Saturday, July 30, 2011

Pocket shorts & envelope tee.

I sewed the shorts, and the summer did come. Eventually. But remember those green stripey O + s shorts I made for Joe? I can't find them anywhere. They could be under a pile of crap in the car, or they could have gotten mixed in with Dad's laundry (a notorious black hole), or, unfortunately, this is the most likely possibility: they might have been in the diaper bag that Dad left at the A's Stadium by mistake.* Oops.

Well, hopefully they'll turn up (if not, I do have more of that green stripe). But in the meantime, Joe needed some more shorts. Joe and I are traveling to Denver next weekend, and Summer in Denver is a lot more summer-like than Summer in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Yeah, yeah, I know you can get toddler shorts at Target for like $4. Whatever. That's no fun.

I couldn't wait to make another pair of the "Basic Pocket Pants" from Growing Up Sew Liberated.  Why not try Pocket Shorts?

I rummaged in the stash and found two small pieces of linen (note to self: buy less floral quilting cotton and more solid colored linen). With some effort, I was able to eek a pair of shorts out of these scraps.

End result: My eyeballs are burning with cuteness.

Pocket Shorts.

Pocket shorts.

I used a narrow binding on the legs rather than the wide pants cuff, and I love the way it turned out. I'm sad to see the last of that mustard linen go, though (note to self: buy more mustard colored linen). Mustard is a surprisingly appealing and practical color, it turns out.

And now, for a slightly less successful sewing project ...

I tried the "Envelope Tee" from Growing Up Sew Liberated as well, using soft recycled knits. This pattern only goes up to 18-24 months, so I lengthened it a bit (I could have lengthened it more). I also very inexpertly applied the ribbing to the top. The fabrics are super soft and comfy, but the knits don't "recover" very well. Joe also seems to enjoy yanking on the neckline of this one.

End result: A shirt straight out of Flashdance.

Flashdance tee.
Those are his Sew Liberated PJ bottoms too.

I think with different fabrics and a few minor alterations, this could be an awesome t-shirt for Joe. This version, however, will be consigned to the PJ drawer. We might also break it out for 1980s dance sessions.

By the way, trying to get Joe to pose for a photo these days is dang-near impossible. There was a time when he would grin, ham it up, and pose like a narcissistic male model the second he saw the camera. Those days are over. Nowadays, half of my photos look like this:

What half of my photos look like.
Cute shorts, huh?

And the other half look like this:

I hate cameras.
I hate cameras. And I want milk.

* ETA: We found the green stripey shorts! In the drawer where they are supposed to be! After my groundless public accusation of Steve, it seems only right that I publicly apologize. Sorry, hon, they were totally hidden by the overalls!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

A little weekend sewing.

I love sewing clothes for Joe. It's so easy! And fast! And he's a very uncritical audience.

First up, yet another Tee for Two for Joe. That brown stripe came from one of my old t-shirts, and it's incredibly soft. The little bicycle comes from my little stash of Echino Japanese prints.  I had to do the long sleeved version when I discovered that I could fit the entire long sleeve piece into the sleeve of my shirt (so little waste!), making this yet another "Summer in San Francisco" item.

Tee for Two, bike edition.

Bike tee.

Joe says "bike" now, which is pretty adorable. Joe is a great lover of all things with wheels - steam engines, garbage trucks, NASCAR, forklifts, and bicycles.

You know what else he says now? "No." Of course, he had many other ways of conveying the concept before he learned to say the word. Including his own, unique, patented sign, a hand held over his mouth. That started out as a way to say, "No way am I going to eat those disgusting green things, I don't care if they look like little trees," and expanded to mean just "No way" in a variety of contexts. Even so, there is something different about hearing him declare "NO!" to every single question you pose. I'm beginning to wonder if his speech delay was really a blessing in disguise, as many of my friends joked.

Anyway.  I also made Joe some "Basic Pocket Pants" from Growing Up Sew Liberated. I loved the version in the book, which is made from denim and uses the wrong side of the fabric for contrast. So simple!

Growing Up Sew Liberated pocket pants.

I liked it so much, I decided to blatantly copy it.  Not very original, I know, but, well, I was just so taken with it! I used a very soft, lightweight black chambray (wait, can chambray be black or is it always blue? hold on a sec ... oh, okay, it can be any color), using the lighter side of the fabric for the contrast pocket binding, waistband, and cuffs.

Pocket pants.

Once again, I cut a size 2T (the smallest size for this pattern) and the pants came out a bit on the large side. They fit great around Joe's waist and bottom, but they are a bit long. I sewed these after Joe went to bed last night, so I didn't get a chance to check the length on him before I sewed the cuffs on. Even so, it would be really easy to go back and fix the length, but Joe is growing so fast these days, I don't think I'll bother. All of his other pants are chronically too short, so it's refreshing to have to roll up his cuffs for a change. If I make another pair, I will cut them a little shorter.

Pocket pants.

Basic pocket pants, rolled up.

Of course, when I asked him whether he wanted to wear his new pants, he said "NO!" Somehow I wrangled him into them anyway. So scratch that bit about him being an "uncritical audience."

Ooh. I really like these little jeans. Super easy, super cute. Now that I've come to the conclusion that the sizing in this book is just a bit large, I am thinking that the size 24 months envelope tee might be perfect for Joe right now.  And large sizing means that these patterns will have a longer life as Joe grows and grows and grows, so that's awesome.

Yesterday, Joe and I visited our friend Ida, and she cut our hair. I just got a trim, but Joe got a real haircut!

Joe's new haircut!

I'm still getting used to it. I know his curls will grow back before we know it, and in the meantime, this will be a lot easier to take care of! (Neither Joe nor I enjoy the process of combing out his rat's nest of tangled curls every night.) But the change - from Rafaelite cherub to 1950s boy - is pretty profound! I keep expecting him to say, "Gee wiz, Mom!" He looks so grown up with shorter hair.  Less baby and more little boy.

Which he is, of course.

However hard it is for me to admit it.

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Joe got some all natural play-dough recently. It came in a little clear plastic container, separated into beautiful rainbow colors. It looked so pretty.

You can probably see where this is going.

About five minutes after opening, it looks like this.


But Joe doesn't seem to mind.


Monday, July 18, 2011


Last night, we had our friend Josie and her two boys, James and Harry, over for a casual dinner. All three boys played wonderfully together, and Joe completely wore himself out. After everyone said goodbye, I gave him a bath (filthy doesn't even begin to describe it), read him a book or two, and nursed him. As per our usual bedtime ritual, I put Joe into the crib* drowsy but awake, clinging to his hard plastic tiger (a decidedly unsnuggly transitional object, but his favorite nonetheless). He was obviously almost asleep, but he had a little smile on his face.

Me: "You had so much fun with James and Harry, didn't you Joe?"
Joe: "Harry."
Me: "Yes, Harry! And James. They are good friends."
Joe: "Fend."
Me: "Yes, love, friends."

Ah. It doesn't get much better than that.

* For those of you avidly following our sleeping arrangements, he starts out the night in his crib, which is in our room. Joe and his hard plastic tiger usually join Steve and I in our bed in the early hours of the morning for a nice long nursing/snuggling/thrashing/co-not-sleeping session.

Friday, July 15, 2011

To-do list.

It has been another crazy week at work. Each day, I add things to my to-do list, but I never seem to have any time to check things off. So I put out fires only as absolutely necessary (no, no, not literal fires, although I do work with real fire fighters - figurative fires). Basically, unless a ton of money or the public safety is involved, and it needs be done by tomorrow, don't even talk to me about it, okay? Thanks.

Oh right. Hi blog! Well, when things get to this fever pitch at work, I don't get much sewing done, but I do enjoy thinking about all of the sewing I will do when things lighten up. So here's the fun, happy, low-pressure sewing to-do list to help offset the impending apocalypse that is my work to-do list:

  1. Finish Joe's quilt. Believe it or not, I am almost done hand-quilting Joe's quilt (last seen just basted here)!
  2. Make some fun things with the knits I got at the thrift store. You'll be shocked, but I was thinking, more raglan t-shirts using the excellent and trusty Tee for Two pattern. Because when I really like a pattern, I enjoy boring y'all with dozens of versions!
  3. Try some other patterns from Growing Up Sew Liberated. I sure like the look of the pocket pants (you know how I like to sew little pants!).
  4. Experiment with my new buttonholer attachment (er, attachments, cough cough) and post about it (er, them) on my blog!
  5. And, the most ambitious and most exciting item, consider taking a stab at this vintage pattern, which has been in my pattern stash for a while:
Vintage dress pattern.

Ain't it a beaut? I think it's probably late-1940s, right around the "New Look" but before the skirts got hugely poofy (experts, feel free to chime in here, the pattern is not dated). I love the contrast yoke and glorious pockets. I haven't decided what fabric to try it in yet. So many possibilities! Do you think I could pull it off without wrist gloves and a fetching little cap?

It's good to have something to dream about between stamping out figurative fires, isn't it?

This weekend, I have only one item on my to-do list: Relieve my beleaguered husband and reacquaint myself with my little boy.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

A quiet Saturday at FolkArt Headquarters.

Sewing an apron, in an apron.
I applied bias tape to an apron. In my apron. (This is great way to burn pasta sauce.)

Joe played outside. In the mud. With a hose.

Mom, I have some dirt on my arm.

After a quick bath, spaghetti for dinner.

I made Steve dance around to get this smile.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Colette Violet #2.

I had a really busy week. I seriously earned my pay and put in a few loooong days at the office.

So even though I almost finished my second Colette Violet blouse last Sunday, those last few steps went very sloooooowly. At one point, I think I was sewing on one button a night while watching All Creatures Great and Small, my favorite antidote to stressful days. Have you seen the television series? It's available on-demand from Netflix, and it's just ... incredibly soothing. Steve and I have watched the first two series (the later series aren't as good) so many times we pretty much have them memorized. Seeing the veterinarians slogging through farms in the Yorkshire Dales to deliver lambs in freezing sleet and mud never fails to calm me down and cheer me up after a hard week.

At least my clients don't generally need my help in the middle of the night.

And actually, this blouse would fit right into Skeldale house, tucked into a tweed skirt, don't you think?

Colette Violet.

With my second version of this blouse, I tried to remedy some of the problems with the first version. Namely, it was too big. When I made my first version, I cut it out in a size 6, knowing that Colette, unlike the "Big Four" pattern companies, sizes their patterns more like ready-to-wear clothes. But it still turned out really roomy, especially in the shoulders. So this time, I spent some time in front of a mirror with pattern tissue, trying to figure out what size I really am in this pattern.

Unbelievably, I determined that I needed a size 2, which is almost as ridiculous as when I had to alter a size 14 1/2 in a vintage Simplicity pattern to make it larger. If ready-to-wear sizes are meaningless, sewing pattern sizes are super-duper-meaningless.

But hey, whatever. It fits!

Other changes: I redrew the peter-pan collar to create a softer curve, and I used a much softer interfacing in the collar and facing. I skipped the back facing entirely and used bias tape instead for less bulk. (Note: I used my new buttonhole attachment to make the buttonholes and they look great! No, not the buttonholer I blogged about before; a different attachment, of course! It's a long story, and I'll post about it soon.)

I've had this soft cotton lawn (which reminds me of a vintage bed-sheet) in my stash for a long time. I expected this to be pretty difficult to sew with, because it so light and delicate, but it wasn't as bad as all that. But made up into a blouse, the look is really "shabby chic," isn't it? Like something out of Victoria Magazine, circa 1989. Remember that? I loved that magazine as a girl. Problem is, that's not really my style anymore.

Any ideas for toning down the twee prettiness just a smidge?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Thrift Store Skirt: Before and After.

Remember that skirt that I got last weekend in my giant thrift haul?

Thrift skirt: Before.

Pros: It's a deep teal, nubbly raw silk. The fabric is gorgeous. The fit is perfect. I love the style of the waistband and tie. It even has pockets!

Cons: The length makes me look like a Duggar (with all respect to the Duggars, of course; they are a lovely family). The fact that I'm barefoot in that photo is not helping.

What to do?

Chop four inches off,* of course!

Hemming a skirt.
During. (That's some "vintage" hem lace from one of those eBay notions hauls.)

It's so easy to hem a skirt, I'm embarassed to admit, I rarely bother to do it. Hand-sewing seems so tedious, until you're parked in front of some bad television. Then it passes by in a flash!

Skirt After.
After. (I also ironed it. That lasted about five seconds.)

Ah. Much better!

* This skirt would actually be more "on-trend" at an even shorter length, but I prefer my skirts to be knee-length, for comfort, modesty, and flattery. I guess I have more Duggar in me than I thought!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Frugal Sewing?: Thrifting fabrics.

It is well known that I love to sew, and that I have quite the fabric habit, made worse by the fact that I prefer to shop at our locally-owned, independent fabric shops, which tend to have more unique and beautiful fabrics, with higher prices to match.

Result: I have piles and piles of beautiful fabrics. But it's never enough, right? And while I have heaps of woven fabrics, I don't have very many knit fabrics, and, as you know, sewing knits is totally my new thing!

Problem: We are on a very strict budget these days, trying to pay down our debt.  I've been dutifully packing my lunch, making my own coffee, cooking at home, going to the library, cutting back on micro-brewed IPA consumption, and generally not shopping. But I have, just possibly, been spending just a teeny bit more than I should on fabric. (I blame Britex and their beautiful stock and crazy prices!) Let's just say, saving $2 on coffee doesn't make much of a difference if you're still spending $60 every time you even think about going to a fabric store, right?

But I need more knits, so that I can continue to experiment! Poor Joe now has multiple outfits in day-glo orange and crazy orange-green stripes. I still have more of these fabrics (a yard of knit goes a long way in children's clothing!), but when I see tutorials like this one (see that pile of pretty ribbings?), I get all antsy. I need more, more, more!

This is why people refer to themselves as fabric junkies. My greed for fabric far outstrips my ability to actually sew (this is why I have a huge stash, duh).

Solution: The local thrift store! (Which happened to be having a 50% off everything sale over Fourth of July Weekend!)

Thrift knits.
*Lovingly strokes pretty knits.*

Check out this haul! These are t-shirts and tank tops. Once you stop looking for actual clothing and start shopping for fabrics, there are seriously, so many options. I was able to pick out the softest, stretchiest knits (cotton/spandex mixes) and ribbed tanks (to use for ribbed necklines and cuffs), in the prettiest colors and stripes. And these are mostly large and extra-large adult-sized t-shirts - some of them will reap a yard or more! The blue striped fabric is a giant nightshirt that will provide a whole wardrobe.

This pile should keep me busy for a while. (Where am I going to put this pile in my exploding stash cabinet? That's a whole 'nuther problem.)

Now, I've always loved thrifting, and when I see beautiful vintage fabric or vintage sheets, I always pick them up. But in my hipster/working poor neighborhood, those items are pretty uncommon at thrift stores, as they tend to get picked up and resold. So our local thrift stores are fairly picked over - you're probably not going to find highly valuable antiques (or anything valuable, for that matter, although there is plenty of useful stuff) at the Salvation Army here. But nobody wants a size XXXL knit nightgown with a stretched out neck and a stain on the hem (but check out that gorgeous stripe)! So I think knits are especially suited for thrifting and upcycling because (a) they are so common and cheap (you can buy old t-shirts by the pound some places); (b) it's pretty easy to find shirts with few details (as opposed to clothing made from woven fabric, which is usually full of darts, pockets, plackets, and other details to work around); and (c) it's easy to find sizes XL, XXL, etc., which yield a ton of fabric.

Plus, second-hand goods are probably greener than the nicest organic cotton "eco-fabric." What's better than growing organic cotton? Not having to grow any cotton at all (and diverting old stuff from the landfill). Needless to say, I don't plan to give up on new fabrics entirely. Haha. Not likely. But hey, every little bit counts, right?

I also got a wearable blouse and sweater, some capris that I may cut off as shorts for myself, and a teal silk skirt that I plan to shorten and then wear every day, because it is that cute! - I'll post about that project later. All for $23! So I got my fix, for a lot less than my usual Britex bill.

Uh oh. I may have a new addiction now.

P.S. I know some people are skeeved out by used clothing. Well, I think folks should get over it. There's nothing (skeeve-wise) that a wash on hot can't fix.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Growing Up Sew Liberated: Giant PJs.

I've been following Meg McElwee's blog, Sew Liberated for the past few years now, so I was really excited to see her new book, Growing Up Sew Liberated, come out last month. When I saw that it is packed full of cute knit clothing patterns for children, I got even more excited (because sewing with knit fabrics is totally my new thing!), and bought the book.

I love it. I love every pattern in the book. There are really no throw-away or filler patterns here - each and every pattern is something I would consider making for the right child. And as I had hoped, the book is packed with lovely, simple, gender-neutral clothing patterns for children of all ages.

Growing Up Sew Liberated

My first project from the book was a set of knit pajamas, using the "cross-over top" and "sleeping johns" (which are really just leggings) patterns. I wanted to make a long-sleeved version of this outfit, here.

Growing Up Sew Liberated Sleeping Johns

In retail clothing and Oliver + s patterns, Joe is definitely a size 2T. But when I cut out a new pattern for him, I sometimes get paranoid that 2T will be too small (heaven forbid my efforts be wasted!). And when it comes to pajamas, I worry more, because we usually double-diaper Joe with a bulky wool cover overnight.

So I cut the leggings out in 3T.

And, of course, they are too big. Totally wearable, but too long and a little baggy in the butt (even with giant-cloth-dipe-butt).

Live and learn, right? So when I cut out the "cross-over top," I was careful to cut it out in 2T.

But here's the weird thing: Despite that, the top is also too big. Er ... way too big.

Big Pajamas.
Yes, this child has a lot of toys and he knows how to spread them all over.

So big that I wonder what I did wrong. The seam allowance was supposed to be only a quarter inch, right? Did I trace it and cut it out too generously? Did I stretch it out somehow? Because it is e-FRICKIN-normous!

Big Pajamas.
These will still fit him two years from now.

Luckily, baggy pajamas are totally wearable, and it's not like he won't grow into these. Better too large than too small, right? I'm just a little baffled.

Big PJs.
Really, Joe? You want to stand ON the track?

I'm still super excited to try every other pattern in this book, but I think I will check the next pattern against a tried-and-true pattern before deciding on a size and cutting, just in case!

That said, I will definitely sleep better knowing that Joe is provided with day-glo orange and green-striped clothing options far into his future.