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?