Birthday Dress (a little late)

Avery turned 5 a couple weeks ago!  She is such a dynamic girl.  There are many dimensions to my girl Avery: smart, determined, tenacious, dramatic, hilarious, honest, sweet, loving, mysterious and wild (good luck future boyfriends).  This face kind of says it all…

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She recently started watching the runway portion of Project Runway with me. I know she has craftiness in her future, its in her DNA, so I thought I’d jumpstart her interest in sewing by letting her watch the show.  She really likes it.  She asks me, “Mom, which girl do you want to win?”  I explained that those girls are just wearing the clothes that the people made, they are not the ones who will win.  “Oh…I want to be one of those girls,” she says.  “A girl who wears the clothes and walks in them,” I ask?  “YES,” declares Avery!  Great.  I just helped my daughter aspire to be a walking mannequin.  Fabulous.  She will have to work at that modelling career, because this was about the least awkward pose she was offered me during our shoot.

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We headed to the playground to try for some candids.

DSC_7734 (2)She was dying to show me how she learned to use the monkey bars!

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DSC_7726 (2)That’s my girl!  She is really athletic, and she loves to wear DRESSES!  I knew that the skater dress would be an instant hit in the comfort department.  I sewed a size 5Y/6Y and I am so glad that it is roomy enough for her grow into it.  I increased the width of the skirt pattern piece and gathered it before it was attached.  Avery really appreciates a dress that she can twirl in.  What 5 year old girl doesn’t?

photo (3)If you’ve seen this dress before, its because Rachel from Stitched Together made an almost identical one before I got to it.  Ha!  I didn’t mean to be a copy-cat (even though I’d copy what Rachel makes all day long if I could)!  When I bought this knit months and months ago from Girl Charlee, the skater dress was on my agenda.  But, alas, my sewing productivity is very low these days! DSC_7737

Thank you for stopping by!

~Caroline

 

Caroline Blogs (+ a giveaway)

Hi everyone!  It has been about 5 months since my last blog post, when I sewed costumes for Jet’s 7th birthday party.  That was right about the time when symptoms of Wes’ cancer began.   As most of our readers know, in February, my youngest child (at age 15 months) was diagnosed with stage IV, high-risk, neuroblastoma, a childhood cancer of the nervous system.   Our lives changed forever.  I have a new blog now- the kind you never wanted to have-  that chronicles our family’s fight for Wes’ cure.   You are welcome to join us on http://www.caringbridge.org.  Just log in and search for Wes Chang.

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I don’t want to get into the horror, the hardship, the grief, the joy, the crazy emotional rollercoaster that comes with having a child go through cancer.   Its something I would not wish on my worst enemy.  But somehow, many blesssings have home out of it, and I have a renewed sense of purpose, and new perspective on life’s importances.

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To tell you the truth, I have been avoiding this space.  Writing my posts on caringbridge (along with living our new normal) takes a lot out of me.   Its just so emotional that it exhausts me.  Actually, even here in the past, blogging did not come easily for me.  I am extremely self-critical and perfectionistic.  I sew slowly, and I write slowly.   And now, I simply do not have time for any of it.  I still crave sewing.  I miss it.  I yearn for it.  But my priorties have shifted, and the sense of satisfaction I get from crafting a wearable garment, is replaced by taking the best care of Wes that I possibly can.  Add NURSE to my resume, because I’m pretty sure I’ve earned my degree!

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To catch you up to date quickly, Wes has undergone 5 rounds of intense chemotherepy since his diagnosis.  He had tumors (or “lesions”) in several places in his head, also in his lungs, and, signature of neuroblastoma, a primary tumor on his right adrenal gland (which sits above the kidney).  His bone marrow was also infected by the disease.  After just two rounds of chemo, the visible tumors on his head and face were diminishing, and bone marrow biopsy was clean.  Wes just underwent scans after round 5, and the only remaining visible disease  is the primary tumor (1/3 of its original size)!  It will be surgically removed on Wednesday.

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His progress has been amazing!  His expert oncologist actually used those words.   Wes has stayed extremely healthy through this process, and we have been living at home as normal most of this time.  I can assure you that this is not the norm for kids with neuroblastoma and other devestating cancers.   He is making this look easy.  But it is not.  The stress, the worry, the time it takes, and the toll it takes on the family dynamic, is extraordinary.  Please understand, that if this could happen to our family, it can happen to yours.  Please support the research, support the families, the events, the races, the blood drives.  I never thought we’d be the recipients of so much kindness and generosity.  I never thought we would need to be.  We are humbled indeed.

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I’d like to thank my sister, and co-blogger, Erin, for all that she has done to help our family.  Thank God we live in the same town!  She has had to swoop in a ton to help with Jet and Avery, but has also managed all the wonderful friends who have wanted to help.  She (and the rest of our extended family) has also dealt with a lot of emotions when learning the devastating news about Wes.  Our mom was still in treatment for her own recurred cancer.  But, Erin had to be my liaison to the people.  All of the calls and emails went through her.  I simply could not talk to people.   She organized a donation website that just exploded with funds to help us financially.  It’s been a long  road, and we are only at about the half-way point with Wes’ treatment, but we are in a much better place now with Wes doing so well!.  Lucky doesn’t even cover it!

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So, this summer has been a nice change of pace.  Not having to get up early to send the big kids off to school has been a sweet relief.  I found ourselves having a slow week recently, and was able to dust of my sewing machine.  An email came from Dana of Made,  asking us to test her First Day Dress pattern.  How exciting to have an assignment from an industry big-wig that we have worshiped since the beginning of time!  Erin and I both jumped at the opportunity!

I chose to sew the simple A-line option for Avery.

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Excuse the ‘tude.

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And the pool hair.

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I chose the 5T size for my solid 4.5 year old, Avery.  The fit is perfect!

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 I took Dana’s suggestion and used a home-dec fabric.  How cute are these chickens??  The fabric, called Barnyard Dance Speckel,by P Kaufmann, was at our local U-fab store, which also sells online.  It is a lovely weight for this project. Plus, you get 10 extra inches on these bolts.  I have plenty for another project!  Even with the cotton sheeting I used as a lining, it is super soft and drape-y.   Another bonus is that this fabric is stain resistant.  It will totally hold up in the fall when we throw on a cardi and some leggings.

Hopefully you saw Erin’s version last week!  She made a peplum convert out of me!  There are so many adorable options to choose from in Dana’s pattern.

Please leave a comment at the end of this post if you would like a chance to win a copy of this PDF pattern!  Giveaway will close Thursday July 17 at 8:00 pm.

Even if you are not interested in the giveaway, we invite your comments!   I know this post is major heavy.  Erin and I want to extend our gratitude to our devoted readers, and blogger friends, who always “like” us on instagram and continue to show your support for #hungiegungie and #teamwes.  We love you!  I hope to not be a stranger for too long!

Lots of love,

Caroline

 

 

OPEN 24/7.

 

 On a bit of a whim, I opened an etsy shop.  I have always tinkered with the idea, and then at the beginning of the year started making some things, but sort of set it all aside for a while.  A month ago or so, I picked it all back up and just started sewing like a crazy lady.  At the moment my kids really don’t need any more clothes, so it was fun to focus on producing things for others.  My angle was/is to just make the things I like.  That’s it.  If they sell, then I’ll make more!  Of course, it’s summertime, and you all know I fell in love with this pattern, so I pumped out many of them.  I think they’re perfect summer attire.  I hope my buyers love them.  I am considering making a few pairs of these for the boys out there, and I’m thinking already about items for Fall.

I will mention that part of the reason for opening the shop is to blow through some of my current fabric stash.  I want to sew a lot, but I simply cannot afford to buy all the fabric to just make things for my family.  It just feels excessive when my kiddos have hand-me-downs galore!  I hope that after a few more sales (I’ve already had two- wooohoo!) I can go back to doing what I do best- late night online fabric shopping.

Anyway, hope you’ll check it out!

-Erin

 

hummingbird

I have been sewing like a crazy person, a.k.a. Jesse Spano, a whole lot this past month.  Like cutting out several projects in one fell swoop, labeling fabrics, staying up late, watching 19 Kids and Counting (OH C’MON… you watch it too)/Intervention (the girl who huffs computer duster. YIKES.)/Inside Amy Schumer, and sewing until my back hurts.  Hey, sometimes you got it and sometimes you don’t.  It’s rare for me to be on a straight-up sewing binge, but currently I am.

(And lest you think all I do is sew and watch trashy TV all night…I don’t.  Though sometimes I accidentally put on Peppa Pig, not realizing that my kids are in BED and ASLEEP… and it’ll just play for like 10 minutes before it occurs to me.  Do you ever do that?  Turn on the old boob tube after the kiddos are down, and immediately hit up Nick Jr? What the?! Anyway, I also enjoy the occasional TED talk or Creative Bug on youtube… I love the meet so-and-so videos.  And sewing in the daytime calls for Pandora.  Moving on.)

One pattern that I’ve been pretty smitten with lately is the Hummingbird dress by rabbit rabbit creations.  I stumbled upon it one night while searching around on Etsy and I bought it right away.  I’ve already sewn several variations, but this one here is a fave.

p.s. that mole in the middle of her back is also my fave. :)

I love the fitted bodice and the elastic casing in the back which adds comfort and a casual vibe.  There is the option of adding flutter sleeves to the straps, but I am all for the clean look of this for now.

As for the fit, it’s just perfect.  I sewed a 6 (Ell is a new-ish 6 year old), and it’s right on the money.

(update: there are couple of glitches in this pattern.  first, at the back bodice piece- which is a long rectangle- a 1/2 should be added to the width (not length!) of both the outer and the lining back bodice piece,  because when attaching it to the front bodice at the underarms, it is too short and doesn’t quite match up with the width of the front bodice piece, which then requires you to adjust some things when attaching the skirt to the finished bodice. second, the instructions suggest that you can enclose the gathered skirt piece into the bodice and the bodice lining so there is no raw seam inside… however, this is incredibly hard to do once the elastic is already in the back bodice piece.  I recommend you try attaching the skirt to the bodice and lining first, but leave the sides at the underarms unattached- then thread your elastic in, and finish enclosing the rest of the skirt. I decided to just attach the bodice to the skirt without enclosing and I am more than happy with my result, but I did want to include that in here for you in case you make this dress and want a very professional look inside!)

I’ve been really drawn to color in the last few months… I used to buy a lot of prints, but realized that I tire of them really quickly and they don’t seem to get much play at my sewing machine.

You already know that I’m a cotton couture lover (no really, Michael Miller… where’s my sponsorship?!!).  It’s just the perfect weight, has some sort of sheen to it, and if you look closely and compare it to say, Kona cotton, it seems more tightly woven, which really seems to give it this softness factor.  I used it here in watermelon for the skirt, and in gold for the sweet little straps.  The bodice is a solid voile in coral (lined with cream cotton), I’m sorta/kinda/alotta in love with this combo.

This dress is actually not for my Ellery (Sorry, kid).

  But more on that soon…

-Erin

 

A Birthday Popover

My oldest kiddo, Ellery Kate, is going to be 6 in 7 days!  She’s been counting down for two weeks now.

I wanted to make her a little birthday dress.  Something, easy, sweet, casual, and flowy.

Enter one of my favorite little (free) patterns, the Oliver + S popover sundress.

I’ve probably made about 8 of these dresses (not including the doll version!) and it will always be a fave.  It’s such a quick sew, and can easily be modified to make it more interesting.

Here, I modified the skirt piece, by cutting pieces the entire width of the fabric and then gathering at the center where it attaches to the yoke.

I also added a lining (I hacked up an old bridesmaid dress for that- leaving the existing hem), which is very easy to do with this pattern, and I’m so glad I did.  It had to have something under the cream fabric since you’d be able to see her Anna and Elsa undies (Do you wanna build a snowman???? sorry… you probably just got that out of your head), but mostly, I wanted a more fun, billowy look for my girl.

(By the way, I originally stacked the lining and outer piece together and then gathered, but decided that gathering them separately and just sort of squishing them together with pins when attaching the yoke, yields a more fluffy look there… and that’s sort of what I was going for.)

One of Ellery’s favorite handmades was this popover in knit.  Wore the dickens out of it.  I loved the pieced look of the yoke on that one, so I did the same idea here by piecing together some of my favorite Michael Miller cotton couture solids (from left to right: violet, jewel, creamsicle, mist, fog, and wedgewood).  The straps are also cotton couture, in cinnamon… and…the main dress is made in (yup, cotton couture) cream.

Yo Michael Miller!  Can I get a sponsorship?  Or at least a WOOT WOOT!

Ellery thinks it’s HILARIOUS that we only got one long stalk of asparagus in our garden… we planted that shit 3 years ago and it’s supposed to be coming up like crocuses now.  Ridiculous.

Ell has finally started to climb the trees in our yard.  Which is good because there are like 50.

Get going, girl.

…And happy, happy birthday to my best little friend.  Love you like cray cray.

-Erin

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