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

Washi #1

I titled this post ‘Washi #1′ because there will be a #2.  And a #3.  Aaaaannnd probably a #4.

Really.  I love it that much!

If you follow any action in sewing-blog land, you’ll have seen many Washi dressses and tunics floating around.   It’s a thoughtful pattern created by Rae.  Rae has some great patterns and tutorials out there- I’ve learned a LOT from her site, so it was no question that I’d give this pattern a try.  The back of the dress/tunic has several rows of shirring that help to keep the bodice fitting comfortable, yet snug at the same time….the skirt piece is pleated….and I’m convinced this would look good on anyone.

I solicited some advice from Kristin (thanks girl!) who’s two Washis are some of my favorites.  (You can check out tons in the Washi Flickr pool)

I especially loved her second (who didn’t?) which has a lovely scooped out neckline.  I took her advice and cut about 1″ more into the pattern and shaped it a bit wider at the bottom to give it a fuller U shape.  I lengthened my bodice 1″ since I’m tall (as in 5’11″ kind of tall)… I’m so glad i did- it pretty much fits perfectly.  I also lengthened my skirt piece by a good 1 1/2 ” to hit right where I wanted it to.  Better to give yourself a little wiggle room if you’re not sure…I added 2 1/2 inches to the pattern and then cut about an inch off before I hemmed it.

 P.S., if you think you need to lengthen your bodice too, add the inch on the back piece above the highest shirring lines… the bottom shirring line should be right at the seam where the bodice meets the skirt.  It seemed to work out nicely for me anyway.

My fabric choice is one I’m super happy with. It’s Marqueterie in Berry from Pat Bravo’s Indie line. I don’t own a whole lot of floral in my wardrobe, so I wasn’t too sure when I ordered it, but it spoke to me, so I went with it and crossed my fingers. I think it’s fallish, but at the same time i think the colors lend themselves to any season. Oh, I also cut my fabric pieces out oppostie than way Rae suggests, just because I liked the flowery parts to go across my body instead of up and down, just perferred it that way when I took a long look at it.

Oh, and don’t get ahead of yourself- make a muslin to make sure it’ll fit before you cut into your nice fabric.  All you need to do is cut the bodice out and sew the bust darts…. depending on your chest size, you may need to do an FBA or SBA (as in a full or small bust adjustment).  I did not have to make any adjustments… but I’m still nursing.  Believe me when i tell you I will be making an SBA on this pattern when i stop!  Bye, bye boobage….

I would say the ONLY thing I would change next time around is the armholes, which for me and my somewhat broad upper-body, fit just a little too snug- I’ll blame that on my years of competetive (update: *cough*…highschool) swimming growing up- not the pattern!  I’ll probably cut into the armholes an extra 1/2″ next time around.  No biggie.  I’m still gonna wear the heck out of this.

It’s so satisfying to sew for ME!  I’m still somewhat of a novice sewer (got 2 1/2 years of practice under my belt)… so if I can make one of these, so can you. After the last couple of dresses for Ell got hung up in the closet- probably for good- it was really nice to focus on my own wardrobe… which is now hurting just a little bit less thanks to this shirt.  :)

I am envisioning a few more… one with long sleeves (Rae is working on that, yay!), A dress version, a mini version… yup, I said mini…. check out Kristin and Rae’s MINI Washi dresses for their girls…. riDONKulous!  The possibilities are endless, which is the mark of such a great pattern- props to Rae for perfecting the design and sharing it with all of us who love to sew!

-Erin

Two by Heather Ross

So, I’ve been MIA for a while, and I don’t have much to show for it.  It was the end of June, on a dark and stormy night, when I sat down at my machine to start the Mendocino Sundress I’d been planning for weeks.  Just as I secured my fabric beneath the presser foot, the lights flickered and the power went out!  Our power was out for EIGHT days! When we were finally able to come back home, it was time to pack for California.  I took the kids by myself to visit my husband’s family for a 15 day trip.  I brought my knitting, but didn’t get to it much.  Maybe because I became a Words With Friends geek while I was out there?  This game is truly coming between me and my crafting!  Make me stop!  I’m neglecting my fellow bloggers! August now, and I finally got back to that dress, still pinned and waiting patiently in a cluttered corner of the house.  Here it is:

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Happy happy with the results!  I just knew this pretty lawn cotton would be worth the wait.  I also knew that getting some shirring practice in before attempting it on this expensive stuff was a smart move.

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I purchased the fabric at a local shop called Les Fabriques.  A 50% off Living Social coupon made it a sweet deal!  There was no other info on the bolt besides “lawn cotton”.  I was told it comes from their vendor in New York, which I jotted down, but can’t seem to locate now.

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It is so light weight and comfortable.  I definitely recommend buying the Gutterman elastic thread over the cheaper stuff, if you want to shirr something more special (Though practice with the cheaper stuff for sureshirr!). I probably went through 3 spools, but it was worth it.  Also, a busy pattern helps to hide wobbly rows :).

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Check it out, I made pockets!  The pattern (which is a free download) includes pockets, but does not give much instruction.  You have to really have to think things through before you sew up your inside seams.  I can see how easy it would be to wind up wrong side fabric peeking out of your pockets.  Watch a video first.

Image That’s my 6 month bump there.  I probably haven’t mentioned yet that it’s a BOY!  I will have to get to work on some Big Butt Baby Pants!  I like this dress for maternity wear, but think it will fit just fine next spring when baby is on my hip instead.

Next up, is the “Trapeze Sundress” from Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross.  I wound up with this adorable frock after our dear friend, and domestic goddess, Grayson, sewed it up for herself, and then decided the results were undeniably pregnant.  I win!

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I just love this color and the big peonies!  Grayson is not sure where she picked up this fabric (Jo-ann, she thinks). It is a heavy weight cotton though, not something I find much at Jo Jos.  Might be able to update this info for you later.

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I also have this Heather Ross book, but haven’t tried much from it.  I’ve heard that the errata page is extensive.  Any thoughts out there?

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I have to thank my Gungie sister, Erin, for putting up with such an awkward model.  This is not my favorite part about sewing/blogging for myself!

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Big thank you to Grayson for passing this dress along to me!  We’d love to feature more of your work here!  This woman has mad skillz! Have a good weekend ya’ll! ~Caroline

Rest a-shirred…

…I figured it out!  Shirring (pronounced sure-ing), or smocking, is a skill that I have been wanting to learn for quite some time now.  Erin has made some cute shirred dresses for the girls, and has expressed how fun and simple the technique is.  The idea is that you fill your bobbin with elastic thread while keeping regular thread up top, sew rows and rows, and watch it pucker!  I chose The Mendocino Sundress pattern, by Heather Ross, as my first shirred project.  As our blogger guru Rae often suggests, I made a muslin version first, before subjecting my special lawn cotton to this unfamiliar pattern.  I thought this pretty old sarong would be so-right for practicing (I know, so many puns, so little time).  The edges already with a rolled hem!

Pretty, yes, but also a pain in the you-know-what to work with!  It was like sewing with gauze!  Things didn’t go well in the beginning.  I think I had cut the pattern too small, and as soon as I got going I knew I would not be able to stretch this thing over my bust.  So, I chopped off the top, and that became a skirt for Avery!

Starting over,  I hopped online to watch some shirring tutorials.  After gathering some handy tips and visuals, I got back to my dress, er… tunic.  A couple of days, and a whole lot of elastic thread later, I was done!

Cute, right?  I want to live in this easy, breezy top!  It is so comfy and pregnant friendly!  Here’s a close-up of the shirring.

There are tons of flaws, but who can tell?  Shirring is evidently very forgiving.  Which is why I’m in LOVE!

In keeping with my tan lines, I opted for halter straps.  I can always change that later.  Thanks to my mom, who happened by as I was finishing, I got a proper shoot with a real photographer!

If only there were a tropical vacation in my future!   I am now fully confident in cutting up my nice fabric for the smocked sundress I have planned.  Be back with that in a few days!  Thanks for coming by.

~Caroline

Beignet Skirt

In a slow attempt to update my current wardrobe with some home-sewn flair, I made myself a skirt!

This is the beignet skirt from Colette Patterns.  A high-waisted straight skirt with 12 buttons (and…12 buttonholes…yikes ) up the front and a skinny belt. This skirt could also be referred to as “the 7 week skirt” or “the skirt that took 4-eva” or the “put down that beignet and get to sewing me already” skirt.  Hmmm….do I look knock-kneed up there?  Yikes.

I mean, I know I’ve been a little busy… but I cut my pieces out a month and a half ago, and they sat around collecting dust for a bit.  Here and there, I got around to sewing it together in the last couple of weeks.  During a couple nights of the Hatfields & McCoys mini-series with my hubs, I blew through most of it.  All that killing and backwoods family drama motivated me I guess?

 I made a size up from what I normally wear since I’m post-baby.  And like some other folks out there, in the end I decided to forego sewing the belt together since I honestly could not stand to look at my fabric anymore!  I found an inexpensive braided red one at Old Navy instead- and I think it probably looks better this way.

Oh, hello split ends!

Wow. I need to make an appointment to shave my head this week. STAT.

Anywho, I would say this was an elaborate project for me- but, as with all sewing patterns I’ve tried, I learned a heckofalot!  Made some side seam pockets for the first time, and also learned how to face and line a skirt-  this being the hardest part of the process for me, since 1. I bought cheap yellow lining fabric that showed it’s cheapness in many ways….  and 2. once I went to sew my skirt shell to the lining, none of my seams matched up.  My shell was wider than the lining… so, I took in a few of the shell seams and did the best I could with getting it to match up, but it wasn’t without belting out some of this: @#*$*^*#%&^!!!

There’s also a point where you have to attach the lining to the facing at a major curve.  See below.  I just had to go super slow… and it came out okay, but probably not perfect.

My buttons were a small splurge- but I really love the jade color.  I was a little hesitant to use them because maybe they don’t quite “go”…but i’m happy I did.  I’m not all for “matchy matchy” things anyway, and plus I need more color in my closet like nobody’s business.

I will say, this pattern was challenging for me, but defintely well-written… I plan on making another someday, maybe for Fall… though I’d choose a heavier weight cotton.  Mine here is almost linen-like, and I did have some slight issues (mainly when it came to the buttonholes) because of that.

And like I said, I used cheapo lining material (don’t be like me- do a little research on lining options!) but I do like the little glimpse of yellow poking out of the pocket.

Now.  Can i blatently show off  the REAL (adorable) reason this took me so long to make?

I MEAN….

Who can get anything done with these baby blues gazing up at you?? :)

-Erin

**update: this skirt was feautered on Colette Patterns blog, Coletterie… I’m blushing!!**

Another Spring Top

Alright, so these photos aren’t great. They were taken by my 5-year-old on the iPad earlier today. I installed a WordPress app and wanted to see how easy it was to post from it. I accidentally published to the blog! Whoops!

Anyway, here is the second spring top I finished:

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You probably recall from my last post that this pattern is a free tutorial from Made By Rae.

The floral print is from Jo-anns. Our local store was just renovated, and it is SO MUCH BETTER. They actually have TWO bathrooms for customers (with potty training children)! They used to send us to TJMaxx for that.

The coral cotton is an Amy Butler solid, “mango” I believe.

All in all this one came together pretty nicely. I opted not to do the pleats, and just gathered instead. I don’t think it is quite as polished this way, but still cute!  You can see that I made little slits on the sides and was happy with that move.  Might even make them deeper.

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I’ll try to edit this post with a better photo as soon as I have an adult around to help me.  Still, I’m thrilled to be sewing wearable items for myself!  I urge you to try it!

Have a fantastic weekend!

~Caroline

Vintage Spring Top

Well, I had to get in on the Vintage May action too, especially when I came upon this sheet set at Goodwill last month. 

The woman in front of me was fairly certain that her parents used to own a set!  Sweet.  My thinking was to use it for muslins, as I wanted to delve into some more advanced sewing.  But, then again, it would be great if I actually could wear my “practice” Spring Ruffle Top (minus the ruffles).  What do you think?

I like it!  You can find this tutorial by Rae, which appeared as a guest post a couple of years ago, on Sew Mama Sew, or in Rae’s tutorial section.  Looked easy enough, and I was really excited about maternity alterations that were suggested by another contributor (help, can’t find a link to the woman who made a few of these, one with a tie on the bottom hem?).  Anyhoo, yes, I said it, maternity.  16 weeks ya’ll! And now for the baby bump reveal…

Due date is very close to my birthday in early November, but I’m targeting Halloween, cause I just love it.  I don’t think I will have any trouble fitting into this as I expand, it is pretty roomie.  The new skill I attempted was adding piping to the bust seam and straps!  Check it out… and allow me to enjoy my temporarily voluptuous (ha!) bosom.

I thought the addition of the lime green piping added to the retro-vintage vibe.

I hemmed the back piece a good bit shorter than the front.  You kinda have to try it on and figure it out for yourself a bit.  I really wished I’d included the arm divots, but it wasn’t making sense to me in the tutorial pics.  I needed my mom to help me, but she was out-of-town!

Attempting a pigeon-toed pose.

I can just hear my childhood ballet teachers scolding me now.  Seriously though, what’s with all the pigeon-toed poses out there?

Anyway, I’m pretty psyched to be sewing for myself for a change.  I have a few more ideas up my sleeve, and some pretty fabric to cut up, so stay tuned.

Just for fun, I whipped up a couple of “Garden Skirts” for Ellery and Avery out of the big sheet.

Nice fourth position Ell!

I might have to make a grown up Garden Skirt.  I actually have yet to sew with elastic thread, gonna try it.

Cheese!

~Caroline

Feature: The Beaded Ladies

Warning: photo heavy post!  For a while now I’ve wanted to show off my mother-in-law, Arlene’s beautiful beading work.  Last visit out there, I remembered to snap some photos, but regretted that I’d left my nice camera back in Virginia.  Anyhow, these are (a few of) “The Beaded Ladies”…

For years these women, and others, have been meeting in the park daily (seven mornings a week!) for slow-tai-chi exercises.  On Mondays a group of them gathers afterwards in the Santa Anita Mall food-court for beading and socializing.  We see them every time we visit, and they are the cutest ladies EVER. Often, one of them has returned from Taiwan with orders of Swarovski beads fulfilled for her friends.  It’s all cheaper in Taiwan!

When I first met my husband, 7+ years ago, his mother and her friends were mainly beading little figurines and simple jewelry.  Now they are focused on jewelry.  New patterns arrive from Taiwan every year.   The ladies have the inventory for a mean Etsy shop.   But no, they do not sell any of it!  As we crafters know, it is almost impossible to put a price tag on our hard work and time spent.  Arlene’s work is either on display in her dedicated beading room, or gifted (most often to me!).   Here are some of my faves:

First, the old stuff:

And the newer products:

Oscar night anyone? If I had fancier places to go, these would all get much more wear!  They really are statement pieces, aren’t they?  I love the new beaded cuff-style bracelets.  Avery loves to play with the less fragile pieces.  She says , “pees-cay-pay-yith-yo-jewry-box-m0m?” as if it were one really long word.  During our last visit, she spent hours with “Nai Nai” in her beading room.  All those colors! I can totally see her rockin’ this bling to elementary school in the future!

An oldie but a goodie.

Thank you Arlene, we love you, and cherish your gifts!

~Caroline

 

Super Soft Ear Warmer

When Erin recently linked me to a blog post by Delia Creates, I immediately bookmarked it with mulitple stars.  I knew I would get back to it when I had the chance.  When Mary Wade (my first-ever-Mom-friend) had a birthday, the lightbulb when off (on?), and I whipped up a little something for her.

Pei’s old, semi-girly, cashmere sweater was begging to be upcycled into something seriously girly! I followed Delia’s tutorial as I got started, and then I went off on my own a bit.  The underside is a fun fleece from Joann’s, purchased 2 years ago I think (wasn’t there last time I checked).

 Though I attempted other options, the flower wound up being my own whimsical success.  Working with a long length of the cashmere (20 inches by 4 inches or so), I folded the piece in half and began to hand gather and twist until it looked cool. Then, I just stitched it until it stayed put, and later attached it to the headband.

Another mini-victory was that I happened to have a button on hand that matched perfectly!  Choosing to go with a button closure gave me some good ol’ button-holeing practice on the machine too.  A valuable skill indeed! 

And without further ado…Mary!

Work it girl!  That little guy there is “Baby Bobby”, Mary’s third baby, who is also decked in Hungie Gungie gear (a bib from Erin, and a bjorn cozy from me).

Forget it boys, she’s married (and the mother of 3, so…). 

A look from behind:

 Ah, I love it!  I have a feeling I will be stuck on making these for a while.  You don’t mind do you?

~Caroline

UPcycled: old dress to new dress

There’s a great little  thrift shop here in Charlottesville that’s located in the back of a baptist church- When you walk in, you are handed a plastic grocery bag.  It’s only $2 to fill the bag, which pretty much feels like you’re stealing.  I actually felt guilty stuffing my bag and then handing over a couple of bucks to the nice old church lady (who was so sweet- she kept bringing me little kid’s clothes to see if I liked them).  I wouldn’t say this place had the greatest selection of clothing, but I was really looking for things to repurpose anyway- I found a bunch of old vintage dresses that had some interesting prints (but not such interesting style).  This one in particular caught my eye:

Ain’t she purty???  I liked the stripes a lot, the fabric is nice and thin, and it moves easily.

It was really had to part with those sleeves…. but I decided to hack it up and just use the skirt. 

Basically, I cut off the skirt and attached it to a black T-shirt that I had.  I tried on the shirt, pulled the skirt up to where I thought the waist should be (I opted for a high-waisted dress here).  I marked where I thought the two should come together, then cut the bottom half of the shirt off.  I then did two rows of gathered stitches on the top edge of the skirt.  I stuffed the shirt into the skirt and lined up the raw edges (you end up sewing the right sides together).  I used my serger to keep the seam nice and neat inside.  Then, I pulled the shirt back out to reveal my new and improved dress.  No hemming required.

I had to make a little belt out of the top part of the old dress, because the seam where the shirt and skirt meet looked a little bumpy.  I put a couple of buttons (taken from the shoulder of the old dress) off to the side and sewed a couple of buttonholes.  Caroline suggested that maybe I add a couple more buttons to the other side so it looks symmetrical- what do you think?  I kind of like it off center, but maybe it would look better?  Do the buttons to the side look intentional or does it look like I need to adjust my belt? 

I’m very happy with my thrifty find, and my new dress.  It’s comfortable and it was pretty much free.  And I’m all about free these days!  Amen!

-Erin