Prayers for Wes

Three years ago, our family’s world seemed to fall apart when my Mother was diagnosed with Fallopian Tube cancer.  Our easy, breezy, happy lives suddenly felt heavy and sad.  It’s terrifying when something like that happens to someone you love, and you immediately start thinking the worst.  But time went by and treatment started and somehow it all just sort of became our ‘new normal’- we learned to adapt, while my mother began her battle.   And three years later, after two intensive surgeries, and two cycles of chemo, my mom is doing well.  We hope that after she completes an upcoming cycle of radiation, that we can say “BUH-BYE” to her cancer for good.

And while it never feels right hearing that your mom, or someone close to you has cancer, you learn that cancer does not discriminate.  It can happen to anyone.

But, perhaps there is nothing more unsettling or unnatural than hearing a child has cancer.

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 Unfortunately, a couple of weeks ago, my sister (and co-creator of this little blog) Caroline, got the news that her youngest child, 15-month old Wes, has been diagnosed with high-risk Neuroblastoma stage IV.   News that made all of our hearts just SINK.  To say we’re all devastated, shocked, and sad is an understatement.  Screeching halt?  I think I heard it ringing in my ears for days.

To imagine how my sister and brother-in-law felt upon hearing this diagnosis just kills me.  Life literally changed in an instant for them.

And for little Wes.

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:::Gee and Wes practice animal sounds:::

Wes has a big fight ahead of him, and we prepared to see him through it.  As the doctor explained, his cancer is highly aggressive and they will treat it aggressively.  Chemo has already begun.  Bone marrow transplant, surgery, radiation, and other procedures are on the horizon.  He is GREAT hands here in Charlottesville at University of Virginia Childrens Hospital with a fabulous pediatric oncologist, and she has given us faith that Wes can get better.  Caroline and Pei have been taking turns spending days and nights with him, and they are learning lots of new fancy medical jargon.

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Caroline and her husband have been remarkably strong… I am just in awe of them.  She is the one showing us how to get through this- with grace and love and a positive attitude.  I have always admired Caroline’s mothering.  She is a sweet mama with a ton of patience.  She is celebrating the good days, when Wes is eating well, being happy, and smiling. He loves to make animal sounds, drink the hospital dry of the complimentary apple juice, watch videos on the iPad, and scribble on paper.  A couple of nights ago, he even broke the 7th floor curfew and partied until past 10:00!

He is such a sweet boy.

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Wes has lots of adoring cousins to FaceTime with, and so many friends and family members to visit him while he’s in the hospital.  Surely Caroline and Pei will see a gazillion meals pass through their door, home-cooked by helpful, loving friends.  Older siblings Avery and Jet have lots of playdates and school activities to keep them busy, and of course they have me, their “Shao” (Chinese for little Aunt) at their beck and call, their other Auntie (our older sis, Erika, who lives in Chicago) to send them kooky videos of her doing old high school cheers, and two sets of doting grandparents to love them up!  One amusing thing we discovered, is that Wes and my Mom will be sharing the same Radiologist at UVA.  How’s that for Funny-not-Funny?  Hey, if it keeps our family on his mind more than usual, then it can only be a good thing, right?

We are Wes’s warriors, and we stand along side the Chang family as they begin this journey.

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I am asking you loyal readers, on behalf of my sister, to please keep Wes and his family in your thoughts and prayers.  If there is a community out there that can do that I know it’s the supportive, inspiring sewing blog one that Caroline and I have come to know and love over the last 3 (wait-almost 4!) years.

Lots of love,

Erin

Minions Run Wild

Before I get started, a round of applause for my amazing sister, Erin, for summoning her inner Jessie Spano and pumping out several kid friendly garments during KCW!  Bravo!  Who knew that sewing with knits would be like crack to her?

My crack is those peanut butter filled pretzel nuggets.  Can I get an intervention please?

My KCW week was consumed by this- Minion costumes for Jet’s 7th birthday party!

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Jet was dead set on a Despicable Me themed birthday party, a theme that is not widely found in your neighborhood stores (though, I bet it will be by next year).  The idea to costume all of the children came from the fact that I really hate coordinating party games.   I was all over Pinterest, trying to get ideas, but I just did not feel like decorating  soda bottles for minion bowling, or pining the scarf on Gru…

So naturally, sew costumes for all, and let them handle the fun!

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Before you declare me out-of-my-gourd, understand that this is not kind of sewing I am proud of.  This was balls to the wall sewing with reckless abandon!   Most of it was done on the serger with super forgiving fleece- no hemming, no button holes, no elastic, nobody cares!

It was totally fun!

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I used the Parsley Pants pattern to draft the bottom portion, and basically attached a rectangular bib.  The long straps took the longest to sew because I used two pieces of fabric and sewed them on the regular machine.  The yellow T-shirts were 4 for $9 at Jo-Ann, and that is where I bought the fleece too (using coupons of course).  The “G” was cut from denim and roughly appliqued.

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My plan worked.  All the boys were so jazzed about the costumes, that all I had to do was supervise the ensuing madness!  That cloud paper was also from Jo-ann’s, and worked well for a photo wall.  Ready for some pics?

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Pei and I attempted to dress as Gru and Lucy.  Yes, I did sew him that scarf.  Avery bailed on her Agnes outfit because I couldn’t get her ponytail to “stick straight in the air”.  #fouryearoldproblems

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A nearly 70 degree day in winter worked to our advantage.  After photos, I just pointed them all toward the door and they ran and played their little hearts out!  We even moved the eating table and pinata out there!

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You better believe we heard lots of “be-do, be-do, be-do”!

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By the way, the pinata and glasses were found on Amazon.

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Birthday boy!

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Little sister!

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Little brother!

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Make-your-own sundaes!

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This was a last-minute paper banner that I let Avery and Jet work on before the party started.  We didn’t finish it in time to hang it.  Oh well.

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The party was a major hit!  I really enjoyed seeing how adorable these little boys were in those costumes.  And before you ask me what I am going to do to top this next year, here  is your answer- Nothing.  We will not be doing the party with all the friends thing every year for every kid.  Keeping it mellow for the next couple years.

I hope that this will be one of those historical birthdays for Jet.     

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He is one incredibly worthy 7 year old.  I Love you buddy!

~Caroline

KCW: The End

Like I said the other day, I’m feeling super-charged this week.  Kind of like Jessie Spano on the Saved by the Bell when she was on speed for 72 hours straight… (“I’m so excited, I’m so excited, I’m… so…. scared!”)

Only, I’m not high on speed.

I’m high on knits.

(and if you know the episode I’m talking about, let’s be best friends.)

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So, I’m back with a couple of outfits for the kid who needs them the most.  Ellery is growing out of pretty much everything.

Above is yet another Flashback tee.  Yup, still addicted.  I modified it to be A-line, and also cut it about 3-4 inches longer.

Then.

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The Geranium hijacked the Flashback.

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I used the ruffle sleeve pattern piece from my beloved Geranium pattern (zigzag’d the edges with gold thread) and basted it to the curve at the top of the sleeve, and then continued on as usual.  The fabric is Cotton Couture in Cinnamon and it’s really a neat neutral, but still interesting, color.  I like the contrast of it with the eggplant jersey (from Joann) and the greige (grey-beige y’all)sleeves- repurposed from a top of my own.

The leggings are made with the same brushed knit I showed you the other day.  They are so cozy. I’ve been calling them her Polar Vortex leggings.  Oh, and in true Ellery style, she slept in them last night- which is always a good sign, right?

I used the Oliver + S Playtime Leggings digital pattern, and I’m in love!

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Now.  Do yourself a favor: buy this pattern.

(It’s now being offered as an individual pattern, so you gotta check it out!)

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I cut a size 6 for Ellery, and I would say they are a pretty perfect fit, though I’m not sure it’s the perfect legging fabric.  It didn’t seem to bounce back quite as well as I’d like, but still totally wearable (and sleep-able!).  And hey, if these end up as pajama bottoms…it’s okay because I’ll probably be spooning her whenever she wears them.

Moving on to outfit number 2.

Remember the other day how I said I’d be taking care of Ellery’s high-water leggings with the worn-out knees?

I think these are a pretty great solution.  What do you think?

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Things really started clicking as this pair came together.  Great stretchy fabric, not to thin. And concise, straightforward directions that Oliver + S fans have always raved about.  Sewing is fun.  Sewing leggings is the most fun.

Oh, and can I mention how FAST they are to sew?  I started this pair at 2:15 one day (I distinctly remember looking at the clock) and by 2:35 when I walked down the driveway to get Ellery off the bus, all I had left to do was pull the elastic through the casing and sew it shut.  Boom.  Leggings.

With heart knee patches!

Here’s a quick look at my patch placement in case you’re interested:

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(My heart patch is about 3″ wide at the widest part, and about 3 1/2″ long.  The point is about 7 3/4″ up from the bottom edge, and about 1 1/2″ to the left of that edge on the right.  I fiddled around with an old pair of my daughters leggings to get an idea of where they should go, but maybe this could be helpful if you’re making a size 6 as well. note: I cut my pattern a tad longer – maybe 3/8″, though I think it’s plenty long as it is.)

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The knee patches are 2 layers of red cotton knit just stuck on there and top-stitched.  We have thrown out several pairs of fairly new pairs of store-bought leggings (I’m talking to you, Old Navy) because of holes in the knees.  Just thin fabric I guess.  Or maybe she plays too hard.

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For the tee, “I took a little help from the store”, (as Rachael Ray would say with her pre-shredded carrots) and bought one from Target.  I then thought of a fun V-day saying, then I googled it to see if I was clever enough to have invented it (no, I’m not), and freezer paper stenctiled away with some gold, red, and black fabric paint.

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I printed the I’M WITH on my computer and traced it, but tried my best to free-hand the Cupid and arrow.

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Oh, hey! Cupid’s awake!

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I think the only way for me to participate in KCW (and what I did this time around) is to plan ahead, cut out fabric, set aside patterns in the days before, so all I have to do is sew.  It’s just too much of a disorganized mess if I go between cutting to sewing to cleaning up… etc.

I hope you all had fun sewing along for KCW, and if you didn’t, well… there’s always the Springtime!

-Erin

**Oliver + S kindly supplied me with the Playtime Leggings pattern.  Several patterns are not being offered as single PDFs.  You can check them out in their shop!**

kcw day five: flashback dress

 There are plenty of times (like weeks at a time) that I don’t feel inspired to make anything, or my kids don’t need anything, or I just have no creative juices.  But I’m feeling super-charged this week and I think it’s because I’m conquering my fears about sewing with knits.  And it’s mostly because I have too- since it’s all my kids want to wear.

Caroline commented on my flashback tee for Coco the other day, “Congratulations, you are now a Flashback addict.”

Yup.  I am.

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I made this late at night, and could’ve been way more precise about sewing it all, but I wasn’t.  Basically, I cut the shirt off a couple of inches under the arm pit and added a nice big gathered rectangle (I stitched that to the bodice by using zigzag stitch and then I serged it). There is some definite wonkiness (at the gathered seam, and the hem), but Ell loves it!

(a-hem.  This photo shoot was a DOOZY.)

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This rib knit was pretty stretchy and even though I cut a size 5 for my kid, it really started to stretch out by the time she got home from school when I snapped these pictures.  The gray baby rib is from Joann and it’s awesome- great stretch recovery (like all my new lingo?).  It’s great for necklines and cuffs.

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The coral floral (hehe) fabric is from fabric.com, but I can’t seem to find it there anymore.  I got it for $3.49/yard and I am willing to take my chances on cheap knit from an online store.  I am not one of those “have to see it/feel it in the store” type of people.  There is excitement in a little risky fabric shopping!  I did make sure it was mostly cotton, with a little lycra, and I think that’s a good little rule to go buy when buying for basic shirts/dresses.

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Girl is growing like a weed.  Those high-waters and worn-out knees are being taken care of tomorrow, fyi.

Stayed tuned.

-Erin

Return of the Rookie

I’ll admit it guys, I’m in the weeds this holiday season.  Weeded.  Wee-to-the-DED.  And not in a good way.  If you know what I mean by “in the weeds”, you have probably worked as a server in a busy restaurant.  If you haven’t, then I don’t know you.

Basically, I’m overwhelmed.  Who isn’t?  The lofty plans I had for handmade do-dads for every teacher and person my kid high-fives are probably not gonna happen.  The cookies?  Sorry, you’ll have to settle for chocolate dipped pretzel rods… and I’m pretty sure my girl had her tongue in sprinkles before they were sprinkled.  Handmade dresses or jammies?  Maybe in time for Chinese New Year.

Ya, sure, we celebrate that.

I think I’m starting to get that if you are a parent of children (sorry, dogs don’t count) then you’ve got to get your Christmas act together in September.  Get organized, and get cracking!  Or, you can just be normal, and chill out and relax.  But no!  I can’t!  Jessica said it first and said it best, “Craftiness is Not Optional“.  Best blog name in blogland.  Cause its so freaking true.

Crafters are just not normal.

So, I figured that instead of blogging about sewing bias tape on a tree skirt, *yawn*, I’d introduce you to a little someone special…

Our new nephew, Brady!

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Isn’t he adorable?  He arrived 5 weeks early (November 3, MY birthday!), and was healthy, and cherubic even!  We really hope to get our hands on him soon.

You might remember meeting Brady’s Mom, our big sister Erika, in this post from a while back, when she surprised, okay, shocked us all by learning how to sew during a summer visit.  Since many of you have wondered what became of the “Rookie Seamstress”  (okay, well at least Kristin inquired ;)- girl you always got our back!)  I’m here with the update!

Guess what?  She made this.

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A hospital gown so that she could deliver Brady in style!

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Over the course of a year or so, Erika has sewn a little with her machine- more bibs, a pair of toddler pants.  But, when she found out she was expecting #2, she was on a mission to duplicate a handmade hospital gown that she was given a few years ago before her #1.  Erin and I each borrowed said gown for our #3s.  It really does make you feel special to change into something with a pop of color while you are snuggling up to your brand new baby and paparazzi is in full force.  There’s a little Kardashian in all of us, no?

In order to create this green gown, Erika pretty much deconstructed the gifted one to get a basic pattern.

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Its a pretty basic shape, but, she had to figure out the snaps and openings which got a little tricky for her.

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Erika got some help from our mom with the finishings, and she might have declared that she would NEVER SEW AGAIN, but seriously, how good is this? Please help us convince her not to Craigslist her machine!

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By the way, these photos were taken this summer when E was visiting.  I wanted her to guest blog like she did the first time, her perspective is so blunt honest, but she just kept avoiding me when I’d ask.  Its not for everyone.

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Maybe looking back on this project after its been a few months, will help her to realize how great of a job she did.  Its empowering to make a wearable garment!  Awesome work Erika- on that gown, and even more so, on this little guy!

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We love him already!

~Caroline

Meet “Sergei”

My new serger!

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I’m sorry, I’m just cracking myself up at the thought of naming it Sergei, like he’s a sexy Russian figure skater (Wait, is that one big oxymoron?).  Sergei. Whatever I call this bad boy, we are about to have a good, long, rollercoaster of a relationship I’m sure.

I actually thought I was getting a serger for my last birthday, 1 year ago.  The day before my birthday last year, my husband told me not to give him a hard time about spending too much money on me, blah blah blah.  To his credit, he is a VERY thoughtful and thorough gift giver.  I figured he’d called my mom or Erin for ideas, and they’d told him about the machine.  Wrong.

As I lay in bed, just about at my due date, eating breakfast with Jet and Avery (which was my only birthday request that year, besides wishing for a healthy baby), Pei goes off to get my real gift.  He mutters, “You probably already know what it is.”

I mutter, “Is is a Serger?”

“A what,” he says?

Nope.  It was a 47 inch flat screen TV!

“Wow, thanks honey.”

I’ll leave the story alone at that.

This year, with a little help from my birdies (thanks Mom and Erin), Pei nailed it!  Yay, I am finally one of the cool kids.  I’ve spent the last week getting to know Sergei, and just running it on the factory settings with those colorful threads.  I grabbed a few knits from the to-be-upcycled stash, and played.

I wanted to see if I could make a Flashback Tee entirely on the serger.

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Did it.  This very Bert and Ernie shirt was made from an old baby blanket that I had for Jet.  Yes, I do know my sleeve stripes should be horizontal, just didn’t have enough fabric.  Once, I felt slightly confident with things, I pulled out this too-small sweater, and decided to hack it up.

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I turned it into a sweater dress for Avery.  It is basically just the Flashback pattern elongated, making use of the hems that were already in place.

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The little bow, a barrette, is working to strategically hold that collar down.  I’ll put a few more stitches in after she goes to bed, but I think she will make sure that the bow is here to stay.

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Avery’s little Wonder Woman boots are by Kenneth Cole Reaction.  My M-I-L just couldn’t help herself.

Since it’s always fun to see how these photo shoots really go, here are a few more shots…

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That collar was tricky.  I wanted to fancy the look up a bit by tacking on a gold-ish knit fabric that was sort of hard to manage.  I attached it with the regular sewing machine.

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Still workin it, but losing steam.

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“Mind if I sit?”

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“Ugh.  Now can we play my game?”

Okay, okay.

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This girl is a piece of work!

I’m defintely excited for my future with Sergei!  If you are considering buying a serger, its time.  Knits are where it’s at!  Especially if you want your children to wear what you make for them.  Thanks for visiting!

Enjoy your weekend!

~Caroline

A Little KCW- Bimaa Baby!

Bimaa, Bimaa, Bimaa little baby, my one and only… 

I just had to get in on all of that Bimaa action going around!  There were so many great looks on Sarah’s pattern tour!  This pattern was the first thing I wanted to sew from the wonderful Sew Fab bundle we purchased last week.  I hope you were able to take advantage of that generous offer, but if not, the Bimaa Sweater pattern can be purchased a-la-carte on the Emmyloubeedoo blog.

Fearing that KCW week will be consumed by Halloween costuming, which it will, I prepped a little Fall outfit for Avery over the weekend.  It’s not all about you, Darth Maul!

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A Bimaa cowl in a bright red knit, and a quick-to-sew circle skirt made out of a very lightweight printed denim.  Sorry I did not get any specifics on the fabric, both purchased at our local store, Les Fabriques.

Avery was suspicious of the cowl neck at first, and required a few extra candy corns before she’d try it on.  But once her dad began calling it  “the bacon catcher”, she decided she liked it!

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My elusive model is a tough one to shoot these days!  I had to sneak up on her playing at Erin’s house this morning!

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Gotta love how that skirt bounces and twirls.

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Hope you have a productive week my friends!

~Caroline

This Worked Out

I kind of can’t believe it myself. This upcycle was a major success!

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A few simple steps, and I turned a tired maternity shirt into an adorable back-to-school dress for Aves!

Here’s the before:

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We headed to Gee and Poppy’s for the photo shoot.  But, bear with me, my model was, how-do-you-say, not in the mood.

She said she’d do it if she could wear the Mardi Gras mask.

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I know, the mask is really cool, but focus on the dress.  How cute is that?!  It was so simple that I’m kicking myself for not taking in-progress photos to show you how!

Besides the cute pintucks, its your basic buttondown.  You could probably just as easily do this with a men’s shirt.  Actually maybe even easier since you wouldn’t have to worry about the bust darts making it wonky.

To make the dress, I cut the sleeves off the shirt and then cut up the side seams, keeping everything else intact.  Then, using my Music Box pattern as a guideline, I cut away at the front and back until they were in A-line unison.  I borrowed the buttons that came from the sleeves and added them to the placket.  You probably could skip that step if just using a men’s shirt.  All the raw edges were then encased in the red bias tape.   No hemming, word!

We left her grandparents’ house and headed to the park, in hopes of finding a sunnier attitude.

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Nope. Not gonna happen.  Forget the kid, let’s check out the back.

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The material is a lightweight denim.  It drapes really well.  As evident in this slouch.

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Ha ha.  Someone needs school to start!  (That someone would be me, of course.)

I took my time with the bias tape, sewing it to the wrong side first, and then flipping it over to the right side, and carefully topstitching.  It takes more time than just sandwiching your edge and going for it (like I usually do), but its a more reliable finish.  I can see Avery getting a lot of wear out of this dress.  She actually really likes it.

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Wait, is that a smile?

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No. We’re done here.

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Do you have any items lying around that would be perfect for an upcycle?

~Caroline

Domo Making Me Crazy

Trust me, there are many things I’d rather be sewing, than stuffed animals.  The list is endless really.  But sometimes, you just gotta give ‘em what they want.  Meet Domo.

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I can kinda get into this latest character obsession of Jet’s.  Pretty stinking cute.  Domo appears on Japan’s version of Nickolodeon as some kind of network mascot.  Maybe he is in video games too.   He’s been around for a while it seems, but my kids only recently discovered “Domos” in a vending machine at the pizza place we frequent.

I probably said something like, “those would be really easy to make,” and that was enough for Jet.  He actually wanted to learn how to sew for a few seconds there.  Alas, I sewed.  He stuffed.

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She stuffed too.

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I’ve learned my lesson this summer- keep it even-Steven, and we’ll all get along.

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Awe! How great is that smile?!

Now that I am hip to the Domo, I raised an eyebrow when I saw this look down the runway.  Ya’ll watching this season?  Was Dom’s (yes, that happens to be her name) look referencing Domo?  They didn’t mention it.

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Now, check this out.  I found this while searching for Domo images.  It dates back a few years.

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Veddy Eeenteresting.  Upon further investigation, the original image was altered. The ridiculous brown sweater dress was a real runway garment, but some clever person out there photoshopped the eyes and mouth on there. Hilarious!  Perhaps Dom took inspiration from this silly hoax?  Wouldn’t you know it, discussion ensues on the PR website.

If you’d like to make your own Domo, there is a nice little video tutorial for a handsewn one on youtube.

Good luck going back-to-school everyone!

~Caroline

KCW summer 2013: Op style shorts

How was your Kids Clothes Week?  Or, as I like to call it- Neglect-Your-Household-Week.  Phew, this place is a disaster!

I actually did work on making clothing all week, but first project a wash, so it got scrapped.  Thankfully my week was redeemed when the vision in my head came to fruition.  Op shorts!

Dana’s pattern goes So. Cal in this version which I designed after the classic Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts.

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I used the 4-year-old girl size, flat front, and racer short hemline.  I simply extended the pocket all the way to the hem, and we are right back in 1985.

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The cotton I used was a nice weight for these shorts- probably cotton twill?  Its been in my stash for a while.  Purchased at Les Fab.  I’d love to actually try these with some corduroy.  I made a freezer paper stenciled shirt to go with!

I’ve been singing, “I want my, I want my, I want my MTV” for days now!

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I am so happy to have this pattern to work from.  A good pattern makes sewing fun!  Dana’s corresponding tutorials are really helpful.  I love that she doesn’t assume how much we know about sewing.  She takes her time to explain each step. A beginner can do this!

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Avery is trying to show you that I actually did line the pockets with a pretty butterfly fabric.  I could have exaggerated it on the seams.  You can’t really tell from the front.  This is how my pockets looked before I placed them:

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I will say that the racer short hemline was a little too short for this project.  I only ended up folding my hem under once.  Also, bringing the pocket down to the bottom will make the hem a lot bulkier.

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I tried to keep the photo shoot going by handing Avery some props.

“Sweet wallet.  Is this vintage?”

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“What, no money?”

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“I don’t work for free, lady.”

Later…

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A bribe is a bribe.

Enjoy catching up on your housework!

~ Caroline