Saturday, March 31, 2012

Spring Top Sew-Along: "Rie" Top.

Yahoo! Here it is! My first (and, at the rate I'm going, only) entry into the Made-by-Rae Spring Top Sew-Along!

Rie Dress.
24 weeks pregnant and squinting.

This is Megan Nielsen's "Rie Dress" shortened into a tunic/long top. Megan Nielsen offers a wonderful line of simple, wearable maternity patterns (she also makes lovely non-maternity patterns). Which is a good thing, because pregnancy transforms me into some kind of insane clothing freak.

I was wondering: Do any other women get super picky about clothes when pregnant? Anything too tight, too stiff, or, worst of all, synthetic, just makes my skin crawl and my expanding belly itch. I don't normally have these sensory issues - when I'm not pregnant, I run around in heels, tailored dresses, and scratchy wool separates - but the quick, um, expansion occasioned by pregnancy makes my skin extra sensitive and itchy.

This presents a bit of a problem, because a lot of ready-to-wear maternity clothes are made from stiff or synthetic fabrics. Even the stretchy panels on maternity pants drive me nuts (I have to fold them down under my belly, because I can't stand the sensation of snug polyester knit on my tummy, eeeeewww). I also have an aversion to anything too tight, stiff, or crisp on my upper half.  These days, my primary goal in getting dressed in the morning is to find clothing that looks work-appropriate but feels like sweatpants and a t-shirt. Every day, I thank my lucky stars that I live in the age of soft, stretchy cottons and rayons. As much as I love vintage styling, this appreciation does not extend to vintage maternity wear. All of those crisp fabrics and tailored shapes! Shudder.

I told you. I'm some kind of freak.

With that in mind, I chose this pattern because it's flowy and loose, and because I thought it would look lovely in a soft light-weight knit that would meet my ridiculous and insane rather stringent fabric requirements. While it is quite possible that a more fitted style would be more flattering to my pregnant shape (especially since I am one of those lucky women who gets pregnant all over, not just in my belly) ... meh, whatever. I am a vessel for new life. I think I deserve to wear comfortable clothing that does not make my skin crawl.

Rie Dress.
Extra points if you can spot Joe.

What you can't see from these photos is how insanely difficult this project was. The "Rie Dress" pattern, which is labeled as appropriate for beginners, was indeed easy-peasy, but my problems began when I chose this tissue-thin, diaphanous, blue ikat printed rayon jersey to sew it up in. This fabric was almost the death of me, people. My sewing machine hates it, and I'm pretty sure the feeling is mutual. Every other minute, my sewing machine would gobble up a chunk of fabric and and suck it into the throat plate. I actually had to unscrew my throat plate several times in order to fish wrecked fabric out of the workings of my machine. For most of this project, I was unsure whether my efforts would result in a wearable garment or a shredded and wadded up $25 reminder of my pain and failure (especially sad because you can get cute maternity tops at Old Navy for $15).

The relationship between machine and fabric remained strained to the end, but eventually, with the help of my walking foot and twin needles (two firsts for me on this project, and I am a convert!), I was able to reconcile my sewing machine to this fabric enough to finish this project. I'm not going to pretend I didn't have a few moments of whining and cussing. At one point I was heard saying: "What the? This is supposed to be my fun, relaxing, hobby!" But I must say I do feel a sense of accomplishment at having successfully completed what turned out to be a pretty tough assignment.

(If pain and suffering were taken into account in judging the Spring Top winners, I might even stand a chance of winning this competition!)

Inder - Spring Maternity Tunic/Top.

Yeah, okay, the end result is a bit muu muu, but it is soft, flowy, loose, and incredibly comfortable - like wearing butterfly wings.   It looks good with a cardigan, jeans and boots now (we're finally getting our "winter" here in Northern California), and it will be cool and breezy when the weather heats up. And while it's hard to say for sure now, it may even be wearable after I give birth.

Apparently, the extreme comfort of this top caused me to forget most of the pain of sewing this stuff, because I found myself back at Stonemountain & Daughter this morning and some more soft, luscious, rayon jersey just might have made it into my purchase. Oops.

So, please tell me I'm not the only woman who develops strange fabric and clothing aversions during pregnancy!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Baby doll diaper.

Joe has a baby doll. I got it for him because I think it's great for both boys and girls to play with dolls. But honestly, it's not his most treasured toy. Baby has spent most of his life buried somewhere in the backyard. Occasionally, Joe unearths him with one of his far more treasured toy excavators.

Recently, however, Joe has shown a bit more interest in playing pretend with his "baby." Baby has been carried around the house a little, and even put on Joe's potty. Coincidentally, my midwife recently suggested getting Joe a baby doll, diapers, and maybe even a little sling for the baby doll, so that Joe can practice baby care before our real life baby arrives later this summer. This seemed like a sweet idea, even if I had a hard time imagining Joe nurturing something that wasn't construction equipment.

Anyway, last night, I was having a hard time with my other work-in-progress, a maternity top in diaphanous (read: impossible to sew) jersey and needed to take a break. So I made Joe's baby doll a diaper. Poor baby (who is an anatomically correct boy, by the way!) has been completely naked for a long time now. Really, common decency required that I make this diaper.
Baby doll diapers.

It's just a simple affair. Two layers of flannel and some sew-on velcro.

Baby doll diapers.

Here's the back view. I could probably perfect the fit, but seriously? It's a baby doll diaper.

I got the general idea of what shape the diaper should be from this helpful tutorial, but I ended up drafting my own pattern piece for Joe's very small baby doll. For anyone wanting to make baby doll diapers, here is the general shape.

Making baby doll diapers.

Even with drafting the pattern piece myself and trying out one diaper that didn't work, making this took less than an hour. With all that out of the way, I'm pretty sure I could make a diaper in 15 minutes or less. I may make a few more closer to my due date, so that Joe can change his baby's diaper when we change his baby sister's diaper.

Of course, that assumes he is the least bit interested in such things. When I showed Joe his babydoll with  a diaper, he shrugged and ran away.

Later, he came back to it and said, "baby wear diaper! baby PJs?" So maybe I should make baby some pajamas.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Plaid Sailboat Pants.

Just stopping in briefly to share my latest sewing project: a pair of plaid Sailboat Pants for my friend E.'s daughter. E. and her family will be visiting the Bay Area from Denver, Colorado later this week, and I hope the see them this weekend!

I think these are pretty rockin' in plaid.

Plaid Sailboat Pants.

These did not go together quite as easily as the last pair. First there was the cutting. I convinced myself I was matching the plaids pretty well, but when I went to sew the pants together, it was pretty obvious that I had no idea what I was talking about. I think it's high time I sat down with some sewing books and read up on matching stripes and plaids. In the meantime, we'll just pretend that "plaid matching" is  not something we care about, shall we? Works for me.

Then there was the fabric itself. This soft cotton is absolutely luxurious, almost like pajamas. It's also impossible to rip seams out of, is inclined to snag, and does not take to buttonholes very well. Even my vintage buttonholer attachment seemed to be having a difficult time with this stuff. (By the way, check out this recent post on MalePatternBoldness about his attachment to vintage buttonholer attachments, including one just like the one I use!)

But I persevered, and the result was a pretty smashing pair of plaid pants, if I may say so myself.

Of course I used red buttons. Red buttons make everything better.
Plaid Sailboat Pants, detail.

Next up: Something for meeeeeeeeeeee! I'm super excited. Here's a hint.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Some weekend highlights.

(1) Joe actually wore his Luka hoodie! Willingly! And pointed out, with pleasure, the blue trains on the sleeve and the big "secret" pocket! This is a big deal, because unfortunately, Joe has been categorically opposed to this hoodie (which I freakin' slaved over, people) since day one.

He's wearing his hoodie!
Excited to go see his cousin. In his "blue train" hoodie!
To be fair, Joe is morally and ethically opposed to outerwear of any kind. So it's not exactly personal. It's a good thing we live in a mild climate, where long sleeved t-shirts are enough to keep hot-blooded little boys warm enough on most days.

(2) Joe has a new "camera face" now. As of yesterday, this is what happens when I tell him to "say cheese!"

Silly camera face.
Adorably dorky "cheese."
I think he looks like my mom when he does this. Sorry, Mom!

(3) With his third birthday looming on the horizon, I've started really trying to work with Joe on potty-training. Up until now we've been vaguely encouraging Joe to use the potty, but Joe hasn't shown much interest (and you know, hasn't been that verbal), and we haven't gotten very serious about it. Today I bought him some Thomas the Tank Engine underwear, which he was really excited about until he realized it was supposed to go on instead of a diaper. At which point, he demanded that I put his diaper back on. Hm.

According to Dr. Sears, "If your toddler is going through a generally negative mood in which he resists all interventions and his vocabulary is limited to the two-letter word 'no,'" hold off on potty training for a few more weeks and catch him at a more receptive time. Problem is, Joe's been in an, ahem, "negative mood" for like, the past year. So. Wish me luck!

(4) We got a big bag of Meyer lemons from our neighbor, and so far we have made:

(a) Preserved lemons. Sliced lemons packed in kosher salt and their own juice morph into a soft sour-salty-bitter pickle that is delicious in Middle-Eastern cuisine, and in our house, salad dressing. The high acidity brine keeps the lemons from going bad for up to a year.

Preserved lemons.
Warning: The combination of salt and lemon juice will eat through anything, including mason jar lids.

(b) Unphotographically hideous, but nonetheless delicious glazed lemon cookies. They got slightly burnt, and the glaze is clumpy. Even by the "homely goodness" standards of this blog, they do not make the aesthetic cut. However, they are sweet and lemony and you can eat around the burned bits.

(c) Grog. That's lemon juice with rum, hot water, whole cloves, and cinammon.

Lemons and grog.
Mug of grog. This batch of lemons is strangely warty and lumpy, but still has that unmistakeable Meyer sweetness.

"Hey, I need this to prevent scurvy."

Obviously, I did not partake in the grog (oh, the sacrifices we make for our unborn children!), but from the exclamations of "Ay ay, Captain!," "Arrr!," and "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum!" I'm hearing from the kitchen, I'd guess it's pretty good (and definitely effective).

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Sailor Girl.

Remember how I had ambitious plans to sew a bunch of Christmas presents for the children in my life, but never did? Of course, what I didn't mention then, because it was top-secret, was that I was suffering from the first trimester blahs, which I'm sure many of you can relate to. You know, a little nausea and a whole lot of blah. Early pregnancy is not really compatible with ambitious plans of any variety. I really should have known better; after all, I've been through this once before.

So I never did make any of the cute outfits I had planned; instead I issued IOUs to the parents of said children, who were all very understanding, of course.

Now that I'm well into the second trimester and feeling a bit more energetic, I've been on a major sewing kick, so I thought it might be fun to finally sew up some outfits for the kiddos.

First up, I decided to make a Envelope Tee and Sailboat Pants for my adorable little niece Helen, who is a few months shy of two years old now.

For the envelope tee, I used two old tops that I long ago relegated to the "harvest for fabric" pile: a red ribbed tank, and a brown striped shirt (which was featured in this raglan t-shirt a while back). It went together really easily, although one of these days, I'm going to try using a walking foot to sew knits and see if that helps avoid the stretching I inevitably seem to get when I try to apply ribbing. I am pretty happy with how this red ribbing worked out, though. Awesome bright red will cover a multitude of sewing errors, I find.

Envelope Tee.

Using ribbing along the bottom as well as the neckline of the shirt saved me having to do a proper hem, and also added some length to this pattern, which I have found to be a bit short in the larger sizes. Plus, it just needed more red. You know how that goes.

Is it just me, or does this top just scream for some denim Oliver + s Sailboat Pants with red buttons and red toptstiching to complete the nautical theme? Yeah, I thought so too.

Sailboat Pants.

With the pants, though, I ran into a snag. Just as I was ready to make the cute buttonholes on these pants, I realized I had misplaced the buttonhole foot for my nice new machine! Doh! I tore apart my messy sewing corner, to no avail. I had used the foot (and the same fabric) just this past weekend, so hopefully it will turn up, but I'm a little worried that Joe might have picked it up and "put it away" for me, in which case I may never see it again.

Luckily, it is not an expensive or difficult to replace item, so worst case, I will just buy another one, right? So I called my local Singer dealer, only to find out they do not carry it in stock, so it will have to be ordered. "What?" I exclaimed in despair, "But you don't understand! I have cute pants to make!! Right now! It's an emergency!" (Okay, I didn't actually say that. Inwardly, all was turmoil, but I made a valiant effort not to appear like a crazed, pregnant, sewing maniac.)

Well, reader, I had no choice but to pull my old 1970s Singer and crazy space-aged buttonhole attachment from our back room chock-full storage area. As anyone who has seen my sewing corner will immediately attest, I don't have space for two sewing machines. Thus, my husband has been asking me to post my trusty old Singer Stylist on Craigslist and my vintage buttonhole attachments on Ebay ever since I got my new machine, but seriously, I have just been so busy!

Really, I can't seem to spare a single minute to work on a listing ... cough cough.

Buttonholer Attachment.

I do wish I had the space to keep my Stylist up and running, because I gotta tell you: Those old buttonhole attachments make truly beautiful buttonholes. (P.S. You know you're a total sewing geek when you find yourself saying "that attachment makes truly beautiful buttonholes.")


 Disaster averted, and pants completed.

Sailboat pants and envelope tee.

I delivered this outfit to the young recipient this evening, and both items fit well, with a little room to grow, which made me pretty pleased.

The Stylist is still set up, just in case I need to make any more buttonholes ...

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Back to my old stand-by.

Since my first attempt at Oliver + s Sandbox Pants turned out awesome but way too big for Joe, I had to go back to the drawing board to come up with some pants that would work for our warmer Spring weather.  I had a few different ideas, but in the end, I fell back on my old stand-by, the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts pattern, lengthened into pants, in a striped black denim that I bought using a gift certificate (to Britex fabrics!) that my friend Melissa graciously gave me for my birthday last year.

Stripey pants

Well, there is a reason that this pattern is the most used (overused?) pattern in my stash. It just works. These pants go together easily (they ought to, I've lost count of how many times I've made this pattern). Once you've made it up a few times, this pattern really lends itself to modification and customization. And for whatever reason, the fit of these pants has always been just perfect on Joe: they don't slip down his bottom or pinch at his waist. Sometimes "old reliable" is just the way to go.

(Yes, I bought the pattern in the larger size range for a later date. If I make it up even a quarter as often as I have the smaller size range, I'll get my money's worth from it.)

Stripey pants

Besides just making them longer, I made a few additional modifications to this pair, which aren't very visible in these photos. I elasticized only the back of the pants (giving the front a flatter look) and omitted the front pleats, making these flat-front trousers. Here, I followed the advice of fellow blogger, talented seamstress, and mother of five (!), Nicole, and simply darted the pleat out in the pattern piece, flattened the pattern piece as best I could, and cut. (By the way, Nicole has used this pattern to make every type of pant you can imagine, including skinny jeans for her girls!)

My only complaint about these is that the fabric is really ravelly, so I foresee a lot of trimming of seam allowances and clipping of threads, even though I zig-zagged over all of the raw edges as I always do. These don't look so pretty on the inside. It's at moments like these that I decide that I really need a serger. But it's not that big a deal.

Stripey pants

I didn't really match up the stripes on these that well. The stripe on this fabric is not symmetrical (it's different going in one direction that the other), and the repeat was really wide, so it would have been a colossal waste of fabric to try to match it perfectly on the side seams. Shhhhhh.

I was also too lazy to match stripes and reinforce the knees on these pants.

Stripey pants

Which I may live to regret ...

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sandbox Pants.

I made another, more complicated project this past weekend: a new pair of jeans for Joe. The current state of Joe's pants drawer is pretty dismal: all of his pants are either too warm for Spring weather, too beat up, or too small. My little ragamuffin has been looking especially ragamuffin-y lately.

So I opted to try a new (to me) pattern, the "Sandbox Pants" from Oliver + s. I bought this pattern in size 4-8 right before the paper pattern went out of print (you can still download the pattern digitally). I love the casual "cargo" styling of these pants. Perfect for my rough-and-tumble little boy.

Since Joe is now solidly a size 3T, I figured I could get away with sewing these up in a size 4, making no adjustments except to length. Inspired by Steve's work pants, which have reinforced knees, I added a reinforced knee panel to Joe's pants as well. Joe spends a lot of time on his hands and knees, pushing trucks around the back patio, and the knees of his pants reflect this abuse.

O+s Sandbox Pants, front

I wanted these to be Spring-appropriate pants, so I used a lightweight denim that may look familiar to some of you.

The back view has adorable buttoned pockets, like so:

O+s Sandbox Pants, back

I wanted these to be sturdy and casual, like ready-to-wear pants, so I edgestitched and topstitched everything on these pants, in contrasting yellow-gold "jeans" thread, and mock-flat-felled the side seams (there wasn't enough seam allowance to do regular flat-felled seams). The pockets are lined in a blue "bandana" fabric that no one will ever see (I should have photographed it before sewing the pockets on, because now you'll never see it either! sorry).

O+s Sandbox Pants, pocket detail

Cute, right?

Super cute. Too bad they're totally huge! It turns out there's a pretty big difference between sizes 3T and 4.

*Forehead slap.*

Riding a garbage truck.

These photos show that (a) the pants are way too long and have to be rolled up substantially to be wearable; and (b) that the reinforced knees are nowhere near Joe's actual knees. What these photos don't show is (c) the waist is too loose, even with the drawstring drawn up as tight as possible, and the pants show all kinds of preschooler plumber crack; and (d) the crotch is way too long, giving these pants a sort of Oakland gang-banger appearance (and like our neighbors, Joe would have to hike them up as he walks).

Riding a garbage truck.

Doh! These pants were a lot of work! And Joe doesn't need pants next year. He needs pants now. Drat.

Conclusion: This pattern totally rocks, and I think these pants turned out great. When Joe is a little bigger, I'm going to make a million pairs of these, because I love them. Actually, I love them so much, I'm tempted to buy the digital pattern in the smaller size, just to get that 3T size (since these are big in pretty much every possible way, grading down the size 4 is a bit beyond my abilities). Think about it, these pants would be totally adorable on a little girl, too, so really I wouldn't be buying a $10 pattern for just one size, right?

Anyway, I guess Joe will just have just to grow into these. Rather than try to modify them to fit Joe now, I think I will just tuck them away until he's a bit bigger. No way I'm going to rip out all of those beautiful, double-stitched seams.

In the meantime, I better get cracking on making some pants that actually fit him right now.

And here's some blurry, gratuitous cuteness.

Sticking out his tongue.

Monday, March 5, 2012

20-week ultrasound.

On Friday, I had my 20-week ultrasound. When I was pregnant with Joe, we opted to keep the baby's sex a surprise (although, to be honest, everyone who came within 20 feet of me was convinced it was a boy, so I'm not sure how big a surprise it actually was). I expected to do the same this time around, but for whatever reason, Steve really wanted to find out the sex of this baby.

So we tried something new: We went to our 20 week ultrasound and said "we'd like to find out the baby's sex."

For my part, I was pretty convinced I was having another boy.

Well,  I was wrong! We can now officially refer to this little one as a "bambina"! Joe's going to have a little sister! (Also, baby looks healthy and great.)

So I'm pretty surprised! And excited!

Of course, one of the first things I did was to make a little t-shirt for our little girl. Now, long time readers of this blog will have heard me rant about how silly I think the great pink/blue baby divide is. There is nothing wrong with the color pink, and I love feminine clothing myself, but, in my opinion, the trend of dressing girls in head-to-toe pink has really gotten out of hand in the past few decades. Since when are pink and purple the only colors suitable for girls? What happened to red, orange, yellow, blue, and green? And boy clothes aren't much better - the color palette is so somber and dark and most of the graphics are limited to sports or superhero themes. I seem to remember that during my own childhood in the late 70s/early 80s, bright, saturated colors were the norm for both boys and girls and purple was a gender-neutral color.

But one of the great things about sewing clothing for your children is that you are not limited to what's available ready-to-wear. I am not a huge fan of sparkles or bling, but I do love ditzy floral prints (how can you not love flowers?). So for my first project for this new bambina, I made a feminine but not pink t-shirt.

Envelope tee, floral

The gray knit came from an old top of mine. I always loved the print and the waffle knit, but the top was too short and never fit me well. It's better repurposed than it ever was in its original state! (I will say that the waffle knit was not nearly as easy to handle as a Spoonflower organic knit, however. I've been spoiled. I blame the slight stretching at the neckline on the fabric; I'm hoping that will work itself out in the wash.)

Envelope tee in floral

The pattern, of course, comes from Growing Up Sew Liberated. Although this baby is due in late July, I'm still anticipating that we will need more long sleeved t-shirts than short sleeved ones. Such is life in the San Francisco Bay Area.

When I showed the little top to Joe, he said, "Yellow flowers! Green flowers!" He loves flowers too. But discussions of his future little sister are met with a blank stare. Poor kid has no idea what's in store.