Thursday, June 30, 2016

Girls bathers, part 2

  I'm on a roll using up this swimsuit fabric. I have already posted the suits I made for myself and Althea.  Of course Fern got one too.
   I love seeing the girls in things that coordinate but aren't exactly the same. That is part of the beauty of buying a couple yards of different fabrics and mixing and matching them together in different ways.
      Fern's number one request was that she wanted her belly button to show when she wore her bathing suit. Her father heard this and bellowed (partly joking with the seriousness of his tone- but mostly not) "What?! Are you making her a bikini?!!"
     She loved this but didn't quite understand what he said, & began begging for me to make her a peony. I love the types of conversations that this type of confusion leads to with a child; the unraveling of the meaning of their words and subsequent giggles and clarifications.
      I was able to satisfy her appeal for a glimpse of bellybutton and also maintain a good deal of modesty, I believe. The bottom was the same underwear pattern from my Ottobre magazine that I used for the trunks of Althea's. For the top, I used the bodice from the alley cat romper by Lil Luxe Collection & added a high/ low skirt to it. I used the body of the alleycat as a base for this, but ended up cutting it off and removing about 5 inches of width from each side because it was creating too much bulk where it met the bodice.
    She and I are both happy with the result, and I think her father is ok with it as well (although he may be right to be worried about how much more she wanted a "peony" after he expressed his feelings against the idea). 
    Up next …a round of rash guards. 

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Girls' bathers, part 1

   Of course I couldn't make a bathing suit for myself without putting all my new tricks to work on suits for the girls as well.
    I love red, white and blue on them all summer long. Between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, it feels like we are always just a few weeks away from honoring the country in some way or another. And we can love America every day of the year right? (I hope I don't have to re-evaluate that comment in November, but I won't get into politics here.) In any case- picking out our own bathing suit fabric from Spandex house was way more fun then choosing from premade suits on a rack. 
      I gave them some options with their suits (bottoms like shorts, undies or skirts?; criss cross straps on top or tie around the neck?). When they choose design aspects, they always seem to feel invested and enjoy the finished garment more. Some features I decided myself. (I think two pieces are easier for bathrooming purposes & I don't like them to be showing too much skin.)
     Althea said she wanted a skirt and cross straps. I turned, where else?, to my trusty Ottobre 6/2013. I need to count how many patterns I have used out of that magazine-at least 10, and they never disappoint. There was an underwear pattern along with a camisole that worked perfectly for this. 

      For the bottom I used the underwear pattern, lined the entire front piece instead of just the crotch area & added a self drafted layered skirt (just two gathered rectangles).

      The pattern I used for the top had a full back, so I used two of the bottom front pieces and extended the straps of the top pieces several inches so I could cross them and attach to the back bodice bottom. I lined only the striped part of the top. 
       I used swim elastic in the leg holes, waist of the bottom and along the top edge of the top. It gives structure where it needs it. I used tips from the bombshell pattern when installing the swim elastic, but essentially followed the Ottobre patterns otherwise. 

       It worked great! It fits her so well and she loves it. She wore it all day the day I finished it & has already worn it for 3 beach days- score!
 Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sewing for Summer

       I have been really stretching myself in my sewing lately. Free motion quilting, serging up a storm,  and now.....bathing suits! I picked up the Bombshell sewing pattern by Closet Case Files along with several other patterns when I purchased a Perfect Pattern Parcel a couple years ago. It looks like the pattern parcel's are not being offered anymore, but it was a fun site that would sell bundles of patterns at discount prices while promoting indie pattern designers. They would also show lots of examples of these patterns being sewn for inspiration. The Bombshell was the pattern that I really wanted when I scored this parcel, but I think I knew it wasn't going to happen right away. I am so happy I finally tackled this!

      The pattern is awesome. Very easy to follow, and full of good tips for sewing bathing suits. This is the first bathing suit I have ever sewed, and it came out great.  Following along with the tutorial as well as all of her sewalong posts on her blog was a full sewing lesson. She even answered questions I posted to her blog within a day of my asking, even though my questions were written over a year after her original post. I have sewn suits for each of the girls since finishing this, and applied tips from this pattern to each of those projects.
  It is also super flattering. I really feel great when I put this bathing suit on. It helps that I chose this gorgeous red / orange rose on black print fabric from Spandex House to use for it. I also feel covered up enough while feeling sexy at the same time. I like the lower cut legs and the faux skirt front that provides a little more coverage in front without all the extra fabric of a full skirt hovering around you when you are in the water. I chose the maillot top option, and am happy about the cleavage coverage. I spend a lot of time in a bathing suit running after kids, playing with them and holding them in the water and I like to know my suit is going to stay in place.
Dave took these pictures for me, and he was running around yelling ridiculous things pretending to be a cheesy professional photographer. He had me laughing the whole time. He also took some borderline obscene pictures of me in the garden encouraging the cucs to climb. I guess that's what I get when I hand him the camera then mill about in a bathing suit. Love that guy. And my new suit!! Just in time for summer. 

Happy Solstice and thanks for stopping by!

Friday, June 17, 2016

Quick Upcycle

      Althea had her last day of preschool back at the beginning of the month. So it has been the two of us again as we wait for her big sister to finish up being a kindergartner.
Althea on her last day of preschool for the year

       Before school ended, she was supposed to bring in a white t-shirt to decorate. I kept forgetting about it, and all of a sudden one morning I realized that it was due that day. I thought I had one somewhere, but couldn't find it immediately and so decided it would be faster to make one than to keep searching.
      I took an adult long sleeve white shirt that had a logo near the top, and used the bottom of the shirt to make one for her. I traced a t-shirt that fit her and cut out a front and back (utilizing the existing hem of course) dolman style shirt so that I wouldn't have to sew sleeves. I stitched those two pieces together.  Then I cut the neck band off the original shirt, sewed it slightly smaller than the neckhole of her shirt and serged it on. Finally, I cut the wide cuffs from the bottom of the sleeves of the adult shirt and serged them on to the sleeves of this shirt and voila! The cuffs were the perfect width for her upper arm. The whole thing took about 20 minutes and I think the result is super cute! Comfy and slightly original t-shirt for her to cover with froggies!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, June 5, 2016

     Last month, I shared a post on another blog for the first time! Crafting Con is a super fun site where folks let their inner geek shine through the creation of themed clothing for their kids that is NOT a costume, but a wearable garment that can ideally be played in, abused and adored by the recipient. For my debut on their site, I sewed for.. what else? Star Wars month! Here's my post brought back home:

      Our family and our girls are as Star Wars obsessed as the rest of the American youth (and public at large) at the moment, so I am very excited to be here on Star Wars month! Watching the movies with my kids has given me a whole new appreciation of the series. They are very into all of the characters and the plot line and play Star Wars all the time. It was so exciting to see the Force Awakens with them this winter and experience it for the first time all together.
     My youngest daughter, Althea, is an animal person (I mean that literally per her mind - she has a feline and canine persona that are both named, and that she converts to upon request of her sister, or at random. Also, she told me the other day that she is a magical creature and when she grows up her children will be various types of animals). Her favorite Star Wars characters are Chewbacca and the Ewoks. She does a great Chewie impersonation and has been speaking Ewok since watching Return of the Jedi last fall. "Boota, boota!" she calls as she runs through the house. So there was no contemplation necessary in realizing that I was going to make her an Ewok hoodie for this challenge.
My little critter
    I used a pattern from my trusty Ottobre 06/2013 which they called Frozen Meadow. It is a pattern for a raglan style, hooded, faux-fur coat, so I didn't alter anything except for adding ears. The outer coat fabric is this super soft, almost silky plush fur type fabric from JoAnns. It says it is machine washable, so that is a plus. I used a knit that I had which is a thick cotton for the cuffs, hem, trim along the zipper, hood edge casing and hood drawstring. The coat is fully lined, which makes it look very nice on the inside as well. The lining is a combination of old flannel baby blankets: a brown on white print with a touch of green that reminds me a bit of the Star Wars rebel symbol for the body and a green with green stars for the sleeves. I lined the hood with the same plush fabric that the outside is made from, so that she can get really cozy in there. The ears are stuffed with fleece scraps to make them stand up nicely and are hand sewed on to the hood.
Here she is showing off the lining of her Ewok hoodie

      So this makes a very nice and snuggly little layer for her to wear in spring and fall and on cool summer evenings, whenever she is feeling a little wild (aka always) - it serves well as a bear as well as an Ewok.....or dog......or wookie......or whatever mood she is in.
Snugged up in that fur-lined drawstring hood

     To make it more of an Ewok hoodie, I added a leather hood that she can wear over it. I love the way the Ewoks wear some minimalist clothing items that enhance their personality. Her hood is made from the last remnants of this truly amazing pair of rawhide bell bottoms that my mom had from the late 60's. So this hood is pieced together carefully and is held in place by the ear holes. There is also a chin strap that closes with an old leather button. This leather hood can come off so the fur coat can be worn on its own.

     My older daughter is more in touch with her feminine side and wears dresses and skirts as often as she can get away with. She really identifies with the strong female characters in these movies and loves Rey and Leia and Padme. I had thought it would be fun to do some fabric dyeing and create Leia's forest look from Return of the Jedi, but Fern had ideas of her own. She was insistent that she wanted a BB8 inspired dress and went right to work drawing it for me. I love when they have a hand in the design process but this was the first time she actually created a physical image for me to work from, so I knew I had to roll with it (pun intended- ha).
Fern's drawing
Fern modeling
     I enjoy the challenge of turning a drawing into a physical item and discovering how a two dimensional shape translates into a sewing technique or a pattern style. Especially when the drawing was done by a 6 year old. According to her, the most important part of her image is the large white circle on the belly of the dress. I decided we would accomplish this with the use of a reverse applique. I found this great white and orange fabric (it's an upholstery fabric that is very smooth on the back side and doesn't seem capable of wrinkling) at a little store in my town that sells repurposed craft materials. All the tutorials I saw on reverse applique left the inside edge of the main fabric unfinished, but that didn't work for me with this project. I turned the edge in and sewed the inside of the circle first, then proceeded to attach the white circle (whose edge was serged) with a decorative stitch.
     Fern's image is clearly a dolman style dress with a mock turtleneck. I didn't find an orange of the right color in a knit fabric, so we went with this satiny material with minimal stretch from JoAnns. Not finding a pattern anywhere for a dolman utilizing a non-stretch fabric, I designed this myself tracing a shirt of hers. It wasn't quite big enough in the arms though (the shirt I was tracing was a knit of course), so I ended up adding a wide strip of the white fabric on each side of the bodice under the arm. I really like the way this worked out. I tucked it into a reverse box pleat and sewed it down for about three inches along the side of the bodice and then let it open up to create more room in the sleeve. I also included a zipper on the back of the dress so that she can get in and out. The bottom is a circle skirt, which always makes her smile when she twirls, and reflects back on the round shape of BB8. I played with the differential on my serger a little bit to give the sides of the mock turtle neck a touch of ruching.
Clockwise from top left: Underarm detail; neck ruching; zipper detail; reverse applique close up

       Her picture had wide sleeves tapering to thin sleeves very abruptly. I asked if we could change it to a short sleeve, but she really wanted the length. So we compromised with a set of armbands that she can wear with it. I like this compromise because the dress is better suited for the upcoming summer weather as a short sleeve dress. And she likes it because she can wear the armbands with this dress or with the Rey-inspired dress I made her a few months ago. The armbands have elastic at the top to keep them in place.
Posing with some cactus because she considers BB8 to be a desert droid; 
wearing her hat sideways so the flower is in the center like the "eye" in her drawing

      The final piece of her drawing is the helmet that she visualized wearing to represent BB8's head. I let her know that helmets are kind of beyond the scope of "inspired" clothing, but she really wanted something. My husband suggested a bonnet which I have been known to sew in the past, and she liked that idea. As I thought about it, I began to think that this helmet was not a bonnet, but a cloche hat. I scoured the internet for the proper pattern to use and ended up with the Penny hat from Elsewhen Millinery on Etsy. I was really happy with the pattern and love the way the hat turned out! The two fabrics that I used for the dress worked great for the hat, lining and hatband. I used a grosgrain ribbon that I had for trim on the outside, and the final detail was a black flower because Fern was insistent that the black "eye" from her picture be included. I made a zipper flower because a) I've been very inspired by all the zipper flowers I've seen on Pinterest for a while now and hadn't tried one yet b) I had a black zipper that I saved off a plastic bedding bag and a green zipper scrap that I had saved, and c) the mechanical aesthetic of the zippers appealed to me since we are drawing our inspiration from a droid. She loves it. It is fun to bask in the adoration of a child that isn't familiar with Pinterest and thinks I'm the most creative person in the world!
 Zipper flower up close

     It is also fun to see them have so much fun in clothes that I made them (and that they participated in creating!). We went to Smith College to run around in their amazing gardens and greenhouse for these pictures. I hope you enjoyed them as much as I have!

      Thanks for having me and may the force be with you!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Firefly baby quilt

For a while now, I have been ensuring that the clothes I sew are finished garments throughout; that the seams are enclosed on the inside as well - no loose strings! I want them to look as professional as I can get them, and to be high quality and durable enough to last for many washings. 
I have recently finished my fourth quilt (two full size, two baby quilts) and am happy to say that with this one, I have achieved the quilting equivalent of this: 
I am as proud of the way the back of the quilt looks as I am of the front!
It was the free motion that did the trick. It virtually eliminated all bunching, and allowed me to create some really exciting quilting designs that are so fun to see illustrated on the back of the quilt. 
So, here she is.
I am going to start by gushing about Michael Miller's Wee Wander fabric once again.
This is the project I finally bought this fabric for, after drooling over it for a couple years.
I made sure to get extra and used some for Fern's Easter skirt as well. I love this print so much. It defines childhood innocence and wonder to me. Not to mention reminding me of countless memories of prancing around as a child myself, then with my younger cousins,
catching fireflies in jars or just marvelling at these brilliant creatures. 

I made two of these quilts, identical in fabric selection, one for each of the friends I was talking about last time. Both of the border fabrics are part of same fabric collection. The back is yellow minky, because I wanted to add a different, super soft texture to the blanket for the babes to explore and snuggle in. And the binding is made from the green sheet that I used for Althea's Jakku dress

Since the print is so engaging, I decided to emphasize my favorite parts of it with the quilting. I started with the grass, tracing the tops of the blades and then adding some additional texture. 

This shows up well on the back also:
Then I began tracing the flight of the fireflies. This was when I finally switched into free motion mode and it was the best possible first project for that technique! Being erratic as I spastically became accustomed to the freedom created by covering the feed dogs fit perfectly into the look I was trying to achieve. Some of the fireflies come out of the grass, some from the top of the sky and some from the sides. My girls loved the maze that it created and kept asking if they could trace the fireflies trails. Hopefully the little ones these blankets are for will be just as mesmerized by that aspect of it as they grow and begin noticing greater details of the world around them.

For the square around the center, I just stitched in the ditch around the inner and outer edge (free motion is not ideal for this I realized). But then I couldn't help getting fancy again for the outer edge of the quilt and began tracing the trunks of the trees. I thought I would just do a few of the them, but ended up doing just about every one. It was too addicting. 

It also looks pretty rad on the back. 

I had so much fun with this. I have realized that baby quilts are something I could sew every day. If I had a craft fair booth, this might be what I would fill it with. I don't have a specialized quilting machine, never mind a long arm, so quilting the larger quilts gets so complicated and frustrating. But these little guys fit in my machine with no problem. And I can get super detail oriented without spending too long on one project. Plus, there are so many awesome panel fabrics out there, which make sewing a showstopper of a baby quilt even speedier. 
There will be more of these in my future!

Thanks for stopping by!