Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Frocks for growing

You may remember Megan and Ben from around this time last year when I made them some bunting for their gloriously lovely wedding fest. Well, now they are growing a baby - yay!
Megan, like many other pregnant ladies, has been having a ghastly time finding non-ugly, non-sweatshop and non-expensive clothes to accommodate her growing tum. P&E to the rescue!
I made her some Megan-sized versions of the skirts and dresses that Pearl and I wore when we were pregnant, to see her through the coming months of growing-ness.
The dress is my basic bias-cut A-line. Flattering, with a good mount of give for bubba expansion, and made from an op-shop sheet Olive and I bought from the Narooma Vinnies on the day we moved to Bega (we had to make many, many stops that day, on account of Olive's car-sickness, the highlights of which were the op-shops and Bateman's Bay mini golf).
When I think of Megan, I think of blue and green, for some reason, so this sheet was an obvious pick.
When I was cutting it out, Olive asked if she could help. Of course! I love having her hanging around helping when I'm sewing - it inevitably leads to her making up some elaborate, gorgeous costume/landscape/scenario involving the offcuts. On this occasion she decided she wanted to make a dress for her toys, so I grabbed the opportunity to show her how to make what I think is the cutest, simplest dress/top ever, which can be adapted for toys, babies, kids and adults alike.
It's based on a little top I had when I was a baby, which my mum made. I made a bunch for Olive when she was little, and a few for other cute babies I know as well. It's a really great, basic design, good for beginners, and it's easy to adapt and fancy-up, if you're that way inclined. Here's how it goes:
Firstly, measure the length you want the top to be. For Olive's Niki-cat, this meant floor length. Note that the edge on the left is a folded edge, so the rectangle Niki-cat is lying on is actually doubled over.
Now, make a long rectangle that is the length of the dress on one side, and 2x the total width of the bottom hem of the dress on the other.
Now, fold your long rectangle into quarters. Measure the length from Niki-cat's neck to her shoulder, and mark this same length from the top of the folded rectangles. Cut a little scallop shape half moon thing. This makes the sleeve (if you're making this top for anyone other than a toy, you'll probably want to encase the scallop-cuts in bias binding so they don't fray when you wash it).
Now, you need to make something to thread your drawstring through. We used some braid that I found on a council clean up, but if you don't have anything like that, just fold the top over twice and sew along to make a tube, kind of like if you were hemming it.
Now, thread your drawstring and pull it around the neck, then tie at the back. Cute stuff!
Depending on who you're making it for, and how often it's going to be washed etc, you'll want to finish off the hems and edges properly, either with bias or just by turning them under. Give it a go!
When I was finished making Niki-cat's frock, I got started on Megan's skirt, which was to be made using a phenomenal 'Australian Wattle' teatowel, which she and Ben hand-delivered to my workplace in Bega as they kayaked and camped their way up the coast from Melbourne to Sydney.
I LOVE the teatowel a) because of its unashamed intermingling of the common names and latin names of the wattles it features, b) because it's wattles, and wattles are cool and c) because it's from the wool capital of the world!
The skirt is pretty much exactly the same as the classic P&E A-line, but with no zip, a slightly gathered-above-the-rump thing, and a big wide stretchy band on the top to accommodate pregnant expansion.
THE COMFIEST SKIRT EVER. I wore mine looong after Olive was born, especially in the winter, when the stretchy band keeps all lower-abdominal areas extra-toasty.
I'd always been quite partial to a bit of wattle action, having been in the yellow wattle 'house' in primary school (you know the groups you're in for athletic carnivals and such??). When the local Landcare co-ordinator (also, handily, our neighbour) came to check out our land to see what was happening, we traipsed all over the place, oohing and ahhing over the many varieties of little baby seedlings coming up everywhere on account of the cessation of decades-long grazing. I felt so thrilled to see the diversity of native flora that was hanging out, just waiting for a chance to rise above the dairy-cow fodder. Amongst these many little seedlings and native grasses were several tiny Acacia mearnsii - Black Wattle.
Some people consider these to be weeds, but we choose to see them as an asset. Firstly, they are short-lived, meaning that you can use them as 'nursery' plants to shelter your precious fruit trees and delicate natives like Indigofera australis - Native Indigo - while they get established. While they're growing, supporting and sheltering your orchard, they're also fixing nitrogen in the soil, because they're leguminous. When they're growing, you can prune them and use them as mulch, and then when they die - more mulch! I don't know about you, but this all seems very exciting to me. And having nursery trees on a baby-growing skirt is pretty ace.


  1. Beautiful skirt, not just for preggo bellies methinks!

  2. oh olive is a cutie-patootie! i love her big smile in that first photo where olive's feet become niki-cat's feet. ADORABLE.

  3. So great to see you still using that pattern, it is indeed a handy one and sooooo simple! Love reading your blog Annie and our little Olive is looking so grown up...what a cutester xx mum