A Hero Vest

I'm afraid that things have been a bit, well, boring on this old blog lately - mostly due to the massive amount of repeats that I've been sewing.  Now don't get me wrong, I love reusing patterns for many reasons.  You get to try them out in different fabrics and compare results.  You get to the master the techniques used in the pattern.  You can tweak the fit until it's juuuuust right.

But let's be honest, it doesn't make for the most exciting blog content.

So with that I'm excited to announce - "Hey, look I made something new!"  And with fall just around the corner in the northern hemisphere, it's actually seasonally appropriate!

The vest is the Women's Hero Vest pattern by Make It Perfect.  I wasn't quite sure when I was going to get around to making the pattern but then I fell in love with this super-soft flannel on an in impulse fabric shopping trip to Fabric Depot and with that the vest moved to the top of my list.  I also purchased the cotton/lycra ribbing at Fabric Depot but I didn't find out until I got home that the tubular ribbing wasn't quite as wide as I needed it to be so the bottom ribbing is actually made from two pieces of ribbing sewn together, rather than one continuous piece.  And while I'm confessing things I should also confess that I cut the bottom ribbing shorter than it was supposed to be only to realize that I couldn't rectify the mistake because I ran out of the ribbing that I just so happened to buy in another state.  Doh!  Fortunately, the ribbing seems to be high quality and I was able to stretch it enough to accommodate the missing length but I will say that this experience definitely taught me the importance of the saying "measure twice, cut once."

The inner fabric is a polar fleece from Seattle Outdoor Fabrics.  I looked at buying some fleece in other, closer fabric stores but nothing comes close to the quality of fleece that they sell there so I held out until I could make a trek up there to get some. The only other notion that I needed to buy was a separating zipper and I was able to find that at a regular big-box sewing store.

I was a bit worried about the sizing since I'm much smaller in the chest area than in the hip area so I decided to grade out around the hips from a size extra small to a size small and I'm happy to say that it seems to have worked.  As for the actual sewing process, it was lovely.  It was the perfect combo of interesting and not overly complicated.  My one recommendation would be to follow the zipper instructions that Toni has on her blog rather than the ones on the pattern.  The ones on the blog are for a fully enclosed zipper that really makes the vest look nice, tidy, and finished.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to cuddle up in the most cozy vest you ever did see.


Meow, Meow, Meow, Meow

This is an outfit of repeats.  First, there's the repeat pattern - the Oliver and S Hopscotch dress pattern -  that I have made many, many times before and remains one of my favorite knit dress patterns.

Then, there's the repeat theme - cats - which rank high on C's list of loves nowadays.

Fortunately, there's no repeat stink eye in these pictures, because I learned my lesson last time - do not take photos of your three year old when she just got up from a nap.

Because this garment is so full of repeats there isn't too much to say about it.  I made a straight size three and didn't make any modifications to the pattern other than adding little contrast cuffs to the sleeves.  I'm not going to lie - I love those little cuffs.  The fabric is a Lizzy House knit fabric and it was a total impulse buy when I dropped by Drygood Designs the other week.  Once I saw it I knew that I was going to make a dress for C out of it.  And lo and behold, I actually followed through with my sewing plans!

On a side note, Drygood Designs is the only fabric store that my kids never complain about being dragged to.  It may have something to do with the kid's play area in the back of the store and the fact that they get a pixie stick if I end up buying fabric there.  There's nothing like a little positive reinforcement, right?


Joey Sweatshirt

Okay, let's start with the most obvious thing about this garment- it's too small for my child.  Which is a huge bummer, because I happen to think it's a pretty freaking adorable garment.  In fact, this may be the exact face that I made when I realized that it was too small.

Alright, now that that's out of the way, let's talk about this little sweatshirt.   Remember, the Joey Dress?  And remember my Renfrew?  Well, this is what you get when you use the left over fabric from your Renfrew to make a sweatshirt from the Joey pattern.  Ta-da!  Although, my stupidity in making this was shortening the Joey bodice piece by an inch when cutting out the pattern.  I don't know why I thought this would be a great idea.  If I had left it an inch longer it probably would fit perfectly - doh!  I'm a bit bummed because this is the most luscious of sweatshirt knits and I hate for fabric to go to waste.  Hopefully I can talk C into wearing it in the coming years although knowing how stubborn she is, I won't hold my breath.

In any case, this little sweatshirt was a super-simple, easy make.  With a cute little pocket piece, the Joey Dress pattern is ripe for turning into a sweatshirt.  The only thing that needs to be done is to cut out a slightly larger size to make up for the fact that most sweatshirt fabrics have very little stretch.  This time around I was super-lazy and just sewed the sweatshirt together with a smaller seam allowance, but next time I'll make proper modifications and cut out one size larger.

Also, next time I won't let O spill yogurt smoothie all over her new sweatshirt before I take pictures of it.  You learn something new everyday.  Or at least I do.


A Renfrew Sweatshirt

I will freely admit that when I first started sewing I was completely taken in by things that were "new."

New pattern?  I'll make it.

New fabric?  I'll take it.

We'll just ignore the fact that I really don't need either of them.

For me, it's a terrible trap that I have to work hard not to fall into.  There's the whole issue of consumerism (which is ironic considering the fact that so many of us sew in part to avoid consumerism) but there's also the issue of losing appreciation for all the things that have worked well so far as we chase after the latest and greatest.  You know, like Dorothy at the end of the Wizard of Oz.  Or something like that.

In any case, as I work my way through sewing some basics for the fall I keep coming back to this idea of rifling through what's already in my own "backyard" before I go searching for my "heart's desire" all over the internet and all through fabric stores.

One of the first basics that I knew that I wanted to make for myself was a sweatshirt from the Renfrew pattern.  Actually, I should say "re-make" for myself because I made one ages ago but I ended up getting rid of it because it was far tighter than I would have liked it to be.  When sewing it up the first time I apparently didn't take into account that sweatshirt fabric has very little stretch so it was quite fitted once all was said and done.  Fortunately I learned my lesson the first time around and this time I cut out the shirt one size larger than my recommended size.  While I was sewing it up I started to worry that it still wouldn't be roomy enough so I sewed the sides together with a slightly smaller seam allowance (somewhere between 3/8 and 1/2 inch) to give myself a tiny bit of extra wiggle room and it seems to have worked out just fine.

I like to think of this as my "fancy" sweatshirt.  It's a totally cozy, cuddly, and warm sweatshirt but with a funnel neck and a more fitted cut it's a little, well, fancier (if a sweatshirt can, in fact, be fancy). The fabric is the most awesome peachy/salmony color that you ever did see and these photos do not do it justice.  Earlier this month I taught a week-long class in southern Washington and I managed to pop over the border into Portland for the world's fastest shopping trip into Bolt Fabric.  This is one of two the two beauties that I bought during that whirlwind trip.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to take this sweatshirt off because summer is still blessing us with its presence and it way too hot to be wearing this thing around!


First Day Of School Joey Dress

After two months of not sewing a stitch, it definitely took me a while to find my groove again, but I can now happily report that I'm back!  I'm filled with ideas of what I'd like to sew and a bit sad already knowing that I won't be able to get everything done before school obligations start up again.  In the meantime, though, if there's one thing that I'm focused on it's sewing the basics.

Yeah, yeah, basics can seem a bit boring to make but I happen to find them rather exciting because I know that they'll always be worn (as opposed to the many dresses that I've sewn for myself that mostly hang out in the back of my closet).

And the first basic that I needed to make, of course, was a first day of school dress for O.  I contemplated making something a bit more "special occasion" for this special occasion but practicality won out and for me there are few things more practical than a long-sleeved knit dress for a girl (assuming your girl likes to wear dresses, that is).  My go-to knit dress in the past was the Oliver and S Hopscotch dress but O has grown out of my copy of the pattern and while I debated just buying the larger size, I figured that this was probably a good opportunity to branch out a bit.  So branch out I did - with the Joey Dress by Make It Perfect patterns.

You've no doubt seen many versions of this dress around the internet (in both kids and adult sizes!) and I loved the little details that the dress allowed for.  A kangaroo pocket and contrast bindings?  Sign me up!  As an added bonus I didn't even have to spring for new fabric for the dress because I had enough Art Gallery knit left over from the girls' Christmas pjs.

The dress sewed up super-easy although I should probably confess that there were times that I didn't use the instructions since I feel pretty confident sewing with knits.  I should also confess that I didn't look at the size recommendations and just sewed up a size 6 for O (who is 6).  She's a slim little thing and may have benefited from a smaller size but I couldn't bring myself to buy the size 5 version of the pattern since that's the biggest size on that version and I figured that I would want to make this dress for many years to come.  And, as it turns out, I was right.

So happy first day of school O!  First grade, here she comes!


One. Two. Three.

First there was one.

Then there were two.

And now there's three.

Three people sporting octopi covered shirts that is.

You know what they say "the family that wear octopi together, stays together."  Or something like that.  In any case, 3/4 of our family is now fully outfitted with an octopus-themed garments.  Ben was feeling a little left out so he made his own handmade octopus shirt.  I told him not to quit his day job.

O's dress is from her birthday and my shirt is an Archer that I finished just before starting school in June.  I didn't get to wear it from a couple months because it was blazing hot around here for several weeks.  On the day of our midterms, though, it cooled down to a reasonable temperature and I broke out the octopus shirt as a little good luck charm.  It turns out that is was just the ice breaker that people needed in the middle of hours of tense exams.  I mean, who could be stressed out when the woman in front of you is wearing a button down shirt covered in octopi?  It's simply not possible.

As for C's shirt, it's the Class Picnic Blouse from Oliver and S which makes a great little top and I'm thinking that, with some lengthening, it would also make a great little dress.  I'd be hung go for making it except that C has returned to her natural state of being a mostly ungrateful recipient of handmade goods.

Ah, three year olds.  So stinking cute.  So stinking fickle.


The Things We Make For Our Children

For the past two months I've been telling my youngest that when I get done with school, I'm going to make her a cat dress because if there's one thing that can actually get this kid to smile, it's a cat.  And because I'm a total sucker for this kiddo, I'm usually pretty happy to indulge her cat obsession...which has led to her having cat shoes, cat tattoos, and now a cat dress.    She may be only three, but she's definitely on her way to crazy cat-lady status.

But let's talk about this dress.  You know, the one made out of what is possibly the world's ugliest fabric.  You see, when I told C that I would make her a cat dress I imagined a little less literal of an interpretation.  In fact, I found a darling little fabric at the store with cat prints on it and I spent a good five minutes trying to talk her into that fabric and when she wouldn't give I roped Ben into trying to talk her into that fabric as well.  It turns out that you can't talk C into anything  (including smiling for these pictures).

When she gets an idea of what she wants, there's no getting that idea out of her head.  (I wonder who she gets that from?  Ha!)  So a dress covered in cats it was!  Actually it was kind of fun to pick out which cat would have a starring role on the front of the dress (I let O have the honor of picking out that cat).  And, if I'm being honest, I kind of love the way this crazy looking dress came out.  It really captures a moment in time in C's childhood and I can't really ask for more than that.

Also, I'd be remiss if I didn't add that this dress (once again) is made from the Hanami Pattern.  I made her a straight size 3 although based on seeing some other gorgeous Hanamis around the internet I chopped about 3/4 of an inch off of the length of the bodice and I also added some width to the skirt.  I decided to go with some flutter sleeves this time around and I have to say that I'd forgotten how cute flutter sleeves are on a little girl's dress.  And, of course, I had to throw in a little piping around the waist because it turns out that there's no overdoing it when you're wearing a dress covered in cats.



One Quarter (Almost) Down. Two More Years To Go.

Tomorrow is the last day of my first quarter back in school and I have to say that I beyond excited to be wrapping up this quarter.  These past two months have been an incredible amount of work and while I expected to have my nose to the grindstone a lot of the time, if I'm being honest, my nose was to the grindstone a lot more than I was hoping.  Needless to say, Ben and the kids have been absolute champs in adjusting to this new period in our lives.

The last two months have also been incredibly humbling as I went from being a competent professional in one line of work, to a completely incompetent student.  I'm not going lie - there were many days that I missed feeling "good" at something.  Fortunately, those days were offset by the ones where I felt pretty bad-ass at learning something new.  And if I have many thanks to give to Ben for picking up the slack around the house, I have many, many thanks to give to my sister who constantly reminded me that learning is a process and to cut myself a little slack in that process.

Lastly, the last two months have been reassuring.  When I left my job I felt pretty unmotivated and I figured that obviously the problem was me.  I thought that this was just my new normal - tired, old, and unmotivated.  I really worried that once I got into something that required a much greater time and mental commitment I was going to find that I just wasn't up to the challenge anymore.  Fortunately, as it turns out, I was wrong.  I'm not an unmotivated person; I was just in a job that I had outgrown and because of that it was hard to muster up motivation at times.  In fact, I've been pleasantly surprised by my motivation over these last two months and the amount of work that I've put in to this 3rd go-round at college (3rd!!).

And with that, it's back to the books for me.  One more day of studying and then a couple weeks of doing nothing but hugging my kids, giving Ben high fives, enjoying life, and, of course, sewing!


An Octopus Birthday Dress

Well, if I was late in posting about C's birthday dress, it's only fitting that I was late in actually making O's birthday dress.  But here's the thing - she didn't even care.  Not because she didn't want one (because she most certainly did), but because she understands that handmade things take time and this is a girl who loves handmade things.  Truth be told, the littlest one often refuses to wear the things that I make for her, but O is a grateful recipient who loves when I take the time to make something just for her.  And that just makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

You know what else makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside?  This kid.

She is amazingly observant, has a ridiculously good memory, and a great sense of humor.  But you know what I love most about her?  Her zest for life.  She is full of joy and a joy to be around and just when I think I couldn't love her more, I do.

But before I get too sentimental, here's a little about this dress.  The pattern is the Caroline Party Dress pattern by Welcome to the Mouse House.  I cut out a size five bodice because O's a slender little thing and I cut the length of the skirt somewhere between the recommendations for a size 5 and size 6.  I wanted the skirt to be very full so I cut the width of the skirt the entire width of the fabric and just gathered it when sewing the dress together.

The fabric is a cotton lawn from Cotton and Steel and it's just as lovely as everyone says it is.  O picked it out because we had gone to an aquarium a couple weeks ago and we both fell in love with an octopus named Melanie at the aquarium.  When she saw this fabric she immediately yelled "Melanie!" and I knew that it was a done deal.  I debated about adding some additional elements to the dress (piping!) but in the end I decided to let the craziness of an octopus dress speak for itself.

I was originally going to with a solid coral cotton for the lining fabric but when I went to the fabric store I saw this Michael Miller print and was instantly smitten.  I did have a moment when I thought it might violate some laws of nature to mix a safari animal with an ocean animal, but O assured me that it was okay so I went ahead and added the zebra print.  I used a zipper that I just had at home so it's a bit shorter than the recommended zipper length but she's able to get the dress on just fine.  Also, I don't know what my problem is lately, but zippers have become the bane of my existence.  First my problems with this project, and then I could not get the seams to line up straight when installing this zipper.  I swear I ripped it out and sewed it back in about five times, each time thinking "I won't let you best me, zipper!"

And that's when I realized that I was talking to a zipper and that probably falls outside of the norm of socially acceptable behavior.

PS - The littlest one, of course, also wanted in on the action and considering that she was wearing a little bubble skirt that I made ages ago for O, I was happy to oblige.  Man, those are some cute little legs.


Vintage May: A Pleated Culotte Jumpsuit

First of all, many, many thanks to Kristin and Jess for putting together another Vintage May.  I'm excited to be a part of it and even more excited to see what everybody has made.  Personally I had a hard time deciding which direction I wanted to go.

Kids clothes or adult clothes?

A true version of vintage clothes or simply vintage inspired?

An entire vintage garment or just an inclusion of some vintage techniques.

Needless to say, I can be a bit indecisive.

After a couple of days of hemming and hawing, I decided to make something for me - because I'm the most grateful recipient of my handmade goods - and I also decided that I wanted to make something that was very wearable rather than something that looked more "costumey."  In the end that meant that I wanted to adopt some aspects of vintage style while (hopefully) bringing it up-to-date.  This, however, is where I should you that I am not the person you should turn to if you have any questions about current (or even past) fashion trends.  I like what I like and if that happens to overlap with what's in style then so be it, but you'll probably never see me on the forefront of any fashion trends.  That said, this outfit is definitely on the trendier side of anything that I've ever made.

So for Vintage May I decided to embrace my inner 70's child and sew a jumpsuit.  That's right - a jumpsuit.  There are several options out there from the Big 4 pattern companies (and even from some indie companies) but I chose to go with Vogue 9075 which is not only a jumpsuit but a culotte jumpsuit.

So perhaps this is both 70's and 80's inspired?  In any case, I knew that I wasn't going to go with 70's colors.  Brown and yellow together?  Um, no thank you.  Instead, I went with a really basic navy blue (that my daughter later described as "boring").  While the color is pretty basic the fabric is anything but.  It's a Kauffman linen and rayon blend and it's perfect for projects that need some drape without being overly difficult to sew (I've had some bad experience with rayon challis in the past).  In fact, I liked this fabric so much that I even made a muslin before cutting into it.  My lazy butt almost never makes a muslin so let's all take a moment to acknowledge what a momentous occasion this was.

It was actually a really fortuitous decision to make a muslin because I ended up having a lot of excess fabric around the chest area.  I remember having a similar problem with this project and while I was able to fudge a solution after the whole garment was sewn together that time around, it was much more helpful to take out the excess fabric when cutting the pattern out this time around.  I'm also slowly coming to terms with the fact that I think I have a rounded back so I put little darts in the back bodice panels to try to take out excess fabric from that area.  In making the muslin I also found out that the crotch depth was too short so I added an inch to the crotch and took off two inches from the leg length since so many people commented on just how long these pants are.  The legs right now hit at what is traditionally an odd point on the leg but I kind of love it (even though my husband kind of hates it).

Nothing was particularly complicated about this project although there were a lot of pleats to mark and sew (hello again 1980's!) and while I love the way that they came out, I'm usually over marking pleats by the third one.  The pattern calls for you to baste the pleats down while you're sewing the garment and then to take the basting stitches out, but I ended up liking the look of the sewn-down pleats so I went back and top stitched them all down.  I'm not sure how they would have looked had I taken the basting stitches out, but considering that I'm  pear-shaped I don't think the pleats would have done me any favors.

You know what I had the most trouble with on this project?  The zipper!  The pattern calls for just a regular old zipper but I haven't put one of those in for ages.  I find invisible zippers way easier to install so I substitute them in almost all garments that I make but you can't put one in this garment because the zipper goes down into the pants portion.  In any case, it turns out that I've completely forgotten how to install a zipper and I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I put this zipper in no less than five (!) times.  I tried following the pattern instructions, then hand-picking the zipper, then following the instructions off of a free Craftsy video, and I still had to rip parts out and resew them.  It's definitely not the most beautiful zipper that I've ever sewn in but it's done and I'm calling that a victory for the time being.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a wrap!

Now go check out what Abby has made for her version of Vintage May!

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