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!