Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Holiday Sewing, Part 2.

Hi everyone! It's chilly here in Oakland! Not by Midwestern or East Coast standards, of course, but since our house is uninsulated and has inadequate heat, when it gets moderately cool outside, it's pretty much the same temperature inside.  It's kind of like camping. It's freezing cold in the morning, warms up slowly, and the kids and I tend to spend a lot of time in the warmest room in the house, our dining room (where we do pretty much everything except dine, including sew, play, and work at the computer).

I complain about this every year, and I know y'all would feel deprived if you didn't have me to laugh at and roll your eyes at; I'm happy to oblige.  You are welcome.

As everywhere in the Northern hemisphere, the light is also fading, big time, as we approach the winter solstice, so please forgive the not-so-great photos in this blog post. My flash isn't working, so in the absence of good natural light, I present you with golden-y, somewhat blurry photos. The golden tone actually makes my house seem quite warm, which is lovely.

I haven't adopted making Christmas PJs as a tradition (at least, yet) as some families have. I am much more haphazard. I did it for Joe five years ago, then took a long break. Last year I made PJ pants for Joe on time but then waited six months to finish Maggie's pants. Neither of them were Christmas themed, and I never blogged them. So I don't think we can call this a tradition. That said, I always love seeing the posts start to show up in my blog feed in the week before Christmas. Seeing the girls in their pretty nightgowns and everyone looking so cozy and expectant! It's lovely. Some of my friends do this on an epic scale, for, like, TONS of kids! (I'm looking at you, Rachel.) I only have two kids, and making pajamas for them while juggling other holiday obligations seems like an awful lot of work!

But when I found a perfect used nightgown pattern, Simplicity 9968, at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse this year, in Maggie's size (actually even better than her size, since I never know what her size will be these days, but a range of sizes!), it seemed meant to be. I love old school nightgown patterns, but I've noticed that many have very high necklines, which my kids won't tolerate. They take after their mother in that respect - I hate anything touching my neck! So one of the first things I noticed about this ideal nightie pattern was the square neckline. Perfecto!

When I went on a Cotton + Steel Garland buying spree for my tree skirt, I obviously had to buy some yardage in the brushed cotton substrate, right? I let the kids pick which fabrics they wanted for their PJs - Joe gravitated immediately to the blue snowflakes. I admit, I hoped Maggie would choose the red snowflakes, so the kids would be really matchy, and I steered her in that direction, but nope. She wanted the adorable little reindeers. Little Rudolphs (but the noses are more pink than red, to contrast with the red background - so we decided to call this particular reindeer "Rudolpha the Pink-Nosed Reindeer").

Who could resist clothing these two in warm and cozy flannel, right? They do bicker and fight some, like all siblings, but the love between them is so strong, too.

Okay, right, sewing! This is such a great pattern! I made version D, a long nightie with long sleeves. Based on Maggie's measurements, I cut out a size 2, but with extra length in the skirt and sleeves (about 4 inches in the hem, some came out in the hemming; about 2 inches in the sleeves, and I used it!). I tried it on Maggie before hemming to get the lengths right and it worked out perfectly. The sleeves are a bit long, but because they are gathered at the wrists, she can grow into them. The hem is deep and can be let out. Hopefully this nightgown will last at least the next year.

I added some gathered eyelet lace to the bodice for a little contrast. The nightie has a sweet keyhole opening in the back that provided a rare opportunity for a heart button. I find weird different shaped buttons are always hard to get through regular buttonholes, but they work just fine with an elastic button-loop. (Obviously, I was not very worried about pattern matching!)

This nightie was so fun and fast to make! Nothing complicated here, just a really good, satisfying make.

I ended up making just a pair of PJ pants for Joe. These are the Oliver + S Sleepover Pajamas, just the pants. I'd love to make Joe a full set of pajamas some day, but I didn't have enough time or fabric to do it this time, and I know he'll get the most use out of the pants, so here we are. Cute pajama pants!

The Sleepover pants have no side seams, a separate waistband, and cute cuffs. I used the same fabric throughout, but added a little white piping on the cuffs of the pants. This is another super easy, fun, and cute pattern! I know this won't be the last pair of pajama pants I make for Joe using this pattern.

 I am currently reading Ursula K. LeGuin's Catwings to the kids and it has really captured their imaginations! They spend the better part of the day pretending to be kitty cats - who fly!

It is such a great series: it has enchanted both my children, and if I'm honest, me too! I will be sorry to finish it.

On the practical side, this has been one of my biggest wins with the kids in recent months - three days have gone by, and they are still wearing their flannel pajamas! Maggie had to be talked into taking her nightie off for a brief wash after she spilled something on it. The house is cold, and warm flannel helps!

Do you sew pajamas for your kids for Christmas? What are you reading to your children (or what were your favorite picture books when you were a kid)?

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Holiday Sewing, 2016

Hello, dear readers! It has been a while! 

We decided to  decorate for Christmas a little early this year, right after Thanksgiving. Normally we wait a few weeks longer, but this year,  I think we all needed a little holiday cheer. I generally avoid talking politics on this blog, so I'll keep it brief. This past November: Lord have mercy! That's all I've got right now. Seriously. I am reduced to prayer.

But it's a fact that things seem better when there are pretty Christmas lights flashing in the window when you get home, and the house feels warmer with all of our stockings hanging by the fireplace. Sometimes, you just have to cling to the simple things!

The mini stocking is for our real-life cat, Maria, or Joe's stuffed dog, depending on when you ask Joe. I feel a little bad for the cat that she is so easily replaced with a fake animal ... but not really. She's a cat, she doesn't care about Christmas. Whereas Joe's imaginary dog might!

Most of my Christmas decorations are thrift store or Etsy buys, and every year I find myself adding to my collection. This chipped nativity scene was only a few dollars at the East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse, and I love it!

Every year, I do a little bit of Christmas sewing, too. I figure in about a decade, my house will look like something straight out of a 1982 Better Homes and Garden Christmas issue. At least, that's the plan! My children are too young to find anything weird about this, and love to help me pick out Christmas decor at the thrift store. It's funny to imagine that their own childhood nostalgia may be inextricably linked to my own nostalgia for my grandmother's house at Christmas growing up. I guess that's how it works!

In mid-November, Rachel at Stitched in Color posted on her blog about the tree skirt she recently made, which she did in a "string quilt" zig-zag pattern in lovely Denise Schmidt pastels. Isn't it gorgeous? I immediately fell in love with it and decided I needed to drop everything and make one for myself!

Thus began what turned out the be a Really. Big. Project.

I have a modest pile of Christmas fabrics in my stash, and I dug deeper for pretty blues, reds, greens, and low volume prints from my non-Christmas stash, as well as buying a really lovely bundle of Cotton + Steel Garland fat quarters to supplement (I really love the whole Garland line - the light greens and aquas are the perfect complement to the true red!).

This is a "quilt as you go" project, where you sew the fabric directly onto the batting, then cut it into wedges for the tree skirt. Some brief thoughts:

1) This project requires more fabric than you think.
2) This project requires more batting than you would imagine.
3) This project requires three (count them, three) whole packages of bias binding!

You get the idea! I guess, in my mind, I thought of this as a small project, much less work than a quilt. Um, no. It's basically a really large, circular quilt. It is a giant, quilted, circle skirt, like the ones the ladies wear in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (and my respect for the making of those skirts is greatly enhanced). It did put a really big dent into my Christmas fabric stash, though!

Yeah. It's freaking ENORMOUS!! This would work for a Nutcracker-sized tree! I joked with Steve that it's for when we get a mansion and have a giant 12 foot tree. In the meantime, I have to tuck it up around our tree so that we can walk past it and into the room! But after all that work, it seemed far too wasteful to cut it down, and after all, you never know when you might move into a giant mansion? Uh ...

I backed it with miscellaneous Christmas yardage. Did I mention this thing is huge? It's about 65 inches across!! Here it is with Maggie for scale. :)

 This project just kept multiplying itself. I thought I would make it a "little" bigger than the one in the tutorial, and it was only at the end that I realized it was a lot bigger! Everything took longer and required more supplies than I expected. All of that quilt-as-you-go gave me a crick in the neck and exacerbated my tennis elbow (no, I don't play tennis; yes, I am getting old). I had to take breaks from it because it was so physically demanding to work with such large pieces of batting. Etc., etc. You get the idea. Anyway, it got to the point where Maggie was asking me when I was going to finish the Christmas tree skirt, because "there are only two weeks left until Christmas!" and I wanted it out of my sewing space too! No way I was going to cut bias binding or hand sew it onto this beast. Packaged double fold bias tape and a zig-zag stitch came to the rescue, and the epic tree skirt of never-ending-ness is officially DONE!

This was a big project, but I am really happy with the mix of fabrics and colors. It really is cheerful and lovely. It looks really nice under the tree with the sparkling lights all around it.

I was recently reading an essay by Charles Dickens, called "What Christmas is as We Grow Older," very Victorian and sentimental and pious, as you would expect, but of course, that's what we love about Dickens! He says that as we get older, the magic of Christmas fades, but in its place, we feel "the spirit of active usefulness, perseverance, cheerful discharge of duty, kindness and forbearance!" I would add, as parents, we create that magic for the next generation. Which seems like a good sentiment for this winter season, 2016, whatever holiday you celebrate.

Happy holidays, dear friends! Are you doing any holiday sewing this year?

Monday, October 10, 2016

Oliver + S Building Block Dress.

Happy October, readers! As usual, I am a little bit in denial of the change of seasons - we've had some gorgeous weather this past month, and I'm not ready for autumn! But, ready or not, here it is!

We've been really busy lately, finally working on the massive backyard overhaul I hinted about earlier this year. The whole yard has been graded, terraced, and new patios are in! It's super exciting, and such. a. big. project. Maybe I'll do a whole post about that soon? If it wouldn't bore you to tears. And if you're okay not having an obvious "after," because it's a work in progress, and I don't mean that in a humble-brag way, like, "see my gorgeous perfectly curated living room? oh, it's still a work in progress ... " I mean that in the "it's still a construction site" way. It's a bit of a blank slate right now - we have so much planting to do. In fact, these photos were taken at a local California native plants nursery where Maggie helped me pick out several nice plants! I thought to myself, "let's go off site for a photo shoot!" But then the light was a bit harsher than I was hoping for an October mid-morning and the photos aren't the best. Of course, after this, Maggie had pizza and ice cream, with predictable results. So these photos will have to do! For those of you who only post truly lovely, well-lit pictures, how do you do it? Do you do repeat photo shoots when one doesn't turn out? Do you not let your children eat pizza? DISH.

Anyway, sewing! Like many of you, when I heard about Liesl's new project for Oliver + S, Building Block Dress: A Sewing Pattern Alteration Guide, and saw some of the teaser shots, I was like "OMG TAKE MY MONEY. ... No, seriously, here is my money!" I just knew it would be awesome. It's a book with a basic dress pattern and instructions for altering the dress to be whatever you want it to be. Although information about pattern-making exists out there in the universe, and I even have a couple of books about it, I have always been pretty hesitant to try those techniques in any serious way. It is pretty intimidating stuff. And I didn't have a basic "block" to start with (I realize any number of patterns could be used in that way, but you know - mental hurdles aren't always rational). But I knew that Liesl would explain it in a way that is especially clear, and the Oliver + S community is an amazing resource, which helps too. My hope was to learn and practice some skills that could be used on all kinds of patterns - not just girls' dresses - but I figured, if nothing else, even the basic block dress is pretty sweet!

Incidentally, I want to say I think it's really cool that Liesl and Todd decided to self-publish this book.  Liesl talks about that decision here. With all the Oliver + s patterns I've bought and used over the years, the things I've learned from the blog, the Oliver + S community, all the friends I've met on Flickr and the forums, who really form the basis for my blog audience (THANK YOU, GUYS!), it was a no brainer for me to support Oliver + S in this way. I am a strong believer in supporting my local fabric stores (and small online stores) and favorite indie designers when I can. We all know that sewing is not a cheap hobby (especially the way I practice it, ahem), so I like to think that my money is helping nice people who provide great service or products to make a living wage. So anyway, the Oliver + S crew definitely put themselves out there, financially and otherwise, with this self-published book, and took a significant risk, and I was delighted to show my support. Also, this explained the long period without new patterns from Oliver + S, which had had me a bit worried.

Well, I preordered the book, and it arrived a few days later, after I had had a brutal and long day at work (I can't even remember now why it was brutal, because I've moved on to new firefighting exercises, aaaggggghhh). I parked myself on the couch with a beer and started reading it. So good! It really got my creative juices flowing and put me solidly in my happy place. You've heard it by now, but the photographs, instructions, and illustrations are just wonderfully organized and helpful. Liesl has a rare gift for developing clear instructions, even on quite a large scale, as in this book.

The weekend after it came, I dropped everything, scoured my fabric stash, and came up with this mock-up for my first try, a dress for Mags.

This was a first draft - a few things changed in the making, most notably, I decided to go with a "gathered pocket" instead of a lined pocket. The style is decidedly "feedsack vintage," and was inspired by the fabric, from the Cotton + Steel "Lucky Strikes" line, called "Clothesline Floral Red." The selvedge reads "Tuesday Night Ladies Bowling League 1972," otherwise known as Right Up Inder's (Bowling) Alley, right? Heck yes.

As usual, the design process involved Maggie, who helped me go through my fabric piles and chose fabrics and lots of loud and clashing trims and buttons. I actually have several pieces from the Lucky Strikes line, and Maggie originally selected "Coffee Shop Red," but I only had a yard

Me: "Maggie, I love that one too but I don't think it's enough fabric for a dress."

Maggie, patiently explaining: "Mama, you have to cut it into pieces."

Ah, good point! 

There was additional negotiation, but we finally settled on the other piece of Lucky Strikes fabric, this lovely subdued, somewhat autumnal floral (the other piece will make a great little blouse or A-line dress). Having decided the fabric, I designed the dress. I decided to complement this lovely subdued floral with some purple lawn, also from Cotton + Steel (I think!), which I decided to use for the collar, lining, and accents. The inspiration to use a darker color for the collar came from the sweet little pink dress with the red shaped collar in the book

I have been obsessing over puffed sleeves lately and knew right away I wanted to try those! My love for sweet heirloom details persists over the years, and Maggie will only be "puffed sleeves" age for a little while, I must take advantage!

For my first attempt at the dress, I decided to keep the bodice untouched, so that I could check basic fit before branching into a-line shapes. This is a size 3 with no modifications, and the bodice fits Maggie pretty perfectly, with a little room to grow.

I also kept the peter pan collar, but decided to add a little tie made of a bias tube for additional interest. I stitched this to the neckline slightly outside of the seam allowance, so that you can barely see where it meets the collar.

I spent the morning tracing the block pieces and making the alterations to the pocket and sleeve, following the instructions in the book. The instructions for altering the pattern were, as always with Liesl's work, excellent and clear. One little tidbit I got from the book is to use washi tape when you are "slashing and spreading" a pattern piece and need to secure it to another piece of paper to trace it. The washi tape picks up easily (painters' tape would work just as well), allowing you to adjust and fiddle until you're ready to trace. Both the gathered pocket and the puffed sleeve involve a good deal of cutting and slashing, and this trick worked really well!

The pockets are the same little gathered pockets as you find on the Jump Rope Dress. They are not very visible in this busy print, but they are the perfect size for holding Maggie's beloved tiny Beanie Boo, "Baby Uni."

I want to pause and say that I really love sewing from patterns. While I have changed out many pockets, changed shapes or lengths of items, and even drafted a collar stand, a lot of times I'm looking for a more brainless comfortable sewing experience. I want someone else to do that work, and I just want my hand held. While there has been some talk about Liesl "selling all her secrets," I don't think any pattern makers are going to go out of business on my account! I will continue to buy patterns. But I think this book will give me more confidence to adapt patterns to fit my desires, rather than getting a good idea or seeing something on Pinterest and then searching the interwebs for a pattern that matches it, only to be disappointed that I can't locate anything quite fitting my dream. In addition, a book like this can help you understand the whys of sewing - why do certain pieces look the way that they do and how does that translate in a final garment - that I am sure I can benefit from.

The bodice is lined in the lawn, for neatness and to add a softer layer next to the skin, since the floral is your basic kind-of scratchy quilting cotton. I did one extra technique that was not covered in Building Block Dress book, and sewed the lining and body with the sleeves sandwiched between while they were still flat, much like you would for a flutter sleeve (it's quite a bit more tricky). This idea - no joke - occurred to me late at night as I was trying to sleep. That's a sewing obsession for you! The next morning I was scouring the internets to see if it would work - here is a tutorial that I reviewed to make sure I wasn't completely off base for that.

After all that, I did french seams on the skirt and sleeves - or, I should say, I tried to do french seams on the sleeves, but it it was not quite possible due to the fact that I had sewn the lining right up to the seam allowance of the sleeve (I am having a hard time describing the problem!). I am going to have to keep trying and tweaking this lined bodice with sleeves technique to figure out how it all works together! I hand sewed the bodice lining to the skirt, which is my favorite technique for an invisible finish on the outside, and I machine-sewed a deep hem.

Four navy blue buttons down the back, a little continuous placket on the skirt, and all in all, it turned out pretty close to my design! Very vintagey and a little bit autumnal. This book is so fun! I am excited to keep working from it and try some braver alterations. As for Maggie, she lovers her pretty new dress, and is already working to help me design the next dress, which will be from a knit. Maggie wanted to make sure I didn't get stuck in a rut with this Building Blocks concept, so yeah ... jersey. Wish me luck!

And here is Maggie with Baby Uni and Star, the baby dolphin.

What about you, dear readers? Do you have this book yet? Are you making clothes for your kids this fall (spring for you Aussies)? Do your kids love Beanie Boos and stuffed animals? Can you make a dress from one yard of fabric if you just cut it up correctly? Discuss.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

More School Clothes! Part 2: The Citronille Suzanne.

As promised, I am back to share another item I made for the start of school - in this case, for Maggie. This is the Citronille Suzanne dress (which I made in a tunic length due to fabric constraints). Citronille is a French pattern company with the most drool-worthy old-fashioned patterns for children. Some of the patterns are available in English versions, and you can also get additional patterns with translations included from Fiddlehead Artisan Supply. This pattern comes in an English version, but I ordered it from Fiddlehead to save myself the international shipping costs.

I had about one yard of this gorgeous Nani Iro "Poppy Trip" double gauze; maybe less because it shrank a bit in the wash. This lovely print runs up and down but it has a pretty green border along the selvedge. It is not a regular border print, because the border runs parallel to the print, which is a bit strange. I was able to squeeze this little tunic out of the fabric I had with only small scraps leftover. This pattern comes in sizes 2, 4, 6, and 8. I made the size two. With that wide neckline, it makes sense to go down a size when in doubt, to avoid the shoulders falling down the arms.

This pattern is dead simple. The instructions are basic, and there is no mention of finishing seams. As written, the yoke is simply hemmed along the top, and the sleeves are hemmed along the shoulder line, so that there is just one layer of fabric all around the neckline, if that makes sense. Like this:

The basic construction is part of the charm of this pattern, of course - it has a very folkwear vibe. But I could not resist complicating it significantly! I wanted the insides to look nice and finished and I decided to really step things up by using the border of the Nani Iro to embellish the neckline of the dress.

I lined the yoke pieces with muslin, since the double gauze is quite sheer, and applied the trim around the neck as a reverse facing, basically, machine sewing it to the shoulders and bottom yoke, and then hand stitching it in place. This makes the inside of the dress much cleaner and more comfortable. Having hand stitched the neckline, of course I had to hand-hem the sleeves and skirt! Double gauze is so easy to hand-sew invisibly, because you can pick up only the underlayer of gauze.

This pattern has no back or front! It's the same both ways! Of course double gauze gathers beautifully and hangs so nicely so it suits a simple pattern like this perfectly.

Maggie recently got a haircut, at my insistence, since her long baby-fine hair was looking really scraggly along the ends. She got little bangs, and I love them! They swoop to the side and frame her sweet brown eyes.  And her hair is still long enough to put in a ponytail or little braids, but looks much better down now. Yay for less maintenance!

One of my friends mentioned that the overall effect is very "Lizzy Bennett" with the "muslin" fabric, the empire waist and square neckline! I can see that. And Maggie has all the intelligence and sass of a Lizzy Bennett! She may be small for her age, but I am told she stands up for herself at school! She has been well trained by her brother, apparently!

 Maggie paired the tunic with some too-large Hanna Andersen shorts, which - with the bare feet - makes her look like a little hobbit to me! A regency hobbit! She hasn't worn this to school yet, but she really likes it so I think she'll get a lot of wear out of it! Although double-gauze is expensive, precious stuff, I try not to restrict the clothes I make to "nice occasions." We don't have that many nice occasions, and I'd rather see clothes worn and loved.

My final review of this pattern? I think it's cute, but it is so basic, I don't know how much I will use it. The lack of nice finishing bugs me a bit, and I can't imagine sewing it as instructed - I think I would always line the yoke and at least use bias tape to finish the shoulders. That said, what a perfect pattern for a brand new beginner to sewing! I am considering tracing it off for my own use (I don't need instructions for something like this!) and giving my copy away to a friend who is just learning to sew. For being so fast and simple, it really is a pretty dress! Citronille patterns are so pretty to look at, and they do sew up very nicely, but they do not have the attention to detail and thorough instructions I've come to expect from Oliver + s and other modern indie patterns. Sewing with Citronille is more like sewing with vintage patterns - basic sewing knowledge is assumed and information about nice finishing (understitching, for example) is often not included. That said, you couldn't ask for prettier designs! They really are so special and pretty.

I am going to make at least one more item for Maggie for this new school year, and then I need to work on several gifts. So you'll be hearing from me again soon! Do you do back to school sewing for your kids?

Saturday, September 10, 2016

More School Clothes! Part 1: The "Golden Shirt."

Hello readers! I'm back for a second installment of school clothes for my kidlets. Joe started first grade a couple weeks ago, and Maggie is back in preschool (for her third year) this week! One of the ways that we sewing moms show our love and concern for our kids is to dress them in things we've made before sending them out into the world. So the start of the new school year puts me into a flurry of sewing activity.

I'm going to break this down into two blog posts, talking about Joe's shirt first. This is the "golden shirt" that he requested not that long ago. Joe likes to tell me that I make more things for Maggie than I do for him. This may be true, for a variety of reasons (including that Joe is pickier than Maggie and less likely to wear the clothes I make!), but I don't think he can say it now, after I made him two t-shirts, a pair of shorts, and this shirt!

This is the Oliver + s Sketchbook Shirt with some modifications, sewn up in Anna Maria Horner's Loominous Illuminated Graph Glow, which is just the BEST fabric, and very golden with the metallic gold threads running through it! It doesn't photograph well, but it's really quite blingy in person!

I made some modifications to the Sketchbook pattern - fit-wise, I cut it in a size 6 but utilizing the full length of the pattern (size 12 length). This pattern is boxy and short, in my opinion, and although my version is quite long and has room to grow, I much prefer the proportions of the shirt with a lot of length added!

What is that, you ask? Why yes, I did draft a two piece collar (with separate collar stand) for the Sketchbook shirt! The pattern comes with a stand for a mandarin or band collar, or a one piece collar. I've complained in the past that the one piece collar doesn't lie the way I would prefer, so this time I decided to try my luck at drafting a two piece collar. I used the band collar provided in the pattern, and the collar piece to draft a collar. I got stumped when it came to drafting the contour of the bottom of the collar, and spent a lot of time online looking at collar pieces! My first attempt resulted in a collar that was much too narrow, so I tossed that and started over, adding more depth to the collar. I think it turned out pretty nice in the end, although it really did feel like guess work at the time! I'm sure there's a much more "official" way to draft a collar!

I had gotten it into my head that I wanted to do a button down collar on this shirt - I thought that preppy detail would help to tone down the gold bling, and I still think it would look great - but the shape of the collar I drafted would not work for that. I need to go back to the books and figure out different men's collar shapes! Subtle changes make such a difference! As it is, I'm very happy with how this collar looks and I don't think a button down collar would have added much.

Of course, after all that work, Joe let me know that he doesn't particularly like collared shirts with buttons. Because, you know, they are not in a knit fabric, and they touch his neck. (See above re: why I sew more for Maggie!) But he's willing to wear it over another t-shirt, and once it was on he forgot about it. I expect I will be able to convince him to wear this shirt to a few nicer occasions and maybe school pictures.

Note: School pictures for boys turn out so much better if you can get your kid into a collared shirt! They photograph so nicely!

With the grid pattern of this fabric, I put a lot of pieces on the bias - the two front pockets, the buttonhole placket, and the outside (but not lining) yoke piece. Keeping the inside yoke piece on the straight grain helps prevent the bias yoke from stretching out of shape during the sewing process. Of course, I used the "burrito" technique on the yoke, and I also used the instructions from the Grainline Archer Shirt when I was sewing the collar stand to the shirt. She has a confusing to describe but excellent technique for getting the collar stand to match the buttonhole placket exactly.

The hardest thing about this shirt was choosing buttons for it, seriously! I really wanted something casual, because this fabric is really the star of the show and I didn't want it to be over-the-top blingy. But white buttons really just didn't work. I bought wooden buttons for the shirt, but on second thought they looked too big and juvenile on the shirt. So I went back to the store, where a very excellent saleslady at Stonemountain and Daughter understood exactly what I was going for and picked out these tortoise-shell style men's shirt buttons for me. They don't actually match the fabric, color-wise, and I had moments of questioning .... but in the end, they lend a very classic and understated look to the shirt and neither  detract from or overly emphasize the golden-metallic-ness of this fabric. 

Joe was yelling "I love tacos!" during this shot! We live in the land of "taco trucks on every corner," and I'm here to say, it's a pretty good land, haha! Joe's shorts are these ones - Sketchbook Shorts, of course! This is one of the very few times you'll see Joe wearing a whole Sketchbook ensemble!

I love that Joe still loves shiny blingy stuff! And tacos! Even if he is somewhat anti-collar.

Tomorrow I will post Part 2: Maggie's Citronille Patterns Suzanne! Stay tuned!

Friday, August 19, 2016

School Clothes.

Hello, readers! Sewing has been SLOOOOOOOW around these parts, and blogging even slower! Apparently August is a slow sewing month for me - I complained about this last year, and my reasons then were very similar to my reasons this year. It's hot and my kids' drawers are pretty stuffed, so making garments isn't high on my list. My fabric stash is out of control and the WIPs are mocking me. This year, I broke my foot, and although I am getting around pretty well now (I hope to be out of the boot next week), it has put a damper on my machine sewing (I've been doing a lot of hand sewing, though).

But Joe starts back at school (1st Grade!) on Monday, so I kicked myself out of my sewing stupor and knocked out a couple of basics for him: two t-shirts and a pair of mustard yellow shorts that I cut out for him last month (this was one of the WIPs mocking me).

Isn't he a dreamboat? Anyway, shirts! (You can see the other shirt I made here.) These were stashbusting Safari Raglans, using some leftover scraps from other projects (like here). This one uses a really lovely Valorie Wells knit in a swirly pattern. I pieced the back in order to use up the last of this fabric. Instead of cutting the piece on the fold, I cut two pieces, adding some seam allowance down the center back. I always feel so virtuous using up every last scrap of a fun fabric! As usual, the only modification I made to this t-shirt was to add a little length to the size 6

Now that I'm a parent, I realize that part of the reason for "school shopping," or, in my case, whipping up a few new pieces for my kids to wear before the new school year, is to psyche the kid up a little bit for the new year. Joe isn't exactly pumped about starting school again. He's a shy kid, and change is hard for him. As parents, we are emphasizing the positive (seeing his friends again, having a nice new teacher) and hopefully, once the dust settles, he will become quite comfortable in his new situation. But it's fair to say we are all feeling a bit anxious about the transition. 

But he has a new Darth Vader backpack and now some new duds, so that helps a little bit. I feel better knowing Joe is wearing something I made him, so maybe the ritual helps me as much as it helps him!

These new shorts (you can see them flat here) were inspired by this pair of Mini Boden shorts, and were also a good stash-busting project, using up a small piece of gorgeous golden-mustard linen and a very small piece of striped knit. As I mentioned in my last post, my kids are currently obsessed by all things "golden" - while this linen is not a metallic gold, Joe accepted it as "golden" enough to be exciting and acceptable for a new pair of shorts. Since my love of "glorious yellow" is well know, I am only too glad to sew mustard yellow shorts for Joe!

Of course, if you hadn't guessed yet, my starting point was the Oliver + S Sketchbook Shorts. Why mess with something I know works for Joe? As with my last few pairs, these have a knit waistband for added comfort. This time I created a functional but also comfortable drawstring waist by making buttonholes at the center front of the shorts, and threading teal cording sewn to an elastic panel at the back, through the waist as well as a tube of solid elastic. That way, the drawstring can be tied in a knot, but does not prevent comfortable wear and movement. I also sewed a little teal piping on the pocket openings.

I rolled the shorts up for this photo shoot and to imitate the Boden shorts I was inspired by, but they can also be worn at full length, which is a bit below Joe's knees. 

The linen makes these shorts extra comfortable and breezy for summertime. We get some of our warmest weather in September.

I have some other plans in the works for Joe, including his long-requested "golden shirt." Hopefully I can get back into a good balance of machine and hand sewing soon. I have to say, hand sewing is calling my name lately! But I love seeing my kids wearing and enjoying the things I make for them as well. As usual in life, I suspect there is no true "balance," there is only trucking along doing what I am drawn to do and have time for!

Do you make back to school outfits for your kids? Does it help them feel better about their first day back to school?

Saturday, July 30, 2016

A "Golden" Birthday Dress for Maggie.

Hi everyone! Where is the summer going? A month has flown by without a blog post. I have some good reasons for that, which, if you follow me on Instagram, you know all about. We went on two trips (a short road trip to LA and a longer visit to see family in the Pacific Northwest), work has been crazy, and wait for it ... I broke my foot! Yeah, I was just traipsing down a grassy slope at Codornices Park in Berkeley and put my foot down on an indentation in the ground and felt a slight crunching sensation. It is the sort of motion you've done thousands of times in your life and you always manage to compensate in some way, no problem. But this time the stars aligned, and crunch. OUCH! Don't do this, people. Having a broken foot is not fun and definitely puts a damper in your sewing (although I have done a lot of work on my hexie quilt).


That was over two weeks ago now, and my foot is actually a lot better now. I'm walking around in a walking boot type thing (very sexy), don't need crutches anymore, and my foot feels better every day. I'm hopeful that it is healing really well and I will be able to walk like a normal person soon.

Anyway, back to sewing!

Several of my favorite little girls, including my dear Maggie, my little niece, and my BFF's daughter, have birthdays in June or July, so I tend to spend a lot of time in the summer making birthday dresses. This year I decided to be efficient about it and choose one simple pattern to make for all of the birthday girls. Since I loved sewing the Mori Dress by Elegance & Elephants and Maggie loved the lack of fastenings (so she can put it on without any help), I decided to try the Bohemian Baby Doll Dress, which is even simpler than the Mori and has been made up so beautifully by my friend Rachel at Stitched Together and others.

I resisted this pattern for a long time because it is so similar to the Geranium Dress, which I have made many times, but finally bit the bullet and bought the pattern because: (1) no fastenings; (2) cute curved waist seam; and (3) cute high-low hemline. Sometimes I resist very simple patterns, exactly because they are very simple, and I imagine I could hack another pattern to get the same effect. But in the end, I get a lot of use out of my most simple patterns, and it's nice to have the pieces all drafted for me. Considering the size range (6 months to 9 years), this pattern is a good value at $9.

I've already gotten a lot of bang for my buck, because I've made three of these dresses!

Here are the first two I made. The one of the left was for my little redheaded niece. I used a gorgeous Lizzy House double gauze that looks like a medieval tapestry. I love it because redheads + green dresses = all the Irish lass heart eyes, right? She loves it because ... unicorns, duh. Win win! The one on the right is for my BFF's daughter, who is a fair skin brunette with an interest in outer space. I chose this Cotton + Steel Mochi lawn in "plum" because I knew the color would suit her and the print reminds me of constellations and galaxies! I am popping that one in the mail today, and I hope my recipient likes it!

Anyway, Maggie's fourth birthday was July 9, and I always make her a birthday dress. I asked her what color or print of birthday dress she would like, and to my great delight and astonishment, she said she wanted a "golden" dress! She and Joe have been really into playing pirates and "gold" is their new favorite color. After two solid years of "PINK PINK PINK!" it was a struggle to look nonchalant when Maggie suggested a non-pink birthday dress! But I certainly wasn't going to argue with her! Over the past two years I have somewhat reconciled myself to sewing a lot of pink, but I would sure love to branch out to other colors as well!

So I took the kids fabric shopping, of course, and Maggie and I picked out a fabric from Anna Maria Horner's  "Loominous" line, a yellow with a metallic gold thread running through it called "Illuminated Graph Glow."

This fabric is hard to photograph, and photographs do not quite capture how much the metallic thread just glows in the light. This dress is truly "golden"!  I was a little worried that the metallic threads wouldn't be able to take an iron or might make the fabric tricky to sew with, but I am delighted to report that this fabric is lovely to sew and can take a nice hot iron. And it is sooooooo pretty! (Joe loved it so much that he requested a shirt made from it, and I actually went out and bought a little more so that I could do that for him.)

After I made the dress and showed Maggie, she expressed disappointment that it did not have any pockets. Her vision of the dress clearly included pockets! So I made a pocket using the pocket piece in this pattern (which by the way, finally fits Maggie well and I have been considering making her another one!) and applied it to the left side of the dress after the fact. Luckily this seems to have satisfied Maggie.

Four year old Maggie is so delightful. She is talkative and intelligent, fun-loving, and sweet on her brother. She and Joe are going through an intense phase with their stuffed animals - they take them everywhere and have a rich imaginative life with them.  We've done a lot of traveling in the past couple of months, and my kids are total troopers and have a lot of fun being on the road. While I do feel sad thinking that Maggie's babyhood is really behind her now, I must admit that my kids become more and more fun and interesting as they get older!

After seeing the version I made for my niece on her and reading feedback from other people who have made this dress, I decided that it is drafted quite short (it falls well above the knee) so the only modification I made to Maggie's dress was to lengthen it three inches or so. It now hits just above her knees in front, with a longer hemline in back.

One challenge to summertime sewing and blogging is that the light is so harsh and bright during the day, and you don't get that nice late in the day light until bedtime! Therefore, these are not my very best photographs, because the sun was too high and the shadows too deep. But considering I've barely blogged at all this summer, it will just have to do!

I do love this photograph I took of Joe blowing on a dandelion puff. Somehow I feel like this pretty much captures the essence of summer. The colors remind me of the photos my parents took of my sister and me in the 80s and Maggie's expression just seems timeless. While the world is a pretty crazy place, there is something about childhood that never changes, and that is a beautiful thing.