Apr 14, 2014

a fairy tale Easter dress and a few other things

It's Spring Break, and I couldn't be happier about it.  I have developed quite a long project list, and now I finally have a little time to work my way through it.  This is perfect timing as I'm planning to participate in Me Made May this year.


I've never done a Me Made May before, but I finally feel like I'm ready to try.  My plan is to wear at least one handmade garment at least five days per week during the month of May.  I expect to repeat garments, but I'm going to try not to repeat exact outfit combinations.   I think this will be a perfect opportunity to evaluate my me-made wardrobe and plan my summer break sewing.  I suspect my big gap will be in tops and blouses.  And who knows?  Me Made May might finally inspire me to tackle some pants.

I've been focusing more on kid sewing lately, especially with the change of seasons and with Easter approaching.  Easter is definitely a celebration worthy of new outfits.  For Cara's Easter dress, I decided on the Oliver and S Fairy Tale dress.

I went with a size 6 after the size 5 seemed a little bit snug.  The 6 is a tiny bit big, but hopefully that means it will still fit next year.  I love the little collar and the bow at the waist.  This is such a great dress pattern.

Check out the 3-D effect of the trim at the waist.  Also, gingham on the bias is always a good idea.  My only fear is that my hand sewing won't hold through the wash, but I'm getting a little more confident in my hand sewing skills with all of the Alabama Chanin style stitching I've been doing lately.

I can't wait to share pictures of this cute little number actually on the child, but I'll have to wait for Easter for that.  :-)

Mar 30, 2014

the boy is two

Colin turned two back on the 19th, and I have to say, two might be my favorite moment of toddler-hood.  Colin at two is the best combination of sweet, squishy, rebellious, and hilarious.   One minute, he wants to snuggle and cuddle and "bwush uh hair, Mama" (apparently, my hair is quite twirl-able), and the next minute, the boy is all "noooo! my turn!!" I came to the realization recently that I don't have any babies in my house anymore, and I think it hit me so hard because Colin seems more "big kid" than Cara did at two.  Of course, he has a real big kid to keep up with, and he definitely holds his own.  Cara gets wrestled to the ground by her little brother fairly regularly, but he also plays with his fair share of princesses and dolls.  After seeing him decked out in jewelry and crowns a few too many times, I decided it was time for the boy to have his own dress up/adventure clothes.  (Not that there's anything wrong with boys dressing up in jewelry and crowns--I'm all for letting the imagination run free--however, the traditional boy options were a bit limited over here.)

I never thought I'd see the day when I wandered into the fabric store in search of camouflage.  I went in picturing something more abstract and walked out with what my husband called "real tree."  I still don't know what that means exactly, but he approved of my camo choice.  I used the Explorer Vest pattern from Little Things to Sew in the smallest size. Oliver and S never does me wrong.  I wanted this vest to be fully reversible, so I used patch pockets for both sides so that they wouldn't be too bulky, and I left off the buttons so that Colin could get this on and off by himself.  I originally intended for this vest to be strictly for dress-up and playing at home, but it turned out so cute that I might consider letting Colin wear it out in public.  This is South Carolina, after all.

To go with the vest, I also added the Bucket Hat from Little Things to Sew, again reversible.  It took the largest size for this hat to fit on Colin's giant noggin. :-)

Colin's enthusiasm for this little camo ensemble comes and goes.  When I first showed him the vest, he told me that he didn't like it.  Fortunately, I have thick skin and lots of patience.  It took a week of leaving it sitting around before he brought it me and asked for help putting it on.  Score one for Mom!

I tried to explain to Colin that he could hide in the woods in the backyard in his camouflage, and he really liked that idea.  He was not such a huge fan of taking pictures.

However, Cara knows how to get her brother tickled: hide behind a tree and play peek-a-boo.

Mar 12, 2014

the perfect dress

Cara has a Disney Princess book that she loves to read called "The Perfect Dress." It's one those step-into-reading books, and she's had it memorized since the day she got it.  The storyline is that all of the princesses have many activities to accomplish and events to attend, and each one of them is after the perfect dress for the occasion.  I have to admit, it's pretty tough to find a dress that goes from scrubbing the floor to a magic carpet ride to a ball.  I can sympathize.  Fortunately, I have the answer:  the Oliver and S Jump Rope Dress.

I have been feeling up for a new sewing challenge lately, and this dress fit the bill.  I wouldn't say it's difficult, but there are lots of details to handle.  In true Oliver and S fashion, the instructions are so thorough that even my button placket came out pretty close to perfect on the first try.  In addition to the button placket, there are sleeve tabs, a collar, a sash, and pockets on the skirt, but I was careful to be precise in my cutting and measuring, and everything went together like a dream.

It's hard to tell in these pictures, but the fabric is covered in kite tails, which only makes this dress even more perfect for spring.  To be honest, all I had to tell Cara was that it had a twirly skirt and a bow, and she was sold.  I love it because it looks a little bit more "big girl" and it can go from church to play time to birthday party in a breeze.

I made this one in a size 5.  It's a slightly slimmer fit than some of the other Oliver and S dresses I've made, with the exception of the Fairy Tale Dress, but I think it suits the style of this dress.  I'm crossing my fingers that it will last through the summer into the fall!

And there's nothing more perfect for my little princess than a dress that works just as well for swinging with Ariel as it does for riding bikes with your brother.

Mar 8, 2014

the two week tank top

If you're going to sew a garment completely by hand, obviously it's going to take a bit longer to complete it.  That's okay though.  I am so very proud of this tank top, perhaps precisely because it took nearly two weeks to finish.

This is the fitted tank top from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design made out of two XL t-shirts I picked up at Goodwill.  I made a quick muslin from another old t-shirt and decided to alter the neckline a bit, but I really like the fit of this version.  I would actually call this one a second muslin because my big undertaking is going to be a dress.  

I used the Paisley stencil (available for free on the Alabama Chanin website) in a backstitch reverse applique.  The first panel probably took a week to complete, but fortunately, the second went a little faster.  I left the back panels plain because I can't see them when I'm wearing this top. :-) Other than raising the neckline, I followed the instructions in the book to letter, sewing each seam by hand. 

There is something so soothing and organic about handsewing.  It is the perfect activity to keep me feeling productive while I binge-watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it's especially fun to see the design come together.  I am so glad the sun made an appearance this weekend so that I had a chance to wear this top.  I've been experimenting with ways to layer on cardigans, but I think a top like this just needs to be on display, not layered under frumpy sweaters and scarves.  Can you tell I'm ready for spring for real?

Feb 18, 2014

in progress

All those snow days should have lead to some major sewing productivity, but I've been a little stuck lately.  Simplicity 1801 should not be a difficult dress.  However, I decided to make it difficult by adding a lining to the entire dress, and now I'm stumped by inserting the zipper.  I invested a lot of time in the details of construction and fit, altering the bodice and facings to raise the neckline and remove a bit of length, finishing the facings with bias tape.  The insides are lovely, but I can't get motivated to finish the dang thing.

In the meantime, I'm still completely obsessed with Alabama Chanin, and I've been working on a muslin of the fitted tank from Alabama Studio Sewing and Design.  I had to raise the neckline a bit (this seems to be a common alteration for me), so muslin round 2 is in progress.  I'm sure my Instagram friends are really tired of seeing my progress on these projects...sorry about that.  I just can't stop.

And, just because they're so stinking cute, here's a picture of my kids playing together.  Nicely.  Willingly.  This was definitely the best part of our snow-cation.

Feb 13, 2014

dreaming of spring

Just so you know, I live in SOUTH CAROLINA, so I have no idea what is going on right now.

I can't think of any good reason why my front yard and driveway look like this.  My husband estimates that over the past two days, we've gotten between 6 and 8 inches of snow, maybe more, and it's still coming down.  What is this??  I hate snow.  I like having a few unexpected days off, but I also like spring break and getting out of school in early June, and I'm afraid we might lose those treats as make up days.  Ick.  I promise I will not complain about the heat and humidity this summer. 

I've been entertaining myself by deep cleaning my house (and sneezing a lot), but when that gets boring, I turn to sewing.  Now that Cara has adopted my old Felicity doll as her very own, she has begun requesting matching dresses.  Fortunately, my mom collected a few doll patterns when I was a little girl requesting matching dresses, but she kept with the Revolutionary War time period and made beautiful, detailed skirts and stomachers and lace up jackets to match my dresses. (On a side note, I should really showcase these dresses on the blog at some point.  They are impressive.  Way to go, Mom!)  She actually had the American Girl sewing patterns for both Felicity and Kirsten (who are both archived--what?? And there are no sewing patterns to be found in the AG online store, although I have run across downloads of the patterns online.)  I picked the simplest pattern in the bunch, which is actually an underwear pattern.  Haha! 

This is a basic shift dress with an elastic neckline.  This is the only pattern that I don't have the original directions for, so I had to wing it, but it turned out fine.  Felicity looks rather fabulous in her modern dress.

Cara's dress is the Oliver and S Ice Cream dress.  My goal was to make a replacement for her favorite dress from last summer, which she has now outgrown.  The features she liked the most were the pink butterflies and the sequins.  My favorite feature was that I had to shorten the lining because it hung down further than the outer layer of the dress.  Gotta love RTW.

These butterflies were just too perfect paired with the bright pink, and of course, I added a few sequins to the front using a little French knot.

 I'm so glad I have a few wooden heart buttons leftover from this dress.

My client has gotten a little bit more picky about how her clothes feel, and I knew she would love the sequins but complain about the knots on the inside of the dress, so I underlined the main dress pieces with a little leftover Bemberg rayon.  She loves the silky insides now, and I managed French seams in spite of the multiple layers.

 I love it when all of the raw edges are hidden.  It's the little things.

My client was quite pleased with both dresses and declared them perfect for tiny dancers.

 a few practice moves

 Nailed it.

So cute! :-)

Jan 29, 2014

a tale of two blouses {Simplicity 1693}

Taking pictures of handmade clothing is a funny thing.  I am the most awkward, uncomfortable person ever in front of a camera, and I do not take direction well.  As in, my husband will ask me to turn a little bit this way and I turn 90 degrees.  I doubt I will ever be effortless, but it's a sacrifice I'll make for the sake of documenting my handmade clothing. :-)  Going through the pictures is definitely worth the awkwardness because it does provide a different perspective on what is flattering and what isn't.  I actually started this post with the idea that I liked the fit and style of the second blouse better, but the pictures may have convinced me otherwise.

Blouse #1 is Simplicity 1693 sewn pretty much exactly as the pattern and directions indicate.  I used a smooth, lightweight cotton lawn, which, I think, is perfect for this type of blouse. 

photobombers make me marginally less awkward

I actually finished this top months ago, and even though I've worn it several times and I don't hate it, I had a list of issues that I wanted to correct in a later version.  For example, the neckline is finished with bias tape.  I normally don't mind this finish, but I think I didn't cut my bias strips perfectly on the bias because I have to iron the crap out of the neckline to make it lie flat after this top comes out of the dryer.  I'm not crazy about the hem either...I can't pinpoint where it's wonky, but it seems off somehow...I don't know. 

I am quite a fan of the sleeves, especially with this drapey fabric, but the bust darts are a little bit too low.  Again, the fabric keeps this from being very noticeable, but I wanted to fix them so that I would be able to use thicker or stiffer fabrics too.

I wasn't crazy about the buttonloop in the back either, although it doesn't look as bad as I thought now that I've seen the pictures.  In spite of the list of changes I wanted to make to this pattern, I think Blouse #1 is absolutely wearable as it is.  I started tracing and redrafting around Christmas, and I finally managed to construct Blouse #2 last weekend.

The fabric this time is still lightweight but much stiffer.  Also lots of bright colors.  Whoa.  I drafted facings for the neckline, raised the darts a bit (maybe half an inch?), and lengthened the whole thing by two inches.  However, the biggest change I made is in the back.

I loooove how the buttons in the back turned out!  The buttons are coconut buttons I found on Etsy.  I think I added two and a half inches to the back pattern pieces and extended the neckline facing down the back.  I actually got this idea from the Oliver and S Library dress, and I'm sure other button back patterns use this method.

Don't get me wrong, I like Blouse #2.  I thought I liked it better than Blouse #1, but that was before I saw both in pictures.  I think I like the fabric I used for #1 better--#2's is just too stiff but maybe it will soften up with a few more washings. 

This is what happens when my husband tries to give me direction.  Awkward.

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