Friday, February 28, 2014

Kitchen groove.

Remember this? My kitchen counter and stove area? In my last post, I mentioned that I was considering adding a bit more vertical storage, and possibly a pegboard.

Kitchen before and after

Well, over the past couple weekends, Steve and I have been tricking it out with a lot of vertical storage. Like, a lot a lot. Check it out!

Kitchen wall - AFTER

We installed a pegboard! I won't lie: I am in love with the pegboard. It is just so groovy. I smile when I walk into my kitchen now. Plus, the function! Julia Child knew what's what. Now our most frequently used implements are in easy reach, and our cupboards and drawers are approximately five million times more manageable now that they are no longer stuffed to the gills with tools. Just opening the pots and pan cupboard used to make me panicky: No longer, people.

For anyone interested in hanging a pegboard in their own home, it was pretty simple. We used two of these Triton pegboards. They are nice and sturdy, much nicer than what we found at Home Depot (delivered free in 2 days with Amazon Prime). On a warm day, I used a roller to apply three coats of primer + paint in a semi-gloss olive green that is slightly darker than our wall. I thought the paint would glom up in the holes, but it really didn't. While I was doing that, Steve screwed two long strips of wood (about 3/4" thick and 1 3/4" wide) to the studs along that wall and used drywall anchors to secure the third. To work correctly, the pegboard has to "float" away from the wall so that there is room for the hooks to hang from the holes. Drilling into the studs or using good drywall anchors is necessary if you want the board to hold any significant weight (i.e., pots and pans).

We got an assorted set of hooks, which are really awesome and actually screw into the board (and thus are very sturdy and can hold a lot of weight). But many of the hooks turned out to be better suited for a garage or tool storage than kitchen storage. For our purposes, we really just wanted about 50 short and medium length hooks. Ah well, live and learn.

Once your pegboard is up, it's time to start arranging the hooks to hold your stuff! I see the current set-up as a "first draft." I'm sure I'll be moving things and perfecting the arrangement as time goes on.

Kitchen wall - AFTER

I also did a little Ikea shopping and had Steve install two pot racks over our stove. Yay! Now I can display my copper bottomed pots! So much awesome here.

New curtains

I did do a tiny bit of sewing in the past couple weeks, too. I whipped up some new kitchen curtains using some inexpensive Ikea fabric. They're nothing fancy. I was reminded that there is a reason I avoid sewing curtains: so boring!! My sewing machine doesn't have a setting that is fast enough to make these anything but tedious. But I'm glad now that they are done.

This is still very much a work in progress and I have ideas for more improvements and maybe some new artwork. So this isn't the "final reveal," just a progress report. On my list of accessories to look for on Etsy: a natural jute macrame plant holder, more 70s era Pyrex, and a more colorful kettle worthy of our groovy new kitchen.

Maggie stepstool

Can you guess what Maggie's favorite new item is? The step stool, naturally! (Also necessary for me to reach things on the potrack and pegboard.) When I told Steve I got a step stool, he said, "Great! Maggie will enjoy climbing it and falling off!" Pretty much!

Maggie coordinating with the decor

In other news, Joe recently said: "Mama, can you make me orange and yellow pants?"

To which I responded: "Aye aye, captain!"

Monday, February 17, 2014

The glorious 1970s, decade of my birth.

70s Pattern for Mags

Stash fabric and pattern busting!! I bought this pattern from Etsy a while back with a fall/winter outfit for Maggie in mind. With the pressure of the single-sized pattern upon me, and brown thread in the serger, I decided to whip it up using the last scraps of brown corduroy I had leftover from this ancient project (oh my, how my sewing has improved in three years!!). And when I say "last scraps," I mean, it was a very close fit, especially given the directionality of the corduroy.

See, I do use fabric pieces that have been sitting around for years! Sometimes.

So, this entitles to me to a fabric shopping trip, right?

70s Pattern for Mags

I hemmed and hawed a bit about what fabric to use for the contrast sleeve, and whether to incorporate any of the 1970s-style trim. I considered using a peachy floral for the sleeves with an eyelet ruffle at the neck. But in the end, I opted to make a very minimalist version of the pattern, skipping all of the eyelet lace, rick-rack, and all the rest of it, letting the little ruffle sleeves take center stage. I showed all of my sleeve options to Steve and he said, "the plaid, there's no contest." So I went with the plaid, and I'm really happy with it! It's retro without being too prissy or precious.

70s Pattern for Mags

Turns out I needn't have felt quite so much pressure from the single-sized pattern, because the size 1 is actually a bit too big on little 19-month-old Maggie, especially in the shoulders. Yes, she's a little peanut, but also, some of these "vintage" (in quotes because we are talking about after I was born!) patterns do seem to run a bit large. Well, hopefully it will work as a top next winter.

70s Pattern for Mags

Maggie loves her bubble maker. Despite us telling her it's an "outside toy" she is constantly picking it up and bringing it in the house. Sometimes we indulge her by letting her make a few bubbles in the kitchen (even though the soapy bubbles tend to make the floor slippery). Her joyful shrieks of "BUBBA! BUBBA!" are pretty much irrestible.

70s Pattern for Mags

Here she is saying "need help!" which sounds kind of like "eee-elp!" She wants me to turn on the "bubbas."

Okay, baby. It is so hard to say no to that face!

70s Pattern for Mags

70s Pattern for Mags

Back to sewing geekery: Like many vintage patterns, the finishing of this dress is really simple - bias tape is used to finish off the neck. I also used bias hem tape for the hem, and tacked all of the bias down by hand to give the dress a very clean look from the outside. Hemming an a-line skirt like this can be pretty challenging, but bias hem tape makes it a breeze as well as reducing bulk in a heavy fabric like corduroy.

I did a centered zip just as the instructions call for. I considered an invisible zipper, but I just happened to have the exact right length non-invisible brown zipper in the stash. Zippers are not my forte, but it turned out okay. One of these days I really want to master the lapped zipper, which I think looks nicer than a centered zipper, but every time I attempt it, it's a total wreck. Centered zipper it is!

Centered back zip

What better backdrop for this 1970s, brown and orange dress than my yellow and "avocado" kitchen, right?

70s Pattern for Mags

Maggie's leggings are mama-made as well, of course. This girl never seems to have enough leggings to keep her legs warm under her dresses, so I whipped up a couple pairs of Playtime leggings for her. I have several leggings patterns, and they are all pretty much easy and great. I love the ease of the one piece pattern, and these whip up super fast. I finished the waists and ankles with good ol' zig-zag. It seems to me that zig-zag gets a bad rap in the sewing blog world, with most people preferring a coverstitch or twin-needle finish for hems. I do use a twin-needle to hem shirts for myself, but for my kids, I admit I usually go with the much easier and faster (set-up wise) zig-zag finish. I usually use a shallow, narrow zig-zag (2 stitch width and 2.5 length), and I think it looks fine, and that's if you are scrutinizing my hems, which most people don't do.

Sometimes I think we home sewists worry too much about having a "professional" finish, like everything we make needs to look like it was purchased at Target.

To which I say, "Meh."

Plus, from the distance of two feet, they do look like they could be purchased at Target.

Speaking of my 1970s themed kitchen, I have wanted to reconfigure the cabinets, install a stove hood, and repaint it almost since we moved in seven years ago, but the size of the project is daunting, especially with small children underfoot, and we've just never had the budget for it.  So in keeping my "something is better nothing" motto, I have decided to make the best of the space I currently have. To that end, I decided that I must have some Julia Child inspired pegboard (embrace the 70s!), for more vertical storage space. And maybe a pot rack. I spent the hours between midnight and one last night pinning pictures of kitchens with a lot of vertical storage (this is what happens when I fall asleep with the kids at 9 p.m. - I find myself wide awake at midnight). Here's the "before."


Yeah, yeah, all of my pictures are crooked and the clock is in a weird place. That's just how we roll. I still don't know what the "after" will look like.

Off to shop for storage possibilities!!

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Late majority adopter or laggard?


According to the theory of "Diffusion of Innovation," new ideas are picked up first by innovators, then early adopters, majority adopters, late majority adopters, and finally, "laggards."

When it comes to the Washi, I am either a late majority adopter or a plain ol' laggard. Only time will tell (it may be relevant here that I got my first smart phone in 2011). All I know is that this pattern has swept through the blogisphere and back. I resisted it for a long time, because I feared it would not flatter my large busted frame, and because I was intimidated by the idea of doing a full bust adjustment, and because. honestly, I just didn't sew much for myself. At the same time, I watched with interest while everyone and their sister made this pattern, and saw how it could be flattering on a variety of body types.


When the Washi Expansion Pack came out, that was the final push I needed. What can I say? I am sucker for a neck bow. I bought both the original pattern and the expansion.


Before sewing the whole dress up, I made a couple muslins of the bodice. Here is what I did:

  • A full bust adjustment, to make space for my F cups.
  • Lowered the bust dart. I don't want to talk about it.
  • Lengthened the bodice by about one inch in addition to the length added by the FBA, in hopes that the dress would cinch in at my smallest part rather than right under the bust.
  • Added small vertical underbust darts, see above.
  • Shortened the front skirt to account for the longer bodice and reduced the pleats slightly to account for the wider bodice piece.
The advantage of being a late adopter is that you can scrutinize 500 million Washis and determine exactly how you'd like to modify yours based on what looks most flattering on other women with a similar body type. I like to let other people do the initial work of "debugging" new ideas then I hop on the train at the very end.

So then I cut it out in this fabric, which I've had in my stash for several years now, from the Cloud 9 Nature Walk line. The background color of this print is definitely brown, but the print reads olive-y green from a distance. I had just enough fabric for the bow-neck version. It was meant to be.

Once I had done the work of altering the pattern, it was an easy sew. I did an elastic casing in the back rather than shirring. My first version had sleeves, but I didn't like how poofy they were, so I took them off and made the dress sleeveless. Since I wear a cardigan 10 months out of the year, this actually works better anyway. The neck bow was easy to sew on and I love the extra interest it gives the dress (I think it counteracts the "monoboob" look that this style can sometimes give).

It is a very comfortable dress, allowing for the full range of motion required by mothers.




And it looks especially great accessorized with a cardigan, belt, and baby girl! 

This first Washi dress isn't perfect. The armholes gape a bit (showing the top of my bra) and the waistline still needs a little tinkering. But the flaws are minor, and this dress is wearable and practical for my lifestyle. I am looking forward to making more Washi dresses or tunics in the not so distant future. 

Does anyone else plan sewing projects based on the color of thread in the serger? After threading it with brown thread for this project, I am ready to sew up a cute vintage pattern for Maggie in brown corduroy ... stay tuned!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

The "Little Betty" on Little Maggie.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

Oh my goodness, I am so distracted by that cute face. What was I saying?

Little Betty on Little Maggie

Oh, right, this is the "Little Betty Top" by Sewpony. This was a case of love at first sight. A cute knit tee/sweatshirt with little ruffles reminiscent of the tops I wore growing up in the late 70s/early 80s.
I made this in a size 18 months for Little Maggie. It is a bit big, no surprise - Maggie is a tiny peanut. The extra fabric makes it extra cozy, though - big enough to layer over other tops, and more like a sweatshirt.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

You'd never guess it from these photos, but that is navy blue knit with eggplant ribbing. The ruffles came from a striped thrifted t-shirt. It is finally raining here, which is great news for the garden, but doesn't make for the best 5 p.m. photos.

I think I did something wrong with the button loop placement. It seems too low to me. I'll work on that if I make this again.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

Oh gee, Maggie, kill me with the cuteness, why don't you?

This pattern is awesome. As some other reviewers have said, it's not necessarily a "whip it up in an hour or less" t-shirt like the Flashback Skinny Tee - it requires a bit more time and attention. But the results are overpoweringly, distractingly cute.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

Folks who are intimidated by knits might especially enjoy this pattern because most of the seams can be completed with straight stitch. The neckband doesn't have to stretch because of the button placket, so you don't even need to use a zig-zag stitch. Similarly, the ruffle is sewn on entirely with straight stitch. I did use a serger for the  bottom panel, ribbing, and side seams, but a shallow zig-zag would work just as well. I don't know that I would choose this for my very first knit fabric project (just because of the complexity of the pattern), but it is a good choice for someone who has gotten their feet wet with knits and wants to try something a bit more challenging.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

The ruffles!! The cut of this shirt makes it really good for using up knit scraps that are too small for much else. The possibilities are pretty endless.

So remember how I had a sore throat on Thursday? I went back to work yesterday even though I felt horrible. Then I felt horrible again today. So I went to the clinic to get a strep test - the "rapid test" was negative, but they are doing a proper culture as well. Probably it's just a virus and I'll be feeling better soon. In the meantime, as long as I don't forget to take my ibuprofen every few hours, I am functioning, if not exactly happy.  Somehow, it seems appropriate to feel yucky and sick on such a dark, wet day. Hopefully I will be feeling better when this storm system passes.

Until then, Maggie is my little sunshine.

Little Betty on Little Maggie

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jacob Pants.

Okay, I know I was just complaining about this pattern. I love the fabulous 70s vibe of Zonen 09's "Jacob Pants," so I was really excited to sew up these pants for Joe. But there were several hassles with this pattern, and several, um, areas of disagreement.

First, it's meant to be printed out on European A4 paper, which is bigger than US 8.5X11". That was a pain in the ass to figure out (you have to print it actual size, but tiled so that each page prints out on two pages, then overlap and tape those together before trimming and taping the whole thing together). I realize not everyone uses the same size paper, but the whole thing was time consuming and required about half an acre of forest to complete.

Second hassle: The instructions. They are really long, and really detailed, which I know people love. But I honestly would have been happy with shorter directions. I draw the limit at like 15 pages of instructions for a pattern - I don't care how complicated the pattern is, I do not need 35 pages of instructions! (Well, okay, maybe for a tailored coat or a boned corset - but a simple pair of pants? Huh?) Also, I did not like how you have to skip around to find your fly option and pocket options. I like instructions that flow chronologically from beginning to end - if I'm not choosing an option, I'll skip over it when I get to it. It's just personal preference, but that approach just works better for me.

Third quibble. The pocket finishing for front and back pockets was basically, "serge the edges, fold them down a half inch, and sew onto the pants. No pocket facings or lining. That is just ... weird to me. And wrong. And, dare I say it, kind of sloppy?

So ... you know you've been sewing with o + s patterns for too long when you see an inadequately finished pocket and feel personally offended! I mean, seriously, if there's no pocket lining or facing, where the heck am I supposed to put the piping? Seriously, think about it.

It was at this point that I put these pants down unfinished and wandered away. For a week. And lost all sewing mojo. I just wasn't feeling it.

But then today I woke up with a wicked sore throat. I've been under too much stress at work lately, and it finally caught up to me. Luckily, I feel sort of okay as long as I perfectly time doses of ibuprofen and decongestants. So I did a little working from home, and then I picked up these half-finished pants.

I changed my serger thread. I lined the front pockets. I faced the little cargo pockets, which I decided to use as back pockets (and pleated them the wrong way, inadvertently, but I decided to run with it). And I sewed the pants together the way that made sense to me, and I pretty much ignored the instructions, just using skills and techniques I've learned along the way. And of course, I added piping.

Jacob Pants

And I love them. The fit is fantastic. They are the perfect pair of pants.

Jacob Pants

Jacob Pants

And although he was initially resistant to changing out of his nice warm pants and into these on a chilly afternoon (he's a bit under the weather too), Joe likes them too! He's still wearing them now. I should mention that Joe chose the colors. I offered him two options - orange corduroy with brown piping, or teal twill with lime green piping. Joe said "I want blue and brown." Oh, okay, not one of the options I gave you, but I can work with that.

Apparently, Mama loves bold color combinations, but Joe's tastes are more muted. But I can admit - Joe was right - the blue and brown are perfect together. Hip, but understated.

Jacob Pants

He even agreed to do a little photo shoot for me. He's such a big boy now. Well, a big boy who still likes to be carried by his dad, anyway. And get kisses.

Jacob Pants

Jacob Pants

Cute tushie!!! I am really happy with how the cargo pockets as back pockets turned out (I was inspired by this awesome pair). The pockets hide any pooching at the bottom of the dart, and in my opinion, help balance out the angle of the back knife-pleat.

So after my initial hesitation about this pattern, I have to say, I am pretty happy with these pants. I will likely make more, just ignoring the instructions and doing things the way I think they should be done.

Well, now that I've overcome that hurdle, hopefully I can get back into the swing of things!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Just checking in.

Hello, readers. Things have been very busy around here, but not busy with sewing. Frankly, I'm not feeling inspired to sew right now. I started a pair of Jacob Pants for Joe for KCW, and I got as far as the pin tucks, darts, and pockets, and then I stalled. Something is psychically holding me up - maybe it's having to change the serger thread (it's not that bad, I don't know why it always feels like such a hurdle), or that I don't like the way the pockets are finished (I got to the part about finishing the pockets and was like ... "Seriously? Seriously? No way."), or a growing sense I have that I am just not in love with the way this pattern is written.  There is a lot of jumping around in the instructions, and all for a pair of pants that look a lot like the Parsley Pants but are more complicated to make. Hrm.

I dunno. I think I will finish them. But I am uninspired.

Then sometime last week, I had one of those moments at work where I realized I was totally overloaded.  It is funny how it tends to creep up on a person - for weeks, I am aware of being very busy, and having a long to-do list, and of being a bit behind. But then one or two things go slightly differently than planned, and BAM, it's official. I cannot do it all and I need to reach out for help from my colleagues and pull in some outside help and do some reprioritizing. Things are much calmer again. It happens, it's not that big a deal, it is part of the job - I try to plan for contingencies, but you can't plan for everything. But when it happens, other things in my life tend to go on hold for a bit while I get it all sorted out.

I did reorganize our desk and get our tax stuff together. And I cleaned the area under the sink and inside the microwave. That was gnarly! So I have been making some progress with my New Year's resolution to get a little more control over my house and my stuff. Hopefully this process will help clear more mental space for creativity.

And Joe and I both got haircuts. Joe enjoyed the process of getting his hair cut a whole lot less than I did (sensory hell, anyone? it was awful!), but it's over now and we're looking good!

Just truckin' along over here!