Thursday, May 30, 2013

knock it off - pale cloud

Have you ever sewn anything just to prove to yourself that you could?  That was exactly what I had in mind when I started this project.  Then, halfway through, I realized I wished I would have used better materials because I ended up really liking the coat.  Oh well ... live and learn ... and buy more materials :)

I have never made a coat before, so why not start with one made from leather (never used that before either) with industrial snaps (don't own any snap pliers) and a mandarin collar (no idea how to draft one) just to keep it simple!  I headed off to buy some supplies from Joann's where I discovered they don't carry any brown leather or even anything that really resembles it.  So, after a lot of searching, I chose a vinyl from the home decorating section and hoped for the best :)  Then I made my way over to the tools area with a whiny one-year-old who was doing some kind of contortionist move to get out of the seat belt.  I swear she can probably turn upside down in the cart but still be buckled within a matter of seconds :)  I attempted to find snaps and snap pliers.  I picked the snaps first (the only gold snaps that remotely resembled the snaps from the original) and then tried to find the appropriate pliers.  The directions on the snap package told me to find a certain size pliers but the pliers weren't labeled with the same sort of notations as the snaps.  After all, why make it easy on the people buying your snaps!  I finally found the the correct pliers behind some miscellaneous snaps and realized that they cost $27.  Thank goodness for 40% off coupons!  At this point, I had been at Joann's for quite a while, so I called it a day and headed home with my upside down toddler :)  Mae thought that was a great idea too!

I made a few changes from the Pale Cloud original only to accommodate my fabric and Michigan's weather :)  I really could not improve on the look of the original in any way!  I started with a combination of patterns T & U from this book:

I used the size 100 pattern pieces shortened to a size 90 and I added 3 inches to the width of the sleeve pattern to create a gathered sleeve.  The coat is a little big, but it won't be worn until fall anyway.  Then I drafted my own mandarin collar.  I wasn't sure if there was anything special I was supposed to do for a mandarin collar so I searched and found a couple of what could generously be called tutorials and then proceeded to figure it out on my own.  Turns out all you need to do is determine the size of the collar, draw a rectangle and curve it up 1/2 - 3/4" on the ends.  Here's a picture of my collar piece (please ignore the extra lines, arrows and scribbles):

I honestly didn't notice the mandarin collar on the cover of the pattern book until just now.  It probably would save me a bit of time if I paid better attention once in a while :)

The only major change I made from the original is to use long sleeves instead of 3/4 sleeves.  I live in Michigan.  For those of you who don't live here, there are only two temperatures in Michigan ... hot & humid or frozen.  Spring is seriously about two minutes long :) So 3/4 sleeves on a coat are one of those fashion trends I refuse to embrace.

This was a very frustrating photo shoot with Mae.  She was way more interested in taking pictures than in being in them!  She just learned how to push the play button and make the pictures appear on the screen, and it is the coolest thing ever when the ball (or wipes container) appears on the screen.  Trust me.  I have proof:

Then Mae spent quite a bit of time trying to take off the coat. Fortunately, she's only one and (although she can do acrobatics in a shopping cart) not quite that coordinated :)

Then I let Mae direct the photo shoot and she introduced some new props.  Apparently, this is one really good book:

Until you get to the end of the book ... or maybe the beginning ... I have no idea if the book is upside down or right side up :)

I really do love this coat.  It's fun without being over-the-top.  I plan to make it again, just out a better material next time ... maybe some navy uncut corduroy with a fun print for the lining. Speaking of the lining, I finished the seams with some bias binding because the vinyl was rather thick and the binding laid better (and looked cute!)  I used elastic to gather the sleeve cuffs instead of bias binding due to the thickness of the vinyl as well.

With some patience I was able to get a few good pictures of Mae.  I may be biased (who would have guessed!), but she is absolutely adorable :)  And look at those curls!

Outer fabric - Brown vinyl from Joann's
Snaps - Gold heavy duty from Joann's
Lining - Colorbok from Joann's (purchased sometime last year)
Binding - Michael Miller bias binding in apple pindot

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

happy 11th birthday!

I hope everyone had a wonderful long Memorial Day weekend.  At our house, we celebrated an 11th birthday :)  Our family came over ... we grilled some great food ... and we celebrated this guy:


Thomas is officially 11 today, but not until 7:28 PM.  He won't let me forget that his birthday isn't "officially" until tonight :)  I think he just wants the day to last until 7:28 PM tomorrow.  After all, who doesn't want an extra day to celebrate!

I think I may have trained Mae a little too well.  I was busy making a dress for Gracie this weekend from the Audrey pattern (still being tested) designed by Peek-a-boo Pattern Shop.  I tried it on Gracie to see how it would fit (great fit!) and as soon as Gracie took it off, Mae walked over to me so she could try it on.  Then she pointed at the camera and made some sound that must mean "get that" (I have no idea if that is true since Mae does not say any actual words yet) and ran over to one of the spots where I often take her picture.  She was so proud of herself, so I had to share the picture!


And a pile of goodies ... hopefully blogged about starting on Thursday!

Friday, May 24, 2013

pattern review friday: oliver & s doll carrier

The kids are home from school today for the holiday weekend, and we are having an 11th birthday party on Sunday for Thomas.  So, to avoid going insane, today's project had to be quick and simple :)  I remembered this post from Jess at CINO and knew exactly what I wanted to make!

Just before Mae turned one, she discovered the wonderful world of baby dolls.  She wasn't quite walking yet, and carrying around her sister's Bitty Baby proved to be a bit difficult, so we took a trip to Target to find her the perfect size doll.  We picked this one since it was light weight and just the right size (and price!) Now, at 20 months, Mae just adores carrying around her baby (who really needs a name because I call Mae "baby doll" all the time and it gets kind of confusing!)  I thought maybe she would enjoy having a carrier so she would still have her hands free to do other things, like eat a giant carrot, although that wasn't exactly what I was thinking when I picked this project :) In the end, it didn't matter if baby is in a carrier or not, because Mae still holds her.  I don't think she fully trusts the carrier yet not to drop her baby!

The pattern for the carrier can be found in this book:

Leisl at Oliver & S creates easy-to-follow patterns that are great for all sewing levels.  This pattern was quite simple and only took an evening to sew, which included the time needed to trace the pattern and re-thread my machine after having a certain one-year-old climb all over me and rip the spool of thread right out of it :)  I used snaps to make the carrier adjustable so it will work for many years to come.  Just to be sure, I had my 7-year-old Gracie try it on, and it fit her too.  Although I have absolutely no proof since she wasn't about to let me take a picture of her wearing a doll carrier because she's too old for that :(  I want to know what happened to my little girl when I wasn't looking!


Main fabric - Riley Blake
Polka Dot - Michael Miller Dumb Dot in Candy
Snaps - Plastic snaps from
Buttons - Joann's

Thursday, May 23, 2013

knock it off - mini boden

Heidi from Elegance & Elephants is hosting a series this month called Knock it Off.

 Elegance & Elephants

For anyone who doesn't know what the series is about, a bunch of great designers choose outfits to imitate and then share on their blogs how they created the items.  Here's some of my favorite knock offs so far this month:

Mini Boden skirt by Sweeter Than Cupcakes

Color Pop Top by you & mie

Bulle de Savon dress by Sewing Like Mad

Plus there are lots of others to see on the flickr group!


I have always loved reading blog posts where an "everyday person" (and I mean that in the nicest possible way) knocks off something expensive ... often better than the original!  It amazes me that designer name brands can charge so much money for something that can be recreated by me ... and I am definitely an everyday person :)  So, here's my knock off for today - the chambray sun dress from Mini Boden:

I had to make a few changes to make the dress a bit more 1-year-old friendly :)  I used a slightly higher bodice than the original because toddler bellies and longer bodices don't always go together!  I also used three stripes on the skirt instead of four because I thought it looked better.  My color choices were dictated by supplies on hand because I've learned that two sick kids does not equal a trip to the fabric store :(  I was slightly short on fabric too so I fudged my pattern a little to use up all the bits and pieces.  Regardless of any changes made ... or perhaps because of them ... I love how this dress turned out!

I really winged it as I designed and sewed this.  I started with a basic bodice pattern that fits Mae well.  I drew a curve across the top of the pattern and used that to draft both the bodice and the collar.  The back of the bodice is a simple rectangle.  Because this dress is made in a smallish size (18-24 months), I was able to combine the front and back bodice pieces before cutting to make the finished bodice from one pattern piece. The stripes on the original dress appear to made of bias cut fabric, but I wanted to make it a little easier on myself, so I used grosgrain ribbon.  I drew straight lines and used a narrow zigzag stitch to attach the ribbon to the skirt before I attached it to the bodice.  Just a tip: when attaching grosgrain ribbon, the iron should be your best friend :)  It creates a much neater finished product.

The back of the dress is actually rather simple.  It closes all the way down the back with pink buttons sewn on with navy contrasting thread.  By some fluke, two of the buttons line up perfectly with two of the rows of ribbons.  I love it when that happens!

The toughest part of the entire dress was getting the straps right.  I must have basted those things on to the bodice 5-6 times before I finally got them right.  Mae has tiny baby shoulders so straps seem to just slide right off of her.  In fact, she takes advantage of that all the time to strip her clothes right off whenever possible!  I was lucky she left this dress on all the way through pictures :)

I attached the buttons using this technique again, and I love it even more on this dress.  It just gives it that little something extra!  The total cost for this dress was actually $0 (free yay!) since I had all the materials on hand.  You certainly can't beat that!  However, I imagine it would cost less than $15 even if all the materials were purchased brand new, which is still significantly cheaper than the $48 price to buy it from Boden :)

Fabric - Blue Chambray I've had for years (has a lovely sheen)
Buttons - Pink plastic from Joann's
Piping - Pink Crocus mini piping (purchased many years ago)
Ribbon - Offray grosgrain in red, pink and navy

Monday, May 20, 2013

vintage 1968 dress

I love vintage clothing, so Vintage May, a series hosted by Jessica from Craftiness is Not Optional and Kristin from Skirt as Top is really just a great excuse to sew my favorite clothes for little girls.

 A few years ago, I bought a huge lot of vintage patterns at a garage sale for a couple of dollars.  I only kept a few of them and this pattern from 1968 was one of my favorites.  The original pattern was a size 3, and Mae is a skinny 18-24 months, so the dress is a little wide, but I like it that way, and hopefully it will fit for a while.

I love the style, but the back of the dress was really boring, so I decided to make some changes to the pattern pieces before I got started.  Once I finished making the changes, not one single piece was the same, so I'd say this pattern was more of an inspiration than anything :)  One of the biggest changes was to shorten the dress into a tunic.  Mae has way more dresses (enough for 3-4 kids I'm sure) than she needs between my sewing and two very indulgent grandmas, so I wanted something a bit more versatile.  This top is practical by itself in the summer and should still look cute with a white long sleeve shirt and jeans in the fall & winter.

I added white piping to the seams because piping is frequently used in vintage clothing for a finished look.  But even after the piping, the top was still missing something.  So I added every kid's favorite detail, a pocket!  Mae just loved it when she figured out her kazoo fit in there, although it didn't stay in for long :)

The pattern called for the back to close with a hidden zipper, but I thought making the back closures part of the design would make it even cuter.  I found this post which has the most adorable way of attaching the buttons.  Not only is it cute, but it took less time than the traditional method.  And since I hate attaching buttons, it's possible that every button I use from now on will be finished just like these!

This next picture was the best I could get of the sides of the top.  Mae will look at me and smile for the camera now, but she still doesn't get it when I tell her to turn around.  She turns in a complete circle and ends up facing me again.  If I turn her around myself, she will stay there for maybe 3 seconds before she turns back :)  And she only seems to know how to face toward me or away from me.  There doesn't seem to be any middle ground. I have learned to take very quick pictures and just accept (and edit!) whatever I end up with.  I'm pretty sure I took this picture in the middle of a spin while she was holding her hand out for balance :)

Fabric - Red chambray from Joann's
Buttons - Joann's
Piping - Micro piping purchased many years ago (any packaged piping would work as well)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

vintage geranium pattern

I posted a picture of another Geranium dress I made during Kids Clothes Week, and I thought I would share some more pictures as part of the Vintage May series hosted by Jessica from Craftiness is Not Optional and Kristin from Skirt as Top.  I love using a modern pattern to make a timeless dress.  The simple feedsack-ish (I know, not a word) orange print, cream linen fabric and pearl buttons all help give this dress that vintage feel.

This dress pattern might be my favorite pattern EVER!  I thought I would mention that just in case you couldn't figure it out from the many Geranium dresses/tunics/tops that I made recently :) 

I made a size 18-24 months but lengthened the bodice by 1" and shortened the skirt by the same amount.  I cut the skirt from the gathered skirt pattern piece before I remembered that I wanted to make a pleated skirt.  I didn't want to re-cut it, so I tried using math to make my own pleats.  That worked, but I did have to recalculate a few times.  I used to be much better at math before my kids sapped all my braincells right out of my head :)  Next time I will use the pattern piece provided and not rely on my faulty brain!

The buttons are vintage pearl buttons from the 1950s.  I am lucky enough to have a husband that came across a bunch of them at an estate he was helping clean out one day.  I think he feared for his life if he didn't bring them home to me :)  I used four buttons rather than the three called for in the patten because it worked better with the changes I made.

Cream solid - Linen blend remnant from Joann's
Orange print -DS Quilts Collection for Fabric Traditions From Joann's
Button - Vintage pearl from 1950s

Monday, May 13, 2013

pattern review friday: heidi & finn sweet wrap reversible dress

Pattern review Friday + one sick baby + one sick mama + one broken internet connection = pattern review Monday :)  Today's pattern is the Sweet Wrap Reversible Dress from Heidi & Finn.  Go here to see all the adorable patterns available for sale on Etsy or here for a look at the Heidi & Finn blog.  This pattern is sold as a dress, but in the smaller sizes this would be a great wrap shirt for a baby boy as well.


I purchased the pdf pattern about two years ago but hadn't had a chance to try it yet, so keep in mind that there may have been revisions since then.  I printed only the pages of the pattern that I needed to make a size 2T.  I have printed many pdf patterns, and I honestly didn't like the way this one fit together. First, there isn't a test square to be sure that the pattern printed the correct size.  And second, the top of the sleeve is a totally different width than the bottom of the sleeve.  Just an fyi, I cut the pattern using the width of the top portion of the sleeve which sewed up beautifully.


This little quirk was odd too.  I've never had a pdf pattern that had a gap in the middle of the pattern, but it worked ok anyway :)


I made a few minor changes to the pattern.  I chose to shorten the pattern to make a top instead of a dress which just entailed cutting the pattern a little shorter.  I also didn't want a reversible top, so I was able to simplify the sewing a bit by finishing the inside seams with my serger.  I closed the inside part of the wrap with a snap and the outside portion with four buttons.  I also shortened the sleeves slightly and added cuffs.  None of the changes modified the shape of the pattern which is very well designed.  It is slightly big, but Mae doesn't quite wear a size 2T yet, so I expected that :)


I added a notch to the sleeve cuff for a little bit of interest.  I think I may have been making too many Geranium dresses lately :)


I planned to line the buttons up with the side seam, but Mae's "little" toddler belly needed some extra room, so I angled the buttons away from the seam slightly.  I think this ended up being really cute so I'm glad she has a bit of a belly :)


Overall, I really like the Heidi & Finn Sweet Wrap Reversible Dress pattern.  It is well designed and quite easy to sew.  The directions are well written and very easy to follow.  I would recommend this pattern to any level of sewer, from beginner to advanced :)

Outer fabric - grey chambray from Joann's
Lining - red micro stripe from who knows where from who knows when :)
Snaps - red plastic snaps from Joann's

Thursday, May 9, 2013

valentine's outfit ... a little late :)

I think I realized Valentine's Day was coming up really fast somewhere around the 13th of February :)  I needed something really easy to make, and I really wanted pieces that could be worn separately throughout the year.  We live in Michigan, and I seem to remember that the temperature on Valentine's Day was somewhere around -5, so you have to imagine this outfit with a long sleeve shirt and leggings under it :)

The inspiration for this skirt came from this tutorial at Craftiness is Not Optional.  I followed the tutorial exactly and loved how incredibly easy it was!  I chose to use a different pattern for the reverse applique.  I searched for "heart line drawing" and once I found an image that I liked, I simply printed it at about 50% for the big heart and 30% for the two smaller hearts.  Then I cut them out of some grey knit I had laying around and followed Jessica's method for reverse applique.

The applique on the shirt is cut out of the remnants of the t-shirt used to make the skirt.  I drew up some block letters on the computer, printed them, and traced them onto the knit.  I used fusible interfacing on the back of letters, but cut it slightly smaller than the knit letters because I wanted the edges of the knit to wear when I washed it. 

The red t-shirt is Jerzees brand in a size adult XS from Joann's and the grey and white striped t-shirt is a size 2T from Old Navy.

Talk about a versatile outfit!  It even goes with big brother's shoes and the lime green sleeping bag :)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

failure is an option

I'll just come right out and say it ... I'm a big fat coward.  I'm deathly afraid of knits :)  I kept a few of my maternity clothes after Mae was born so I could repurpose them for one of the kids.  However, they are all knits.  I have no idea what I was thinking.  I have this plastic bin full of fabric that intimidates me to no end.  I hid it on a shelf in the basement to no avail.  I swear it is laughing at me :)

The other day I decided to not be afraid any longer, so I opened that bin and just chose one of the shirts hoping to turn it in to something new. Just look at this beautiful before picture.  I have no idea what I was thinking when I bought this.  After all, bold horizontal stripes look just great when nine months pregnant :)

The pattern for the shirt is from this Japanese pattern book:

I cut the pattern in a size 100 which ended up being too big when made from a knit.  A size 90 with some extra length would have been a much better choice (mistake #1). My second mistake was choosing to use a thin knit in the first place.  As I was sewing, I realized it doesn't hold it's shape at all when cut, so the neckline ended up being much bigger than it should have been.  Then I tried to salvage the too large neckline by using the original hood binding (mistake #3).  The pattern calls for a bias binding closure around the neckline which probably would have laid much better.  The best thing I did was salvage the existing shirt hem and the sleeve cuffs just to make it easier on myself.

Once I chose to change the neckline, I had to modify the back closure as well.  I love how this looks, but I don't know how it will hold up since I didn't use any stabilizer for the button holes (mistake #4) since the closure was really more of an afterthought rather than a planned detail.


Please ignore the pantless diaper look!

Overall, I love this pattern.  And I'm no longer afraid of knits :)  But now I'm absolutely terrified of bindings, pattern sizing and button holes!  Oh well.  You win some and you lose some.  

This shirt might have been full of small failures, but I still ended up with a finished product.  And Mae will wear it once she actually grows into it a bit more!

Friday, May 3, 2013

pattern review friday: japanese pattern book

It's time for another pattern review!


I selected another pattern from this book:


This time I chose to make pattern r with the sleeves from pattern h in a size 90.  In the book, the shirt is made from a lightweight knit, but I chose to repurpose an old American Girl sweatshirt (free advertising anyone?) that belonged to my oldest daughter.  The heavyweight knit made the shirt fit a bit smaller than I would have liked, so I think I would size up to the size 100 next time around :)  I kind of forgot to take a before picture, so this is as good as it gets:


I used the existing hem band and sleeve cuffs for the new shirt which eliminated a ton of the work involved with making this shirt.  I copied the pattern pieces, cut everything out and sewed the entire shirt in about an hour.  The shoulder/neck closes with metallic silver colored plastic snaps.  There was no way I was going to be able to make button holes through that many layers of heavy fabric!  But I ended up really liking the look of the snaps because the shirt is quite casual looking anyway.  In the book, the neck is slouchy and buttoned all the way up, but I'm afraid Mae wouldn't be too comfortable if I did that to her, so she wears it folded over which is just as cute.


I really love this pattern and plan on making another version out of a lighter weight fabric.  Maybe I'll make the dress version shown in the book the next time.

Photo shoots have become "interesting" lately.  Mae doesn't want to leave baby anywhere, so she tends to get in a lot of pictures :)


And somebody sure does need a haircut!