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?

Friday, September 5, 2014

Maggie wants what kind of backpack?

So. You know that thing where you have lots of things to blog about, but you procrastinate actually writing, and the next thing you know, you're way behind and it starts to feel like a chore to catch up?

And then there's a big ol' earthquake that causes lots of property damage in the city where you work and you're running around like a chicken with your head cut off trying to address a million different earthquake-related legal and insurance issues for several weeks? Which makes blogging seem like pretty much your negative one-hundreth priority?

What? No? This hasn't happened to you? Weird.

Anyhoo. Earthquake aside, things are good with us, and I've been keeping very busy! Not just sewing and learning about FEMA, but cleaning out and painting my children's future bedroom, and getting everyone ready to start a new year at Peter Pan, where apparently I am the parent of the oldest and youngest child in this year's class! Ha!

My main sewing project for August - and it was quite a project! - was Maggie's backpack. After all, baby girl is starting preschool this year, and I have standards to uphold; she needed a mama-made backpack. The only question was what type of backpack?

Joe: "Maggie wants a squid backpack, Mama."
Me: "What?! Squid? Um ... she told you that?"
Joe: "She wants a squid. Or an octopus."
Me: "Uh ... Sure, whatever."

I decided that was all Joe, and went and bought some adorable Japanese fabric with cute chickens on it for Maggie's backpack, along with matching notions and hardware.

Then I showed the fabric to Maggie, and she said, "NO!!" and (literally) threw it aside in disinterest and dislike. And walked away.

Now, given, she is two, and she says "No!" quite a lot. But still ...

Me: "Steve, Joe says Maggie wants a squid backpack. And Maggie didn't seem the least bit interested in this cute chicken fabric I bought. But it's so cute! I don't know what to do."
Steve: "A squid backpack would be way cooler."
Me: "But ...!"
Steve: "I think you should do a squid."
Me: "I guess I could maybe appliqué a squid ..."

Interlude. I spend way too much time on Pinterest trying to figure out what squids even look like, ahem. Then I tear my fabric stash apart, pulling all of the fabrics out looking for something that might work for an appliquéd squid. Because I sure as heck am not buying even more fabric for this project. Then I work up the nerve to freehand a squid shape and cut it out in fabric, fusible web, etc. This all takes about a week. 

I appliqué an orange squid to turquoise cotton piqué (what's with all the accents?). I show it to Maggie.

Maggie, pointing, approvingly: "Mah back-back."

Joe: "See, Mama? Maggie does like it."

Um, okay then! I am sorry I ever doubted my in-house older sibling toddler mind-reading/translation services!

Off to the fabric store to buy orange piping and zipper and nylon webbing. Do you know how hard it is to find bright orange notions? So there are four slightly different shades of orange in this backpack, but in the end I just to be like, whatevs, I don't have time to make my own piping or troll the internet for a bright orange zipper right now! 

Squid backpack

Here it is, finished, in all its squiddy glory! The pattern is Rae's Toddler Backpack, of course, the same pattern I used for Joe's backpack a couple years ago. It's a great little pattern - comes out looking so professional! - and the size is perfect.

Squid Backpack

I am pretty thrilled with how this turned out, but I have to say, I found my second version just as challenging as the first. This pattern is awesome, but - I'm just going to say it - kind of hard to execute! Specifically, getting the piping around the bottom, with the corners and thick layers: it is very difficult! For this backpack, I used heavy interfacing on the front, back, and side pieces, and two layers of batting on the bottom piece. I was going for extra-sturdy, especially because the cotton piqué I used for the body of the backpack is pretty lightweight, but this made for a lot of layers, and with the piping along the bottom, I could not for the life of me catch all of them in a nicely piped seam. So there were these ugly bits of fraying and batting showing through. See what I mean? Not pretty.

I ripped and redid this whole area about ten times, but it only seemed to get worse and the fabric was starting to fray and shred where I had ripped the seam so many times. Talk about a pain in the ass. I started to get a sinking sensation - a "this project is going to look like crap" feeling - you know what I'm talking about here. It makes me really grouchy! I went to bed in a foul mood.

A day or two later, it came to me: The bottom doesn't really need piping at all. I literally just sewed it right into the seam, burying the piping inside (that seam is going to be uber-sturdy, what with the many lines of stitching, five hundred layers, and buried piping!). I mean, gimme a freaking break! No one (except me, and now you) is ever look at the backpack and think "why doesn't the piping extend all around the panel?" And by that time, I just could not rip that seam even one more time. That's how frustrated I was.

Squid backpack

In retrospect, I can't believe that Joe's backpack was my first try with piping, because it is definitely a harder-than average application of piping. And it actually turned out really well on Joe's backpack, which is amazing! (I did use softer interfacing and fewer layers for his version, which is a bit slouchier, but it was a little embarrassing to struggle so much with the piping on this backpack when I've become a piping fiend in the two years since I sewed my first one!)

But once I got past that hurdle, I have to admit, the results are so cute! The piping really does make this bag. (But if you're struggling with the bottom, you don't need it there!) Even after two years of piping all the things, I still find sharp corners and piping seams with multiple layers to be challenging.

Side pocket

As with Joe's backpack, I added a little gathered and elasticized side water-bottle pocket. Joe rarely uses his for a water bottle, but it happens to be a good size for plastic dinosaurs and toy cars, and isn't it cute? I simply eyeballed a wider rectangle, gathered the bottom, and used (yet another shade of) orange bias tape to create a channel for the elastic on the pocket. Easy.


And believe me, if you make this pattern, you're gonna want to line it, because the inside is gonna look like a hot mess! But with a lining, no one will ever know! Yay! I used an awesome orange hatched print I have had in the stash for a while to line this bag and added a name tag (although I think it's safe to assume that most kids don't have an orange and turquoise squid backpack so the likelihood of confusion is low). I skipped the internal pockets that I included in Joe's backpack just because Joe never uses his.

Whew!! That was a lot of work! I won't lie, I may have grumbled "I'm never making another backpack again" and "after this, the kids can buy their own damn backpacks" more than once during this sewing project, but having finished it, I love it so much I am already starting to forget the pain. By next year, when Joe starts kindergarten, I may have forgotten it entirely. Or I may tell him to buy his own (damn) backpack. We'll see.

And here are Maggie and Joe this morning, all ready for school!

This was the least grumpy-looking photo of several grumpy photos! Haha! Let's just say: My children are not morning people. But they really love school. Joe has been complaining for a month "I don't like 'summer break.' Why can't I go to Peter Pan?"

Maggie's first day was yesterday and she had a blast! Being a younger sibling of a big kid, she knows her way around and already feels perfectly comfortable there. Joe showed her around and even sat down with her to eat snack! I think that the hardest part of both of them attending Peter Pan this year is that Maggie isn't going to understand that Joe goes four days a week, while she only gets to attend two days! Sorry, Maggie!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Home sweet home.

We are home! We spent ten days on an epic train/taxi/ferry/car/light rail tour of the Pacific Northwest, visiting Portland, Seattle, Bellingham, and Victoria B.C. There were ups and downs, delayed trains and missed trains, nice hotels and awful motor inns, beautiful drives and carsickness, happy kids and massive meltdowns, lovely hot weather and a few characteristic dark and moody days that reminded me of why I love California so much. We spent time with family and friends all along the way, and ate a lot of blackberries. (Washington blackberries are sweeter than ours, I swear!)

It was awesome. And I'm exhausted. Traveling with two small children is great fun, but it's not exactly relaxing. Still, I'm so glad I broke through the psychological barriers, got out of our comfort zone, and decided to travel with the kids. They got to see new places and people, connect with distant family members, and while traveling with kids may be a lot of work, I realized it is definitely rewarding and worthwhile.

My little homebody Joe definitely struggled a bit with the constant change in scene. At one point he said, "My tummy hurts from visiting too many houses." Awwww!!! We all knew exactly what he meant (and we may have felt the same from time to time). But when he was bouncing on a giant trampoline or picking berries at my mom's house, or running in my aunt's garden, or taking a bubble bath in the giant hotel tub, he was so happy and carefree and excited to be in a new place.

And my family members commented on how bonded my kids are and how protective and solicitous Joe is towards his sister, which did my heart good.

Despite some delays and issues, I recommend train travel! The pace of travel is relaxing, the kids can move around freely, and the 22 hour journeys didn't feel that long. Honest. Also, you can bring all the sharp things you want - I took three pairs of scissors with me, including my big fabric sheers, and never even had to go through a metal detector.

I didn't take my nice camera with me (traveling light), so the best photos of the trip were taken by other people. If I can get their permission to share, perhaps I'll be back with a big "vacation photos" post. Right now that seems a bit overwhelming! So instead of procrastinating that post, I figured I'd come here and share a few moments from our homecoming. As relaxing as the Pacific Northwest is (and the pace of life really does seem just a bit less frenetic, especially in Bellingham and Victoria), I think we all shared Joe's delight in coming back to "the pink house" as he calls it.

We don't live in a beautiful area, or in a gorgeous and well-decorated house, but it's our home. Oakland's graffiti-covered walls and gritty run-down buildings never looked so good as when we were pulling into the station after all that time away!

We came home to a messy house (there was some crazy packing action happening before we left) and a ridiculous number of tomatoes! So I set about cleaning up and making pasta with roasted cherry tomatoes. Washington may have sweeter blackberries, but I think I have my PNW family beat when it comes to tomatoes.

Late summer tomato overload

And this is what I have to show for 10 days of train, car, and ferry travel (and some afternoons spent on the land around my mom's house: The beginnings of a Grandmother's Flower Garden quilt!

Grandmother's Flower Garden

It's official. I have been bitten by the hexie bug. These are crazy-time-consuming but strangely fun and addictive. And if I finish this quilt, it will feel like quite an accomplishment!

Grandmother's Flower Garden

These are 1 1/2" hexagons - on the big side. I am feeling drawn towards lots of bright and unexpected color combinations for this project (like this inspiration) for a bright and cheerful 1940s meets 1970s vibe.

Of course, this is one reason the house was such a mess. Before I left, I created quite the craft-astrophe yanking fabrics out of my stash and cutting five gugillion 3" squares to make hexagons. Doesn't everyone do this before a big trip? I cut out enough for 19 flowers, drastically underestimating just how long it takes to sew even one. At a rate of one flower every two days, I would not call this an instant gratification project.


Um ... I really need to do something about my sewing space. It is literally exploding fabric these days. Literally.

(I guess I could consider not buying fabric and using up what I have, but when it comes to quilting fabric, it almost seems to expand the more you cut into it. One problem with hexie fever is that it makes saving even tiny scraps seem like a good idea. While this appeals to my hoarding frugal instincts, it could be disastrous in my small sewing space.)

Right now I can barely get to my sewing machine ... all the more reason to hand sew, right?

But I need a better space to work on hand projects at home. For years I've done most of my hand-sewing in the dining room, mostly due to the lack of good light in our living room. But this means I can't sew while I watch television or hang out with the kids in the evening, and that's no good. So yesterday I bought a basic Ikea floor lamp, culled the kids' toys a bit and rearranged some furniture to create a little handsewing corner in our living room. Now I can work on my hexies while I watch Magnum P.I. with the family! It was such a simple fix - I don't know what took me so long!

Handsewing corner

I have other house plans in store as well. Our housemate Rebecca left us about a month ago to move into a cute apartment down the way, freeing up her bedroom for my brother Harpal to move into. After painting over the glossy oil-based tomato red in that room with a nice gray (a big project!), Harpal is now fully moved into that room. And in our game of housemate musical bedrooms, that means that the small bedroom upstairs is now available to become a kids' bedroom.

If you haven't been following my blog forever, it may be news to you that yes, both of our children have been sleeping in our master bedroom since birth! This has actually been a good arrangement overall, and our kids definitely find it comforting to be close to us, but, needless to say, they are growing and things are getting more crowded! I am so glad to finally have a bedroom for my kids even if getting them to actually sleep in it may be a long term project!

And more changes on the horizon: Maggie starts preschool in a couple weeks! Since we've decided to hold Joe back from kindergarten for a year, Joe and Maggie will both be attending the super-awesome Peter Pan Co-op this year.  And you all know what that means: I need to get cracking on a toddler backpack for Maggie! Better unearth that sewing machine ...

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Plantain, meet Mabel.

Why, hello, readers. How are you doing?  I admit, KCW and Shorts on the Line kicked my behind, and I sent most of the last week recovering (and, you know, catching up at home and at work). When I finally came out of recovery mode, I couldn't face the unfinished KCW projects that piled up last week. After all of that kid-sewing, I wanted to sew something fast, fun, and for me.

We are getting ready to go on an epic train journey to the Pacific Northwest to visit friends and family, so I am wanting some easy pieces for traveling with kids during a heat wave. Knits, knits, knits, right?
Plantain, meet Mabel

I have wanted to try a sleeveless version of the Plantain T-Shirt ever since the weather warmed up, so I went ahead and used up the rest of the really-truly-lovely paisley knit I used for my first Briar Top (I still wear that shirt more often than any of my other Briar tops, and the fabric is holding up wonderfully; I bought it at Britex and it was probably really expensive but in this case worth it). I wanted to do something different with the hem, so I added "shirttail" curves along the front and back of the hem.

Plantain, meet Mabel

I used a RTW tank top to figure out how much to cut out the back neck and armholes, and then I bound the armholes just like the neckline. I was so pleased that the final result shows just the right amount of skin - enough, but not too much. And this fabric has the perfect drape for the flowy Plantain shirt; very flattering.

Plantain, meet Mabel

This is what my face looks like when I get tired of smiling for the camera! You know, posing for blog photos gives me a newfound respect for fashion models. Who knew it was so hard to pose for a camera? Don't worry, I have no plans to quit my day job.

(BTW, those are our two hops plants growing on the aluminum wall behind me. Cascade and Golden, if you were wondering. Right now we're just growing the hops - they are such pretty plants! - and giving the hops to friends who brew beer, but ultimately we hope to learn to brew ourselves!)

Plantain, meet Mabel

The skirt is the Colette Mabel Skirt, Version 3 (longer, with front panels and a kick pleat) made up in the same teal knit ponte I used for Joe's Sketchbook Shorts. I managed to get this skirt and the shorts out of a yard and a half of this knit, and all I had left were a couple of scraps! I love using up every bit of a piece of fabric - especially here, as I have no idea what I would do with scraps of ponte, but I would probably feel obligated to keep them anyway.

So ... brace yourself ... I sewed this up in a size Medium, and made no changes whatsoever. I tried it on before I sewed the waistband on, and it fit perfectly. That never happens. Gotta love knits - so forgiving.

Plantain, meet Mabel

I love the length, and the kick pleat. The fabric is sturdy enough not to show your underthings, but as comfortable as sweatpants. Perfect for travelling. And it was so easy to make with a serger (but completely doable without one too). I'm stoked! I want another one, in black, and maybe mustard yellow, or maroon? All. The. Colors. Seriously. Most practical garment ever.

Plantain, meet Mabel

Steve told me to shake my booty. Here you go. You're welcome.

Plantain, meet Mabel

And because no photo shoot would be complete without the "styled-with-a-cardigan" shot, here's the outfit with a cardy, which I'm sure I'll be wearing as much in the PNW as I do here in Oakland.

If you don't hear from me for a couple weeks, never fear! I will be back in mid-August to bore you to tears with photos from our trip!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Shorts on the Line! - KCW Finale Edition!

Or should that be "Shorts on the Line: Oliver + s Edition"? Or perhaps, "Shorts on the Line: Uncooperative Models Edition"? Or "Shorts on the Line: How to Get Your Sensy Kid to Wear Something Halfway Decent for a Wedding, You are Very Welcome Edition."

Whatever. I am so pleased be included in another Shorts on the Line, people! It's an awesome party where everyone makes ... wait for it ... shorts! Wahoo!

This year, I am dealing with a very specific challenge. Joe will only wear shorts these days, so that part is good. In the past couple years, Joe has gone through shorts-only phases, and pants-only phases. It's funny because these phases bear no relationship to season or weather. His pants-only phase lasted all of last year, and he wouldn't wear shorts no matter how hot it got. He waited until the dead of winter and then decided that it was time to switch to shorts. Okaaaaaay ...

Joe is also hyper sensitive to fabrics and comfort these days. Right now, he will only wear knit shorts. Preferably the athletic, baggy kind. There is nothing stylish about these. Other people's kids may enjoy dressing up in button-down shirts, bow-ties, skinny pants, and vests - Joe is apparently so hipster, he is anti-hipster.

It all makes perfect sense to Joe, I'm sure. 

The challenge is that we are going to my cousin's wedding in a couple of weeks, and while I am lax on dress codes and generally not willing to die on the clothing hill, so to speak, knit athletic shorts and a ratty old t-shirt seem a bit too casual for a wedding, even for me.

So I decided I would make him some nicer, less casual shorts. But still in knit, for comfort.

When I think of "polished shorts," the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts immediately come to mind. They have a British schoolboy look to them that makes them appropriate even for nicer occasions.

I have made so many pairs of Sketchbook shorts over the years, although not so much recently (because Joe wouldn't wear shorts at all for a while, and then he would only wear knit shorts). In fact, I had not yet broken out my copy of the larger size range. I decided to try them in size 5, in a very soft but stable deep green ponte knit. 

And then I made the Sketchbook Shirt, which I have never sewn before, in Cloud 9 Palos Verdes La Venta, just for good measure.

Sketchbook Shorts in knit ponte

This is Shorts on the Line, so first, let's talk about the shorts! In case anyone was wondering, these sew up GREAT in ponte, and they are, indeed, super comfortable. As comfortable as baggy knit athletic shorts, I reckon. But much more polished.

Sketchbook shorts and shirt

I assembled the pants on the serger, but since the pockets, hems, faux fly, and waistband are roomy and under no stress, I just used a long straight stitch for those. Ponte is a very stable (read: not very stretchy) knit, so I am not too worried about my stitches popping out. You can almost treat it as a woven, although I am glad I serged the inseams and crotch to allow for Joe levels of activity. For example, you want your pants to have a little give when the top edge of the couch is your favorite place to sit while Daddy assembles a kite.


Easy, breezy. I've always loved how fast the Sketchbook Shorts come together. It was one of the first Oliver + s patterns I ever tried back when Joe was a chubby toddler (the Sailboat pants were the first), and it has long been one of my favorites. At this point, I think I've said all that there is to be said about this fantastic and straightforward pattern, and now I know that it works in a knit fabric as well! Joe is set to dance his heart out at my cousin's wedding.

Can we talk about the shirt now? Even though it's not shorts?

You guys, I am so proud of this shirt.

Sketchbook shirt

How is it possible that this is the first Sketchbook Shirt I've made? I dunno. I guess I was a little intimidated by the details, and it seemed like a lot of work to put into something that my kid would put aside in favor of t-shirts and then quickly grow out of. And I'm gonna be honest. It is a lot of work, although the instructions walk you through the details with such care that it doesn't seem so daunting. And Joe probably will avoid wearing it unless he has to, and he will probably grow out of it pretty quickly.

But look at it!!! AHHHHHHHH.

Sketchbook shirt


Right??!! It is so nice. So nice. So here's a quick review, feel free to scroll down a bit if you'd like to skip straight to the photos of both of my kids refusing to pose for the camera.

Pattern: Oliver + s Sketchbook Shirt.

Fabric: Cloud 9 Palos Verdes La Vente, bought from Hawthorne Threads, which is actually a sponsor of Shorts on the Line! Joe helped me pick the fabric, which he likes because "green, blue, and orange are my favorite colors; actually all of the colors are my favorite, but blue and green are my most favorite; also I like triangles." I was so pleased at the very speedy delivery, and this fabric is so nice. So, so nice. I wondered more than once whether maybe I should have used it to make a top for me rather than my generally ungrateful child, because it must be like wearing butterfly wings.

First time? Yes!

Size: 5.

Modifications: Based on what I have heard about the length of the pattern, I added a couple inches to the body. I probably could have added a little more, actually, as it is still a hair short to my eyes. The sleeves are the perfect length, though. I also did a line of stitching on the one piece collar where the band/collar would ordinarily go, to help it roll back better.

The good: Um, so nice! Great instructions, classic shape, slightly easier than a full-fledged two-piece collar pattern. The fabric is heavenly to work with and the colors are perfect on my Joe. Joe was initially a bit on the fence about wearing a button-down shirt, but he seemed to forget about it after a few minutes (probably because it is like wearing butterfly wings) and I think he'll willingly wear this outfit to the wedding. I hope so, anyway!

The not-so-good: I will be honest, I don't really like the one piece collar. I appreciate the ease, but in the end, for all of that pains that I took with this shirt, I wish it had been two pieces. I think it would lie better. Perhaps I will draft a two piece collar next time.

Make again? Yes!! In the short sleeved version! Or maybe with some sleeve tabs? Like, today! HA! My only hesitation is that Joe's not likely to wear this very much. Maybe I should sew a button-down for Steve instead.

So yesterday I took both kids out to a local game shop that sells kites, and then to pizza in their new KCW/Shorts on the Line outfits, hoping to get some good photographs for the blog, but most of my shots ended up looking like this.

Sketchbook (with kite)


Unwilling model

Or my absolute favorite, this.

Unwilling models

Or this.

Unwilling models

Seriously? Seriously? The shorts are cute, but neither child would look at the camera.

Unwilling models

This was the best I could do.

Unwilling models

Oh well, my children were clearly not in the mood for a photo shoot, but we had fun buying a rainbow kite and eating pizza!

It wasn't windy enough to fly our new kite, unfortunately, so we came home. And then I crashed! I did a lot of sewing in the past seven days! Tired mama!

This post is part of the Shorts on the Line sewalong.  Shorts on the Line 2014 is sponsored by: Britex FabricsHawthorne Threadsmiss matatabi, and Soak Wash.  Hosted by imagine gnatssmall + friendly, and Kollabora.