Sewcialists Tribute Month – The Inspiration!

After going silent for a couple of years the Sewcialists are back and holding tribute months on their site. While I’ve been helping out a tiny bit behind the scenes I will not be a contributor this month. And that’s a good thing because we just returned from vacation this evening and I haven’t even started my project for Tribute Month. For August, sewing bloggers and Instragrammers will be picking another sewer as their inspiration and complete a project in tribute. However, having just returned to town and the summer heat I’m taking a slightly different path. Instead of sewing a project from scratch, my tribute project will be all about altering an existing garment.

Ever bought a garment only to find out it is a tad bit smaller than you’d expected? HAHA! Yeah. It happens to the best of us. Enter Mrs. Mole from Fit For a Queen. She writes a blunt, hilarious, and informative blog about her business altering bridal gowns and other garments. It is my very favorite blog because I learn from her techniques, but also have to laugh at all the poor decisions and delusional behavior some of her clients exhibit.

For Sewcialist’s Tribute month I dug back into the closet to find a too small garment to alter. I have about a dozen beautiful but tiny things tucked away that I cannot bear to give up to the donate pile. Some of them would take major re-working, but I don’t have time to tackle a big project. I ended up choosing this stunning 1950s Mexican handpainted silk skirt.

I have zero recollection where I acquired this purple pig adorned beauty, but it is in excellent shape. No holes, perfect stitching, and just one tiny rust stain that no one would ever notice except me.

Size 14 in the 1950s is not exactly the same as today’s size 14. That’s probably where my  problem began. I would guess I found this skirt either online or in a vintage shop, saw the size, and then assumed it would fit. Or maybe it did actually fit. Either way this sucker is best suited for Marilyn Monroe’s waistline over my current waist circumference. I need to add 7-8 inches.

So here is my plan.

  1. Remove the current waistband. Save the tie to refashion a new longer waistband. (Any tips on acquiring interfacing for vintage silk?)
  2. Recut the waist opening to fit my current waist. This will make the skirt shorter, but not by a lot, slightly above the knee
  3. Add a side zipper. This skirt has no closure currently.

I’m hoping the hem won’t need to be re-done since it is so perfect, but I can always re-access once steps 1-3 re completed.

What do you think? Am I ruining a precious item? Do you also find Mrs. Mole’s writing hilarious? Are you making a tribute project as well?

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Easing into Motherhood

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Today I’m writing about something a little different, motherhood and sewing. I regularly read Seamstress Erin‘s blog. She has a fun and eclectic style that I admire even though it isn’t my style. This month Erin (along with Jodi from Sew Fearless and Monserratt from Mexican Pink) are hosting a celebration on motherhood, our bodies, and sewing called Easing into Motherhood. So I thought I’d write up my own story. I’m sure to many women parts of it will be so familiar as it seems like many mothers experience similar stories even if we many only hear about them through the magic of the internet.


Sewing came into my life a long time ago. I have few memories from the days before I picked up a needle and thread and started creating. I felt like as oddball child with my interest in girls lives from previous time periods both historical and fictional. My early sewing days were filled with making costumes such as a Victorian dress made with table clothes and something resembling a Southern belle.

As a young adult sewing continued to be a for fun activity. Even though my hips were a different size from my bust I could still shop for clothing in regular stores as long as I was careful to select dresses with gathered skirts or separates. I was also very scared that if I didn’t dress trendy enough I’d never find a boyfriend. Silly, but true.

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My pre-marriage sewing consisted of 1950s and 1960s dresses made with quilting cotton. I didn’t make a lot of dresses as I was super super broke. I also didn’t know anything about buying fabric aside from wandering the aisles of JoAnn’s and picking up things I liked. Some times my dresses turned out awesome, sometimes they did not. As long as I picked styles with full skirts I could cut a straight size and sometimes I would design my own styles. Everything was still purely for fun or for a specific purpose (like Halloween).

Then I had baby #1.

By the time I was pregnant with my first daughter I had discovered sewing blogs, local sewing stores, and started buying fabrics other than quilting cotton. I distinctly remember getting pregnant and searching the internet for vintage maternity dresses. I was SO SURE I was going to make all my maternity clothes. I’m sure you can see how this turned out…I made 2 elastic waisted skirts for work and that was it. Morning sickness was unrelenting for the first trimester, I lost a lot of weight, and then I spent the rest of my pregnancy sick from undiagnosed gallbladder issues.

I also spent my pregnancy dreaming of the perfect breastfeeding wardrobe I was going to create. I even commented on the (now discontinued) blog 3 Hours Past the Edge of the World. Here’s a screen shot of my comment. I’m laughing at how naive I was back then. Also, the comments section on that blog are absolutely filled with people I recognize today. Hilarious blast from the past.

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After having Lu I was hit with so many issues. I mostly got my waist back, but my breasts were huge so none of my pre-baby clothing fit right. I also continued to have gallbladder issues that lead to surgery at 3 months postpartum, issues with creating enough breast milk, a full time job, a baby who never slept more than 2 hours, and a husband who was working on the road when Lu was 6-12 months old. Somewhere in that first year I managed to fit in a sewing class on making your own custom sloper. I squeezed myself into my me-made pre-pregnancy clothes for sewing classes, but I can’t remember really sewing myself any everyday clothing to fit my new body. My husband bought me a fabulous new Janome and I retired the Brother my parents bought me as a teenager.

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I did manage to make multiple historical dresses. How crazy is that? I was too out of it to make myself a work dress, but I made a 1930s dress, a full bustle gown, and a few other things for when I volunteer at a local museum.

And while I wasn’t doing much sewing when Lu was a baby, I was doing a hell of a lot of knitting. In 2013 I knit 35 projects (14 accessories, 8 baby items, and 13 sweaters for myself). I knit while I breastfed, while I was pumping milk at work, while I was between tours at the museum, in line at the post office, when I was a passenger in the car, and basically anywhere and everywhere I could hold the needles. Sewing meant setting up my machine and finding my place in the project. Knitting could be picked up and put down at nearly any point in the process.

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I knit this while I was in labor!

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During pregnancy #2 I didn’t even bother trying to sew maternity clothing. I bought a few things and wore them on repeat. Instead of sewing clothing I took up quilting starting with a quilt for the new baby.

After Charlie was born sewing came back into my life full force. Only this time I wasn’t sewing for fun, I was sewing for a purpose. Two children had left me with a body that no longer fit well into any clothes I could buy. I stumbled through 10 months of breastfeeding with a combination of Cake’s Tiramisu pattern, and Sewaholic’s Yaletown dress. Wrap dresses were my jam. So practical for nursing and those endless pumping sessions.

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When Charlie weaned it was like my body was handed back to me. Knowing she was my last baby I could move forward making clothes I’d love to wear. Things with zippers and made from woven fabrics with no elastic. Magical. IMG_4311

Being a second time mom was also so very different. I was so much less anxious all the time. Charlie slept better than her older sister and my husband did less traveling. I started sewing most nights from 7-8:30pm and with 90 minutes per night plus nap times on the weekends I could actually dedicate my mind to figuring out fit issues. I started making muslins instead of diving straight into a project and it was so worth slowing down to have better fitting clothing.

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I actually use apparel fabrics and the results are far superior to quilting cotton (even if the prints aren’t as cute). At this point I only own one commercially made dress, a leftover from when I was still breastfeeding that still garners lots of compliments. But I think the biggest compliment is that people don’t even suspect my clothing is homemade. These years of blogging and working on my skills have lead to a wardrobe of custom fit clothing that makes me feel confident both as a woman and as a mother.

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Pajama Party

Last weekend temperatures went soaring into the triple digits, so naturally I spent a good chunk of it sitting on our non-airconditioned kitchen sewing new pajamas for me and the girls! Pajama party!

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First up are these matching doggie pajamas in super soft double gauze. I’m almost done sewing up all the fabric I purchased at Hart’s Fabrics back in May. This double gauze hadn’t been on my list, but Charlie started to get antsy so I let her pick out a fabric. She latched onto this Shiba Inu print. I thought it was corgis like my sister’s dogs but nope! Wrong dog breed.

Since it was the end of the bolt I bought it all instead of the 1 yard I’d planned. It was a good decision because I was able to just barely get 2 nightgowns from the yardage.

I was really torn on what style to make. I wanted something that could pull on rather than zip or button. Charlie is starting to get better at dressing herself and elastic helps the process along.

A quick glance through my patterns and I easily settled on Simplicity 2913, an It’s Sew Easy pattern that is now out of print. I’ve made the dress version before, but in order to save on fabric I used the top pattern and added a ruffle to the bottom. I could just squeak out both dresses by cutting out the original top pattern then accessing the remaining yardage and cutting it into strips for the bottom. Charlie got a narrower ruffle cut on the grain and Lu got a wider ruffle cut from the cross grain.

The pattern runs a tad bit on the large side since both gap in the back. I cut a 2 for Charlie and a 4 for Lu which is pretty in line with their measurements. I’m not fussed about it because they are kids and these are nightgowns. Most importantly the girls love these and have already worn them twice this week.


Next I turned to my own double gauze nightgown.

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It’s another version of the Fifi Pajama pattern only I’ve lengthened the top to make it a nightgown. I really like the top portion of the Fifi and even if it isn’t the most supportive thing ever it is lovely to wear to bed in the summer. I’ve followed the same sizing as my last version and I will say the double gauze is a little stiffer than rayon so I probably could have added a touch more coverage at the bust. Oh well!

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The fabric was also picked up in May at the Birch Fabrics store in Paso Robles. I try to stop in when we drive by because you never know what kind of sale you’ll find. This time I paid full price (boo!), but that’s okay. I tend to pay full price for things I really want instead of impulsing buying more fabric during a sale. Though now that I’ve worked with Birch’s double gauze I am tempted to pick up more for summer pjs.


And last up is another set of matching nightgowns for the girls.

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So silly! Of the two sets I made these simple but soft shifts were the clear favorite. I can’t blame them. The fabric is some butter yellow cotton jersey rib adorned with green pineapples. I got it in a KnitFix from Girl Charlee. I hated my experience with the Knit Fix. Really and truly hated most of the fabrics I received, but this particular fabric is perfect for nightgowns.

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Picking a pattern this time was easy and maybe even unnecessary due to the nature of rib knit. I found my copy of Made by Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee to trace off the neckline and armscyes then cut a rough shape of a dress. Binding finished the neck and arm holes while the hem is left unfinished. Simple. Fast. Most importantly comfy and cool.

I might make a few more nightgowns in the coming weeks, but we’ll see. I want to make Lu some skater dresses, but she doesn’t need them. School starts one month from today and then she’ll be in uniforms all week. Charlie will be in uniforms as of September first so nightgowns make are logically the right thing to make. Which will win? Logic or my heart?

 

Flower Girls

I can’t believe my sister’s wedding took place 2 months ago! Time moves so quickly and we’ve had many milestones in our family this summer as the girls move from on from their current schools to new programs.

I made the girls some pretty sweet dresses for the wedding and by now they’ve been worn on nearly a weekly basis. Gosh it is nice to see Lu and Charlie love something I’ve made them! So here is a little look at the unicorn and mermaid flower girl dresses.

For the actual wedding ceremony we all wore petticoats. The girls had poofy white versions and I added tie on gold glitter tulle overskirts. Hilariously Charlie’s petticoat was stiffer than Lu’s and Charlie’s petticoat actually stuck straight out when the over skirt wasn’t in place. Both girls had a marvelous time dancing and spinning and admiring the fluff.

Charlie is especially taken with twirly dresses right now. Everything must be pink and she declares “Mommy, I feel pretty!”. It is very sweet even if it makes dressing her each morning slightly more challenging. Lu was also a fan of dresses at 2 years old, but wasn’t quite so picky about sparkles and tulle and twirl factor.

Both girls’ dresses were made with Oliver + S’s Fairy Tale Dress pattern only with a circle skirt instead of a gathered skirt. It’s a pattern I’ve used with success twice before and suited the event perfectly. The only negative comment about the pattern is the sleeves are fiddly. Where the tulip sleeves overlap there is 4 layers of fabric in the sleeves plus gathers and that is a lot of fabric to fit into a size 18 month armscye.

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I used quilting cotton from Sarah Jane for both dresses. My sister prefers gold over silver and the Magic line of fabrics all have shiny gold over parts of the design. I picked the prints and colors based on what was available at the time. Buying fabric in the middle of Easter dress season was a big mistake. I should have thought ahead more, but I was stuck without an idea until too close to the wedding date. Oh well! It worked out.

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And as I mentioned, the girls love these dresses and wear them really frequently. In fact Lu wore hers to camp and was the fanciest kid in the group. I’m just glad to see the dresses worn and loved. I really try not to make anything too precious for everyday wear.

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I think it would would shock some to see kids go straight from church to chocolate shake, but I can’t be fussed to make good clothes and play clothes when Lu is growing so tall and Charlie wants to be just like her big sister.  Plus starting this fall they’ll both be in uniforms and I want their mom made pretties to get worn before they are too small.