Friday, September 23, 2011

Sewing for Boys--Goodnight Sweetheart PJ's

As a (possibly biased) mom to a charming, funny, and super cute boy, I'm always excited to learn about new fabric lines and patterns for boys.  Anyone who has ever looked for cute, stylish, and boy-friendly sewing supplies online or in stores knows that it can be a real challenge to find things worthwhile.  Naturally, when I found out the team behind Patterns by Figgy's, Shelly Figuora and Karen LePage were releasing a book of patterns and projects specifically for boys, I flipped out a little bit.  Okay, a lot.  Finally, the book, called Sewing for Boys, is available and I've gotten my hands on a copy.  I have been sewing like crazy!  There are so many great projects in the book and the best part is is that even though each project is full of special finishing techniques that add up to a professional and stylish finished garment, they're also all simple enough in design to allow for each sewist to create a very personalized wardrobe for her child.  And that's really what sewing clothes at home is all about.

A little about the fabric I used for these little pajamas:  Recently, my husband, son, and I moved to a new town.  The move has been nice because it's closer to Nathan's job and it got us out of Toledo and into a smaller community.  The town we're in has a little "downtown" area that has several small businesses including one called Beeker's General Store.  Beeker's is a sweet, nostalgic general store that has been in business for over 130 years.  It reminds me of the Olsen's store in Little House on the Prairie.  Anyway, they have a small selection of fabric behind one of the counters and I happened to see this cowboy print by Michael Miller among the more traditional calicos that they stock.  I think I'm the only person  who has ever purchased this particular fabric from them because the sales lady gave me a look when I said I wanted 2 yards of it.  Oh well.

These PJ's show off a perfect example of the detail within the patterns I was talking about.  I love the piping around the facing on the pajama tops and the faux fly on the bottoms.  For me, these things also helped me to learn new skills to employ when sewing other projects in the future.  I mean, how sweet does that faux fly look?  I always thought that it would be so hard to create, and fortunately I've had the opportunity to discover that it's really quite simple.

One other thing I've really been enjoying about the new place is our clothes line.  It's the perfect spot for pictures of finished projects!  

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

"I see TRAINS, Mommy!"

I assume that my son's fixation on trains is a fairly normal thing.  After all, there's a reason why Thomas the Tank Engine is such a popular licensed character, right?  Well, as the result of many unfortunate circumstances beyond my control, Peter's last day at daycare will be tomorrow.  On the one hand, I am really enjoying all the extra time I've had to spend with him, but on the other, the circumstances really suck.

To mark Pete's last day, I decided to bust out a Williams-Sonoma pan I found at a rummage sale this summer for only $2.00.  I had seriously considered buying it for myself for full price, but didn't (mostly because I couldn't justify the cost), so this was a super find.

I typically do not bake.  Mostly because I find that I ignore seemingly benign instructions (Why the hell should I split the batter in half?  Just to make another dirty dish?) and misunderstand others and that nearly always results in disaster.  In this case, I ignored an instruction to split the cake batter I made FROM SCRATCH and misunderstood some convoluted instructions about how to fill the wells of this cake pan.  Luckily, disaster was averted, but I did end up with some wasted batter and a few slightly small train cars.  Oh well, live and learn I guess.  I have to say, at least I really go for the gusto even if I'm doing something I'm woefully unqualified to do.

Peter is absolutely in love with these little cakes.  In fact, as I write this, he's asking to "see train again" and I have to keep flipping back and forth between this post and the pictures for it.  I hope all his friends at daycare like them as well.  If I were a kid, I don't think I could imagine anything better than cake encrusted with candy, but who knows about kids now a days.  And, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I hope the MOMS are impressed as well.  Parenting is a competitive sport these days.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Introducing Margot

Lately I've been on a toymaking kick and today's post runs true to form.  My Goddaughter is having her First Communion on Sunday and, unfortunately gas prices have prevented me from making the trip home to celebrate with her, but they have not stopped me from making her a special doll.

Once again, I've turned to Hillary Lang's book Wee Wonderfuls and once again, it does not disappoint.

I decided to make Margot, Hillary's version of a topsy-turvy doll.  On one side, I made a dress that looks like a pretty little first communion-type dress.  White eyelet cotton is the perfect dressed-up material for this half of the Margot doll.  White satin ribbon to make a bow at the back finishes the whole outfit.

On Margot's dressed-for-everyday side, I used a favorite scrap I've been hoarding for months for her skirt and paired it up with a basic polka-dot top.  My Goddaughter is very girly, so I know she'll like all the pink on this side.

All of Margot's facial features are hand-embroidered and her clothes are only minimally machine sewn, meaning most of the stitiching on this doll is done by hand.  Hopefully no one looks too closely at the hand stitching since I am not particularly patient and by the end my fingers were really starting to hurt.

All of the doll's hair is attached by hand as well.  Basically, it's a modified satin stitch with yarn, then the braids and buns are attached separately.  I really hope that Maddie likes her.  She's a big fan of American Girl dolls (which I totally coveted when I was her age), so I hope something handmade seems half as cool.

I have a bunch of other stuff all waiting for a little attention, so I'm going to try my hardest to tackle the stacks of half-started and unfinished projects stacked up on my sewing table.  My goal is to get most of them squared away by the end of the month.  Wish me luck!

Friday, April 29, 2011


I hope everyone had a happy Easter!  I know I had a blast--my parents, sister, and future brother-in-law came out to Toledo for a visit.  Since we live in Ohio and they live in Wisconsin, we don't get to see our families as much as I know we'd like to so we definitely had lots of fun.  Peter got to go swimming at the hotel, Grandpa gave him his first soda (and said it was "orange juice" when he asked if I let Pete have soda and replied, "No.").

To prepare for Easter, I had sewn up a couple of toys to put in Pete's basket.  The first one was the "Eddie" doll from Hillary Lang's book, Wee Wonderfuls.

I made his little outfit out of the outfit we bought for Peter for his trip home from the hospital.  It has been hanging in his closet for over 2 years now, and I thought this would be a good way to appreciate it every day.

The other toy I whipped up was Peanut the Wee Elephant, another Hillary Lang creation.  This one, however, was in my Last Minute Patchwork and Quilted Gifts book by Joelle Hoverson.

I used some Joel Dewberry Modern Meadow, a little Heather Ross Mendocino, and, unfortunately, I don't know the designer or line the fabric in Peanuts little ears is.  I don't have the fabric selvage handy to look it up for you, either.

When it comes to gift giving, I am no better than a 5 year old on Christmas eve.  I was so flippin excited to get Peter's reaction to these handmades that I did not end up saving them for his basket.  He really loves his elephant, but the baby he could take or leave.  What can you do?

So....  To make up for my inability to actually save stuff for its intended purpose, I had to come up with something else to put with is Easter basket.  I settled on a giant jug of Miracle Bubbles to use in his automatic bubble machine and a container of sidewalk chalk.

Ok, so I know I'm biased, but really.  Is there any cuter little face on the planet?

I hope you all had a happy celebration, enjoyed a lot of delicious candy, and got a bit of spring weather over your Easter holidays.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Gnome Hat

From February 15th to March 15th, Made by Rae and Made blogs were celebrating the boy with fabulous boy posts full of adorable ideas of sewing and crafting projects especially for boys.  One of the tutorials they posted was for a crocheted gnome hat.  Sadly, I do not know how to crochet and every time I think I want to learn, I remind myself I have enough expensive hobbies already.  Fortunately, my amazing friend Emily of EmmmyLizzzy DOES know how to crochet and she's ridiculously generous to boot!

Thank you a million, Emily!  I can't imagine a cuter hat for this cute kid.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cuddle Quilt

I recently finished a new quilt for my wonderful mother in law, Lynne.  She intends to use it in her office for the children she sees in her therapy practice, but if I were her, I'd be sorely tempted to keep this quilt all to myself.

The top of the quilt is made with a selection of Anna Maria Horner's Folksy Flannels line and the border and sashing are solid white flannel.  You may remember me starting this quilt back the day before Christmas.  I know I said at the time that I was going to keep it, but luckily I have enough fabric left over to make a whole 'nother one for me.

I backed the quilt using some fleece I bought at JoAnn's and since it's suppossed to be cuddly and soft (and because I wasn't sure how well hand-sewing a bias binding to fleece would go) I wrapped the fleece around to the front and sewed it down to finish the quilt.  Since the fleece won't fray, I left a narrow raw edge that will curl up and look cute when the quilt is washed.

The quality control department has given the cuddle quilt its official stamp of approval and I will be shipping it off to Wisconsin promptly.  And, I'll be adding "make another flannel and fleece quilt" to my ever-growing list of things to do.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


About twice a year, I really get motivated to deep-clean our apartment.  I keep it reasonably clean year-round, but every spring and every fall, I really get it super-clean.  This spring, I took it a little further and de-cluttered all of our closets and rooms, repainted the living and dining/sewing areas, and made a few strategic furniture purchases at Ikea.

A few posts ago, I mentioned that my husband and I were in the housing market, but after reviewing our budget, we decided to wait a couple more years before committing ourselves to a home purchase.  When we decided to stay in our apartment, I decided that we needed to re-vamp a few things to make our 660 square feet a little more manageable for the next two years.

Believe it or not, this closet gets re-organized more often than any of our other ones.

First on the to-do list was going through all of our closets to find things we could donate or throw away.  I brought no fewer than 1000 bags of trash and donations out of the apartment.  Ok, maybe it wasn't 1000.  But it sure felt like at least that much.

Trash I found in the linen closet.

Peter kept bumping his head on the desk that the TV sits on whenever he would try to get to his toys.
My favorite part of our spring make over has got to be our living room.  I repainted and put up a new Expedit system from Ikea.  I changed out the artwork behind our couch.  I used to have photos up, but I took some paintings I had done in college, covered the canvases with a few favorite fabrics, and hung those instead.  I'm also in the process of recovering our throw pillows and will post pictures when they're done.

The paint color we decided on is Glidden Antique Silver.  It's a slightly blue-ish grey and I love how it changes with the light through the day.  We also freshened up the trim with bright white paint.  The fabrics on the wall are from Anna Maria Horner's Innocent Crush line and Heather Bailey's Nicey Jane.  The pillows will be re-done with mostly Nicey Jane, as well.  

And, of course, no living room would be complete without a cozy reading area for smart little guys.  He's telling me all about how Mr. Brown Can Moo.  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Girly, Squared

I finished an adorable quilt for my boss...  No pressure there to turn out something fantastic, right?  Well, anyway, she came to me a few months ago and asked me to make a baby quilt for her soon-to-be granddaughter and I was more than happy to oblige.  I love sewing for my boys, but at heart, I'm a girly girl.

I had so much fun digging out all the pretty pinks and greens in my stash to whip this little beauty up.  I used some Tina Givens, Amy Butler, Joel Dewberry, Anna Maria Horner, Erin McMorris, and Heather Ross.  

I like the way the orange Innocent Crush helps to make the pastel pinks and greens look a little more mature.  I wanted this to be a quilt that would last from infancy through childhood and the orange gives it just the right amount of edge.  I chose to frame each of the feature fabrics with Kona Coal for the same reason.  The dark grey is a great (and very trendy) neutral, but it also lends just the right amount of "grown up" to the over-all look of the quilt.

I finished by sashing the quilt with Kona Pale Flesh (which I think we can all agree is the most unattractive name for any fabric ever), backing it with a vintage sheet I had in my stash, and binding it with a little more Coal.

So, back to the pressure of sewing something for my boss.  She's wonderful, and I knew she loved the fabric selection.  BUT!  Just as I was trying to finish this quilt, my sewing machine stopped working!  Luckily, my wonderful friend EmmmyLizzzy invited me and Pete up for a sleepover and to use her fabulous sewing machine.  She is a lifesaver.

All in all, the quilt was a huge success.  I didn't get to be there when the soon-to-be new mom opened it, but my boss very kindly posted to my facebook page that everyone loved it.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Garment Construction and My Favorite Coat

I've been sewing for about three years now.  I started with simple patchwork quilts and I have moved on to more challenging quilt blocks and I've begun sewing a lot of garments.  Mostly, I sew toddler-sized garments for my toddler-sized Pete, but I have tackled some dresses for myself as well.  All this to say, I feel like I have a pretty good sense of how pattern pieces for garments come together.  Sure, there's the occasional tricky turn to hide your seam allowances, but generally there's a predictable order to things.  Starting today, now that winter is nearly over and my winter coats will be packed away for the spring and summer, I'm going to be testing my garment making confidence.

A few years ago--maybe even before we were married, I don't honestly remember--my husband bought me the. Most. Beautiful. Coat. Ever.

Purchased at Express c. 2006
 Every time I wear this coat, I get compliments.  Most people say it looks vintage which is why I fell in love with it in the first place.  The coat is a creamy wool with a satin ruffle around the collar and down the front.  The belt is chocolate brown satin ribbon, and the lining is the same satin as the ruffle.  Unfortunately, the coat is beginning to show signs of wear.  You can see a little pilling on the wool in this photo, but the worst wear is happening inside the coat.

Satin is a notoriously difficult fabric.  It's slippery, it frays very easily, and it can wear and tear very easily as well.  The photos above are the armholes of my coat.  Basically, the lining has shredded all along the seams and, unfortunately, a little whip stitch is not going to help matters one bit.  Since I consider this coat to be probably my best "statement" piece for winter outerwear, I think it's worth taking the time to really restore it so that I can get as long a life out of it as possible.  So, I decided to cut the existing lining out of the coat and use it to draft a pattern to make a new lining.  I gotta admit, here, that I'm scared shitless that I'm never actually going to be able to wear this coat again--at least, not with a lining.

From top: 1" grid interfacing, Licien voile, inexpensive quilting weight cotton
I use the grided interfacing to trace all of my pattern pieces from purchased patterns, so I figure it will work equally as well for tracing around the existing lining pieces of my coat to create a pattern to work from.  That way, I don't have to continue to handle the fragile satin and hope it stays put while I trace it onto my good fabric.  I'm going to use the inexpensive quilting cotton to make a muslin.  I don't usually make a muslin when sewing store-bought patterns because money is tight and my time is tight, so I save both by just going for it.  In this case, however, I had the fabric in my stash and that voile up there is kinda precious.  I'd rather not have a technicolor lining a la Joseph due to having to piece fabrics together to make my lining, so I'm going to go full-tilt and make a muslin from the pattern pieces I draft.  Better safe than out 3 yards of gorgeous Japanese fabric.

If any of my sewing friends out there happen across this post and have words of wisdom, I'd sure love to hear them.  In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed for me!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sketchbook Shirt

Well, the hubs and I have been house shopping since shortly after Christmas which has used up most of my free time, unfortunately.  It's hard to start--let alone finish--projects when my days off are all dedicated to house hunting.  We almost had "the one", but it turned out not to be the one at all.

I have, however, managed to squeeze in a little sewing.  Two of my favorite blogs, Made by Rae and MADE have been hosting Celebrate the Boy month, which has inspired me to get sewing some things for my favorite little boy.

Last year on my birthday, I won a giveaway hosted by Oliver + S and my prize was a copy of the Sketchbook Shirt and Shorts pattern.  I finally opened it up and made something with it.

The first version I made is the short-sleeved option.  I chose a cotton poplin fabric with a subtle orange and grey pinstripe pattern.  The shirt is the perfect weight for summer.  The curved hemline  and careful construction techniques make the shirt look, as Nate put it, like it comes from the store.  The details make all the difference between "homemade" and "handmade".

The second version I made is the long-sleeved option.  This one is a cozy flannel and I plan on making Nate a matching shirt since Peter has been wanting to do everything just like his Daddy recently.  To add some interest to the front of the shirt, I cut the pocket piece on the bias.  Both shirts came together reasonably quickly.  I started the flannel shirt on Friday night, about 8:00 pm and had it done by Saturday afternoon--and that time included correcting several mistakes made due to sewing late into the evening while drinking a glass of wine.

Probably my favorite part of the long-sleeved option on the shirt are the details that make the cuff of the sleeve look so beautifully finished.  It's hard to tell in this picture, but there's a little placket that finishes the slit cut to make the sleeve go on and off easily.

Sewing for Pete is a little bittersweet.  He out-grows things so quickly, but I absolutely love seeing him in something that I made. He seems to like wearing the things I make, too.  Or maybe he likes that kit-kat he's eating...