11 April 2012

Giant Totoro cushion

This Christmas I had a last minute panic about a present for my boyfriend. I had lots of little bits but nothing that tied it all together: in essence, I had no main present. On Christmas Eve an idea suddenly came to me. I rushed out to the fabric shop to get everything and zoomed home to start making it.

Here he is--

As you can see he's made from cream and grey fleece with a red twill background. He has a grey denim backing and opens at the bottom with a chunky red zip.

We both recently became obsessed with Totoro because he's just so damned cute! Here is the reason I made the Totoro cushion: I thought I'd make a friend for a teddy we each have, who looks like this:

The teddy is like me - small and yappy, always got it's mouth open - and the cushion is like the bf - big and less talkative, more sedate. 

Here are some close-up details of the cushion, which, by the way, really is massive. It's 90cm x 90cm. Why so big? Because I love giving obnoxious presents, is the simple answer! Last summer I brought back from Mexico the biggest sombrero I could find, much to the despair of my travelling companion. It was so big it couldn't fit in my bag so I had to carry it as hand luggage. A man in the queue at immigration even felt the need to say, 'I don't think that hat is big enough.' Ha! I actually quite agreed with him, although he was being sarcastic.

Totoro was surprisingly easy to make. All the zigzag stitching on the appliqué was quite time-consuming, particularly on the fluffy wisps I cut into his belly fur. But it was all still very straightforward considering I didn't use any interfacing. On that point, I decided not to use the old stitch-n'-tear because of the vast size of the appliqué; I didn't want Totoro to feel crispy. He has a profile the size of a person so I wanted him to be soft so you can comfortably sink into him, like the Cup-a-Soup hug-in-a-mug creature. I think using fleece and a backing of twill eliminated the potential for warping and flimsiness you can get when you appliqué ordinary cotton. The eyes, nose and mouth are made from felt which also eliminated the need for stabilising. 

I love him. I wish I could be bothered to make myself one. I also wish I had the room to own one!

Alix xxx

3 April 2012

Drafting my first pattern

Ok so this pattern is not the very first thing I've drafted but it involves working with a sloper and a pencil skirt and combining the two to make a sleeveless fitted dress. The reason I decided to draft my own pattern is my frustration with those of the big four pattern companies. I also thought this shape wouldn't be too hard to draft. And luckily, it wasn't!

Here it is--

The whole inspiration to this dress was the desire to draft a perfectly fitting princess seam, which I had been reminded about by LiEr's tutorial/ sales pitch for princess seams. The only tricky part was drafting the princess seam correctly. I didn't know exactly where it should fall on the armhole so I did it by eye, referring to some coats in my wardrobe as a guide. On my sloper the armhole was slightly gapey; I thought it may have been because it wasn't staystitched but now I know it wasn't because of this. The excess made a natural fold pretty near the crook of my arm so I just took out about an extra 1cm from the rotated dart.

Overall I'm very pleased. The hours spent fitting a toile of another pattern were cut out because I started from a well fitted sloper. I had started out trying to adapt New Look 6049, which I blogged about a while ago, but the fit was off. So instead I used the sloper I had made last summer using gedwoods tutorial, the pencil skirt from Mademoiselle Chaos's tutorial and New Look 6049 to guide the shape of the neckline and the width of the shoulders.

I changed the positions of the waist darts on the front of my bodice to match them with the dart placement on the skirt to create a continuous line. I did the reverse on the back, changing the darts placement of the skirt to match the dart placement on the bodice.

I also experimented with a strip of interfacing in the waistline (about 2" wide) and the slit of the skirt. In the photos you can see how flat and crisp the waist of the skirt looks.

The dress is half lined, i.e. only the bodice, to reduce bulk and keep the dress slim. The lining is a quilting cotton from my stash and the whole dress was made with only 1m of fabric!

There is a final little secret to this dress. I am going to make a detachable peplum. Peplums, being all the rage, will look tired and outmoded by next year. I thought why ruin a great dress by sewing the peplum in and then never wearing it in two year's time?! By making it detachable the dress can be transformed from work to play, or serious to fun, with an easy addition. 

I haven't absolutely decided how I will  fasten the peplum. I think I'll use hooks and eyes on the waistband and maybe poppers on the peplum itself.

Lesson learnt: the time spent making a sloper will save hours of time later! Secondly, don't let pattern drafting intimidate you. Choose simple and classic shapes to start and gain confidence with these. I think next I should draft that item of clothing that scares even the most confident sewers: trousers.

Alix xxx