Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Holiday Sewing 2017.

Season's greetings, friends! I am popping in to share a few items I sewed for the holidays. As usual, I had ridiculously ambitious plans for Christmas sewing, including gifts for the kids, decor items for my house, and gifts for many friends and loved ones. And as usual, I had to face reality and cut WAY back in the face of a very busy December. Sigh. So it goes!

But I did manage to make a few very special items! First, stockings for my nieces. Full disclosure: I actually pieced these stockings last year! I didn't have time to finish the stockings and my nieces used purchased stockings last year. Rather than finish them up in the new year in the absence of any Christmas spirit, I put them away in my WIP bin and nearly forgot about them. In November, my sister politely asked me if I might make my nieces "very simple, personalized" stockings, and I was like, "Um, I actually started them last year and just need to finish them!"

No problem, right? I already did the hardest part when I pieced tiny postage stamp pieces (1" squares) from a variety of Christmas (and non-Christmas!) prints (mostly Cotton & Steel but there is a good amount of other stuff in there too) and quilted the stocking fronts last year. Well ... somehow these still took most of the season to complete!

I spent the most time designing and embroidering the personalized cuffs. My niece Augustine usually goes by Gus or Gussie, but she told me she wanted her stocking to say "Augustine." Yes, ma'am. But that's a lot of embroidery! And at the end, Helen's more graphic cuff seemed to make Augustine's look weak with an excess of negative space. So I added a little more embroidery and the little felt holly and berries, with a matching garnish on Helen's cuff.

Assembly took longer than expected too, with all the piping I did. I backed them in the softest, most luscious cotton velveteen from Stonemountain. The fine linen I used for the cuffs came from Britex.

All in all, these were a labor of love that took more than a year to officially complete, although I probably spent less than a week of afternoons working on them total, it still felt like a serious effort! I am so pleased with how they turned out, though! So all that work was worth it. I love that they coordinate but don't match, reflecting the individual personalities of my sweet nieces.

After I finished the stockings, I had to face facts: I was not going to be able to make any gifts for my kids for Christmas this year or complete the cathedral windows cushion I was dreaming about. Le sigh! But I could do one more easy project: Christmas pajamas

It is growth spurt city over here, and Joe has grown like three inches this past year. The pajama pants I made for him last year are too tight in the rise and too short, although he still wore them to school recently for pajama day. Joe often wears sweats to sleep in, but with pajama day being a thing at his school, I think he needs a couple pairs of decent dedicated PJ pants. I have a bunch of flannel so maybe I'll whip up a couple more pairs!

Although you know your kid is really growing up when a pair of pajama pants requires every last bit of two yards of 45" wide fabric! Ay yai yai! He's practically a grown up!

Once again, these are the Oliver + s Sleepover Pajama pants. Last year I made him size 6, reduced in length. This year, I made size 7, with all the length in tact and cuffs that can be folded down for extra length if needed later! I put a little bit of white piping on the cuffs for that old fashioned men's pajama look. They are roomy, but if this year is anything like the last, that will be a good thing! It's bittersweet seeing my kid shoot up like this, although on the bright side, he's willing to eat a lot more variety of foods these days! Hunger will do that to you, I guess!

Who is that rude girl? LOL! This was not the easiest photo session, and this was, tongue notwithstanding, one of the better shots I got. Ah well! For Maggie's nightgown, I used vintage Simplicity 9968, the same pattern I used for her last year. Maggie has grown ... a bit ... in the past year, and last year's nightie, which was a size 2 with extra length in the sleeves and hem, is now short on her. So this year, I cut out size 3 and added a bit of extra length. I actually think I could have stuck with the size two and just added a ton of length to it, as this nightie is a bit wide in the neck in my opinion, but it works okay.

So Maggie is so much smaller than her peers, we have been known to worry about her some! She's also a VERY picky eater, which contributes to our anxiety about her size, because it just doesn't seem like she eats very much. Now, both Steve and I were small as children and relatively late bloomers so we figured she was just a chip off the old block, but we still worried sometimes. We shared our concerns with her amazing pediatrician, who noted that she was bright eyed, energetic, intelligent, and clearly thriving, so she didn't think anything could be seriously amiss, but recommended her for some testing. She had her wrist x-rayed - apparently you can judge a child's development by the growth of the bones around their wrist. If a child's wrists are normal for their age but their stature is extremely small, that could signal an issue. But if the wrist bones are undeveloped, the child is probably just a late bloomer, and will continue to grow past the time when their peers stop. I'm sure I'm way oversimplifying this - isn't it fascinating? Anyway, Maggie's wrist indicates that her bones are like those of a three year old, two years behind her chronological age! Weirdly, this is good news and indicates that she will likely continue to grow for at least two years past the average age, and will likely be a late bloomer like her parents (both Steve and I grew into early college years, and despite our small stature as children, turned out pretty average height in the end).

So yeah, size three! This pattern is dead simple, with a lined yoke, gathered long sleeves with elastic, and a gathered  skirt. There is a keyhole neckline in the back, and I used a simple flat white button and made a thread chain for the back closure. I used a bit of red piping at the yoke this year, for a simple look that coordinates with Joe's PJs. This nightie also needs the better part of two yards with those sleeves, so it's a good thing I rounded up when I bought fabric for these! Gone are the days when I could make anything for Maggie with 1.5 yards.

The fabric is, of course, Cotton & Steel brushed twill in "Teddy and the Bears" - Joe's wearing the blue colorway, and Maggie's nightie is pink.  I love Cotton & Steel holiday fabrics! Well, truly, I love all their fabrics, but their take on Christmas is always fresh and interesting. I love that these pajamas read just a little bit Christmas - they are actually quite subtle!

Well, I've now made the kids Christmas pajamas two years in a row. Is it a tradition now? Only time will tell ...

Some smaller things I made (ornaments, a covered journal) can be found on my Instagram feed. And that's a wrap!

Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day, friends! We had a wonderful Christmas here, and I have a new macro lens to try out on my camera! I am excited to turn to some selfish sewing in the new year. Did you manage any holiday sewing this year? Do you always bite off more than you can chew when it comes to holiday sewing plans?

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Some special things for a special baby.

Okay, full disclosure: I don't usually make baby quilts. In fact, the only babies I've made quilts for until now were blood relatives. And I haven't even made a quilt for Maggie yet! When my friends have new babies, I am more likely to whip up some little baby pants for them. Quilts are a lot of work, and I figure most of my friends have a grandma, auntie, or other friend quilting for them.

But I was inspired to make a quilt for a very special little guy. My friend's (33 year old) husband was diagnosed with cancer and went through chemotherapy earlier this year. She cared for him while pregnant with their first child, and under a lot of stress. He's out of chemo now and doing great, with a pretty encouraging prognosis. But then my friend was diagnosed with preeclampsia and her baby with IUGR, and she had to deliver her baby boy at 30 weeks! Ugh! So he spent weeks in the NICU. He's home now, but still only four and a half pounds, and it has been quite a road!

As a friend, I felt so powerless to help and a little upset with the universe for handing this young family SO MUCH SHIT (excuse my language, but wtf universe?), ya know? I mean, really! But when my friend asked if I could sew Avery's name on a little banner she picked up at Target, I realized, I do have some skills that can be called upon at times like these! YES! I may not be able to cure cancer or prevent premature birth, but ... er ... I can sew!? (Yay me? Well, it's something, I guess.)

So I did more than just sew Avery's name on a banner. But I did that too. By hand, with two layers of felt for each letter.

The kids helped me with every step of these projects. After I cut out the letters and their "shadows," Joe pinned the pieces onto the banner and happily displayed the banner. "Send that photo to Avery's mom!" he said. I didn't, because I wanted the banner to be a surprise, but I told her the story, and she was delighted to be called "Avery's Mom." Some of you may remember when being called someone's "wife" or "mother" was unfamiliar and different - I do. That's where Avery's mom is these days, but I expect she'll get used to it soon enough. 

Each of the letters on the banner, plus the heart and the star, were sewn on by hand, first with a blanket stitch, and then with a running stitch. The end result is very puffy and 3-D, and I'm happy with it. Yeah, I probably could have found an easier way to do this banner, but it was enjoyable work. 

I couldn't just sew the banner, though. I wanted to do more. I had the great honor of helping my friends repaint their (very cool, craftsman) rental house, and I got to see a little bit of their style. I also plumbed my friend for color preferences. She said "orange and turquoise" and it was like I won the lottery! Except, of course, I had to add a lot of mustard yellow, which is conveniently the color of baby poop ...

The back of the quilt is really gorgeous (and conveniently colored) Dear Stella Arctic Foxes cotton flannel, which is super soft and nice to work with. And FOXES.

I made a little label with baby's first and middle name and birthdate. I noticed that my friend felt pretty negatively about her baby's birthdate, because he was so premature. But he shares a birthday with my best friend of nearly 30 years, and I feel that THIS IS A GOOD DAY TO BE BORN. Every birthday is a miracle.

The fabrics in this quilt came mostly from my stash. They are *mostly* Cotton and Steel, but there are solids and other prints mixed in as well. Not being a designer quilting fabric expert, the only one I can name is the Lotta Jansdotter "Ranka" fabric with the vertical "vines" in orange and dark brown, which has been marinating in my stash for years.

When I decided to make a baby quilt, I immediately went to my Facebook sewing friends group, a tight-knit group of friends who met over breastfeeding our babies, believe it or not! I've "known" these ladies for 7+ years now, although I've only met some of them in person. My friend Mahriam, an incredible quilter (blog and insta), helped me choose fabrics for this quilt. Poor thing was TRYING to hang out with her kids and have a normal day, but I kept texting her pics of fabrics! She was such a good sport, though, and really helped me curate fabrics. My friend Kelly helped a bit too. At one point she turned one of my photos into black and white, and I thought something was wrong with my Facebook Messenger. But no, it turned out this was a form of quilting magic, and she was "checking for values." Magic, I tell you!

Then my sensible friends, knowing both my (lack of) quilt skills and my tendency to be overambitious, wisely advised me to go with a nice and simple quilt. Mahriam did a tutorial about a brick pieced shower curtain she made a while back and suggested I go with that. Ultimately, this simple style showcased the prints I chose, and it meant no matching of corners, making for a really easy to piece quilt!

Once again, I engaged child labor in the arranging of fabrics. Actually, the kids arranged the pieces magnificently, with no two bricks of the same fabric touching, and then I got the strips mixed up and could never replicate what they had done, so the final arrangement is not quite as good as what the children came up with.

I know the quilters out there will appreciate this photo! Poor Steve had to hold up my quilt and endured criticisms such as "the top of the quilt is sagging down a bit, please straighten!" and "straighter please!" This is his "WHAT DO YOU WANT ME TO DO NOOOOOOOWWWWW" face. #husbandofsewistproblems

I agonized a bit over how I should quilt over the brick piecing. Horizontal lines seemed too boring. Diagonal lines would require a lot of marking. I did some internet searching and found some examples of wavy lines, which I really liked, but I had never quilted with any kind of curved lines before! Well, I decided to try it anyway, and I'm happy to say, it was SO easy and I am really happy with the final results! I just sewed wavy, intersecting lines, across the quilt, without much of a plan, until I was happy with how it looked. There are a few lines that are not as smooth as I would have ideally preferred, and one or two tiny puckers on the back, but nothing that warranted unpicking. Although this quilting, like all quilting, gave me a back and shoulder ache, I was able to quilt the entire thing in an afternoon. I will definitely be revisiting organic wavy line quilting for future quilts!

I dropped off the banner and quilt with the new family last night, and was delighted that the quilt matches the artwork they just ordered for the nursery. And baby, while TINY, is strong and doing well!

I will leave you with some cute photos I took of Maggie on the quilt.

She is just so exuberant! So full of life.

As always, thanks for reading!

- Inder

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Maggie Bunny and Joey the Rainbow Unicorn

Hey y'all! Just stopping in to share my kids' Halloween costumes, which totally derailed my Ottobre sewing of earlier October (still need to sew two t-shirts and a pair of sweats for Joe) but was totally worth it, because, please meet MAGGIE BUNNY AND JOEY THE RAINBOW UNICORN.

Maggie knew she wanted to be a bunny this year pretty early on, but Joe was waffling between a spider, Spiderman, or a unicorn (I know, random). Initially he just floated a couple references to unicorns, so I didn't think unicorn was a serious contender. But then after doing some Google searching (yep, that's right, this kid can search the internet on his own now! bring on the parental controls!), he was dissatisfied with the spider and Spiderman options. It wasn't until quite late in October, when Joe saw the soft "cuddle minky" fabric I got at Britex for Maggie's bunny costume, that he informed me that he HAD to be a white cuddly unicorn! This minky is really ridiculously soft.

On the one hand, I wanted to be like, "Couldn't you have told me this three weeks ago?" On the other hand, he had such implicit faith in my skills! As you all know by now, I am putty in this child's hands.

Okaaaaay. At this point I was thinking that maybe we would do a blue and green mane, for a more "masculine" unicorn (who am I trying to kid?). But I took Joe to Stonemountain (this was a multi-Bay Area indie fabric store project!), and he fell head over heels in love with this rainbow fur. It was LOVE, people. RAINBOW UNICORN LOVE. After it was cut, he galloped around Stonemountain, much to the delight of everyone present.  What can a mama do in the face of such rapture? It was ON.

Once the supplies were chosen, the costumes were pretty simple (albeit time consuming) to make. I made Joe's unicorn hood and Maggie's bunny hood using the "Cozy Winter Hood" pattern in Oliver + S's book, Little Things to Sew. This was my first time sewing this pattern, but I stood on the shoulders of giants. This pattern must be one of the most hacked and embellished indie patterns out there in the interwebs. A Google search of "Cozy Winter Hood animal" brings up hundreds of examples. And it worked a charm for me too!

Both hoods are XL. My kids have big heads, almost as big as mine. Joe's horn is gold lamé, and the ears are lined with gold as well. Lamé has got to be one of the worst fabrics to sew. It frays, it gets snagged on everything. It's a royal pain. Luckily these were small pieces. I used thread to "spiralize" the horn, and tacked the thread down by hand. One of the weaknesses of the final product is the tendency for the threads on the horn to get unspiraled, but after a last minute repair (this hood was worn from the moment it came off the sewing machine), it seems to be holding up now.

The horn was sewn onto the hood by hand, and the ears tucked in the seams. (I had to redo the ears several times - who knew that subtle changes in ear shape can change the look of an animal so much?) After the outside was sewn together, I hand-stitched the "mane" (an unfinished piece of fake fur) to the hood, then sewed the lining to the hood, right sides together, with all of that tucked inside.

I am not even going to pretend to be humble about this hood. It might, seriously, be one of the best things I've ever made! HA! It is definitely one of the most popular and loved things I've ever made. Both of my kids have been wearing it nearly nonstop since I trimmed the last threads. Having seen it, I think everyone kind of wants one! May we all be rainbow unicorns!

I also made Joe's long sleeved shirt and white sweatpants. The pants are a simplified version of the Oliver + S Sleepover Pajama pants, omitting the cuffs and waistband. I just laid out those pieces next to the main leg piece and cut these out! This is a soft, thick, white fleece. The t-shirt is from Ottobre 6/2013 #34, a very simple long sleeved shirt, made from Laguna jersey. It's snug, almost like long underwear, which is nice for layering. I am wondering if I should dye the white duds so that Joe can get some more use out of them, since white doesn't stay white for long! We'll see if I can work up the energy for that after all this sewing.

The tail is another piece of unfinished fur (did you know that you can tear fir across the cross-grain? and it makes hardly any mess and doesn't unravel? I am SO GLAD!) tucked into his pants because he didn't like the idea of a safety pin on his bottom. 

"But ... pins are POKEY." 

No amount of explaining would alleviate his fears, so tuck away!

I whipped up some simple felt "hooves" for his wrists and ankles to complete the costume. Joe did a lot of galloping around! I was a little worried that he might get some negative comments, but all he got was high fives from his classmates and admiring remarks from fellow trick-or-treaters.

Now, Maggie's costume! The soft minky was intended for her costume, and I got the softed sueded pale pink jersey EVER from Britex for the details. I cut additional slits in the Cozy Winter Hood pattern for her ears, so that they would sit perpendicular to the seams. Her hood hack was not as successful as Joe's however. I could not for the life of me get those dang ears to stand up! I interfaced them with very stiff pellon, and even interfaced the top of the hood where they sit, but no go. I thought about wires but it was the weight of the ears that was dragging down, not the stiffness of the ears themselves. So then I tacked the ears back a bit, hoping that would help. But it didn't really. The ears flopped forward half the time Maggie was trick or treating, sigh. Oh well, they are pretty cute! 

Maggie's sweatshirt is made from the soft minky, with a sueded pink belly appliqued on, and Laguna jersey cuffs and waistband. The sweatshirt pattern is Ottobre Kids 6/2015, #15, which I made for Joe earlier this year and has a fun saddle-style shoulder. The leggings, also in Laguna knit, are Ottobre 1/2017 #3, the baggy leggings I've been making Maggie nonstop since last year.

All she needed after that was a tail and some face paint! Maggie was very in-character as a bunny. 

Both kids had a great time trick-or-treating and the costumes were a hit!

It's always such a crazy exercise, making costumes for my kids, knowing they will only wear them, IF they wear them at all, for a few hours. But I love that my kids still think I can make them ANYTHING, and they still appreciate mama-made costumes. Over the years, I've learned a few things about costume making (having suffered a few rejections in the past, ahem). Okay, actually, I've learned one thing: COMFORT. My kids told me that they did not want chin ties on their hoods, so there are no chin ties. Sure, some hoods blew off in the wind here and there, but no big deal. The outfits are made of soft knits. Nothing is too tight or uncomfortable, because my kids are not capable of wearing something even slightly uncomfortable, for 30 minutes, even if there is candy involved. Seriously. These were hard-won realizations! 

Final thoughts: I may never get the minky fluff out of my sewing area. I needed to press my black suit for a meeting this morning, and Steve was like, "why are you standing in your underwear, vacuuming off your ironing board?" I know YOU guys understand! I can't press my black suit in a pile of white fuzz. I am pretty sure I am suffering symptoms of minky inhalation (class action suit pending?). That said, I had a blast making these, and my kids are at peak-Halloween age now, so that made it especially fun! Aaaaaaaand I will be very glad to return to my regular sewing. Thank goodness Halloween only comes once a year! 

Joe: "I wish it was Halloween tomorrow too."
Me: "Um. Nope. NOOOOOPE." *coughs minky dust*

Did you sew for Halloween? How much do you hate minky? Discuss! 

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Comfy pants.

Hello readers and happy October! The weather here is changing, and as you can see, the pumpkins are out and we are photographing indoors again (although we haven't actually turned on the heat yet; we put that off as long as we can).

I am happy to report that making Joe a Buttoned-Up Button Down brought my sew-jo back full force! (To be fair, the change in seasons probably helped too - hot weather with no air conditioning makes sewing seem pretty unappealing.) After complaining about my swelling stash all summer and avoiding it, I decided to tackle the plastic bin of knits in my living room HEAD ON, with some Ottobre sewing for the kids. Ottobre Kids magazines are packed with fun knit patterns, and I've found it's easiest to do a ton of tracing all at once, cut out multiple knit items, and then assembly line sew them on my serger and coverstitch. This allows me to try out new patterns (which is fun and keeps my mind occupied) and whip up a lot of practical clothes for my kids in one big go.

But this recent binge has gone well beyond the "mini wardrobes" I've done in the past - this was less "mini wardrobe" in the sense that it was a planned capsule wardrobe for each of my kids and more like TOTAL STASH ANNIHILATION. (Warning: this may be one of those posts with way too many all-caps, because MY SEW-JO IS BACK, WAHOOOOO!)

I cut out and sewed seven - yes, seven! - pairs of leggings for Maggie, two pairs of sweatpants for her, and two dresses. Joe is getting two pairs sweatpants (and I have fabric for a few more this winter) and three t-shirts. I can now fit my kid's knits into one plastic bin instead of two, and I might even be able to justify buying some that lovely Nosh fabric everyone is raving about at some point - after I tackle the knits meant for myself, anyway.

I am still working on Joe's items (the items were divided up by serger thread color, and we are on the blues), but today I'm here to share my most wildly successful Maggie make so far: SUPER COMFY PANTS.

These are the "Slim-Fit Leg" sweatpants from Ottobre 1/2017 (Pattern #17), which is a great issue of Ottobre and inspired my mini-wardrobes earlier this year. These cute sarouel-style sweats are shown in grey on a little boy in the magazine, but the pattern is obviously unisex. They have just one piece for the front and one for the back, a fold down waistband, and cute round pockets with ribbing and topstitching. I cut these out in size 98 (roughly equivalent to size 3). They fit her perfectly, although based on the other size 98 items I made for her, I'm realizing she has grown a bit and could generally do with a bit of extra length.

I thought they looked a bit goofy when I laid them flat, but Maggie LOVES them, weird baggy bottom and all.

Maggie says that the ribbing around her ankles is her favorite part, because it makes the pants "really warm"!

Sorry for the so-so photos, but yeah, these have been a major hit! I made two pairs, one in this lightweight mottled pink french terry I got from the bargain bin at Stonemountain (and still have a ton of, sigh), and one in a thick warm cream fleece I got second-hand at the Depot for Creative Reuse. I am especially glad to use up some of the cheaper impulse-purchase fabrics in my bin, because, basically, I bought too much of them and I am sick of looking at them! I don't know when I will learn that two yards of 60" knit is way too much fabric if I'm planning kid stuff. Both pairs of sweats use the same salmon-pink bamboo ribbing I got at Stonemountain. I swear by this stuff. It's super stretchy, has excellent *pop* (recovery), it behaves itself while sewing, and they have a decent selection of colors. And a half yard will provide ribbing for four or five projects - maybe more! 

For the cream pair, I used dark pink thread for topstitching. Both pairs of sweats were constructed entirely on the serger and coverstitch machine.

These are by far the biggest hit from this latest sewing binge. Maggie would wear these every chilly day (and night, and next day) if she could. Finally, Joe and Maggie can lounge in their sweatpants together, right? She says these pants are the "most comfy pants ever!!!"

I will leave you with some gratuitous Maggie cuteness! Maggie's smiles light up our house (and anyone who happens to be nearby); and when Maggie's not happy, ain't nobody's happy. She is funny, smart, chatty, and snuggly. She loves to help me with all my craft and sewing projects (and constantly suggests more), so I suspect she's gonna carry on the family tradition of craft! She loves cats and hates dinner (unless it's pizza). She still crawls into bed with me most nights, where she proceeds to kick off the covers and kick me all night, but her cheeks are so kissable I don't even mind. She's the bestest!!

She likes to watch TV or just hang out on the couch upside down, like this. No, seriously, she's like this a lot! And these are the perfect pants for this type of couch-yoga.

I'll be back soon with some Joe sewing! Is your sew-jo seasonal? Discuss!

Friday, September 29, 2017

School Photo: Oliver + s Buttoned-Up Button-Down.

Hi everyone! After finishing Maggie's Class Picnic outfit, I decided to make Joe another collared shirt to wear for his upcoming school picture. I was planning to use the Sketchbook Shirt  pattern, as I did last year (making shirts two years in a row: is this becoming a tradition?), but before I had a chance to get started, the new Oliver + s pattern, the Buttoned-Up Button-Down, was released! The timing could not have been more perfect (except that I didn't have enough time to wait for a paper pattern to arrive and had to download it, so I guess it could have been a tiny bit more perfect? but I'm not complaining). It has all the details I've been not-so-subtly bugging Liesl to include for years: a separate collar band and collar, tower plackets, more pocket options. As soon as I saw the new design, it was a case of "you can't take my money fast enough." Last friday morning when it came out it was like, BOOM. Downloaded and sent to the printer. Okay, now I can put my clothes on and go to work.

Liesl has mentioned in the past that boys' patterns don't sell as well as girls' dresses, and sewing for both a boy and a girl, I intuitively understand this. There is just more variety in girls' patterns, and dresses are fun and easy to sew. Whereas boys' patterns tend to be more basic, and more similar to each other. And perhaps not as ruffly or exciting in the cover art. In our culture, boys and men are more conformist or "normcore" in their dressing. But as a long time boy-clothes sewer, I also know that this is the big draw of boy's sewing. Because the styles aren't as varied and involved, the subtle details tend to shine more: the colors and fabrics and accents take center stage. There is something really enjoyable about sewing understated, classic styles with fun details.

And although Joe would prefer to wear t-shirts, knit shorts/pants, and sweatshirts every single day (and this is exactly what he normally does), he looks insanely handsome in a proper shirt. The issue, as always with Joe, is making him something that is comfortable enough to wear more than a couple days. He's always been, ahem, insanely picky about clothes. He's not a big fan of woven fabrics, full stop. He prefers soft knit fabrics. And he's definitely not a fan of collars. Especially in woven fabrics. So getting Joe to actually wear a button down shirt can be a challenge.

With that in mind, I chose a Lecien double gauze for this shirt. I bought this fabric last year, I believe, and I honestly don't remember where. At first, I remembered A Verb for Getting Warm, but now I'm wondering if it was Imagine Gnats? I don't know! It's not on either of those websites now, although I found a different colorway here. Anyway, it's very soft and pillowy stuff, and I definitely bought it with a (short sleeved) shirt for Joe in mind. I was hoping it would be very soft on his skin. I was delighted when I was able to squeeze a long sleeved shirt out of this piece, which cannot have been much more than two yards, since I find double gauze is cool when it's hot, but quite cozy when it's cold. Plus, I wanted to try those tower plackets.

Of course, sewing this pattern with a very poofy and soft fabric like double gauze (or flannel) means that you may not be able to get crisp points or details like you would in a shirting fabric, so my tower plackets ended up a bit soft, but that doesn't bother me. I found this fabric easy to sew and the print makes it very forgiving.

Okay, so let's talk pattern details, shall we? Given that I was using a quite thick double gauze with a busy print, I opted to make View A, the simpler dress shirt option. After measuring Joe's chest and waist and the desired shirt length I cut this out in a size 6. Joe is 8, but he is average in his class of mostly 7 year olds and wears size 6 in RTW clothes. The size six is perfect in terms of hem length for my tastes, and the sleeves are amply long on Joe.

My one little nit? I do feel like this shirt is a bit wide in Joe's shoulders. After looking at the shirt on the pattern testers, it seems like the shirt is intended to be a bit wide in the shoulders, but it seems especially wide on Joe. If I make this again I may reduce the width somewhat. If a pattern is intended to have a dropped shoulder, usually the top of the sleeve has a shallower curve and less easing than this sleeve. So I think I would prefer it closer to the natural shoulder line. But I wouldn't want to go down much in overall size because the neck fits perfectly on this shirt. I must read up on narrow shoulder adjustments! That said, I think this is one of those issues that only I will notice.

As always, the instructions in this pattern are excellent, and Liesl walks you through all of the steps carefully. I like her technique for attaching the neckband/collar and cuffs. This was really a lot of fun to sew, and although I was on a short timeline, I enjoyed the process and finished it in time for school photos!

I admit, when I put this on Joe, I freaked out a little bit. IT LOOKS SO GOOD!! I was totally proud of this make, and made all the adults in the household admire it, possibly more than once! And then I posted a rant about how awesome it turned out, and how gorgeous my kid is, to my Facebook sewing group (thank goodness these are good friends!). I was MIGHTILY PLEASED WITH MYSELF, seriously! Button down shirts are a lot of work, and not the fastest project, but the pride I feel when I finish a shirt full of awesome, profesh, shirt-y details? Priceless.

How does Joe like it? Well, he enjoyed the photo shoot!

It seems that he can move quite well in this shirt, thank you very much!

And he happily wore the shirt (over a plain white t-shirt) for school photo day, and didn't take it off until he got home (even though it was a really hot day!). And I never heard a peep about the collar bugging him. So I'm considering this a win! Whether he'll wear it without me specifically requesting it remains to be seen.

(He's wearing his shirt with these Sketchbook Shorts, which I made last year and still fit great. The piping on the pockets and the drawstring totally coordinate with this shirt and the mustard and teal look amazing next to each other.)

Just look at that face! Just say the word, kid. I am putty in your hands! I know, I know, the shirt is fine, but it's all about the model, right? Unfortunately for my future career as Hollywood child model mom, Joe is too shy to do this professionally.

But don't worry, there was plenty of this too. He is 8 years old, after all.

If you have boys and you haven't sewn them a button down shirt recently, I heartily recommend this pattern! The ego-boost you will get is amazing, and of course, if they like it too, that's just gravy.

What are you sewing these days?

Thursday, September 7, 2017

First day of Class (Picnic).

Hello everyone! I skipped August on this blog! Ugh! I've been having some issues with sew-jo lately, with too many WIPs and a fabric stash that is weighing me down instead of inspiring me. It's no good when your hobby becomes an obligation, know what I mean? And the hot weather definitely hasn't helped. I am trying to get back into it, knock off some of those WIPs, and get my inspiration back.

Although I haven't been sewing as much, it has been a great summer. I've been learning string figures, spending lots of time gardening, and we all really enjoyed the kid's summer break this year.

This blouse has been a long time in the making, at least mentally. I've wanted to make another gingham Class Picnic blouse for Maggie for a couple of years. I've made her three Class Picnic blouses over the years, and two of them were gingham, also with piping (here and here - look at baby Maggie!). This pattern SCREAMS to be made in gingham, I say. I picked up this lovely, very lightweight cotton gingham a year or so ago, I can't remember where - maybe Britex? It is such lovely, soft stuff. I'm sure I had this blouse in mind.

But I've also been plotting something else for several years - a gingham blouse with chicken scratch embroidery. Chicken scratch is a type of embroidery that is traditionally worked over gingham. It's also called gingham lace because, when it's worked in all white, it looks very lacy. I got totally obsessed with chicken scratch a year or two ago; I'm not sure what started it, but it took over my apron and handwork Pinterest boards! Chicken scratch was popular during the Depression and the 40s, and was frequently used to decorate gingham aprons. It is a counted-stitched embroidery (like cross stitch), worked over the natural grid formed by yarn-dyed gingham.

My specific inspiration for this blouse was this gorgeous Class Picnic blouse made by Spicy Jellybean Kids (check out her blog! it doesn't seem to be kept up, but her sewing is gorgeous! ETA: Find her at @spicyjellybeankids on IG!) I've been thinking about that blouse for a long time!

I chose a different design for Maggie's blouse: pink and green flowers over a field of white "stars." I copied the pattern from this pin, and I knew the pink flowers would help Maggie to accept the non-pinkness of the fabric. The stars actually hold the flowers. This is a really fun (and fast!) type of embroidery to stitch, and the embroidery took a leisurely day or two to work. I applied some woven interfacing to the back of the embroidery in hopes that it would make it a little sturdier, and the white piping further stabilizes the yoke. My experience with the Class Picnic blouse is that the front neckline can get saggy because it's partially on the bias (worse if you put the actual yoke fabric on the bias, as I did with my prior gingham Class Picnic blouses. A little bit of piping and perhaps a woven lining or twill tape stabilizes that gentle curve.

This is a size 3T, with no changes or alterations, on (tiny) five year old Maggie. I like that this top has some extra length and will hopefully fit for a while yet.

The end result is sweet - yes, a bit twee - and I love it! The great thing about the Class Picnic is that it's really a sweet little peasant top, but with just a little bit of structure. It is one of my favorite Oliver + S patterns, for sure.

With the pattern out, I couldn't resist tracing and cutting out some Class Picnic shorts to coordinate. I've seen several versions of these on blogs and Instagram this summer in all one fabric, and I was reminded how much I love this pattern. So I quickly whipped up a pair in Robert Kaufman union chambray. In size 3T, this pattern takes less than a half yard of fabric, I think. I love it!

I added a pink ribbon bow as decoration (again, everything needs some pink!) and to help Maggie tell the front from the back when dressing. Full disclosure: Maggie was initially disappointed that these shorts don't have pockets, but she seems to have gotten over it now.

Maggie started her last year of preschool today and had a great day! Both of my kids are back in school now, but I refuse to let go of summer until at least the autumn equinox! My garden is pumping out tomatoes and cucumbers with no end in sight, and September tends to be one of our best months for warm weather. So I predict these warm-weather clothes will get a bit more wear before they're put away for the winter. I hope I can find the time to make her these blouses every year, because I love this pattern!

Are you still sewing summer things? Is your fabric stash getting you down? Dish.