Sunday, April 1, 2012

You May Have Noticed...

I am having trouble keeping up with two blogs. It was to be expected, but since I conceived of this blog as more of a personal journal, I thought it would not really matter.

Anyway, I have decided to simplify and to stop posting on this blog. I will continue to post about sewing with little ones on my other blog, Mommy Repeat, so if you do not do so already, come by and visit there. In fact, there will be a new post tomorrow about a project that Evan and I just finished together, a perfect one for little hands.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Phooey again!

Man, I just do not seem to have any luck right now. First, my family and I went through a glasses and dishes breaking spree, working our way down to just barely enough to function. Then, my camera died. Okay, so it was a cheap camera to begin with and it lasted me for a little over a year of very heavy use, but still.

Then, the other day, our toilet started running and leaking out all over the bathroom floor. We have fixed this toilet so many times in the last year or two and we knew it would have to be replaced soon, but that does not make me any more excited about doing so.

And now, worst of all, my sewing machine died...right in the middle of making this adorable little pocket that will go on the bag I am making for my nephew for his birthday. This pocket is seriously so cute! But not cute enough to give to my nephew by itself...although if I got the right box and packed it in some sparkly paper, it might just do. He is only turning two, after all.

Anyway, I was replacing the needle two days ago, just before I got ready to sew the little pocket onto the front piece of the bag. When I went to put the new needle in, the whole mechanism fell off and a tiny little piece fell out and rolled across the desk. Tiny little pieces never mean good things...

I took the machine to a repair shop yesterday and they said it would cost more to fix than the machine is worth. It was a very inexpensive machine bought by my husband on a whim before either of us had a real desire to learn to sew. So, I guess I am in the market for a new machine.

I can easily look on the bright side. It is always bittersweet when things break and you can replace them with better ones. That is what happened with my camera. I upgraded a lot this time around and am having so much fun with my new Nikon D3100.

But I just finished researching cameras and now I have to research sewing machines. That is just way too much internet surfing for me for one week. Not to mention the expense. I am thankful for the big tax refund that is coming just at the right time...

So, here I am hoping that someone - anyone - will have a recommendation for a mid-range machine, ideally in the $200-300 range. What kind of machine do you use?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

The Other Pair

Evan wore his second pair of new handmade pants today, made of red and white seersucker, this time without pockets. He requested a pink button on the front, so I sewed that on this morning. It was a good idea actually, since it will help him to figure out where the front of the pants are without the cues of tags or pockets.

When I was making these pants, I was convinced that they were going to look like pajamas, but they do not! I think the double stitching on the hem does a lot to give the pants a more finished look. Evan was a bit disappointed that I did not add pockets this time, but I really wanted to get this pair done quickly and I was, in fact, able to put them together in one day.

In case you are wondering, my boys have been obsessed with watering the weeds in this corner of our yard. Can you tell? If you've seen my pictures on my other blog (Mommy Repeat), you will know that brown and dirty are apt words to describe the world in which I live. This green looks downright unnatural!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Ready for the Next Project

I just ordered some of this adorable fabric.

Source: via Katie on Pinterest

I cannot wait to see it in person. It is going to become a shoulder bag for my nephew, who is about to turn two in just a couple weeks. I am going to have to do some quick work to get it across the country in time, especially because my sister and her family are moving within days after Owen's birthday. Actually, a sewing deadline sounds like it could be a fun thing...

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Another Saturday Night

Why I am posting on a Saturday night at eight, you ask? There is a good explanation for it. I am waiting for my husband to finish the dishes so we can watch a movie...and if I go out in the kitchen, I might have to help him with the dishes. (Yes, I am actually admitting that...)

So, I am hiding out in the office and though I would take this chance to post some pictures of my little guy in his new grey twill pocket pants that I made for him last week. So seriously cute!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I had a very productive week with sewing, mostly thanks to the freedom that comes with grandparent visits, lending me a few extra minutes each day to make a little progress with my projects.

I started the week working on a dress for myself, a jumper of green twill that I am hoping will be good with a long-sleeved shirt and tights in the winter as well as alone in the summer. I really did not make much visible progress on this, since I have not even started cutting the twill. But I decided to take the advice of a kind reader who suggested making the dress out of muslin first to check on the size. So, I did cut the muslin, but have not started putting anything together yet.

But what a pleasure it was to cut out the muslin on my NEW large cutting mat. I thought maybe I was whining about nothing and was ready to chalk up my unsuccessful cutting experiences to my lack of abilities, but once again the proper tools saved the day. If you do not have one of these yet, start watching for sales. I have been on the lookout for a couple months and found one last week for less than half off.

I decided to take a break from the dress for a bit though. I kept watching my three-year-old hitch at his pants every few seconds and started to feel guilty that I was "pleasure sewing" for myself. Evan is as skinny as can be and we almost never find a pair of ready-to-wear pants that fit him both in the waist and the length. I have recently started to think that I need to just start making his pants, at least a few pairs so that he can have a few days of rest a week without having to worry constantly that his pants are about to fall down.

I managed to make him two pairs this week - one in grey twill with an orange and white striped contrasting fabric and one in red and white seersucker. They are both adorable and fit him perfectly. Hooray! The grey ones, which I made from a pattern in Meg McElwee's Growing Up Sew Liberated, even have pockets, a first for me.

But, phooey! My camera just broke yesterday. So, so sad about this. And just on the day when I was ready to take some pictures of Evan wearing his pants. Time to work on that tax return, I guess.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Desperately Seeking Sizing Advice

I really want to make something for myself. I have yet to make myself anything (other than my buckets) and I am really itching to do so. Not to mention that I could really use some new clothes. I bought a few patterns a while back and planned to jump right in, but I have been feeling a little intimidated.

First, I just cannot bring myself to by fabric locally. Our independent fabric store is a quilting store only - nothing but cotton prints. And the chains definitely cater to the majority - pink kitties and college football galore. I could probably root through with some effort and find something I could wear, but that is not really a job that I can do with two kids in tow. (Can anyone do this? I would love some advice!)

So, okay. I can buy fabric online and I have spent time on a few website...but once again, my lack of experience is rearing its ugly head. I just do not know anything about different types of fabrics, definitely not enough to choose something off of a computer screen.

Then here is the last problem keeping me more nervous than I should be. When I measure myself based on the Simplicity pattern I bought, I am a size 10. In ready-to-wear clothing, I am a size 00. (I am so, so sick of vanity sizing! The stores have almost sized me out completely! Some already have. And I have not changed my size or weight in a very, very long time. If I could only be a size 4 again...)

Can someone tell me if that is really possible. I have been reading around and most people seem to suggest that there is a difference of four sizes between ready-to-wear and pattern sizing, which would make me a size 4 (?) in pattern sizing. I do have a fairly wide rib cage and broad shoulders for my size, but I am small-chested, 5'4" and I weight around 115 pounds, I would guess. I have measured myself many times and I keep getting the same thing. I even cut out one of my patterns to fit a size 10, but I cannot bring myself to go any further.

Please help!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A First Sewing Project for Little Ones

When I first started sewing late last year, Evan wanted to learn with me. Every time I pulled out my fabric or started to hook up my sewing machine, he was there waiting to help. Often he sat next to me while I sewed and I talked him through what I was doing, answering his questions and explaining the things I too was just learning. When we got a bit braver, I let him handle my pin cushion. He carefully handed me pins when I needed them and returned them to the cushion when I finished. He was happy to watch, but when his little hands started to stray a bit too close to my work, wanting so much to be involved, I knew I had either to sew only at night after he went to bed or I had to find him his own work.

Without any idea whether a three-year-old could even sew at all, I started to search around for answers. I found my first one in The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule. She wrote about teaching her young son to sew using burlap and an embroidery hoop. So we thought we would give it a try. 

This was Evan's very first moment with his own sewing project. He picked out a few shades of pink embroidery thread (his favorite color) and we bought him a large, blunt plastic needle. I sat with him and taught him how to direct the needle through the fabric, first from the bottom and then from the top. He made giant stitches and smaller ones. He wrapped the thread around the side of the hoop countless times and then worked to figure out how to correct it. He switched to yellow thread and then back to pink again.

It took a few times for him to be able to sew on his own without my assistance. But now he can work at a piece of burlap or lightweight muslin for quite a while by himself, as long as I have enough needles threaded and waiting for him. Because of the size of his stitches, he goes through a piece of thread rather quickly, but I do not want to cut the thread any longer (we make it about the length of his one arm) because it will become too cumbersome for him.

We kept a couple of his old early projects to make into something, though they are quite fragile and probably will not hold up to too much love. I think we might just hang them as is or store them away in Evan's project box. Either way, they make us both proud.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Dear Saint Anthony

I am not a Catholic, though I was raised that way. Actually, I am not even a Christian. But I believe in Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things. He is the favorite saint of my whole family - my mother, sisters, brother and I all take regular advantage of his services and I can say that he has (almost) never failed us.

I would have said never, except we recently lost one of my seventeen-month-old's shoes...just one...and after months of looking, we still have not found it. We thought Saint Anthony finally came through last month when my three-year-old admitted that he put it inside the wall when it had been open for some renovation projects last year. Luckily, we had a small section of wall screwed back on without being patched because it gives us access to water shut-off valves for our bathroom. So, we pulled the screws out, convinced that Saint Anthony had saved the day. But no luck, no shoe inside the wall. (Yes, I am really hoping that Evan did not mean a different wall!) I have not lost faith though. I know Saint Anthony will come through for me in the end, although I imagine Clayton will have long outgrown the shoes by then.

So, I was determined to get through a few projects tonight. I was moving along at a pleasingly productive pace when my bobbin thread ran out. Arghh!

I had been making such fine progress that the idea of stopping to wind a bobbin seemed unpleasant. Sloth, I know, one of the seven deadly sins and probably the karmic root of all that followed. Anyway, I was using off-white thread and was only sewing seams for a tote bag liner, so I figured it would not matter in the least if I used pure white bobbin thread. I grabbed one of the white bobbins that had come with the machine and put it into the bobbin case. I was winding it through when the thread broke and I had to pull the bobbin out of the case to relocate the end of the thread. That is when I discovered that, apparently, the bobbin that "came with the machine" maybe did not come with the machine after all. Or maybe it did. (My husband bought the machine well before I started sewing and I had nothing to do with its early days as a member of our family. I truly do not know where these bobbins came from.) Either way, it clearly did not fit in my machine's bobbin case. The bobbin was stuck - it would not budge when I shook it, or when I pulled at it with the tips of my embroidery scissors, or when I poked at it through the small hole on the back of the bobbin case.

The only way to get it out again was to loosen the screw on the side of the bobbin case - you know the tiny one that you turn to adjust the lower thread tension. I was actually feeling pretty good about myself that I had thought of that screw and, filled with pride (another deadly sin, I know), I turned it just a bit too much. Out it flew and the bobbin case popped apart, tumbling to the floor. When I went to retrieve the pieces, the screw was nowhere to be found.

I did not even wait a minute. I knew this was a lost cause without even starting to look for screw. I prayed immediately to Saint Anthony.

Dear Saint Anthony, please come around. There is something lost and it can't be found.

I got down on my hands and knees and looked. I lay down with my face pressed against the carpet and  looked again. I ran my hand and then my fingertips over the carpet. I looked in the cuffs of my pants and in my pockets. I went to the garage to get the flashlight and kept looking, hoping I would see the glint of a  minute piece of metal. Then, I repeated these steps. Still no screw.

I figured I would have to give in and buy a new bobbin case, thus abandoning my hopes of doing some sewing tonight. As a last effort, I decided to check to see if, perhaps, the machine had come with something like the repair kits for eyeglasses, including a teeny tiny screwdriver and extra teeny tiny screws. I started pulling things out of the machine's storage box and OH MY! the bobbin case screw was sitting right there in the bottom of the box.

Thank you, Saint Anthony! You did it again!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Simple Upcycled Sewing Cards for Kids

I wanted to make Evan some homemade sewing cards. Now, I am really not at all artistic and cannot draw much more than a stick figure and maybe a basic house (with curtains on the windows!). So, I knew that drawing my own sewing cards was absolutely out of the question.

I started looking around for things I could turn into sewing cards. They needed to be something I did not mind cutting up, sturdy enough to withstand some little boy love, and lovely enough to captivate a three-year-old.

Okay, so maybe captivating a three-year-old is easier than what it would take to draw the attention of us big people. Kids look at everything with interest and find beauty in the most average of everyday things. I went to the craft store a few weeks ago with my seventeen-month-old, Clayton, and he spent the entire shopping trip pointing to just about everything we passed and shouting "Pri-tee!"

Anyway, cereal boxes seemed like they would work just fine. I started to collect any empty boxes with interesting images that would be large enough without cutting into a bunch of text. To add to the variety, I collected any other paperboard boxes (crackers, cookies, etc.), as well as plastic-coated milk and juice containers. I cut out the picture, punched holes around the sides of the card or along the edges of the image, and gave them to Evan to try out.

He used his own blunt, plastic needle threaded with embroidery floss.

Another trip to the craft store is really in order before I will be totally happy with the results, but Evan was so, so excited about these sewing cards. Really the holes need to be smaller and I need to get some yarn instead of the embroidery floss that we used. But we worked with what we had and cobbled together something that was surprisingly successful. I just clumped a piece of tape around the end of the thread to prevent it from popping though the holes.

Steps to make your cards even better than mine!

  • Cut out tons of cards (we have six right now and are still collecting)
  • Punch holes in the edges with a small hole punch
  • Thread a large, blunt needle (plastic or metal) with yarn
  • Tie the top end of the yarn around the needle to keep it from falling out while your child is sewing
  • Tie a knot at the bottom of the yarn as you would for normal sewing

As your child is beginning, help them point their needle in the right direction through the holes with some gentle reminders. We pretended that animals were hopping or crawling over our cards and even added stickers to help us visualize this. On our card shaped like a leaf, we talked about the caterpillar who was eating from the top of the leaf and then from the bottom. As Evan was sewing, I repeated, "Now the caterpillar climbs UP through the hole. Now the caterpillar climbs DOWN through the hole..." If Evan missed a hole or wrapped the thread around the side of the card, we would say, "Oops! What is that silly caterpillar doing!"and would work together to get the caterpillar untangled and back to the right place.

Evan loved these cards, even with all of their flaws. They kept his attention and made him giggle a lot too. It was great to watch his focus and to see him learn - by the time we got to the third card or so, he was able to notice and correct his own mistakes and no longer needed constant reminders to bring the needle up and down. I imagine that he will be able to pick these cards up and practice his sewing on his own the next time, as long as I leave some needles already threaded and at the ready.

Little Man Sewing

My three-year-old, Evan, has shown an interest in learning to sew right along with me. Of course, he shows as interest in most everything I do, so this does not necessarily mean a life-long commitment. But as long as the desire is there, I am happy to teach him as much as I know.  As a sewing novice myself, this is not much. But since a three-year-old cannot really do more than the basics anyway, it has not been hard for me to come up with a few small projects.

I have been searching for resources on teaching young children to sew and have come up with a few things, but most of the books and websites I find are geared more toward school-aged children and older. Not only this, but many of the resources seem to focus on girls. Now Evan's favorite color is pink and he is a big fan of frills and flowers - I am in no way opposed to doing "girly" projects with my little boy, but I am still searching for a little more variety.

Here are some of the resources I have found that seem promising:
  • Sewing School - a blog about teaching children to sew (mostly school-aged), though some of their projects seem do-able with a younger child. They also have published a book, which I would love to see in person.
  • The Creative Family by Amanda Blake Soule - this book has a couple of sewing projects appropriate for very young children
  • Sewing for Children by Emma Hardy - I have not actually seen this book, but have read about it and it looks really good
I would love to hear about any more resources that people have found out there for sewing with young children. Do you know of any other relevant books or websites?

In the meantime, I thought I would contribute to the conversation by sharing some of the projects on which Evan and I have worked. I have added a tab on my homepage where you will find any of my posts about sewing with Evan. If you decide to do any of these projects with your children, I would love to hear about your experiences! Feel free to comment on my post - include a link to your own blog if you choose to write about them there.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Have Actually Been Sewing

I have actually been sewing...just a little bit. I think I am going to do some tonight. I made two more morning tote bags for my boys and have done lots of washing, ironing and squaring off fabric. The ironing is actually growing on me a little bit, but I still really dislike cutting. I keep thinking a larger cutting mat will solve this problem, but maybe the problem is me...

Anyway, last night I was greatly productive, although not at all with sewing projects. I had a few other craft projects waiting to be finished (and of course lots of picking up, folding laundry, and other such things that wait for me every night). Thought I would share the crafts with you, even if this is a little removed from my sewing progress. Fun, nonetheless...

My husband and I finally finished the coat rack we have been talking about for weeks. We were inspired by this post on Pinterest and made it out of two pieces we cut from the branches we found on that windy day last month.

We sawed a bit off the back to help the branches sit flush against the wall, drilled recessed holes to hold the screws and screwed the branches into drywall anchors right inside our front door. We added a few hooks to the bottom of each and they were ready for little jackets and hats.

I also finished a set of homemade Valentine's Day cards that I helped the boys make for our extended family, again inspired by something I found on Pinterest. I will post pictures of these later because they just got in the mail today and I do not want to ruin the surprise. I will tell you for now that they are seriously adorable...

So tonight, more bags. And maybe I will finally get up the nerve to order some fabric samples for a few other projects that I have waiting in the wings - a dress for me and some placemats for the kids. Somehow, choosing fabric intimidates me...I think it would be easier if I could go straight to the store and feel my way around, but the fabric stores here are really lacking (lots of pink kitties and college sports logos). For anything other than cotton prints, I will have to turn to online sources.

Any advice about buying fabric online?

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Nursing T-Shirt Tutorial from Cemamanlafée - In English!!

********Thanks for visiting my post. I love this shirt and hope the translation helps other moms to take advantage of Christelle's creation. I hope you will take the time to come by my other blog - Mommy Repeat - for tons of great ideas for fun with little ones. I even have a special section about sewing with kids!*********

Have you seen this super practical and seriously cute nursing t-shirt on Pinterest?

It is the creation of Christelle at Cemamanlafée, a French-language sewing and crafting blog. This t-shirt has been garnering quite a bit of attention on Pinterest, but seems to have left many anglophones wishing for an explanation of the process in English. With Christelle's permission, I thought I would provide one here. Below is the English-language translation of the tutorial. If you want to see some additional photos of the shirt, check out the original post or the PDF version.

Nursing T-Shirt in Striped Jersey Cotton - Tutorial (for European size 36*)

1. Cut the pattern pieces. (It is not even worth the effort for me to draw it for you): 2 rectangles 40 cm (16 in) long by 50 cm (19.5 in) wide for the front and the back; a band 135 cm (53 in) long by 20 cm (8 in) wide for the wraparound/shoulder part.

2. Sew a small hem on the top edge of the front and back pieces. (I used a rolled hem.)

3. While you are at it, keep going and sew a rolled hem on the two long sides of the long band. And while we are thinking of it, mark the center of the long band and of the back piece (top edge).

4. Gather the two short sides of the long band (elastic thread shirring).

5. Pin the two (shirred) ends of the long band to the upper section of the front piece (wrong side of the band facing right side of the front). This is the only tricky part of the process! I think the simplest way to do this is to stand in front of the mirror with four pins in your mouth. Place the rectangle for the front piece on your body (with the rolled hem at the top of the breasts), pin the first edge of the long band under the right armpit, then position the band correctly (without twisting the fabric) so that it covers (in this order): the right breast, the left shoulder, the back, the right shoulder, and you are back to the left breast. Place two pins under the left armpit and you've got it. Phew! Take everything off and you will swear that it does not look like much of anything and that you definitely made a mistake. You will check the placement of the long band a second time. OK, it is fine, even if it does not look like it. Leave the pins where they are and sew these seams.

6. Sew the front and back together (right sides facing, then turn it right side classic!)

7. Put the shirt back on and try to reposition the band to make a nice crossed neckline. Once again, you will think that you actually did mess up, that it is impossible. You will realize that you put your head through the wrong hole. Fix this and you will arrive at something wearable. Have someone help you or fight it out yourself to place two pins spaced 20 cm (8 in) apart at the meeting of the top of the back and the long band (so that the two marks made in the center of the back and the band come together.) Turn the shirt inside out again and sew between the two pins.

8. Sew a hem along the bottom edge of the shirt.

*I believe that european size 36 is equivalent to US size 4, but I have seen everything from a 2 to a 6 in my internet searches.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

I Must Be Learning Something

I started making some tote bags the other night to use as morning dressing bags for my boys. (We are working on little guy independence in our house.) I am using the instructions from Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family, but - and here is the exciting part - I changed the bag to add a lining and to make the dimensions smaller. All by myself.

I guess those buckets I made have found their way into an actual base of sewing knowledge and experience. I basically followed the same general process here as I did there.

I finished the first tote tonight and, other than some pretty crooked topstitching around the bag opening, it came out beautifully. I could probably pull out the topstitching and redo it because the machine actually missed the lower fabric in a few places, but I am not really ready to be a sewing perfectionist. I am still learning after all....

I think I might play with the dimensions again when I make the next bag. Something a little shorter and fatter would probably be better for little hands. I want to make fourteen of these - one for each day of the week for each boy. I will put an outfit in each one when I am folding laundry and then our older son, who is three and a half, can start getting himself dressed after he finishes his breakfast and the grown-ups are still working on ours. (If he is willing to participate, that is.)

Monday, January 30, 2012

The Answer Was Right In Front of Me

Okay, am I the only one who did not figure it out? "Sharpies bleed through sewing patterns." The answer was right in front of me the whole time.  Instead of tracing the pattern onto the butcher paper, why not switch the paper around and let the sharpie bleed through? Yes! This works much better.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

A Bad Idea Involving a Sharpie

I have not done a bit of sewing in over a week. This is not for lack of desire, of course. My husband has been working almost non-stop in an effort to pull the last bits of his dissertation together - most days this has meant he has been gone from ten in the morning until well after midnight, and then sleeping until nine the next morning. So, I have been seriously busy with kids and home and everything else that is much easier with two bodies around. Plus I always seem to have trouble falling asleep when my husband is not at home so I have been up late hours too, but mostly laying in bed wishing I were asleep. Right now, in fact, he is still at work and I have a world of dishes, laundry and picking up waiting for me in the other room.

But I am ignoring it. I have had a thousand projects bouncing around in my head and in my ideas book that have been waiting for me. (Maybe this is part of what has been keeping me up at night...) I want to make:

  • Placemats for the kids from Meg McElwee's Growing Up Sew Liberated
  • A few much needed shirt(s) for me
  • T-shirts for the kids
  • A birthday present for my mother-in-law
  • A pencil roll for Evan from Amanda Blake Soule's The Creative Family
  • Good morning dressing bags for the kids 
And that does not include the non-sewing projects, in particular a handful of plans that Evan and I have for some beautiful branches we found fallen after a wind storm last week.  

So, I took the kids out to the fabric store yesterday, although I should have been getting them outside for a bit of movement and fresh air. I really wanted at least to pretend that I was working on something. I picked up patterns for a couple shirts and a dress for me. I have never used a pattern to make clothing, so this will be a major first for me. I wanted a basic long-sleeved shirt or two and ended up with a few other things as well, including Burda 3197, Burda 7866 and Simplicity 2147.

The Simplicity pattern says "Learn to Sew" on the front, so I pulled that one out first. Umm...yeah, I really do not know how to read a pattern. And that is what led me to hole up in the office and forget about the work at the other end of the house. I might have another half hour before it becomes a bad decision.

I thought that part of what was making me feel googly-eyed looking at the pattern was the wealth of unnecessary information. The pattern includes four different garments and all of the sizes ranging from six to eighteen. It contains over twenty different pattern pieces, of which I only need four. Cutting the few pieces that I actually need seemed a good idea, rather than sitting in front of two giant sheets of tissue paper covered in nonsense. I did not want to cut right into the pattern - that just seems too filled with finality for my current mental state. Not that I expect to need a different size - I can eat a horse or pick on birdseed and my body size does not seem to change. (Nice most of the time, except for when you want your body size to change.) But still, cutting into the pattern just feels too...serious.

Now any reasonable person would buy themselves some nice tracing paper and would set to work copying the pattern, right? Well, I have this thing right now about using what we have in the house...sometimes a bit too overzealously. (Maybe it is because we have been "about to move" for the last year, so I feel like I need to keep things small until we do...although a year is a long time to keep the cupboards bare.)

We have a big roll of butcher paper that I bought to do projects with the kids. It is no tracing paper, that is for sure. But with a sharpie, an extra lamp, and a lot of squinting, I managed to get two pieces traced. They look so much prettier than they did on the original pattern - so clean and simple. And they do make me feel like I might actually be able to make this dress. Maybe.

One final note, in case anyone ever wanted to replicate my terribly flawed pattern tracing process. Sharpies bleed through sewing patterns. So do not trace the pattern lines on your favorite desk, please. And if you do, do not use nail polish remover to get it off. 

This desk is growing more charming by the day!

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Fabric Brain Teaser

I am really wishing for a cutting table. In my super multi-use space where I have set up my sewing machine and supplies, you will also find office supplies, computer and printer, TV and DVD player (though these are hidden away and rarely used), guest bed, household files, bookshelves filled with books, photo albums, lots of toys, yoga mats. We usually call this room the office, but it would more accurately be referred to as our office/guest room/studio/playroom/storage room/media room/workout room.

When I committed to learning to sew, I carved out a few feet of space in this already crowded room. (Here is the post over at my other blog where I wrote about this.) Imagining additional space for a cutting table is really unrealistic. I know that, but I keep dreaming.

Right now, I am cutting on the floor on a much too tiny self-healing mat.  Here is an idea of what it looks like.

The other day, I sliced my finger with my rotary cutter. Mostly the fault of my absent-mindedness, as I forgot to close the blade cover between cuts. I have been trying since then to be wholly aware of extra safety measures, but I am still learning new habits. I keep finding that blade cover open with the cutter laying in the middle of the floor. Oh, a cutting table would just make my space so much safer, would it not?

Plus, some designated surface space would make detail work easier on the eyes. I was working on another couple buckets for the kids and was cutting out pieces from this very cheap cotton fabric that I bought for the bucket lining. Apparently, the fabric was printed all out of alignment. The line of pencils leads your brain to think of straight lines and I kept finding myself wanting to cut right along them. But then my ruler kept telling me that I was cutting crookedly. Hunched over on the floor, I could not see anything well enough to be able to tell what was going on. I cannot even tell you how long I worked at squaring off this fabric before I realized it was a fault in the fabric printing and not in my cutting abilities (for once).

Take a look at this. Here is one end of the fabric. See how the straight edge of this bamboo box follows the tips of the pencils, but you can see the edge rising up to the next line of pencils in the pattern toward the right edge of the photo.

Keep following along the edge of the box and...

Astounding! It was like one of those brain teasers where you have to figure out which circle is bigger when they are actually the same size. My brain just could not cut straight lines that conflicted with the pencil pattern.

Such a silly little thing to eat up time in life...

Now a cutting table would surely solve that problem...Right?

Do you have a designated sewing room or do you fit your work into multi-use space? How do you make space limitations work for you?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Old Jeans, New Skirt

Here they are - more pictures of my skirt as promised. Not sure if they are the best pictures to see the skirt, but they will give you the idea as least. I loved wearing this skirt yesterday - it was a new addition to my wardrobe, but felt like wearing my favorite pair of old jeans...Oh wait, I was wearing my favorite pair of old jeans!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jeans-to-Skirt Project (Almost) Done

I was very productive last night. I finished Evan's yellow pants, which he wore today and which fit him perfectly! This is exciting of course because I made them, but also and mostly because he is incredibly skinny and not so tall, so his pants are always falling off of him on the top and dragging on the floor at the bottom. I do not think that he has had a pair of pants in his entire life that have really fit.

When Evan put the pants on this morning, I asked him what he thought of them and his first comment was, "They don't go under my feet." So even though the sewing itself remains somewhat flawed, these pants were still a big success.

Here is my little guy wearing them with the adorably colorful outfit that he picked out this morning.

After this five minutes of finishing work, I moved on to a seriously old pair of hand-me-down footie pajamas with holes in the toes. I might have just thrown them away, but Clayton can always use another pair of pajamas. We always seem to run out of them before laundry day somehow.

I am working on replacing the gripper fabric in some other pajamas of Clayton's and I thought about doing that here too, but it almost did not seem worth the extra effort. I mean, these things are old. So, I decided just to cut off the feet up to the ankle and hem the legs over the existing elastic, which stretches around the back of the ankle. The front of the leg without elastic is a little freer than one might normally see from kids'  pajamas, but the quick hem will do the trick and will allow these hand-me-downs to get even a little more life out of them.

A few minutes of not even remotely careful stitching and I was on to the project that was really pulling me for the evening, my jeans-to-skirt project. After picking up some matching thread last weekend, I was ready to put the back of the skirt together. I worked on the center seam first, trying to get it to blend as well as possible with the existing seam. And by "as well as possible," I mean only that I did not want the transition from existing seam to new seam to be glaringly obvious. I knew it would not be perfect - if that is what I had wanted, I would have pulled out the whole existing center seam and started a new one from the top. This skirt will look cobbled together because it is. Part of that is lack of expertise, part of it is laziness, but in a way, I kind of want the skirt to look repurposed...

Anyway, here is a (rather poor quality) picture of how it turned out. Still obvious, but maybe a little less so than if I had used the same approach as I did for the front of the skirt. And besides, if anyone notices the transition from one seam to the other, well... Anyone who wants to stare at me right there should probably keep it to themselves.

I attached the sides of the two triangles just as I did with the front of the skirt. This just left the hem. My husband helped me pin and then I sewed it twice, about a quarter inch apart, with the lighter grayish thread I used for the center seam.

It was late when I finished and my house has poor lighting even in the daytime. So I did not bother taking pictures. Just this one from the side view.

So it is finished...almost. I noticed, when I put it on after sewing the hem, that I stopped one of the seams in the back of the skirt about an inch too low. So there is a small but obvious hole there. I am going to try to hand stitch it tonight, though my hand stitching is even worse than my machine stitching, so hopefully I will not make a total mess of it.

If it works out and I can call the skirt complete, I will post some better pictures of it tomorrow.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Bright Yellow Pants!

My husband is currently in the last throes of his dissertation and has been working almost round the clock. He makes sure to be home some in the morning and at dinner and bedtime with the our little ones, but he often goes back to work after the kids go to bed and he works almost every day. This week was one of the rare ones where he took the whole day off on Saturday. Whenever this happens, I always dream big. I just so rarely have time that feels in any way free, so an extra set of hands around the house seems so much more substantial than it really is.

In any case, I was determined to spend some time sewing yesterday. I thought I would start during naptime and, since my husband was here, would continue a little bit after the boys woke up. Well, the new trend here is for my little one to wake up right when I leave my big boy's room, almost to the minute. So nap time starts and ends at exactly the same time. My husband took over with our little guy, so I had a few minutes of quiet time to finally finish Clayton's pants made from my old t-shirt. They fit well, though a little on the small side. My fault for waiting so long to finish a project for a little sprout who never stops growing.

By the time I finished Clayton's pants and had started working on a pair for Evan, both boys were up and wanted to be in the office with me. I had scissors, cutters, needles, and pins spread out everywhere and I spent the next ten or fifteen minutes trying to chase them out of the room over and over again while cleaning up the dangerous tools and simultaneously continuing my project. Okay, so it did not work at all...

But despite the struggle and thanks to my husband's wrangling abilities, I did manage to get the pants for Evan almost completed - just need to sew the elastic together and close the waistband.

These pants were much more complicated than Clayton's, since Evan is much taller and I could not cut out the fabric from the edge of the pants without running into the sleeve.

The whole shirt-to-pants thing is really designed more for a infant or toddler, it seems. I had to reverse the pair of pants I was using as a pattern, which meant that the easy seamless side seams were no longer.

Well, I cut the fabric, sewed up the side seams, cut the old t-shirt sides that would now become the crotch, and continued with the process as it was meant to be.

Oh, except for one other thing. The other rather annoying part of this project was that I selected a t-shirt with a breast pocket. Mistake number three. In an ideal world, the pocket would have ended up positioned perfectly so that the new pants would have a cute back pocket. Instead it fell where I would later be sewing the waistband. I had to carefully remove the pocket before I could do anything else.

It is about the process, right? And I do love the bright yellow color...

But the good news is that the reverse lever on my machine does work again since my husband superglued it on...well, sort of. It no longer switches to a reverse setting. Rather, I have to hold the lever down while I am sewing in order to backstitch. It is awkward, but much less so than reversing the entire fabric. Maybe I will still take the machine in to be repaired, but I imagine - knowing myself - that I will live with the annoyance for a little bit longer.