Mend it, fix it, froggit

So, the coral top is done.

I’m pleased with how it came out, but the process was not without hiccups. Isn’t that always the way? You have a simple job to do, and then the blind animosity of inanimate objects gets in the way. I’ve written about this before, but effectively it’s Murphy’s law, made personal. This time, it was the overlocker (serger). I serged one of the seams, cut the thread, turned the garment over and started on the other side. Nothing. No overlocking. 45 minutes and a 20 minute perusal of the manual later, I had thread 4 back in its correct path through the bottom looper arm. I love my needle-nosed tweezers…. Anyway, I got the job done, stitched down the seam allowance with a decorative stitch, pressed it, and it looks perfectly acceptable.

As I sat editing the above photo, I glanced up and saw the stems of my lemongrass clump (now 12 feet high) waving through the window. There were strange lumps on the stems…. Was this some dreaded new tropical pest? Nope. It was an army of frogs. Apparently, ‘army’ is the collective noun for frogs, although these little chaps, at barely half an inch long, are not terribly intimidating. It’s a battalion of our little tropical tree frogs, and why they’re hanging out in the hot sun instead of in the shade is beyond me. Click on the image to enlarge. There’s at least a dozen of them…


Dolphins ahoy!

Yes, OK, that was a bit hearty and nautical, but I couldn’t resist.

You’ll recall the lovely dolphin fabric my sister sent me, along with the two florals. I said I was going to make a summer dressing gown from it, and I’ve been as good as my word. Here it is, hanging flat on the design wall, where you can see the detail a bit better. In case you’re interested in how I did it, here are words and pictures. It’s quite a long post, sorry about that, but if you don’t use a pattern but wing it, you need to do a bit of explaining. Fortunately, it was a fairly easy make.

I did finally dig out the overlocker, which has been sitting in a box since we moved house {mumble mumble} years ago. After an initial clunky-grindy start, I have it cleaned, oiled, threaded, tension balanced and running again. So I almost completely constructed the robe using it. Only the hanging- and belt-loops, the pockets, hem and bindings were done on the sewing machine. I’d forgotten how fast overlockers/sergers are, and that you really, really don’t want to make any mistakes if you have the knives fitted. I didn’t, luckily, as I had only just enough fabric.

The back was one rectangle, cut on the fold. The length was how long I wanted it, the width was half the bust measurement plus a couple of inches. The two fronts were the same length, but I didn’t have enough width of fabric to make them the full width I wanted, so I had to piece together a front edge strip from the dolphin and blue batik.

I did have a long narrow strip left at the bottom from the full fabric width which was just enough to make a long sash. I also had to use the blue batik for the sleeves, and having decided to do that, I decided to insert a band of aqua batik at the top of the sleeve, edge the sleeves with a dolphin fabric turned-up cuff, and make pockets for the front of the robe in the same blue batik with matching aqua binding on the top edge.

I measured 2 inches down from the top edge of the back, and 1/4 of my neck circumference along the shoulder to shape the neck. A dinner plate was a handy size for giving a smooth curve. For the fronts, I added the pieced sections to give extra width to the fronts. It’s important to have enough width, or the robe won’t wrap around enough for full coverage. You also need to make sure the crossover comes high enough; I don’t think the world is ready for the sight of me with a plunging neckline! For this, it was a question of pinning on the extra, putting the garment on and seeing where I wanted it to cross, then cutting the diagonal accordingly.

For the sleeves, I just ran the measuring tape down my arm to where I wanted the sleeve to stop. From this, I subtracted 2 inches for the aqua strip, and another 2 inches for the cuff. I measured how deep I wanted the armhole from the top of my shoulder, doubled this, and cut a rectangle the right size for each sleeve in the dark blue batik. To these, I stitched the aqua band and the cuff whilst still flat.

Then I sewed and pressed the shoulder seams. Laying the whole thing out flat, right side up, I marked the centre of the sleeve rectangles, and aligned these with the shoulder seams. I pinned the sleeve edge to the garment edge, right sides together, and sewed and pressed it flat, repeating this on the other side.

After that, I made the belt and hanging loops, using leftover aqua batik strip. I folded this in half lengthways and pressed. Opening it out, I pressed first one, then the other long edge towards the middle crease, and then pressed the whole thing flat. I top-stitched two lines, one next to the open edge and one next to the fold, and cut from this two belt loops and a hanging loop.

I then turned the garment right sides together, pinned the belt loops into the side seams, and stitched and pressed all the way from the cuffs down to the hem on both sides.

For the pockets, I cut two long rectangles in the blue batik, folded them in half across the short axis, right sides together, and stitched up the sides, leaving the top open. I turned this through, pushed out the corners and pressed it flat. I then bound the top edges with the last of the aqua strip, and top-stitched the pockets in place on the front, after testing to see where I wanted them.

I then bound the raw edge of the opening, using the pink batik strips, using the same process as for binding a quilt.

I made a sash from the long strip left over from cutting the back and fronts. You can either sew it right sides together, turn and press, or you can turn under the edges, top-stitch and press. I loathe turning long thin strips, so I went with the latter method. A bit lazy, but hey, whose robe is this anyway?

Finally, I turned up and hemmed the bottom edge. Done!

It took me a day to do it, interspersed with other jobs. Mostly it was working out how to make the best use of the fabric I had, without any waste. For a large garment like this, there wasn’t enough to do everything in the same fabric, but I like the mixture. It’s also not a sophisticated garment, requiring careful fitting, but it is comfortable and soft, so fits the dressing gown bill perfectly.

And there we have it, a nice lightweight summer dressing gown, in all my favourite colours 🙂