Monday, July 28, 2014

Shorts on the Line! - KCW Finale Edition!

Or should that be "Shorts on the Line: Oliver + s Edition"? Or perhaps, "Shorts on the Line: Uncooperative Models Edition"? Or "Shorts on the Line: How to Get Your Sensy Kid to Wear Something Halfway Decent for a Wedding, You are Very Welcome Edition."

Whatever. I am so pleased be included in another Shorts on the Line, people! It's an awesome party where everyone makes ... wait for it ... shorts! Wahoo!

This year, I am dealing with a very specific challenge. Joe will only wear shorts these days, so that part is good. In the past couple years, Joe has gone through shorts-only phases, and pants-only phases. It's funny because these phases bear no relationship to season or weather. His pants-only phase lasted all of last year, and he wouldn't wear shorts no matter how hot it got. He waited until the dead of winter and then decided that it was time to switch to shorts. Okaaaaaay ...

Joe is also hyper sensitive to fabrics and comfort these days. Right now, he will only wear knit shorts. Preferably the athletic, baggy kind. There is nothing stylish about these. Other people's kids may enjoy dressing up in button-down shirts, bow-ties, skinny pants, and vests - Joe is apparently so hipster, he is anti-hipster.

It all makes perfect sense to Joe, I'm sure. 

The challenge is that we are going to my cousin's wedding in a couple of weeks, and while I am lax on dress codes and generally not willing to die on the clothing hill, so to speak, knit athletic shorts and a ratty old t-shirt seem a bit too casual for a wedding, even for me.

So I decided I would make him some nicer, less casual shorts. But still in knit, for comfort.

When I think of "polished shorts," the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shorts immediately come to mind. They have a British schoolboy look to them that makes them appropriate even for nicer occasions.

I have made so many pairs of Sketchbook shorts over the years, although not so much recently (because Joe wouldn't wear shorts at all for a while, and then he would only wear knit shorts). In fact, I had not yet broken out my copy of the larger size range. I decided to try them in size 5, in a very soft but stable deep green ponte knit. 

And then I made the Sketchbook Shirt, which I have never sewn before, in Cloud 9 Palos Verdes La Venta, just for good measure.

Sketchbook Shorts in knit ponte

This is Shorts on the Line, so first, let's talk about the shorts! In case anyone was wondering, these sew up GREAT in ponte, and they are, indeed, super comfortable. As comfortable as baggy knit athletic shorts, I reckon. But much more polished.

Sketchbook shorts and shirt

I assembled the pants on the serger, but since the pockets, hems, faux fly, and waistband are roomy and under no stress, I just used a long straight stitch for those. Ponte is a very stable (read: not very stretchy) knit, so I am not too worried about my stitches popping out. You can almost treat it as a woven, although I am glad I serged the inseams and crotch to allow for Joe levels of activity. For example, you want your pants to have a little give when the top edge of the couch is your favorite place to sit while Daddy assembles a kite.


Easy, breezy. I've always loved how fast the Sketchbook Shorts come together. It was one of the first Oliver + s patterns I ever tried back when Joe was a chubby toddler (the Sailboat pants were the first), and it has long been one of my favorites. At this point, I think I've said all that there is to be said about this fantastic and straightforward pattern, and now I know that it works in a knit fabric as well! Joe is set to dance his heart out at my cousin's wedding.

Can we talk about the shirt now? Even though it's not shorts?

You guys, I am so proud of this shirt.

Sketchbook shirt

How is it possible that this is the first Sketchbook Shirt I've made? I dunno. I guess I was a little intimidated by the details, and it seemed like a lot of work to put into something that my kid would put aside in favor of t-shirts and then quickly grow out of. And I'm gonna be honest. It is a lot of work, although the instructions walk you through the details with such care that it doesn't seem so daunting. And Joe probably will avoid wearing it unless he has to, and he will probably grow out of it pretty quickly.

But look at it!!! AHHHHHHHH.

Sketchbook shirt


Right??!! It is so nice. So nice. So here's a quick review, feel free to scroll down a bit if you'd like to skip straight to the photos of both of my kids refusing to pose for the camera.

Pattern: Oliver + s Sketchbook Shirt.

Fabric: Cloud 9 Palos Verdes La Vente, bought from Hawthorne Threads, which is actually a sponsor of Shorts on the Line! Joe helped me pick the fabric, which he likes because "green, blue, and orange are my favorite colors; actually all of the colors are my favorite, but blue and green are my most favorite; also I like triangles." I was so pleased at the very speedy delivery, and this fabric is so nice. So, so nice. I wondered more than once whether maybe I should have used it to make a top for me rather than my generally ungrateful child, because it must be like wearing butterfly wings.

First time? Yes!

Size: 5.

Modifications: Based on what I have heard about the length of the pattern, I added a couple inches to the body. I probably could have added a little more, actually, as it is still a hair short to my eyes. The sleeves are the perfect length, though. I also did a line of stitching on the one piece collar where the band/collar would ordinarily go, to help it roll back better.

The good: Um, so nice! Great instructions, classic shape, slightly easier than a full-fledged two-piece collar pattern. The fabric is heavenly to work with and the colors are perfect on my Joe. Joe was initially a bit on the fence about wearing a button-down shirt, but he seemed to forget about it after a few minutes (probably because it is like wearing butterfly wings) and I think he'll willingly wear this outfit to the wedding. I hope so, anyway!

The not-so-good: I will be honest, I don't really like the one piece collar. I appreciate the ease, but in the end, for all of that pains that I took with this shirt, I wish it had been two pieces. I think it would lie better. Perhaps I will draft a two piece collar next time.

Make again? Yes!! In the short sleeved version! Or maybe with some sleeve tabs? Like, today! HA! My only hesitation is that Joe's not likely to wear this very much. Maybe I should sew a button-down for Steve instead.

So yesterday I took both kids out to a local game shop that sells kites, and then to pizza in their new KCW/Shorts on the Line outfits, hoping to get some good photographs for the blog, but most of my shots ended up looking like this.

Sketchbook (with kite)


Unwilling model

Or my absolute favorite, this.

Unwilling models

Or this.

Unwilling models

Seriously? Seriously? The shorts are cute, but neither child would look at the camera.

Unwilling models

This was the best I could do.

Unwilling models

Oh well, my children were clearly not in the mood for a photo shoot, but we had fun buying a rainbow kite and eating pizza!

It wasn't windy enough to fly our new kite, unfortunately, so we came home. And then I crashed! I did a lot of sewing in the past seven days! Tired mama!

This post is part of the Shorts on the Line sewalong.  Shorts on the Line 2014 is sponsored by: Britex FabricsHawthorne Threadsmiss matatabi, and Soak Wash.  Hosted by imagine gnatssmall + friendly, and Kollabora.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

KCW Update - Day #5

Nothing says KCW like outfits shots taken at night, in the dark, with a bit too much flash (and a poor blinded child), am I right?

Class Picnic Blouse and Shorts

Hey, time is limited! I finished these shorts after 7 p.m. last night, but it wasn't too late to run outside with Daddy, who was practicing his swing.
Class Picnic Blouse and Shorts

Class Picnic Shorts

I don't have much time to spare, so here is a rushed review!

Pattern: Oliver + s Class Picnic Shorts

Fabric: Leftover pieces of blue linen given to me by one of my sewing buddies. I think she said she got it at Joann's. It's wonderfully soft.

First time? Yes, this is my first time trying the shorts!

Size: 18-24 months. Definitely a bit big, but I'm serious, I just can't sew anymore 12-18 month sized clothes for Maggie. She has so many handmades! This girl needs to grow faster so that I have an excuse to sew for her.

Modifications: None! I sewed these exactly as drafted, using the same fabric for the facings rather than a contrast fabric.

The good: This pattern is easy and fast, but satisfyingly clever and well drafted. The way the facings go on is really clever and fun. I had fun making these!

The not-so-good: Sewing on said facings might be a bit tricky for a beginner, and your topstitching skills will be on full display (this would be less the case in a printed fabric). My topstitching isn't perfect, and I questioned my choice of white thread, but in the end, they are cute and it's okay.

Make again? Yes!! These are SO CUTE!

Okay, need to get back to sewing!!

sketchbook shirt - cut out!

Sketchbook Shirt, all cut out!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

KCW Update - Class Picnic Blouse.

Well, yesterday was day 3 of KCW, but the first night I was actually able to sew. And behold! A finished object!

I started this on Sunday, so it wasn't all sewn in one night, but it is a really easy and fast pattern (I had forgotten how easy - now I want to make more!).

So here is a quick and more formal review.

Pattern: Oliver + s Class Picnic Blouse

Fabric: Beautiful shirting-weight woven gingham from Britex. This is one the nicest quality ginghams I have ever had the pleasure of working with. Fine weave, smooth, a little glossy, and presses perfectly. The color is a lovely bright blue. I think it was ungodly expensive, but luckily my powers of denial and forgetfulness are strong. Sadly this is all I have of it besides scraps.

First time? Nope, this is my second version of this pattern. The first was also gingham, with a bias bodice and contrasting piping. I just liked it so much!

Size: 18-24 months (likely to be a bit big on my 2 year old peanut, Maggie). I will take modeled pictures when I can.

Modifications: Cut bodice on the bias (the lining is on the straight grain to hopefully avoid the bodice stretching too much), added piping to the neckline and bodice, hand tacked the bodice lining on the back (rather than topstitching), used contrasting bias tape on the sleeves rather than self bias.

The good: This is an easy and fast pattern and it is absolutely darling on. The instructions are helpful and really walk you through the sewing process. Highly recommended!

The not-so-good: Can't really think of anything! I do remember that in the smaller sizes, it is very difficult to hem the sleeves. This wasn't so tough in the 18-24 month size. Applying the bias binding to the sleeve tops is a bit tricky and mine isn't perfect, but after you've inserted the elastic, most minor issues become invisible.

Make again? Yes!! I had forgotten how much I like this pattern! Perhaps I will branch out next time and do it in something not gingham.

I also started the Class Picnic Shorts last night. This is my first time sewing this pattern, and I love the surprising little details - I always learn something from Oliver + s!  They are coming together nicely, although I am having doubts about using contrast white topstitching on bright blue linen. We shall see.

How is your KCW going?

Monday, July 21, 2014

KCW July 2014.

It has been a long time (September of last year) since I really tried to participate in Kids' Clothes Week (if you don't follow sewing blogs, KCW is a challenge to sew kid's clothes an hour a day for a week and blog about it). With a full-time job, commute, and family stuff, my weekdays are a bit of a blur! On top of that, my job as assistant city attorney requires that I attend Planning Commission and City Council meetings (and sometimes other meetings as well) during the evenings several times a month. The folks over at KCW have an uncanny knack for scheduling KCW on a week when I have not just one night meeting, but several. This summer, they've done it again - I have a Planning Commission meeting tonight and City Council tomorrow. I expect to be a limp noodle by Wednesday.

But it's all about defining your own success, right? So I decided to participate anyway - on my own terms. While I don't think I can manage an hour a day, I'm pretty sure I can manage 7 hours in the week, maybe a bit more. So that's my challenge - sew the equivalent of an hour a day for a week.

I did a little prep over the weekend, tracing some Oliver + s patterns and doing some cutting. Here's what I'm planning:

1. Class Picnic Blouse in blue gingham (with yellow piping) for Maggie. I made a gingham Class Picnic Blouse (with piping) for Maggie when she was a baby, and it was one of my favorite makes, so I decided to make another one. Same idea, slightly different colors.

2. Class Picnic Shorts in blue linen for Maggie.This will be my first time sewing the shorts, which have an adorable retro 70s vibe.

KCW/Shorts on the Line Prep!

3. Sketchbook Shorts in dark green ponte knit for Joe. Joe only wears soft knit shorts these days (he's very sensitive to comfort). We have a wedding to attend next month, and I am hoping that these shorts will be soft and comfortable, but a bit more polished than his usual knit athletic shorts.

4. Sketchbook Shirt in Cloud 9 Palos Verdes La Venta voile (currently en route) for Joe. Although I've made the shorts approximately 500 times, this will be my first time sewing the Sketchbook Shirt! Joe helped me choose the fabric, so I am hoping that means he'll be willing to wear the shirt!

KCW/Shorts on the Line Prep!

5. Sailor Blouse using the Croquet Dress pattern for Maggie. With so many amazing flipped versions of the Croquet dress showing up in blogsville this month, it seemed like the perfect time to try this adorable pattern for the first time. I love the turn-of-the-20th-century vibe of this dress, but Maggie doesn't really need any more dresses right now. So I decided to make a little lightweight cream linen blouse to go with the blue linen shorts. I am still undecided as to trim, so stay tuned!

KCW/Shorts on the Line Prep!

I have made two of the patterns before, but three are new to me, making a small dent in my rather long list of Oliver + s patterns bought but not yet sewn, yay me!

Of course, I realize this is an ambitious list, and I probably won't finish it all this week. I might not even finish half of it! But with everything ready to go, I think it will be fun to just focus on sewing during whatever small chunks of time I have this week. I will try to post on my progress here as well as update my projects in the KCW forum, where you can find me under the user name Inderific.

But the best part of KCW is following along with everyone else's sewing!

Are you participating in KCW this time around?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bess Top.

Imagine Gnats Bess Top

Here is my latest make - an Imagine Gnats Bess Top made up in abstract floral print and solid rayon challis, and photographed right after work right on my front steps (is that a can of WD40 - or equivalent - on the table on the porch to my left? sigh).

This top actually started out life as a Washi Dress in the printed rayon. I had high hopes for it, but when I had put everything together, and tried it on, I realized I hated it. The rayon was too clingy with the shirring in the back, and it felt frumpy and maternity with the high waist. I briefly considered throwing it in the bin and crying myself to sleep, but I decided to immediately rescue the fabric and make something lovely and flattering with it instead. And I am so glad I did. Instead of dwelling on sewing failure, I am wearing a cute new top. My fragile self-esteem and sewing mojo remain in tact!

I made the Bess Top before (I actually helped Rachael test the pattern) and I wear that top often, so I knew that it is easy to sew and the style is flattering on me. A soft drapey fabric like rayon challis is perfect for this style and complements the loose fit. The shape works perfectly as a shell under a jacket or cardigan. And it is as comfortable as a t-shirt.

Imagine Gnats Bess Top

But since my lovely printed rayon was already mostly assembled into a Washi dress, I had a limited amount of fabric to work with. So I decided to make a contrast yoke in rayon leftover from my Zinnia skirt. The pattern includes instructions on how to colorblock the top, but I must confess I did not consult the instructions for any aspect of the construction of this top. Having made it twice (once a test muslin, and once in voile), I sewed it up by memory and common sense. I self-bound the neck and arms with bias, and hemmed the top with a very narrow hem. It looks cute, although perhaps not quite as flattering, untucked, as it has a subtle, curved hi-lo hem.

I made several other changes to this version as well. I cut the bottom back piece wider than the yoke piece, and gathered it softly in the center for a looser and more blousy back. I also gathered the front pieces to the yoke instead of pleating them, a detail that is not very visible in this busy print but which softens the lines of the front of the top a little. Finally, I raised the neck (the pattern comes with two necklines to choose from). The deeper curve of my voile Bess Top tends to droop a little bit, and although I tend to prefer lower necklines as a rule, I actually think the higher neck suits the shape of this top a little better.

Imagine Gnats Bess Top

I hate sewing with rayon challis - it is so tough to cut or sew with any accuracy! But I sure love wearing it! It is soft, washes well, and seems to have magically flattering powers when worn (except in the form of a Washi dress on me, anyway!). I am already planning more rayon challis tops.

Imagine Gnats Bess Top

And here is is the rest of the outfit I wore yesterday. The top fits into my work uniform of skirt, blouse, and cardigan/jacket perfectly! (I love these shoes so much. Light blue-green goes with everything! And they are old-lady squishy and supportive.)

I think I need a few more rayon Bess Tops ... 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Happy birthday Maggie! Featuring cupcakes and the doll bed I've been working on for a month!

This past Wednesday, July 9th, was Maggie's second birthday! I can't believe my little Margaret Joy is two years old now. Wasn't she just born like ... last week? But she's totally on board with this whole growing up thing and has learned the word "mine!" and the phrase "me do it!" My independent little girl seems to be getting more and more independent by the day.

If I had to choose three words to describe Maggie: Easy-going (is that one word or two?), independent, curious. She really is such a delight to all of us. We love you so much, Mags!

Maggie's vocabulary is exploding right now. It's like she turned two, and she's like, "I'm a big girl and talk in sentences now." Yesterday, she politely asked Steve for "My burribo, pees?" We were like oh my gosh, here is your bean burrito!!!?!!! Officially the cutest toddler phrase of all time, right? Since Joe didn't speak in sentences until he was three (and boy did we enjoy and revel in it when he did!), I have to say that watching Maggie hit these developmental milestones at such a young age really never gets old. We are daily amazed by her (actually quite average) speech development.

It was a busy week, so we celebrated yesterday. I made lemon cupcakes with blackberry butter-cream frosting, using blackberries growing in our backyard.


I don't feel I can say "blackberries I grew" because blackberries are a pernicious weed in Northern California, and the reality is that we wage constant battles against the blackberry vines to keep them from taking over the whole back yard (and if you think I'm exaggerating, you should see my neighbor's neglected back yard; the blackberries are six feet tall and fill the whole space). These are not nice, cultivated, "no-spine" blackberries, these are giant thorny, sprawling plants that grow about a foot a day. If we neglect the yard for a couple weeks, it's not safe to walk barefoot back there anymore! Nevertheless, we love the fruit, and the bees, birds, and butterflies love the flowers (and we love birds, bees, and butterflies), so we maintain an uneasy truce with the blackberry bushes. We encourage them to grow along our fence line, where they have the added benefit of discouraging our "friendly" local junkies from hopping over the fence in search of things to steal in order to buy drugs (I wish this were a joke). They are as effective as barbed wire and a lot prettier.  We've lost some tools and bikes over the years, but hopefully the thieves got the prickles they deserved. Ah, the many different kinds of wildlife in urban Oakland! (If you live in lovely, safe suburbia, I hope I've helped you feel more grateful for it.)

Anyway, cupcakes! Lemon cupcakes with blackberry frosting sounds pretty fancy, right? Well, here's how you do it. To your standard yellow cake batter, add one tablespoon lemon juice and a pinch zest. Then, to your standard vanilla buttercream frosting recipe, add a handful of fresh blackberries and another pinch lemon zest straight into the stand mixer and beat.

Then, when your friends act impressed, pretend that it was very complicated and difficult. You're welcome!


Maggie mostly just licked the frosting off of her cupcake. I don't blame her, it turned out really yummy, with a good amount of lemony-blackberry "tang"to offset the super sweet buttercream.


Mmmmmm! Also, yeah, she likes to relax and put her feet up in her high chair.

So now I finally get to share a project I have been working on for weeks now (you may have noticed I haven't posted for a while - it's because my main sewing project was top secret and neverending - I did share a peep here).

Doll under her quilt.

For Maggie's second birthday, I custom ordered a Waldorf-style doll from this wonderful Etsy seller, Eszter Budai Nagy. Eszter is based out of Hungary, and makes really beautiful dolls. She doesn't have any currently listed in her shop, but I fell in love with one her previous custom-orders, and asked her to make something similar for Maggie, but with Maggie-like hair. I am absolutely thrilled with the doll she made. She is made from soft jersey and stuffed with wool - it's hard to explain, but she just feels so warm and snuggly. And I love her sweet little expression (I am ignoring Steve's comments about dolls being "creepy"; lalalalalala, I can't hear you!).

She is exactly what I asked for, and the craftmanship is wonderful. And Estzer was wonderful to work with and kept me posted on her progress throughout. It was my first experience custom-ordering something from an Etsy seller, and it felt really good to support another sewing/crafting mama!

Ikea Doll Bed Makeover

Once I got the doll, about a month ago, I set to work on a doll bed for her. I bought a doll bed at Ikea and spray painted it with ivory. Well, actually, I spray painted it terribly and it bubbled and dripped all over and looked absolutely horrible,  so then Steve rolled his eyes and stepped in and sanded it and repainted it properly for me, making the whole process look easy. Thanks, Steve!

Then I stenciled flowers on the bed using acrylic paint and stencils I picked up at Michael's (unfortunately I don't see the ones I used online). Again, painting is clearly not my forte, but the stencils turned out rustic and cute!

Ikea Doll Bed Makeover

The sooner I quit painting and get back to working with fabric, the better, right? So I made bedding for the bed, including a little mattress and fitted sheet (totally insane, I know), a wool blanket, and a quilt. And a pillow with a separate pillow case. Then I made a nightie for dolly.  With the end result that Dolly has a nicer bed and bedlinens than any of the real people in my household!! Priorities, right?

Dolly under the covers.
Can you tell I was a doll-lover as a little girl? I got really into this project. At various points, I considered keeping the whole thing for myself. Hehe. Since this is a sewing blog, I will share some of my work-process, but just so you know, there are cute pictures of Maggie playing with her new doll below, so feel free to scroll past the details to get to the cute baby girl pics.


I used all stash fabrics and notions for this project. So while it was a very time-consuming project, it was very inexpensive at least. The Ikea doll bed cost $20, paint and supplies cost another $15 (not counting Steve's nice electric sander, haha! if you know how to spraypaint, you won't need that), and the fabrics, batting, and thread were all from my stash, and used up small pieces. This is the perfect project for rummaging through your supplies and using what you have on hand.

The doll bed came with a simple plank "mattress" so I decided it needed a cushier pad on top of that. I used the little bed plank to measure and cut some cream flannel and two layers of high-loft poly batting to fit.

Measuring batting for the "mattress"

Then I sewed a little mattress/futon stuffed with batting and hand-tied it with red embroidery thread. I made a pillow from four layers of batting and flannel, which turned out to be a bit big and "out of scale" with the bed, but it's just for pretend after all.

Mattress and pillow.

Then I made a little fitted sheet from sage-green gingham with box corners and a simple serged elastic edge (I stretched the elastic as I serged it along the edge of the sheet).

Fitted sheet

Ikea Doll Bed Makeover

The quilt was a labor of love, using little vintage feedsack scraps given to me by a friend, sashed with a lovely blue. I sandwiched it with cotton batting and a piece of a thrifted gathered skirt I've had in my "refashion" pile for ages for the backing (I used the same fabric for the pillowcase, see the photo above). Then I hand-quilted it in simple diagonal lines and bound it in yellow gingham. I have to say, while this was not a quick project, it sure is faster than making a larger quilt and it's really fun to be able to use such small scraps! Doll quilts are really fun!

Doll quilt.

Finally, I whipped up a little raglan nightgown for Dolly, using the clothes she came in to eyeball a pattern (you can see the adorable clothes that Ezster made for her here). I also made a little wool blanket - I just cut a piece of wool from my stash, ran it through the washing machine and dryer to shrink it, and turned down and sewed the edges.

Beautiful Waldolf Doll

And here is what you have all been waiting for: Maggie seeing her new dolly and doll bed for the first time. Just try to resist this sweetness. On second thought, don't bother. You can't.

Maggie meets her new dolly.

Maggie meets her new dolly.

Maggie meets her new dolly.

Maggie meets her new dolly.

Maggie meets her new dolly.

Yes, you saw that right: She's reading a book to her doll. I told you it was pointless to resist!

This was such an enjoyable project for me, and I had a ridiculous amount of fun making little doll things, and spent a lot of time remembering how my grandmother made things for my dolls when I was a little girl. I don't think doll-lovers ever completely outgrow the love of dolls and miniature everything (well, if I haven't outgrown it by age 37, I think it's safe to say I never will!). But of course the best part is seeing Maggie approach her new dolly friend so gently and sweetly. And read her a book!!!

As Joe said, "Look how happy she is playing with it, Mama!! She is so happy!" *Heartburst.*