee cardy for Miss M during our christmas break.
There is a bit of a story behind this cardy as I was asked to test-knit it by the designer way back in September.  At the time I declined saying that I didn't have the time as we were all sick and had birthday's and christmas coming up etc, but she assured me that there was no deadline she would just like someone else to look over it.  How can I say 'No' to that, especially when it is such a cute wee pattern.
So here is my version of the Matilda Cardigan by Schneckenstrick.  I made the size 2y in a lovely worsted weight bamboo/silk yarn that I bought in a destash last year.  The sheen of this yarn is gorgeous and the stitch definition is lovely as well.  The lovely flower buttons are from Jodulbug Creations.  This is knitted exactly to pattern and the only slight alteration I would make next time is to add a little more length to the skirt part, but I love the result and we have had many lovely comments when Miss M has worn it.

And here it is on Miss M.

Overall a lovely project and I am pleased with the finish.  There is quite a lot of knitting in the skirt section because of the gathering but it is worth it for the cute result :-)

Monday, February 4, 2013

A christmas photo montage.

First up a few snaps from all the respective christmas parties.
Just chill in

My butterfly with attitude

Scary tiger

Watching the animals

First ever pony ride

Mr A was pretty cool with it all

A great waterslide

A pretty flower for a princess

I can do the tug of war too

Making ice cream with liquid nitrogen (can you tell we are all science geeks at work).

Now I'm a zebra (with smurf hands from making slime)
Our christmas holiday to visit Gran and Grandad.
Off on the ferry

Enjoying the beach

Amongst the lavender

Christmas baking

Choosing a cupcake

That's one big present

How to cool off on a hot christmas afternoon

Trying my big cousins rollerblades

Mr A loving the big rollerblades

Enjoying a play at the park

Quite some collection of christmas lego

Chilling in the sun on Boxing Day

Time for a dip in the sea
And Miss M got the present of a trip to the zoo from Granny and Papa so we enjoyed that once we were back home.
About to get ready to head to the zoo

My boy on the tiger

The giraffe that the kids got to feed

An ice cream to end the day