Monday, March 31, 2014

Everyday basics.

Everyday Skirt

I'm constantly sewing stuff for my kids, and the thought does cross my mind: Why don't I have more skirts and pants with an elastic waist? I mean, seriously!

So. Um. Look guys! I made myself a basic blue skirt! Yep, you guessed it - it's Liesl's Everyday Skirt - a simple gathered skirt with a flat-front waistband and elastic back.

Everyday Skirt

So I have to admit, I'm seriously struggling to come up with anything clever to say about this skirt. It's kind of basic! But luckily for me, Carolyn pretty much wrote today's post for me here. Let me summarize: Sometimes "a little boring" equals "a cute work-appropriate item I will wear all the time!" That is the case with the Everday Skirt. It is comfortable and fits perfectly into my day-to-day life.

Everyday Skirt

Let's see ... sewing details ... this was an easy sew. The instructions are so very Liesl. If you sew a lot of Oliver + s patterns you know what I mean. The pockets and side panels on this skirt reminded me of the Afterschool Pants, and the back elastic treatment reminded me of the Sailboat Skirt. It was all explained extremely well, and the finishings are very nice. It felt very familiar and comfortable, sewing up this skirt.

While this skirt was designed to sit on the lower waist, I opted to wear it on my natural waist, so I could belt it. It looks great with most of my belts, by the way. Based on what I read on other blogs, I decided to sew it up in a smaller size than my measurements. This is a medium, and I'm happy with the fit - I'm glad I didn't go with a larger size. If you are wondering about what size you should cut in this pattern, I definitely suggest comparing the "extended waist" actual measurements that Liesl provides to your hip measurement. My waist measurement calls for an XL but my hips are on the narrower side, so the M works fine. This is a really adjustable waistline, and you'd be better off erring on the small side, I think. There is a good amount of ease built into this pattern.

Everyday Dress

 The fabric I used is a rayon/cotton blend twill that I found at my local independently owned fabric shop, Piedmont Fabrics. Such a lovely weight and perfectly drapey. I was hoping that it wouldn't be too wrinkly, but, after washing it ... um, er ... I think it's pretty wrinkly. Luckily, I like the rumply look. The color isn't quite navy - it's a lovely gray-blue, just the color I can never seem to get enough of.

Being an "Everyday Skirt," of course it has pockets. Deep, useful pockets.

Everyday Skirt

Which, naturally, I lined in a scrap of voile from the stash. It's hard for me to resist any opportunity to spice up a garment (and use scraps) with a little special touch.

Everyday Dress

So that's the Everyday Skirt! Truly an everyday basic that I will get a lot of wear from. With elastic, baby. So comfortable!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Linen and calico.

Still trying to justify those new Oliver + s patterns which are currently on their way to my house! Working through my o+s stash - this time I sewed up the Playdate Dress (not to be confused with the Playtime Dress and Leggings).

Playdate Dress

This is a lovely, vintage-inspired dress with a little bib, flat bias piping, and little pleats on the sleeves and center-front. It is so old-fashioned and darling - right up my alley!

Playdate Dress

My choice of fabrics - mustard yellow linen with a sepia/blue calico for the bib - were strongly inspired by this beautiful linen version and this pretty yellow dress with floral print bib. I used storebought ivory bias tape for the flat piping around the bib. Sewing on that bib is a bit tricky, to be sure (that's how this pattern earns its 3 scissors rating), but I followed Nicole's wonderful tutorial and I have to say, it came together quickly!

Playdate Dress

Ah, I love sewing with linen. I know the wrinkles bother some people, but I love the rumpled look, and it is incredibly durable stuff. And like chambray and pinwale corduroy - everything just looks wonderful made up in linen. It does require a couple tricks, however. To avoid the loose weave shifting around too much during the construction process, I handle the pieces as little as possible. I staystitched the neckline of this dress pretty much as soon as I cut it out, because I knew it would want to warp and stretch and fray all over the place. And I have to confess, even with serging, the inside of this dress is a bit of a mess. Well, that's linen for you. It looks so beautiful on the outside, we'll forgive its minor faults.

I also crank my iron up to the highest setting and use lots of steam in pressing. But here's the thing - if you iron the linen directly on the right side of the fabric, it has a tendency to get shiny. So I press from the inside, or use a pressing cloth. And by "pressing cloth," I mean "random scrap of quilting cotton grabbed from my scrap box."

Playdate Dress

I opted to keep the bib simple, and skipped the little ruffles. There was enough going on with this dress without them. I hemmed the bottom and hem by hand to add to the old-fashioned vibe. I wasn't sure I would love the fullness of the sleeves, but oh, I really do! The little pleats are to die for.

Playdate Dress

Messy pigtails! So cute. And I really can't ever seem to get enough of mustard yellow. Such a luscious, rich shade.

Playdate Dress

And she's off! Maggie is such a busy girl! This may end up being Maggie's Easter dress, although I realize a lot of people would find the colors more autumnal than vernal ... we'll see if I make anything even more Easter-y between now and then.

I am taking Monday off as a furlough day, and I have big plans for this long weekend. As part of "Operation: Take Control of My Life," a.k.a. "Something's better than nothing," I have plans to revamp our bedroom, which all four of us are currently sleeping in (long story, partly a choice and partly a housemates sleeping in all of our bedrooms thing), upgrade Joe to a "big boy bed" (he's almost five!), move the furniture around to improve function, and generally spruce it up. It's not going to be Better Homes and Gardens, but hey, something is better than nothing, right?

What are your plans for the next week, sewing or otherwise?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Wherein I attempt to justify buying more patterns ...

... by sewing up some of my stashed patterns!

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

I really want to buy some (or all) of the new Oliver + s patterns. But in order to justify that purchase, I decided I really needed to sew up a couple of the nine (or ten? eek) o+s patterns in my stash which I haven't tried yet. First up, I decided to try the 2+2 blouse and skirt. I have wanted to make this blouse forever. I don't know why I took so long - too many projects and not enough time!

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

I dug deep into the stash and found this adorable brown and orange print. Man, I have a ton of this fabric. It's a little hard to choose projects for because of the stripey nature of the print. I cut this blouse out on the cross grain so that the stripes would go vertically instead of horizontally, which I like a little better.  I also happened to find a matching brown solid in my "toss" pile - it's a poly/cotton blend, which makes it no good for quilting, and I didn't think I had enough for anything else, but I had plenty for some bias strips and the little patch. Yay for stash sewing!

I decided to bind the short sleeves in bias instead of folding the bias entirely to the inside, and I'm so glad I did.

I squeezed the skirt out of less than a half yard of chambray, using my very last scraps of this much-used piece. It's crazy - everything looks beautiful done up in chambray! It's like a basic law of sewing or something. As you can see in the photo above, I snuck a little more of the orange print into the little side placket. I still need to sew the snaps on the placket to keep it shut while Maggie is moving around.

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

Maggie looks so good in brown, doesn't she? I know these are not colors you would ordinarily expect to see on a toddler, which is one reason I love sewing with them so much.

I measured Maggie before cutting and I'm glad I did. She measures 6-12 months in the chest, and 18-24 months in length. I ended up making these in 12-18 months with a little extra length (only an inch or so) in the blouse. Maggie is such a tiny peanut. It's funny - Joe was a giant hulking baby and he's still a pretty big guy. He weighed more than Maggie does at 20 months when he was 8 months old! Maggie, on the other hand, is less than tenth percentile for weight (but she's still chubby, so we're not at all concerned that she's not well nourished). Both of these kids have the same parents, and both of them drank from the same breasts. Joe has always eaten like a bird, whereas Maggie eats everything in sight. What happened? Genetics are so fascinating.

The advantage to having a tiny little baby like Maggie is that she takes a long time to grow out of my lovingly made homemade garments. The disadvantage is that her drawer is already full of clothes, and I don't have an excuse to make more!

This is an excellent pattern, of course. I expect nothing less from Oliver + s. Going in, I figured it would be dead simple, but there is a pleasing amount of complexity to the construction of both the skirt and blouse. That's not to say it's difficult - it is clever. I learned some things. The way the gathers in the front are folded into a little seam on the outside, and then covered with the front patch is so genius! Too bad I didn't read the instructions carefully enough and kind of messed it up. Oops! Next time I will follow Nicole's excellent tutorial and it will look much neater inside. Take it from me, folks: It pays to actually read the instructions.

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

Sweet buttons down the back.

A pleated skirt is probably not the most practical garment for a 20 month old who is constantly running and climbing and jumping on big wheels, but the little combination is blindingly cute, right? I made the hem deep and the elastic on the loose side - I am hoping she will be able to grow into it a bit.

Again, the skirt seems so simple, but that little side placket is adorable and just challenging enough to construct to keep the process interesting. This is a great skirt for an older girl - I am looking forward to trying it for my little niece Helen.

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

Maggie loves to sit up on the kitchen counter while we work. Of course, we adults are nervous the entire time that she might fall, but Maggie is absolutely delighted. Here she is saying "No!" when asked whether she wanted to get down.

She's saying "NO! I don't want to get down!"

"No!" is Maggie's favorite word, but it's certainly not her only word. She's learning more words every day, it seems. Lately, she's saying up, down, milk, Joey, duck, doggy, "moo," "meow," yummy, poo-poo and pee-pee (ha!), and baby. And lots of others I'm not remembering right now. It is not possible to witness Maggie calling her doll "baby" without absolutely melting with the cute.

2+2 Blouse and Skirt

Oh, Miss Margaret. You are such a delight.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pattern hoarding.

So, are the new Oliver + s patterns gorgeous or what? I want them. YESTERDAY.

But then I remember all of the o+s patterns I have in my stash that I haven't so much as cracked open.* Shall we review?

  1. Roller Skate Dress
  2. Book Report Dress
  3. Croquet Dress
  4. Apple Picking Dress
  5. Family Reunion Dress
  6. 2+2 Blouse and Skirt
  7. Playdate Dress
  8. Sunday Brunch Jacket and Skirt
  9. School Days Coat
And that's not even talking about the many Oliver + s patterns where I have made only one of the separates.

And it's not like I don't collect patterns from other indie childrens' designers as well. And patterns for myself.

I have a serious, serious problem. Well, I'm suffering from a bad case of "my eyes are bigger than my capacity to sew things," anyway.

So, okay, I'm going to hold off on the new patterns, until I've sewn up at least two of my untouched patterns. Since spring is here and I have approximately one million cute dress patterns, I'm thinking some dresses for Maggie.

* In all fairness to myself, the list of Oliver + s patterns that I have used and loved, some many times, is equally long. In particular, I would like to note that I have made every single pants pattern that Liesl has designed to date (not including PJ pants), most more than once, and some countless times. Keep those gender neutral and boy patterns coming, Liesl! I should change the name of my blog to "Inder Loves to Sew Pants."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Spring forward!

This morning at 2 a.m., our clocks "sprung forward" an hour. As much as we all resent the loss of an hour of our lives (to be recovered in autumn when the clocks switch back), the extra hour of light in the evenings, with all the spring-forward-springiness it represents, is very, very welcome.

This year, daylight savings was accompanied by a nice warmish weekend after several weeks of heavy rain that broke our long drought and turned our golden hills green and our back lawn tall and muddy, so it was that much more special.

We did what any rational family of green-thumbs would do on the first warm weekend after several rainy ones ... we got out in the garden and soaked up some sunshine!

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

Joe just so happened to be wearing his new orange corduroy Jacob pants, which I finished up this morning. As you may recall, he recently requested that I make him "orange and yellow pants." Later, he amended that to "orange, yellow, and blue pants." In my adult wisdom, I decided that orange and yellow was plenty enough for the outside of the pants, but I used some blue Mickey Mouse fabrics to line the pockets. A little secret blue for Joe.

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

He seems pretty happy with the result. He insisted on wearing them with his "favorite t-shirt," a Woody shirt (from Toy Story). Good choice, son. Way to rock the cowboy 1970s vibe.

This is my second pair of Jacob pants, and I love this pattern. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I had a ton of complaints the first time I made it. But if you just ignore the instructions, these sew up fast, and the fit of these pants is just the best. I mean, seriously, those little butt darts! So cute! Check it out.

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

Best rear end fit ever.

I don't have any pictures of the inside of the pants, but there is buttonhole elastic, and a couple buttons inside the waistband, so the fit can be adjusted just so. Joe loves that - he says these pants are "soft and comfy," which is his highest compliment for an article of clothing.

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

They are also DISCO-FABULOUS, but Joe hasn't learned that particular vocabulary yet. Which doesn't mean he doesn't know what it feels like, right? Joe knows just what he likes, make no mistake. And when he requested orange and yellow and blue pants, he clearly wanted DISCO-FABULOUS.

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

Oh. My. Goodness. That right there is the face of a boy who knows he is the apple of his mother's eye. Seriously.

Orange and yellow and blue pants!

So anyway, back to the garden! Not sure why Joe looks so forlorn here. We all did a little work in the garden this weekend. We pulled up and separated the strawberries, amending the soil and putting down burlap to keep the berries dry.

Daylight savings = time to get in the garden!

Daylight savings = time to get in the garden!

Daylight savings = time to get in the garden!

Daylight savings = time to get in the garden!

This is going to be an EPIC year for our strawberry patch!!

You can see how happy we all were to be out on a sunny and green day. Sunshine does a body good.

Joe was happily watching bugs in the dirt until Steve stepped on a termite he was inspecting closely. This was a mistake on Steve's part, and he is very sorry. Joe eventually recovered from his grief when we started a nerf gun battle.

In between getting shot with Nerf darts in the rear end, I harvested a big pile of collard greens from our winter garden.

Daylight savings = time to get in the garden!

Very few of the things I planted last fall actually survived this winter, due to the severe drought, but collard is sturdy stuff. It seems to thrive in our climate - winter and summer!

Tonight: Twice baked potatoes with a side of collard greens cooked with a little bit of pancetta ... and hopefully no Nerf darts ...

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Sometimes, you just have to drop everything ...

... and make a braided rag rug using knit scraps and old t-shirts.

Braided rag rug - progress

Once again, middle of the night Pinterest inspiration struck, and I knew I just had to make a braided rag rug for my funky kitchen.

Braided rag rug - progress


Braided rag rug - progress

In a warm sunburst of yellows, oranges, reds, and pinks (and maybe more - we'll see!).

Braided rag rug - progress

So I proceeded to read every online tutorial I could find on the topic (if you're interested, I pinned most of the links here), and I cut up some old t-shirts and scraps of knit from sewing and got to work. Rag rugs can be made from almost any fabric - cotton and wool are traditional - but I figured knits would be an easy place to start and would make a very washable rug. Plus, my pile of colorful scraps and thrifted t-shirts is currently threatening to take over my sewing space.

Braided rag rug - progress

What I've learned so far: The trick is in getting the coil to lay flat. Any change in tension and it wants to go concave or convex. The rug wants to a be a bowl.  Or a big lumpy mess. Making a rug requires fighting against this natural inclination. It is extremely important, therefore, to work on a flat surface - this is not a lap project, but you can sit at the coffee table while you watch television. It is a little tough on the wrists because the braid has to be turned and secured just so as you sew it. There is a "feel" to it that I am still developing.

Other than that, it's really easy. And it's growing fast. Most of the online tutorials mention that this is an extremely time-consuming and labor-intensive project. But for someone who has hand-quilted a couple of quilts, it doesn't feel slow at all. It is so fun watching the colors develop as you coil the braid around. It's strangely addicting!

Making a rag rug will set a person musing about a time when very little went to waste, and old clothes or worn sheets were torn into strips and made into rugs, which lasted for years. And all of the little ways that my foremothers worked to bring a little cheer and beauty into their homes and lives even during the hardest of times - the triumph of human creativity and imagination over mere subsistence.
Braided rag rug - progress

Once you start a rag rug, you may decide that allowing the children to fingerpaint the walls while you work represents an acceptable compromise. Fingerpainting the walls is an activity that keeps children happy for a nice long chunk of time, allowing you to spend a lot of time cutting strips, braiding, and coiling. And pondering your next color change.

Fingerpaint washes off the walls pretty easily, fyi.

Joe says: "You should make it huge! Like this!" Holding his arms out wide.

Okay, then!