Tuesday, March 31, 2009

a shirt

 This is the Summer Blouse from Weekend Sewing.  I'm less pleased with this than I am with the Trapeze Sundress, but that's really my fault for choosing this pattern in the first place.  I should probably know by now that airy flowy loose tops make me look dumpy, no matter how good they look on everybody else.

Another problem is that--as with the Trapeze Sundress--the size small is too big for me.  As previously mentioned, there just isn't much of me on top. This shirt could easily accommodate a couple of fetuses along with my flat chested self (which is something I will certainly keep in mind when I need clothing to accommodate fetuses).

My pattern modifications:
  • I added ties to make it fit a bit closer, but now I kind of regret it and I'm wondering if this is too nineties?? 
  • I lengthened it
  • I narrowed the sleeves
  • I made little vents in the hem it the side seams (instead of hemming the entire thing straight around) to accommodate the parts of me that are not scrawny
This whole experience has me wondering if perhaps the problem is that my aesthetic is really dated?  Maybe I look normal in tunic style tops but I'm too stuck in 2003 to realize it?  Or maybe I spend so much damn time in tee shirts and sweaters that I expect everything to fit like a knit?  

Anyhoo. The fabric is a cotton lawn except for the placket and bias edging, which is the same fabric I used for the sundress.   I probably won't make this again (unless I have some kind of blouse related epiphany) but it's a great project for people who don't look like slobs in loose tops.

Friday, March 27, 2009

a sundress

This is the Trapeze Sundress from Weekend Sewing:

 I used fabric from Amy Butler's Daisy Chain.  I think it's called happy stripes.

Once again, the instructions were ridiculously easy to follow and this was a pleasure to sew.  The dress has two huge in-seam pockets, which it turns out are pretty simple to make.  I think the highlight of the dress is the topstitching on the stripes and bodice, which makes the whole affair look pretty polished.

I made it in the size small, which works out to be roughly an off the rack American size 6. This is way too big for me because my upper body is on the scrawny side (my lower body, not so much).  Here's what I did after the fact to make the dress more wearable for me:

  • I made a belt to wear under my bust, empire style.  I topstitched the belt so it would match the shoulder straps, and then I used buttons to fasten it, which I think is more grown up than a sash that ties.

Yes, this is a crappy picture but you can see what I did with the belt.
  • I inserted elastic into the back bodice in order to gather it.  This pulls a lot of the excess fabric to the back and makes the dress look more streamlined from the front, even when I don't wear the belt.
elastic gathering the back bodice

I have since altered the pattern to take about two inches off the bust measurements so I think the next version I make will fit a lot better.  I kind of wish I had used cheapo fabric for this first go-round, but I'm pleased enough with the results and I'll certainly wear it.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

it turns out i really like to sleep

Until last week Joseph was waking up every two hours (EVERY TWO HOURS) to comfort nurse.  My husband was ready to leave us and start working on a deep sea trawler in order to get some rest, so instead of that we agreed to start night weaning.  And, after three nights and far less crying than I had anticipated, the kid now sleeps until about 6 am.  Which means I now sleep until about 6 am. And when I wake up, it is not to the dulcet tones of my husband cursing us all.

It turns out that eight hours of sleep makes you smart and beautiful.  I wake up cheerful (instead of ready to punch somebody in the face) and I don't have frightening circles under my eyes.  Even better, that fog of forgetfulness and mild dim-wittedness seems to have partially lifted (like, this morning it did not take all my mental powers to drive to Target).  I had thought it was motherhood that had made me old and stupid but maybe it was the crappy sleep situation.

I feel less guilty about this than I thought I would, mainly because Joseph also seems happier with a full night's sleep (but also because I now have fewer wrinkles).  I do not care that I have lost some natural parenting street cred.  I mean, in the grand scheme of things, the baby cried a bit for three nights.  I know for sure I've done worse to him.  Seriously.

Monday, March 23, 2009

more pants, and a quandry

More summer pants for Joseph.  They are navy blue linen, despite the fact that the weird light is making them look like a cheesy royal blue.  I want to make them look vaguely nautical (kind of like the adorable sailboat pants by Oliver & S), and I'm considering adding these brass buttons.  The problem is that I'm not sure that such a fancy-pants detail won't look silly, considering that he's going to be wearing them with stained t-shirts featuring dogs in hats, and that sort of thing.  Also considering that the buttons are ancient and probably contain lead and will almost certainly be pulled off and eaten.

Looks like I've decided against the buttons.  But I'll definitely add pockets.  In a world where "definitely" means "perhaps sometimes before he outgrows them."

Friday, March 20, 2009

the pea patch

Things are growing!!

Things are also being torn out of the ground by ants, birds, armadillos, raccoons, curious toddlers, idiot dogs and hell-bent squirrels.  The resistance is composed of a small army of ladybugs, lizards, frogs and yours truly.

Joseph and I go out to the garden every morning (dressed like a pair of stowaways in pajamas, nightgowns, sweatshirts, sun hats and robes) and look at what seeds have sprouted.  So far, peas and beans have been the most satisfying to watch because they grow so quickly.  We have one or two promising squash plants and the rest (tomatoes, peppers, carrots, greens, herbs, etc.) are chugging along.  This weekend watermelons, potatoes and a bunch of flowers get planted. 

I feel like mother nature incarnate.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

why have I never thought of this?

These pants were made from the sleeves of a men's dress shirt.  I can't take credit for this--it was the idea of the woman who organizes the local Waldorf-inspired play group we go to.  She had been making adorable sundresses for her daughters from her husband's discarded shirts, and was able to turn the sleeves into matching pants/britches/bloomers.  She started to make these for her son, but they weren't going to be big enough, so now Joseph has new pants.

I haven't tried to make these myself (all I did on these was sew the waistband), but the general idea is that you detach the sleeves, put one sleeve inside the other (right sides together) and cut a crotch (use a pair of pants that fits your kid or just wing it).  The only seam you have to sew is the crotch seam.  Then you add an elastic waist, and you're done.  I'd say that a men's size medium shirt would make pants that fit a 2T or 3T, maybe even bigger.

On these pants the buttons are on the back of the leg, but you could do it the other way around..

Monday, March 16, 2009

a shirt

I'm insanely happy with this shirt.  I made it using the toddler shirt pattern in Weekend Sewing.  It was incredibly easy:  there are just eight pattern pieces:  two fronts, one back, two sleeves, two collars, and a pocket.  I've been scared off by similar patterns with way more pieces, so this was a pleasant surprise.  The only tricky bit was the buttonholes, but you could use snaps if buttonholes scare you (or just make some seriously ugly buttonholes, which is what I did).

The fabric is the pillowcase from the sheet set I bought to back this quilt.  This is useful thrift-store data:  a standard pillowcase provides more than enough fabric to make a toddler-sized shirt.

I used french seams on this shirt, which is what I usually do in order to finish seams, but it turns out that doing french seams on bitty little toddler sleeves is not for the faint of heart.  I do not see myself ever trying that again.

Like I've mentioned, the patterns, instructions, and diagrams in Weekend Sewing are very lucid and a pleasure to follow.  I have not yet cried, punched the wall, or torn up any pattern pieces while working on a Weekend Sewing project.  This is no faint praise.  The one (tiny) problem with this pattern is that either the collar pattern piece is too big or the diagram showing how to attach it is incorrect:  the diagram would appear to show the collar not extending onto the placket, but the collar is in fact large enough to extend more than halfway across the placket.  I don't know if I'm explaining that clearly, and in fact the problem might be mine, and not the book's.  Anyway, I just cut the collar down so it matched the diagrams, but you could also just sew it onto the placket.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

fascinating table linen update

I've been working on a few projects from Weekend Sewing, all of which are just a few stitches from completion.  I'll soon post photos of the finished products and lots of self-congratulatory rambling, but in the meantime look at what happened to my coasters and placemats when I washed them (quilted but not washed is on the left; washed is on the right):

...not terribly much.  They're definitely more crinkly, but not wrinkly (I feel like that's an important difference, something to do with intentionality). I am no longer worried about having to iron my coasters.  Phew. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

a bag I like and could possibly make

I'm really coveting this diaper bag I saw over at ohdeedoh.  Not only would it make a very good diaper bag, I think it's pretty great looking as a bag in general.  I'm getting too old for the crappy bags I've been using.
At $395 I will never own this, but I wonder if I could make something like it.  It looks like it's just a canvas tote bag with side gussets (so it's a three dimensional rectangle), some leather exterior pockets, and a bunch of neat details like the key ring.  Inside there are more pockets and apparently something that can be removed for washing.  In my world, a bag is next to useless if the whole damn thing can't be washed, so I'm thinking I would not be able to use leather.
My previous efforts at bag making have been mixed successes.  This is the bag I use most often.  I like it, but the print I chose is not my favorite, and it faded in the wash.  Also, it's too floppy, probably because I didn't use sturdy enough fabric or use interfacing.  I need to get over my fear of interfacing if I want to make a decent bag, I suppose.
I definitely need to start sketching out a pattern.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


These slippers are the first project I completed from Weekend Sewing. I came amazingly close to following the pattern; I only deviated in that I left out some rickrack trim (because I didn't have any) and attached the soles differently (the pattern called for hand sewing, but I machine sewed right-sides-together, turned, then slipstiched the opening). They were ridiculously easy to make and had me wondering why everybody doesn't sew their own slippers. It requires the tiniest scraps of fabric and no special skills whatsoever. Also, the directions were very easy to follow. Hooray for diagrams.

What was especially satisfying is that I only used scraps of fabric that I had lying around. The soles are remnants of a felted thrift store sweater that I had used to make a diaper cover, so that was like double or triple recycling.

I like the ballet slipper vibe.

My only regret is that I made them a bit too small. I probably should have made the size large, but who wants to admit they have big feet? Boo. Anyway, I will be making these again soon: in a large for myself and in various sizes for gifts since handmade slippers are probably the best gift idea I will have this year. I think the pattern could easily be scaled down for kids, too.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Weekend Sewing

Somewhere on the internet I had run across a very positive review of Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing, so when last weekend we got marooned at Barnes & Noble during a rain storm, I made a point of checking it out. Usually when I browse craft books I wind up dismissing most of the projects as redundant (I already have patterns for aprons, tote bags, pouches, etc.) and deciding that the rest could be duplicated without a pattern if I really wanted to.

But in Weekend Sewing I fell in love with the majority of the projects. I decided that if I did not make this dress I would hate myself forever:

So I actually bought the book and spent the rest of the afternoon drooling over it. This book is gorgeous and it makes me want to 1) make everything in the book, and 2) make it exactly the way it looks in the photographs. Also, while patterns usually make my eyes bleed, the instructions and illustrations she includes seem manageable (i.e., there are arrows. I need arrows with directions like "sew here.")

On Monday morning I ran out to buy fabric for a sundress and shirt, as well as some matching pants for Joseph.

The fabric purchase was just a small break from the spending hiatus; I think monthly indulgences are probably okay.

Friday, March 6, 2009


We already had a lot of cloth napkins but I wanted to make more because 1) we always run out when we have my parents staying with us, and 2) some of them are white which is a very stupid color for napkins (at least in my house).  Also, napkins are fantastic for using up bits of fabric that you bought without any clear plans.  I have quite a bit of fabric that I've been "saving" which is crazy, since fabric that is being "saved" sits in a drawer, whereas fabric that is made into napkins gets to be looked at every day.

At some point I am going to write a tutorial for the world's best napkins, which might seem to be a seriously unnecessary tutorial but I'm kind of a obsessed with napkin perfection.  Making quality napkins is one of my two useless talents (the other is guessing the time).

This week has been quite the table linen extravaganza at my house. Now that I have functional placemats and coasters and an abundance of cloth napkins, I really ought to make some trivets and possibly a table runner, but they will probably have to wait while I resume making summer clothing for me and the boy.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

some okay placemats

I had made these placemats over a year ago and almost never used them because they needed to be ironed after each washing, which is a joke. Also, I wasn't thrilled with how they looked. After seeing how much my boring coasters improved after some quilting, I decided to try out the same process on the placemats. While I'm still not delighted with them, they're now less disappointing and I don't think I'll have to iron them.

Hooray for square spiral quilting (or whatever it's called).

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


These are the first useful things I've made in a long time.  We were in desperate need of coasters since both my husband and I wander around the house with dripping mugs of tea. We had been using folded napkins and washcloths as makeshift coasters but the napkins aren't thick enough and leaving ratty washcloths around the house seems pretty low class. I had been holding off on making new coasters because I was having trouble committing to any specific design; I routinely scoured the interwebs in search of coaster inspiration, but I realized I had to just make the freaking coasters already.  It's just two squares of fabric with thin cotton batting sandwiched inside.  Super easy. 

Note how crappy this coaster looked before I quilted it.  The quilting will help them wash well (I seriously do not see myself ironing coasters) and it also gives them some body, which is nice for a coaster.   

I am very pleased with how the back side looks.  Linen is almost always the answer to any fabric dilemma I have.

I have now written and thought "coaster" so many times over the course of this post that I'm kind of giddy.