Thursday, December 19, 2013

another izzy top ... this time for winter

I haven't been sewing much lately, although I did mange to get a few unfinished projects done that I blogged about here.  I've also been working on grading the Izzy Top pattern and creating a few versions that work with knits.  I made a short sleeve version here, and now I finished my first long sleeve version :)  Hopefully, I'll be ready to share (for free as always!) the extended sizes and versions on the blog starting sometime in January. 

I just want to say that this post is possible courtesy of my Samsung Galaxy phone.  I don't know where these pictures would be without it :)

To make this top, I used the pattern I drew up for the short sleeve knit version, lengthened the sleeves a bit and added a long skinny cuff.  It only took about 1 hour to sew including making pattern modifications and dealing with a crabby, sick toddler (and crabby, sick husband!)

I picked up this fabric at a sewing expo a few months ago.  It was listed as a 100% rayon knit which I have never worked with before, and I'm not sure I ever want to again!  The only word that can possible describe how this fabric feels is slinky.  It slides all over the place, snags on everything and curls terribly on the ends when stretched.  However, it drapes beautifully and would make a lovely top for me!  Maybe next time :)

I really like this version of the Izzy top.  It's simple, cute, comfortable for a busy toddler, and easy to sew.  And lately, that's pretty much exactly what I've been looking for in Mae's clothes.  She, on the other hand, wants all of her clothes to come equipped with a smart phone :)

Sometimes it is hard to see the shape of a shirt while it's on, so hopefully this picture will give you a better idea of what it actually looks like.

100% Rayon knit
Skinny jeans - Old Navy

Thursday, December 12, 2013

a giving christmas

Today I'm guest posting over at Paisley Roots as part of Karly's A Giving Christmas series.  Just click on the picture to visit her blog :)  And be sure to check out her adorable Popover Jacket tutorial while you're there!

Friday, December 6, 2013

pattern review - heidi & finn gatsby dress

I love, love, love this dress!!!!  It suits Gracie perfectly!  It's girly yet practical ... Gracie was actually doing gymnastics while wearing it the other day :)

The Gatsby Dress pattern (sizes 12 months-5T here and 6-12 here) by Heidi & Finn is a cute twist on a 1920s flapper dress.  It's available in an aline or slim style ... I made the slim cut since Gracie is quite thin and it fits perfectly in a size 8.  As usual for Heidi & Finn patterns, the Gatsby Dress is well designed and the pattern is very easy to follow.

The pattern calls for stretch lace, which I did not happen to have, so I chose to use color blocking in place of the lace.  Although I love the end result, I think I may have to order some lace to make the original version too :)

Gracie's favorite part is the glittery star.  I'm pretty sure it's my favorite part too, and I'm not into glitter quite like she is :)  We used a fabric glitter kit that Ruthie received as a Christmas gift last year.  The girls had fun with it, and I see many more glitter projects in our immediate future!

I love the tie in the back!  I made the ties extra long which I greatly regretted once I tried sewing this super stretchy, slippery fabric.  I did finally finish, but I have to confess that there were a few pins sacrificed along the way :)

Navy star print - Rayon blend jersey
Grey - cotton jersey from Joann's
Glitter paint - this stuff

Monday, December 2, 2013

pattern review - the louisa dress by compangie m.

Marte, of the CompagnieM. blog, just released her newest pattern, the Louisa Dress.  I loved this pattern the very first time I saw it!  It's traditional with a modern twist, which in my view, is about as perfect as it gets :)

I was lucky enough to get to test the pattern in a size 8.  Gracie usually wears slim sizes, and this dress fits exactly how I would expect a size 8 to fit, in other words, slightly loose as usual :)  Fortunately, with this style of dress, the fit doesn't need to be perfect in order to be adorable!  If I make it again, I will probably make the size 7 with the size 8 length which is the size I normally cut when I sew for Gracie.

This pattern uses a unique construction method to install the piping around the pockets and back panels from one continuous piece, giving the whole dress a lovely finished look.  Overall, I feel (and this is only my opinion!) the pattern would be a difficult first project, but it would be fine for someone who has completed a few projects and is comfortable with basic sewing techniques. Marte also has great tutorials on her blog to aid with piping construction and zipper installation if you have never tried either of those before.

I really, really (did I say really!) love the lines of the dress, so I extended the fabric from the side panels around the front and down the sleeves.  And then I added piping everywhere the corduroy and print meet.  Then there's my favorite part of the dress, the pocket!  I'm pretty sure that was Gracie's favorite as well!

Please tell me I'm not the only person without an invisible zipper foot!  I had to improvise a bit and ended up using an exposed zipper instead.  I actually ended up liking it a lot, but my zipper installation technique left a little to be desired.  I don't think I'll be doing a tutorial on that any time soon :)

Brown corduroy - Robert Kaufman 21 wale
Pink Floral - Rosette by Fabric Traditions from Joann's
Piping - Rendezvous by Modkid Studio from Joann's
Zipper - from Walmart

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

pattern review - prairie rose dress by wee muses

I recently had the privilege of testing the Prairie Rose Dress pattern by Wee Muses.  Foe those of you who aren't familiar with Wee Muses, the designer is Anneliese, the creative genius (and I don't use that word lightly!) who writes the Aesthetic Nest blog.  Seriously, if you haven't seen it already, go take a look for yourself.  I'm pretty sure that her creativity is endless!

Also, Anneliese is offering 20% OFF all purchases with code THANKS20 through Wednesday, December 4, on both her Wee Muses and Aesthetic Nest patterns!

I have to be honest, this pattern is nowhere close my usual sewing style, but sometimes I just like to try something different.  So when Anneliese asked me if I would like to test the pattern, I jumped at the chance.  And then promptly realized that I did not have enough of any appropriate fabric, so off to Joann's I went with my 60% off coupon in hand :)  A few months ago, I had fallen in love with this pinstripe linen (which I didn't buy at the time for some odd reason) and I really hoped it was still in stock.  Luckily it was, and not on sale to boot, so I was able to use my coupon and get it for the lovely price of $6.79/yd which isn't bad for nice linen fabric.

Once I dug this trim out of my stash, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and to work.  The pattern is great!  The instructions are easy to follow and the entire dress went together quickly and beautifully.  Right up until I was closing the opening for the waist elastic that is.  As I cut the trailing threads, I also cut a nice size hole right in the back of the skirt!  Of course, I still had to take pictures and get my review back to Anneliese, so I opted to not add trim to the bottom of the dress knowing that I would have to cut it off later.

I swear that I tried to get a picture of Mae without her fingers in her mouth, but she wasn't cooperating at all.  On that particular day, I considered myself blessed that she even stood still :)  I will also add that I intended to take pictures with a flower clip on her little elastic belt, but that poor little flower didn't even survive long enough to get in a single picture!

Since Mae has been such a stinker lately, this last picture is Mae-less.  I did end up cutting off the bottom of the dress (it makes it a perfect tunic length) and adding the trim to match the collar and sleeves.  Since Mae's kind of tiny, I actually like the shorter length better oh her, but you will just have to take my word for it since I'm unlikely to get a picture anytime soon :)

Dress - Linen
Trim - Cotton 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

no more unfinished projects!!!

In the spirit of yesterday's post, I decided that I need to deal with the fallout of my own inability to limit choices in my life.  In my defense, all of these were from by pre-blogging days.  Now I generally finish what I start in order to share on the blog, so not much gets left undone anymore.  Anyway, this is what too many choices looks like for me :)

These are only some of the unfinished projects scattered around my sewing room right now, but I know I need to start small or I will lose all momentum.  So, I have set a goal to finish these two dresses and two skirts by December.  I also have a couple of patterns to test, so I should be plenty busy for the next few weeks.  I may not have as many posts as normal, and not all of them will include sewing projects, but I promise will share a bit as I finish each project :)

I know I'm not the only one with unfinished projects.  So what project is your nemesis?  You know, that project that stares you down from across the room until you stuff it in a drawer or something :)  Leave a comment and let me know.  I always love hearing from you!

Monday, November 18, 2013

all I want for christmas is ...

'Tis the season ... the season where my kids scour the catalogs that come in the mail and oh so meticulously (sometimes with multiple drafts!) compose their Christmas lists.  After all, it's difficult to see the 14 million different toy options available and whittle it down to a respectable list of approximately 10-12 items :)

All joking aside, do you ever wonder if your kids are presented with too many choices on a daily basis?  I think back to the Sears catalog we used to get in the mail when I was a kid.  That was all we got ... one lonely catalog .. and that was plenty for me.  I didn't count, but I'm guessing we've had somewhere around 40-50 catalogs show up in our mailbox in the last few weeks.  It overwhelms me, not to mention the kids!

A few years ago, I started reading about the minimalism movement which directly contradicts modern day consumerism.  I read a few blogs and borrowed a couple of books from the library ... and I truly enjoyed reading about people's journeys toward a more minimalist lifestyle.  I envied how some are able to embrace the lifestyle with almost no effort, but for me (and my family) the path didn't seem so clear.  In America, everywhere you turn, you are bombarded with rampant consumerism messages.  In fact, most Americans are so used to the exposure that they often don't even notice it anymore ... it's just a fact of life and we accept it.

I am generally a non-confrontational person.  I don't seek out conflict or go looking for trouble.  But somewhere along my journey into minimalism, I decided that was the only option available to me :)  I was going to have to fight ... fight the gimmes I heard multiple times a day from my kids ... fight the envy I see in my kids (and myself!) when someone has something cool or new ... fight the tendency to abuse stuff because there is always more ... and probably most relevent to me, fight the belief that this is the only way we can live because everyone else does it too.

The first think we did was get rid of TV service.  This helped get the consumerist attitude out of our faces and pushed it into the background.  After all, I figure if you don't know that it exists, you most likely won't want it, unless you have a really vivid imagination in which case you should invent it :)  Out of all the things I've done, I'm pretty sure this has had the biggest impact overall.  It truly is a case of out of sight, out of mind.

Next, I tried to teach my kids that they don't need the newest and best of everything.  If you are happy with what you have, then there is no need for more.  My oldest makes fun of me all the time because I don't use my smartphone, but shortly after I got the phone I realized how stupid that move really was.  I didn't need it because my old phone served my needs just fine and the fact that it was only a penny didn't justify my buying it. Now I'm just waiting for my contract to expire (this month!) so I can dumb it down again and reap a smaller bill as a reward :)

The comment about being happy with what you have brings me to my next plan of attack.  I want to teach my kids that happiness does not stem from stuff.  The saying "you can't buy happiness" is 100% true.  There have been countless studies done which prove that happiness only increases up to the point where basic needs are met.  Beyond that point, an increase in wealth does not translate to an increase in happiness.  We, both in my home and as a culture, need to learn to embrace what we have and find happiness in the people and places around us.  We live in a beautiful free country full of interesting people, and I know I personally need to focus on and be thankful for that a whole lot more than I am now.

It's kind of funny, but when I started writing this post, this was not at all where I intended to go with it.  I was actually going to attempt to put together a list of sewing related things I might want for Christmas ... seems I really strayed off topic on this one :)  But now that I've written it, I'm not taking it back.  I really don't need anything for Christmas.  Sure, there are plenty of things I want, but I already have everything I need, and it is imperative that I remember that.  Maybe I just need to emulate my 9 year old a little more.  The other night while he was making his Christmas list he looked through the catalogs and told me he couldn't come up with anything for his list.  When I asked him why not, he told me he already has everything he needs and he doesn't think he would play with anything else.  Once again, I found myself envious, this time of my own son, who seems to have had found his personal path to happiness :)  Although I did question that when he was fighting with his siblings later that same day over every little thing!  Perhaps it's not happiness but contentment that I'm seeking ... happiness is too dependent on circumstances ... as evidenced by my bickering kids :)

If you are open to the idea of minimalism and want to learn more, here are a few great blogs to get you started:

Thursday, November 14, 2013

the wonderful terrible twos and a knit izzy top

Mae wears pretty much everything I make, but you will probably be seeing a little less of her sweet little face for a while.  She has decided that sitting still for pictures is clearly not in her best interest.  And I have decided my sanity is important to me, ergo making Mae sit still for pictures is not in my best interest either :)  I'm assuming that since my blog is about sewing children's clothing that most of my readers are moms so I shouldn't have to have any explanation other than she's 2.  No more needs to be said :)

I won't stop posting outfits.  They just may not have a body in them until Mae decides pictures are her thing again.  Or at least until I can once again take clandestine pictures outside while disguising it as something fun ... you know, in about 6 months or so when the world thaws out.  Oh what fun it is to be a mom ... or grandma ... or aunt ... or anyone who sews for a little one :)

Today you get your first Mae-less top :)  I took my Izzy Top pattern and modified it a bit to make a knit top.  I wanted a quick project so I eliminated the gathered skirt and extended the side seams to the length I wanted.  Then I used bindings to finish the neck, sleeves and bottom.  The entire process, including modifying the pattern, took less than an hour, and I am not a fast sewer!  I can see myself making several more of these :)

I used this fun feather print from Girl Charlee accented with a red organic cotton jersey for the bands.  I really like this top and Mae must too since she wore it for the rest of the day after I tried it on for fit.  Most of the time when I tell her I want to try something on her, she tries to wiggle out of it about 5 minutes after I put it on.  She seems to understand very well that "try it one" is a temporary state :)

Feather print - Girl Charlee cotton/rayon/spandex knit
Red knit - organic cotton jersey from

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

the bumblebee dress: pattern tour and giveaway

I'm excited to be part of the Bumblebee Pattern tour at Sewing Mama RaeAnna.  Make sure you check out all the other participants as well.  The talent these ladies have is amazing!

I was lucky enough to test the Bumblebee Pattern before it's release and realized what a wonderful and caring woman RaeAnna is!  She put a lot of effort into this pattern (her first!) and it really shows.

Scroll down to enter the giveaway to win a copy of the Bumblebee Dress pattern along with a gift certificate to the Ribbon Retreat and some free fabric! After all, who doesn't love free fabric :)  Or, if you tend to be a bit impatient (and incredibly unlucky!) like me you can buy the Bumblebee Dress on sale here for only $5 until November 18th!

I posted my first Bumblebee Dress (with minimal changes from the pattern) here, but for the second one I wanted to do something a bit different.  A few months ago I bought this goldish (the color is actually called mustard) chambray from  I didn't have anything in particular planned for it, but once I started designing this dress, I knew the color would be perfect.  But since the chambray is an almost utilitarian looking fabric, and I was going for a dressier look, I dug through my fabric until I found this lovely cream silk dupioni.  I think it adds the perfect amount of shimmer to make the dress a little unexpected :)

I made a few small changes to the pattern like using narrower ruffles on the bodice and sleeves.  I'm not really much of a ruffle person, but I think that is because I hate sewing them, not because of how they look :)  I kept the larger ruffle on the bottom, but I added a high-low hemline because I wanted a tunic that could be worn with pants.  It's just too cold in Michigan to wear a dress and tights in the middle of winter, and a dressy top with pants is a much smarter, frostbite-free choice :) To create the hemline, I cut the back of the dress about 2" shorter than the pattern and the front about 8" shorter.  The only other change I made was to add a band between the bodice and skirt because I thought it added to the overall traditional look.

I generally don't do embroidery, so I chose to add pintucks and buttons to the bodice.  Just a little nod to my humble beginnings in heirloom sewing :)

I drafted my own pants pattern (more about that later this week!) and sewed them from a stretch cotton sateen.  I have never used that particular fabric before, but I definitely will again!

I don't know if you have ever worked with silk dupioni, but that stuff is a bear to sew.  It frays like mad!  Poor Mae ran through my sewing room while I was cutting and ironing and acted like she had just run into a giant spider web :)  And then when I was gathering the ruffles, I had to spend a few minutes collecting silk strands from my clothes and everything else in the general vicinity.  The silk also snags rather easily, but thankfully the slub texture hides any minor imperfections that occur while sewing ... and there were a few :)

I've said it before, and I will probably say it again :)  The Bumblebee Dress is a great pattern that has so much potential for customization.  You can take a look at the other stops on the tour and see for yourself just how true this is!

And we're outta here!  That's all for today :)

Dress - Robert Kaufman Interweave Chambray in Mustard
Bodice/Ruffles - Cream silk dupioni
Pants - Navy stretch cotton sateen from Joann's
Buttons - Joann's
Boots - H&M

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Monday, November 11, 2013

pattern review - japanese pattern book

Before I start my post, I would like to take a moment to thank all of this country's veterans.  I don't know where we would be without you, so thank you from the bottom of my heart!


I've given up the ghost on Pattern Review Fridays :)  It seems that the posts are just as likely to go up on Saturday or Sunday (once on Monday!) so I'm just going to post pattern reviews whenever I feel like it.  Schedules seem to stifle my creativity anyway.  The week will be rolling along just fine until I realize it's Thursday and there's no Pattern Review Friday garment sewn, let alone photographed and ready to be posted :)  So today, you get a pattern review on Monday.  Who knows, maybe next week I'll go wild and post one on a Wednesday!

Today's dress is from the Japanese sewing book A Sunny Spot.  This book, from what I can gather with my nonexistent Japanese language skills, encourages you to mix and match the pattern pieces to create unique garments.  And if it doesn't encourage that, too bad, I did it anyway :)

I started with Dress A type 1, added the sleeves from Dress B type 3 and used the back opening idea from Dress A type 2 although I fully lined the bodice for structure instead of using facings.  I made a size 90 which was perfect except it is a little tights across the back so it may not still fit next spring like I hoped.   But Mae seems to like it so I think it will get plenty of use this fall and winter :)

I love the simplicity of many Japanese patterns.  They lend themselves really well to busy prints like this floral rayon challis.  This is the first time I used that type of fabric, but I already plan to buy more because it is the perfect weight for flowy summer garments ... not that we have much need for those this time of year :)

Originally I used elastic cording to create a button hole loop, but about 5 minutes into wearing it, Mae ripped one half of the button loop right out.  So I redid the back opening with ties instead and ended up liking it better than the original button :)  Gotta love those happy accidents!

Dress - Rayon challis floral print
Tights - Baby Gap
Boots - H&M

Thursday, November 7, 2013

tutorial - sewing the caroline dress

It's time to sew!  If you missed the first post for the Caroline Dress, go here to learn how to draft your pattern and prepare your fabric for sewing.

Sewing the pockets:

Sew the entire dress with a 3/8" seam allowance.

1. Sew the pocket to the pocket lining along the top edge, right sides together

2. Press the seam away from the pocket lining

3.  Fold the pocket in half, right sides together, lining up all the edges.  Sew around the sides and bottom, but leave an opening for turning the pocket right side out.  Make sure to backstitch on either side of the opening so you do not rip your stitches while turning the pocket.

4. Clip the top corners and trim close to the seam along the curves.

5. Turn right side out through the opening, press the edges well and (optional) topstitch about 1" from the top of the pocket.

6.  Repeat for second pocket

Assembling the dress front

7.  Pin the pockets to the dress.  I just eyeballed this step :)  I tried to keep the bottoms of the pockets parallel to the hemline and the tops an equal distance from the center and side seams.

8. Sew along the sides and bottom of the pocket about 1/8" away from the edge.  This will both attach the pocket to the dress and close the opening along the bottom of the pocket

9.  Use pins to mark the center of the skirt and 3" on either side of the center.

10. Lay the fabric wrong side up.  Bring the left side over until the center and left pin are lined up.  Crease the fabric along the fold.  Unfold.  Now bring the right side over until the center and right pin are lined up and crease that fold.  The picture shows the left crease (with notes!) to give you a visual since I'm not sure I can adequately describe this step with words :)

11. With the skirt still wrong side up, bring the center pin over the right hand pin and crease the fold.  Unfold.  Repeat for the other side by placing the center pin over the left hand pin and creasing that fold. You can see in the picture that the the skirt is creased along the original lines I drew while drafting the pattern.  Fold along the creases to make the inverted box pleat.

12. Make sure that the yoke and skirt are the same width.  If they are not, adjust the pleat.

13. Pin the yoke to the skirt

14. Sew and finish/serge the seam

15. Press the seam up and topstitch if desired

16.  Finish constructing the dress according to the directions from this post :)

Red - Chambray
Purple - Interweave Chambray in Sorbet by Robert Kaufman