Thursday, December 17, 2009

happy birthday dear larry

Well, I figure the birthday of my bestest friend in the whole world is worth dragging myself out of blogger hibernation to send out some well wishes in her honor. So, to the most creative, industrious person I know, not to mention, funny, loving, generous and beautiful, happy birthday, my dear.

Oh, and since I couldn't pull off getting your gift to you in time for your actual birthday, I'll just share a teensy sneak peak...

As is becoming tradition, you'll be seeing the real deal some time during your birthday season. Just trying to make the party last, you know?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Simplicity 3678

Ever since this guy came along, I've been racking my brain and scouring my closet for some non-maternity, nursing friendly, but still stylish clothes to wear. I daydreamed all summer about finding the perfect button front dress patterns so that I could then fulfill my other daydream, which is being able to wear simple cotton dresses every day, cool in the summer and perfect for layering in the fall. Something similar to this or this, maybe.

Daydreams aside, for the most part, I end up wearing knits, since I can't seem to button up any of the few button front blouses and dresses in my closet. Hence my foray into the world of home sewn knitwear, starting with Simplicity 3678

Here's my take: 

Pattern sizing: 

Okay, so I generally wear a size 10 these days in ready-to-wear clothing. If you've never sewn clothing from a pattern before, take note: you CANNOT go by your regular size when it comes to choosing which size to sew from a pattern. Really, you can't even go by your measurements. On this pattern, if I went by my measurements, I would have sewn a size EIGHTEEN! (What is up, pattern companies???) I guess, if I had to nail down a general rule of thumb for myself, I'd split the difference between my measurement-indicated size (18) and my ready-to-wear size (10). For this dress, I made a size 14 and it fit pretty well. Just let your ego go, ladies, when you're sewing from these patterns. 

Did it look like the pattern photo on the envelope when I finished it? 

I think so. Plus a few (ahem) extra pounds of model underneath and a more open neckline/bodice which I'll explain in a sec. 

Were the instructions easy to follow? 

Very much so, in theory. Still figuring out how to sew knits without it becoming a comedy of errors. See below. 

Fabric used: 

A thin, cheapy, for-experimentation-only knit print out of my stash. (This could explain some of my problems.)

Any adjustments made?

Um, yeah. I tried sewing the neckline and facing with a double needle, to give the dress a more professional finish, but I just wasn't happy with 1) how the facing was laying (it was really bunchy) and I could just imagine it flipping out every time I wore the dress (assuming I ever actually got that far) and 2) how the fabric actually bubbled up between the two needles. (Anyone know what that problem was all about? Double needles are meant for knits, right?) So, anyway, not wanting to spend time troubleshooting or seam ripping, I serged off the seam and facing.  

Then I tried turning a narrow hem and stitching it down without a facing. Which I think would have been fine had I not (apparently) stretched the fabric as I sewed, so it got all wonky and wavy. So I serged that off. 

At which point I tried Heat N Bond No Sew hem tape, because I had it on hand. I stuck it onto the inside of the serged edge, folded it down, then tried to stitch over it with my trusty double needle. Surprise, surprise, that didn't work. Apparently, when they say No Sew, they mean it. It kept gumming up my needle and breaking the thread. So I serged that off. 

Finally, I purchased this lovely little product from my local fabric shop, so much more appropriate, and used it to stabilize the newly cut and serged neckline, turned it under, and stitched it down. Done, but now my dress absolutely requires a cami underneath. Which I probably would have worn anyway, so no big loss. (pointedly ignoring precious loss of time)

The only other "adjustment" was that I serged the bottom hem and left it at that. L-A-Z-Y. But, hey, I think I paid my dues on this little project, especially considering that it may never pass through my front door. 

Would I sew this pattern again? 

Actually, yes. I think so, if I had a nicer, more sturdy knit to work with. And assuming the Wonder tape washes up well, I'll stick with that little revision to the pattern. Facing schmacing. 

The final product, as photographed by my 6-year old:

Friday, September 4, 2009

simple baby gift

A simple, sweet, topstitched blanket for the new babe of an office mate of my husband's. Only impressive to the non-sewer who can't quite figure out how such things are made. Thankfully, the parents of this recipient qualify.

What is impressive (to me at least) is that I actually bought this fabric locally, in a land of copious batiks and country granny prints. And not much else, until now. We have a new fabric shop in town! The polka dot fabric is a high quality, super soft flannel and the other is, well, you can see for yourself, a fun, eggy print that appealed to the birdlover in me. (The flannel color's not really true in this photo - it's a really pretty pear green. Love it!) And I noticed some Amy Butler (fabric and patterns), Heather Bailey, Anna Maria Horner (oilcloth, at that) and Portabello Pixie patterns among the racks on my last visit. Fun!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Katy Kitty

I finally finished a Katy Kitty doll, the pattern for which my talented friend graciously gifted to me when it was first published. Since I didn't have any corduroy that would work, like the pattern recommends, I went with a heavy, natural canvas for the body and a tan felt face. She's a Siamese kitty, apparently. The skirt and sleeves are remnants from an old Freshcut charm pack that I used to make these coasters way back when. Love that fabric...

Monday, August 31, 2009

more quilt pictures, as requested

Please excuse the wrinkles. This quilt is already well loved!

Friday, August 28, 2009

where I join the Princess and the Pea parade

I've spent the better part of the summer waffling between projects to make for two little sisters' birthday gifts. My complete inability to decide now means that one girl's gift is overdue by 3 months and the other's by a few weeks. (In my defense, I did have a baby in there somewhere, but still. Three months, people!)

Then I came across this great book by the talented Lauren Child and these two sets. What modern, fabric and fairy tale loving girl wouldn't be inspired? Plus, we're already huge fans of Ms. Child's work around here. And I've been obsessing over this fabric (so perfect for Audrey)since it came out, so the story's been on my mind. I couldn't resist this project.

A few hours of stash raiding and totally, shamelessly copying someone else's clever idea produced this:

I made the mattresses pretty thin, with just one layer of lofty batting. I know how I feel when space-consuming toys come into my home, so I didn't want to make the set too large. There are twelve mattresses made from various calico prints. The bottom mattress has a little gathered pocket to hold the pea. 'Cause I know if it were my kids', that pea would disappear in about 7 minutes flat.

For the pea, I crocheted a small ball out of wool felt, then lightly felted it by hand. I can't find the pattern I used, but this tutorial would work just great, too, I'm sure. You might need to use a size smaller hook for a bit tighter gauge to get results like mine. For the felty look, I rolled it in my hands under VERY hot water for several minutes then plunged into cold water. Squeeze it out and let it dry. Done.

I also threw in two simple, sweet nightgowns to fit the dolls that I made for the girls last year, so they can be used as Princesses. (Hopefully these make up for the fact that I sent a joint gift this year...)

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Superhero Cape

Like I said, amidst the diaper-changing, nursing, schooling and nose-wiping going on around here, I have managed to squeeze in some much needed craft therapy. This session came in the form of a birthday gift for a special boy.

My kids spend the better part of every day dressing up and "playing pretend". A few weeks back, in the middle of an intense make-believe session, Gage realized that he couldn't be a proper superhero without the outfit to go with. And so, the cape request. It needs some embellishment, but considering that it was whipped out mere hours before his birthday party, I'm feeling pretty good.

I kind of made it up as I went along, but this cape is very similar to the one here. I guess the main differences between my cape and the one in the tute are these:

1) I used a whole yard of fabric for mine (she gets two smaller capes out of one yard),

2) I bound the edges with double fold bias tape instead of serging them (too lazy to change out the thread in my serger), and

3) I attached a full, wool felt collar to this one that would stand up in the back. I think that gives it a little more dramatic flair, don't you? Plus it attaches in front with Velcro, thereby eliminating the need for Mama to tie it on every time he decides he wants to be a Super.

Oh, and I used my favorite freezer paper applique trick for the "G". It's a pretty simple technique. First, I got my wool felt piece ready by attaching iron-on fusible webbing to one side, leaving the backing paper attached. Set that aside. Next, I printed the "G" on my printer in the size and font I wanted, then traced it onto plastic-coated freezer paper, plastic coating down. (These steps could probably be consolidated, if I just printed directly onto the non-plastic side of my freezer paper. Thoughts?)

Okay, so next, I ironed the freezer paper, again with the plastic side down, onto the unfused side of my wool felt, then cut the "G" out of the paper, felt and fusible webbing all at the same time. Peeled the fusible webbing backing off the bottom and the freezer paper off the top and Bam! A perfect "G" patch ready to be ironed on and stitched down. I just used a simple straight stitch around the edges, but, of course, you could use any stitch you like. Or, if you used No-Sew, you could believe the Heat'n'Bond folks when they say you don't have to stitch it down. That's never worked well for me, though. Especially for kids' stuff that will probably need frequent washing.

Gage wasn't the only birthday kid on my list. More birthday posts to come once I'm sure they've been received.
And, for more fun with freezer paper, click here...

Or, enjoy some random birthday weekend pics:

This is the second year that Gage has requested a chocolate cake with green icing. Can do, buddy.
And we just couldn't go home without more overpriced, cheaply made, plastic toys courtesy of Daddy, could we?

Monday, August 24, 2009


photo by Amy
I'm still here! And I've actually been accomplishing some crafting lately. Like this quilt. It's finally finished, completely hand tied and hand bound. Which I know probably sounds pretty simple to some of you, but was quite an accomplishment for me, what with the recent changes around here. Once I figured out how to work this thing to my handsewing advantage, it was all good.

You can see that her bed is red, with a pink Jenny Lind changing-table-turned-night-table-slash-storage-shelf. Plus there's a Somerset Gold dresser in the room. I'm about about eclectic, use-what-you-have decorating, hence the quilt's pink, red and yellow color scheme. It all pulls together quite nicely, if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

what I got

Sorry, Larissa. You can comfort yourself with the knowledge that I apparently went a good bit crazier than you did with this sale. And I, too, am waiting on my backorders. Erm...and that second order. (That one was totally your fault, though.)

Here's one frustrating thing about impulse fabric shopping, for me. Just how much fabric do you buy? A yard? Two? Some of these beauties I have specific plans for, so those were easy, but the others were a yardage crap shoot. I just wanted as many of those yummy prints as I could possibly get. I ended up going with around a yard each thinking that that would be plenty for simple outfits for Audrey (most are 54" wide), bags, or throw pillows, for which my sofas are crying out. No self control, I tell you.

Another frustrating thing about impulse fabric shopping? That it generally happens when I'm not actually getting any sewing done. But, hey, my fabric shelves sure look pretty these days...

Monday, July 13, 2009

the elusive (and reversible!) Easter dress

Elusive because it's July and I'm just now getting around to showing it to you. Reversible because, well, you'll see.

Check out the inspiration dress by Neige.

And now for the finished product:

This dress was a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants project whipped out the week before Easter. I ran out of gas after some frustrating issues and, even though I felt like it really needed something extra in the front - like the pockets in the inspiration photos - I just couldn't summon the will to go on.

So she wore it backwards, like so:

Which I actually liked. But since I knew it was designed to be worn differently (by me, but still), I felt a little funny about it all day. So let's just call it the Reversible Easter Dress and I'll feel better. Like it was for purpose, as my kids would say.

Now, about the fabric. The Liberty floral was a dream to work with. (Isn't that what you're supposed to say about Liberty fabric? Anyway, that's what I'm telling myself in an effort to rationalize the hefty price per yard.) But seriously, it is beautiful, soft fabric and a very nice weight for this kind of garment. I used this for the ruffle and tie. I think, should there be a next time, I'll use something lighter. More like a voile or something, 'cause this cotton was a little stiff. It does, however, make for excellent twirling...

Saturday, June 27, 2009

big fabric sale...

images courtesy of

I have a sneaking suspicion that there are those among you who share my weakness for a bargain, especially when it comes to fabric. (I know there's at least one of you out there.) Whether or not we've actually got projects lined up for the use of said fabric. Ahem.

So, I have to tell you all about this great sale that Hancock's of Paducah is having. Their sales are always worth checking out, anytime, but they seem to be particularly rich right now, full of Amy Butler (mostly), but also some Denyse Schmidt and Joel Dewberry. Even their 54"wide home dec lines, like Nigella and Ginseng, are going for $4.98 per yard. Down from around $16 per yard. Hard to resist, even if they are just going to pad my stash for a while.

Oh, some tips: If you just look through the sale lists under $5.98, $4.98, and $3.98 per yard, you may miss something. I actually searched for "Amy Butler Nigella" and "Joel Dewberry Ginseng" using the site's keyword search and saw a lot of $4.98 per yard (or $2.49 per half yard) prints than were not listed in the sales. (Make sense?) It's just too bad I figured this out after placing my own order...

Also, don't worry if you notice that a lot of the choice prints are on backorder. If you go ahead and order them, you'll receive your cut from the next shipment they receive, still at the sale price. I've done this in the past and they haven't failed me yet.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

belated thanks...

Thanks to Larissa for the sweet nominations last month! (I actually owe her for a lot more than the nominations, considering that the majority of folks who come my way arrive here via her incredible blog.) You're so cool.

And, of course, I'd like to spread the crafty love by nominating a few blogs myself:

La Maison Boheme: I came across this one just a few days ago and have enjoyed browsing her lovely collections of design photos. I especially liked today's post. Not that I'm a huge fan of pink. In fact, I've spent much of the past year trying to persuade Audrey to branch out from her long-standing pink obsession. But, when Asher and I came home from the hospital, my dad had gotten me a gorgeous bouquet of perfectly pink roses. Those silly flowers made me smile every time I passed by them in my living room. Which makes me think a dash of more permanent pink might not be so bad in there. Anyway, cute blog. Check it out.

image via Three Potato Four

Three Potato Four: Okay, so I know these guys don't need a shout out from little ol' me, but I still feel the need to express my appreciation for their great taste, which makes their shop a real treasure trove. The blog highlights shop updates and the search for more vintage and modern goodies, plus the way Janet and Stu infuse their unique style into their home, family life and travels. A few of my favorites from their shop: this, this, and these.

And, finally, Lucy and I: This is a sweet blog by a fellow SAHM, or WAHM, depending on what stage she's in, how she's feeling, or who's asking. When she's "officially" working, the author designs, sews and sells clothes for moms and daughters. When she's not, she designs and sews simply for herself and her two girls. I really like her simple, classic aesthetic and materials. Oh, and she has another blog, shampoo free, that I find intriguing...

So there you go. Thanks again, Larry!

Friday, June 12, 2009

and now the fun really begins...

Asher is here! And so is my mom (yay!) - keeping the house clean, kids entertained and all of us well-fed while we get acquainted with our newest little blessing. Life is good.

Friday, June 5, 2009

holding pattern...

I've been out of touch with the blog world for a couple of weeks, getting ready for baby, handstitching the binding on the quilt, hosting house guests (my good friend and doula, Laura, and her kids), spending time with my mom and as much one-on-one time with my kids as possible. And trying to keep myself from counting the minutes until I go into labor and move into the next phase of this crazy, blessed life we lead.

Oh - and I've been cooking. It's been fun finding new ways to use the CSA veggies that I might not have otherwise bought.

What we've gotten recently: summer, pattypan, cucumber and coccozele squash, lettuce, beets, green beans and new potatoes.

And the new recipes I've tried so far:
  • Country Club Squash Casserole with the summer squash. I found this recipe on a random search for a casserole I had during my college years.

  • Orangette's Squash and Pecorino Frittata with the coccozelle. This was really delicious, but I think I'll use the stovetop to broiler oven method next time. Flipping it was a little challenging. For me at least.

  • Fresh corn saute with tomatoes, squash, and fried okra from Bon Appetit Fast, Easy, Fresh with the patty pan. We liked everything but the patty pan. If I try this again, I'll use a more flavorful squash, like zucchini, if I can't get more coccozelle. Any suggestions on what to do with patty pan squash in case we end up with more?

  • This cucumber salad, which was just what I hoped it would be. A really light, fresh, summery side.

  • Alton Brown's Pickled Beets. I'm not a huge pickled beet fan, but these were really easy and tasty. I plan to use the leftover roasted beets to make Orangette's Beet Feta Tart tomorrow after our farmer's market trip, if I'm still playing the baby waiting game.

Then there are the turnips from the past two bushels I've gotten. About 3 pounds of which are still sitting in my crisper while I wait for inspiration to strike.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Roasted Root Vegetables Recipe

Like I said, I want to share my recipe for Roasted Root Vegetables. Really, it's not so much a recipe, per se, as it is a loose formula, very open to the adjustments of individual taste and seasonal availability. Also, I have to say, for integrity's sake, that I read a lot of recipes in an effort to come up with what I like. So, I could have totally lifted this from some chef somewhere inadvertently. Okay, I feel better. Here you go.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.


2 to 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
4 to 5 medium, red-skinned potatoes, washed and cut into bite-size pieces
3 to 4 medium turnips, washed, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
1 or 2 medium to large rutabagas, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces
3 to 4 medium beets, washed, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces
4 to 5 springs of fresh rosemary
4 to 5 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 to 3 large heads of garlic, tops trimmed off evenly
3 to 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, more or less
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

Like I said, this is really open to interpretation and is infinitely adjustable. If you can't stand turnips or are a little wary of the rutabaga, leave 'em out and add carrots. Or more potatoes. Whatever you like. Just keep in mind that you should have everything cut around the same size so that your vegetables cook fairly evenly.

Now, once your veggies of choice are all washed, trimmed and cut, toss them into a big bowl with the herbs and garlic. Season with the salt and pepper to taste, then drizzle with olive oil. Get your hands in there and give the mixture a good toss to make sure each piece is evenly coated. Once the veggies are seasoned and oiled, spread them evenly on a large baking sheet (or two, if necessary) or a baking dish, like so:

Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours, stirring every 30 or so minutes and rotating the pans if you've got more than one. Your veggies should be tender and golden brown (the white ones, anyway) when they are nicely roasted. Note: Most of these root vegetables will cook at about the same rate, but keep an eye on each variety to make sure one isn't overcooking. The most likely culprit for overcooking - sweet potatoes. The turnips will probably take the longest to soften up and brown.

You can serve this dish as a side, but it's hardy enough for a vegetarian entree, I think, like I've got up top with a simple salad. And, yes, that is a paper plate. Photo stylist, I am not.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Patched Jeans Tutorial

Earlier in my pregnancy, when I was outgrowing everything in my closet, there was one pair of jeans that still fit. Unfortunately, they seemed to rip in a new spot every time I bent my knees. So, out of desperation and an appalling lack of decent, local, maternity jeans options, I patched them. Not sure where that put me style-wise, but they got me by in a pinch. I did have fun figuring out the patching process and will definitely use it on kids' clothes in the future.

I'll tell you how I did it. This was the problem:

First, I trimmed away the flap:

Then I started the patch. I wanted it to be strong enough to hold up to stress and washing with the denim, so I fused two large fabric scraps together using Heat'n'Bond fusible interfacing. I'll get to the hem tape in a sec.

This is an older Amy Butler print from my stash for the front side and just any old scrap for the back (the black gingham). I fused the two scraps together (following package instructions), then trimmed the fused piece into an appropriately sized patch. Make sure when you try this that you leave at least a 1/2 inch overlap around the edges of your hole to give yourself plenty of stitching room.

Okay, patch done. Now, with the jeans inside out, I lined the edges of the hole with fusible hem tape. Following the package directions to fuse the patch over the hole, make sure that you cover it entirely with plenty of room for stitching. Not that I pictured it this way above, but you'll need to lay the patch so that your main fabric is showing through the hole when your jeans are turned right side out. You knew that.
And, here you go, right side out. I still pinned around the hole before stitching, just because I didn't really trust the strength of the bond made by the hem tape to hold up to hand sewing through heavy denim.

Use any stitch you like to finish the edges, starting (and finishing) your stitching inside. Not sure what you'd call this stitch I used. I just knew I wanted it to be a little rough and organic looking. And fast. If you choose to use a straight stitch, or something that doesn't actually grab the edges of the denim, you may need a little extra space between your stitching and the edge to allow for fraying.

If you're not into colorful patches, use denim scraps for a simpler, distressed look. This is a good way to make your favorite pair of jeans last a little longer when they start to wear out. Crafty, economic and earth-friendly to boot. The grandmothers would be proud.
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