Halloween 2017

It’s been a little while since I paid a visit to this space, but I’ve been busily working away. I’ve been spending a little less time on the internet lately and a little more time sewing, knitting, and volunteering  including joining the editor pool at the Curvy Sewing Collective. We’re also well into the busy season at Heritage Square Museum. Lots of commitments to my time, but in a good way.

When it comes to Halloween I try to keep my sewing to a minimum. I’ll make one piece for each child and then buy or find the rest of the pieces. Its worked really well so far! This year both girls wanted to be fairies, or I should say that Lu wanted to be a fairy and Charlie wanted to be just like Lu. Lu picked her costume months ago so I had plenty of time to think about how I wanted to make a couple of fairy costumes.

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I spent a bunch of time looking for a fairy costume pattern, but most of the Pinterest ideas were geared more towards the occasional crafter. I just wasn’t interested in tube tops and tying a ton of tulle strips to elastic. Both of my girls love to play dress up so I decided to make something built to last rather than for one day.

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I settled on using Rae Hoekstra’s Flashback Skinny Tee for the tops and drafting my own circle skirts for the bottoms. I did not tell the girls my plan. If I had they would have thrown a fit of unhappiness. They wanted frilly collars like the fairies in their activity book. Instead we took the girls to JoAnn’s and planted them in front of the athletic sparkle fabrics. Then I gentle steered them towards two fabric that came in multiple colorways. Lu immediately latched onto pink! Charlie took some convincing, but we got her to agree to gold.

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That one trip to JoAnn’s ended up supplying everything we needed to produce two fairies. While I waited in line to get the fabric cut, my husband and the girls ended up finding the dress up clothes area and procured 2 sets of wings and 2 sequin crowns. Not a prefect match to the fabrics but they worked out perfectly. With an armful of sequins we headed to the register and all our Halloween costume shopping was complete!

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The dresses were so easy to complete. Not my finest work, but perfect for the holiday. Charlie’s also served as her birthday dress. Her birthday is right before Halloween, so we threw a costume party at the park and our newly 3 year old daughter was super happy. It was also impossible to miss them with the sun shining off all those sparkles!

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As a wonderful bonus, we had a super generous employee at the fabric cutting counter and I now have enough left over material to make the girls something else as well. I’m thinking coordinating gymnastics leotards would be super fun. Now I just have to find time to actually sew them up!

 

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Operation Sister Quilts

I’ve gotta admit I’ve been feeling pretty horrible these last few days. I’ve was slammed with a sudden flu like something and then the shooting in Las Vegas hit way to close to home. It feels more and more like the world has gone mad. I don’t write this blog to get into politics, but how I feel definitely directs my posts. I’d planned to write up a project I made for myself, but instead I’m posting a project that I’ve been working on for over two years. Something warm and happy and lovely.

I’m a pretty big fan of Heather Ross prints. I keep an eye out for her prints on apparel fabric for me (exhibit 1 and exhibit 2) and when the collection is something special I buy quilting cotton too. The Tiger Lily collection came up for pre-order when I was all high on newborn baby fumes and I was inspired to make sister quilts for my tiny and tough girls. I loved the mix of ballerinas and girls climbing trees.

Now I can finally call the project a wonderful and finished success.

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These suckers were quite a bit of work. Churn dash was the only block pattern I even really considered. It just seemed to suit the fabrics so well, but trying to figure out which prints to pair took me many many evenings. Early on in the planning process I realized I didn’t have enough fabric and had to desperately email Westwood Acres Fabric to order a bit more! I also originally thought I’d make the tops with different mixes of fabric, but I couldn’t ever quite figure out how to make it work in a well balanced way. So both tops are identical.

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Well, the tops are identical except one one very special detail. I hand embroidered their names in the sashing. Even this detail took a lot of thought. Originally I’d planned to have them machine embroidered, but then I was too lazy to actual research it after my friend with an embroidery machine said her machine couldn’t handle the size of the project. The big push came when my local yarn store announced they were getting rid of embroidery floss and I made a quick run down to buy really high quality floss while I could still see the colors in person.

In fact a lot of this project was only moved along with pushes from the outside world. I kept procrastinating the next step until I couldn’t wait any longer. The sashing? Well that was motivated by my local quilting store’s going out of business sale. I shopped there pretty frequently, but the threat of having to buy sashing fabric online was nerve wrecking enough for me to drag the squares down to the nice natural lighted store before I was left guessing shades against a computer monitor!

I was so good about piecing the fronts and cutting all the strips for the binding and then the project just sat again…for months. I hit a rut in my sewing. I wanted to piece together the backs, but we were in a tight financial place and I couldn’t afford to spend money of fabric. I dug through my scrap bin and and found the leftovers from my dark green butterfly dress. It was lawn, not quilting cotton, but that’s okay! I also found left over rose print from the dress I made to wear to my bridal shower. The colors weren’t quite perfect, but with everything gathered I had just exactly enough to eek out two twin sized quilt backs. Not matching like the fronts, but similar enough.

img_0895With the fronts and backs completed all that was left was the quilting and binding, but instead of just getting it done I stuffed it all in my sewing cabinet and forgot about it. Finally in some of the hottest weather this summer I decided to pull out all the supplies and finish these suckers. With lots of swearing and sweating I managed to mostly pin the layers together with a minimum of wrinkles. Only took 4 attempts. With the home stretch in front of me I couldn’t turn back. The pair of quilts were also threatening to take over my sewing space (our kitchen table). Once I got past the horrible pinning part hand tying the quilts was hot but easy work and the bindings went on pretty easily.

These quilts are absolutely massive in their tiny toddler beds, but I hear a bunk bed is  coming this winter! My hope is these snuggly twin quilts will be just perfect for many winters to come.

 

 

Hand Me Down Dress

My sweet baby. She’s on the cusp of turning 3 and becoming more independent with each day that passes. In this dress she looks like an angel.

The dress pattern is Simplicity 9605 which was published in 2001, but this style has been popular for decades. In fact this dress is 15 years old. I made it back when I was 20 and my cousin was 2! My aunt held onto it for all these years hoping I would have my own daughter and she could pass it down. Luckily she found it before my girls grew out of it!

She’s also lucky my kids grow slowly as I made a size 2. My cousin was also quite a tiny toddler. As you can see this dress is likely to get a lot more wear. YAY!

Oh sweet goodness. Look at that Joann’s quilting cotton. 15 years ago that’s pretty much the only fabric I used to sew clothing. Most of the rest of the store was filled with polyester (not much has changed) and the wall of pretty cottons was so much more appealing to both my wallet and my taste in colors.

Heart pocket! I’m thanking past-me for adding this sweet detail.

Underneath is a full petticoat in the same pink cotton. All these layers give the skirt a nice body that is missing from a lot of other patterns.

It was so fun looking at the guts of the dress and noticing which techniques I used finish seams and such. I don’t usually bother with much finishing work on clothes for myself, but gifts are a different story. I always make sure everything is neat and tidy. In this dress it looks like I tried to use the selvedge of the materials as much as possible. I didn’t own a serger or pinking sheers at the time.

Charlie loves this dress. We started going to church over the summer and she always wants to wear her pink twirly dress. It is just perfect for wearing to service even though she mostly goes to the toddler room. In my opinion, one should always dress for church. And nearly every week one of the older ladies stops me to comment on Charlie. So many of them made dresses like this for their own daughters and it warms their hearts to see that someone still sews up these styles.

Now I’m contemplating making this pattern again. I have some vague memories of it going together well even if more involved. I’m thinking it would make a perfect Christmas dress for Charlotte because she’s too old for the style. Maybe I’ll make something similar for Lu. Is five too old for pinafores?

Kinder Cardigan

There was a big transition for our family this week as our oldest daughter started kindergarten! Lu was just thrilled to go to elementary school and start learning big girl things. I really wanted to make her a first day of school outfit, but she is required to wear a uniform. Sure, I could have made her a blouse and skirt, but I have to admit uniform sewing is super boring. While I try to make a good chunk of the kids clothing, for uniforms I was happy to put in an order from Gap and use my limited summer sewing time for other projects.

This seems ridiculous since we live in Southern California, but I opted to knit Lu a first day of school sweater!

Gosh, she is so cute. Sure it was a high of 85F on Monday, but it was grey and cool-ish in the morning. She happily donned her new cardigan which looks quite nice with her new school shoes.

I’ve been trying to knit up some of the patterns in my library and yarn in my stash, so I shopped both to achieve a nice traditional sweater. This is the Wee Wildflower pattern from Alana Dakos. There is actually an adult version too, but I don’t think I’d ever knit it for myself. A little too twee. The yarn is Madelinetosh’s Twist Light in the color Care. Twist light is 75% wool and 25% nylon which is a good combination for a kids garment. Technically it is machine washable, but I’ll try to remember to wash it by hand. Care is a wonderful color that includes nearly every shade in the rainbow. It was a limited release color sold to benefit Doctors Without Borders. I took the time to alternate two skeins so there is very little pooling of the colors. Yay!

Choosing a size to knit was a bit tough. Lu has a 19 inch chest, but is average height for a 5 year old, so I ended up knitting the size 2 sweater with a size 6 for the length. It worked out pretty well everywhere except the sleeve caps. The sleeve caps as written have almost no height, just a lot of width. I added some extra height and it was still tough to fit the sleeves into the armcye. Lu also have very thin arms and the sleeves are tight. I cannot imagine shoving a 2 year old’s arms into such a small circumference. Could be my gauge was off, but still I found the sizing odd. The pattern also has no shaping for the shoulders in the back, so I added that too.

This finished sweater is pretty great and fits Lu well right now, but I don’t think this one is going to last long. I have a feeling Lu is going to shoot straight up this year with all the running and learning she’ll do. Just one day into the school year she’d figured out how to swing by herself and by Friday Lu was all atwitter over recycling, the solar eclipse, and science! “Mommy, I want to be a teacher when I grow up.”

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.

Goodbye 2016!

2016 has come and gone. Last night we had storms passing through, but today has arrived cool, clear, and with a beautiful bright blue sky. Like many others 2016 was not my favorite year. Beyond the political landscape, it was just an okay year for our little family. We got by fine, the kids grew and thrived, but it wasn’t an easy year. By the end of it I felt quite worn down by the routine but also by the instability.

There was a lot of good stuff coming out of our house as well. I spent a lot of time on my sewing skills. I now have a much loved skater-style dress I make and wear frequently. I also discovered I do better when I work off the Gertie block then the Cashmerette block (for wovens). I’m sure in the coming year I will buy more patterns, but I also hope to make my own block again. I have a lot of ideas of dresses I’d like to make, but I think making my own block would really help me spend less time fitting and more time designing.

I made some misses too. A few poor fabric choices and a few patterns that just didn’t work for my shape. And sometimes things turn out okay, but they fail to make it to the regular rotation. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a sewer who doesn’t have a few flops every year.

And then there are my sweet girls! Not as much sewing for them as with previous years. Mostly because Charlie can wear so many things I made for her sister and she’s stayed quite tiny. Partly because Lu finally grew enough that she can wear commercially produced school uniforms! I ordered a select number of skirts and dresses in August and Lu’s been set for school since. I am incredibly proud of their swimsuits and plan to make them new suits for next summer. So much fun and really simple.

What’s next? I still have some quilts to finish. One for my bed and the girls matching quilts for their room. We moved all the baby stuff out over the winter break and we’re contemplating bunk beds this summer, so I’d like to get those quilts done. Otherwise I’ll just keep looking for new inspiration. I organized my fabric stash a bit this week and remembered I have fabric to make the Sewaholic Pacific Leggings, my SIL bought me the Decades of Style Lara Dress pattern, and I have more wool jersey to make a skater style dress. Maybe I’ll get to those things, but if I don’t it is okay. I can’t wait to see where 2017 takes me!