Sunday, January 24, 2016

A Magpie Pinafore (and coordinates) for my Magpie.

Hi again! Posting two days in a row? Crazy, I know! I am attempting to do a better job of keeping up with the blog, because I find that if I don't blog an outfit shortly after I make it, I tend to lose interest in the prospect of writing a post. I've read other bloggers express similar sentiments, so I know I'm not alone on this!

This little outfit started with an inspiration pin that I put on my Maggie Sewing F/W 2015 board a while back - a cute printed corduroy jumper/pinafore to wear over long sleeves. I pinned a bunch of other corduroy jumpers on that board as well - clearly I was stuck on the idea! I started shopping around for printed corduroys that would appeal to both Maggie and me, and landed on this Robert Kaufman "Cool Cords Flower Stripe" 21 wale corduroy, which has a fun mod tulip print.

Then I looked around for a cute pinafore pattern. It doesn't seem like indie patterns have much to offer in the "cute pinafore" department. I considered a sleeveless Geranium dress, this vintage pattern I sewed up early last year, and several other vintage options on Etsy, when I remembered - I own a dozen Ottobre magazines! There must be something in one of them ...

When I found this little pinafore (1/2014 #10), called the "Magpie" - well, I knew it was meant to be! While I am more apt to call Maggie "Mags" or "Maggie McGee," Steve often calls her "Magpie."

Of course I had to add a little white piping to that lovely curved yoke seam!

I sewed this up in a size 92 (approximately 2T) with no modifications except that I omitted the lining on the skirt (the pattern instructs you to fully line the jumper, which would be great if you were using a lighter-weight fabric, but isn't necessary for corduroy - the yokes and straps are lined in white poplin).  I also maintained a bit more length in the skirt by facing the hem with some pink hem facing rather than turning up the hem. With two buttons on each shoulder strap (Maggie is using the higher set right now) and a longer skirt, I am hoping that this little jumper will fit next winter as well. I was able to cut this jumper out of just one yard of corduroy, so this is an economical make!

Maggie has actually been pretty under the weather this past week - we've kept her home from school since Thursday for intermittent fevers and now she sounds like an old man who has been smoking a pack a day for 40 years, and is hacking every few minutes, but I think the virus is just taking its course. This is the hardest thing about winters - the neverending viruses! So it took a long time for her to warm up to the idea of a photo shoot, but I managed to get a few smiles out of her notwithstanding the dreadful ick she's fighting.

This tulip corduroy ended up being really perfect for this jumper because it isn't actually directional - it looks good upside down as well as right side up. That's important because the back yoke piece wraps around to form the the straps. I didn't actually think this aspect of the design through before cutting, and I just feel lucky that the different nap and pattern-direction isn't a problem with this fabric! On a more velvety corduory, I think the upside-down nap on the straps would look funny.

When I finished the jumper, I knew I wanted to make a t-shirt and leggings to go under it. This Kaufman Laguna knit in "Cherry" was the perfect color to go with the pink tulips on the pinnie.

For this top, I used another pattern from the 1/2014 issue of Ottobre, this time #11, the "Autumn Forest" jersey top, with the center-front gathers. I love this shape on Maggie, and I see myself making more of these! 

I gathered the front with clear elastic and I bound the neckline with self-fabric, using Ottobre's recommended method, and both turned out really nice! My only complaint was that my off-white serger thread was showing a bit, so I went over the seams on my sewing machine, zig-zagging with pink thread as well. I might have to suck it up and buy some pink serger thread one of these days (shudder - I hate rethreading my serger with different colors, but it does make a difference in the final product!). The Laguna jersey has enough lycra to make a nice and stretchy neckline with decent recovery (not all jerseys do, so be careful with this approach!). The sleeves and bottom of the shirt are simply hemmed with a zig-zag stitch. I added a little length to the shirt to make it more appropriate to wear by itself over leggings and hopefully get a little more life out of it.

The Laguna jerseys are not the easiest to sew - they curl like the very devil - but they have a nice weight and stretch, and feel substantial and sturdy for children's clothing, which is why I keep coming back to them!

The leggings are the "Tiny Path" leggings from Ottobre 6/2013 - a two piece legging (front leg and back leg) with knee patches. I made them once before, here. For the knee patches, Maggie and I chose a polkadot Laguna knit. I don't know how well these go with the Magpie Pinafore, but they sure are cute! I've noticed Maggie has worn holes in a lot of her leggings and they are finally starting to look a bit short on her (miracle of miracle, the child is growing!) so I owe her a few more pairs!

Even though Maggie isn't feeling very well right now, it was obvious that she likes her new outfit! For my part, I am enjoying sewing from my Ottobres! While the instructions are not super-detailed, they do tell you what you need to know, and there are so many styles to choose from!

Well, I better get back to cuddling my poor hacking baby girl. Hope you all have a great week! Have you sewn any Ottobre patterns? What's your verdict?

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Sewing comfy clothes for Joe.

After I finished Maggie's Jump Rope dress, I was ready for a quick and easy project. Now that Joe is wearing pants almost every day (!!) he really needs more pants. I couldn't bear the thought of buying him another pair of ill-fitting baggy Target sweats, so I whipped up another pair of Oliver + S Parachute Pants for him, using apple green and navy french terry from Imagine Gnats. Another great thing about this pattern is that it only requires a bare yard of 58" wide fabric in Joe's size. This fabric was $10/yard, so these are a pretty cheap make.

Joe's favorite colors are "green and blue" - I really love the bright apple green shade of this fabric and it has a great medium weight. These aren't as warm as the sweatshirt fleece pants I made for Joe but I like the way the pants fit better in a slightly lighter-weight fabric.

I really love this pattern! Once again, I made the size six, but removed about 3/4" from the rise and a couple inches from the length.  I added pockets using the Sketchbook pocket pieces as a general starting point, and this time I did a drawstring as instructed. The drawstring is mostly for show, though, as the elastic is adequate to hold the pants up.

Again, trying to photograph clothes on wiggly children in low indoor light doesn't make for the best photographs. Especially when you have a photo bomber jumping into every frame!

There's not much more to say about these sweats except that Joe needs a bunch more pairs of them! They are so much cuter and narrower than the store-bought ones he wears, and really easy and fun to sew!

Seriously? A dirty paper towel on the floor? Argh! Well, his bottom looks really cute in these awesome-fitting pants, at least.

After the pants, I whipped up another Ottobre 1/2015 #11 T-shirt. This is my fourth or fifth version of this pattern, and I love the boxy fit. This version features Cloud9 knits I picked up from Imagine Gnats - the sleeves are this pretty light blue hexie print and the body of the shirt is this "life aquatic" knit. I bound the neckline with gray ribbing, and hemmed the sleeves and bottom. Joe is average height, but a lot of his height is in his long torso rather than legs, so I always add a couple inches to shirts, and this was no exception. Looking at the photos, I could have lengthened the sleeves a bit more as well!

The best part is that Joe loves these new pieces and chooses them frequently from his bins! Score!

Next up, I'm working on another outfit for Maggie. The kids are getting a lot of sewing love right now.  Are any of you planning to participate in KCW in February? I haven't decided ...

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Jump Rope Dress.

First major make of 2016! An Oliver + S Jump Rope Dress for Maggie.

View B, with the long sleeves and no belt, has been on my to-make list for Maggie for a long time, but with the chilly winter we're having, it was clear that the time was right. The long sleeves make this a great winter dress. I've seen this made up beautifully in corduroy here and here as well as other simple and beautiful versions here and here. I knew I wanted to use this now-discontinued Robert Kaufman pink houndstooth twill for it - it has a nice weight for a long sleeved dress and it mixes my taste for classic textures with Maggie's love of pink.

But after I decided to use this fabric, I struggled with a million other questions - should I use a contrasting fabric for the placket and collar? A contrasting under-placket? Contrasting pockets or pocket bands?

I put the dilemma out there on Instagram and on my sewing group on Facebook, and it turned out to be a somewhat controversial topic! Haha! My friends were split down the middle on contrast collars or all the same fabric. The contrast collar/placket/pocket band camp was further divided between the printed contrast fabric (Liberty was an obvious and popular choice) faction and the plain and classic white or navy blue collar faction.  The many responses were endlessly revealing and entertaining to read and consider, but made the decision even more difficult for this Libra sewist! I actually put the project aside for a couple days to clear my mind! Please tell me I'm not the only one who gets overwhelmed by too many options sometimes?

In the end, I realized that it would look great no matter what, so I just needed to made an executive decision! I opted to go with white piping on the collar, a white underplacket, and white buttons. The rest of it is all pink houndstooth. Whew! And of course, it turned out great! And hopefully I didn't lose too many friends over this difficult decision. #Librasewingproblems

Rainy dark days mean slightly blurry/soft photos, alas. This was the best I could do on a dark January morning. But the blurriness does capture Maggie's near-constant movement, so I feel like the blurriness conveys a truth in its own right!

Anyway, pattern details! This was my first time sewing the Jump Rope Dress, and it is definitely an enjoyably challenging sew. The dress, collar and placket are all size 2T although for some reason I ended up cutting the size 18-24 month size in the pockets - oops! Luckily it was such a small difference it didn't matter! I just put the slightly smaller pockets between the 2T pocket markings on the dress.

These pockets are almost famous, they are so well-beloved by the Oliver + S community. And I can see why. They're pretty much the cutest thing since baby bats, right? Maggie likes them too! Toddlers love their pockets. And they're not hard to sew - pretty fun, really! The pieces have a cool shape and it's fun watching them turn into this little pouch shape. (You know you're a sewing nerd when you're like, it was fun to see such a weird shaped piece turn into THIS. Mind blown!)
This happened to be my first attempt at a button placket, too, and I had to read those instructions so many times! Always while Steve was trying to read the paper online, it seemed, too! Sorry Steve! For a minute there, everything seemed wrong and backwards, and I spent a lot of time scrutinizing the illustrations. But in the end, once I got everything facing the right way, it all worked out beautifully! Despite a slightly off-grain placket piece and ravelly fabric, this turned out pretty darn well. (Next time I'll cut the placket on the bias if I'm dealing with a fabric where the grain shows this well, because perfectly lining up and matching fabrics with this level of precision is just not my forte. Next time I'll also put the top button right at the top. Live and learn!)

Choosing to pipe the collar definitely upped the ante on this first-time attempt at this pattern. It really adds a lot of bulk to seam where the collar meets the the placket, and it was hard to figure out how to line things up. I'm not sure I'd recommend trying this, at least not for your first attempt at this pattern, but, after some consternation and pounding the living daylights out of that intersection of seams with a mallet (no joke), I managed to get it to a point where any flaws are not noticeable/on the underside of the collar. I slip stitched the collar to the back neckline of the dress and used some clever hand-stitching to make everything stay where it's supposed to be. I didn't trust my machine topstitching skills at that point! But it worked out.

Hardware mallet = essential sewing tool, fyi.

The only modification I made to the pattern was to shorten the sleeves. I noticed in perusing images of other versions online that the sleeves seemed a bit long, so I measured Maggie's arms and cut off a couple inches of length on the sleeves so that they would hit just at the top of the hand (a nice cozy length for winter but not so long they have to be cuffed).

ETA: The pattern is supposed to have cuffed sleeves!! Clearly I stopped reading the instructions at that point, because I thought people were rolling up the sleeves because they are too long! HA!

Against Maggie's wishes for "pink buttons!" I found some pretty white shell buttons in my stash that perfectly compliment the piping and collar. Annoyingly, the buttonholes turned out a bit tight - if they don't "loosen up" on their own, I'm going to have to go back and fix them by hand, because right now it's pretty tough to fasten and unfasten the buttons to pull the dress over the head. Maggie seems okay with white buttons rather than pink now that the dress is finished, so that part is a big relief!

She likes her new dress! It's comfortable and warm and works great over leggings for school. She is really fun to sew for these days - she's excited to learn I'm making something for her, helps me tape and pin pattern pieces so I can cut, and she likes to sit on my lap while I sew sometimes (although I find this pretty distracting, it's sweet that she's so interested). When I'm done with her project, she's thrilled to try it on and model for photographs (as long as it's pink)! If only I could get Joe this excited about Mama-mades! Ah well, I'm sure it won't last forever, but I'll try to enjoy it while it lasts.

That said, Joe may not be quite as enthusiastic about Mama-mades, but he does like to pose for photos, especially with his little sister Maggie. I've said it before and I'll say it again - I feel so blessed and lucky that my children are such good friends with each other. Sure. they fight and bicker sometimes, but in general, they would rather be together than apart. Joe in particular, is very protective and attached to his sister. When my sister offered to take him to see the new Star Wars movie, we had to really persuade him that it would be fun to go without Maggie (he had a great time, of course). Maggie is so excited and happy to see Joe when he gets home from school (his school lets out later than her preschool). They are such good buds.

Sometimes Joe's affections are a bit too much, even! Like when he starts pinching her cheeks. Not that you can blame him, Maggie's cheeks do pretty much beg for a pinching. Love these kids.

What was your first make of the new year?

Saturday, January 2, 2016

One last 2015 make and a year-end review.

Happy New Year! We are on the third week of a really cold snap in Oakland. As you know, I live in a Victorian house (built 1896) that lacks both insulation and central heating (we have a gas fireplace unit that is the sole source of heat for the front of the house and upstairs), so while it rarely drops below freezing in Oakland, our house is often just a few degrees warmer than outside. We've been bundling up in sweaters, warm socks, slippers, blankets, and hats around the house.

This seemed like an opportune time for some post-Christmas selfish sewing, so I made myself some Hudson Pants by True Bias patterns for lounging around the house. This pattern has taken the internet sewing community by storm, and I can see why!!! A very easy and fast sew, and these make for some really comfortable sweatpants. Here I am enjoying my new loungers while whipping up some fried rice for the family! No fancy photoshoot here, just real life!

I made a couple changes, mostly due to the supplies I had on hand. I didn't have any appropriate drawstring cord, so I skipped the drawstring. I didn't have any 2" elastic, so I ran 1" elastic through two channels instead. As a result of that change, the waistband isn't quite as firm as I'd like, and it wants to roll a bit, but they're plenty wearable. After making these, I picked up some wide elastic and cording at Britex for my next pair (they have an amazing selection of colors!). 

The fabric is a drapey bamboo french terry I bought at Stonemountain. It's a little lightweight for this pattern, and for our freezing cold winter, but it's super soft and comfortable. I used the same fabric for the pocket detail and cuffs. I've already bought fabric for my next pair, a thicker cotton french terry. I spend a lot of time in my loungewear, but until now I've generally worn the same old ratty items. I've decided it's time to retire some of my ugly old pajamas and replace them with nice me-mades. 

Again, all real life over here! Messy house, half drunk bottle of beer behind me! The good thing about this weather is we barely need to refrigerate our beer, it stays nice and chilly at "room temperature." When we replaced our windows a couple years back, I remember they opened up the wall behind me in this picture, and besides there being no insulation, it was just dry wall nailed on top of lathe and plaster, and the plaster had partially fallen or worn out, leaving gaps where you could see daylight shining through the walls. I knew our walls were crap, but the visual was pretty striking! I get the feeling that when people started building in Oakland (and Northern California in general), the idea was to create temporary shelter for gold miners, railroad employees, and speculators - no one expected to stay for long or actually live in these houses! Either that or they built their houses in September, before they had experienced an El NiƱo or a foggy summer.

But I digress.

2015 had its definite ups and downs for us, but sewing was a constant. I sewed a lot this year! My blogging was less consistent, and I struggled to keep this blog up at times this year. For that reason, quite a few items went unblogged. There were a couple of reasons for this struggle, I think. I was really busy this year with work and kids, and I often just didn't feel like I had time to write a whole blog post. Instagram provided a quicker way to share my makes, and sometimes I just didn't feel like writing a long post after sharing there. I regret not blogging more of my makes, though, because this blog provides a great record of my sewing and my life that Instagram really can't replace. We'll see how this year goes as far as blogging.

So anyway, here's the year-end review! First up, sewing for Joe. 

Not pictured: two more pairs of shorts and a couple of t-shirts. Total of about 16 items.

2015 was a year of shorts and t-shirts for Joe, plus a couple of dress-up/costume items and a cute little fox. Not a lot of fancy sewing for Joe this year - that flannel button-down was the most complicated item, but lots of fun instant gratification projects! Joe wears mama-made shirts or shorts (and now pants! yay!) on a frequent basis. He helped me choose some of the styles and fabrics too. I see more t-shirts and simple clothes in fun fabrics in the coming year. My most used patterns for Joe were the Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts, a simple boxy Ottobre t-shirt (1/2015 #11), and the Flashback Skinny Tee (again).

Not shown: One boring pink knit dress and a pink supergirl cape. Total: 19 items.

Maggie made out really well this year! She's a more appreciative audience for handmades, so it's no surprise she gets a few more items than her brother. As long as it's pink (with a few exceptions), she's bound to like it. Her favorite items are definitely the Geranium dresses and her pink Hanami. The Geranium was the only repeat pattern this year, it's a good one! Maggie also got a little kitty cat.

Not shown: A plain black Mabel skirt, my guest post outfit, a plain grey Linden sweatshirt, and a sleeveless Archer shirt. Plus my new Hudson Pants. Total: 18 items

This was definitely a banner year for sewing for myself. I was super inspired by Me-Made-May earlier in the year and I'm looking forward to participating again in 2016. My most worn items are my Hemlock tees and Linden sweatshirts. I also love my Mabel skirts - secret PJ office wear! This year, I need to make more t-shirts and simple woven blouses, I wear mine all the time! I also want to make more loungewear and try some woven Hudsons.

Finally, "other sewing":

Not shown: Three gift garments for nieces and friends' kids, felt Christmas ornaments, a stuffed robot for the niece. Total items: At least 17.

This year I knocked out two quilts, made some bags, stockings for the guys, shorts for Steve, and some other random gifts. Not too shabby! I often wish I had more time to make gifts for my family and friends, and I feel like the majority of my sewing is "selfish" - for me or my kids. But considering everything above was a gift except one big quilt, that's really not too bad! I have limited time, and really feel the need to reduce "obligation sewing" and sew gifts only when I feel especially inspired and excited about them. Most of the gifts I sewed in 2015 were really fun and enjoyable to make, and that's the key!

Holy &%^#!!! That's SEVENTY ITEMS I made this year! YOU GUYS! That is (incredibly) approximately 1.3 items a week! Granted, many of those items (baby pants, leggings, and t-shirts) were really easy and fast sews, but quite a few of them (button down shirts, shorts for Steve, and quilts) were time-consuming makes.

You want to know what's funny? When I started thinking about writing this post, I didn't feel like it was a particularly great year for sewing. It just goes to show - it all becomes a blur after a little while, and I tend to forget about a lot of my projects. So wow. I'm actually kind of speechless right now! I had no idea I had sewn quite so many things!

It will be fun to see what 2016 brings! I'm not even going to pretend that "sewing down my stash" is a goal this year. Why kid myself, right?

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Scrap basket comforter for my Mom.

First of all, thank you, everyone for your sweet and thoughtful comments on my last post! I'm sorry I haven't responded to everyone yet, but your words mean so much to me! I love my blog friends, y'all are the best! Truly. 

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas, if you celebrate, or a wonderful winter holiday otherwise. My house is knee-deep in kid detritus and my children are super spoiled! With everything so gloomy in our house, I might have gone a bit overboard with the Christmas cheer, ahem. I always say I am going to go more minimalist with Christmas - less crap, less toys - but then I totally fall apart once I start shopping, and I end up buying all. the. things. for my kids. Their excitement is so contagious! I know I'm not alone in this weakness! Then, after I went totally overboard, my brother went totally overboard too, and yeah ... serious American first-world gluttony over here. But it was fun!

With the stressful turn this holiday season took, my plans to make multiple handmade gifts had to be narrowed down. And narrowed down they were - I made exactly one handmade gift this year. A little comforter/quilt for my mom. My mom has had a tough few months - her lease was terminated when her landlord decided to remodel and list the house she had been living in for many years. Since she lives in a college town in the Pacific Northwest, the timing was as bad as it could be - it's really hard to find a nice rental in October and November in Bellingham, Washington. Luckily, she and her husband found a new place, sharing a house with a nice lady, "at least for the winter." You don't want to be looking for a new place in the dead of winter anywhere, but especially not in the darker Northern latitudes. I'm glad my mom has a warm place to spend the winter and hopefully beyond.

Anyway, because of the expense of moving, Mom wasn't able to come down and spend Christmas with the family as she usually/often does. That was a big added sadness for her (and for us as well!). So I wanted to do something really special and cozy for her, hence this little blanket. 

To piece the top for this quilt, I raided my scrap basket for yellows, browns, reds, and blues, and turned four inch squares into little four-square blocks, pairing deeper colors with low-volume prints. Then I arranged them on my floor and moved things around until I liked the general look of the arrangement. The four-square blocks are all arranged with (relatively) darker fabrics going from top-left to bottom-right, creating organic diagonal lines down and across the quilt. As usual with scrap quilts, half the fun was seeing how a random bunch of scraps look together in a quilt! This quilt was interesting in that it seemed to look better in photographs than in person - I think the photographs helped me see it "from a distance," when the colors blend in a lovely way. Up close, the individual prints take the stage.

I was going for something homely and homey and cheerful that reflects my love for folksy utilitarian items (Inder Loves Folk Art!), and I think I achieved it! The quilt is the perfect size to lay over my lap and tuck under my feet while I sew or craft. I think it's about 48" x 56".

I hope you are appreciating my little photo-bomber here!

Once I finished the quilt top, I sandwiched it with ditzy floral navy flannel for the back and wool batting. Wool batting is really soft and warm, and has a higher loft than cotton batting, making it really squishy and nice for a tied quilt. It can be washed cold and line dried or tumble-dried cool, so the care isn't that different than any quilt. I sent the quilt to my mom with a box of color-catchers because I am still worried about the dark blue flannel bleeding! I prewashed it several times, but it was still bleeding color ever so slightly - that's one down side about using flannel for a quilt backing rather than regular quilting cotton.

(As an aside, I don't quite know what to call this blanket. While it is pieced, I feel odd calling it a "quilt" because it's not actually quilted. "Comforter" is good too, but suggests a whole cloth top to me. Not sure. I'm just going to call it a quilt, but I mean no disrespect to "real" quilts!)

Wait a minute, who is that peeking above the quilt?

It's Joe, who gives this blanket his seal of approval! This boy loves his blankets. Our house is old and drafty, so you can often find Joe wrapped up in a blanket while he plays on his tablet or works on a lego project. He knows a good blanket, and the squishy loft and warm flannel back is just his style.

I tied the quilt at the corner of every square with dark blue embroidery thread. I did it as instructed in this tute, except that I did whole rows of stitching before cutting the thread and tying. I took an extra stitch in each tie to give it a little extra stability and went back at the end to trim all of the ties at a nice length. I will be honest - for a "quick and easy" method to finish a quilt, this turned out to be a lot of work! I spent several hours (easily) tying the quilt, and my neck, back, and shoulders were really hurting after just a few minutes of it! Overall, this project was a real labor of love. There is a reason I don't make quilts all the time - I feel that the potential for repetitive injury-type aches and pains is really high for quilting as opposed to sewing clothes, which tends to involve less repetitive work. It might be a few weeks before my neck feels normal again! But I do love the final product and it's like childbirth - after a few months, I've forgotten the pain and I'm ready to sew another quilt! (No, there are no more children in my immediate future!)

I finished the quilt with a little handmade label. My mom signs letters and emails MOM WOW - you know, it looks the same upside and backwards - that's my mom! So that seemed appropriate to embroider on some cream linen to make a label. I also used one of my large collection of embroidery transfers for the butterfly, and stitched the label down with embroidery thread.

I had hoped to have this blanket in my mom's hands by Christmas, but life being what it is, that didn't happen. This will go in the mail on Monday. Hopefully the special-ness and work involved helps to offset the lateness! Love you, mom!!! Merry Christmas, and God Bless Us, Everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Keep your lamp trimmed and burning.

Dear friends! I hope you are having a lovely holiday season. As my friends and Instagram followers know, our family has had a sad loss - we said goodbye to Steve's dad, our beloved Grandpa Frank, last week. After a short illness, he passed away peacefully on Tuesday night with his children gathered around him. I want to thank all of you who have prayed for us and kept us in your thoughts these past weeks - I appreciate your kind words. We are doing okay. It's good to have kids at a time like this - they keep us grounded in the present, and their joy and excitement about Christmas is irresistible.

While Steve was in the hospital, the kids and I stayed home, waiting for news. Maggie caught a stomach flu last week and we didn't want to bring that to Steve's family - later Joe and I caught it as well, so this was a good decision! Those days of waiting were anxious and stressful, but I passed the time by working on several Christmas projects. I made stockings for Steve and my brother, to complete our set. I still have the stocking my grandmother made me as a child (below, far right) and I made stockings for the kids last Christmas (shown here). So this year, I made stockings for the grown up guys in the house.

I used simple stripes of Christmas fabrics for Harpal's stocking. I printed out his name in large, bolded Courier font and sewed felt letters onto the cuff by hand. When Harpal would ask me for a small favor or try to rib or tease me, it was fun to respond "oh don't mind me, I'm just painstakingly sewing your name on your Christmas stocking by hand, it's no big deal." How many sisters make handmade stockings for their brothers, I would like to know? I will milk this for all that it's worth, naturally!

Since my stocking doesn't have a name on it, I decided to leave Steve's blank as well, and go with a simple patchwork pattern. I like the simplicity, but compared to the others, it does seem like it's missing something. I may go back and add a cuff next year, we'll see. I am glad to see everyone accounted for his year! I trust Santa will not disappoint this year!

It was a dreary and sad day, with Daddy gone to be with his dad at the hospital, and the kids and I had been moping and/or acting out a bit. So we decided to go get a tree and get it all set up to cheer ourselves up and surprise Daddy when he got home. You may laugh, but it felt like a big deal to take the kids to get a tree and get it into and out of the car all by myself, and set it up in its stand! I have grown to depend on Steve to do all of the tree hauling and wrestling! Joe and I were quite proud of ourselves (and pretty dirty!) when we got it all set up. The kids also picked out some decorations while we were out, including that blingy gold and red ornament wreath (I tried to talk to them into a more natural green wreath, but they weren't having it!).

Joe, our budding engineer, took responsibility for testing all of the lights to see which strands still worked (why, oh why, do I pack the broken strands away with the good ones every single year? I have problems!), and both the kids helped me string them on the tree. 

The kids were so helpful and excited about Christmas and we all had a really nice time. Seeing their delight over all the ornaments and lights filled me with joy as well - it was truly magical. I will always treasure this somewhat sadsweet memory!

In days that followed, knowing that our dad and grandpa probably wasn't going to make it, talking about end-of-life decisions, and then finally hearing that it was all over, I stitched this little ornament from Alicia Paulson's Winter Cabin ornament kit (the kits are sold out but you can buy a PDF pattern and source the supplies yourself). I haven't found a good way to transfer markings onto felt, so I had to eyeball the embroidery design and it is quite a bit more homely than the original, but it was a soothing activity during a hard time.

While I was stitching and waiting, I kept thinking of the song, "Keep Your Lamp Trimmed and Burning," (there are many versions, all based on the imagery of the Parable of the Virgins in Matthew 25, but this bluegrass version performed by Hot Rize is one of my favorites). "Trouble and trials are almost over ... see what my Lord has done. Keep your lamp trimmed and burning ... see what my Lord has done." I know this ornament shows a candlestick, not an oil lamp, but the symbolism is very similar.

Even on the darkest nights, there is always a little light. That's the whole point, isn't it?

Happy Solstice, my friends!