Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Must. Pipe. Everything.

I've found that the best way to cope with sewing failures is to destroy all evidence of the failure as soon as possible. After my depressing skirt flop, I decided to cut that sucker up and turn it into something I could be proud of: a piped-to-within-an-inch-of-its-life "Geranium" top for Maggie.

Maggie Geranium top.

Take that, ugly unflattering skirt!

Maggie Geranium top.

Maggie is sniffling and teething, so she was naturally in a little bit of a bad mood during this photo shoot. Thus, there were only two things that really cheered her up: (1) being allowed to climb the stairs, which are generally gated off and forbidden; and (2) being allowed to eat toilet paper.

Maggie Geranium top.

Maggie Geranium top.

Wow. The light in my upstairs bathroom is beautiful. Soft, white, glowing ... I wish the light in the rest of the house was like this! I should do all of my photoshoots in the bathroom! I bet Maggie would love that too. (Although it was annoying having to put down the camera occasionally to fish TP out of her mouth.)

Maggie Geranium top.

Oh, I am so proud of this top. Sewing failure transformed into sewing success! The piping really suits this fabric, which has such a soft, old-fashioned, sepia photograph feeling to it. Initially, I was just going to pipe the waistline and armholes (as suggested by this great post), and I even sewed it up like that. But I wasn't happy with the neckline. It needed to be piped too! So I picked out the stitches and redid it with more navy piping. And I am so glad!

This is the sleeveless/gathered skirt version of the pattern, with a plain neckline, in size 12-18 months. It fits perfectly! It may not fit for long, but it's satisfying to put something on Maggie that works perfectly right now. She is at such a funny size lately - I feel like I am constantly guessing at what size to cut out for her. Many of the things I sew for her turn out too large. She can be anywhere from 6 month size to 18 month size depending on the garment. I guess I should actually measure her? (Crazy!)

The only change I made to the pattern was to lengthen it somewhat, by cutting out the next largest size in length. (I also used hem facing rather than hemming it, which adds a bit more length.) I am glad I did, because the length is just right. It is what my friend calls a "knicker-skimmer."

My piping skills are definitely improving, and the piping mostly went in without a hitch. Corners are a challenge, so the button placket on the back is a bit curved, which I think looks fine. Sewing a gathered skirt onto a piped bodice is no picnic, though, partly because you have to sew it with the the gathers underneath, which is normally not how I do it. If you can't see the gathers, there is a good chance they are getting all bunched up and messy down there. Luckily, I just bought myself a nice sharp new seam-ripper. Ha.

Those little blue mother-of-pearl buttons from the stash look just right. When you are on a fabric/pattern diet and trying to sew solely from your stash, you really appreciate the value of having giant stockpiles of fabric, buttons, notions, and sundry. Which is sort of self-defeating, if you think about it! Alas, I don't think I will ever be a minimalist when it comes to sewing supplies.

This fabric diet was made possible by an enormous stash.

Maggie Geranium top.

Much of the finishing of this dress was done by hand. Once you've done that much piping, it doesn't pay to rush through the finishing, right? I stitched down the lining by hand (I have never figured out how to stitch in the ditch successfully), and used navy hem facing to finish the hem, hand stitching that in place as well. The piping and hem facing came from my box of vintage notions, picked up at some point on eBay. I know I have been singing the praises of bias hem facing on this blog for a while now - here you can see it in action. The deep hem is clean, pretty, and old fashioned. And being on the bias, it can be hand or machine stitched without any puckers. (When I come off this fast, I am going to have to buy more vintage hem facing.)

This is my third Geranium, so I probably don't have to tell you that I really like this pattern, huh? It's great. I love that it can look very minimalist and modern (as here) or very old fashioned, as with this top. When I first started sewing, I used to buy a pattern that exactly matched what I was looking for, and then make it once or maybe twice at the most. Now, with the help of amazing indie designers like Rae, who draft very versatile, adaptable patterns, I am much more likely to buy a few patterns, and make them over and over again, with different variations. (Of course, before I sound too virtuous, I should note that any savings realized from this are quickly invested in my giant stash of supplies, see above.)

I will leave you with an impromptu shot of both my children - dirty, a little snotty-nosed, with miscellaneous detritus in the background, but (in my eyes) just beautiful.

Maggie Geranium top.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Roly Poly!

I am an unapologetic fabric hoarder. My modus operandi is to buy fabrics that I love, just because I love them, usually 2 or more yards. Sometimes I have a specific project in mind and sometimes I have only a glimmer of a possible project ... sometimes I have no idea what I plan to do with the yardage! I take my fabric home, wash it, fold it up neatly, and then let it sit in my stash until inspiration strikes. I have fabrics in my piles that I have had for a decade or more. I love them - I just haven't found the perfect thing to do with them yet. But I will! I don't consider myself a "collector" - that is, I am not just collecting for the sake of collecting - I sew from my stash constantly and consistently. Like any artist, I just like to have lots of great supplies on hand.

But even by my standards, my stash is out of control right now! It's exploding out of my cupboard and onto the floor! At some point you have to stop acquiring and start actually sewing. So this month, I decided to challenge myself to sew only from my stash. Between now and mid-July: no fabric or pattern shopping! Partly to save some money (always a good thing), and also to motivate myself to make some of the projects I've been shopping for, and use up stash pieces. I am mentioning this here, because I know you readers will hold me to it! (Fine print: Notions, buttons, thread, elastic are allowed. Thrifted anything is allowed. No eBay lots, though! Downloadable patterns that are less than $10 are okay if used to sew up stash fabrics.)
So here we go! First up, I made a Roly Poly Pinafore for Maggie! This is Imagine Gnats' adorable new pattern - a reversible cross-back apron/pinafore dress with buttons on the shoulders and an inverted pleat in the front.

Roly Poly Pinafore

The pattern can be made with just one piece (front wrapping around to the back), but I opted to use two different fabrics: yellow printed gingham for the front (it's printed to look like it's on the bias) and some precious owls I've been stashing for years for the back. Because both fabrics are a little sheer, I opted to line it in muslin rather than make it fully reversible.

I decided the front needed a little useless owl pocket. Just cuz.

Roly Poly Pinafore

These fantastic vintage buttons have been in my stash forever. I love them. I was so excited to finally put them on a project that is worthy of them!

Roly Poly Pinafore

Love these owls and all of their expressions!

This pattern is super easy and fast to sew up. Seriously, it is the ideal project for someone brand new to sewing - very simple and satisfying! And I can see it in a variety of fabrics and weights. Love. It.

There is only one problem. It's way too big for Maggie! WAAAAAAAAH.

It looks okay (if a bit long) from the back.

Roly Poly Pinafore

But from the front, it's falling off her! (Sorry for the way overexposed photographs, it was really bright and sunny when I took these photos.) DRAT. I really should have made the 6 month size! What was I thinking?? (It's always hard to say with Maggie, because she's reasonably chubby, but she's not that tall. Sigh.)

Roly Poly Pinafore

I know she'll grow into it, and it will be adorable when she does. I'm just hoping it isn't the dead of winter when that happens! (Speaking of winter, this would be super cute in corduroy lined in flannel to wear over long sleeves. Hmmmm.)

Roly Poly Pinafore

Oh, well, there is only one possible solution: Make another one, in the smaller size, that Maggie can wear right away.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Birthday dresses.

Today was my niece Helen's third birthday party. Can't believe she's already three! She used to seem like such a baby in comparison to Joe. Now they seem practically the same age. Crazy how that happens.

A fun time was had by all. I took the opportunity to take a few photos of Helen in her birthday dress.

Helen's Third Birthday party

The fit couldn't be more perfect (except that Helen is so insanely tall for a three year old that I really could have added some additional length to the size 4). And the colorful fabric looks fantastic with Helen's red curls!

Helen's Third Birthday party

I just love this pattern! I want to sew a million Geraniums! Those cap sleeves are perfect for keeping the sun off fair skinned shoulders.

Helen's Third Birthday party

It even coordinated perfectly with her "rainbow butterfly" face painting. She looks like a pensive fairy child here.

Helen's Third Birthday party

Happy birthday Helen! It's going to be a big year for you. You're about to move into a great new house, and you'll be getting a little brother or sister (and I'll be getting a new niece or nephew to sew for!) this autumn. We are all so excited for your family!

It seemed fitting to dress Maggie in the dress I made for Helen's first birthday: the "Pretty as a Picture" dress from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings book. I was so excited to see it in the boxes of hand-me-downs we got from Helen.

Dresses aren't very practical for Maggie, because they get in the way of crawling. And climbing stuff. And being the crazy monkey child that she is. (As I recall, this was an issue for Helen at age one, too.) So I decided to shorten it into a tunic top.

Remake of Helen's first birthday dress

I still love these fabrics, even if that panel does make me think of that Portlandia skit - "put a bird on it!"

Remake of Helen's first birthday dress

This dress was so easy to put together, and I love the folksy vibe of the wrapped bodice and "apron" skirt. It has a little elastic in the back to cinch it in, and the fit is super cute. I recently gave this book away, feeling like I've made what I'm going to make from it, and I've outgrown these simple patterns. But this dress reminds me that "beginner" patterns are often fantastic. It is so fun to put something on Maggie that I made for Helen two years ago, and to still love it.

Remake of Helen's first birthday dress

Can't believe this little girl is almost one! Smoochy smoochy.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Some blog business.

Just a quick business post. If you use Bloglovin' to read your blogs, follow my blog with Bloglovin.

And I'm updating my blogroll! Finally! After about two years of ignoring it, some of the blogs were no longer active, and most of my current awesome bloggy friends were not represented. So check it out! It's still a work in progress - I have a handful more links to add. If you read my blog and have a blog of your own that you think I would enjoy, link to your blog in the comments! (Also, if you know I read your blog and you'd like to be on the list, gently remind me! My reader is a mess, I know I've missed some folks.) I love blogs about sewing, cooking, gardening, family life, everyday life, whatever! I try to follow my readers' blogs. Y'all are the best.


Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Eleven Months!

Eleven months!

Look who is now ELEVEN MONTHS old! You know what that means, right? She is almost a year old. Wow! Baby girl is almost a toddler.

Unfortunately, right before this photo shoot, this little daredevil took a little spill down the back steps and banged up her face. It doesn't seem to be bothering her much, but it definitely gives her a "bruiser" look. She's like, "You should see the other guy."

Our little bruiser.

The past month has been more of the same, basically. Maggie is even funnier, even cuter, even faster, and even more into mischief than last month. She's even crazier with her cruising (but still not walking), more daring with her stunts, but still the sweetest little snugglebug at night. She wakes up a couple times a night to nurse (I cosleep with her), but after getting her fill, she just breathes a sigh of contentment, rolls over, and conks out. For hours. She's an excellent bedmate. With Joe, cosleeping was a survival tactic. With Maggie, it is a pleasure and a joy. No, honestly! (The fact that she is probably my last baby definitely helps.)

(Edited to add: Never say anything like this on the internet. Invariably, your child will immediately start sleeping like crap - thrashing you all night and insisting on near-constant boobification. It is one of the unchangeable laws of the universe: People who brag about their child's sleep on their blogs must be punished.)

Eleven months!

Maggie has always been a great eater. She's far more excited about food and adventurous with her eating than Joe ever was (it's so hard not to constantly compare your kids!). But she still really loves mama's milk too. I'm still pumping at work and will probably continue a bit past a year. For various reasons, Joe was occasionally supplemented with formula, but Maggie has only had mother's milk, which I am so proud of. Don't get me wrong - I don't feel the least bit bad about how things went with Joe and I was super glad to have formula at the time, but I do feel fantastic about nursing and pumping exclusively for Miss Margaret!

Eleven months!

After my recent sewing struggles, it felt great to whip up a pair of stripey Fancy Pants leggings using a couple of old thrifted t-shirts for this shoot. This pattern is so fun - fast, easy, you can't just make one pair - delicious salty potato chips! Here, I was able to use the hem from the t-shirt so I didn't even have to hem them. So fun and colorful!

Eleven months!

And she's off!

Monday, June 10, 2013

You win some ...

 ... and you lose some. I'm afraid this week has been a "loser" when it comes to sewing.

After Joe refused to wear his awesome Parsleys, I tried to buck myself up by sewing something for myself. Since "Me Made May" (which I did not participate in, but enjoyed as a reader), I have been inspired to sew more clothes for myself. Right now, I could never do a "Me Made May" because I generally have at most three or four handsewn items in general rotation in my wardrobe (and that's on a good day). And since having Maggie, my body has been in a transitional state - I have lost a lot of the baby weight, but I'm still holding onto a bit more. I don't have many clothes that fit and make me feel great about myself. Good reasons to sew!

After hunting through the stash a bit, I decided to try the Crescent Skirt by Sewaholic patterns. I have admired many versions of Sewaholic patterns on the sewing webs, but have never tried sewing one. One reason for that, which may be relevant to this sad tale, is that Sewaholic patterns are intended to fit and be flattering on "pear-shaped women." I, on the other hand, am not pear-shaped. I am bigger of bosom than hip. But I love this style of skirt. It has a late 70s, early 80s vibe, and you know how I like that. And I have worn this style in the past and found it very flattering and fun.

Uh. Not this time, apparently. Despite tinkering and fussing with this thing for two solid days, it is too big, unflattering, sits on a weird place in my body, has strange poofy bits, makes me feel like I'm as big as a house, and ... yeah, I just pretty much hate it!

Sad, sorry, abandoned skirt project.

This pattern has so much promise! I have seen it modeled by women of all shapes and sizes, and know it to be a flattering style on a variety of body types. But it just isn't working for me. Despite working from my measurements and the finished garment measurements, the size I cut was much too large. Even after taking inches off everywhere, it is still too big. Frumpers-frumpersville!

Maybe I'll cut it up and make Maggie a Geranium dress from it. I do love this understated calico.

Right now, I am too discouraged to consider whether or not I should give this pattern another shot, maybe in a smaller size. Ugh. Maybe after I've had some time to recover.

Today's "keeping it real" message: Sewing for yourself can be really fun and empowering! Or, it can suck giant donkey you-know-whats.

In the effort to chalk this up to some kind of "learning experience," here's what I learned:

1. Muslins are a good idea!
2. Muslins are a good idea!
3. Muslins are a good idea!
4. I suck at stitching in the ditch.

I am determined not to give up on my goal to sew more for myself, though. Sewing for an adult woman (with taste) is more difficult than sewing for children. It just is. But if I want to get better at it, I need to push through the difficulty and keep learning. I just need to get back on that horse (donkey? ha) and try again.

But maybe I'll just make another Briar t-shirt first ...

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The ones they refuse to wear.

Train pants - the ones they won't wear.

I made these super cool jeans for Joe using Made by Rae's Parsley Pants. They are funkadelic awesome. What can I say? I have been listening to a lot of disco/Motown/funk lately. The trains are Echino, of course. Which I have used for two other pairs of jeans (here and here) for Joe.

Unfortunately, Joe doesn't like them. He has consistently refused to even put them on. As you know, bribes don't work on Joe - he is "untouchable." I got them on him this morning for long enough to determine that they fit perfectly and are the cutest thing this side of the Mississippi, but he took them off immediately.

I thought that maybe if I told him I was going to give them to his cousin Helen, he might get territorial and decide he likes them after all. But it didn't work. Now he is telling me, "Mama, give them to Helen. She likes trains. She will like them. I don't like them."

If you think it's silly to have your feelings hurt by a four year old ... well, you are right, it is silly.

Don't mind me. I'm just going to go lie down and cry for a bit.

But anyway, this pattern is awesome. It fits my ungrateful little guy just right. Hopefully Helen will like them!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Briar top.

More selfish sewing! Here is Megan Nielsen's Briar Top, which is basically a simple t-shirt, but with an interesting hemline.

Briar Top.

After my sizing issues with the Kelly Skirt, I was prepared for this to run a bit small. So I cut out a Large. And it was way too big! I can't win. Luckily, this one is very easy to take in and shorten. Even the shoulders and sleeves are easy to adjust, because the shape is so simple.

I did the regular neck binding and it lays just right. 

I found this awesome paisley knit at Britex Fabrics on my last visit. It is probably a cotton/rayon mix? Substantial, but still drapey. I love it. I have enough left for a little skirt or tank ....

Briar Top.

Joe brought me a flower! A yellow nasturtium flower. Nasturtium is a weed in our garden, actually. Joe can pick as many flowers as he wants - maybe he can slow it down from self-seeding? Plus, it's sweet.

Briar Top.

It smells like pepper, Joe! (I swear I was sniffing the flower, not blowing on it, not that you would ever guess that!)

Briar Top.

Oh hi, Maggie!!!!! She was a little grumpy and wanted to be picked up.

Briar Top.

In case you were wondering, taking photographs from below minimizes a large bust, but maximizes extra chins ... again, I can't win!

This is obviously meant to be paired with skinny jeans, but I think it might look pretty good tucked into a skirt with a cardigan ... or over a narrow pencil skirt? I'll find out and report back.