Monday 31 December 2012

Happy New Year from Grandfather Frost

Ahh, the new year is almost here.  Grandfather Frost has had a pretty nasty year, but he has managed to break of of jail just in time to wish you a happy 2013!  His idea of celebrating the event is drinking a three litre jar of vodka over a venison bbq, and this is what brought about his incarceration at the start of 2012.  As the New Year's night progressed, and the spirits warmed his blood Grandpa Frost went from jolly to enraged over some Elf jokes about his weight, personal hygiene and drink driving.  The little Elves didn't stand a chance against his tattooed knuckles and his heavy sacks of toys.  The first sunrise of 2012 illuminated a disturbing scene: dozens of unconscious elves were splattered around the snow in pools of semi-frozen blood, the dead deer with missing chunks of flesh lay next to the still smoking bbq grill; Grandfather Frost slumped backwards over a beheaded deer, with a half-eaten pickled cucumber still in his hand.  He awoke to sirens and before he even fully regained consciousness, he found himself charged with various criminal offences including aggravated assault, disorderly behaviour and animal cruelty.  Learn from Grandfather Frost's misdemeanours and have a safe and happy 2013!

Saturday 29 December 2012

The Hunt is On.

Trying out new hat to stalk prey...

Tuesday 18 December 2012

Budenovka: How to Make a Reversible Hat

Since I was a child, I've always loved the budenovka hats worn by the Red Army between 1919 and 1939.  The origin of that sentiment was certainly the result of growing up on Soviet propaganda.  Of course, now I know that the much revered military commander Budyonny after whom the hat was named, was in reality, thick as pig shit and miraculously managed to escape Stalin's infamous purges of the late 30's.  But I won't hold history against the budenovka's quirky aesthetic.  When I went to Russia several years ago, budenovka replicas were sold as ubiquitously as the matryoshka dolls.  I bought one.

Before my tiny progeny is old enough to voice protestations, I'm going to dress her in whatever sartorially objectionable clothing I like.  I can then save the photos for her 21st birthday slideshow.  Budenovka will do rather well.

Here's how I made the hat, which is reversible.

Firstly, I made several toilles/slopers (garment mock-ups) to check proportions and fit.  It's been a while since I've done any pattern making, so my precision doodling got a bit rusty.  It took three attempts to create an adequate pattern.

I don't have pattern drafting software, so cannot offer a proper pattern, just an image of mine and instructions. 

There are five pattern pieces: crown back, crown front, crown side, peak, brim.  The only difference between front and side is the button placement marking.  To calculate the width of each front and side crown piece measure the baby's head, divide by six.  Add 1cm to the width of the back crown piece.  The peak spans two front crown pieces, and the brim - the rest of the hat circumference.  After you've drawn up the pieces, add whatever seam allowance works for you.  Usually I go for 1cm.  The seam allowance on the bottom of the crown pieces needs to be wider than the elastic you will use for the back of the hat (see below).

1.   I decided to make the hat olive green on one side and white on the other side. The fabric is medium weight cotton canvas.  Firstly cut each set of pattern pieces from both fabrics and a piece of elastic for the back of the hat.   It should be about 3cm shorter than the two back crown pieces side to side (not including the seam allowance). You need four buttons as well, but I hadn't decided on those until I finished the hat, which is why they aren't in the photo.   Don't use shank buttons because they will dig into the baby's head.  The back crown pieces are slightly wider than the front and side pieces because the proportions look better once the elastic is in.  There is no need to interface the peak if you're using medium weight fabric.

2. Stitch the crown pieces, right sides together, leaving the seam allowance gap at the narrow end.  It's easiest to sew them in pairs.  That way you're less likely to mix up the back pieces with the others.

 3. Stitch together the crowns, the peak and the brim.  Again, remember that it's right sides together.

4. Trim and clip seam allowances.  This will make it easier to turn the pieces right way out and keep the seams flat.

5. Turn the sewn pieces the right way out and press all seams with an iron.  This is a very very important step that you have to undertake with much patience.    Generally, when working with woven fabrics, you'll spend as much time pressing as you will sewing.  Accurate pressing makes the difference between a garment that looks hand-made and one that looks professional.  Rubbing the turned seam between fingers helps loosen the fabric and give a neater press.  Ideally you want to use a taylor's ham for pressing curves.  I still haven't made one, and it's a pain in the posterior trying to neatly press curved seams, esp in small garments.

6.  The crown pieces should be pressed open to minimise bulk in the seam where the crown is attached to the brim and peak. 

 7.  Now you have four crisply pressed parts.

8.  Top stitch the edges of the brim and peak.  Generally, I use a wide stitch for top stitching, but that doesn't work for tight round corners, so I used a shorter stitch for the brim.  In this instance I stitched very close to the edge because of the scale of the garment.

9.  Sew the button holes.  I carelessly sewed on the wrong side, so the contrasting stitching is unintentional, but I don't mind the result.  If your bobbin thread is different to top thread, remember to match/contrast the thread with the right fabric.

10. Pin the brim and the peak to one the the crowns.  In my example, I'm pinning the whites together.  Centre the peak over the centre front seam.  The brim covers the remaining four panels, two of which are the wider back ones.  Notice how the brim and the peak seam allowances overlap at one of the crown seams.  The overlap should be right over the seam.

11.  Pin the green crown over everything else.  The peak and brim are now hidden inside.  Notice how all the seams match.  Mismatched seams make me froth at the mouth and twitch angrily.  If your seams aren't matching, check that the back panels of fabric A are over the back panels of fabric B.  If they are still not matching, you must have taken liberties with the seam allowances on the crown panels.  Tsk tsk tsk!  Pin all the way around to make sure everything fits nicely.

12.  Sew around the seam leaving a gap in one of the back panels.  You need this gap to turn the hat the right way out.

13.  Attach the elastic to the seam allowance, stitching across the ends.  This is why the seam allowance should be wider than the elastic you're using.  Sweet!  You can now stick your fingers inside the gap in the seam and pull the hat through.  Taadaaa! Really though, it will take some wriggling.  Your hat will be a little shapeless and rather wrinkly.  I neglected to get a photo of mine at that stage.  Grab your iron and press the whole hat thoroughly.  Well, as much as you can with the elastic getting in the way at the back.

14.   Next step is top stitching the crown above the peak and brim.  This will hold the two crowns firmly together.  Do not top stitch the two back panels that hold the elastic.

15.  Carefully pin and sew the gap shut making sure to line up the seam on both sides of the hat and not catch the elastic.  You may wish to tack the seam in place before machine sewing because it's very easy to end up with an untidy seam on the underside, which is of course, not an underside when the hat is reversible!

16.  Almost done!  Now you need to sew the casing for the elastic.  Hold the fabric taut in front and behind the foot while sewing.  This will stretch the elastic and push it into the seam allowance.  Take care not to stitch through the elastic.  Yup, this step is a bit tricky.  I somewhat abhor sewing elastic casings.

17.  Press the hat.  Again.

18.  Sew on your buttons, but not too tightly because you need enough of a clearance for four layers of material.  You need to "shank" your flat button by wrapping thread under it repeatedly.  I wanted to use some of the Chromatophobic buttons, but they are too thick for this.
Excellent, your baby (or someone else's baby) now has a damn cool budenovka.  Not that the baby really gives a crap...

Some additional considerations:

1.  You can top stitch the seams on crown pieces.  In this case top stitching doubles up as stay stitching and helps keep the seams open flat.  This needs to be done before you sew all the crown pieces together.  The last seam won't be top stitched because you won't be able to sew to the end where the seams meet, so you need to decide in advance which seam that will be.

2.  Take into account the bulk of the seams around the brim when measuring, otherwise it will be a tight fit.  I would suggest adding at least 1cm to the overall circumference of the baby's head.

3.  If you want to add an embellishment to the front of the hat, like a red star, that needs to be done before you sew all the crown pieces together, otherwise you'll have difficulty matching the stitching on both sides of the hat.  This way you can also have a different embellishment on each side.  Don't use any rough fabric for those because it will come in contact with the baby's delicate skin.

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