Monday, September 28, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Vintage Maggie.

Vintage Simplicity 6054

No, no, Maggie is not vintage. Hardly. Nor is this dress, which I made a couple weeks ago, to celebrate Maggie being "back to school." But the pattern I used to make the dress is "vintage" (at least by this definition) and my choice of fabrics and rick rack pretty much scream "vintage" don't they? And "Vintage Maggie" has a nice ring to it.

I've had this pattern from the early 1970s in my stash for a few years, but Maggie only recently grew into size 2 (at age 3 and some months!), so I pulled it out on a recent browse/purge of my patterns. Maggie is always pestering me for new dresses these days (my heart!!), so at some point I pulled this down and showed to it to her. To my great surprise, Maggie pointed to Version 2, the little blue dress, and said "I want a blue dress like that!"

Now, as you know, Maggie's been on an all pink all the time kick for about a year now. I've worked with her and she has accepted a few garments that are not bright pink head to toe, but most of my recent makes for Maggie are bright pink dresses! Maggie has actually been saying "I hate blue!" lately, although I'm not sure she knows what it means. So when Maggie told me she wanted a blue dress, you could've knocked me over with a feather. Of course I wanted to oblige her and encourage this adventurous foray into colors that are not pink, but I was just really worried she might change her mind!

Vintage Simplicity 6054

I picked this fabric and white rick rack because they were the closest match I had in my stash to the blue dress in the pattern illustration. The blue calico is from JoAnns years ago - I bought it before Maggie went on her pink kick with the idea of making her something with it, and it had sat ever since. It has a cool, funky, retro vibe, for sure. I have to say, the rick rack pushes this dress completely over the top, almost into "costumey ridiculous," but it's really fun and I love it anyway. If you can't wear something over-the-top and frou-frou when you're three, when can you?

Vintage Simplicity 6054

And I'm pleased as punch to say that she did not change her mind! So it may be ridiculous and over-the-top, but she likes it and it's freaking adorable on, and it's blue, so I consider this an unmitigated win!

Vintage Simplicity 6054

As far as construction, this is a pretty simple little dress, with a lined yoke and a zipper in the back. As was the fashion in the early 70s, the dress is pretty short, but I decided not to lengthen it, since it's cute and I anticipate Maggie will mostly wear the dress with leggings this autumn. I could even see making this style in a shorter length as a tunic.

The pattern provides little guidance on seam finishing and contemplates that linings will be tacked down and hems finished by hand. The sash is simply tacked to the side rather than buried in the yoke seam as I think it ought to be. In my experience, this is pretty standard for patterns from this era. In the case of this dress, I did do things a little differently, hemming and attaching the rick-rack by machine (sewing the rick-rack onto the front yoke was the hardest part of this dress, actually, just because it was difficult to maneuver my machine over a mostly-completed dress), and inserting an invisible zipper instead of a centered zip. I used the Hanami Dress instructions for inserting an invisible zipper with lining, and, similar to that pattern, let the zipper end at the gathered waistline. This worked fine, and there is still plenty of room to pull it over Maggie's head, but for an older girl, I might insert a longer zipper to allow her to step into it. I chose a yellow zipper from my stash so there is a peak of yellow at the zipper pull.

Vintage Simplicity 6054

This dress is a lot like the Oliver + s "Hide and Seek" pattern, isn't it? This pattern is definitely a touch more "retro" and less modern and tasteful than the Hide and Seek dress. The sash and all around gathering make it a little more "little girl." Even though I have the Hide and Seek pattern and haven't made it yet, I really wanted to use this vintage pattern at least once, while it fits Mags.  But I think, without the rick-rack and in a plainer fabric, this dress pattern could be a lot less costumey and more everyday. Did you see that Alicia Paulson made this same pattern for her daughter, using a mix of prints? If I seen that version before I started mine, I might have copied her! And hey, there is still time to make more of these, since the pattern has plenty of ease for Maggie and will probably fit her for a while.

Vintage Simplicity 6054

I am annoyed that Flickr is watermarking my photos again and I haven't figured out if there is a way to post straight from Flickr without the watermark? Anyone figure that out? If so, please tell me how to do it. I really like using Flickr because it allows me to draft a blog post from any computer or device, rather than limiting me to the computer that has my photographs on it, but the watermark is super annoying. I know the trend recently has been away from Flickr (probably because they keep doing these blog-unfriendly things like putting watermarks on our photos) - is there another internet host that folks are using for photos?

Vintage Simplicity 6054

Oh my darling Maggie. Everyone agrees you have the best smile in the whole wide world. Your entire face smiles. People stop in the street to smile back at you when you flash this grin at them, because it just cannot be ignored! You spread happiness and delight everywhere you go. My lovely Margaret Joy.

I will be back tomorrow with my contribution to Imagine Gnat's Selfish Sewing Week, so stay tuned! 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

A Raspberry Lemonade Quilt and a Joe Update.

Random scrappy quilt!

Oh dear!! It has been almost two months since I last posted! I did not mean to skip blogging for so long! I could make excuses (and there were some contributing factors, which I discuss below), but the main issue, as sometimes happens, is just that I fell out of the habit of sharing my makes here. Like so many things, blogging is easy to do when it's a regular habit, but the longer you're away from it, the harder it seems to get back to it. Well, the only solution to that is to get back on the ol' horse, right? So here I am. I hope you had a lovely end-of-summer! I can't believe we are halfway through September already!

As you can see from the photograph above: (1) I made a quilt!!; and (2) the "severe drought" we've experienced here in California this year has not been kind to our lawn! I'm not sure even this winter's predicted El Niño rains can resurrect it!

Random scrappy quilt!

So yes, I made a really very large quilt! There were several inspirations for this project. First, I had one of those moments of "sewing malaise." I spent some time in August purging my wardrobe and the kids' wardrobes, giving away everything that wasn't regularly worn or didn't fit. This was wonderful - my closet now how breathing room! The kids' clothes can fit into their cubbies with room to spare! But it also resulted in a loss of motivation to sew garments, because, let's face, it, none of us really needs clothes, right? The second inspiration was related to the first, because as part of my reorganization efforts, I tried to neaten up my sewing area, and was freshly appalled by how large and out of control my fabric stash is and my tendency to buy and hoard new fabric rather than work with what I have. I mean, really, it's kind of bad. I like to think that as hobbies go, sewing is not the most expensive, and it does keep me out of trouble, as I like to say, but yeah, okay ... the stash is freaking ridiculous right now. Many nice pieces of fabric that I would like to sew have been lost under piles of fabric I am no longer in love with, and I keep buying more, and it's a hot mess.

So I gathered up my red, pink, and yellow quilting cottons and started cutting them into four inch squares. And then I basically tossed all the squares into a pile and randomly pieced them. As in, reach over and grab two, sew together (chain piecing, of course), sew another two together, then clip the bits apart and throw all of them into a pile and randomly piece those, until I had long strips. I really didn't want to have to think too hard about this one, I just wanted to make a big scrappy random quilt.

Random scrappy quilt!

And this thing ended up HUGE! It's actually big enough for a full size bed! Definitely the biggest quilt I've ever made. I quilted it simply with eyeballed diagonal lines, and quilting it took forever. The work of pushing it through the sewing machine made my hands and neck so stiff and sore for several days! It was a big job!

Initially I planned to make it entirely from stash fabrics, but in the end, that wasn't possible. I bought a yard each of Kona cotton in light pink and light yellow to balance out the more saturated solids and prints and lighten the look of the quilt, and I bought some additional fabric for the backing and binding, because those required larger pieces. And of course I had to buy batting - I always keep batting around, but not on this scale! But this quilt is at least 85% stash.

Random scrappy quilt!

This quilt was the perfect antidote to my malaise. It used up a LOT of fabric, visibly shrinking my stash (okay ... possibly the difference is only visible only to me, but still!), it gave me something to work on that wasn't clothing, and it is a useful and beautiful and cheerful item that makes me happy to look at and snuggle under! My friend Mahriam said it reminded her of "raspberry lemonade." Yes!

Random scrappy quilt!

The back is pieced in a random fashion, to use up some additional squares and various pieces of yardage I had.

Random scrappy quilt!

Poor Steve! His arms got tired from trying to hold up the quilt to photograph! It's heavy! Here he is, taking a break. ;-) I can sympathize because I had to push this monster under my walking foot for miles.

Random scrappy quilt!

Sometimes, a large and very repetitive project is just the thing. This quilt saw me through some rough weeks towards the end of August which also contributed to my long blog silence. After some pretty extensive testing over the summer, we finally sat down with the school district to discuss an IEP (individualized education plan) for our Joe. I really didn't know what to expect from the meeting - I think part of me expected them to tell us that Joe was awesome (fact), all was normal (probably not fact), and we were worryworts (fact)! But at the meeting, we were informed that Joe "meets the educational criteria for autism spectrum disorder." Of course, we've long known (and I have shared here) that Joe has challenges in the areas of speech and communication, while being extremely shy and suffering from social anxiety. The formal diagnosis was not exactly a surprise, but it is one thing to suspect something might be a possibility and another thing to hear it from the mouths of experts in the field.

In retrospect, the YouTube obsessions with videos of (1) garbage trucks picking up trash; (2) trains pulling through crossings; (3) marble runs; (4) dominoes; (5) that guy who does demonstrations of all the HotWheels tracks ... might have been a clue?

It is extremely important to note that, label or no label, Joe hasn't changed at all, of course. He's still our funny, quirky, creative, happy, wonderfully quotable and somewhat literal kid, who created his own hashtag: #JoeLogic. We love him to bits and know that his future is bright. But it would be a lie to say the words didn't rock our world a little bit. I should add that the special ed folks did note Joe's "exceptional skills" in the areas of building, puzzle-solving, and spatial reasoning, which comes as a surprise to exactly no one who knows Joe. Since toddlerhood, Joe has loved to build things and learn about how things work. He has the mind of an engineer, for sure (and I imagine many of them would probably fall on "the spectrum" if tested by today's standards, ahem).

I wasn't sure how much of this I wanted to share, as we are still processing what this will mean to Joe and to us as time goes on. After all, a lot of people who would have been considered a tad bit eccentric in past decades are now getting the label "ASD" and while I want to make sure Joe gets all the help he needs at school, I am concerned that this not unduly affect Joe's self-perception. Joe doesn't know that he's gotten this label, he's just a kid doing kid stuff, and it remains to be seen whether this will be a helpful tool for him or something he'd rather leave behind him at some point. That's really up to him. Many of us are different or think differently in some way - that's what makes the world an interesting place. Basically, we don't know where this will lead us right now. All I can say for now is that everyone who works or engages with Joe finds him to be delightful and intelligent. He is surrounded by friends and family who think he's the bee's knees and the world is his oyster, etc., etc.

Adding to our stress and overwhelm during those first few weeks after the IEP meeting, Joe had a hard time adjusting to kindergarten at first. Of course, Joe has never been a particularly flexible kid, this kid loves and needs his routines, and change is hard for him. And the adjustment from a play-based preschool to a far more structured classroom environment isn't easy for any child (and we heard reports from other parents in our preschool that it wasn't hunky-dory for their kids either). But we were all certainly feeling pretty stressed there for a while. (There was some additional drama involving a transfer of schools that I will not bore you with here, except to say that Joe is in a really great classroom now and we are much relieved!)

I am happy to report, now that we are almost a month into the school year, that Joe is doing really well! He is adjusting to the routines and learning a ton. He follows instructions well and seems to be getting along with the other kids if not forming strong friendships quite yet. Best of all, my child who was never very interested in drawing or coloring is now drawing and coloring all the things, and proudly showing me how he is learning to write the alphabet! All good things. Somewhere along the line, Steve and I were able to breathe out a sigh of relief and relax a little bit.


Sometimes, this parenting gig is no joke! Right? It can be pretty darn intense. My mom always says that "getting her kids educated" - dealing with schools, working out those issues - was the hardest part of parenting. And we're only beginning that journey!

So anyway, quilts! I may find it harder to blog when I'm stressed, but it is a great blessing to have a fun hobby that uses the hands and distracts the mind when times gets tough. This quilt was made with so much love and trepidation and prayers for my best little guy, Joseph Roscoe.

Random scrappy quilt!

It's big enough to be a bed quilt, but for now it's living on the back of our couch where I can look at it every day.

Later, after some of the drama died down, I whipped up a little "sprocket" cushion with some more scraps using this tutorial and template.This was a really fun and fast project and I plan to make some more of these (my sister requested a couple for her couch!). And guess who really loves it? (Sorry for the sucky cell phone photo.)

Yup! My Joey-Bug. Love ya, sweets.

Okay, now that I've gotten that off my chest, hopefully I can return to my regular blogging schedule! Thanks for reading!