8.28.2015

One. Two. Three.

First there was one.


Then there were two.


And now there's three.


Three people sporting octopi covered shirts that is.

You know what they say "the family that wear octopi together, stays together."  Or something like that.  In any case, 3/4 of our family is now fully outfitted with an octopus-themed garments.  Ben was feeling a little left out so he made his own handmade octopus shirt.  I told him not to quit his day job.


O's dress is from her birthday and my shirt is an Archer that I finished just before starting school in June.  I didn't get to wear it from a couple months because it was blazing hot around here for several weeks.  On the day of our midterms, though, it cooled down to a reasonable temperature and I broke out the octopus shirt as a little good luck charm.  It turns out that is was just the ice breaker that people needed in the middle of hours of tense exams.  I mean, who could be stressed out when the woman in front of you is wearing a button down shirt covered in octopi?  It's simply not possible.


As for C's shirt, it's the Class Picnic Blouse from Oliver and S which makes a great little top and I'm thinking that, with some lengthening, it would also make a great little dress.  I'd be hung go for making it except that C has returned to her natural state of being a mostly ungrateful recipient of handmade goods.


Ah, three year olds.  So stinking cute.  So stinking fickle.

8.25.2015

The Things We Make For Our Children


For the past two months I've been telling my youngest that when I get done with school, I'm going to make her a cat dress because if there's one thing that can actually get this kid to smile, it's a cat.  And because I'm a total sucker for this kiddo, I'm usually pretty happy to indulge her cat obsession...which has led to her having cat shoes, cat tattoos, and now a cat dress.    She may be only three, but she's definitely on her way to crazy cat-lady status.


But let's talk about this dress.  You know, the one made out of what is possibly the world's ugliest fabric.  You see, when I told C that I would make her a cat dress I imagined a little less literal of an interpretation.  In fact, I found a darling little fabric at the store with cat prints on it and I spent a good five minutes trying to talk her into that fabric and when she wouldn't give I roped Ben into trying to talk her into that fabric as well.  It turns out that you can't talk C into anything  (including smiling for these pictures).


When she gets an idea of what she wants, there's no getting that idea out of her head.  (I wonder who she gets that from?  Ha!)  So a dress covered in cats it was!  Actually it was kind of fun to pick out which cat would have a starring role on the front of the dress (I let O have the honor of picking out that cat).  And, if I'm being honest, I kind of love the way this crazy looking dress came out.  It really captures a moment in time in C's childhood and I can't really ask for more than that.


Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that this dress (once again) is made from the Hanami Pattern.  I made her a straight size 3 although based on seeing some other gorgeous Hanamis around the internet I chopped about 3/4 of an inch off of the length of the bodice and I also added some width to the skirt.  I decided to go with some flutter sleeves this time around and I have to say that I'd forgotten how cute flutter sleeves are on a little girl's dress.  And, of course, I had to throw in a little piping around the waist because it turns out that there's no overdoing it when you're wearing a dress covered in cats.


Meow!

8.13.2015

One Quarter (Almost) Down. Two More Years To Go.


Tomorrow is the last day of my first quarter back in school and I have to say that I beyond excited to be wrapping up this quarter.  These past two months have been an incredible amount of work and while I expected to have my nose to the grindstone a lot of the time, if I'm being honest, my nose was to the grindstone a lot more than I was hoping.  Needless to say, Ben and the kids have been absolute champs in adjusting to this new period in our lives.

The last two months have also been incredibly humbling as I went from being a competent professional in one line of work, to a completely incompetent student.  I'm not going lie - there were many days that I missed feeling "good" at something.  Fortunately, those days were offset by the ones where I felt pretty bad-ass at learning something new.  And if I have many thanks to give to Ben for picking up the slack around the house, I have many, many thanks to give to my sister who constantly reminded me that learning is a process and to cut myself a little slack in that process.

Lastly, the last two months have been reassuring.  When I left my job I felt pretty unmotivated and I figured that obviously the problem was me.  I thought that this was just my new normal - tired, old, and unmotivated.  I really worried that once I got into something that required a much greater time and mental commitment I was going to find that I just wasn't up to the challenge anymore.  Fortunately, as it turns out, I was wrong.  I'm not an unmotivated person; I was just in a job that I had outgrown and because of that it was hard to muster up motivation at times.  In fact, I've been pleasantly surprised by my motivation over these last two months and the amount of work that I've put in to this 3rd go-round at college (3rd!!).


And with that, it's back to the books for me.  One more day of studying and then a couple weeks of doing nothing but hugging my kids, giving Ben high fives, enjoying life, and, of course, sewing!

6.01.2015

An Octopus Birthday Dress


Well, if I was late in posting about C's birthday dress, it's only fitting that I was late in actually making O's birthday dress.  But here's the thing - she didn't even care.  Not because she didn't want one (because she most certainly did), but because she understands that handmade things take time and this is a girl who loves handmade things.  Truth be told, the littlest one often refuses to wear the things that I make for her, but O is a grateful recipient who loves when I take the time to make something just for her.  And that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.


You know what else makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  This kid.


She is amazingly observant, has a ridiculously good memory, and a great sense of humor.  But you know what I love most about her?  Her zest for life.  She is full of joy and a joy to be around and just when I think I couldn't love her more, I do.


But before I get too sentimental, here's a little about this dress.  The pattern is the Caroline Party Dress pattern by Welcome to the Mouse House.  I cut out a size five bodice because O's a slender little thing and I cut the length of the skirt somewhere between the recommendations for a size 5 and size 6.  I wanted the skirt to be very full so I cut the width of the skirt the entire width of the fabric and just gathered it when sewing the dress together.


The fabric is a cotton lawn from Cotton and Steel and it's just as lovely as everyone says it is.  O picked it out because we had gone to an aquarium a couple weeks ago and we both fell in love with an octopus named Melanie at the aquarium.  When she saw this fabric she immediately yelled "Melanie!" and I knew that it was a done deal.  I debated about adding some additional elements to the dress (piping!) but in the end I decided to let the craziness of an octopus dress speak for itself.


I was originally going to with a solid coral cotton for the lining fabric but when I went to the fabric store I saw this Michael Miller print and was instantly smitten.  I did have a moment when I thought it might violate some laws of nature to mix a safari animal with an ocean animal, but O assured me that it was okay so I went ahead and added the zebra print.  I used a zipper that I just had at home so it's a bit shorter than the recommended zipper length but she's able to get the dress on just fine.  Also, I don't know what my problem is lately, but zippers have become the bane of my existence.  First my problems with this project, and then I could not get the seams to line up straight when installing this zipper.  I swear I ripped it out and sewed it back in about five times, each time thinking "I won't let you best me, zipper!"


And that's when I realized that I was talking to a zipper and that probably falls outside of the norm of socially acceptable behavior.

PS - The littlest one, of course, also wanted in on the action and considering that she was wearing a little bubble skirt that I made ages ago for O, I was happy to oblige.  Man, those are some cute little legs.

5.28.2015

Vintage May: A Pleated Culotte Jumpsuit


First of all, many, many thanks to Kristin and Jess for putting together another Vintage May.  I'm excited to be a part of it and even more excited to see what everybody has made.  Personally I had a hard time deciding which direction I wanted to go.

Kids clothes or adult clothes?

A true version of vintage clothes or simply vintage inspired?

An entire vintage garment or just an inclusion of some vintage techniques.

Needless to say, I can be a bit indecisive.


After a couple of days of hemming and hawing, I decided to make something for me - because I'm the most grateful recipient of my handmade goods - and I also decided that I wanted to make something that was very wearable rather than something that looked more "costumey."  In the end that meant that I wanted to adopt some aspects of vintage style while (hopefully) bringing it up-to-date.  This, however, is where I should you that I am not the person you should turn to if you have any questions about current (or even past) fashion trends.  I like what I like and if that happens to overlap with what's in style then so be it, but you'll probably never see me on the forefront of any fashion trends.  That said, this outfit is definitely on the trendier side of anything that I've ever made.


So for Vintage May I decided to embrace my inner 70's child and sew a jumpsuit.  That's right - a jumpsuit.  There are several options out there from the Big 4 pattern companies (and even from some indie companies) but I chose to go with Vogue 9075 which is not only a jumpsuit but a culotte jumpsuit.


So perhaps this is both 70's and 80's inspired?  In any case, I knew that I wasn't going to go with 70's colors.  Brown and yellow together?  Um, no thank you.  Instead, I went with a really basic navy blue (that my daughter later described as "boring").  While the color is pretty basic the fabric is anything but.  It's a Kauffman linen and rayon blend and it's perfect for projects that need some drape without being overly difficult to sew (I've had some bad experience with rayon challis in the past).  In fact, I liked this fabric so much that I even made a muslin before cutting into it.  My lazy butt almost never makes a muslin so let's all take a moment to acknowledge what a momentous occasion this was.


It was actually a really fortuitous decision to make a muslin because I ended up having a lot of excess fabric around the chest area.  I remember having a similar problem with this project and while I was able to fudge a solution after the whole garment was sewn together that time around, it was much more helpful to take out the excess fabric when cutting the pattern out this time around.  I'm also slowly coming to terms with the fact that I think I have a rounded back so I put little darts in the back bodice panels to try to take out excess fabric from that area.  In making the muslin I also found out that the crotch depth was too short so I added an inch to the crotch and took off two inches from the leg length since so many people commented on just how long these pants are.  The legs right now hit at what is traditionally an odd point on the leg but I kind of love it (even though my husband kind of hates it).


Nothing was particularly complicated about this project although there were a lot of pleats to mark and sew (hello again 1980's!) and while I love the way that they came out, I'm usually over marking pleats by the third one.  The pattern calls for you to baste the pleats down while you're sewing the garment and then to take the basting stitches out, but I ended up liking the look of the sewn-down pleats so I went back and top stitched them all down.  I'm not sure how they would have looked had I taken the basting stitches out, but considering that I'm  pear-shaped I don't think the pleats would have done me any favors.


You know what I had the most trouble with on this project?  The zipper!  The pattern calls for just a regular old zipper but I haven't put one of those in for ages.  I find invisible zippers way easier to install so I substitute them in almost all garments that I make but you can't put one in this garment because the zipper goes down into the pants portion.  In any case, it turns out that I've completely forgotten how to install a zipper and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I put this zipper in no less than five (!) times.  I tried following the pattern instructions, then hand-picking the zipper, then following the instructions off of a free Craftsy video, and I still had to rip parts out and resew them.  It's definitely not the most beautiful zipper that I've ever sewn in but it's done and I'm calling that a victory for the time being.


And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap!

Now go check out what Abby has made for her version of Vintage May!


VM Large

5.21.2015

Valencia Tunic


When it came time to choose a pattern to make from the newest Willow and  Co collection I embraced my inner selfish sewer and went with the Valencia Tunic because:

1) I really do love to sew for myself
and
2) look how freaking cute it is!


My decision was pretty easy, even for an indecisive person like myself (although those little girl patterns are pretty darn cute and tempting).  For sizing, I went with a straight size XS based on my measurements and I didn't worry too much about my usual grading out for my hips since the top is sightly A-line and very flowy.  Also - confession time here - I didn't make a muslin.  For all you gals who always make one, I commend you, but the fact is that I only make one about 25% of the time mostly because a lot of the clothes that I make are not super-fitted and there's a little more wiggle room in terms of fit.  Also, I'm lazy and I hate any sort of prep work.  Just ask my husband who has the unenviable job of doing all the prep work before we paint any room.


Now can we talk about this fabric combo that only came about thanks to an off-hand comment from the lady cutting my fabric at the fabric store?   The green rayon fabric was originally purchased with this project in mind, as it's light and drapey and perfect for this top.   And while this top lends itself to some great fabric combos between the yoke and the body, I was initially going to make the top in just one color because I thought it would be more wearable.  But while cutting my fabric the lady mentioned how good these two fabrics look together and I thought "you know what, lady who I've never met before?  You're right!"  And it just so happened that I had juuuust enough left-over for the yoke after I made a different project from the navy blue linen/rayon fabric.  I should also say that all my past sewing attempts with rayon have been total fails and I usually find rayon really hard to sew with, but combining it with linen made it very manageable and somehow I muddled through with the 100% rayon fabric too, probably because it was a bit thicker than the past rayons that I have worked with (may they rest in peace).


Because I only had a little bit of the navy blue fabric to work with the yoke lining and all the bias bindings are made from the green rayon fabric.  And while the pattern says that you can use store-bought bias tape I went ahead and made my own because I never like the way store-bought bias tape feels, especially in what is supposed to be a drapey garment.  I cut my bias bindings 1 inch wide and sewed them with a 1/4" seam and also added some under stitching to keep them in place better.  I also cut a little extra bias binding so that I could bind the neck instead of using the collar piece that the pattern comes with.  I didn't initially intend to make this modification, but once the shirt was mostly sewn up I couldn't help thinking how nice it might look without the collar so I went ahead and left it off.  Sometimes it pays to listen to your gut.


Also, two other tips about this project - sew your buttons on a bit loosely since the button tabs are thicker because they're made of fabric.  I didn't do this and the button are pulled pretty tight on the yoke.  I may go back and sew them on a bit looser...or I may just learn to live with them.  Also, be careful on the length of this top.  I'm 5'6" and I think the length is perfecto but if you're shorter you may want to shorten the body a bit (or fully embrace the tunic).


But you know what this project really taught me - respect your tools.  For Christmas this year I got new sewing scissors and they are super-sharp and super-fantastic.  But I snipped a tiny hole in this top when cutting a thread off and that was not super-awesome.  The hole is really small and barely visible since it's in the front gathers.  And I put a little Fray Check on it as soon as I realized my stupidity so I hope it doesn't cause the garment to fall apart the first time I wash it.

Really sharp scissors cut holes in fabric.  Who knew?

Many thanks to the ladies from Willow and Co for providing me with this pattern.  As always, all opinions are my own.  As are all the stupid mistakes I make when sewing my garments :)

5.18.2015

A Really Belated Post About My Favorite Three Year Old...And Her Birthday Dress


Well, someone turned three the other week month and, of course, that someone needed a new dress to help her celebrate this momentous occasion.  Perhaps my favorite part of making this dress was taking her to the fabric store  to let her pick out the fabric.  She loved looking at all the colors and patterns and was so excited that she got to choose one just for her.  I may be a little biased, but it was pretty darn cute.


In the end she chose this Michael Miller print that has some subtle moths hidden in the print and I chose the coordinating lime green fabric for the lining.  The back is finished with a bright pink invisible zipper and even though it's technically "invisible" I love the pop of color that it adds to the dress.  In fact, a contrasting color invisible zipper may  just be my new favorite addition to kid's clothes.


You know what else I love?  Hidden small touches to make a dress extra special.  For this dress I considered embroidering a note to her on the lining of the dress, but in the end I got lazy and instead opted for some  cool machine stitching to hold up the hem of the lining.


Have I ever told you just how basic my sewing machine is?  You know how most modern machines offer a ridiculous number of stitch options?  Well, mine offers a whopping 18.  That's it.  And honestly, I never really mess with the more decorative ones, but I thought that this might be the perfect opportunity to try one out.  And why not try it out in bright pink?


For the pattern I chose to use the Hanami dress pattern once again because, well, just because I love this pattern.  I was a bit lazy and didn't pick the size by C's measurements so it's a bit big and I definitely had to make a very deep hem to make it the right length for her, but it'll probably fit her perfectly by the time summer comes along.  The pattern has a couple different options and I asked for her input but in the end she just wanted a simple bodice with no added collar or flutter sleeves.  I did add some flat piping around the waist because, well, who doesn't love flat piping?  I also chose to add a full lining under the skirt to make it fancy-schmancy.  That isn't included as one of the pattern options but it's a no-brainer to figure out how to add it.


But no post about a birthday dress would be complete without a note about the birthday girl!  She is ever-changing but right now she's incredibly into being a "big girl" (don't you dare call her a baby!) and not missing out on any of the fun (which usually means that she refuses to go to bed at night).  She has recently discovered a new-found love of cuddling (which, of course, I love) and she has one of the most active imaginations that I've ever seen.  One of the things that I love most about her, though, is just how head-strong she is.  She's stubborn and opinionated and not afraid to tell you when she disagrees with what you're saying.  It certainly makes parenting her an interesting experience at times, but I have no doubt that these same traits are going to serve her well in life.  I'm far too much of a people pleaser so I love having a little girl who kicks a little butt.  Now if only we could get her to eat something else besides noodles with butter....


PS - I have a feeling that this face is a preview of her teenage years to come.

PPS - This is her last year in her Hanami birthday dress.  My goodness, she's gotten big!

5.05.2015

I Think I'm In Love...With This Dress


Remember when I wrote about using nearly 20 year old fabric?  Well, I can now beat that because this dress just so happens to be made out 40 year old fabric that my mom bought back when they lived in Indonesia in the early 1970's.  Now I realize that I'm making it sound like I come from an entire family of hoarders, but that's probably not too far off from the truth.


In any case, my mom gifted me a couple of fabrics that she no longer has use for since she really doesn't sew anymore.  This fabric is a beautiful handcrafted batik and given that and the fact that my mom held on to it for so long, I was more than a little nervous about cutting into it.  Especially, since the last time I tried to use a precious fabric from my mom I ended up making an entire dress....and then cutting a hole in it with the serger just as I was finishing it.  Ughh!  This time I was determined to be far more careful.


I used the Alder Dress pattern by Grainline Studio since I already had a good idea of the fit and I thought it would be a great match for this fabric.  This time around though I went back and properly added three inches to the length and I love the length on this version  You know what else I love?  The fact that I think I've finally figured out how to sew the gathered inset in properly.  The inset on my first Alder is a little rough but fortunately dark blue color hides a multitude of sins.  I also only added one breast pocket to this one, but you may have a  hard time seeing it due to my kick-ass pattern matching (excuse me while I pat myself on the back).


Other than that, there's nothing too notable about this dress.  Except that I really, really, really do like it.  It is totally not something that I would ever try on in a store, but somehow that makes me like it even more.

Oh, and no post would be complete without a picture of my favorite little photobomber.  Hello there, little one.


5.01.2015

The Training Wheels Are Coming Off


I don't often post about life outside of sewing around here - mostly because I'm not the most introspective of people.  I take most things as they come and try to make decisions based on facts, figures, and logic.  I look in wonder at those who only need their gut to tell them what to do.

I need my gut to tell me what to do and then I need to collect pages of information from various sources and put the information in an excel spreadsheet and move the information around based on seven different scenarios that might occur, ranked in order from most likely to least likely.  Needless to say, I'm a bit of a mess when it comes to making big decisions, which would explain why I've had a permanent headache for the last week as I've tried to decide whether to stay in my current career or make the leap into going back to school.  I thought I had made a final decision several weeks ago but a number of things changed at the last minute and that made me re-evaluate my decision.  I thought of how easy it would be to stay in my current job, about the flexibility that it gives me and my family, and how comfortable I was in a position that I've done well at for the past 9 years.

But that evening I took O on a bike ride and my thought process changed.  You see, O learned how to ride a bike without training wheels last summer but all this year she's refused to ride her big bike, instead opting to ride C's tiny bike with training wheels.  Truthfully, she looks absolutely ridiculous riding a 2 year old's bike around and as we headed to the park I found myself telling her:

"You can do this.  You've done this before."

"You can go so much farther and faster on the big bike."

"Don't be scared.  We're right here for you.  We'll help you."

And in that moment I realized that I was O.  I wanted to stay on the little bike forever.  It was comfortable and safe and I knew that I could do it.  I had mastered the little bike.  And, yes, I was fairly limited in where I could go on the little bike but I was ready to accept my self-imposed limitations.

And that's when I realized that I was approaching this decision all wrong.  Everything I was telling my child I should have been telling myself.  And I knew that if I expected O to ride her big girl bike, I needed to ride my big girl bike too.

I gave my final notice to my job today.

The training wheels are coming off.  And it's just as scary as O said it would be.

4.25.2015

Alder Dress


After falling in love with the butt ruffle Archer I knew that I needed to get my hands on the dress equivalent - the Alder.  Now I should probably say that when this pattern first came out I was kind of "ehh" about it, mostly because I get the feeling that View A is not the most flattering cut on me.  But then View B's popped up all around the internet and I was sold!


You know what else popped up on the internet - warnings that this dress runs on the short side and it definitely does.  Here's another warning for you - don't try to be lazy and just trace out the size 18 length for size 2 pieces because they don't line up correctly.  Trust me - I learned this lesson learned the hard way.  Use those shorten/lengthen lines that Jen so kindly put on the pattern.  I was able to work a little magic to get the mismatched front pieces sewn together but there's some definite gentle waves in the fabric where the piece was too long.  Aesthetically, it doesn't look too bad nor is it very noticeable, but it drives me a bit crazy knowing that it's not supposed to be there.


The dress is sewn up in a lovely navy double gauze that I purchased from Drygoods Design and all I have to say is "why, oh why, did it take me so long to try out this fabric?"  I now want to wrap myself in nothing but double gauze.  And it's a great option for a flowy dress like this, although I'm concerned that it may be tad see-through if I stand directly in the sun.  I'll have to do a bit more investigation into that potentially embarrassing possibility.


I think this dress is going to be a great option for summer since it's so light and airy but until summer gets here I've been wearing it with tights and a cardigan thrown on top because I'm perpetually cold.


Also, many thanks and big high fives to O for taking these pictures.  And many thanks to C for mastering the art of the photo bomb.


Now get out of my pictures!

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