Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Sewing Happiness Quotient (featuring the "Kit Cat Cute" Cords)

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

10 out of 10 for Sewing Happiness Quotient, 10 out of 10 for Mangled Buttonhole Quotient.

When planning your sewing, there are many factors to consider—fabric, fit, finishing, cleaning methods, how a garment will fit into your wardrobe and lifestyle...

But what about the sheer unbridled HAPPINESS factor? What about the fun details, exciting colors and passion-inspiring prints that just make you THRILLED and DELIGHTED and BURSTING WITH JOY every time you wear them?

Let's call this the Sewing Happiness Quotient. It may not be a very scientific or elegant way to evaluate your sewing projects (and could result in embellishment overload), but well, shouldn't sewing be FUN?

And these overalls--while still way too large, and somewhat imperfect in their finishing--are just PACKED with fun details that (a) made them a pleasure for me to sew and (b) make them exciting for my daughter to wear. She may look stoic in the top photo, but that's because I asked her to pose--her general reaction to these overalls is better represented here:

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

Anyway, for these overalls, here were the main Sewing Happiness Factors:

Mikhaela Happiness Factor: The Fabric

Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls: Lining

The overalls lining.

Have you ever loved a fabric beyond all reason, so much so that even thinking about said fabric made you ridiculously happy? Well, that's how I feel about a certain Maggy London abstract print lawn I got from Emma One Sock a few years ago.

I first used it in a reversible shirred skirt I made while hugely pregnant--but which is happily so stretchy that I wear it frequently today. And I was so excited to use the leftovers here for the overalls lining, piping, and appliqué. I think I still have enough to make a scarf...

Toddler Happiness Factor: The Cat Appliqué

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

I never used to understand why almost so much toddler clothing is covered in cutesy appliqués--I thought it was because adults felt an unnecessary urge to embellish their children in frou-frou nonsense. Not so! Those appliqués are for the kids! Z loves to point at the pictures on her clothes and identify them: "Butterfly!" "Cupcake!" "Hammer!" And on nights when she doesn't want to get ready for bed, my best parenting trick is a pair of appliqued pajamas:

Me: It's time to put on your pajamas!

Z: (laughs in defiance, runs around apartment squealing in diaper)

Me: They've got kitty cats on the toes!

Z: (comes to screeching halt, runs over) Kitty! Kitty!

So yeah, she loves them.

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

Here's an appliqué closeup (please ignore those mangled buttonholes):

Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls: Detail (lightened)

The sketch:

Stripes & Wales Sweater & Overalls toddler outfit sketch

More views:

Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls: Hanger shot Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls: Back

The pattern: Ottobre Design Magazine 4/2010 #4. Lined "Pupu" Overalls in baby and toddler sizes:

Ottobre_2010_4_4 Toddler Overalls

Pattern Sizing: I cut the largest size, 92 cm (similar in size to American 3T) as I wanted these to be quite a bit too large for her to grow into. They are super big, but not so huge as to be unwearable. And she grows FAST. So I'm happy.

Were the instructions easy to follow? Better than Burda magazine, but not as detailed and helpful as pattern envelope type instructions--they don't have illustrations or anything, it's just a lot of small print. The trickiest bit was attaching the lining to the shell and turning inside out through a small gap in the lining seam--be careful to read closely here.

What did you particularly like or dislike about the pattern? I love that these are a really special garment in a simple silhouette with lots of details that can be played with and changed. Because of the details and lining they took ages to make-- but it was worth it.


  • Shell: Soft magenta baby cord from the stash, originally purchased at Jo-Ann's for $9/yard. I barely had enough with the one yard, so I had to piece the back bib and cut small seam allowances (1/4").
  • Lining/Piping/Appliqué: Awesome Maggy London printed lawn from stash, originally $10.50/yard from Emma One Sock (plus some corduroy scraps from my trousers for cat facial features).
Notions + whatnot: Buttons from Pacific Trimming, embroidery floss (for cat whiskers).

Pattern alterations or any design changes you made:

  • I didn't bother with the velcro front closing, as Z has no problem pulling pants on and off the ordinary way--I just cut two sets of the regular leg pieces. But I would have if making these for a baby.
  • Replaced the heart-shaped back pockets with flat-piped self-drafted pockets that mimic the geometric shapes of the lining print. (My husband hated the hearts on the butt of the original).
  • Replaced the bunny appliqué with a cat appliqué of my own design.


  • First time making my own bias tape. I used Sarai's awesome method from the Colette Sewing Handbook.
  • First time (flat) piping anything. Can't wait to do this on something for me now!
  • First time applying an appliqué on a garment. I used Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 to fuse it to the bib front, which made it super easy--and meant I could just stitch down with a straight stitch and not worry about frayed edges.
  • First time hand-embroidering on a garment (the whiskers). I used a split stitch and it was really fun and easy. I shouldn't have tried to hoop the corduroy, though--it left marks.
  • First time fully-lining something like this (I've done free-hanging full dress linings, but this was trickier).
  • First time doing decorative topstitching (on some seams and for the faux knee patches). I didn't have the right color in topstitching thread, so I used the triple reinforced stitch with mixed results (it worked well on straight lines, not so much on on the curved knee patch lines).

Room for improvement:

  • Buttonhole sadness. I have the worst luck with my Viking's sensor buttonhole foot. I always interface the button area and make practice buttonholes, but something funny happened here and I had to restitch the buttonhole over itself twice... it's a mess.
  • Tab weirdness. In fact, the tabs and straps just don't look right in general to me (they don't seem to quite line up) but whatever. They're toddler overalls!

Would you sew it again? Would you recommend it to others?

Maybe and yes. It's getting warmer, so I'll probably switch to sewing dresses for her now.

Wear to: Park. Sandbox. Playdate. Art-making. Wherever!

Conclusion: She loves them! I love them! Meow!

Z in her Ottobre "Pupu" Overalls

So--what sewing is making you happy lately?


  1. i love the way you split up your reviews to give us lots of real info about your experience with the pattern. this is something i will have to consider doing in the future.

    and baby Z looks happy and sassy, what could be better?

  2. So cute! And Z is obviously just super thrilled about her new purple overalls with the darling cat applique :)

  3. I've had trouble sewing buttonholes on corduroy too - I think there's something funny about the way the feed dogs catch. Thankfully I was sewing on black.

    These turned out super cute, though!

  4. Oh golly - the piping on the back pockets is my favorite. What a happy surprise!

  5. Z looks great in purple! Super cute.

  6. Awwww. Even the back patch pockets are cute! Everything about them is fun!

    Actually, I pretty much only sew things that I think are super fun these days. My sewing time is limited so I want to focus on projects that I get the most enjoyment from - both sewing and wearing. So, I'm totally on board with this approach.

  7. This came out soo adorable! I have done applique before and it is rightfully addictive!! I have this Ottobre issue, and absolutely LOVE it! You did a fabulous job on the overalls!

  8. D'awwww....those are so cute I think looking at them makes me almost as happy as your daughter looks in them! Everything about them is just brilliant and adorable!

    And happiness quotient is so important! Sometimes you just need to make things that make you happy! I think I need to go cut out a bright yellow corset now...

  9. I think the sewing happiness quotient outweighs all other quotients by miles. Some of my favourite stuff is some of the worst-constructed!

    Also, that part where they're totally over the moon is what keeps me sewing for my kids. I was going to say they're past the applique stage but I applique'd the crap out of my daughter's housecoat just before Christmas, so I guess not, actually. ;)

    Those are utterly adorable---so glad she'll be able to wear them for a good long time! :D

    And happy blogiversary month to you, too! :D

  10. I never use the sensor buttonhole foot on my Husky/Viking (a "Lily" model). It's a much better idea to just use the regular buttonhole foot -- but still I tend to do them twice, first with a thinner zigzag... for stability, look etc.

    You're very luck in two ways: First and foremost, Toddler Z lets you use the machine. My Toddler E (almost exactly one year older) wants to use the machine herself (even if I want to make her something!), so it's only now that she's starting a daycare/preschool, that I'm able to get in some time on the machine (although she ready lets me crochet, especially if I give her spare yarn). Second... Toddler Z will wear them as long as they have a cool applique. E only wants "jammie pants" (no jeans, skirts, etc. -- just knit pants, and even fusses about leggings unless they are simple and have stripes or dots).

    1. Oh, I WISH she would let me use the machine! She does not AT ALL. I only sew when she's asleep. :)

  11. Mikhaela, these overalls turned out AMAZING! Well done! And yes, the sewing happiness quotient is so important.

    Of course, there are also the times you slave over something you think your child will love (for example, an amazing lined hoodie with awesome Spoonflower blue trains inside the hood, cough cough) and your child refuses to wear it and screams "NOOOOOO!" if you so much as try to pull it out of the drawer. That's what we call the "sewing unhappiness quotient."

  12. P.S. Thank you all for the kind comments!


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