Sunday, 23 August 2015

And then there was a tutu

Yesterday really was a hot, sticky sort of day. Really it needed some rain to clear the air, but sadly this didn't arrive until today, coincidentally a few minutes after I'd pegged the last item of laundry onto the line to dry!

After a morning in the park, I settled down for an afternoon of sewing. With only two weeks left until the start of term, I had a tutu to make.

M had already designed her idea of the perfect tutu. We chose suitable tulle together. We visited Hobbycraft for sewing supplies a few weeks back. All I had to do was make a five year's vision reality.

I started on this project two weeks ago, getting a little distracted last week by the need to make a tutu for a horse, but with a deadline looming I wanted to plod on with it yesterday in case something went wrong. I'm always a great believer in leaving yourself time to fix things, rather than having a disaster on your hands at the very last minute.

Last weekend, I'd cut and gathered my tulle, all two hundred pieces of it, securing it to a piece of bias tape. M's chosen colours are pink and turquoise, and she specifically wanted vertical runs of colour, going from waistband to hem, hence I used 15cm rolls of fine, soft tulle. I decided to make the tutu slightly longer at the back, so cut 32cm strips for the front and 35cm for the back. I gathered each strip individually, in a sequence of two, so two pink, then two turquoise, then two pink, etc...

This took a long, long time.

Once the gathers were done, I cut a piece of bias tape 11cm bigger than M's current waist measurement. That was 8cm ease, to get it over her hips and up to 3cm seam allowance (SA). I marked the SA, then pinned the gathered tulle in place, adjusting as I went. I'd gathered in three pieces, one for the front and two for the back (allowing for a centre back join) because it allowed me to control the gathered fabric's distribution.

Pinning the tulle in place was fiddly, mostly because the stuff has a mind of its own.

After that, I sewed it in place very carefully, repeatedly stopping to move the tulle away from the needle and feed dogs, keeping everything as tidy as possible.
Securing gathered tulle to a piece of bias tape.
Yesterday, my task was to add the waistband to the resulting proto-tutu.

My waistband is made from two pieces of satin ribbon, sewn together along once side, pressed, then sewn to make a loop.

I pinned the gathered tulle into the waistband, sewed it in place, folded over and secured it by sewing again, leaving the last 15cm unsewn so I could insert the elastic. I decided to use woven elastic as it is suited to heavy duty waistbands, which seemed appropriate for dancewear.

My hope had been, that by sewing the gathered tulle onto tape first, I'd tame it a little before attaching it to the waistband. I'm not sure I was successful, as it was still really fiddly to get the tulle pinned in place and very slow, careful stitching was required with the sewing machine.

The elastic was a tight fit to the resulting casing, which was why I'd left such a large hole to insert it. I'm glad I did, because some wrestling was involved! I secured the elastic, first to the inside of the waistband, and then to itself, before closing the casing by hand. I had intended to sew it with the machine, but the fit around the elastic and gathered tulle was so tight, I couldn't be sure I'd not catch the elastic, so sewing by hand seemed the safer (and quicker) bet.

Casing closed, a bit of wriggling to evenly distribute the tulle around the elastic and finally I had a finished, wearable, extremely floofy, full tutu. Just as M had planned.
The finished tutu.
Back and side view of the tutu.
Cue a very, very happy little girl.

Saturday, 22 August 2015

Of parks and potatoes

We received an email at the beginning of the week from the gardeners at Allesley Park Walled Garden, telling us the potato we planted a few months back was ready to be dug up. The gardeners had planned to dig them up on Wednesday, but as I was at work, I decided to go with the alternative date of today. So it was that we hustled M out of the door and drove over to Allesley for the second week running, so she could dig up her potato.

We arrived to a garden full of happy gardeners bustling around what has to be one of the lushest gardens I've ever seen. The walled garden has very good soil and a happy group of volunteers to work it. We announced we were directed to someone who knew what we were on about, and were told we'd need to identify which potato was ours.

I spoke up - "Number 38."

Which raised eyebrows, apparently I was the first parent to remember, but as I said, I had taken a photograph!
Here lies M's potato.
A woman with a clipboard came along, saying that all we had to do was look up M's name which she did, saying "Ah, we must have M."

In a few moments, we were looking for No. 38. It took us a few minutes as the beds were overgrown and not that many potatoes had been dug up. It seems that heavy rain on Wednesday meant not many children came to dig up their potatoes and we were only the second family to stop by this morning.

The soil was turned over and within a few minutes, we had potatoes!
A happy girl with her potatoes.
The job done, we spent some time looking at the garden, admiring the plants and the flowers which had been planted for the bees. M loves the vivid colours of the wild flowers, so we spent some time here.
Beautiful red poppies.
Pinks and purples.
And of course, lavenders.
M was very excited by the sunflowers, as ours were eaten by pigeons.
When we finally tore ourselves away from the walled garden, we strolled around the park, looking at the wild flower meadow again. This time the thistles were covered in down, so M spent a lot of time launching the downy seeds into the air and blowing them.

After that we found a 'feral' apple tree. Feral, in that it was in a park, but not feral as in this is managed parkland, so presumably the Council know the tree and many others are here.
Examining the park's apple trees.
It was an impressive looking crop though, and I'm curious as to what happens to the fruit in our parks.
Still small, but definitely apples.
After that it was time for a play in the park before heading home for some lunch.

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Tuesday, 18 August 2015

A tutu for a horse

There has been a lot of talk about tutu's in our house over the past couple of weeks, as M prepares for next term's dance classes. I've promised to make M a new tutu, to her specification, and so I set to cutting and gathering tulle in earnest on Sunday.

I had hoped that Dave might take M out for a bit, but she had other ideas and so we started working on another tutu project for her toy horse, Neigh.

A rummage in my scrap bag turned up some net curtain I'd bought many years ago as a floaty overlayer for a gown. This turned out to be an ideal choice for a horse.

We measured Neigh, with M carefully writing down the horse's waist and 'hip' size, as I demonstrated with the tape measure that the tutu had to open far enough to go over the toy's bottom or it would be impossible to get it on or off. M observed that Neigh has a big bottom and was worried this would make the tutu loose, but I said not to worry, we'd use some elastic.

Ah, elastic. This is a mysterious substance that I have minimal experience of and when I have used it, I've never been that impressed. As I want to add elastic to the back of M's tutu, I felt working with elastic for a small toy might be good practice.

We talked about how long M wanted Neigh's tutu to be, settling on 15cm as it was easy to find a small rule to match the size. I handed M a pair of pinking shears and suggested she cut strips of net curtain but it turned out the shears needed more oomph than M possessed. She managed to cut a little, but in the end asked that I do it.

I threaded up an embroidery needle with buttonhole thread, then showed M how to make a running stitch to gather up the net. M made a valiant effort while I resumed cutting tulle for her tutu. Lots of 'Oh dear's followed as the needle was pulled off the thread, prompting me to suggest M rethread it herself if she could... Much excitement followed when M did indeed manage to thread the needle herself, only to pull it free of the thread again on the next stitch. M persevered for about 30 minutes, before handing the little tutu to me, so I could finish gathering the remaining pieces of netting.

Next up I found some ribbon, showing M how to fold it to make a casing, which I then sewed into a loop, sized to go around the toy horse's bottom. M handed me pins and I attached Neigh's tutu to the ribbon. I asked M if she would like to sew the waistband herself, but she declined, watching me closely instead.

I could tell M was impressed when she eyed the sewing machine and suggested "Do you think the sewing machine needs its own tutu?"

A short while later, the net was sewn in place, the casing flipped over and secured with a gap for the elastic to be threaded in. The elastic was cut to fit Neigh's waist, with a little extra for a seam allowance. This was wrestled into place and sewn together before I closed the last little gap.
A finished tutu, made to fit a horse.
Cue a happy little girl and a happy toy horse.

Monday, 17 August 2015

Flowers and paint

The park called on Saturday morning, where we stopped by the market at Allseley Park Walled Garden. I almost bought yarn, but was distracted by cake at the last moment. Whether this was a good or a bad thing is still up for debate!

We stopped by the potato beds, to visit M's potato which we'd planted earlier in the year but couldn't see the marker under the overgrown bed. We'll hopefully go along to dig up any resulting potatoes later this week, so fingers crossed we get a crop.

Yarn stroked, cake eaten and potato visited, we continued our walk around the park with the highlight for all of us being the wild flower meadow. Coventry has taken to seeding unused parts of parks, grass verges and roundabouts with wild flowers, something I heartily approve of. Allseley Park was in full bloom, presenting us with an impressive field of colour.
Wild flowers in full bloom.
Wild flowers in full bloom.
M was particularly impressed with the vivid pinks and oranges, insisting that I take several pictures.

M was particularly drawn to the colours in this clump of flowers.
Can you blame a girl for loving these colours?
Just beautiful.
We also stopped by the pond, startling a family of moorhens who sped for the cover of the reeds, only coming out again when they were certain we weren't going to do anything dangerous. Looking at the rubbish other visitors had thrown into the pond, I fear they were right to be wary. We were on the lookout for newts, newtlets and froglets, but alas saw none. We did spot a fish in the water, but my phone's camera was unable to pick it out.

After a play in the playground, we headed home for some lunch. Later, inspired by all the colours
we had seen, I suggested M could do some painting. I'd been keen to show M how wax resist worked with watercolours, but our crayons needed a firmer pressure to transfer enough wax to the paper than M was able to manage on her own. Hence this turned into a collaborative project, with me drawing the wax designs sometimes by my own initiative and sometimes under M's careful direction. I painted a couple of sheets myself, but these are mostly M's creations.
Wax resist and watercolours.
Wax resist and watercolour.
The idea was to draw geometric designs in wax crayon, then paint over the top using watercolours, followed by a wash of water. M's use of colour is vivid and she found the effect of adding a water wash interesting.