Monday, April 30, 2012

KCWC: The Grand Finale!

Yesterday was the final day of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge, and my last project for the week was a new pair of summer PJs for Joe, refashioned from a size XL men's tie-dyed shirt.

Rainbow PJs!

This project was special to me because this t-shirt was tie-dyed by a dear friend of mine, Marc, who died much too young, about six and a half years ago. I miss him a lot. His many talents included geology, obsidian knapping (you know, making arrowheads and spear points), throwing pottery, and crazily enough, tie-dyeing. Tie-dye isn't really my thing, but Marc's tie-dyes are really beautiful and full of vivid color.  So I've held onto this bleached and tie-dyed XL t-shirt, which was way too big for me or anyone I know, for many years now, in my knit fabrics stash, waiting for the perfect project to present itself.

Rainbow Pjs!

On Saturday, I was going through my knit stash, and pulled this shirt out.

Joe, who is really into colors right now, and really, really into rainbows, was immediately impressed: "Rainbow!! Red, orange, yellow ... pink ... all the colors!"

I just love it when Joe says "all the colors!" I think you have to be there.

"Joe, would you like a rainbow shirt?" I asked.

"Yes! Rainbow shirt!!" he eagerly replied. Then he had an even better idea. "Rainbow PJs!"

So, rainbow PJs it is! Pretty groovy, huh?

Rainbow PJs!

I used Made by Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee pattern to make the t-shirt, even harvesting the ribbing from the adult t-shirt for the neckline on the little version. With this stable, easy-to-sew interlock, sewing up this pattern was a dream, and I didn't run into any of the problems I encountered with my last version. To make the shorts, I just shortened the Sleeping Johns from Growing Up Sew Liberated. I have made so many versions of those Sleeping Johns now - it is such a simple and easy pattern, just one pattern piece. I centered the middle of the tie-dye on the t-shirt, fit the little sleeves into the grown-up sleeve pieces, and was able to squeeze the shorts pieces out of the sides of the t-shirt, which didn't have side seams, utilizing the hem of the shirt as the hem of the shorts.

Rainbow PJs!

Joe is pretty pleased with his rainbow PJs. Check it out - he even posed for me!

And that wraps up KCWC, Spring 2012! I am definitely a little tired, but what a fun week! I felt like I was part of a bustling, inspiring, kids' clothes sewing community (because I was!) - and I made a few things that Joe really likes, too, which is extra rewarding.

Next up, the fun task of trying to fix/de-bug a few of the items I made this last week, to make them even better and more wearable. Not my favorite part of the sewing process, but important and well worth it.

How are y'all recovering from KCWC?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

KCWC Days 5 & 6.

Friday, Day 5 of KCWC, was a total bust. The only sewing-related thing I did was to trace the Easy Linen Shirt pattern from Sewing For Boys. Did I then cut it out in a delicious linen and start sewing? Well, no. Actually, I went to bed. Now that I've hit 28 weeks, I am starting to really feel pregnant - a bit big, unwieldy, and tired. A long week of staying up late after work sewing finally caught up with me.

The next day, Day 6 of KCWC, I decided I wasn't quite ready to dive into an all new pattern, and cut out another Flashback Skinny Tee instead, in a nice shade of yellowy-green.

Train Flashback Tee

This time, I added a cute train applique using some travel-themed fabric that I've used for this purpose before. And yes, five minutes after I've put it on him, he's already gotten it wet playing in the small fountain Steve set up on our back patio (which has provided hours of entertainment to Joe, by the way - what a great investment!).

Train Flashback Tee

I love the color of this knit and the applique turned out pretty well (despite the orphaned letters "OU" on the upper right corner of the applique), but this was not an unqualified success. As you can see in these photos, the sleeves are too long and all of the ribbing looks wonky and wrong.

Train Flashback Tee

I think I stretched the neckline more on one side than the other, which is making the neckline lay funny. The width of the ribbing on the sleeves needs to be shorter than the circumference of the sleeve and it's not (I also need to shorten the sleeves by an inch lengthwise). End result - it looks like a beginner home-ec project. I'm still getting the hang of this pattern, but at least I have a good idea of where this went wrong.

So, basically, I need to rip out and redo all of the ribbing. Sigh. I'm not a perfectionist by any means, but I know I can do better. But with the ribbing issues debugged, I think this will be a really cute "summer in the San Francisco Bay Area" shirt.

As KCWC draws to a close, it is apparent that I have lost a lot of steam. I do have a fun final project planned for today, though!

(And no, it's not the Easy Linen Shirt, but I'm sure I'll be sewing that up very soon. Ahem.)

Friday, April 27, 2012

KCWC Days 3 & 4.

I have been plugging away at my kids' clothes sewing for at least an hour for the past couple nights. Well, in truth, I have been getting to bed late after rather more than an hour of sewing, and I'm starting to feel a bit fatigued. But it has been really fun seeing some clothes for Joe come together so quickly.

A really long time ago, I characterized Joe's wardrobe aesthetic (keeping in mind that, ultimately, I am the arbiter of his wardrobe despite the slow and subtle power shift that is currently underway) as "unkempt stripey handsewn vintage Sesame Street." I think this is basically still true, in large part because of my personal preference for a somewhat 1970s color palette. (Orange, orange, and more orange. Also "avocado" and "sungold.")

(The fact that I prefer children's clothing that is reminiscent of the clothing I myself wore as a small child is probably incredibly fascinating and reveals something about my innermost psychological make-up, but I'm not sure what. It might just mean I watched a lot of Sesame Street at an impressionable age.)

As far as the stripey 1970s Sesame Street aesthetic goes, however, I think I may have really outdone myself with this outfit.

Flashback tee and Franken-shorts.

The t-shirt is Made by Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee, which is making the rounds on the sewing blogosphere for excellent reasons - it's easy to sew, incredibly versatile, and seriously cute. Warning: I have a feeling I'll be boring y'all to death with iterations of this t-shirt, because it's awesome. Check out the fit!! It's perfect! (Well, okay, that neckline ribbing is looking a bit kooky here, but I don't notice it most of the time.)


That orange and green striped fabric may look familiar to long-time readers of this blog or even just people who have seen my blog header. I've used it before, here and here and here. And it's not gone yet! It's amazing what you can do with two yards of jersey when you're sewing for children. Honestly, I think I should limit myself to just a yard of crazy loud stripes in future, since I'm getting a bit tired of this stuff. But with the brown ribbing (taken from thrifted ribbed tank top, my favorite source of colorful ribbing), the shirt looks especially 1970s Sesame Street. Wouldn't Joe fit in just great with Bert and Ernie?

The shorts are something a bit different for me. Remember how I was just saying that the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts represent the gold-standard in fit for Joe? These shorts fit just right - they have plenty of room in the seat, they don't ride down, they fit just right in the front. As anyone who sews a lot of clothing (or you know, wears pants) has realized, there are a lot of variables to a good fit on a pair of pants. Probably the most crucial, and definitely the most difficult to tinker with, is the curve of the seam that goes down the center of the pants and under the crotch area. If it's right, you have great-fitting pants. If it's wrong, all kinds of bad things can happen - camel-toe, saggy bottoms, and wedgies. Well, for whatever reason, that curve on the Sketchbook Pants is just exactly right on Joe, which is why this pattern has become my tried-and-true shorts/pants pattern.

But as much as I love the Sketchbook Shorts pattern, with its old-fashioned vibe, front pleats, pockets, and mock fly, sometimes I want something a bit different. Something more, I don't know, 1970s Sesame Street. And so I have sewn up a bunch of other pants patterns for Joe. Often, however, I am dissatisfied with the fit of the end result, and this is true even of other Oliver + s pants patterns, like the Sailboat Pants and the Sandbox Pants. These are great patterns and they fit Joe well enough, but they just don't have that je ne sais quois (that's French for "makes your butt look good"- not that my toddler is concerned about that).

Well, there is a simple solution to this problem. I just need to alter the crotch curve of other pants patterns to better mimic the Sketchbook pattern, right? I need to make the Sketchbook pattern my "sloper" for pants for Joe. Since I know what does work on Joe, a few simple changes to other pants patterns should result in a better fit on Joe. Simple, right?

Uh, right. It's just that I am a bit timid about drafting my own patterns, or even altering patterns. But at this point, I have already used the Sketchbook Shorts as a starting point for (many pairs of) shorts and pants - I've modified the pocket shape, and I've eliminated the pleats for a flat-front version. So what's the big deal? I can do this!

For my first Franken-pattern attempt, I chose another pair of pants I've made for Joe - the Pocket Pants from Growing Up Sew Liberated. I've also made these as shorts and Joe still wears both items pretty frequently. I love the contrast binding and waistband details on these pants. So cute. And the fit of the original pattern is okay on Joe. But it's not perfect - the back tends to ride down as Joe plays, and the front tends to bunch up a bit. He shows a bit more plumber crack diaper in those pants than is strictly ideal.


So I combined the two patterns into these Franken-shorts. These shorts use the basic pattern pieces from the Sketchbook Shorts (with the pleat eliminated and the pocket shape changed from a scoop to a diagonal line), but incorporate the details of the Pocket Pants. For a pair of Pocket Pants with the perfect fit. And it wasn't hard at all.

I purposefully made these shorts pretty long, for a "board short" look, and because Joe is getting taller by the minute. Since I wasn't sure how these would work out, I used some scraps that have been lingering in my stash forever to make them up. If fabrics you've forgotten the value of are essentially "free" then I think fabrics you once sewed into an ugly garment you never wore and then threw back into the scrap pile are also "free" and you can feel pretty smug about sewing them into something useable. Such was the tomato-red cotton twill used in these shorts. Again, feel free to incorporate this theory into your own sewing life as applicable.

Joe gives the pockets his seal of approval. Toddlers just love their pockets.

He found the pockets!

As other bloggers have noted, getting decent photos of your kid playing in his new outfit is often one of the most challenging aspects of KCWC. Now, it would be pretty much impossible to get a shot of Joe actually posing in his new outfit, because this child never stops moving. But Joe was really having a good time this morning, so you get lots of great action shots (with more or less crap in the background, because our backyard is generally a bit messy). This new outfit was dirty within minutes of putting it on him, which I think is a really good sign, actually.  I even got a few goofy shots of him running around totally crazed, with his tongue hanging out. My little party animal. I love this kid.




So that covers days three and four of KCWC. There are still three days left in this challenge, so the big question now is "what next?"

Do tell: What are you planning to sew up this weekend?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Golden Gate Singing and KCWC Days 1 & 2.

Well, the 8th Annual Golden Gate Singing on Sunday was just wonderful and uplifting. The weather was perfect (not too hot, not too cold), the views of the San Francisco Bay from our location on Potrero Hill were just sparkling, the food was delicious and abundant, the crowd was just the right size, and the music was loud and invigorating. For my part, I think I hit just the right balance of making myself useful and enjoying the music.

For those of you who have never heard music sung from the Sacred Harp, here is a sample, borrowed from the awesome blog of friend and fellow shape note singer, Dan Harper.

Technically, I am singing in this video, but you can't see me because I am behind some taller folks. You'll just have to take my word for it that my voice is present. It was a really lovely day.

As predicted, however, this wonderful day of singing followed by busy days at work left me a bit beat and KCWC got off to a slow start this time around. I cut out Sandbox Pants in a light, stone-colored linen for Joe on Saturday, but barely managed to sew the pockets to their pocket linings on Monday night before collapsing in a tired heap. I might have achieved an hour of sewing, if you count moving slowly and dilly-dallying. I did remember to take a photo of the linings so that you can see my fabric selections, though.

Pocket linings, Sandbox pants.

This red star fabric was a gift from my lovely friend Christine, who blogs at OakRose Mama. She sent me some smaller scraps, which worked out perfectly for pocket linings on these pants. The linen I used has been in my stash for years. One of my goals for this KCWC was not only to use up stash fabrics (easy enough, with my fabric buying habits), but to use some of the pieces I've been holding onto for a really long time, for reasons I've long since forgotten. I have about four yards of this lovely natural colored linen, which I bought for curtains about ten years ago ... I hate sewing curtains (also, beige curtains? so boring! what was I thinking?), so it's no wonder this fabric has sat on my shelves untouched for a decade. It was high time it got used for something.

An aside: I have a theory that if a fabric sits in my stash long enough for me to forget how much it cost at the time I bought it, it becomes essentially free, allowing me to feel very thrifty and virtuous sewing it up. Feel free to apply this theory to your own sewing life.

But anyway, back to KCWC. Monday didn't go particularly well, sewing-wise, but I made up for it last night, when I finished up the Sandbox Pants. This was especially impressive as this linen turned out to be insanely prone to unravel at the seams, and after watching a couple of seams disintegrate before my eyes, it was clear that I needed to flat-fell or otherwise enclose every seam in these pants if I wanted them to survive the washing machine. So that's just what I did. With the tedious but satisfying result that the inside of these pants is just as neat and pretty as the outside of the pants (and my fingertips are still singed from trying to fold and then iron tiny little half inch seam allowances down - perhaps I should consider trying a flat-fell foot one of these days).

This morning, I was able to take some photos outside just as it started to drizzle.

Sandbox pants, front.

I love the patch pockets and details on these pants. The drawstring is a bit of a distraction for Joe so I may make it purely "ornamental" or eliminate it entirely in future iterations of these pants, but I like the idea of it.

Sandbox pants, back.

Then I tried the pants on Joe, and they fit really well! If I make these pants again, I will shorten the rise a bit, as these are a bit long in the crotch area for Joe. For Joe, the Sketchbook Shorts remain the gold standard in fit, and I've decided I should just alter all future pants patterns using those as a guide. In this lightweight linen, however, even the baggy seat adds to the "beachy" vibe of the pants. I expect Joe will get a lot of wear out of these this summer. The hems are really deep, so I could easily make these longer, which is good because this kid is growing like bamboo these days.

Sandbox pants.

Sandbox pants.

I wanted to get some better full-length shots of Joe wearing the pants, but Joe was in a bit of a mood this morning, as you can see here.

Bad mood.

That's pretty much how I feel early in the morning before I've had my coffee, too, so I can't blame him. I wouldn't want someone to take my photo before 9 a.m. either. At least he didn't complain about putting on his new pants (instead, he freaked out over his shirt). That's something.

My next project, the Flashback Skinny Tee, should go together really quickly in comparison to these pants, so stay tuned for more KCWC!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

One-Two-Three Train Pants.


As mentioned in a prior post, Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy! is currently hosting a Sewing For Boys Sew-Along. I'm way late to this party, since they started sewing way back in January, but when I saw that the Treasure Pocket Pants were the pattern for April, I decided to jump on board.

I have been planning to make the Treasure Pocket Pants for a while now (so many cute examples on the 'nets!), but didn't get serious about the project until I saw this Echino train fabric. Ha! The perfect contrast pocket fabric for my train obsessed little boy!

So without further ado, here are Joe's new Choo-Choo Pocket Pants. And some serious bedhead.

Train Treasure Pocket Pants

These pants are loud and proud - the sort of thing that you can really only get away with when you're a little kid. But hey, you have to take advantage of that time.

I opted to use a lightweight chambray/denim for the main fabric, thinking it might tone down the loudness of the train print. Hahahaha. Not sure that happened, but the weight makes these the perfect cool, breezy summer pants.

Train Treasure Pocket Pants

Size 2/3 is quite generous on my solidly 3T little boy. Not only do the pants have a lot of ease (which is nice on a hot day), but they are long - I have turn up the cuffs on Joe. In addition, the amount of elastic suggested by the pattern resulted in a very loose waistband on Joe, and I had to tighten it up considerably. I think these would have been pretty big on Joe back when he was closer to 2T. But of course, it's always nice to make something that will get a good amount of wear before it gets too small.

Train Treasure Pocket Pants

I love the train waistband.

Joe was initially hesitant to wear these, since apparently he preferred to just look at the fabric in my stash and count the train cars (Joe can now count to nine!). The idea that his favorite fabric had magically morphed into pants was confusing and just didn't sit right with him (I can't really blame him - I still think it's magic, too!). But then this morning, he was willing to put them on, and after breaking them in running around the backyard and filling the pockets with rocks, I think he is reconciled to his "one-two-three train pants," as he is calling them now. He might even like them a little.

Train Treasure Pocket Pants

It is a blazing hot day in Oakland, a gorgeous "summer" day in April. We have to enjoy hot weather when we get it, because our actual summers tend to be chilly and foggy.  The garden, the dogs, and the humans are just soaking up the sun today.

Friday, April 20, 2012

KCWC Prep.

Next week is Elsie Marley's Kids' Clothes Week Challenge (KCWC)! I followed this challenge for the first time last October, and it was really fun. Basically, the idea is to sew clothes for your kids for an hour a day for seven days. The challenge is open ended, so of course some ambitious moms sew a lot more than that, and last time, I impressed myself with how much sewing I got done once I got into the groove.

But just like last October, when I had to sew around a late-night Planning Commission meeting in the middle of the week, next week is shaping up to be pretty busy with non-sewing-related activities that are going to put a dent into my sewing time. The biggest event is this Sunday, when my local Sacred Harp group is hosting the 8th Annual Golden Gate Sacred Harp Singing in San Francisco. (Although I don't blog about it too much these days, singing from the Sacred Harp is one of my other really important hobbies - and a very special part of my life.)

The all-day singing is a huge amount of fun, and it's also a huge amount of work. Although I did not take on any managerial responsibilities for this singing (I'm pleading "too pregnant"), all local singers are expected to cook a lot of food for the "dinner on the grounds" to ensure that our visitors have plenty to eat. So my housemate and fellow-singer Rebecca and I will be up late on Saturday night and early on Sunday morning getting all of our dishes ready for this wonderful part of our singing tradition (since the Sacred Harp really took root in the Southern U.S., our ideal is "Southern-style hospitality," which is to say, abundant to the point of burying your guests in food).  And then we'll spend all day Sunday singing shape note hymns, chatting with our friends from near and far, and doing whatever needs to be done to keep everything running smoothly.

As you can imagine, after one of these events, my usual course of action is to collapse into a giant heap of pathetic worthlessness on the couch and try to recover by watching bad television for several days.

And that's when I'm not 27 weeks pregnant (oh, hi, third trimester! you already?).

So, um, this does not bode well for the first night or two of KCWC. (And of course, there are a few other small matters: my more-than-full-time job, almost-three year old, etc. Like I'm ever not busy, ha.)

But whatever. I'm still going to give it a shot. If I don't quite sew an hour a day, well, I'll try to get a little bit done here and there. If I don't sew at all on Sunday night, I can always try to make up for it the following Saturday. Or not. No pressure.

Onto my preparations! Although I am not writing a list of items to sew next week like some more ambitious bloggers are, Joe always needs pants, shorts, and t-shirts. He averages two full outfits a day (so many messes to be made!) so we are always desperately doing laundry just in order to keep him clothed. So I just downloaded two digital patterns that I am really excited about.

First up, the Oliver + s Sandbox Pants in sizes 6 months to 3T. As you may remember, I sewed these up in size 4T for Joe pretty recently, and they turned out beautifully, but they are way too big, waaaaaah. It took a while for me to justify buying the smaller size, since Joe is currently 3T, but with a new little one on the way, I just know I'll get a ton of use from the smaller pattern. I just love the casual styling and details, and I think it is a perfect gender-neutral (and infinitely adaptable) pattern.

Second, Made by Rae's Flashback Skinny Tee. This t-shirt is currently exploding across the sewing-for-kids-blogosphere, and it's easy to see why. My kid wears t-shirts, well, every single day. Talk about practical! And I'm looking forward to continuing to work on my sewing-with-knits skills. I have a nice little pile of knits and ribbings set aside just for this project!

But the best part about KCWC is not really the sewing, of course. It's seeing all of the amazing clothes that all of my fellow bloggers make. So that's the plan: Try to sew a little, maybe try out some new patterns and ideas, and generally kick back and enjoy the spectacle.


Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Blue Train PJs.

Joe needed some new pajamas, and I still had a bit of this amazing Spoonflower "Steamies" fabric leftover from Joe's Luka Hoodie. And it appears that, for once, I have made something that pleases his royal highness, Joseph Roscoe!

Blue Train PJs
Blue trains!

Joe is normally a bit PJ-adverse (because you know, PJs mean bedtime, and any self-respecting nearly-three-year-old resists bedtime), but he was pretty happy to put these on tonight: major score for mama! That kind of appreciation and bedtime cooperation is enough to make this amazingly soft printed organic cotton seem almost ... affordable!

Blue Train PJs
Playing with the dogs' toys instead of settling down to read a bedtime story.
For the top, I used the "Tee for Two" raglan t-shirt pattern from Patterns by Figgy's in size 2/3 (with a little extra length added).  The paper pattern is now out of print, but you can download the pattern as a PDF here (it also includes a cute gathered dress version for girls), or there is a similar raglan tee pattern in Shelly Figueroa and Karen LePage's awesome book Sewing for Boys. This is just a great pattern, and I've come back to it over and over again. (Right now, Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy! is hosting a Sewing for Boys sew-along, which I hope to join up with soon. They sewed the raglan tee a while back, so this is a late submission.)

The pants are the "Sleeping Johns" from Growing Up Sew Liberated, in size 3T with a little ribbing added at the cuff. This project was especially satisfying because I used up almost every last inch of the train fabric and needed the cream knit to finish the job. Considering that Spoonflower knits, while lovely and super soft, are not by any means inexpensive, this felt as frugal as can be.

I used my walking foot throughout and twin needles to finish the neckline and hems. Seriously, those two tools have just been a revelation for me. I just can't get enough of these great-looking results!

Blue Train PJs
The PJs pass the evening yoga test.

Time for a bedtime story!

Bedtime story.
Boom, boom, boom, Mr. Brown is a wonder!

Lately, Joe has been really into Dr. Seuss, which makes this mama so happy. Who doesn't love Dr. Seuss? His books are weird enough to be entertaining even to adults who have read them a million times.

Joe loves to make all of the sounds in Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You? He can almost read the book to me now (in simplified Joe-speak, of course). His other favorite is Hop on Pop, mostly because he loves to say "No Pat No, Don't Sit on THAT!" ("Don't sit on ouchy plant!" Joe likes to add, pointing to the prickly pear cactus that Pat is about to sit down on and rolling his eyes at Pat's stupidity.)

Bedtime story.
Look, Daddy's taking our photograph!

Good night!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My silly old dogs, and other news.

These two silly dogs decided to make a break for it early Sunday afternoon. When they got out, neither of them were wearing their collars or tags. Both dogs have run off before, but never together, and never without their tags. I thought their luck might have really run out this time. Our neighborhood is pretty rough, stray dogs are common, and my neighbors generally have bigger problems than taking in sweet, dumb dogs and finding their homes.

Don't these dogs realize that they are way too old for crazy excursions like this? Crouton (mutt-a-rific extraordinaire) is seven years old, and Omie (our brown pit bull) is now nine. In dog years, that translates to "solidly middle-aged" and "practically geriatric." But, alas, neither dog has grown wiser with age.

Poor Steve spent hours driving around our neighborhood on Sunday afternoon looking for them. But trying to find two crazy dogs in an area as densely populated as ours is very difficult - like trying to find two needles in a haystack.

I was so, so worried that we might never see these two pooches again.

But in addition being dumb as rocks, these dogs are lucky. They found themselves a nice lady who took them in and dropped them off at Animal Control on Sunday evening. Turns out there are good Samaritans, even in the 'hood. Thank goodness, both dogs are microchipped. (PSA: Chip your pets!) After a rough night of worry, we got a call from Animal Control on Monday morning that they were safe and sound, and we were able to retrieve them (after shame-facedly paying some fines) yesterday afternoon.

How are they? Well, they're acting like they went on a major bender, which they did. Both dogs ripped up their pads running all over town, and they're limping around, taking long naps, and generally looking their age and like they're feeling pretty sorry for themselves.

I am just so relieved and grateful to have them home.

Yesterday afternoon, Joe had his first speech assessment with the Oakland Unified School District. There will be two total - the second one is next Monday. For this one, a nice speech/language pathologist came to our house to play with Joe and assess his abilities. For some reason, Joe chose this moment to regress in his speech abilities by at least four or five months, refusing to answer questions, playing shy and coy, "speaking" in squeaks, squawks, and whines, and especially strange - speaking in baby talk. What? Joe doesn't usually baby talk. When he did say words, he sounded like he had a mouth full of marbles, even by garbled Joe-standards.

As soon as the speech/language pathologist left, he went back to his normal self, of course.

What gives, kid?

I guess the good news is that Joe is more likely to qualify for services ...

But there was one great moment during the assessment, when Joe was, at least momentarily, his usual self. The speech/language pathologist mentioned dogs, and Joe immediately starting telling her about Omie and Crouton. "Omie and Dooshon get out! Doggies run around and round! Outside! Daddy go find them! Mommy sad. Come back to pink house! Come back!" (Our house is a faded red, so Joe refers to it as "pink house.")

After this fast-paced story in garbled Joe-speak, the pathologist, totally clueless about our dog drama, just looked at me and said, "What?"

I smiled: "Um, it's a long story ... "

I think Joe summed the whole episode up pretty well, actually. Come back to pink house, doggies! We love you!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Mustard Greens.

We are starting to harvest vegetables from our new raised beds! Here are the first three dishes we've made with ingredients grown in our own back yard.

1) Baby mustard greens salad with mushrooms and carrots.

Baby mustard greens salad.

2) Wilted mustard greens with red pepper flakes and pecorino romano.

Wilted mustard greens with red pepper flakes and parmesan.

3) Salad with lettuce, mustard greens, peppers, and the miscellaneous contents of our fridge.

Salad with mustard greens.

Are you sensing a theme?

So at least one thing is growing really well in our new garden! Mustard greens! I think it's safe to say that mustard greens love Oakland, at least during this very late, wet, spring. And so far I've harvested all of this food just thinning them in order to prevent them from taking over a whole bed. The good news is that this pregnant lady is currently getting plenty of dark green leafy veggies.

I've been vegetable gardening in some form or another for much of my life, and if I have learned one thing, it's that the weirdest stuff always seems to thrive.

This may be especially true in the Bay Area, because our seasons are so screwy (foggy summers, wet-ish winters, spectacular springs and autumns).  So anyway, mustard greens! Who knew?

If you know of any amazing recipes that call for mustard greens, please let me know!

Friday, April 13, 2012

Patching knees.

Mikhaela of Polka Dot Overload recently wrote a post about mending, and asked her readers if they were "make and do menders" like her (she darns her socks!). To which I responded, a bit shame-faced, that despite having the required know-how and tools, I rarely mend anything. I confess: I actually outsource most of my mending and hemming jobs (especially on my work clothes) to my trusty local dry cleaner (which handles simple alterations). What can I say? Those folks do a great job (often better than I could do with a lot more effort) and they do it cheaply. And mending is boring. I'd much rather be making new stuff, with new fabric!

But I want to want to do more of our mending. I aspire to be all kinds of Depression-era/wartime thrifty, resourceful, and virtuous (don't we all?).

Remember Joe's "old man jeans," which I made last November? I called them old man jeans because they are (a) pleated front and high waisted; and (b) made from vivid, deep, bright blue denim.

Well, Joe wore them to death this past winter, and while they are still pleated and high-waisted, they are no longer bright blue. In fact, they are now soft, faded, and starting to blow out at the knees. But they still fit (mostly), and I think they still have some life left in them.

Knee Patches
Joe now wears through his clothes before growing out of them. Not because he isn't growing fast, but because he is that hard on clothes.

Inspired by Mikhaela and her darning, I decided to "make do and mend" and patch the knees. I figured this warranted using some of my new and super-precious Echino choo-choo trains (more projects with this fabric coming soon!). The trains don't really go with the band-aid flannel lining on these pants, but you rarely see the lining when the pants are in use anyway.

Knee Patches
Band-aids and trains.

The hardest part of patching knees is getting those darn knees under the sewing machine foot! If anything, this is even harder with little boy pants than it is with giant man pants. Rolling the pants up helps some, but it is still pretty tricky.

Knee Patches

I went very simple and just zig-zagged around the knee-patches. Done and done.

And here are some photos of the semi-old-man-jeans in action.When I put them on Joe this morning, he was excited at first, then annoyed and wanted "different pants!" and then got over it and wore his train-patched pants happily. Life with an almost-three-year-old!!

Knee Patches
Train patches, train t-shirts, toy trains, and random detritus.

Knee Patches
Walking on the train tracks.
Okay, okay, maybe mending isn't so bad. Especially when it means I'm extending the life of some of Joe's mama-made clothes. This really didn't take very much time. I should mend more often.

Steve always blows out the knees in his jeans too. Do you think he would like train fabric knee-patches? (He might!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


 Oh my goodness, my stripey maternity top was chosen by Made by Rae's judges as one of the "Top of the Tops - Week 2"!

When I saw the news this morning, I had to try hard to avoid actually squealing with glee at my desk at work, out of respect for my coworkers. By the way, I happen to be wearing this top today - with a blazer, bright colored scarf, and skinny black pants, in case you were wondering. (This would be the third time I've worn this top since I finished it, um, four days ago, so let's just say it's a favorite.)

I'm so flattered and excited! The other chosen tops are gorgeous, and I can't believe I'm in the line-up!

Inder - Stripey Maternity Top.

You can vote for your favorite top of the week here.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

I got stripes!

A couple of days ago I set out to make a loose, drapey, striped maternity top like this one from the Hatch Collection:

Done! (Tee hee.)

Stripey Maternity Top.

Why yes, I am quite pleased with myself! Can you tell?

I ended up completely winging this pattern, which is indeed basically four rectangles - the back, the front, and the two sleeves. I did slope the shoulders some, but that was about the only shaping I incorporated into the pattern. I had planned to use the t-shirt pattern from Sew U Home Stretch as a starting point, but I soon realized that the only real similarity between my inspiration top and the sailor-styled top in the book is the neckline, which is a variation on the crew neck t-shirt that requires that you redraft the neckline anyway. So I ended up really just making the whole thing up. I am pretty stoked to be able to call this "self-drafted" - a first for me, even if this was an insanely simple starting point.

But I was really glad that I finally cracked open my copy of Sew U Home Stretch, because it is jam-packed with great ideas and tips that I can really get excited about now that I am a little less knit-phobic.

My first version of the top was longer and had longer sleeves, more like the inspiration top. But when I tried it on, it looked like (a) an enormous nightgown; and (b) a prison uniform. Shortening the sleeves and the length of the top helped a little bit with this, although it's still a pretty voluminous style.

This soft striped jersey is a bit more substantial and less diaphanous than the ikat-printed knit I used for my first Spring Sew-Along Top. Thank goodness! With walking foot installed, it sewed up like a dream. What a nice change from my last experience! I was glad that the pattern shapes were so rectangular, since that made it a whole lot easier to match the stripes.

Steve took this silly photo of me sitting on a ladder. We're trying to work on our "fashion shoots" and mix things up a bit. I think our messy, toy-filled backyard totally makes the shot, am I right?

Stripey Maternity Top.

It's super soft and comfy, of course. And plenty roomy, at least for now. While I'm tempted to say, "This should last me through the end of this pregnancy," I seem to recall that I got pretty dang huge with Joe. So we shall see. It will last me a while yet, that I know.