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.)