Tag Archives: sewing

WIP Wednesday

start date: 12 May 2017
time elapsed: 3 weeks 5 days
completeness: 100%

This is the me-too shirt for Númenor’s robot shirt.  Of course, it’s a different pattern.  Not just a different one, but a more complicated one as well.  No matter, I thought.  At this stage in my sewing, I reasoned, I can handle just about anything.

Thereby I disproved the existence of god.  Because if there were such an entity, everyone would have heard them laughing at me.

This pattern was okay in terms of difficulty.  It wasn’t too fiddly, and the instructions were pretty clear.  But I used a pattern from a designer I’ve had trouble with in the past without making a muslin first.  Their clothes are so freaking cute, but I already knew that they really struggled with armscyes and their facings sometimes just didn’t work.  And I should have relied more on that past experience.  But it was so cute, and the size promised in the pattern was perfect.

And most of the pattern was fine.

But the neckline.

The neckline.

I finished the bodice and called Ithilien over so I could double-check the sizing by popping it over his head.  But it wouldn’t fit over his head.  It wasn’t even close.

So I unpicked the bodice and tried again.  This time he could put it on, but it was tight across the chest and stranglingly tight in the neckline when zipped up.

I unpicked some more.  I re-worked the side seams to give him an extra half inch in the chest, and took the zipper out, and cut the back split down an extra inch, and cut the whole neckline an extra half-inch lower.  Now it fit fine.

But the neck facing from the pattern obviously wouldn’t work anymore.

So I made up some bias tape with my new, beautiful, antique sad irons, and finished it off with a button and a loop.

And now, well, it’s perfect.  Which could be seen as all this effort paying off.

But for me, the thing that makes it most worthwhile to have finally fixed this cute little top is that it reminded me– very painfully– to consider the source when I sew up a pattern.  Next time, I’ll be working from a designer I’ve had good experiences with.

Maybe I’m just cynical, but caveat emptor seems to apply even more when it comes to things offered for free.  Maybe the modern advice would be closer to caveat usor.

Or, you know, semper muslinus prius facere.


The pattern, which I can’t recommend, is Modern Baby Doll Top by Shwin & Shwin; in addition to the modifications to the neckline and closure discussed above, I also gave it a straight hem.  The fabric is the same as last week.  The buttons are from my collection.  The irons are Geneva 8s, purchased on Etsy.

WIP Wednesday

date started: 12 May 2017
time elapsed: 2 weeks 5 days
completeness: 10%

Númenor is of a certain age now.  He’s transitioning from being a little kid to being an unmodified-kid.  And part of that, in our family, is that he has recently become responsible for his own wardrobe.

Babies and little kids, the way I see it, live in borrowed clothes.  They are welcome to have favorites and to refuse to wear certain things and give input for purchasing decisions as they get older, but nothing really belongs to them.  I decide what to buy, what to keep, how and when to mend it, when and how to care for it– they just live in it.  But where little kids’ sizing ends, at around size 6/7, that changes.

Whereas in all the smaller sizes Númenor has already had clothing waiting for him when he was big enough to wear it, when he got big enough to wear a 6X/7, there was nothing in the hand-me-down bin.  Instead, he got a checklist of clothes and accessories that needed to be in his wardrobe for the summer, and a budget to spend on them.

Of course, one of the ways he’s allowed to allocate funds is to ask me to make things for him.  And of all the things he needed, the only one he couldn’t scrape together for himself was short-sleeved shirts.  So I pulled out a cut of organic cotton sateen I bought on clearance years ago and showed him a selection of patterns that would work for the fabric, and we got to work.

And, as a bonus, we had enough fabric left over to cut a shirt (from a different pattern, natch) for Ithilien.

This is the first of a pair of coordinating-but-not-matching robot shirts for our summer adventures.  The pattern Númenor wanted is a modernist send-up of a huipil– very simple, slightly boxy, with this lovely, smooth-against-the-skin blanket-stitch neckline cut to frame the collarbones.

Believe it or not, I had never used a blanket stitch to encase a rolled, curved hem like this before.  It is ideal for the task technically, and a perfectly lighthearted design element for a child’s garment.

All in all, it makes for some gorgeous sunny-afternoon-on-the-back-deck sewing.


The fabric is “Robot Factory Screen Print” from Robert Kaufman.  The pattern is Purl Soho’s embroidered denim jumper.

And, as an aside, here’s how last week’s WIP turned out:

WIP Wednesday (only slightly delayed)

start date: 19 May 2017
time elapsed: 6 days
completeness: 50%

Last summer, in a fit of pique, I tried to resign myself to doing shoes for the smalls the conventional way.

I was frustrated with my inability to make a shoe that stayed on Númenor’s foot, and I was out of the natural rubber soling material I use for all-purpose shoes anyway, so I gave in and bought shoes for the smalls.  Or at least I tried to.

I went to the websites where I normally buy shoes for Robert and myself.  I tried the vendors I’ve been hoping to win a pair from but couldn’t really afford, assuming their kids’ shoes would be cheaper.  I tried the brands I’d heard were for hippies.  None of them had acceptable shoes for children.  Several brands didn’t have kids’ sizes at all, a couple had adult sizes and baby booties but no shoes for children, and the few that had shoes in the right sizes for my kids were so aggressively gendered I couldn’t find anything I would consent to buy, much less anything my funky, post-gender kids were interested in.

So I finally just bought some cheap crap on Zulily.  And the smalls loved the way their “storebought shoes” looked, but they were stiff-soled and uncomfortable to wear, and the sneakers took too much work to get on and off, and they couldn’t be laundered, and one of the pairs of shoes I bought after trying my hardest to find things that passed the minimum standard STILL came with a California Prop 65 warning.

And now, 8 months in, the sneakers are worn through in the toes and aglets.  The flats still look okay, but they don’t have much time left in the toes, either.

So, to review:

Homemade Shoes

Pros: cheap, recycled/recyclable, easy to mend, washable, biodegradable, uses fabric scraps, custom, ergonomic, unique, sweatshop-free

Cons: time-consuming to make, time-consuming to repair, tend to slip off Númenor’s feet, last 4-10 months

Storebought Shoes

Pros: fast, novelty materials (glitter fabric, etc.), secure on the foot, reusable/recyclable boxes

Cons: non-biodegradable, produced with fossil fuels, assembled by slave labor, MUCH more expensive than homemade, produced by the thousands or millions, difficult for smalls to use without help, stiff soles, narrow footbed, cause cancer or reproductive harm, difficult to clean, nearly impossible to repair, packaged in unnecessary plastic, last about 8-10 months

And so, here I am making new shoes for the smalls at home again.

But in the intervening time, I came to a couple new conclusions: first, I only want shoes for the smalls to last less than a year at this point because they grow so fast, that’s about the lifespan of footwear for them anyway.  Second: I have been causing myself unnecessary grief using western-style shoes and a storebought pattern.

This time I’m trying a new approach: breech moccasins from a custom pattern I drafted from a water-resist impression of Númenor’s actual feet.  The toebox is nice and wide, and the soles are natural rubber crepe, cushioned with a layer of wool blanket and lined with a scrap of cotton muslin.  The uppers are sewn together from the few usable bits of an old pair of Robert’s twill pants and hand embroidered in variegated cotton floss.  They are designed to be lightweight on the foot and flexible, while still giving moderate protection from rough terrain and the elements.

So far, I love them.  They should stand up well, and be easy to mend and patch for a few months, and then, probably at the end of next fall or in the spring, they’ll be ready for the wadding bin.


The skull-print muslin is Blackbeard Skull in Black from the “Blackbeard’s Pirates” collection by Riley Blake Designs.

WIP Wednesday


start date: today
time elapsed: none
completeness: 0%

Sometimes you spend money and effort and time incalculable on a project for a child, and they are unmoved by it.  Sometimes you throw together something quick and necessary, and it becomes the #1 Best Most Loved Favorite Thing That Accompanies Them Everywhere Until It Is Destroyed By The Sheer Force Of Their Adoration.

Meet Ithilien’s alligator pants.  Or what’s left of the seat of his alligator pants, after nearly 3 years of weekly or better wear for the rough-and-tumble kinds of activities which small children find most appealing.

Frankly, I think they held up really well considering they are just linen and muslin and a few errant patches of baby wale corduroy.  But now they are no more.

In fact, they met their demise about two months ago, when Ithilien slid down the boulder next to the chicken yard for the bazillionth time.  And he was completely distraught when I told him that they were too far gone for the mending basket– not only were they worn transparent in the seat and the cuffs, but they had a permanent crease where I’d let out an earlier hem, and they were size 4T on a child who is now wearing 6/7.

I promised that we could make new alligator pants.  And he said, tears still shining on his face, “I want them to be soft and fuzzy like my favorite gray pants.”  Which are, of course, some synthetic fleece sweatshop-produced crap that my parents bought at Target when Númenor unexpectedly needed back-up pants while staying with them.

I hemmed and hawed and tried to convince the child of the merits of wool flannel and the all-seasons practicality of midweight linen-hemp canvas and briefly considered buying $24/yard organic cotton sweatshirt fleece in a green he didn’t think was alligatory enough before finally caving in and buying a yard of bright green polyester fleece.

I hate it so much I think I might die.

But Ithilien loves it.

And I’m trying to see the bright side: at least it’s warm.  It was cheap.  It won’t fray.  It looks okay with the patches and accent pocket from the old pants.  I won’t lose it in the laundry.  My parents can machine wash and dry it if necessary.

Oh, the things we do for love.


I’m using Rae’s Parsley Pants pattern in size 6.  I know she designed it for woven fabric, but I’m a rebel (and the previous alligator pants were Parsley Pants).  I’m not linking to the cheap polyester fleece, and you can’t make me.

Felt Food: Strawberries

This very easy method makes realistic, conical strawberries, resembling the prized Hood variety grown in Oregon.

Supplies:
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  • wool or wool-blend felt in red and green
  • thread or embroidery floss in yellow, green, and red
  • stuffing
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  1. Cut a freehand half-circle from the red felt.  I find that a radius of more than 1″ but less than 3″ makes a convincing strawberry.  It’s preferable if it’s not perfect– strawberries aren’t perfect!img_3980
  2. Using yellow thread, cover the red felt piece sparsely with tiny stitches.  Try to orient all of your stitches so they point to the middle of the straight side of your half-circle.img_3982
  3. Fold the half-circle in half, right sides OUT, lining up the straight edges.  Sew JUST the straight edges together with a small whipstitch using red thread to make a cone.img_3984
  4. Stuff the cone nearly to the top and pretty firmly.  If you’re using wool stuffing, remember to add another pinch after you think you have enough to allow for compacting over time.img_3987
  5. Sew a small running stitch around the top edge of your cone.  It doesn’t matter what color thread you use for this because it won’t show in the finished product.  Gently but firmly pull both ends of your thread to gather this seam as tightly as you can and fasten securely.img_3989
  6. Cut a five-pointed star from the green felt.  The center of your star needs to be big enough to cover the gap left in the top of your gathered cone.  Again, it’s preferable if this shape isn’t perfectly regular.img_3990
  7. Using the green thread, sew a ring of stitches to secure the center of your green star to the top of your cone, covering the gap left in step 5.img_3991
  8. Bury your thread ends and admire your strawberry!img_3992

I made 20 strawberries to fill a punnet, varying the size, the yellow thread (I used butter yellow and goldenrod), and the green felt (I used a tightly-felted grass green sweater and a sheet of apple green felt) to give each of my berries individual character.

Felt Food: Blueberries

Super-easy blueberries for a play kitchen: seriously, it doesn’t get easier than this!

Supplies:

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  • blue felt (a heathered indigo felt– if you can find such a thing– would be ideal)
  • blue thread (it doesn’t have to be a good match as it shouldn’t show much in the end)
  • hand-sewing needle(s)
  • scissors
  • stuffing (optional)
  1. Cut a small circle (1″ to about 3″ in diameter) from the blue felt.  It’s better if it’s slightly irregular.
    img_3995
  2. Sew a small running stitch around the edge of the circle, leaving both ends unfastened.img_3996
  3. .Place the trimmed scraps from cutting your circle into the center.  On larger berries, you may want to put a little pinch of stuffing behind the scraps for more plumpness, but for small berries, the scraps are likely all you’ll need.img_3999
  4.  Pull on both ends of your thread to gather as tightly as you can around the stuffing.  Fasten off.img_4000
  5. Bury your thread ends and use a finger or a small tool to neaten the appearance of the blossom end, if necessary.img_4002

I made 35 berries in two colors– a navy blue 100% wool felt sheet, shown here, and a smoky royal blue felted wool sweater– to fill my mini-punnet.  I found that the wool felt sheet was much easier to cut and gather, but the thicker felted sweater makes a more convincing blossom end.

WIP Wednesday

img_4004start date: 14 November 2016
time elapsed: 2 days
completeness: 40%

After finishing Númenor’s coat and hoodie, I needed some color in my hands.  Normally I love gray and black and have no issue with working with them, but with everything happening in the world lately, I needed a bit of a boost.

So I’m putting together a cupcake-making kit.  In felt.  Cheery and colorful felt.  Scraps of felt from other projects.  Bits of old sweater waiting for a new life.

And between the bright colors and the small, modular pieces, I started to feel a bit better almost right away.  Now that I have more of the elements finished and can play with decorating cupcakes and making whipped cream and frosting, the whimsy is giving me life, too.

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As you can see, I made cylindrical cupcakes.  They’re obviously easier to make, but they’re also more versatile– it’s easier to imagine them as tiny cakes, or cheesecakes, or soufflés, instead of just cupcakes/muffins.  I’m making one white, one yellow, one light brown, and one dark brown, for a variety of flavors.

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My muffin cups are made from sweater ribbing.  With the edge cuffed a little, they look like ramekins.  With it at full-length, they look more like paper baking forms.

This will be a great addition to the smalls’ play kitchen.  I’m excited to finish up the layer cake for them as well– add in a couple cookies, some bread, and a pie crust and we’ll have a full play bakery.

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100% wool felt in various colors from Material Evidence (closed) and CraftyWoolFelt.  Natural cream 100% wool felt from JoAnn.  Barnyard Red 20% wool felt from JoAnn.  White 35% wool felt from JoAnn.  Various cashmere and wool sweater scraps from DoDadChick.  Various vintage threads, stuffing scraps, and bamboo polyfill from my stash.

WIP Wednesday

We haven’t had one of these since July!  I missed them!

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start date: 15 September 2016
time elapsed: 34 days
completeness: 50%

Several weeks ago, I mentioned that Númenor once again needed a new hoodie and coat for the winter.  I don’t know how this happened, because he JUST got new ones last year, but during the Dance of the Hand-Me-Downs, I noticed that his wrists and forearms had made a break for it and replacements were urgently needed.

We talked about his hoodie, and he described this fantastical vision for a T-rex skeleton costume piece, complete with tail and functional teeth and glow-in-the-dark bones.

I said, hmm.  And uh-huh.  And yes, that would be super awesome.

And then I said, here’s what I can do: fuzzy appliqué bones, full ribcage, upper limbs, and skull.

And he said, “Oh, okay.  That will be easier to sit down in the car and play on the playground.  Plus then I can sneak up on people in the dark.”

Such wisdom, from one so young.

So now I’m studying the skeletal anatomy of the T-rex in astounding detail, and desperately trying to adapt what I learn to a hooded sweatshirt for a human-shaped child, because it turns out that if I had wanted to buy this garment in a store, I would have been totally SOL.

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It’s been an interesting process.

And the end result will be imperfect and definitely homemade-looking, but pretty cool, I think.  If nothing else, Númenor and I can look back on this project and laugh, and he will at least know that I love him, and I’m willing to try audacious things to make him happy.

Here’s hoping that’s what counts.

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Organic black sweatshirt fleece from Organic Cotton Plus, white bamboo rayon/organic cotton velour from Etsy, the pattern and technique are my own and not recommended.

10 Things I Need to Make this Fall

Now that we’re mired in the part of summer that’s too hot for much of anything– certainly unseasonable for having a big pile of flannel in my lap– but about to leave the last heat wave of the season, I’ve been looking forward to some cool-weather crafting and giving some thought to what needs to happen.

Here’s my list, necessities and fripperies in no particular order, of the top 10 things I need to make in the coming season:

  1. Tea towels.  The flour sack towels that wrapped a few of our favorite kitchen gadget wedding gifts are finally sprouting holes and wearing out.  I’m thinking the new ones are going to be mid-weight natural linen, but the same dimensions as the old ones.
  2. Coat for Númenor.  Another year, another coat.  This one is definitely going to be lined with some of that gorgeous Portland bridges fabric I picked up a few years ago, but I’m not sure what the outer fabric will be like or what pattern I’m going to use.  I might draft my own pattern.
  3. Hoodie for Númenor.  Something fun and slightly funky, as usual.
  4. Twin-size comforter for Ithilien.  In the depths of winter, the nursery gets pretty cold in the middle of the night.  At the moment, we have only one twin-size comforter, and that can cause strife.  I’m planning to whipstitch together a couple of old flannel top sheets, fill with some fluffy recycled fiberfill, and tie it down to quilt it.  The only trouble will be that the sheets I have are green and green-red plaid, and Ithilien is a red-loving kid who might object to the forest tones.  But it’ll be warm regardless.
  5. “What Lives Here?” picture book.  This is one I’ve been puzzling over for some time.  The smalls are always asking what kinds of animals live in our area, especially when we go on drives.  I’m currently working on a collage-style picture book showing different ecosystems and settings and filled with the different animals that might live there.  It’s a huge undertaking, even limiting myself to a 20-mile radius around our house, since we live in a transitional zone between at least three climates.
  6. Toy ankylosaurus for Ithilien.  I made a stegosaurus for Númenor a while back, and Ithilien demanded an ankylosaurus.  How one knits an ankylosaurus I am not sure (possibly with lots of bobbles?), but I’ll figure it out.
  7. Autumn leaf babies.  If you’ve been around a while, you might remember my spring raindrop babies.  I’ve been trying to work up to a whole four-seasons set: snowflakes, raindrops, fruit (or maybe sunshine?), and autumn leaves.  I love dollmaking, and these little felt-and-wood sweeties are downright addictive in their simplicity and appeal.
  8. Altoid tin boredom busters.  We recently inherited a big box of mint tins.  They are the perfect size to tuck in a pocket or purse and you can fill them with anything.  So I’ve been trying to develop a set of toys and activity kits inside Altoid tins for when we travel or waiting at restaurants.
  9. More petticoats for myself.  Hopefully at least two more cotton ones (black, I think) and if I can find room for it in the budget, I would love a woolen flannel one for winter wear.
  10. Halloween costumes.  This year the smalls have both decided on light-themed costumes, which means getting creative with LEDs and possibly wearable circuitry.  Númenor’s might yet be merged with his hoodie, but we have yet to have our first formal design meeting, so it’s very much still TBD.

 

 


 

What about you?  What are you looking forward to making as the weather changes?

WIP Wednesday

IMG_3782start date: today
completeness: 10%

Petticoats.

It’s a word I like: kind of anachronistic, a little connotation of fanciness.

As I’ve been working through the list of projects I rattled off last time, this has been the one I’m striving to get to.  It’s spring heading into summer now, of course, so the need for extra layers under my skirt is far from urgent, but these have been on my queue for a long time, and they are going to be an important part of my wardrobe.

By putting elastic in the top, I’ll be making a petticoat that can also be pulled up to my armpits and worn as a sort of shift dress, which I’m hoping will make for perfect nightgowns.

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And, of course, in the fall and winter, having an extra layer under my skirt to trap warm air next to my body is going to be very important.

I dyed these in December, but then life happened, and I’m only now starting to put them together.  It’s simple work: just an Elizabethan seam up the back, an elastic casing at the top, and a single-fold hem along the bottom (because I was clever enough to leave the fabric selvage where it benefits me).

But there are three of them.  And they’re pretty big, boring sewing– lots of long, straight seams and not much else.

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So I guess it’s lucky for me that they’re so important, because otherwise I might never find the motivation.


The fabric is Dharma Trading Co. Organic Cotton Muslin, kettle dyed with iDye Natural in 430 Silver Gray.