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why I sew on KCW

why I sew: miranda from inspinration

Hi again, it is Miranda from Inspinration, all good things have to come to an end and this is my last post for KCW. I enjoyed writing these posts a lot. On my own blog, I mostly write about what I have actually sewed, not about my plans, mistakes and drives in general. These posts have challenged me in a new way. If you would like to get the chance to do the same in the next season, apply to be a contributor, I highly recommend it!

The topic of this post is to write about why I sew. I am actually often asked why I sew. By non-sewers sewing is still often seen as a dull thing their grandmothers did. If people react positively on my hobby their first thought usually is that it saves money. This is not true, or at least not in my case. I indeed spend less money on clothes, but actually saving money…, well you know how expensive fabric and sewing supplies are. So, what are the reasons that I sew?


1. Baby playsuit 2. Brueram dress 3. My first Theo

Giving a practical, “useful” outlet to my creative drive
Ever since I was a kid, I loved to do creative stuff. I made Playmobile doll houses from shoe boxes, I knitted or hand sewed doll clothes, or hand knitted a jumping rope. When I became bigger, and no longer played with my output, my creativity lost its purpose a bit. We aren’t big collectors in my family, so no boxes full of old creations or walls filled with pictures. Just making something pretty to look at didn’t get my creative juices flowing. In the Netherlands we celebrate a Holiday where you create your own type of specially wrapped gift (Sinterklaas, it often involved paper mache or other creative building with paper). I loved it, I used to start in September to make December gifts. When I discovered sewing, my worries about what to do with my finished projects disappeared, they now have a very clear storing area, our wardrobe closets. I have to admit that the closets of my kids are starting to get a bit full. How many dresses can a girl actually wear? But let’s not think about that too much.

Satisfying my need to challenge myself, learn and rebel
I like a challenge myself and I love to learn. I once did a programming course just for fun. I love things that are logical and that I can visualize in my mind. Sewing is like that for me. Without drawing on paper, I see the garment I want to make in my mind and then the process of finding the optimal construction method and resources begins. I hardly ever make the same thing twice, even if I would like to, I will change at least a few details (and then I am not speaking about fabric). I seem to be incapable of following manuals and love to do things my way. I am self taught, I learned a lot from blogs and from my own mistakes. I feel that there fortunately are still a lot of things to try, an enormous amount of techniques to explore.

kcw11. Knot dress 2. Theo polo 3. Baby outfit

Finishing a sewing project gives an instant feeling of success
In my job as an academic, project cycles are extremely long, actually finishing an academic paper will take several years and the result will be a bunch of words. You can print it, but it doesn’t really give something tangible. I love the relatively short project cycles in sewing. In the past I knitted but then it would takes weeks to finish a sweater. Most of my sewing projects are finished within two or three days and when I see my kids wearing them, I get to enjoy my work quickly and often.

To have clothes that fit
My kids are very skinny and retail clothes do not fit them well. My measurement also usually do not fall in the same size, for example I have never found a retail blouse that actually fits well. Sewing your own is the best remedy.

KCW31. Penny play suit dress 2. Janet blouse 3. Waterfall dress

Justify my fabric collection
I started to actively sew because my daughter wanted twirly dresses. I looked what was available in stores and saw a few that we both would like, but those where above 50 euro’s. I don’t buy expensive children clothes because I believe that kids should be allowed to play freely in their clothes and for that price she wouldn’t be allowed to. I decided to try making one myself. I bought some cheap fabric and a pattern and just tried it. It went quicker and better than I expected. After the successful standard woven dress I wanted more and bought my first Ottobre. I loved the designs and ordered a bunch of knits. I haven’t stopped buying fabric since. Although, I started with cheap woven, now my biggest delight is organic knit and those are far from cheap. I often see nice fabrics and I want them all, so another reason for sewing is to justify buying fabric. I have a big stash. I might not have a clear purpose for all my fabrics, but sitting in front of my fabric closet, watching my fabric, imagining the clothes I could sew from them, makes me really happy.

kcw: mistakes

mistakes: miranda from inspinration

I hope you had a very productive KCW, I know I had. I really tried to challenge myself (in a normal week I already spend a lot of time sewing) and actually sewed seven garments (the cutting and planning was done before the week started so I really just sewed). Overall, the sewing went surprisingly smooth but I did of course make mistakes. Let’s do a quick summary of a few of them. I didn’t pay attention to detail and put the ears of the giraffe too high. During the sewing process I turned and returned the reversible top inside-out unnecessary for 4 times because I thought I already sewed to the end. With the snake shirt I missed a layer while using my serger leaving a small hole.  I managed to draw a line on the right of the fabric for the panda dress, which remained visible after construction (although I hid it for the photos).

mistakes11. Giraffe dress 2. Reversible sling top 3. Snake shirt 4. Panda dress

One of the reasons why I like blogging is that I can tell the story behind the clothes I make, there is usually more than “I picked the pattern, I made it”. If you read my blog you have noticed that I regularly discuss mistakes I made. I do this because on one hand laughing is healthy and self humor is great (I love reading about other people’s sewing mistakes). Writing my mistakes down is part of my coping process. On the other hand somebody might learn from the way I solved my mistakes, because I usually do manage to create a good workaround. I think I have never actually thrown out a garment because of a mistake. Mistakes create a challenge, a problem that has to solved, and I love solving problems. Often creativity is born from mistakes.

One source of my  sewing mistakes is a lack of concentration. Without enough focus  I start sewing wrong pieces together, or (partly) miss sewing a layer. In my case a lack of concentration is usually due to rushing or fatigue. Knowing your pitfalls is the first step to recovery.  I now avoid sewing past my bedtime, my sewing stops at 23:00 the latest.  Sometimes I find myself making mistakes earlier in the evening and also then it is best to stop the project for the night. Pushing on only makes things worse. Another source of rushing behavior is sewing against a deadline I created myself.  I now also avoid giving an estimation of the how much time my sewing will still take. I noticed that if I told my husband I would be finished in 20 minutes, Murphy’s law kicked in and my seam ripper had to appear.

mistakes21. Too much of a good thing 2. Forest trousers 3. Dino shirt 4. Sewing on skirts

Although I  make mistakes during the actual sewing, my typical mistakes involve copying and cutting pattern pieces. I try to cut both my fabric and pattern paper as economically as possible which sometimes leads to non-economical situations. I will tell you about a few of those situations. I love working with knits and those patterns often have the same front and back pattern except for the neckline. You can easily draw the different neckline, so I usually only copy one of the bodice/dress pattern pieces (saving both time and pattern paper). In the past I copied only the front piece of a dress, this led more than once to the problem of accidentally cutting the front twice because I forgot to draw the higher back neckline.  The first dress in the collage shows an extra seam below the collar that should have hidden the seam but that was another mistake (sometimes they pile on). I have removed this source of mistakes by only cutting back pieces.

The dino shirt from the collage, that I also sewed during KCW,  is another good example of economical behavior gone horribly bad. When I started copying the hood onto my pattern paper I was too close to the side of the paper, moved the paper and redrew  at approximately the same spot because I didn’t want to throw away the piece of paper.  When I cut the paper piece I accidentally cut the wrong line. I noticed that the hood pattern looked a bit off but I assumed this was part of the pattern. When I sewed the hood to the neck I realized it would never ever fit. Then I checked the original pattern and saw my mistake… The solution I came up with was putting in a contrasting piece in the hood. I could have cut a new hood of course but then I had to throw away the wrong cut pieces and that I just couldn’t make myself to do that. To avoid this mistake all together in the future I should redraw with another color.

Another big frustrating mistake is cutting the same pattern piece without mirroring it. This is especially a problem in case of scarce fabric. When I upcycled one of my own trousers, I cut the left back leg twice and I than I was out of fabric. I solved it by covering the wrongly cut leg with a layer of knit. My son loved the trousers and was sad that only one leg was that happy. While cutting that pair of trousers I also managed to cut the same pocket three times, not managing to fix my mistake the second time neither.

Not paying attention to the small details of the explanation, thinking I do not need it, is another source of my mistakes. I once made four onesies at the same time. I had made a smaller size so I knew the fit was great. When all four were almost finished I realized I had used two alternative front pieces instead of a back and front piece. I now had four bad onesies, try to imagine my frustration about fabric and time waisted. The biggest problem was that the onesie was too short (I decided to ignore the relatively low back neckline), so I used the body parts to make dresses. One of them is the fourth picture in the collage. A similar issue is me being too lazy to go back to the original pattern to determine the exact position of buttons, thinking I can eye-ball them, wrong! Always go back and safe yourself the frustration afterwards.

In the introduction I told you that I drew on the right side of the fabric of the panda dress, this is a regular mistake for me.  I always use a child washable marker  (a huge cost saver compared to washable water-soluble markers) to draw my pattern on the fabric. Sometimes, when I am drawing a symmetrical piece I draw on the front, these are the moments I draw something wrong for sure. This is mostly a problem because I prefer make pictures before the first wash, the lines wash out, so not big mistakes, but it is still very frustrating, because these mistakes just shouldn’t happen at all.

The worst mistake I ever made, I only did once. While sewing a dress, my fabric folded and I made a big cut in the middle of the skirt with my serger. I actually cried, I did manage to salvage the dress, I ironed a strong stabilizer on the inside, but from up close the hole remains visible.

So here  they are, some of my mistakes, I hope you enjoyed reading about them. My general advise in dealing with mistakes is take some time. I usually get the best ideas in bed. I know that I have to take some distance. An idea to solve it will come, but it takes a bit of time.  Hand sewing is a great solution to many small mistakes, in the beginning I tried to tackle a small hole with my sewing machine or serger, but this is often not the right way to go. Just sit down on the couch, breath, fix it, and enjoy your creative solution.

WILD THINGS: faces // kid's clothes week


Hi, its Miranda from Inspinration again. In our previous posts we, as contributors, showed you how clothes can be animal inspired without using actual animal graphics. This post will be different, this post will be full of animal graphics. I created some animal face based sub-topics and I will give suggestions on how  to actually incorporate animal faces in your kids’s clothes.

Minimalistic animal faces

covered71.Penguin shirt 2. Bunny shirt 3. Polar bear romper 4.Chickadee Girl’s Tutu Shirt

Lets start with minimalist animal faces. The possibilities for this type of garment are vast. Both for the graphic as for the technique, there are many ways to go. You can draw faces with fabric marker, stencil them with fabric paint, cut them from vinyl or embroider them like the bunny face. You could even make a “negative” of your minimalistic face by painting/dying your fabric and leaving the face unpainted with use of crayons or china marker. I made a minimalistic lion face shirt last month and both my son and I love it. When I was preparing my lion shirt, I searched the web on images with the terms “lion”, “head”, “face” “drawing” and/or “silhouette”. It didn’t give me the exact print I wanted, but it did show me which features of the lions face should be part of my minimalistic version.

I can not draw well because I do not have enough eye for proportions and detail. Making a minimalistic face requires a minimal amount of those skills, and most likely, you will also have enough skills to come up with something nice. Search for sharp lines or color changes in your animals face. Converting an existing picture to black and white (just search the web for free tools if you do not own photo editing software) might help you finding the lines you are searching for. Another way to go for inspiration is childrens’ books, many will contain minimalistic animal faces. Added bonus, if you use a book that your kids know, there is a higher likelihood your kid will actually recognise the animal in your piece of art.

Detailed animal faces

covered61.Red panda face shirt 2.Pieced lion sweater 3.Pompom nose 4. Button nose

Detailed animal faces, seemed a logical next step to me. There are even more options for detailed animal faces than there are for minimalistic faces. In minimalistic drawings all birds or all cat races are similar, but with detailed faces you can really bring any animal to life. The level of detail is up to your preference and skill. As you can see in the pictures I selected, a detailed face can vary from a beautifully multi-colored almost lifelike fabric painted face to coming up with your own interesting 3D nose. With the pig for example it really is the nose detail that creates the high overall cuteness level.

Combining a variety of techniques is also a viable option, like with the fabric pieced lions face with snap eyes and fabric marker drawn manes. This sweater sparked my interest in fabric pieced quilt blocks. I had seen this techniques for quilts before, but seeing this lion made me realize that I could use inspiration from those blocks in clothes as well.

For this sub-theme I searched high and low for a garment with 3D whiskers, I really expected those to exist. I did find embroidered versions but that was not what I was looking for. I really wanted pipe cleaner resembling (washable version) whiskers which your kid could shape himself, coming up with new shapes everyday. Anyone up for filling this gap coming KCW?

Animal outline

covered31. Crocodile shirt 2. Deer blouse 3. Whale shirt 4. Elephant dress

Most animals have characteristic shapes, which work great as fabric applications. There are many tutorials on the web how to do fabric applications, this is one I like. You can choose for a large graphic that almost covers the entire garment like with the elephant dress, or you could cut a very small one to use as a knee patch. You can play around with the type of fabric for the body. You can use (scraps of loved) unrelated fabric like in the case of the deer and elephant dress, or you can match the fabric to the animal. The green crocodile is an example of fabric matching for another example of fabric matching look at my previous post on the turtle inspired fabrics.

You can also play around with the level of detail. You can choose to only take the outer shape or you can add eyes, ears or fins, all is fine and will yield great results. For the collage I restricted myself to applications from fabric but you can use the same techniques as I mentioned for the minimalistic faces. This is an example a minimalistic fox that I adore. Children books can again be a great source of inspiration as will be using the name of your animal combined with the word “silhouette” in image search.

Highlighted animal face detail: teeth

covered41.Crocodile shirt 2. Shark sweater 3. Monster Shirt 4. Chomp, shark attack 5. Shark knee patch 6. Shark hoodie

Besides featuring the whole animal you can also choose one specific animal feature and let it steal the show. In my previous post I wrote about sharks and while doing my research, I found so many inspirational teeth pictures I had to share them. My kids would go crazy for all six of them. I found so many nice examples, that I had to make some hard choices. The textile marker ones didn’t make the cut, but that would be a good technique here as well.

If you prefer the animal inspiration in your kids’ clothes to be relatively subtle, the fourth picture should work for you. The teeth are just triangles on the sleeves and only reveal their true awesomeness if your kid crosses its arms. Several of these pictures have teeth sewn on them. How to add 3D elements to your design will be discussed in a later post, so make sure you do not miss any of our posts. For now just enjoy the eye candy on those.

One animals in different designs: black cat

covered51. Wrap cat 2. Bad luck cat tee 3. Bottom cat shirt 4. Cut cat shirt

To wrap up my post, I wanted to give an indication about the vastness of the possibilities while featuring the same animal. I made a collage of black cat inspired clothes which shows just a small sample of the possibilities, because there are many, many more.

The first three garments can be recreated with already discussed techniques like fabric paint and textile marker or vinyl. I really like the idea of the back of the garment being involved in the graphic, for the third picture this will be very subtle, for the other two not so much. The fourth picture could be recreated using this layered fabric technique. Although I chose black cats, you can easily make all four ideas for other animals. I advise you to now just do the mental exercise to picture these four ideas with a bunny. Did you also imagine a cute 3D tail?

I hope you liked my ideas on animal heads and bodies and that you feel comfortable making something that fits your personal preference. You can be subtle or bold and use any technique you like, any plans yet?