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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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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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.

Sadie, Sadie, Married Lady

Last weekend my baby sister got married! I was so touched when she asked me to be her one and only bridesmaid. She was my one and only and I thought is was really sweet that she returned the gesture. It was the most gorgeous and wild wedding.

But the real question is…what did I wear?

I really struggled with that question. The wedding took place at a Burning Man affiliated event. Most people were camping. There was belly dancing, swords, fire, many unicorn costumes, and the best man was dressing as a wizard.

My first thought was to make this stunning Simplicity pattern I’ve been lusting after since November. I wanted deep red silk to coordinate with the groom’s tartan. But then I kept thinking about the camping, the tents, the fairground bathrooms, and wrangling two little girls while wearing floor length silk. Also, where am I going to wear this again? If I’m spending money on silk I’d better be able to wear it more than once. Is scarlet a strange color for a May wedding?

Okay, plan B. After thinking on it for a few weeks I kept coming back to some fabric I already had in my stash. 2 yards of grey lawn and 3 yards of floral lawn. Both from Heather Ross’s latest collection Sleeping Porch. I’d bought them for a summer dress, but why couldn’t I use them for the wedding and then keep on wearing the dress afterwards?

The deal was sealed when I found an inexpensive hot pink petticoat online. Add fun colored tights and I had a fun kind of costume-like dress to wear to the wedding.

It was also a chance to up my pattern making skills. I wanted something sort of 1950s, but not too 1950s. Something dancer like, but not a leotard. I think the end result is nice. I rotated my darts into the center front and split them to make pleats. With a v-front I think the nod to vintage is there. What do you think? Anyone interested in a tutorial on how to do this?

A circle skirt finished the look and gave plenty of room for the petticoat to poof. I wish I’d had about 2-3 more inches of yardage as I had to make the skirt just that touch shorter to get it to fit on 3 yards.

And boy was I surprised to find a historical house on the fairgrounds. No tours (boo!), but I did get to wander around outside and take these wonderful photos.

Today I wore my pretty floral dress again without the petticoat and I love it even more like this. So perfect for a spring day!

Easter 2017

Yay Easter! A holiday with few expectations of gifts but lots of potential for adorable dresses. Less that 3 weeks ago I had zero plans to make new Easter dresses this year. Surely I could skip it and have the girls wear something from their drawer.

Wrong!

While looking for flower girl dress fabric at Michael Levine’s I spotted a lovely small scale floral lawn out of the corner of my eye and the next thing I knew I’d had 3 yards cut. I’m so so glad I impulse purchased this fabric. (No longer on the ML website, but available here.)

img_9446What a couple of silly sisters! Don’t they look adorable? In a total reversal of personalities Charlie ended up posing for all the pictures while Lu sulked, but thankfully I’d captured Lu’s dress the day before when she was in a more willing mood.

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For Lu’s dress I used Olive + S’s Library dress pattern. I’d owned it for years and never made it. What a shame! It went together so beautifully and had plenty of potential for color combinations. I had some white lawn in my stash I almost used for the collar. White collars are such a classic choice for a little girl’s dress, but I went ahead and used the floral print so the only trim is the pink piping along the midriff.

I really love Oliver + S patterns, but the sizing it always a challenge. Lu is quite slim and tall so her measurements put her in a 6-12 months at the bust and a size 5 for length. I went with something in the middle, a size 3 with 2 inches of extra length on the skirt. This seems to have worked pretty well. A tad large through the shoulders, but not terribly so. The pattern I own stops at a size 4 so for now I might keep adding length to the smaller sizes until I really need to buy the next size grouping.

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And Lu really liked her dress. “See my skirt!” She was super happy to wear it two days in a row, Saturday for the museum’s annual Fashion Show and Sunday for Easter.

Charlie got a haircut on Good Friday so now we can actually see her face instead of just a mess of hair. The cut also lets her curls really come out!

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Charlie’s dress was also made with an Oliver + S pattern, this time the Family Reunion Pattern. I’ve actually made this one before when Lucy was not quite 2 and I made the 18-24 month size then.

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As you can see both sisters have suffered the wide neckline of this dress, though Charlie is nearly 2 1/2 and wearing the 18-24 size. This one must just run wide because Charlie wasn’t that much smaller than the size chart. She usually wears a size 18 months or 2T depending on the cut of the clothing and I almost made the size 2 Family Reunion. Thankfully I did size down so it wasn’t enormous.

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The pattern doesn’t call for trim around the yoke, but I adding pink piping just for fun and I’m so glad I did! Isn’t she a doll? This is the look she gets when she sees her dad. Such joy!

She also tested out her modeling skills to adorable results.

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Being the second child means Charlie just doesn’t get as many new things, but I was so pleased to make her this new dress that she should be able to wear all summer long.

Lastly, not to be outdone by the girls John wore his new hand knit socks for Easter.

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And I have no photographic evidence of my own outfit, but I wore the butterfly dress I made for Easter 2016 when I missed the festivities due to injury and illness.

With Easter complete I must go full speed into preparations for my sister’s wedding. 3 dresses to go!

A Very Disney Birthday

Five feels like such a milestone age. Five! A year of transition as Lu moves from toddler to kid and preschool to kindergarten. She’s learning to read and makes some rather fantastically creative art work. To celebrate we treated the girls to their very first trip to Disneyland.

Sure, I could have bought them t-shirts at Target or grabbed something from their dress up closet, but where’s the fun in that? Naturally the sewing momma had to make them something special.

First up, the birthday girl’s dress.

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I started with the idea of a dress with a circle skirt and a big ruffle. The base is my favorite girl’s pattern the Geranium Dress from Made by Rae. The bodice was lengthened and the skirt swapped for the circle. I grabbed plenty of this Princess Emoji fabric from Michael Levine’s one rainy lunch break. I find a lot of licensed Disney fabric to be pretty ugly, but this was cute and some quick texts to my mom for her expert opinion confirmed I was making the right choice.

Lu’s dress was tricked out with rick rack and piping at the waist and hem. Quite cute! I had a hard time picking trims without spending a small fortune.

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I purposefully picked something sleeveless because March is really hit or miss weather wise. Two days before out trip it was over 80F, but the weather cooled drastically by our trip to the park. Thank goodness I also grabbed some organic cotton knit in bright pink to make a t-shirt and leggings.  Poor birthday girl would have been cold without them.

So, what about that ruffle I mentioned? Lu didn’t want it! I was left with about a yard of leftover fabric! Naturally that meant Charlie got her own dress too. I made a really basic Geranium dress for her as well and dressed it up with a little rick rack I found in my notions box. Lucky little sister. A red school shirt and pair of tights rounded out her princess look without needing to spend anymore money. Hooray! Disney is expensive!

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Lucy showing Sleeping Beauty the Aurora emoji on her skirt, priceless.

Those dresses would have been enough, but I still have a couple more tricks up my sleeve.

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This sweet little dress was made for Valentine’s Day. Charlie loves Minnie Mouse, so she was wild for the fabric. Plus she’s decided her favorite color is pink just like Lucy. Charlie’s in a sister worship phase that is so cute and sometimes frustrating.

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The pattern was the Geranium Dress you’ve seen a million times and the fabric was from JoAnn’s. Just a nice basic yet fun dress she can wear any day of the week.

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I made Lu a Valentine’s skirt too, but she didn’t get to wear it since her school requires uniforms. The Doc MsStuffins’ tiered skirt came in handy for our day at California Adventure. It rained sideways for two hours, but I don’t think Lu even noticed after meeting 6 princesses at breakfast.

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I never did get a great picture of her outfit, but she is wearing a hand knit sweater with her new skirt, so plenty of mom-made clothing on display.

Our trip was wonderful, if exhausting. Special shout out to my mom, sister, and brother in law for tagging along as well as my husband for wrangling the two year old so I could geek out with my newly 5 year old girly girl Lu. It was totally magical.

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In other sewing news, I’ve been working on a big project for myself, a new sloper. The sloper itself is done and just needs a write up and my first dress using it is in the muslin stage. Exciting, but slower work on top of the never ending cold I picked up at the Happiest Place on Earth.

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!