The Oliver and S Sailboat skirt

The Oliver and S sailboat skirt is now a Tried and True pattern.  To check the elastic required for the back band, I made little miss R try on the skirt….she then refused to leave my sewing room without the skirt on.  She actually stood by my sewing machine while I stitched in the elastic, and basted down the front where the buttons and buttonholes should go, all the while chanting “mine”.   No higher commendation can be awarded.

Oliver and S sailboat pattern

You can just see one basted buttonhole on the left…

And thus all day she wore the skirt, and I had to wait until after it was out of the wash (and she was out of the house) to photograph the details.


Oliver and S patterns with elastic generally fit her pretty perfectly if they don’t have too much ease designed in.  The length is perfect on the skirt, so it doesn’t get in the way of climbing, jumping, riding on bikes etc.  The back is very gathered, as it always takes significantly less elastic than the pattern recommends, but she’s a skinny mini.

oliver and s sailboat skirt elastic back



The main fabric on this is a black cotton drill from lincraft, and the inside of the skirt flaps should also be black cotton drill but I can’t remember where I tidied it to.  Somewhere very safe obviously.


Future learnings

Pro tip – I usually have a piece of bias tape pinned up on a board which shows her waist circumference.  Wish I’d kept all of the old ones!  It’s a good way to use up old scraps, and then I can just lay it out over some elastic (and then shorten it).

For the next few years, R doesn’t need buttons to get in and out of this skirt, so I’ll continue eliminating the buttonholes and just have the buttons sewn on decoratively.  Also, I might modify the front to turn the front panels into pockets, but really that just invites snotty tissues into the wash.  What does a toddler really need pockets for anyway?

oliver and s sailboat skirt button detail


Every time you sew an oliver and s pattern you learn something new and clever.  Liesl is a genius, and the order of construction and techniques used always give such a professional finish.  I’m putting together my collection of beautiful basics from the Oliver and S patterns, which will get hauled out as nice quality basics for the kids.  The back elastic is just lovely, and so easy to insert.  The order of construction and the way the back is drafted is impeccable.

The kick pleat at the back is also very well explained, and is a lovely detail (and makes it much easier to play in).

oliver and s kick pleat


Shortly after sewing this, I listened to the ThreadCult podcast with Liesel and I would highly recommend listening to it if you sew kids patterns.  Actually, I would recommend the whole series as it’s just fascinating some of the interviewees explaining how they got in the industry and their perception of sewing etc.  Did you know Susan Khalje used to be a concert pianist?  Anyway, let’s get back on track.

This is now my favourite ‘not fussy’ skirt for R.  Do you have any recommendations for great basic kids patterns?  I’m looking for the perfect shorts for her next….

Oliver and S Sailboat top – version 2

sailboat top girlyHere, come sit.  Let’s talk.  This is a little bit of a sneaky cheater post, as I’ve already posted about this cute little pattern here, but there is something to draw your attention to about this fabric.

oliver and s final top

Also known as “why you should fussy cut”.  Can you see it in the photo below?

oliver and s sailboat top pattern repeat

It’s even more obvious if you extend that little arm out :(

oliver and s sailboat top extended arm

This fabric is from lincraft, and is a fairly loose weave.  It’s not a linen, but I can’t remember exactly what the fabric style is.  I’ve still got some left, and I’m keen to make some loose summer dresses for next year.  The only problem with this fabric is the print repeat isn’t done very well, and you can clearly see the “blocks” of print on larger pieces.  Some clever cutting might be required if i want to make this into a dress, to either hide it or incorporate it into a design detail.   The break between the patterns is probably a good 1/2″ which make it fairly conspicuous.

oliver and s sailboat shirt lounging about

At the end of the day though, it doesn’t change the comfort factor for the little lady.

My other new arrival – a vintage Bernina 730 Record.

See this?  This is from stalking the gumtree.

Bernina 730At the December social sewing we had a discussion about Bernina’s and their quality, as there have been a few posts floating around the blogosphere about Bernina’s.

After a little online lurking, I found an older one listed for a good price on the Gumtree, which had already been up for a week or two.  Generally, this to me would indicate it probably wasn’t available anymore so I sent off an enquiry email just in case.

It was little like when you leave a store thinking about buying something, and then when you go back it’s gone and you have massive regret.  After sending the email, I kept checking for a response…..I really WANTED that machine.  It’s had one owner since the 70′s, was recently serviced and in good working order.  The only reason they were selling was it was time to downsize their home, and the owner had subsequently bought ANOTHER bernina.

Obviously, it was available so I snaffled it up!  I arranged to pick it up between Christmas and New Year, and then it killed me not being able to try it out until 2014.  Longest wait EVER.

Was it worth it?  OH YES.  It’s true LOVE.  Even the sewing machine manual is very impressive.

Here’s my love list.

  • It self regulates the upper thread tension.
  • It has twenty different stitches.
  • The buttonholes are lovely and regular, even without having an automatic buttonhole option
  • It has a beautiful stitch quality
  • It has an automatic knee life
  • It has crazy things like a tailors tack foot.

I’ve still got to try out many of it’s features, but so far it has sewn beautifully everything I have put near it.  My poor singer is sitting getting a little neglected at the moment, but I might set them up for different projects, so I don’t have to swap needles and thread when working on multiple projects.  Sometimes I like to have my quick makes and then also the slow attention to detail projects at the same time, and find myself constantly swapping between threads, bobbins and needles.

I’ve also started the process of giving away my first sewing machine to a sewing newbie.  It’s a Toyota quiltmaster, and if you’re in Melbourne, new to sewing or want to start drop me a line.  If it’s still available, it could be yours :)

Baby and shop announcement

Hi Everyone!

If you’re reading this, then it means the newest member of our family has arrived happy and healthy!

It’s a little lady – Weight : 9 pounds 6 and 55 cm tall

While we’re adjusting, shipping is going to be delayed until Monday, then Mr SewSquirrel will do the post office run. Yes, it might seem a little crazy to only have one week off, but it might be longer between re-ordering new stock and bringing in new items. Funnily enough, the shipping is the least time consuming part! We’ll see how it goes.


Oliver and S – Sailboat pattern top

I am a total sucker for Oliver and S Digital patterns.  Why?  As the kids grow I can just print and cut out new copies of the patterns for their sizes, rather than tracing them.  A little lazy? Yes.  The pattern pieces are all so small that it doesn’t take that long to tape up the PDF.

Oliver & S sailboat shirt

The top was so cute I cut out two before actually testing if they fit.  High risk?  A little.


The first fabric is a quilting cotton, which I couldn’t resist with all the animals.  I think it was from Lincraft as I had a gift voucher, and very few fabrics took my eye in that particular store.  Rarely do I make clothes out of quilting cotton, but R is all about the animals at the moment.  In fact, today I learnt that Camels raaaaw! and elephants like eating strawberries.  Toddlers are a wealth of information.

Oliver and S rawwwr


I think this was a straight size two without any alterations.  It fits really well, even as she’s a skinny kid with a large melon, the buttons on both sides of the neckline make it easy to get over her head, and the fit is designed to be fairly slim which is nice.

Oliver and S Sailboat top back detail


Top stitching the facing wasn’t as tricky as I expected, and this top was actually a much quicker make than I expected. The thing that made it so easy? A measuring gauge.   The tricky thing about Oliver and S patterns is they have so much detail, and if hems and top stitching are a little wonky, due to the tiny size of the garments it really shows up and can make them look homemade.  Using a seam measuring gauge ensures that I am pressing half inch and one inch seams, and it makes a big difference.

The only deviation from the instructions is they will have you sew up the sleeve, then press the sleeve hem in and then sew.  I find it quite a pernickity job on such tiny sleeves, so I press the sleeve hem in while the sleeve is flat, then pin together, sew the sleeve length and overlock it.  I then press the seam allowance to one side and do a small amount of top stitiching to keep the seam allowance flat.  It’s a detail often seen in RTW clothes, and it’s just easier in my opinion.  Probably wouldn’t do it on adult clothes, but for kids it’s perfect.

oliver and s sailboat top

Seam detail inside the sleeve

Oliver and s sailboat top

Topstitching on sleeve

Future learnings

The instructions are comprehensive, but even still I find that the concept of this being a beginner pattern a little baffling.  Many beginner sewers really have not used interfacing, done buttonholes or done topstitching.  This would be an advanced beginner pattern in my opinion, as the skill set of beginners now is very low, as opposed to the 1960′s when textiles was still taught thoroughly at school.

I always take Oliver and S their scizzor rating of patterns with a little bit of scepticism, as I doubt I would bother with a three or four scizzor difficulty rating for something that will be grown out of quickly.  With the exception of the coat.  That’s still good value to sew, as coats are so horrifically expensive to buy.

Will I sew it again?  Well, the pattern came with three variations, and I’ve got three blog posts for this pattern*.

*In theory.  Only the tops have so far been finished – so it might be 2015 before you see the rest.

Guess how much I love you quilt number two

Guess how much I love you fabric panel

The last few weeks I’ve been sitting waiting for this baby to arrive (currently 4 days overdue), so I whipped up a little quilt by accident.  I hadn’t planned on making a quilt, as there are already far to many overdue unfinished objects in my home already, but I’m a sucker for the guess how much I love you books, (I started this one 9 years ago – finished 1-2 years ago) so when Darn cheap Fabrics had the licensed print in stock…somehow two metres of fabric ended up in my bag.

Guess how much I love you baby quilt

Unfortunately, one I started cutting it out (without a plan or pattern) there was not quite enough fabric to finish the corners of the quilt.  After hunting extensively online, I found a lovely online store, Fabric Fusion which still had a little of this print in stock.

Nearly every single scrap of fabric went into this quilt, as I assembled the quilt back using the leftover fabric from the quilt top…and there was probably 5 small offcuts that didn’t make it.  It was a tight fit to baste the two together as there very nearly wasn’t enough fabric!  You can see in the bottom right corner I was struggling to have enough fabric.  I would have liked to break up the chunks of fabric more, but with seam allowances it was going to be too tight to fit it back together and be big enough.

guess how much I love you quilt back

The quilt was machine quilted around the blocks, and just randomly in the centre along some decorative lines on the fabric panel.  The wadding was a bamboo by Mathilda’s Own which only requires quilting lines every 8″ apart.  Mine are closer than that in most parts, but it’s nice to know it’s a fairly secure wadding.  I’ve pinned the care instructions for the bamboo wadding here if you’re interested.  I’m pretty pleased with the binding, it was a $2 fat quarter from GJ’s discount fabric I bought about 2 years ago, and didn’t go with any projects until now.  Yay for stash use (even though I’ve now added more wadding offcut to it than the 50cm of fabric….)

guess how much I love you quilt, binding corner

Generally my preference for squishy comfort and style is to handquilt, but there just wasn’t enough time, and this is going to be washed extensively and suffer a fair amount of abuse, so it was the perfect opportunity to try out the walking foot on my new (secondhand) Bernina.  It handled like a beauty as expected :)

Now I just need the baby…..

My top 5 Reflections, Inspirations and Goals of 2013 and looking forward in 2014…

Here’s part two of my Top 5 posts, in which I try and assemble my thoughts into some kind of coherent jumble.  It’s a long shot at best.

crafting a rainbow top 5

Top 5 Reflections: What did you learn about yourself or sewing this year?

The more time and thought I put into a garment, the more I enjoy it long term.  It’s hard balancing the want to dress the family quickly, as opposed to buying ready made clothes, and the quality that makes it worthwhile.

I completed my Seamless pledge, and it was fairly easy.  What’s difficult, which I didn’t expect was trying to go back to RTW.

Going to sewing social, however many projects I bring, I will only AT BEST do a third of that.  It’s a pretty good reality check between how fast I think I sew, and my actual speed.

Nothing teaches you faster than practice.  All the blogs in the world won’t replace the feeling of fabric under your fingers. It took 8 versions of Jalie 3133 to finally nail it to a quality I loved, no matter how many tutorials I read.

Jalie 3133 raglan baby toddler FOE fold over elastic

My UFO list is getting outrageous.  I might enforce a finish ban before starting anything new….

Top 5 Inspirations: What books, people, blogs, trends etc motivated you this year?

The sewing of my friends.  Nothing is more inspiring than seeing what people are sewing at social sewing, on Twitter and seeing different tips and techniques and versions of garments.  The different thinking and way that people sew also challenges me to try different methods, i.e. fast finishes versus couture methods.   This has been fascinating as the lure of technical projects is very much influenced by watching Poppykettle sew, and also balancing that with using sewing as a practical means of ethically dressing myself (and increasingly the family) is driven by Funkbunny, Mymessings and Unique Schmuck.

Blogs.  I love reading a wide range of sewing and design blogs.  And even one or two cooking blogs.  It’s great to see different peoples opinions, techniques and use of patterns and fabric combinations.  You really can never be too inspired right?  (Total lie – occasionally I have internet reduced days* so I can focus on my projects on hand and not start anything new.  That’s right, my UFO pile isn’t my fault…it’s yours.)

*Internet free days aren’t really an option when you run an online store, but not checking your email every 20 minutes IS an option.

Technical sewing (books).  I’ve admitted before I read sewing patterns on the train.  Aside from feeling a little like Dumbledore reading knitting patterns, I like to make my own notes about how I’m going to tackle a project of any modifications I’m planning on doing BEFORE starting these days.
Having learnt from experience working as a advisor in a large consulting firm full of specialists, in my role as a “be all advisor” you can never stop learning, or know everything about a subject matter.  However having a broad understanding of the concepts and the practices out in the field means that when you do encounter an issue, a lightbulb will hopefully go off and you can refer to a subject matter expert.  Sewing is exactly the same.  Gertie is my go to for vintage patterns/techniques.  Colette for the basics, same as readers digest (mine is the 1970′s version).  My sewing machine manual is INVALUABLE.   You know what else is?  My local library.  I’ve borrowed heaps of amazing sewing books like pattern magic from my little local library.  Now I just need a full collection of Susan Khalje books…..

Craftsy.  The couture dress class has changed my life.  So has the fitting class.  AMAZING.  I learn visually and verbally best, so this is an amazing platform of learning for me.  It is my dream to attend a Susan Khalje class, but my skills need SO much work to really get the best out of such an opportunity.

Designsponge.  I like Grace and her ethos, not all the posts are for me but I find generally it’s fairly inspirational for a simpler, more decluttered life with quality things around me, and to support local and independent as much as possible.  It’s not the easiest way to live, but it makes us all happier.  Side note, I’ve been decluttering the house while nesting, and it’s STILL full of stuff.  The volume of things I’ve thrown out has been astounding, but it feels SO good.  I’m determined that we should do it twice a year as a family, and that will drive us to accumulate less.

Top 5 Goals for the New Year

One.  It really is time to finish all those UFO’s from last year and new UFO’s.  Notice anything about that list?  Nearly everything on there is for other people.  Naughty isn’t it?  The only two things really for me that haven’t been completed in a timely fashion is the pavlova blouse, as I picked a terribly hard fabric to work with, and the lady grey coat which also has a poor fabric choice.   So that’s the real challenge while I sit around waiting for this baby to arrive, finish UFO’s and work on the new website.

  • Oliver and S Sailboat top x 2
  • Oliver and S Sailboat pants
  • Oliver and S Sailboat skirt
  • Thread Theory Jedediah Shorts
  • Cake Patterns pavlova blouse
  • Vintage cape
  • Two quilt tops
  • Hand quilting of a queen sized quilt
  • Colette Patterns lady grey jacket
  • Curtains for my sewing room
  • Table napkins

Two.  2014 has a focus on two speed sewing.  Quick quality basics, and high quality beautiful classic designs.   We all have those tried a true patterns, for basic t-shirts and simple items, and I’m planning on making sure to keep the family stocked in those.  The other items I want to sew are things that might take a bit more time, but use beautiful fabrics and proper sewing techniques and are finished to a high standard.  Mel of Poppykettle is really starting to rub off!  I’d like to do sewing lessons again later in the year to really pull the standard of my sewing to a better level, and then feel more confident spending more money on super high quality fabrics.

Three.  Finish a couple of craftsy courses.  8 classes, and only one finished watching.  I’ve rewatched lots of sections of certain courses, but not actually made the projects and gotten to the end.  My enthusiasm did not match my spare time last year.  Nearly all the watching I did, was on the train commuting to and from work.  It’s kinda hard sewing along on the train.

Four.  Sew for my husband.  The ratio of fabric proclaimed to be shorts/t-shirts/hoodies etc to finished garments is staggeringly poor.  I get some patterns to muslin stage, get him to try it on…then they disappear under other projects or need alterations….blah blah blah.  He should be the easiest one in the family to sew for, yet gets the least number of garments.  Unlucky.  (His total finished garment tally is 2 – and they aren’t even wearable in my opinion.  He kindly wears one, and asks for more, but maybe next time with a less wavy neckline.  That t-shirt should be in flashdance it’s that stretched out on the neckline).

Five.  Be kind to myself when I’ve got two small kids and no time to sew.  It will pass, they will grow, and it’s perfectly fine to pack away the sewing machine for a couple of months.  I’ll leave out some hand sewing to do, now I think about it…there are some english paper pieced hexagons half done which might have been left off my UFO list…..

How did I go against prior years goals?

-Sew whatever takes your whimsy, but try and make it a practical and beautiful version.  Add a stunning lining to a coporate colour, sneak in some pockets, embroider a jacket

Hmmm, I think the practical aspect worked, but the beautiful is something to keep aspiring to.  Much of my sewing recently has been all practical, and the challenge of making something beautiful is something to keep aspiring towards.

-I have a two item limit of UFO’s come 31 December 2013, which means digging out that Lady Grey coat and finishing it.  It also means three quilts, a tiramisu, day to night top, kimono top and a girls dress, four cushion covers and a set of curtains.  *sigh*.

EPIC FAIL.  The curtains, three quilts and that lady grey are still outstanding.  I’m trying to spend time at home sewing before this baby comes clearing away this UFO list.  The Lady grey as well, it needs some rework which is causing epic procrastination, but it will be worth it when it’s done.

- Try and blog once a week, sewing is a team sport, and sometimes reading someone else’s blog gives you the encouragement to start sewing something.  It’s the bomb.

Well, apparently I blogged 33 times last year, which considering what a crazy year it’s been, I totally forgive myself.  You do too right?

-Be a good person.  I made my first Kiva loan to a sewing lady in pakistan this week, and it felt good.  I’m not a huge fan of the high rates of interest they charge, but even here trying to get the funds to start sewsquirrel was tricky for a microbusiness.  It’s the least I can do to regularly make Kiva loans.

I totally need to do this more.  We’ve been more focused on domestic charities this year, and considering how much international aid Australia no longer is contributing, I should stump up and help represent.

-Do some selfless sewing, and more mending.  This year I got an extra years use out of a set of sheets by patching them (twice).  I’m trying to live a more green and sustainable life, so that means repairing and refashioning!

This, is kind of a win.  While my poor husband is still waiting on a wearable finished garment (any garment really), the little one got a bonanza of outfits.  She’s just gotten to the age where she doesn’t grow out of things immediately, so it’s more worthwhile.  I’ve repaired many more things, although I’ve got to stop repairing sheets with quilting cotton.  There are all these tiny little colourful circles all over the sheets (from the cat sleeping/clawing at the bed).