Saturday, July 15, 2017

Geranium Expansion Pack.


It's no secret that I love Made By Rae patterns (I have 42 blog posts tagged with Made By Rae!), and the Geranium Dress is one of my absolute favorite girls' patterns, simply because it is so versatile and easy to make up! I've made it a few times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6), ahem, and it never gets old! So when Rae released the Expansion Pack, it was pretty much a done deal for me. Yeah, I could figure out some of those hacks on my own, but why? Plus, sleeves!

It just so happened to be time for me to make a dress for my wonderful, red-headed niece's seventh birthday, so I figured, why not? My sister informed me that Helen has decided she no longer likes pink, preferring blue, and that she is also rejecting "poofy dresses," which is all pretty much music to my ears, since Maggie is still all things pink, bedazzled, and poofy whereas I would love to sew all the raw-edged gray linen dresses (per Shelley's excellent graphic)!

Fun fact: My mother is a true redhead, as is my brother. My dad has brown hair but his sister is a redhead. My sister and I are more brunette (with some red), but the ginger genes are strong, and Helen is carrying on the ginger family tradition! At least one per generation!

I dug into my stash and found this gorgeous moth fabric from Teagan White's Fort Firefly collection with Birch organics. I've had this piece for a long time - I think I bought it with Maggie in mind, but she's never favored it when it came time to choosing fabrics. Helen likes it, though! The moths are a browny-pink, but not PINK, and the background is a lovely muted aqua. I paired this with a glowy-pink/brown chambray, also from my stash, which I bought way too much of at some point in time.



The Geranium dress has many different options, and I chose the cap sleeve and pleated skirt as my starting point for this dress. I knew Helen would like the pockets, and the pleated skirt doesn't have much "poof." The Geranium XP adds a bunch more options, so I went with the peter pan collar, extended bodice, and hem band.

Knowing that my niece is super tall for her age, I made a size six, but lengthened the bodice extra as well as the skirt. Sewing for Helen usually goes like this: I add copious amounts of length to everything and convince myself that the dress will be nearly floor length. Then I put it on Helen and it's already too short. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. So this time I was really generous with added length, adding like six or seven inches total to the pattern, felt very sure that this was going to be looooooooong on her, and it turned out just about right, barely knee length, with no room to grow. Um. She is so tall!


I really could have lengthened the bodice a smidge more, huh? This, despite having my sister send me pretty detailed measurements! Ah well.


This extra long bodice required five pretty brown shell buttons up the back. I finished the inside of the bodice and the inside of the hemband by hand. I also understitched the collar, although the instructions didn't call for it, and used a mallet to flatten the collar join at the front so that the lining wouldn't show, which worked okay. Overall, this was a fast and easy sew. I am looking forward to trying more the XP variations, like sleeves!!


In retrospect, I really wish I had removed that stupid soccer net before taking these photos, but I was rushed as it was during Maggie's birthday party that I finally delivered the dress, and Helen took a while to warm up to the camera. As a result, I have this stupid net in every photo, but at least you can see what the dress looks like! I suppose if I were a wiz in Photoshop, I could remove it (maybe?), but I can barely do basic editing on photos!

Dang, our kids are growing up so fast! Something about those adult teeth coming in (all snaggly!) makes children suddenly look so much older and more grown up. For Helen's birthday, I offered to give her sewing lessons, as she is definitely the crafty sort. We haven't started yet, mostly due to logistics - my sis and I finally found a good time, and then Joe decided to get super sick and we had to cancel! But I am hoping we can start that up soon. She wants to design her own dresses, and patterns like the Geranium make that easy to do!

Do you have a go-to birthday dress pattern? Is there hope that Maggie might decide she likes colors other than pink and purple some day? Discuss!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Maggie Joy turns FIVE!


Maggie turns FIVE on Sunday, people! I KNOW, RIGHT? Wasn't I just posting about being pregnant with her five minutes ago? Time is so weird. SO EFFING WEIRD.

Well, don't worry, I'm not going to get too maudlin about it. I am subsuming my sentimental reactions into sewing, as I am wont to do.

So, okay, baby girl needed a birthday dress, obviously. I have heaps of fabric I bought with Maggie in mind, but most recently, I bought this gorgeous coral/dark pink eyelet at Stone Mountain and Daughter (ironically, this eyelet is shown in the image for "Cotton Eyelets" generally, but no longer available for sale, sorry!) when Maggie and I were shopping for Luna Lapin. Both Maggie and I were all the heart eyes at this color - it's pink! But an interesting, coral pink!

I bought a yard and a third, thinking I could squeak a dress out of that amount, and then it shrank in the wash, so I had more like a yard, probably 48 inches wide? C'est la vie. Luckily Maggie is still a wee lass! She still measures size 3T in most patterns.

I debated a while about what pattern to use. I considered some of the ruffly patterns that recently came out, like the Polina or the Marlowe, both of which I bought right away and can't wait to make, but the Polina's frills are cut in a spiral (like the Geranium dress shoulder ruffles, totally awesome, but not good for using a straight grain eyelet lace edge), and the yardage was a no-go for the Marlowe. So I decided to dig deeper into my stash, to some Oliver + s patterns I owned but had never tried. And that's when I decided to try the Croquet Dress. This pattern calls for one and a quarter yards for this view, but I had a suspicion that I could work it out, cutting everything on the cross grain, and without hems for the sleeves and skirt, and I was right!



This is the sweetest pattern! What took me so long??! It's the perfect little Edwardian dress for a little girl! Nostalgic, old fashioned, and lovely. I can't wait to make it again, maybe in seersucker? It is so pretty! Hashtag #alltheEdwardiandresses (You can also make a pretty blouse from this pattern, btw.) In eyelet, it's everything I adore about A Room With a View minus the constraints of Edwardian social mores.

It took some ninja layout skills, but I managed to cut this dress out from a mere yard and change. The bias waistband had to be pieced, but because I lined the dress, I did not have to cut out shoulder strap or yoke facings. Heck, I even managed a matching dress for bunny! YAY!!!

I cut this out in size 3T, with a bit of extra length (which is easy to do when you're dealing with eyelet and not planning to hem - just put the bottom of the skirt on the lace scallops!). The length is perfect, but it is actually a bit big in terms of shoulder width? Next time I make this (new fave!), I'll take it in across the chest an inch or so. It's totally wearable as-is, but there's a little extra fabric across the front that you can see below.

I lined this dress in raspberry/pinky red cotton voile, also from Stone Mountain. It was the perfect lining for this fabric - lighter colors looked awful, but darker colors (purple) showed through the fabric. This lining deepens the intensity of the pink eyelet in the best way. The sleeves are the only part of the dress I left unlined.


Lining this dress increased the complexity of construction a tiny bit, but even so, it was such an easy make! After working on several projects for myself (blog post pending!), this felt SOOOOO easy and fast! As usual with Oliver + S patterns, the instructions were excellent.

One little snag - because this dress is in eyelet, and so is the bias waistband casing, white elastic showed horribly through the fabric. I solved this by running pink satin ribbon along with the elastic, to cover the white. This worked well, although it made the waistband a bit bulky and quite "firm" as Nicole would say. Which then aggravated another issue - with this one lovely keyhole opening with button in the back, it's not the easiest dress to get on and take off - and my "firm" waistband worsens that quite a bit. It's a bit of a struggle, honestly, but thankfully Maggie loves pink party dresses so much she will tolerate that (no comment). For my next version, do you have any suggestions for making it easier to get in and out of? More buttons? A back button placket? Let me know!




This was my first thread loop, amazingly. See, I always pick up new skills from O+S patterns, even old ones that are really easy!

Maggie Joy was pretty happy with her birthday dress. She was even happier to learn that I had made Luna a matching dress!!! When I was Maggie's age, I went bonkers for that sort of thing as well, so I was only too delighted to make that happen for Mags. (Plus, bunny clothes making is my new obsession! Because FUN!) This combo was an early birthday present for Mags-a-licious and I'm so glad she likes it, even if, frankly, neither her dress or bunny's is that easy to get on and off!! Ha!


I know you're all dying to know the deets on the bunny outfit. One of the patterns in the Luna Lapin book is a cute lace tank top. I used that for the bodice of the dress and then winged a gathered skirt. After all my ninja cutting for Maggie's dress, I did not have enough scalloped lace to do Luna's skirt, so it's just hemmed, but both dresses have the same raspberry voile lining.

Five does seem like a momentous age, even though we've decided to keep Maggie in preschool another year, so she'll be six when she starts kindergarten. Her teacher feels like she could develop more in social confidence, plus she's teeny-weeny. And public kindergarten is a lot more academic (and, ahem, less fun) than it used to be, at least in my 'hood, so I am in no rush to push Maggie into that environment. We're super blessed to have a fantastic (and affordable) preschool and a loving and supportive preschool community that we've been involved in since Joe started right after Maggie was born, so that helps too. But still, five is a biggie.

At any rate, Maggie is the most super delightful kid ever! (Except when you try to feed her, but that's a story for another day - this kid is a PICKY EATER, all caps.) She's sensitive, perceptive, creative, artistic, a great sewing partner, and funny as all get out! She and Joe really, truly, dote on each other. From toddlerhood, it was obvious to us that Maggie appreciates and accommodates Joe as much as the reverse. It's wonderful to see, and I'm so lucky to be the mama of the two best kids ever!! (Not at all biased.) Margaret Joy, you truly live up to your middle name! Happy birthday, baby girl!

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Luna Lapin: A Bunny for my Maggie Bunny.

Meet Ms. Luna Lapin,  a "quiet and kind rabbit with impeccable taste." Maggie and I discovered her through this lovely book, which I grabbed on impulse when I was browsing the local bookstore on my lunch break. This is a British book, with full size patterns for the bunny and her extensive wardrobe (and brother's wardrobe), included. Luna Lapin seems to have a bit of a following in the UK, based on my google search results, although I had never heard of her until I saw the book.

Maggie was immediately captured by this book, which provides a sweet narrative for Luna as well as lots of pretty pictures of Luna in her many dresses and adorable accessories and immediately started planning for her own Luna.


She selected a snowy white wool felt for Luna's body, and we selected a pretty Liberty print for Luna's ears and the pads of her feet. Maggie preferred the look of small safety eyes to the buttons used for Luna's eyes in the book, and I found a soft browny-pink for her nose.


Luna is partially sewn by machine, and partially by hand, using regular polyester sewing thread. She has moveable arms, with buttons used as joints, and a separate bottom piece that allows her to sit well. It took me a couple nights to finish her body, with Maggie acting as a tireless and relentless taskmaster. Then it was time to work on her wardrobe!


Luna's first outfit is a simple shift dress with neck bow, with mary janes and a lace shrug. She has cute knickers underneath.



 We chose a cute Cotton & Steel Lucky Strikes print for the dress and swiss dot for the undies. Maggie and I made a special trip to Stonemountain & Daughter to source bunny supplies, including lace for the shrug, tiny bunny buttons and snaps for the back of the dress, and lace to trim the knickers. Maggie charmed everyone in the store with her cute self and her bunny!


So I know that the sewing blogosphere is alive with adult underwear sewing, but I'm here to tell you that sewing bunny knickers is THE MOST FUN THING EVER. Seriously. Maggie was especially delighted with the little rose, which I found in my prodigious stash. Note for next time: Cut a slit for the bunny tail.


The book calls for a yard of scalloped lace to make the shrug, but it would be a terrible waste, since the pattern only uses the edge. Instead, we were able to make the shrug from 3/4 yard of a 5" wide, scalloped on both sides, lace trim. The pattern for this was pleasingly origami-like and fun to sew! I used a narrow zig zag to sew the lace seams, and based on how hard it was to seamrip one seam I did by mistake, I'm going to to say that it's very sturdy!


 Aren't the shoes adorable? They call for little miniature buckles, but I used small buttons instead. Ridiculously cute.


 I am happy to say that Luna is a well-loved member of the clan. She is a happy bunny, as far as I can see!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Me Made May 2017.


Well, I did it again, folks! I participated in Me Made May and posted pictures of my outfits (with at least one item I made myself every day, and multiples on many days) on Instagram every day in May. Some of these pictures included beverages (coffee, smoothies, and IPA). Others included stuffed animals when dictated by Joe or Maggie or photo-bombing kids and husbands. Taking daily selfies definitely gets tedious - a good sense of humor really helps!

I'm not going to get too navel-gazing about this process, but I do have some observations.
  1. Prints vs. Solids. Styles have changed a bit in the past couple years, and my many printed t-shirts and blouses are starting to feel dated (in addition to worn to shreds). I find myself wanting to wear solid colors (or stripes) more. Maybe it has to do with the sedate (depressed?) mood our country (and world) is in right now, or maybe it's the influence of the many capsule wardrobes the sewing bloggers have been working on lately, but I seem to be embracing the all neutrals minimalist trend. (Let's just pause for a moment to reflect: I have been sewing for myself long enough that some of my me-mades feel outdated!? Yay, me!) Some of my most-worn items this month were the new cream Hemlock tee I just made, my black herringbone Pleated Pencil Skirt, my beloved black and cream striped Mabel, and my cream sleeveless Archer. I have several more neutral or semi-neutral items in the pike. I'll probably look back on this two years from now and think "BORING," but right now, it's what I'm enjoying, you know?
  2. Mustard Yellow. And yet. I made a mustard yellow Mabel Skirt and sleeveless Hemlock tee this month, which I hope to blog soon. I'm taking the position that mustard yellow (or "golden," as my kids call it) is a neutral. 
  3. Business Wear. I wore suits or at least a blazer frequently this past month. With greater responsibilities at work come more formal meeting situations, which means wearing a suit more (blah, I'm not a fan). I knew going into this May that I didn't have enough simple blouses to wear with suits, and in fact that was the biggest struggle. Because I have a large bust, I have historically favored a loose drapey shell under blazers rather than a button-down shirt. The Maya Top is probably my favorite top to wear with suits, although I'd like to branch out a little bit. Recently, I've been noticing some Josephines with released pleats or pleats converted to gathers that look really pretty, and I am considering making one in a very drapey (solid, neutral) fabric. On the other hand, I really like the way my cream Archer shirt looks with suits, and one of the advantages of sewing for yourself is that you can avoid gaping or too-tight button downs. Sewing up more button down blouses to wear with suits is also on my list. 
  4. Casual Wear. I'm doing pretty well with me-made casual weekend clothing. I love my t-shirts and sweatshirts to death. One issue I noticed this month is that I like to sew casual skirts that I don't wear very much, because they aren't formal enough for work, but nor are they ridiculously comfortable and easy to wear, which is a requirement for weekends. Here, I'm talking about my Moss Skirt and Brumby Skirt. I love both these skirts, and I do wear them, but not as much as I would if they were either more work appropriate or more appropriate for actual house and gardening work. For someone else, these would be wardrobe workhorses, but they languish in my closet. On the other hand, t-shirts, and anything with an elastic waist gets worn to death. Lesson? I guess I should embrace my Fred Rogers-esque costume changes and make more pencil skirts and work-appropriate blouses, as well as more t-shirts and elastic waist pants, and less "middle ground" items. 
  5. I still don't wear dresses. I mean, hardly ever. And that's okay. I have a uniform, and it works for me. Separates FOREVER! I'm eyeing my Alder Dress, thinking I might convert it into a blouse. Stay tuned. 
  6. Simple shapes. I do want to keep trying new techniques and more challenging makes, but it should be noted that my most worn me-mades are very simple shapes. These aren't always the most exciting things to sew, but are so very versatile and practical!
The best thing about May Me Made this year was how inspired I was to sew some more clothes for myself! My feed was SUPER INSPIRING, I started following a bunch of new-to-me IG feeds, and I sewed no less than four tops and one skirt this month (and made good progress on a button-down shirt), which is more selfish-sewing than I've done in a year! A huge part of that was the excitement and camaraderie of seeing what all of my sewing friends were wearing this month. To all of you who participated in MMMay17 or liked or commented on my posts this past month - THANK YOU! 

Did you participate in Me Made May? Any big takeaway lessons? 

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Selfish Sewing: Three Grainline Tees.


With Me-Made-May upon us once again, I am participating but struggling a bit because I barely sewed for myself at all last year, so most of my me mades are more or less in tatters. One of the purposes of Me Made May is to reveals serious holes in your sewn wardrobe. Well, that's easy for me! I need everything! Ha!

Okay, realistically, I need more blouses to wear under suits, and I need more simple t-shirts.

At the beginning of May, I started scribbling out some plans for selfish sewing, and I've made some progress with those plans, although never as much as I'd like! My plans included several new tops, including some knit tops, all in creams, to help beef up my me-made wardrobe. Thus we meet here, with a (not all that exciting) blog post to share some very neutral t-shirts!



The first t-shirt is a Grainline Hemlock Tee with short sleeves, using a burnout ivory stripe from Stonemountain. This fabric has been in my stash since last summer, yay stash busting!


In addition to the obvious short sleeves, I did a little split hem on this one, following the idea of this tutorial, but with some obvious differences in hem-distance.


This is my third (?) Hemlock tee, and I really love this (free!) pattern. In my experience, Hemlock Tees look great untucked or tucked into a skirt for work. I do always take off a significant amount of length in the body, but I am in love with the neckline (even though it sometimes slides to show bra strap). There's not much to say about this pattern, except that it's dope! Try it out!


Next up, two Grainline Lark Tees! Two V-NECK Lark Tees, actually! I decided to tackle the dreaded v-neck, finally! This was my first time sewing a v-neck t-shirt.

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: Do not try to do a v-neck for the first time on a striped knit, especially a drapey rayon one like this with tiny stripes as well as normal stripes. BAD IDEA. I had to cut off my first v-neck and try again with a new neckline and even so, it's a tiny bit wonky, which you can see if you zoom in above. But, luckily, not terrible in a normal wearing environment.


This is another Stonemountain fabric, one of those really lovely but really difficult and shifty fabrics. Another problem with v-necks - the Lark tee instructions have you sew the v-neck with your sewing machine. But this is exactly the kid of fluid, grabby, shifty fabric that my sewing machine hates most of all and basically devours. It was pretty impossible. I ended up serging the neckline despite the lack of precision and it's a freaking miracle that I didn't totally butcher it, but the sewing machine was also no bueno.


Which brings us to Lark V-Neck Tee, take two, in a really lovely ivory organic cotton/lycra from Stonemountain. This one has cropped sleeves, perfect for a hot day in the garden. I didn't think I liked cropped sleeves until I made the Lark last year, but this is a GREAT sleeve. 

I thought, after the stripey version, that V-Necks in a solid color - well, that was going to be no problem. Obviously it was the stripes that made it difficult, right? Um. Well, let's just say it also took two tries for this neckline, and it's noticeably lower than the one above because I had to cut off more and improvise a new neckband piece. And the final version is still visibly wonky if you zoom in. UGH!

I've concluded that v-necks are legit hard.


Somehow, this does not reduce my desire for more v-neck Lark tees, though! I am totally feeling the v-neck right now. It's casual and relaxed in exactly the right way, and shows off my necklaces perfectly! I suppose this might be a skill I can develop with practice, right? I mean, there was a time when any knit neckline had me terrified! I can do this. Eventually. Maybe.

Also seen here, my Moji Pants, which I had to literally cut off my leg last summer when I broke my foot (think swollen leg in plaster cast, moji pants digging into said swollen, tender appendage; it had to come off). The shredded, ripped open pants sat in my "to-mend" pile for a year. I was convinced they were toast. I think the fact that they had felt so tight when I had to cut them off made me think they would definitely be too tight when I sewed them back together. With Me-Made-May, I was inspired to tackle my mending pile and simply sewed them back together with scant seam allowances, as best I could. And they are fine! Thank goodness, my normal ankle circumference is less than broken foot proportions, and you'd never even know the difference. Also, thank you past, injured, reasonably stressed out Inder for using a seam ripper to cut the pants off rather than the giant shears. Excellent mending win!

Have you been sewing things for yourself this month, just to provide something to clothe yourself with? Dish!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Crocheted Spring Wreath.

(Sorry if you saw this come up briefly in your feed in draft form! I hit "publish" instead of "save" by mistake!)

Sometimes you just have to drop everything and crochet a big pile of flowers, ya know?


I have a subscription to Mollie Makes magazine, and follow their blog and Instagram feed. It's a British crafty magazine with a fun, retro-inspired, colorful aesthetic, which I discovered through their excellent books (crochet, patchwork, embroidery). Each magazine comes with a little kit that you can make, and there are often softies and other kid-oriented projects. Maggie enjoys looking through each new issue as much as I do! It was because of Mollie Makes that I discovered and started following Crochet by Red Agape's blog and instafeed as well.

In late March, Mollie Makes and Crochet by Red Agape released, day by day, free patterns for the flowers to make this crocheted spring wreath. Each pattern was only available for download for 24 hours. After six days, if you kept up, you would have everything you needed to make the whole wreath.

This came at the perfect time for me. Work was seriously stressful there for a couple months. I do realize that being a lawyer is an intrinsically high-conflict job, but that's why I became a transactional lawyer, right? I am a peacemaker and compromise-broker at heart, and when the conflict and negativity gets really intense (as does happen sometimes in local government!), it gets me down! I needed a fun distraction. After making mini-wardrobes for the kids, I was feeling a bit burned out on garment sewing. Crocheting keeps my hands occupied while watching television and relaxing, and these flowers are very portable and quick to finish. The wreath is one of those lovely, campy, fun things that serves absolutely no practical purpose and is therefore the perfect antidote to a stressful month!



Each day of the series, I looked forward to reading the next blog installment and downloading my pattern. I went to Michael's and stocked up on cheap Lily Sugar & Cream yarn. This is a chunkier yarn than what is recommended for this pattern, and gave my flowers an especially chunky, homely look, but it worked. I had to vary the colors a little but that was actually fun. It does tend to snag and split a lot while you're working with, though. Since then, I purchased some of the DMC Paintbox Yarn that is recommended, and I must say it's a lot nicer and easier to work with! But alas, it's not available at Michael's!

Naturally, it took me a lot more than six days to make this wreath! It actually took me almost a month of crocheting in free moments to finish it! With a big push, I finished it just in time for Easter.


The pattern is no longer available for free, but you can purchase it here, on Ravelry.

The flowers are affixed to a foam wreath that is covered in single crochet. You basically crochet a scarf-like object and then sew it onto the wreath. The first wreath I bought was immediately snapped in two by my kids, who I think were pretending it was an inner tube? After that I guarded the second one much more closely!

As you can imagine, with this many small pieces and different colors, weaving in all the ends took almost as long as the crocheting!

Maggie loved working on this project with me, and (in addition to assisting in the destruction of a foam wreath) periodically helped me to categorize and count leaves and flowers. She made several of the pom-poms (with my help) and she helped me arrange the flowers on the wreath when everything was ready to go. I think I've shared that Maggie spends most of her time at our play-based preschool in the art room, making things? That one takes after her mother! I am happy for her - a passion for creating is a wonderful blessing in life!

But both kids were completely taken by the little bees, which were my first foray into the world of arumigumi-style crochet. I have promised to make them a couple of bees just to play with! I think the bees are what first drew me to this fantastic pattern, and they are indeed adorable! I ended up affixing the flowers and bees to the wreath with florist's pins (you could also sew or glue the flowers in place), and the black pearl pins were perfect for bee eyes!


In addition to being fun and relaxing, this is a great learning project for a beginning crocheter. I learned a lot of new stitches and techniques and improved my basic understanding of how crochet works, in really easy and manageable chunks. If you can make a granny square and read a basic crochet pattern (warning: the pattern is in UK terminology, so I had to adjust to that and look up terms as appropriate), you can make this wreath. I promise!


This was a really FUN project, and I was super delighted with the final product, homely and camp though it may be! I'm not going to try to pretend that this is tasteful or low-key or minimalist: it is none of those things, but what it is is exuberantly happy! This was such a joy to work on and put together, and provided a soothing and joyful distraction during a pretty heavy-duty month for me!


Lately, with renewed interest in "mindfulness," I'm seeing lots of craft books with titles like "Crochet Therapy," and "Crafting for Mindfulness," or whatever. It's like people are just now discovering that crafting is a soothing, sanity-saving activity and that it promotes good mental health! I'd like to think I was hip to that trend before it was even a trend, right? Ha! So, I'm happy to say that work has calmed down a bit since March (knock on wood), but if you ever feel really stressed out, may I suggest making something lovely, fun, and completely useless? It really is the best form of stress relief.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Ottobre Mini-Wardrobe, Joe Edition.


After Maggie's mini-wardrobe, I immediately cut out an Ottobre mini-wardrobe for Joe.  As you will recall, all fabrics are from my super-swollen knit stash. Joe is super sensitive about clothing textures and really only wears soft knit fabrics (le sigh), so his daily wardrobe basically consists of t-shirts and sweatpants or loose shorts. When I cut everything out, it was still basically winter. Since then, spring has arrived and the weather is warming up! (Joe also stopped wearing a hat all the time, YAY!) Time for Joe's summer mini-wardrobe of short sleeved shirts and shorts already?

On the bright side, it is easy to sew for Joe! He is a reasonably appreciative audience and wears me-mades that meet his stringent tactile requirements frequently. But on the other hand, it can feel boring, sewing the same things over and over again. I think this is the challenge of sewing for boys, at least for me - it can get a little boring or unchallenging at times! Enjoying sewing for boys requires that you appreciate subtle differences and details, whereas girls' clothes can be as splashy as you'd like.


This is one of the best things about Ottobre magazines - the cute boy patterns. Somehow, Ottobre includes basic t-shirt and knit pants patterns in every single issue, but always with some fun twist or details that raise it to "Euro cool" rather than "same old same old."

This spring mini-wardrobe consists of three t-shirts (from two patterns, 1/2017 #16 "Raw Edge Details" and 6/2015 #15, "Steampunk," and two pairs of the "Super Basic" sweatpants  (6/2016 #12). You can look at old issues of Ottobre here. All of the patterns were cut in a straight size 122, which fit Joe perfectly with room to grow and move.

Incidentally, for a long time I thought Ottobre patterns were a bit short and wide on Joe, but we seem to have hit a sweet spot where he fits the size perfectly. Joe is almost eight years old, wears a RTW size 6 in pants, and is average height (50%) but has a longer torso and shorter legs relative to RTW sizes. For a taller boy, you would probably want to add length to these pants.

Everything was pretty easy and straightforward to sew, and my coverstitch machine got a good workout. I think I'm finally learning how to sew SLOWLY with the coverstitch. It wants to zoom through everything, and it's hard to slow it down! I've now rethreaded it over and over and I'm feeling more comfortable with it. So far, it's very unfussy and easy to use, easier than the serger. And I do love the results.

First, let's talk about the "Raw Edge Details" t-shirt, which is in the most recent issue of Ottobre. This pattern features a fun raw edged neckband that allows a contrast neckband to show just at the edge. So I will say, I'm a little mixed about this detail and wondered if it just looked "home sewn," but Joe is a FAN. The comfort level is great and I'm noticing he tends to fidget less with this neckline than the standard type.  After a few washes, the jersey will curl up and I think it will look more intentional. In the meantime, it definitely gets Joe's "sensory seal of approval," and I like that the finish uses up small scraps of the contrasting fabric!




In terms of fit through the body, this is my new favorite t-shirt for Joe. I love the slouchy, slightly boxy fit on him. Joe likes it when I put a pocket on his shirts, because it helps him distinguish front from back without scratchy tags. This shirt has a basic, square patch pocket on the front that can be in a contrast fabric, which is always fun. 


The fabric for the blue star t-shirt was leftover from this project.  This is an European jersey and the quality is really exceptional. I often balk at the price of high quality jersey, but when I actually buy said jersey, I have to say, I rarely regret it! In some things, you get what you pay for, and knit fabrics seem to be one of those things. The stripes are a rayon knit from Stonemountain & Daughter in Berkeley. I couldn't find this one on their website but I noticed that Imagine gnats now has this fabric as well! Although I don't normally use rayon knits for the kids, this one feels pretty substantial and sewed up pretty easily. We'll see how it holds up in the wash!


The third t-shirt is the "Steampunk" pattern from 6/2015. This t-shirt has a cool "saddle" raglan neckline and bands at the cuffs and hem. I sewed this up in Joe's favorite colors - blue and green. I think both of these fabrics are Kaufman Laguna knits. I used the same pocket as the "Raw Edge Details" shirts and used the same raw edge finish on the neck (but with only one band of green). This turned out .... so so. I would probably say "this is not my best work," but I know Joe will wear it plenty anyway! I also wasn't as thrilled with the fit of this t-shirt as I was with the Raw Edge Details pattern, but it's pretty good and the cuffs and hemband make this is a great project for someone who does not like hemming knits. I also think this pattern would make a great sweatshirt with a more substantial knit fabric.


Now let's talk about these fantastic sweatpants, shall we? I puffy heart this "Super Basic" knit pants pattern. There are simple rib knit pocket openings, and rib knit is used to make the drawstring. The pattern calls for grommets, but I can't seem to install a decent grommet to save my life, so I made small buttonholes instead.

There's a cute rounded pocket on the back (Steve raised his eyebrows at this outfit, but I reassured him that Joe was unlikely to wear these two pieces together very often), and the waist is simply folded down and stitched. I put elastic through the waist, and the ribbing is also in two pieces with elastic holding it together in the back, so the drawstring is more decorative than functional.


And the fit!!! Is so good, right?!  This first pair of sweatpants uses the leftovers from yet another project, a very soft navy sweatshirt fleece. I was thinking that these would be too long, since Joe's legs are a big short for his size, so for this pair, I turned the hems up and inserted elastic into them. They turned out a tad short (but totally cute!) so I opted to use ribbing at the ankles of my second pair as provided by the pattern. 


I didn't get many detailed shots of the second pair. These are made of the same wonderful and well-behaved hemp/cotton french terry I used for this sweatshirt (which has held up extremely well in the wash, btw - this fabric is the bomb!), with gray ribbing details and a plain self-fabric back pocket.



The length of these pants is perfect with the ankle band. 

 
 Joe signalled his approval of these pants by running around and doing ninja moves.




Yeah, I think these will work!! Ha!

By the way, check out our backyard! As I mentioned last autumn, we had some serious work done to grade and improve the drainage in our backyard last year, and we have a new (flat!) lawn area and a new gorgeous patio (terraced!). We are installing all new landscaping ourselves, so it's still really "in progress." Steve installed those lattice screens, to create a separate "room" in the back of the garden, and to screen the storage shed we are planning to put in. We have had SUCH a wet winter here in Northern California, everything is still a bit soggy, but the lawn is really happy! Anyway, it will hopefully be an epic gardening year for us!

We have additional house projects lined up. We need a new roof, for starters. We actually got the estimate last year, and we were set to have the work done this winter, but the heavy rains delayed the roofers so much that we are still way down in the queue! After the roof is done, I want to have the exterior of the house repainted. I'm tired of looking at old, peeling paint. Big projects! 

Joe turns eight next month! He's finishing up first grade and doing fantastically. His reading fluency seems to improve every day, and he reads outloud to us every night (I also read outloud to both kids every night, usually one or two picture books as well as a longer chapter book). He isn't yet reading books independently to himself yet, but he's getting there and can read most signage and captions himself now. He obviously takes pleasure in being able to read, which is wonderful to see! His favorite book is My Father's Dragon.

Joe is really helpful and agreeable these days (although he still has a stubborn streak like you wouldn't believe - I don't even bother to engage in battles of wills with this kid anymore, I know I can only lose!), and continues to dote on his little sister. These early grade school years are really wonderful. His current obsessions include Minecraft, Mario, and Pokemon. I have to drag him away from screentime to do things outdoors, but once he's outside, he is always happy! He asks the best questions and is just such a kind, smart kid. Although he's definitely a shy, reserved kid, his teacher loves him and he has a couple of buddies at school, so my mama-heart is happy and at peace. My mom told me that these "latency" years were great, and she was so right!

As far as sewing goes, I desperately need to make some simple, basic things for myself next! Sewing t-shirts for myself is also a little boring, but really necessary as I have officially worn out a lot of my me-mades. Hopefully I'll be back here with some selfish sewing shortly.

What are you working on right now? Do you find you sew less during prime gardening season? How do you feel about boy sewing?

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Ottobre Mini-Wardrobe.


Hello, readers! Did you know that this coming week is Kid's Clothes Week, and the theme this time around is "capsule wardrobe"?

Uh, I didn't.

But a couple of weeks ago, reminded of how much I love Ottobre and inspired by the latest issue (which is totally killer), I traced and cut out a big pile of items for Maggie from my Ottobre magazines.

Okay, time for some honest talk: My knits stash has gotten so big it won't fit in the two designated bins in my Ikea Kallax unit anymore. I had to move part (ahem) of it into large, laundry basket sized, plastic bins, and those bins have been piled in my living room (remember, I have no garage or closets) for the past four months. Toys got piled on top of them, other bins were shifted in front of them, and they became, literally, pieces of furniture that no one even saw anymore (except our guests, who were probably thinking "um, you have a problem," but were too polite to say anything about it, which is why we like them)  Except that when I look at them, I do feel a bit ashamed and disgusted with myself. I mean, seriously, my fabric stash is taking over the living room, people. This is not good. Plus it undermines my authority with my kids and husband:

Me: Toys don't belong in the living room. Neither do golf clubs.
Kids: Mom, you have three giant bins of fabric in the living room.
Steve: *shrugs, raises his eyebrows meaningfully, and walks away*

On top of that, I've been embarrassed to see Maggie wearing clothes that are too small or completely tattered with holes. We have been operating under a chronic leggings-shortage. (We are also operating under a sweatpants shortage with Joe, so that's next on the list.)

Time to stop feeling bad about the piles of fabric and sew some things!


It was really fun to comb through my Ottobre Magazines after long days at work, and pick out some things to sew. I ended up focusing on two issues: 4/2015 and 1/2017.

The latest issue, 1/2017 is excellent. So many patterns I want to try! I fell in love with this long-sleeved t-shirt with shoulder ruffles, #9 "Sun Ruffle." You know me - I'm a sucker for shoulder ruffles! This pattern intrigued me because the ruffles are inserted into slashes in the shoulder of the t-shirt. I've never inserted ruffles that way - they are almost like little darts. I had to use navy thread for the rolled edges of the ruffles and it doesn't match the purple binding, but as an awesome online sewing friend recently said, "you wouldn't notice it on a galloping horse." All I can say to that is: AMEN!

I made the top up in a pretty pink and purple lace-print cotton lycra that I bought at Stonemountain with Maggie in mind a while back, and just so happened to have the perfect purple contrast ribbing on hand (advantages of a giant stash, yo).  This is a size 98 (basically a size 3), and I added a little bit of length to the top, since Maggie often ends up wearing tops with only leggings. I used the coverstitch to sew the binding on the neckline and sleeves and to hem the top. Lots of coverstitch action in this post!

The leggings are also from 1/2017 - #3, "Baggy." These are described as having "narrow leg bottoms and added ease around the seat." Basically, these are comfortable, basic, one pattern piece leggings. I made three pairs! Easy peasy. The size 98 is a big long on Maggie, but I'm pleased there is some room to grow.


The other issue of Ottobre, 4/2015, attracted me with some great tunics/knitwear which you'll see below. On a whim, I cut out this cute mini skirt as well. This is #8 "Mini Dots," made from a small piece of purple corduroy I found at the East Bay Center for Creative Reuse. This pattern is great for using a teeny-tiny piece bottom-weight! I admit that the final product--a tiny miniskirt for my four-year-old--is probably one of those articles of clothing that is more cute than useful, but it's sure cute! It might come in handy on those days when Maggie wants to pair a cropped tee with too-small leggings. And it took less than a half-yard of fabric to make!


So I asked Maggie what she liked best about this outfit, and she said "the shoulder ruffles!" She is my child!

 Next up is a make that is not exactly from my stash (cough cough) because I bought the fabric only a couple of weeks ago. This is Sarah Jane's "Magic Folks" knit in navy. Maggie fell in love with it at the fabric store on our last visit, because ... pink unicorns, duh!! 

Me: Because everyone needs more unicorns in their wardrobe, right?
Maggie: Well, I need them.
Me: Here, just take my credit card.

Yeah, so I actually bought the same print in flannel, in the white colorway, to make Maggie a nightgown? Because my girl needs unicorns.


With the navy knit, I made Ottobre 4/2015 #13, the "Busy Forest" tunic. This is an A-line tunic with raglan sleeves, a center-front pleat and patch pockets (that extend across the side seams), which is is intended to be made in a sweatshirt fleece or french terry. It worked great in this single jersey, though I could see it looking great in a heavier fabric too. This busy print doesn't show off the details at all, plus I couldn't get Maggie to stop spinning and being super happy/blurry in her new tunic, but this is the kind of simple dress/tunic that Maggie all the time. The front pleat adds a little shape and interest, and the pockets, as always, are a hit! The neckline and cuffs could be done in a contrast ribbing, but I used self-fabric on this tunic.


The leggings are the "Baggy" leggings again, but in a pink Kaufman Laguna knit. I have already made a top and leggings with this fabric, and even after this second pair of leggings, I still have tons of this stuff! So much for putting a noticeable dent in my stash, right? (Note to self: 2 yard of 60" wide knit goes a LOOOOOOONG way.)

But I am addressing the leggings-shortage, so that part is good.


Finally, I made this cardigan from 4/2015. It's #11, "Super Sweet" and is intended to be made with merino wool, with exposed raw edges down the front. That didn't work with this cotton blend french terry I grabbed out of one of the designer sale bins at Stonemountain. This fabric feels like it has some poly content, and is dark pink on the inside, and this lovely mottled peach on the outside. To avoid any raw edges showing and give the collar the body it needs, I cut the collar pieces out on the fold (with the stripey texture going lengthwise) and serged the folded piece onto the front of the cardigan. 


This is the type of garment that I wear all the time. Now Maggie has a cozy cardigan like the ones that Mama loves to wear!


Okay! So here's the full mini-wardrobe!  One pair of leggings went unmodeled - it's a purply blue Laguna knit.

It's a little funny to me that Maggie's "capsule wardrobe" is all pink and purple, but hey, that's what Maggie loves, right? Either way you look at it - (1) Who needs neutrals when you can have pink and purple? or (2) Pink is the new neutral! - this is the perfect Maggie mini-wardrobe! Not bad for a couple weeks (intermittent) work. All of these were very fast, fun sews, and I got a lot of time working with my coverstitch and learning the ropes with my new machine.

This was so much fun that I'm now back to the Ottobres, planning a mini-wardrobe for Joe (keep in mind this is basically all sweat pants and t-shirts!). I probably won't be participating in KCW this time around in the formal sense of an hour a day, since I have two - count them, two - freaking night meetings this week, but I do plan to sew! We'll see how far I get! Maybe I can consolidate my three living room fabric bins into two? A girl can dream!

Two prompts for the comments:

(1) Please tell me I'm not the only sewist with fabric in the living room.

(2) Are you working on a capsule wardrobe? Does the idea appeal to you? Dish!