Friday, May 31, 2013

Because girls love cars too!

Geranium dress in city fabric

My second Geranium dress, this time in a blue linen and cityscape and cars fabric. This is for my friend's daughter's fourth birthday. I made exactly the same model as my first version - plain neckline, cap sleeves, pleated skirt with side pockets. I love the gathered version of the dress too. I'll have to whip that up next ...

Geranium dress

I love this fabric. It's Michael Miller. It's not fair that boys get all the awesome car fabric, am I right? Girls like cars (and bugs and dinosaurs) too.

I lined the top in a soft shirting cotton. It doesn't really go, but it's soft. It's the same fabric I used to back Joe's quilt, and to line Maggie's Ice Cream top. It's so buttery soft. I love it, but I don't have much left!

Geranium dress in cars

I struggled mightily over whether to go with yellow, orange, or green buttons on the back. Or some combination. I'm happy with my choice. (The combination was fun, but I decided it was too distracting. Ha. These are earth shattering decisions!)

I hope its recipient will love it as much as I do! As much as I love floral prints (and I do), I really enjoyed picking out some more unusual, less girly fabrics for this dress.

And here is Maggie and Crouton, basking in the sun on the lawn while I take photographs. Crouton just had his summer haircut so he looks even kookier than usual.

Maggie and dog

Kiss kiss.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Kelly Skirt.

Sewing for me! YAY!

I sewed up several of Megan Nielsen's maternity patterns when I was pregnant. Her patterns are easy, intuitive, and fast - nicely finished but without too many fussy details. The packaging is lovely, the instructions straight-forward and easy, and the patterns themselves are printed on nice, heavy paper. So I was excited to try out some of her non-maternity patterns.

This is Megan Nielsen's Kelly Skirt, a cute, high-waisted button-down skirt with generous pockets. I decided to sew it up in chambray to expand my options for casual Fridays - in the summertime, I don't always want to wear jeans on Fridays. The gray mother-of-pearl buttons give the skirt a bit of polish.

Here it is, right after I finished sewing on the buttons, nicely pressed.

Kelly Skirt

Sewing up this pattern was not without its hiccups. When I sewed the skirt up the first time, it was one size too small! I had made the cardinal sewing error of going with my RTW size, rather than my actual measurements.

This was me when I realized my error: "Waaaaaaaaah!!!!"

What a discouraging (and annoyingly dumb) mistake! I admit, I almost put the project aside entirely after that.

But after a good night's sleep, I determined that I would not be defeated. I ripped the waistband off, cut a larger waistband, and put it back together, adjusting the pleats slightly to fit. This time, I used my actual measurements and calculated exactly how long I needed the waistband to be. And the fit was perfect.

The only other adjustment I made to the pattern was to lengthen it by three inches. As drafted, this skirt is fairly short (even on me - I am only 5'4"). I prefer my skirts to hit around the knee (especially if I'm going to be wearing them to work with bare legs), so I knew it was going to need some extra length.

And here it is again, after being worn two days in a row, a little rumply and looking a lot more like how it normally will.

Kelly skirt

Based my experience making this skirt, I have only one piece of constructive criticism: I think the sizing runs a bit small, in comparison to RTW clothing. Don't make the same mistake I did and assume that because you are usually a "medium" that your Kelly Skirt will be too! Definitely pay attention to those finished garment measurements, because they are spot-on.

That's not really the criticism, though. I mean, checking your measurements should be Garment Sewing 101. That was a massive fail on my part. The bummer, in my mind, is that the small sizing potentially makes this pattern inaccessible to women of larger sizes (I consider myself pretty average, but I measure a size L in this pattern, which only goes up to XL). And that's a shame, because this is a really cute cut that is flattering on women of all different shapes and sizes. I'm not advocating vanity sizing, but I hope future patterns will have a wider size range.

That said, if you're on the edge of the sizing for this skirt, it would be really easy to just lengthen the waistband a bit (like I did) and reduce the pleating a little. I recommend doing this before you've sewn the whole thing together, of course. I had no idea chambray was so hard to pick seams from! I almost went blind trying to see the blue thread and every little mistake shows.

Kelly skirt

But I'm glad I spent the time "making this work," because I love my new skirt. There will definitely be an autumn version in corduroy, and this time I will measure before I sew.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Geranium in Bloom.

It recently came to my attention that my niece Helen has mostly outgrown all of her auntie-mades. She is a string bean - skinny but very tall for her age. She is also turning three in a couple of weeks. And she likes to wear dresses. Girls this age are really fun to sew for! So I've been on a little bit of a Helen sewing kick.

I decided to make the birthday girl a party dress.

Geranium Dress in Echino

Yes, this is Made By Rae's Geranium Dress. By now you've seen a million iterations of this fantastic pattern all over the 'nets. Don't tell my husband, but I might have gone a little overboard buying patterns recently. I have more (exciting) patterns than I have time to sew, eep! (I also got the Parsley pants, so stay tuned for those!)

Anyway, I opted for the cap sleeve, pleats (there are in-seam pockets!) and plain neckline. The bodice is lined in muslin.

Geranium dress in Echino

And yes, the fabric is Echino "Bloom." (Geranium in Bloom! Get it? Hehehe. I am so clever!) I bought it to make something for myself, but is so ... loud. I love it, but I couldn't quite wrap my head around actually wearing something this bright. So it's funny that now that I've sewn this dress up for Helen, I keep thinking, "I would totally wear this dress!" Haha. So it goes.

I often buy fabric with one idea in mind, only to have second thoughts about its intended purpose. So the fabric sits in the stash for a while ... later, inspiration hits, and it's used for something very different! The end result is that I can feel smug and virtuous about using "stash" fabric instead of new fabric, ha. Because fabrics that sit unused in my piles for more than a year become free, didn't you know?

Geranium, back

I hope to get some shots of the dress modeled by my lovely redheaded niece at some point ...

In other news, our garden is wild and wonderful this year. The tomatoes are flowering, the greens are ready to make salad, and there are so many honeybees you can hear them buzzing around the borage from across the garden!

Check out our poppy patch! Some of these plants are over six feet tall!

Poppy patch

Bee and poppy

Bee and poppy

I love bees. When the children are a little older, I really want to keep my own hives. I may get chickens too. For now, two dogs and two kids are enough work, but I try to grow lots of bee-friendly flowers. I love to see honeybees and bumble bees rolling around delightedly in a poppy flower. It seems like a good life, being a bee. As Joe says, "The bees are my friends! But I don't touch the bees." That's right, Joe. Some friends need their personal space.

And here's farmer Joe, helping mama with the clothesline. He really is a looker, isn't he?

My beautiful Joe

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Ten Months!

Ten months!

Maggie is ten months old. These photo shoots are getting dang near impossible! Child will not stay on her back for two consecutive seconds. Insanity! Also, yeah, I think her knees and feet are kind of dirty? What can I say? She's constantly crawling around our dusty, dirty house!

Ten months!

When I found out we were having a girl, everyone told me how much easier and less active they are than little boys. But Maggie is a very active little girl. She does not seem as insane or destructive as Joe was, but my bet is on her walking earlier than he did. Joe walked at 13 months. Maggie can already stand up without support. She cruises furniture and can take one step, from one piece of furniture to another, unsupported. So I'm thinking Miss Margaret Joy is going to walk before a year. Who knows? Only time will tell.

But heavens above, she is cute! Right? My brown-eyed lassie.

Ten months!

As often happens in Oakland in the late Spring, we're in the middle of a big heat wave. The sort of heat wave that gets your hopes up about your tomato crop, and makes you want to sew (and wear) shorts.  So I whipped up a pair of Big Butt Baby Shorts, using red linen/cotton and a scrap of precious Heather Ross for the rear panel.

Ten months!

You know that our tomatoes are going to be terribly disappointed when the fog rolls in in June, of course. Who knows how often we will be wearing shorts ...

And she's off! Mermaid butt!!!

Ten months!

As a mother of a speech delayed kid, who, by the way, seemed perfectly normal at Maggie's age, at least to this inexperienced first time mom, I tend to second guess myself on the whole speech development thing with her. Like, I thought maybe she said "Mama"? I think that maybe she babbles a bit more than Joe did? But maybe not, maybe I just imagined it? Her poor pediatrician asks a simple question "what sounds does she say?" and it turns into an hour long, self-doubting diatribe on the other kid.

But recently she has started waving and saying, with perfectly clarity, "buh buh."  Usually after the person leaving has left the building, but nonetheless.

So, yeah, I think she does say "mama"! Be still my heart. Joe (love that boy to bits and pieces) didn't say "mama" until he was a good deal past two. Of course, Joe's speech is all the more special and precious for the wait, but then, so is Maggie's when it comes down to it. This mama does not take "mama" for granted.

Ten months!

Of course, most of the time, she's saying, "buh buh mama!" She has places to go! Things to explore! A brother to keep up with! "Peace out, mama!" But still, I'll take it! Love you, Bunny Sweets Maggie McGee. Catch ya later, Pumpkin Berry.*

* Yes, I give my children embarrassing pet names. Lots of them.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Citronille "Guillemette."

Have you heard of Citronille patterns? It is a line of (mostly) children's sewing patterns. Gorgeous, old-fashioned, and very French. As in, the instructions are in French.

Do I know any French? Uh, no. Not really. But I didn't let that stop me (or even slow me down). Luckily, some illustrations are provided, and for the rest, there is always Google Translate ...

Citronille Guilemette Blouse

This is the Guillemette blouse.  Just a simple peasant blouse/tunic style. I have some beautiful Liberty lawn, which I was thinking of turning into a peasant blouse for Maggie, but I decided to make a trial version first. This fabric might look familiar to long-time followers of the blog. I made a dress from it when Joe was a toddler. It is a soft, light, swiss dot in a dark green print. To me, it has a bit of an old-lady-curtains vibe. Which I happen to love.

Citronille Guilemette Blouse

The main change I made was to use elastic in the neckline instead of gathering and binding it in bias as the pattern calls for. You can't see it in these photos, but I used pink bias at the neckline and wrists, and pink hem facing at the hem. I love bias hem facing for curved hems. It is so much easier than trying to press a hem, and it looks polished and professional to boot. I just attached the bias hem facing, pressed it, and machine stitched it down. Because the facing is cut on the bias, it adapts itself to the shape of the hem (even a very curved hem), so there is no need to ease the hemline to fit, and there are no puckers. A little hot steam, pin, stitch, and done. Here, I was pleased with the longer length of the tunic without hemming, so it was especially perfect (and a good way of getting the most from a shorter length of fabric).

Citronille Guilemette Blouse

This tunic is a practical piece. It looks great with leggings, but it's not so long that it gets in the way of crawling (longer tops and dresses make Maggie mad; baby girl needs to be able to get around). It's lightweight but gives a little coverage for cool ocean breezes. It would be very easy to make it short sleeved, or even sew it up in a knit, too. Nice basic cut.

Citronille Guilemette Blouse

But while I think this blouse turned out really cute, I am not 150% in love with this pattern. For such a simple pattern, the fit is a bit weird - puffy all over, but strangely tight around the armpits (I shaved a little excess fabric off with my serger, which improved that issue but did not resolve it completely). Since ordering the pattern, I've read elswhere that Citronille sizing can be a bit wonky, and I am inclined to agree at this point (although it could just be this pattern, in this particular size). 

So, having made up this trial version, I decided that I would prefer to use the Liberty lawn for another Class Picnic Blouse. The fit, details, and finishing on the Class Picnic are impeccable. As usual, Oliver + s is just a step above the competition. And I think that the little yoke will really help show off the beautiful Liberty fabric. For such precious fabric, I would rather use a slightly more precise and well drafted pattern. English instructions are also a plus.

And this is why, when considering how to use your gorgeous but pricey Liberty, it is always good to make a trial version in beautiful, but not-so-precious fabric that has been sitting in your stash for years! I do love this little blouse, it is a very easy and fun way to use small amounts of pretty fabric, and I have a feeling this won't be the last one I make. C'est si bon!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


Just like that. I have a four year old.


It hasn't completely sunk in for me yet.  Or for Joe, who keeps insisting he's "still three."

Four years!

It has been a great year for Joe. A challenging year for us parents, but a great year for him. Our speech delayed child is talking our ears off (read: arguing with us about every.single.thing), asserting his will, and learning new things everyday. Joe is funny, smart, and caring. He says "I love you, Mama/Daddy!" and "I love you, Maggie" all the time now. But he's also very stubborn. He is a Taurus after all. He's untouchable, like Eliot Ness.

And he's a great big brother. He loves his little sister. And she loves him too.

(Note: He is not allowed to carry his little sister, but he ignores this rule and carries her around every day, despite our scoldings. And she really doesn't seem to mind.)

Friday, May 3, 2013

Baby wearing at its best.

Last Saturday, I attended the Golden Gate All Day Sacred Harp Singing in San Francisco, with Maggie. I wore her in the ring sling, pretty much the whole day, and she was generally happy and as snug as a bug. Here we are leading the song "Messiah" (page 131 on the top - Denson book) towards the end of the day (video taken by my friend Dan Harper).

If you're not familiar with Sacred Harp music and this video interests you, you can learn more here.

It was a beautiful day, and a really lovely singing! (And the food was delicious as always!)