2012 Superlatives



Me:  I guess this category could also be called "most wearable" because that's certainly what this Tova top is.  There are so many things that I love about this shirt.  One, the fabric is awesome.  The pattern is plain enough that it goes with so many things, but not so plain that it's boring.  Also, the fabric is thinner than a quilting cotton so there's a bit of drape to it making it hang much better on my body.  Plus, the fabric is machine washable and rarely needs ironing (both big pluses in my book!).  As for the design of the shirt, it's incredibly comfy while still looking stylish (although my husband may disagree with the latter point).  As for how often it gets worn, let's just say that on most weekends you can usually find me wearing this shirt with some skinny jeans (man, I hate that term) and my newly rediscovered cowboy boots (which are perfect "mom shoes" because you can slip them on while having your hands full of baby). 

O:  I guess it's no surprise that O's most worn item is her stack of handmade undies given that she has to wear a pair every day.  Fortunately, she loves her handmade undies and often specifically requests to wear a certain pair in the morning.  And I'm happy to report that they're holding up great despite the near constant wear.  The project (and this pattern) definitely gets two thumbs up. 

Can I cheat and pick a runner-up for this category too?  If so, I'd say that this twirly skirt has definitely earned that prize.  Dana's tutorial was incredibly easy to follow and the skirt was a breeze to put together.  But best of all, O loves this little skirt and often asks to wear it.  Yahoo!


Me:  This silk and voile top that I sewed right after having C.  When I cut this pattern out I based the size on what I thought my breastfeeding chest size would be and lo and behold, I estimated that size wrong.  Because of this the top just doesn't fit quite right.  It's tight where it's supposed to be loose and pulls where it's supposed to hang.  I'm pretty confident though that once I wean the little one, things will shrink back down to their regular size and all will be right with the world once again.

O:  That would be this dress (I think the only time that she's worn this dress was on the day that we took this photo).  I fully blame myself for this dress not being worn much though.  I mean, who makes a non-twirly dress for a girl who just wants to twirl all day?  (me, that who!)


After seeing this gorgeous blouse I attempted to make my own version in a rayon challis fabric and it turned out to be a disaster (hence the lack of photo).  It was my first attempt at sewing with rayon challis and I'm just hoping that it hasn't turned me off of it for good, because look at these beauties that Anna Maria Horner is releasing


Do I have to pick just one?  Okay then, I'm going to go with Grainline Studio's Tiny Pocket Tank.  It's certainly not the most elaborate pattern but there are so many things that I love about it.  I love that it was simple enough for me to sew in my post-natal brain fog.  I love that it's finished with lovely bias binding rather than facings (Arghh!  I hate facings!).  And I love that it can be dressed up or down depending on what fabric you make it with.


Well there's not a whole lot of competition here given that I only made one quilt this year.  But even if there were bucket-loads of competition I think that this quilt would win because I love this quilt and all its craziness. 


This little munchkin (as if you even had to ask, right?)

But the shirt that I made for Ben is definitely the first runner up, mostly because Ben is a very appreciative recipient of handmade goods and has worn this shirt to almost every family event that we've had over the past several months.  He's a good man, I tell you.

Now how about you?  What's on your superlative list for 2012?

Faux Fur Pillows And Yet Another Renfrew


If you had asked me a week ago what I was going to be sewing for Christmas, I would have told you "the same thing that I sewed last year" (which was nothing, in case you're wondering).  You see, I generally don't like sewing under deadlines and I couldn't think of a fantastic project to make for that special someone.  All that changed, though, when I dragged my little sister into a fabric store last weekend and she became obsessed with a giant role of faux fur and the idea of a large pillow cover made out of that fabric. 

Given that my sister is ridiculously hard to shop for (especially since she's heading back to Pakistan soon...and is then moving again in another month or so) I couldn't say no to a present that I knew that she would actually use and love.  So I pried the role of ridiculously soft faux fur out of her hand (and again out of O's hands when she discovered it in the living room) and whipped up a 20 x 20 pillow case with an envelope closure on the back.  I also used the leftover fabric to sew a little pillow for O (and I have to say that this pillow was an absolute hit on Christmas morning.  Who knew that a tiny pillow made out of scrap fabric would be one of her favorite presents?)

I know that Rae posted some very helpful tips on sewing with faux fur recently, but I have a couple of my own to add.

- Faux fur generally "grows" in one direction. It's helpful to indicate this direction on your fabric so that you can make sure that your pieces are laid out in the right direction.  I did this by drawing an arrow on the back of the fabric in the  direction of the nap.

- Once you trace the pattern piece on the back of the faux fur (and this is a must - don't even try to pin it on the fabric and cut around it), cut the pattern out with a single edge razor blade, cutting only through the knit backing of the faux fur rather than through the actual fur itself.  This will prevent you from having fur fuzzies  flying all over your sewing room and it'll keep that nice, luscious fur intact.

- When you're putting your pieces together, push all the fur (or as much as you can) so that it's on the right side of your fabric rather than sticking in the seams.  Here's a hint - it's much easier to do this if you hand baste your pieces together before you sew them on the machine.

- When it's time to sew your seams together with the machine, use a longer stitch than usual (I think that I used around a 3 mm).  This will allow you to pull any fur through to the right side that gets stuck in the seam when you're sewing (I did this with a chop stick that I happened to have laying around).

- And if you happen to have trouble (like I did) with your machine trying to eat some of the long fur pieces, try sewing the pieces together with a piece of tissue paper between your machine and the fabric.  This will hopefully prevent the fur from getting sucked into the machine and it can easily be ripped off after the pieces are sewn together.

- And like Rae already mentioned, remember that a walking foot is your best friend when sewing with faux fur.

And in an attempt to "go big or go home", I actually whipped up one more item for my sister (in fact, I cut it out and sewed it up on Christmas Eve, finishing it just before we were due to head out to a family event.  Talk about cutting it close!)...another Renfrew Top!  After giving her the first one, I wasn't convinced that she particularly liked the shirt, but it turns out that it was just the color that was bothersome to her (she's planning on taking it back to Pakistan and having it over-dyed there) but she actually really liked the shape of the garment itself and requested one in a more wearable color (What?  Bright yellow isn't wearable?).  Luckily we found some gorgeous dark gray bamboo and hemp fabric at the fabric store and I was able to make yet another Renfrew Top for her (Again, with the cowl neck and long sleeves.  And yes, she apparently likes her sleeves that long.).

The only sad part of this story is that I thought that I bought enough of this fabric to make a shirt for myself as well, but I think I estimated wrong and I'm a little short on what I'll need.  So much for my superior estimation skills.

Happy Holidays 2012


photo taken by the incredibly talented Teddi Yaeger

Wishing you a very happy holiday season to you and your family.

May 2013 bring you much peace, joy, and happiness.

Love, Carolyn

Martyr Syndrome


I've always been someone who has a bit of trouble with martyr syndrome.  You know, the person who puts every one's needs before their own and then complains about how no one appreciates them (yes, I fully realize that this is a ridiculously unattractive quality in a person).  And truth be told, it's probably gotten worse since the baby's been born.  She's almost nine months old and if you don't count work I think that I've been away from both kids at once approximately three times - once for a doctor's appointment (that shouldn't even count, right?), once to go see Wicked with my sister (thanks for the great birthday present, Ben!), and once to go on a bike ride with Ben (yep, that was our hot date).  And when I'm not out, I'm home cooking and washing and folding and feeding and pumping and making all the baby food.

But I had a change of heart this weekend as I realized that nine months is long enough to put everything and everyone before yourself.  And after nine months of doing for others, I shouldn't feel guilty about doing something for myself.  So on Friday I did something that I haven't done in over a year - I took a nice, long, hot bath.  Granted I had a little three year old sitting beside the bathtub the whole time begging to come in (she had even taken off all her clothes - that girl really knows how to work a guilt-trip) but I told her not tonight.  And yesterday when I should have been cleaning the house for my mother-in-law's visit, I packed up the baby and went on a nice long walk around the neighborhood.  And this morning, I went out to brunch with my sister - no babies in tow.

Which is all just to say that I think that I've turned a corner.  And yes, I realize that 2012 is not yet over, but I have a sneaking suspicion that it's going to be a great 2013.


I've sat thinking for quite sometime now about how to write about what we've been up to lately.  There's been much joy and celebration around here and yet under it all there's an undercurrent of sadness, shock, and disbelief about recent events.  It feels almost selfish and insensitive to be reveling in the joy of family and togetherness given what's occurred lately.  But I suppose that among the many things that we can take from these events is the importance of holding your loved ones close and appreciating the time that you have together (even when during that time they sing loudly on a karaoke machine and wake up your sleeping baby.  That's right, Debbie, I'm talking to you!).  So last weekend we gathered together to celebrate my little sister's birthday, her being home for a visit after spending a year in Pakistan, and we threw in a little early Christmas celebration too since my older sister and her family are never around at Christmas time.

I have to say that the best part about combining my sister's welcome home with Christmas is seeing the fantastic presents that she brought back for everyone.  Like these handmade booties from Afghanistan.

And these Pashtun wool hats that the men in our family are now sporting.

And, of course, being the awesome sister that she is, she brought fabric back for me - some absolutely gorgeous cotton lawn from Pakistan.  It may be many years before I gather up the courage to cut into something so beautiful.

As for things for her, O and I made this cake for her birthday celebration although I mixed the crushed candy canes up in the icing rather than just sprinkling them on the sides.  You can learn from my mistake here - crushed candy canes in white icing happens to turn the icing bright pink.

Who knew?  Also, who knew that my sister had a phobia of pink food and that she would shrivel her nose at my masterpiece.  Fortunately, she ate it anyway and despite it being an odd color, it actually tasted incredibly good. 

And, of course, I had to attempt to sew a little something too.  I say attempt because despite asking her about three times for her bust size, she never volunteered the information so I had to base the sizing off of me just staring at her chest and estimating a size.  Needless to say it was not a very scientific process but in the end it seems to have worked out okay.  I made her a version of Sewaholic's Renfrew Top with a funnel neck and long sleeves.  The fabric is a light yellow sweatshirt material, which my sister kindly described as "the color of a dehydrated man's urine."  Hmmm.  Apparently yellow isn't her thing.

In any case, the fabric is incredibly soft and comfy to wear.  I know this because many weeks ago I made myself a version of this shirt in the same material but I've just never gotten around to blogging about it - probably because it's always in the wash because I can't stop wearing it.  It has to be one of my favorite things that I've made.  I call it my fancy sweatshirt in an attempt to convince myself that it's work appropriate.  One day - when it's not pitch-black outside for 16 hours a day - I'll get around to taking a picture of it.

Until then I'll leave you with these two pictures.

1)  How Ben looks at the end of every family gathering.

2)  A photo of a 66 year old man attempting to hoolahoop.

You're welcome.

My Next Obsession


A couple of weeks ago I stumbled across Ana White's blog and since that time I've been spending every free minute dreaming about stuff that I could possibly build.  And "dream" is probably the operative word here since I have zero (that's right - zero - woodworking skills).  And since this seems to be my latest obsession, I've also been busy filling my Christmas list up with things like clamps, wood putty, and Ana's book, of course.

The best part about my current obsession, though, is that I've recruited my dad to be my partner-in-crime.  And for the record, this isn't like making your extremely handy, woodworking- pro dad your accomplice because my dad is - as we like to call him - a "woodworking dropout."  He signed up for a woodworking class a couple of years ago and then proceeded to drop out after about two sessions.  I'm just hoping that we're able to finish up a couple of projects with all ten (well, twenty if you count his too) fingers in tact.

What's in my trunk?
Diaper bag?  Check.  Stroller?  Check.  Lumber?  Check.

First up is the ten dollar ledge project off of Ana's website.  And assuming that goes well (or at least okay) I really, really, really (you get the point, right?) want to build a bed.  This bed to be exact.

There's a strong possibility that I may be getting in over my head.

Well Hello, December. So Lovely To See You Again.


The tree is up.

Decorated by my oldest kiddo - which, of course, means that she put about 8 ornaments all on the same branch (and left the rest of the tree naked).  I couldn't stop myself from doing a little "rearranging" when she wasn't looking.   Fortunately she doesn't seem to have minded.

And we've gone to see Santa not once, but twice.

Those overalls that C is wearing?  Yep, they were Ben's when he was a baby.  How sweet is that? 

I believe that the holiday season is officially underway.  Bring on the candy canes!

Baby's First Earflap Hat


Do you feel it?  That nip in the air?  You know what that means, right?

It's time to dust off the knitting needles.

And I do mean "dust off" because it's been ages since I last picked them up and they actually had a fine coat of dust on them.  (obviously I'm an excellent housekeeper)

But there's nothing like a cute, little baby head to get you inspired to start knitting again so for my re-entry into the knitting world I chose this simple hat pattern with earflaps from Petite Purls.  And for the yarn I used some left over Tactile Fiber Arts Studio yarn that is a 50/50 wool and silk blend, dyed with natural dyes.  Can I just say how much I love this yarn?  Yes, it's incredibly beautiful but I also know that it holds up really well because I made myself a hat out of it several years ago and despite it being my go-to hat during the winter months and being worn a ton, the yarn still looks great.

As for this little hat, the pattern is incredibly simple (well, after you get a few rounds into it - starting to knit in the round on double pointed needles is always a pain in the booty) and I love that it has the added useful/cute earflaps.  I was debating whether to make the pom-pom or not, but in the end I decided to just keep it simple.  Being from my gene pool, she's got enough to hold up as it is with her giant head.

8 months


My friend likes to say that C is the second child who should have been born a first child because she wants nothing more than to just be held and snuggled all day long...and who has time to do that with another child running around at home? 

I have to say that for me, though, C was born at just the right time.  I was far too overwhelmed with being a new mom the first time around to appreciate all those baby snuggles.  And I was often more interested in moving on to the next stage than appreciating the one that we were in (mostly because I was hoping that the next stage would mean that I could finally get some sleep!).  But knowing that C is most likely our last little one makes me appreciate the here and now of having her in our family.

I love snuggling up with her at night and petting the soft little hair on her head (yes, I realize that that makes her sound like a cat, but seriously, I do love petting her head). 

I love making her laugh so that I can see that one little tooth in her mouth.  I love when I look back after I walk away from her and I see her crawling, commando-style, after me.  And I love that as sweet as this little baby is, she still has the most bad-ass mean-mugging face. 

We like to say that this is the face that she pulls out when she's not impressed with our awesomeness.  Apparently, she's practicing for her teenage years.



For all the times that I call my dad asking for something, ("Hey, can you watch the kids?,"  "My dishwasher is leaking.  What do I do?,"  "Can I borrow your saw?") my dad rarely asks for anything in return.  So when he called the other week asking me to make a dress for the daughter of a long-lost cousin who lives in Greece, how could I say no?  His only requirements were that it be a sundress and that it have some sort of label in it indicating that it was made by me.  Of course, that was the perfect excuse to finally get off my butt, follow this wise woman's advice, and order some fabric from Spoonflower to make into labels.

It was my first time using Spoonflower or even attempting to "design" anything on the computer (and I use that word very loosely) but I have to say that Dana put together a great tutorial on how to design a graphic just using Word which is fantastic because I don't have any fancy programs on my computer.  I ordered my labels to be printed on the cotton/linen fabric to make them a bit more substantial and I love the look of the fabric.  I did learn that small writing on the labels is essentially illegible.  You see, there's a tiny little line under the main text that reads "Made by Carolyn."  Oh you can't see it? Yeah, that's my point.

But back to the dress.  So besides the whole label issue my dad pretty much gave me free reign which actually had me turning in circles for a while trying to figure out which direction I wanted to go.  It's hard to make something for someone that you've never met when you have no idea what their personal style is.  Plus I felt a sense of added pressure because my dad has never asked me to make anything before and I didn't want him to regret this decision.  Which is all to say that I spent way too long pouring over patterns and picking out fabrics.  And once I finally picked out the fabrics I changed my mind about five times on how I wanted to put them all together.  Initially I thought I would go with a solid on the bodice and a patterned fabric on the skirt, but just as I began cutting out the pattern I became convinced that I wanted an all-over patterned dress with some colored flat piping.  And in the end that's what I ended up doing.

The main fabric is Birds and Berries designed Lauren and Jessi Jung for Moda, the bodice lining is a coordinating blue from Moda, and the flat piping and hem lining is a coordinating golden yellow fabric from Moda.  As for the buttons, I ended up making some fabric covered buttons which blend into the pattern of the dress so that they don't distract from the beautiful lines of this pattern.

I have to say that this version of the dress is much simpler than what I originally imagined but I like it so much more.  I think that only now am I beginning to realize that I'm generally drawn towards simpler, cleaner styles.  Given that I've been sewing for probably five years, you'd think that I would have figured this out a long time ago.  Hey, I never claimed to be a fast learner.

And speaking of how long I've been sewing I actually made this pattern once before - back when O was a baby.  I broke out that version the other day when I was trying to figure out what to make and I promptly hung my head in shame as I looked at my past sewing efforts.  Don't get me wrong - I'm no sewing genius now, but I'm happy to say that it seems like I've gotten at least a little bit better in the last three years.

And to that I say, "opa!"

Pattern:  Oliver and S Tea Party Sundress
Size: 12 - 18 months

And to all those celebrating this weekend, a very Happy Thanksgiving to you!  When I asked O what she was thankful for today she told me that she was thankful for candy.  Those priorities sound about right for a three year old.  See her hoarding her candy on Halloween...

Tova Dress / Night Shirt


Precious fabric.

I know you all have it.

You know, the fabric that sits on your shelf for years because you're too afraid to cut into it.

Many of the fabrics that I consider precious are actually beautiful batiks that my mom bought back when she lived in Indonesia in the 70's.  I'm terrified of cutting into them and messing something up...probably because that's already happened.  My other precious fabric though was a couple of yards of a cotton/cashmere blend that I bought at Bolt two summers ago.  Can I just tell you how luscious this fabric feels?  It's incredibly soft and ridiculously drapey.  Oh-la-la!

So needless to say, I was a bit terrified when I finally made a decision that I was going to cut into this fabric to make a Tova dress.  I figured that it was a pretty safe plan given that I had already made two tops that I loved from this pattern.  Plus I thought that this fabric would be perfect for a loose and flowy fall/winter dress.  So I carefully hand washed the fabric and pinned everything out only to realize after I cut out the fabric that I didn't cut the front piece on the fold as I was supposed to.

Seriously?  This is my third time making this pattern and yet I made the most basic of mistakes!?!  I think I was about to cry when I realized what I had done, but given that sewing time is extremely precious around here nowadays, I took about 3 seconds to wallow in pity and then sucked it up and decided to move forward.  So now my Tova dress has a tiny little seam that runs down the front of it with some edge stitchign on either side.  For the time being, we're going to refer to it as a design element, okay?  Okay.

The rest of the dress came together rather easily (although for some reason I always have a hell of a time figuring out how to sew the inset in...every time it's as if my mind just doesn't understand how to put those pieces together) and I was able to finish it up within the weekend (which is lightening speed for around here nowadays).

Imagine my surprise when I put it on though and all I could think of was that it looked like a man's nightshirt from the 1800's (although a quick google search has informed me that apparently they still sell such things.  You know, in case you were looking for a Christmas present for the special man in your life).  Fortunately, once I put on a tank top underneath and some boots it looked like something that I could actually wear out of the house.  And in fact, I wore it out for a little anniversary celebration with Ben.

Here's to 8 fantastic years together (and to night shirts)!

Happy Halloween


Let's talk about Halloween, shall we?

I'm not a huge Halloween fan.  In fact, when I was in college and all the girls spent weeks looking for the perfect (sexy) cat, (sexy) witch, or (sexy) vampire costume, I usually ended up wearing the same costume year after year.  And for the record, it happened to be the least sexy Halloween costume that you could imagine.  It was a huge pumpkin costume that my mom sewed circa 1980-something and I would always wear it with jeans and a turtleneck underneath (and if I was feeling really ambitious, I would stuff the pumpkin with newspaper for extra fullness.  Yeah, I know.  Totally attractive).

So needless to say, it's probably not a huge surprise that I'm not all that into making Halloween costumes and fortunately we've lucked out for the past three years in that O has been able to wear hand-me-down costumes from her cousins.  But this year when she decided that she wanted to be the Wicked Witch of the West, I figured that I should probably put my "good mommy" hat on and sew the dress for her.

I started the whole process by finding a pattern (Simplicity 4139), because let's be honest, I'm not one of those awesome ladies who can whip up amazing things up without a pattern.  The pattern ended up being great except that it recommenced taffeta fabric for the project and as I soon learned, polyester taffeta is the devil's fabric (appropriate for Halloween I guess).  The skirt on this dress is super-gathered but my gathering strings kept breaking because of the thickness of the fabric.  Plus, getting such thick fabric to gather well/evenly/or at all was a total pain in the butt.  I can't tell you how many times I resewed that stupid skirt to the bodice!  In the end my mantra was "it's just a freaking Halloween costume.  Let it go."  So yes, the back pieces on the bodice totally don't match up to each other, but I figure that it'll be dark when she's trick or treating and she'll be wearing a cape.  And if worse comes to worse, we all know that she's completely capable of distracting people with just her cuteness.

As for the other parts of the costume, we're just reusing this cape that I had already made (yes, I know that the Wicked Witch does not sport a red-lined cape, but let's just call this a creative liberty, okay?).  And as for the hat, I just bought that sucker.

But for all my whining about this costume, it's actually quite simple and it was really just the fabric that was a total pain in the booty.  Want to see an amazingly elaborate homemade Halloween costume?  Check out this one.