Thursday, March 29, 2012


I am sometimes sad (and other times I am glad) that my children are too big for cute little infant clothing and accessories.  Luckily, I now have a cute little nephew that I can sew for!

I actually made this swaddler a while back, but never took a picture of it (it's cuter with the baby inside anyway).  It was made using Lotta Jansdotter's pattern from Simple Sewing for Baby, and the fabric is an organic Cloud9 print.

There weren't many things that I felt I needed (or wanted) to alter on this pattern.  The only change was that I attached the velcro to the lining before sewing the lining to the exterior, because I didn't really want the stitching to show on the outside.  The disadvantage of this is that the fabric on the flaps isn't joined as securely as it would be if I had stitched through both the lining and exterior.  I felt that this wasn't a big deal - and am happy with the look of it without visible stitches.

All things considered, I thought it was a nice pattern - I just wish I had one when my kids were little!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Pretty Poppy Dress

Another project from 'Sew What You Love'!  And, again, it is a success.  This project is the Chloe Strapless dress.

I see other women wearing strapless dresses, but I've only tried them sporadically.  Maybe it's my mother mindset - the best clothes are practical clothes.  And while this is still true for my son - I think my daughter and I are at the point where we can indulge a little.  Regardless, I'm going to be constantly making up excuses to wear this dress this summer - I absolutely love the fit and drape of it.  I bought this fabric from Joann last summer, and couldn't figure out what to make with it.  I knew that I wanted a skirt or dress of some sort, but I didn't know what pattern to use.

Now, the trickiest part of this pattern is the shirring with elastic thread in the back, but I think that with the book's helpful hints, most folks will be able to manage without difficulty.  The shirring is especially rewarding because it helps the dress to fit really well.

Rather than providing you with a pattern piece for the garment facing, the book has you trace the upper contour of the assembled bodice.  I especially like this - the technique makes it so much easier to assemble everything.  The facing will match perfectly!  Also, there are  fewer pattern pieces to trace and cut, which is always great.

I'm already thinking of ways to modify this dress.  Wouldn't it look great with a tiered skirt of contrasting fabrics?  Oh, so many projects, so little time.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Orange - Hopefully not just for Halloween

I love the new bag I made - which is appropriate because I used a pattern from the book 'Sew what you love' by Tanya Whelan.  I was initially skeptical of this book, because the design is so feminine and girly that I didn't know whether anything would suit me.  After spending some time with it though, I can honestly say that I like most of the patterns in the book.

This bag is just my first attempt at making something from this collection.  Quite appropriately, it is the first pattern in the book - the 'Amelie Bag'.  It's a versatile design, and quite easy to sew.  The bag is designed with one interior pocket divided into two sections, and a snap close.

I used Home Decor fabric from Ikea for the exterior, and Flea Market Fancy fabric by Denyse Schmidt for the interior.  Because I used a heavy fabric for the outside of the bag, I omitted the interfacing that the pattern requires.  If you decide to make the bag out of two light or medium-weight cottons, the interfacing will provide the bag with fullness and shape.

I also decided to install the straps in a different way - Whelan instructs to either whipstitch the straps in place or stitch in the ditch, catching all layers of fabric.  This may work really well, but I didn't try it.  whipstitching didn't seem sturdy enough (at least, not sturdy enough for the amount of abuse that I typically give my bags), and it would be really tricky to stitch in the ditch in an attractive way through all the layers.  Instead, I sandwiched the straps between the main fabric and lining fabric in step six.  I suspect the reason that the book does not have you do this is because it must be done very carefully.  Because you have a relatively short strap and a curved edge, it would be easy to accidentally catch the edges of the strap when you are sewing around the curves.  To avoid doing this, I sewed the edges leading up to the strap opening first, then inserted the strap  and sewed across the strap end, bag lining and main fabric.  This was time consuming, but rewarding.

Do you like my pretty flower pin?  There are more of these on the way!

As I write this, I think that it would probably be helpful to create a photo guide to show my method for installing the straps.  The Amelie Bag pattern is also available in a smaller size, so I may just have to sew another, just to illustrate!  Don't feel too bad for me - the smaller bag is adorable (see below) and I'm just making up excuses.  More to come on this one!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Spring! Quilts!

I feel somewhat guilty that I haven't been sewing much the past few days, but I also feel that I have an excellent excuse.  Have you been outside lately?  We have.

Somewhat miraculously, Josh didn't fall in the creek at all (I didn't think to bring extra clothes).  The sun has been shining all week, but I bet that water is still pretty cold.

I haven't completely neglected my sewing - in my spare moments this weekend, I started piecing a new quilt.  Lots of Aneela Hoey fabrics, but also some Denyse Schmidt, Kona Solids and Free Spirit prints (if I'm remembering correctly).  It is an Anna Maria Horner design that was available as a free download here.

I love that it is a fairly simple design - the triangles in the corners adds some interest to the pattern.  A simple quilt for what will (hopefully) be a simple time.   Now that Spring is here, I don't feel that this quilt is urgently needed, so I'll  sew slowly, with the windows wide open.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Two Gazillion Gathers

Last week, I blogged about my Wave Illusions pillow that I made for the Fabric-by-Fabric One-Yard Wonders sew along.  Now, I can proudly say that I have completed the second pillow for March.

Those who are paying attention may notice that this is my second Gazillions of Gathers pillow (the first is blogged here), but I did do a few things differently this time.  The first Gazillions of Gathers pillow that I made, I didn't mark lines to sew, and instead followed the lines on striped fabric.  Using striped fabric is certainly easier, as it eliminates the need to measure lines, but it does feel like a bit of a cheat.  This time I used non-striped Lotta Jansdotter fabric that I had left over from some other projects (skirt, binding a quilt), and used a chalk pen to mark the lines for sewing. I love chalk pens - if there were some sort of battle between chalk pens and disappearing ink pens, I would lead the chalk pen army.  But, in all seriousness, they just work so much better/more reliably.

Like my Wave Illusions pillow, I used mis-matched fabrics for the back of this pillow, just for fun.  The plaid is the same material that I used for Wave Illusions and the other fabric was used as the facing for that pillow.  So even though they won't live together, these pillows will (sort of) match.

Even though this wasn't my first go at this project, I had forgotten how much determination it takes to sew gathers well.  My advice for this project is to use pins, lots of pins.  Luckily, though, sewing gathers is also fairly forgiving, because the whole idea is for your fabric to look all bunched up.  So, just as long as you hold your facing and backing straight and flat, it will be beautiful.

I was thinking about giving this project away, but I think it looks really great on the sofa against the quilt that we keep there.  Or, I could put it on my bed where it would match my quilt binding.  So, that's it for March's One-Yard Wonders sew along projects - I'm excited to see what April will have in store!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Easy (non) Linen Shirt

I think that the best part about making this shirt was giving it to my boy and having him say "Thank you for sewing it for me, mommy".  Sadly, it's only going to get more and more difficult to sew clothes that are acceptable to my children.  My son is only in kindergarten, but already seems sensitive to the styles of other children.  Happily, this shirt was deemed acceptable.

I made this shirt for the 'Sewing for Boys' sew along, and I'm so glad I did.  This was a pattern that I was already thinking about making for my boy when it was announced for the sew along.  I only made a couple adjustments - I added patch pockets to the front, and slightly modified the collar.  The pockets were planned - my son can never have too many pockets and there are so many cars and legos and other tiny things that need to be carried.  The collar adjustment was unplanned - the pattern piece that I originally cut didn't seem to fit quite right, so I re-cut the collar, adding some fabric to the center.  This adjustment isn't noticeable on the finished garment, but the extra fabric made the collar assembly a heck of a lot easier.

The brown stripe fabric is from Verna Mosquera's October Skies line for Free Spirit, and the green accent print is an Abacus print from Birch fabrics.  I had initially planned to make this shirt in a cheery check fabric, but I think the brown was a good choice - maybe I'll make a checked version next!

I just love looking at these pictures of Josh in his new shirt - it does a mama good to see such a happy boy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Wave Illusions Pillow

I have tons of fabric and ideas for items for myself, but these projects always seem to get postponed.  There are tons of reasons why I do this, but I think it is mainly because it is so gratifying to make things for others.  I love seeing my kids in clothes that I make, and I absolutely love giving unexpected gifts to grateful recipients.

The March patterns for my 'Fabric-by-Fabric One-yard Wonders' sew along are the Wave Illusions pillow and the Gazillions of Gathers pillow.  Now, a few months back, I made one Gazillions of Gathers pillow for a family gift exchange, so even though I'm planning to make another for this sew along, it won't be as much of an adventure.  Because I had already tried one pattern, I started with the other - the Wave Illusions pillow.

Rather than making this pattern with one single yard of wool fabric as the book recommends, I tore apart a thrifted wool plaid skirt that I never wore.  It was one of those thrift store buys that I couldn't pass up because I loved the fabric, even though the fit left something to be desired.  I think its new life as a pillow will be lovely.   Because I was working with less than a yard of fabric, I eliminated 2 tucks and made a 14"x14" pillow, rather than a 16"x16" pillow.

Even though I probably had enough wool plaid left over, I decided to do the back in coordinating fat quarters that I happened to have on hand.  I'm a big fan of pillows with contrasting backs, so this pleases me immensely.  I think I'll use some of the same fabrics on the back of my Gazillions of Gathers pillow, so that they coordinate.  

I worry that maybe I'm not embracing the "one-yard" aspect of the 'One-yard Wonders', but I know this is silly.  I think the best way to think of these patterns is that they are a frugal way to enjoy sewing - and what could be more frugal than using a dollar thrift store skirt?

As I mentioned above, I love sewing for others, and this pillow is no exception.  I gave it to my mother, who thinks it will be the perfect addition to her guest room.

Also, just in case you didn't notice - Spring Flowers!!!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

One for mama

I've been making so many skirts and pants for the kids lately that it seemed high time I make something for myself.  I have the fabric and the desire to have my own handmade clothes, but it's harder to find the time.  This weekend I didn't spend as much time sewing as I might have liked, but I did manage to throw together this skirt:

I used the Ginger pattern by Colette patterns - as promised, it was a simple skirt to make.  The instructions are lovely and there are plenty of helpful diagrams.  I used Lotta Jansdotter fabric for the main part of the skirt and Anna Maria Horner for the waistband - I love the unexpected contrast.

I also decided to include a lining - I usually regret it when I don't line garments that I'm making for myself.  I'm happy with it, though there are some things that I'll probably try differently when I make this pattern again.  My next Ginger will probably have a different waist style, and I may cut the main front piece on the fold rather than having a center seam.  Also, it will most likely be made using the velveteen that I used for this scarf.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Brought to you by the Letter P

Why the letter P?  Why not?  Joanna and Josh didn't happen to form any other letters, though I think Q for Quilt or O for Owl would have been appropriate.

Whatever letter you choose, my owl quilt is finished!  I finished my hand-quilting, and I've got to say that it was a very positive experience.  I've already decided that my next quilt will be hand-stitched as well (though I think it will have to be throw size, rather than queen size).  

For the binding, after much internal struggle, I used some beautiful Lotta Jansdotter fabric.  Though there are several areas in which I could improve, I think I need the most work on binding.  You can see that I use a zig-zag stitch to finish the binding - this is really just a fun way to disguise my  nervousness about proper binding.  But it works.

Despite any imperfections, I love it, and it has assumed its rightful place on my bed. 

Spoiler alert:
Now, remember the quilt I mentioned above - my next project that is going to be throw size?  Though I have not yet started it, it will be based around this collection:

I've already purchased one charm pack and a bunch of fat quarters.  Excitement!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Skirt, Skirt

Here's a riddle:
What is better than sewing on a winter weekend afternoon?

The answer, of course, is sewing while homemade bread bakes in the oven!

While this bread was baking, I made, not one, but two cute skirts for Joanna.  She had seen Michael Miller's Groovy Guitar fabric and wanted a skirt.  I was more than happy to oblige, but hesitant because she can be a little bit picky about fit (she's 11, so this is no surprise - it's only going to get worse). So, I started by making a skirt from Dena Designs Kumari Garden Holiday fabric before cutting into the Groovy Guitars.  My first skirt was deemed acceptable, so the second is very similar.  We got both fabrics at the lovely Sew to Speak!

This is the Kumari Garden Holiday skirt:

Now here's Joanna wearing her coveted Groovy Guitar skirt - I asked her to pose and she responded with something like "Aww, Mom, do I have to?"

Then, because she's a sweetheart, she posed for me:

In retrospect, I think past efforts have been over-complicated.  In the past, I've tried to teach Joanna the importance of  patterns, etc.  Ignoring my own advice, I didn't use a pattern for these skirts.  In fact, both were ridiculously simple.  Here's what I did:
  1. I used a yard of fabric for each skirt and cut two rectangles - 44"x18" each. If you want this skirt for yourself, you may have to play with the measurements a little - we can't all be skinny 11 year-olds with long legs.  To modify, cut your rectangles so that each one measures twice your waist measurement by (the length you want + 2).  So if I have a 34" waist and I want a skirt that is 25" long, I'll have to cut two rectangles that are about 68" x 27" (You could probably get away with measuring only 55" or 60" for the waist, though.  Your skirt will just be a little less full if you choose to cut a shorter piece).
  2. Right sides together, sew the short sides and finish the seams.  I used french seams for a neat look.
  3. Press the seams.
  4. Hem the bottom edge of the skirt - Fold and press the bottom edge 1/4" then again 1/2".  After pressing the hem, sew 1/8" from the fold.
  5. At the top of the skirt, fold the edge down 1/4" and press, then fold 1 1/8" and press.  Sew almost all the way around the pressed fold, about 1/8" from the edge.  Leave a 2" opening to insert elastic.
  6. Measure a piece of elastic that equals your waist measurement + 1".
  7. Using a safety pin, guide elastic through the casing that you have sewn, making sure you don't twist.
  8. Sew ends of elastic together.
  9. Finish sewing around the bottom of the casing.

And that's it! Alternatively, you could complete step 4 last, if you want to try the skirt on before hemming.  I find it a little easier to hem before it is all bunched up by the elastic, but it isn't a big deal.  On the Kumari Holiday skirt, I hemmed last, and on the Groovy Guitar skirt, I hemmed before inserting elastic.  Whatever works best for you.  

And there you go - two completely easy skirts that fit her perfectly, without the hassle of using a pattern. And Better yet, I ate warm slices of freshly baked bread while I made them!

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Snuggly Quick Change Trousers

My new little nephew Arlo was just born this past month, and we completely adore him already.  Naturally, I decided that the best way to demonstrate my affection was by sewing.  I already made a spotty dinosaur to play with, but I wanted to sew some cute little baby clothes, too.  Inspired by SouleMama's post about Anna Maria Horner's Quick Change Trousers (from Handmade Beginnings), I made a tiny pair for Arlo.  Because he is a rather large baby, I decided to make the 3-6 month size.  As I sewed, I couldn't help but think he would be too big for them - they look so small!  It's amazing how difficult it is to gauge the size of a tiny new baby when you're used to sewing for big kids!  My Joanna is getting ready for sixth grade, braces, and band instruments, so it's difficult to accurately remember those tiny baby sizes.  Josh, my baby, is in Kindergarten already!

Luckily, the cuffs can be rolled up or down to accommodate this growing little guy.  The pants are reversible - one side features puppy-print fabric by Tammis Keefe and the other side is a repurposed men's flannel shirt.  I'm hoping that the flannel feels super soft against his sensitive baby skin.  The Tammis Keefe fabric was leftover from Josh's second pair of Treasure Pocket Pants.  Josh is pretty excited that he and Arlo will have matching trousers!  I'm sure Arlo will grow out of these fairly quickly, but no matter.  I can't wait to make a bigger pair - the pattern is so cute!

I really love the back yoke on this pattern.  In Handmade Beginnings, Anna Maria Horner uses three different fabrics, but I just used the yoke to repeat the fabric that is on the reverse.  The contrast fabric on the baby's bum is super cute!

Unfortunately, my little nephew lives two states away and I haven't met him yet!  I did, however, mail these pants to him.  They're too big for now (don't they look big folded up next to him?), but he'll grow into them soon, I'm sure!

Also, in case you were wondering, he is laying on a Snail quilt that I made for him from Boo Davis's 'Dare to Be Square'.  And the polka dot dinosaur is this one.