Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Still no camera ...

... So I figured it was time for a little update in list form. You know, like how I used to do?

Ooh. I'm rusty. Here goes.

  1. We had a lovely Thanksgiving celebration at my sister's house last Thursday. So. Much. Food.
  2. I have so much to be thankful for. Especially, my family and my friends. What a great idea for a holiday.
  3. This past Friday ("Black Friday" in the U.S.) Joe and I got to see our good friends Melissa, Robin, and their little boy Miles, visiting California all the way from Brooklyn! The weather was great, the grownups had some good chats, and Joe and Miles chased each other around the house squealing and laughing. It was lovely. I just wish these folks lived closer!
  4. For my part, I was perfectly happy not to set foot in a single retail establishment on Black Friday. I saw all of you crazy shoppers sitting in your cars, stuck in traffic backed up a mile outside the mall, breathing in a haze of exhaust. Shudder.
  5. I did, however, take advantage of some internet sales at both Oliver + s and Britex Fabrics. Cough cough.
  6. As intimated in a prior post, I am currently reading Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. Stating the obvious: It's really long. It's also really heavy, even in paperback. I'm getting a workout carrying this 1,200 page tome everywhere I go. It's also pretty great, though. Hugo knows how to build up a scene. Often over hundreds of pages. Going off in tangents until you've forgotten what it was the book is about. But then there will be a Transcendent Moment. Which usually finds me on BART (since that's where I do most of my reading), gasping for breath and wanting to read the scene aloud to a bunch of vacant-eyed fellow-commuters. I begin to understand the hype.
  7. I am seeing the National and Wye Oak this Saturday! Super excited! I haven't been to a concert in a long time, I've wanted to see the National forever, and when it comes to Wye Oak, I have all the zeal of the newly converted. Also, a bunch of my friends are also going! Wahoo! I hope they don't play too late, though. I am ashamed to admit, it's hard for me to stay up much past 10:30 p.m. these days.
  8. My brother and I just watched the first season of Sherlock. I am a huge fan of the Arthur Conan Doyle stories, but I thought the recent film adaptation was, as far as faithfulness to the story goes, awful (the steam-punky costumes were pretty cool; it was, you know, just the plot that was ghastly). After seeing that, I was burned out and purposefully avoided Sherlock, which is a modern remake of the story. Well, that was dumb. Because whereas Sherlock Holmes the movie was depressingly inane and nothing at all like the original stories, Sherlock is refreshingly intelligent and an absolute nerd-fest for a lover of Arthur Conan Doyle. So many inside jokes! So much fun! Ah, good television. My only complaint is that somehow, the first season is only three episodes? Ending in a cliff hanger? (One that calls to mind Sherlock Holmes, his arch-rival, and a waterfall, ahem.) Torture!
  9. We haven't put up a Christmas tree yet, although we're planning to. Later. With two dogs and a two and a half year old, Christmas trees are a constant hazard that must be closely monitored. No need to rush into the dogs-eating-ornaments and kids-knocking-down-trees-on-themselves season.
  10. Once again, I seem to be coming up with all sorts of plans for handmade Christmas gifts. Yet, I am pretty sure that it would be impossible to actually make all of them between now and Christmas. It's unclear how this will work out.
  11. Joe's speech is progressing wonderfully, as is his potty humor. Suddenly, he spends half the day explaining that Omie (our dog) poo-poos, and daddy, and mama, and Harpal. Everyone poo-poos! *Gasp.* Recently, at a diaper change, he very seriously explained to Dad that in fact, Omie had pooped in his diaper, not him. "Omie poo-poo diaper!" He was totally framed, you know. That was not his poo-poo!
  12. I know, I'm the one who said that I wanted to know more about what was going on in Joe's little noggin. And now I know. Wow.
Righto. With that ... have a great week, everyone!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Old Man Pants.

So I made these awesome lined denim trousers for Joe. They ended up looking like total old man jeans. High waisted, elastic waisted, bright blue denim. Hilarious! I can't wait to show you!

But I left our camera at my sister's house on Thanksgiving. Drat.

Hopefully she'll drop it off this week. But in the meantime, things might be a bit quiet here. Or at any rate, visually uninteresting.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Joe's Quilt.

Speaking of things that have sat on my sewing table unfinished for a year, this is what I'm planning to work on over this long weekend. It's a quilt for Joe. I'd like to finish it before he turns 20, if possible.

Joe's Quilt Progress
That little pouch was embroidered and sewn by my paternal grandmother, Nanny. She was quite the hand-quilter!

I thought that I was done hand-quilting this, but on second thought I decided it needed more quilting. I have never met a quilt that I considered to be too densely hand-quilted. On the other hand, I'd like to finish it while Joe is still a child, see above. It's a delicate balance. But. It needed a bit more.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving! (If you are celebrating this week, that is. Otherwise, have an awesome Thursday.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Lotta Jansdotter's All-Day Tote.

I was cleaning my sewing area this morning (it does happen, very infrequently) and found an unfinished project, the "All-Day Tote" from Lotta Jansdotter's Simple Sewing.  This book has a lovely Scandinavian minimalist aesthetic, and it's a great book for a beginning sewist. The projects really are "simple."

The All-Day Tote is a simple tote bag with a few pockets.

All Day Tote

I've made it once before, from denim lined in brightly colored vintage tea-towels. Unfortunately, I didn't blog it. Although it didn't turn out perfectly, that was a hard gift to part with!

So, about a year ago, I decided to make one for myself, in gray wool lined in some of my beloved Joel Dewberry orange faux bois fabric. I love this fabric so much.  It's one of my favorite fabrics ever. It's mid-century modern, quirky, tongue-in-cheek, and it's orange! Which is why it was just wrong that I only bought a yard or two of it when it was available. Now it is out of print. (Dewberry still makes wood-grain quilting cotton, but the precious and never-to-be-seen again fabric is a heavier twill with a dreamy soft hand.)

This has caused me serious and lasting regret. Why didn't I buy more? Why? Why didn't I get some in green too? Whyyyyyyyy? 

For kicks, check out the last project I used this fabric for - Joe was just a little dude! Those were the best pants ever, and I kept putting them on him even when they had turned to "man-pris."

But I digress. So anyway, I cut out and interfaced the pieces for this All-Day Tote about a year ago, but then Christmas hit, and I set it aside. It was forgotten for a variety of reasons, including that I found some aspects of the project intimidating, and I think I had a premonition that it wasn't going to be all that I had hoped.

Today, cleaning off my sewing table, I carefully packed away some other unfinished projects, but took a second look at this one. Hmmm, I thought, I could just finish this. Right now.

And so I did. It was no problem. I don't know why I was intimidated (perhaps I'm a little more confident now than I was a year ago). It only took an hour or two.

Here, I tried to recreate the photo in the book. What? The photo in the book was not indoors and in front of a dog crate? Quiet, you.

All Day Tote
Oh jeez, are those sewing threads still hanging from my cardigan? My blog is totally super polished.

It's a fine little tote, if a little bit floppy (and I interfaced the living daylights out of it!). It will be handy for the farmer's market and the library and hauling Joe stuff around. I used a different wool plaid with a bit of orange for the handles.

All Day Tote
Glamor shot on ironing board.

The lining is a bit baggy. I really should go back in there and shave a little bit off the bottom all around. But after languishing on my sewing table for a year, what are the chances?

Here, it is holding my reading glasses, keys, wallet, and my current novel, Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. I know, you can't even see that enormous book in there, but it's in there, trust me. Anyway, you know, just the bare essentials. There is room for a lot more. I could fit The Grapes of Wrath and War and Peace in there as well.

All Day Tote
It has a magnetic closure and a key fob!

It's definitely not my best work, but it's fine. I will use it. I'm glad I finally finished it!

And it is lined in dreamy orange faux bois!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Luka Hoodie "Reveal."

I finished the Luka Hoodie last night, and I am so pleased with it. It's probably the nicest thing I've made for Joe to date.

Unfortunately, in a trend that does not appear to be improving, the photo shoot this morning did not go well.

Me: Joe, let's try on your new hoodie! It has blue trains!

Joe: No! No boo fway!

Me: Joe, let's just try it on real quick, okay? Mommy made you a nice warm hoodie!

Joe: No!

Me: Joe, can you just put it on for a minute to see if it fits and let mama take a picture?

Joe: No boo fway! No fway! No! No!

(Mild struggle ensues. I murmur reassuring something-or-others about how he's really going to like his hoodie once he gets it on, while Joe says "no no no no no!")

Cord pullover
What happened to my hand?

Me: Let's roll that sleeve up a bit more.

Joe: No! Off! Off! Shirt off! OFF!

Cord pullover
He's trying to take it "off."
Me: Please, Joe? Please? Just let mama take a picture?

Joe: No please!

Cord pullover
Well, shoot. This is not going well.

Me (looking at that sad face): Sigh. Okay, we'll take it off. Sorry, Joe.

So, okay, apparently I am such a mean mother that not only do I spend days sewing warm, cozy, and practical clothing for my child, with his interests (blue trains!) specifically in mind, but I then make him try them on, and then I try to take photos of him.

I mean, what kind of monster?

(I am really appreciating this blog right now, because y'all are a way more appreciative audience than Joe!)

Blarg. Since my model was so uncooperative, you'll have to make do with a few detail shots on my ironing board.

Cord pullover
I've been holding onto these great buttons for a while - I had only three! Perfect!

Cord pullover
There is a hand-warming pocket and also a "secret" pocket under the flap. You'd think a child would love this, right?

And for you real sewing geeks, here's the inside, which I'm also really proud of. This gives a good view of how I lined it (to showcase but conserve blue trains - the rest is sage-green flannel) as well as the little placket that I added behind the buttons (not in the pattern) to help keep drafts out.

Cord pullover

This pattern, which came from Sewing For Boys, takes some time and care, but the final results are absolutely smashing, and I could not be more pleased. The pattern instructions are probably perfect for an intermediate seamstress, and I would warn beginners that there is not much hand-holding. Readers are expected to understand technical sewing language. But in my opinion, this is also the great strength of this book: While I love an easy project as much as the next person, I also love how many satisfyingly complex patterns are included in this guide. It's the more challenging patterns in this book that really kick the genre of "sewing book with patterns" up a notch or two.

(Hey, look at me! I think I might be an intermediate seamstress now! Wahoo!)

I should note that I was not able to finish the hoodie hem and sleeves the way the book suggests. It's a long story, but basically, I had made a few changes and taken some steps earlier in the sewing that precluded the origami-like finishing process. When I got to that point of the pattern, I was like, "Whoa! Complicated, but total genius! Too bad it's too late for me to do that!" So then I finished it in a more standard way, just folding everything under, pressing, and top-stitching. Ah, well. Next time, I suppose.

The size (2/3) seems perfect, with plenty of room to grow (I added length to the sleeves for the cuffs, so don't be fooled by the super long sleeves). It goes up to size 6/7, I think!

Basically, it took absolutely forever and a day to make, and I love it. The million dollar question: Forget loving it, will Joe even wear it?

Well, we'll see, but I think so. I think there's something about the whole trying-to-photograph-him-for-the-blog process that just makes Joe contrary. Too much pressure. So tempting to assert his independence by saying "no no no!" I bet if I put this on him and let him run around a park or something, rather than asking him to pose for photos, things would go much better.

Toddlers can be fickle creatures.

Poor kid. I hope I haven't scarred him for life by sewing him an awesome hoodie and then hoping he will wear it!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Luka Hoodie.

I'm finally trying one of the patterns from Sewing For Boys! I was ambitious and started right out with an "advanced" pattern, the "Luka Hoodie." It's a pullover hoodie/windbreaker.

Luka Hoodie.

Super cute, right?

I cut this out on Friday evening, so I was hoping to blog the completed hoodie today, but it was not meant to be. This pattern earned its "advanced" status not by being super difficult, but by having kind of a lot of pieces! Doesn't help that I decided to use a different lining fabric in the hood and on the cuffs than the rest of the lining, in order to showcase (but also conserve) my precious and costly Spoonflower blue choo-choos.

See them there, in the hood? Here's a better view.

Periodically, Joe stops by to point and say, "blue fway!"

So far, it's coming together well, with just a few idiosyncrasies caused by my modifications (as usual). I'm hoping this will make a really cozy little pullover for my little train/fway-lover.

More soon!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Train tunnel.

The other day, when we were all just trying to keep moving in order to ward off the chill,* I decided to turn a big shipping box into a little house for Joe. Well, I thought it was going to be a little house. I put a window in it and everything. But Joe had other plans.

Train tunnel.

He didn't want to get inside it or set up his dolls in there (who was I kidding? his baby doll is currently buried up to its neck in the back yard). He wanted to push his trains through it. Duh. So I cut out a little opening on the other side, making it the strangest looking "fway** tunnel!" you've ever seen.

Train tunnel.

Can I just say that my cardboard crafting skills leave a lot to be desired? Wow. Martha makes it look easy (to state the blatantly obvious). My cardboard box house/tunnel looks like total crap. I'm going to blame that on lack of appropriate tools. Yeah. I'm sticking to that story.

But he likes it. And it was free. And it kept my hands from getting frostbite for a few minutes (however, the exacto-knife did give me a blister; cutting sturdy cardboard is not as easy as it looks, see above). So. Anyway. I'm reminded once again that it is usually not the most expensive toys that children like best.

* We finally buckled and turned on the heat. Just in time for temps to dip into the low-40s last night (which isn't so bad if your bedroom is not also that temperature). That means, according to this table, that in just the past week, we have seen 40 degrees of variation in temperatures. Nutso. Can we go back to 80 degrees, please? Heck, I'm not greedy - I'd be happy with mid-60s.

High of 81, low of 41.

** "Fway" = Train. The speech therapist calls this "consonant cluster substitution." Some children will substitute easier consonant combinations for more difficult to pronounce clusters. Which is why it's really funny when Joe says "fway track!"

Monday, November 7, 2011

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Happy November! For me, that means a new billable year at work and the chance to relax a little bit after the most hectic month of the year. Of course, there is still work to do, but some of the pressure is off. Whew!

But it also means I can no longer argue with the changing seasons. Let's just get it out there: I'm not a Winter person. Blech. There isn't much romance in wet, dreary Bay Area winters.

The end of daylight savings is tomorrow, which means that for the next couple of months it will be pitch dark when I get home from work.

And we're already freezing our rears off in our high-ceilinged, uninsulated, underheated Victorian house. Seriously, I would not be surprised to learn that in 1896, Oakland homes were constructed from balsa wood. I swear I can feel the wind coming through the walls. Although our winters are very mild, the inside of our house is usually about the same temperature as outside, and our mild winters are not nearly mild enough for that!

We have been holding out and have not turned the heater on yet, because (a) it costs approximately one million dollars a month to operate; and (b) it doesn't actually warm the house up that much. But I don't know how much longer we'll be able to stand wearing hats and gloves in the house.

But. At least we don't have to shovel snow or try to extricate our cars from three inches of ice every morning.

Joe's rocking his fleece footie sleepers now.

Yes, he bonked himself in the eye. It's almost healed up now.

I've been overflowing with sewing inspiration lately but not actually sewing. You know how that goes. I may be suffering from idea-overload. I have fun projects in the works for me, and I also want to make Joe some really cozy clothes for our cold house.

First up: Organic cotton knits from Spoonflower! Owls and trains: Two of Joe's favorite things. I think these are destined to be PJ sets. (I was especially pleased to find an owl print which is not overly gendered - most owl prints are really girly.)

Trains and owls!

I also want to make Joe some really warm fleecy slippers. Everyone in this house needs slippers: socks don't quite cut it here, what with the draft that seems to seep through the floor. The slippers that Target sells are cheap and ugly and I know I could do better. For that project I've been eyeing this tutorial from Folkhaven. I was thinking I could probably find an old, ugly fleece at the thrift store that would be perfect for some recycling (have I mentioned that the word "upcycle" bugs me? I can't approve of all of these new words the youngins keep making up). Sewing For Boys also has a great sweatshirt-style pullover pattern, so I'll need a men's large! 

Speaking of sweatshirts, I could use your thoughts: Here's a lovely, warm, shearling lined hoodie of Joe's. The zipper is broken and I ripped it out. Should I replace it? Or should I do a refashion and make it a pullover like this? Ideas?

Hoodie with broken zip.
Excuse the dog hair. That's par for the course in this house.
That's it as far as craft news! My fingers are frozen just typing all of this out! Have a great weekend, everyone!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


You guys! Halloween was awesome! It went so much better than I ever dreamed.

The two-pronged approach of peer pressure and candy totally worked to reconcile Joe to his shark costume, and he wore the whole thing, hood and all, for an hour of trick-or-treating last night!

Sure enough, once he realized that other kids were dressed up with things on their heads, he was far more amenable to his own headgear. When he realized he could walk up and down the street, grabbing handfuls of shiny, colorfully packaged candy from strangers, I'm pretty sure he forgot all about his costume (when people commented on "the little shark!," he just looked at them blankly, like "huh?").

After one or two houses, Joe had the trick-or-treat methodology figured out, and took to it like it was his heretofore unrealized true calling in life. He barged ahead of his dawdling friends to the next house, briskly climbed the stairs, presented his bag (soon bursting with candy) to the occupant, said "tick teet!," got his candy, said "dink doo!" and pressed on to the next house.

He did run inside strange houses a couple times. I had to fish him out from behind someone's couch once. But in general he was highly efficient.

His business-like attitude cracked me up.

All I can say is, this child was born with an intense work ethic. He has remarkable focus. My goodness. (Whatever his other issues may be, ADD is off the table.)

And he said "tick teet!" at every house! And wasn't shy at all! (Ahem, barging into strangers' houses?) Even six months ago, this would have seemed pretty seriously unlikely for my silent little cling-monkey.

What's even funnier is that while Joe loved filling his bag to the brim with shiny and crinkly packages, he is completely clueless about candy, so he was quite content to be rewarded with a single Oreo at the end of the evening. He seems quite happy to reinvest his profits into his parents business.

Job well done, son.

And he wore his costume!

We may have lost a remora fish in the shuffle. A small price to pay.

I didn't bring my camera, but our friends took some photos, so hopefully I will have photographic evidence that Joe did not hate his costume to show you soon!

I'm just tickled pink that everything went so well.