Tuesday, October 21, 2014

KCW ...?

So, um, it's Tuesday and I'm still not sure if I'm participating in Kids' Clothes Week this time around. I had an interesting (read: difficult) planning commission meeting last night, and I haven't done anything tonight either, so ... that might be a "no," huh? Sometimes it's hard for me to say no. Especially to something as fun as KCW. But at some point, you just have to cry "uncle." I think the turning point was coming home after a challenging meeting last night to find Steve had put buckets all over the house - roots got into our drains, backed up the pipes, and a pipe upstairs had started to leak under the pressure. In short, the kids' bath was draining into my dining room.

Yeah. Ew. What the fuck. Uncle.

These are the moments when I'm like, "Oh, shit, we better call the landlord."

"Wait. Oh crap. We are the landlord."

This is the American dream, right? Good times!

But hey, look what I made this past weekend! An outfit for the Magpie!

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

Isn't she the sweetest? As you know, Maggie is on a major pink kick right now. Everything must be pink. Every. Single. Item. Of. Clothing. Including socks. It's pretty intense. Our days are currently punctuated with shrieks of "NO!!!! PINK!" Heaven forbid you should offer this girl blue socks. Unhappy Maggie, forced to wear blue socks, is not the sweetest.

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

But Maggie in a cute new 2+2 Top made from Heather Ross frogs and green chambray and pink Playtime Leggings seems pretty darn happy and sweet. Until something meets with her displeasure, anyway. This expression cracks me up! I like to think she gets this "looking daggers" expression from her mother.

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

I've made the 2+2 top once before, earlier this year, and honestly Maggie hasn't grown much since then. I made this top in the 12-18 month size, with about an inch of extra length for my 28 month old little girl. She's petite, and she loves pink, but don't be fooled: this girl can keep up with 5 year olds on the playground. She has no fear!

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

Maggie loved this fabric and chose it at the fabric store:

"Pink! FROG!" she squealed in delight as I carried the fabric to the cutting table.

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

I found some pretty pink buttons for the back, and whipped up a quick pair of Playtime Leggings in rosy pink knit to complete the outfit. I think she liked it!

2+2 top and Playtime leggings

2+2 top and Playtime leggings


Monday, October 13, 2014

Alder Shirtdress.

I have a finished object to share! I know y'all were getting worried that I had fallen down a hexagon/crochet rabbit hole, and I'll admit, I was a little worried too! You guys, I love crochet! It's so fun! I'm officially obsessed. But don't worry, I can't keep away from my sewing machine for long.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

Pattern: Alder Shirtdress by Grainline Patterns. This is a loose (almost "baby doll" style) shirtdress with optional gathered skirt.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

Fabric: An inexpensive "washer" linen/cotton blend from Fabric.com in a pastel minty/sage green. To be honest, I was disappointed when I saw this fabric in person and it has sat in my stash for many months. The color was lighter than I had expected/hoped, and as far as quality, I got what I paid for - it's a bit rough and coarsely woven. That said, it sewed up well and has just the right weight/drape for this dress. I am glad that I found a use for this piece! Since the linen seemed a bit washed out and boring on its own, I used scraps of Liberty cotton for the facings, and I am so glad I did. The peek of Liberty at the collar really adds something to the dress.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

First time? Yes! This was my first time sewing a Grainline pattern. I loved the clean, spartan illustrations and instructions and the pattern was well-drafted. I did have to consult the Alder sew-along for more guidance when it came time to sew on the collar, though. I think that's what you get with "spartan" instructions. It's so hard to find the perfect balance! I really love the Grainline aesthetic - all of the patterns are so wearable and simple. I am excited to try the Archer shirt and Moss skirt, which I also purchased in a fit of selfish buying.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

Size: 10. My bust and waist measurements were pretty much spot on for this size, and when I first sewed up the bodice, the bust dart seemed to fall in exactly the right place with no adjustment. But in the end, it is a tad large, the pockets are a bit lower than they should be (weighed down by the skirt - even when you sew a muslin, things can turn out differently!), and my bra peeks out from the armholes. If I were to make this again, I think I would try a size 8. I am somewhat small-boned, so my rib cage and shoulders are smaller than my measurements would indicate, and this is a loose and roomy dress. However, it was very refreshing to not have to do a full bust adjustment or have to move darts around! As it is, this is a breezy, comfortable, wearable dress, but I'm not sure it's the most flattering thing on. But it is the perfect garment for a hot sticky Indian Summer.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

 Modifications: Contrast facings. Otherwise, no mods. I flat felled all of the seams except along the skirt, which I serged and topstitched down. So the inside is nice and clean.

The good: Modern, wearable shape, clean finishings, simple instructions that get the job done without killing too many trees. (I so much prefer line drawings to photographs in patterns, although I understand why so many indie pattern designers use photographs.) I love the menswear-style shirt details like the two piece collar, plackets, and breast pockets. I love the use of bias facing on the armholes (I hate big bulky facings on shirts). The inside of this dress looks great and I think it will hold up to washing really well.

Grainline Alder Shirtdress

And hey! It looks good with a cardigan! But doesn't everything? I only put this on for a minute - it's too hot for a sweater today!
The not-so-good: I would prefer real "notches" on the patterns, something easier to see when you're cutting. Tiling this PDF pattern took FOREVER. So tedious. I know some people find Liesl's tiling style to be confusing (it confused me at first), but I prefer not having to tape 500 pages together before I can even start cutting, so I like the way she tiles her patterns one piece at a time. Also, the different versions of the Alder Shirtdress have their own pieces, which is great, except that there is no option to print out only one version because of the way they are tiled. So that's just a whole lot of paper. On the bright side, I've already cut out the version without a gathered skirt, so I wouldn't have to tile it all again if I wanted to try the other style.

Make again? Probably ... it's a pretty specific style, so I am not sure how many of these I need. I do think it would make an adorable blouse to wear over skinny jeans, though, and I'd like the opportunity to work out the minor bugs/fitting issues. It may not be the most flattering shape on me, but this is a great dress for chasing after children on the weekend - it's even nursing-friendly! Although it's a bit baggy, this dress definitely radiates "effortless cool" and I feel reasonably put together in it.

Yay for selfish sewing! Next up, a few pieces for Maggie. I am considering participating in KCW again - once again in a low key way considering that I have Planning Commission on the night of the 20th and I am, of course, working all week. But Maggie does need a pink fall wardrobe since she refuses to wear any other color right now! I figure the best way to kill her love of pink is to inundate her with handmade pink clothing that I will be sad if she doesn't wear ... haha, we'll see!

Are you going to be KCW'ing this autumn (spring for you Aussies)?

Monday, October 6, 2014

Goings on.

Just popping in to share what I've been working on this week.

WIP: Living room progress

Work on our living room (with requisite naked baby!) continues. We bought and installed the giant and enormously practical entertainment center we have been hankering after for years. What a difference it makes!! Of course we might need a larger television set eventually, I'm sure my husband wouldn't complain. So many problems solved with this piece. There is still a lot of work to be done in this room, and it may go a bit more slowly from here on (among other things, our budget needs some time to recover!), but ahhhhh, it is already so much better!

New sewing/crochet nook

And look, my new set-up has space for my handwork/craft supplies and books!

Rejected Parsley Pants

Here's a sad story: I made these awesome green convertible Parsley Pants to Joe's very particular specifications (green with yellow star buttons), but when it was time to try them on, he declared that they were both too small (too tight) and too big (too long). To be fair, size 5 was a bit snug in the ahem, crotch area (the length was perfect in my opinion) but still. I was so hurt and stricken. Joe is really hard to sew for. He is so very fickle, and perhaps I am too sensitive. It's a bad combination. He does love some of things I've sewn for him in the past year but with the number of items he ends up rejecting, I often wonder if it's worth it to even try anymore. Of course, when he does love something, it's all the sweeter, but ugh, the rejection!! It sucks!

So I posted this photo on Facebook, and offered the awesome green pants with yellow stars (remind you of the sneetches?) up to anyone with a skinny/smaller side size 5 kid, and the many nice responses and offers to take them off my hands did soothe my bruised ego somewhat. So that's something! Off they go to a more grateful recipient!

Fabrics for Maggie Projects

The pants bummed me out for a bit, but I have learned that it is best to move on quickly from sewing failures/heartbreak! Recently Maggie has expressed a strong preference for pink. Everything has to be pink, from her socks on up! I promise I did nothing to encourage this; if anything I discouraged it, which is probably why she's picked it up, right? You can't win! But in the interest of reducing morning dressing battles, she clearly needs more pink clothes. So I stopped by the fabric store and picked up a few fabrics that are pink, but still tasteful enough that I won't gag trying to sew them. Maggie spotted the Heather Ross frogs from about a mile away at the fabric store and freaked out over them ("pink! frog! pink! frog!"). I had to bribe her to let go of the fabric so that I could prewash it! Right now I'm seeing that being used for a long-sleeved 2+2 blouse and the berry chambray becoming sandbox pants.

I can't quite decide what to do with the Kaffe Fassett striped pink - perhaps an Ice Cream dress? Playtime dress? Geranium? Hide and Seek dress? Or a blouse or tunic version of any of the above? Hmmmm.

I love planning projects, don't you? I just wish I had more time to execute my plans. Of course, it would probably help if I spent less time drooling over blogs/planning/shopping and more time actually sewing? But let's be realistic, shall we?


Another good way to recover from kid-inflicted sewing heartbreak is to sew something for yourself, right? I know autumn is coming, we are having a blazing week of Indian summer right now, with the temperatures in the high 80s, so all I can think about are light and breezy clothes! And I figure an Alder Shirtdress would look good with leggings and sweaters as the temperatures cool down ... this is my first time trying a Grainline pattern and I'm excited!

Learning to crochet!

Oh, and in addition to making a Grandmother's Garden Quilt, hexie pillow, and embroidered apron, I'm teaching myself to crochet. No bigs, right? Yep: I am nothing if not logical, sane, and rational when it comes to crafting projects. That's me!

Do you have a couple (or a thousand) WIPs? Tell me about them!

Sunday, September 28, 2014


Hello peoples! Things are bustling in these parts. I've been really busy at work, and working really hard on our house, and yes, just a bit of sewing too. All of this frenetic and somewhat scatter-brained activity has not left me with a lot of time or energy for writing blog posts, but never fear, I'm sure I'll get my blogging mojo back at some point.

Do you ever feel really inspired, but also really scattered? That's me right now.

So rather than following some orderly path, this post will likely be as scattered as my mind is these days. So many disconnected projects!

First up, progress in the kids' room!

Work in the Kids' Bedroom

Steve put up little Ikea shelves for books.

Work in the Kids' Bedroom

And we installed the giant wall map! I got the wall map (which came with old fashioned wallpaper paste) on Amazon, and I love the colors, which have exactly the vintage quality I was looking for. I was a little disappointed that, at least when it comes to California, it's not actually that accurate, though! Sacramento is where Reno is, and Stockton is shown as north of us instead of southeast? Very strange and annoying. And now it's permanently affixed to my wall! ARGH!

Oh well, it's pretty, even if it's not precisely accurate ... ?

Work in the Kids' Bedroom

But look! It's so pretty!

Work in the Kids' Bedroom

All this little reading nook needs is some floor pillows and it's ready to go.

We haven't moved the bed into the room yet, but Joe, aka, "Hates All Change: Good, Bad, and Indifferent," actually seems on board with the idea! But rather than moving it in there the second he suggested it, we are leaving him wanting it for a while, hoping to avoid second thoughts and regrets.  We know Joe pretty well, cough cough. He is also upset and disturbed by the idea that we will have to disassemble the bed to fit it into the room - he says, "No!! Don't take it apart!" in alarm. Because ... I'm not sure, actually.

But we're working on it, and I expect this will be a real bedroom soon.

Inspired by this transformation, I decided to take on an even more ambitious project: repainting my living room!

Painting the living room

My friend Karen, who advised me to paint the kids' room Sherwin Williams "Rainwashed," told me that "Agreeable Gray" was the color for this room. Who am I to argue? We like it so much we are considering carrying it into the the dining room eventually.

Do you see the kid scribbles on the wall to my right? They are GONE!!! Oh happy day!

Painting the living room

Steve has been such a good sport and has helped me execute all of my ambitious plans for the house! Eight years of living in a house with an underwater mortgage doesn't exactly inspire one to make improvements (because why bother? we'll never get that money back! etc.), and of course, small children don't help much either. But I am ready to really freshen this place up.

Okay, the truth is that I'm super obsessed and crazy over the idea of redecorating the place and my family is putting up with my craziness and pitiching in, probably out of fear. It is entirely possible that I am suffering from an overdose of Pinterest and HGTV. Personality-wise, Joe and Steve are similar - why fix something that isn't broken? And no, they don't see "comfy hand-me-down couch that is out of proportion with the room" or "walls that are a nice shade of blue that I've grown tired of" to constitute an actual problem. The sharpie scribbles on the wall? They add character. But they're both being such good sports and putting up with Mama's nuttiness. Joe only spent about 30 minutes grieving over the removal of that junky chest-of-drawers which was serving as a place to heap clean laundry from the room. (He's still upset that we gave away the playpen like six months ago.)

Painting the living room

Yep, only a madwoman could be so happy while painting!

And here's the room after yesterday's work! There's still some masking tape to pull off, and I plan to paint the baseboards and window trim today.

Living room - walls painted!

I bought encouraged my husband's buy-in on this project with the promise of a nice entertainment center on this wall, so we need to do some shopping! It's going to be awesome! I envision lots of room for the kids' toys and our books as well as a place to put the TV.

Since I have unilaterally decided that the room will have pops of cheerful yellow, pink, and red, I had to whip up a few new couch cushions to tide us over until we can afford new furniture. These have been very popular with the kids, at any rate. Everyone loves a nice cushion to snuggle with.

Couch cushions

You know, in 20 years of sewing, I don't think I had ever sewn a cushion until I made these.  Is that strange?

Couch cushions

They are simple envelope style cushions with buttons on the back. I pieced and quilted the fronts and then used piping on one and pom poms on the other. Maggie is obsessed with pink and with pom poms right now.  "MY PINK POM POMS!" She has been carrying my pom pom stash all over the house and refusing to share with Joe.

Couch cushions

I used natural linen on the back of the log-cabin-pom-pom pillow, and Art Gallery Fabrics Lazy Daisy to back the HST pillow. These are really fun and fast, and I'm busting through my stash of quilting fabrics.

Destined to become cushion #3

I decided that I had to have at least one hexie pillow! I am still deep in the trenches of hexagon addiction over here (my pile of Grandmother's Garden flowers is growing!). It's hard to explain the pleasure of watching a hexie project grow while you're watching Magnum P.I. and home improvement shows.

I have plans for non-home-dec sewing as well, but if you've been following this blog for any length of time you've probably noticed I'm susceptible to intense "phases" in my sewing and everything else. I am powerless to resist the pull of my obsession of the moment! For me, "selfish sewing" is sewing whatever I feel like sewing! Which is most of my sewing, so I really can't complain. So happy Selfish Sewing Week!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Snuggle Robot.

Sometimes there's not a ton to say about a project.

Joe and his Robot

This started out as a gift for a small baby (hence I used felt instead of buttons for the details). It's the Wee Wonderfuls Robot softie. The pattern is very simple, and it was really fun to make. It is a great way to use some of those small scraps of fabric and felt that are always threatening to explode out of my sewing corner and take over the entire house.

Wee Wonderfuls Robot

The softie is sewn together by machine, then the details are added by hand (although you could easily do most of those by machine as well). I assembled it in an afternoon, and enjoyed the handwork while I was watching evening television.

Wee Wonderfuls Robot, detail of control panel

But when I was done, Joe claimed it as his own. He asked very nicely if he could keep the robot, because "it is warm and snuggly." Then he took it to bed with him. Everyone needs a warm and snuggly robot, right?

Joe and his Robot

Well, I'm a sucker for those baby blues. Of course you can keep the robot, Joe.

Wee Wonderfuls stuffed 

I guess I'll be making another one!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things: the Nova Tote.

After the challenge of Maggie's backpack, I was ready for something easier and more fun! But I wasn't sure I wanted to do another bag. Like, ever again! So when my buddy Mahriam a.k.a. Three Owls Handmade asked me to test her new Nova Tote pattern, I initially hesitated.

But then Mahriam kept talking about how easy and simple it was to construct as well as parading out amazing versions made by her and her other testers, until I broke down under the pressure! And she was so right! This bag completely cured me of my "I hate sewing bags" mindset.

Nova Tote

The Nova Tote is a simple canvas tote bag with an optional quilted panel on the front. It comes in two sizes and has an optional lining. I decided to make the larger size and go with the simple unlined version. The size is perfect for hauling kid stuff around on the weekends or hitting the farmers' market. (Or the grocery store; there is a plastic bag ban in effect in my county.)

Nova Tote, front

Picking fabrics for this bag was so fun. I bought the canvas especially for this project, but everything else came from my stash. This bag has so many of my favorite things - golden yellow, Heather Ross VW vans, quilted stars, striped binding, orange wood grain fabric, hand embroidery. It kind of makes me want to break out in song!

Detail, hand embroidery and HR side panels.

I got a little nervous cutting into my precious fat quarter of VW buses - it was a gift from another sewing buddy, and it might well be the most valuable fabric I own from a collector's perspective. But now I can enjoy it everyday, and I still have plenty left. Fabric is meant to be sewn, right?

Making the quilted star panel was the most challenging aspect of the bag for me, since I'm only an occasional quilter. I required a bit of hand-holding from Mahriam on that part, since I had to learn how to make "flying geese" using only squares and rectangles. She has since added more detailed instructions on that technique in the instructions - it's one of those techniques that not immediately intuitive but once you "get" it you can't imagine doing it any other way. Once I figured it out, it was really fun! My points aren't perfect and my star is a little wonky, but since I'm not a hard-core quilting perfectionist who measures self-worth by triangle points, all I see is ORANGE WOOD GRAIN AWESOMENESS. Haha. 

I did add a little hand-embroidery in lieu of quilting, just because.

Nova Tote, pocket

The front pocket is big and deep enough to hold my keys and wallet separately from my other things without falling out.

The construction of this bag truly is simple and fast, making this a great first time quilting project for an apparel sewer or, I imagine, a great first time sewing project for a quilter. All of the pieces are rectangles, and it goes together without a lot of fuss. My only suggestion would be to use a really nice heavy denim needle in your machine and go slowly - I broke two needles in my rush to sew through four layers of canvas! But even so, this was an afternoon project. Once the quilted panel was completed, the rest of the bag was done in a jiff.

Nova Tote Interior

Since I opted not to line the bag, I finished the inside seams off with some bright tomato red bias tape I had in my stash. The main body of the bag is actually two layers of canvas, so in theory it could be self-lined, or you could line it with a cute contrasting fabric. Next time I will probably add an inner pocket or two, preferably with a zipper to keep my keys safe, but as far as easy breezy beach bags go, this is exactly right as-is.

As you can imagine, this bag went immediately into regular rotation and is now my go-to tote bag when I am running errands! I want to make the medium size next, and I'm excited that Mahriam is working on a quilted lunch bag that would be perfect for taking leftovers to work (I am currently using a five year old Cost Plus reusable bag that has really seen better days, so I could use something just like that).

It's exciting to see my friends designing patterns! Right now, I don't really feel any desire to learn to design or sell patterns, but I sure do enjoy testing them (when it works with my schedule and desires and usually in exchange for a copy of the final pattern). Ha, it works out just perfectly, right? Excellent symbiosis.

Are you considering making a Nova Tote? Do. It. It may change your mind about bag-sewing. And if not, you'll still have an awesome tote.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Kids' Bedroom: Progress!

Kids' room - painted!

Just a quick update to show you one project that has taken up an awful lot of my "free" time lately. I spent most of Labor Day weekend painting our tiny second bedroom upstairs, which will eventually become a shared bedroom for the kids.

After looking over my shoulder at my Pinterest board of kids' spaces, Joe decided that he wants a big world map on his wall (most of my map pictures were added after he said that, as I looked at different ways to incorporate maps into decor). Joe is currently really into maps, and being a map person myself, this is an interest I definitely want to encourage!

So after much deliberation and polling all my friends on Facebook (bright white? light blue? yellow?) I decided go with a light blue - like the ocean in an old map.

Several paint samples later, and it turns out that all light blues are not created equal. I don't consider myself to be especially picky about paint colors (maybe I'm kidding myself), so I was surprised at the strength of my dislike for my first set of samples. In our older house, with the rich dark hardwood, bright/light pastels look ... just awful! Who knew? I realized I needed something more muted, with more gray/brown in it.

So I polled my friends on Facebook. Again. What can I say? I'm a Libra. "Decisiveness" is not one of my strong qualities. My decision-making process involves a lot of hemming and hawing and trolling of Pinterest and blogs and soliciting of advice, usually followed by me ignoring said advice and doing whatever I feel like, much to the annoyance of my friends, who spent ridiculous amounts of time talking me through the whole thing. But, hey, I really want to know what other people think!

But here, one of my friends seriously came to my rescue. "Try Sherwin Williams 'Rainwashed.' Or maybe 'Sea Salt,'" she commented.

Do you have friends who not only know color generally, but can nail down exactly the shade of paint you need? It turns out this particular awesome friend, Karen, is considering going into interior design. The woman knows paint.

Samples were duly procured, and ... yes. Oh gosh, Rainwashed and Sea Salt are both so beautiful. Soft lovely green-blues with just the right amount of muted warmth to work in an old Victorian house with rich brown floors.

So I decided to do the walls in Rainwashed and the ceiling in Sea Salt, but it turned out you can't tell the difference and the room looks like it's all one color. Ha! Oh well!

Kids room before after painting

I know it's not a huge difference, but it looks so much nicer and cleaner now! There is really nothing like painting the baseboards and door to make a room seem suddenly clean and bright!

The actual painting went pretty quickly, even though I did it all myself. It's a small room (but the ceiling is high on the left!). I was so excited to be fixing up this space, I was actually freakishly happy most of the time, despite the fact that I was working really hard.

Working on the house

See, most cheerful painter ever, right? Until I got to the ceilings, anyway. Painting 10 foot ceilings is not a fun or cheerful job. But again, luckily the room is really small.

So that's where it is at this point. There is still a lot of work to be done - paint needs to be scrubbed off the floors and I need to screw on new outlet covers and I want to change the light fixture and furniture needs to be moved in, etc., etc.  Also, I need a really big map!

The current tentative plan is to put the map on the higher wall to the left, and the bunk beds under the dormered ceiling to the right. Then I will figure out some storage for clothes, books, and toys.

But as far as the beds, that might be a while. I have started talking to Joe about sleeping in his own room. The conversations usually go like this:

Me: "You know [BFF] sleeps in his own room, and has lots of fun toys in there, right?"
Joe: "I don't want to sleep in the other room. I like sleeping in my bunk bed near you and Daddy."
Me: "Daddy would still snuggle you every night, even if your bed was in the other room."
Joe: "I don't want to put my bed in the other room."

Okay ... so this may be a bit of a long term project!

That's okay. We'll get there eventually. In the meantime, the kids will have a lovely, light blue play space.

So ... what kind of curtains should I do?