Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Gift

I don't typically share "the news" this early, but considering how many of you have been kindly praying for our family over the past few months, I think it's high time to let you know that we're expecting another baby in March! Actually, the current due date is March 15th, the infamous "Ides of March" (which apparently no one knows about, because most of the people I've mentioned this to have responded with blank stares). Considering that Little Man was due Christmas Eve and Rosa was due Reformation Day/Halloween, we seem to have a "holiday due date" theme. 

How I'd hoped and prayed that I would be pregnant before our sweet baby girl's due date! I reasoned that such joyful news would soften the heartache sure to accompany that day. As it turns out, I was pregnant, though I had no idea at the time. And really, I think it was better that way. Without that buffer, I was "forced" to close out a painful chapter in the grieving process. As the due date approached, all of the progress I'd felt I'd made over the past few months was swept away, leaving the wound very, very raw. Only a few days before I took that pregnancy test, I'd prayed to God that He might take away my desire for more children (at least for a time), because the constant see-saw of hope and disappointment each month made the grief that much harder to bear.

Clearly, He didn't grant that petition! I actually found out at 3 1/2 weeks, due to a number of factors (largely my impatience, and the realization that it would be better to test early than wait and wonder in agony for a few more days).

I can't begin to express my gratitude to God for this blessing. I never presumed that we would be able to have another child quickly -- or even at all -- because I know very well that not everyone gets a "rainbow baby" after a loss. Nor can I express my gratitude for the many prayers that you, my dear readers, have offered up on our behalf. I am treasuring this blessing and yet holding it loosely, knowing all too well how precious and transient it can be. It's hard not to give in to anxiety (and I'm not always successful), but as the days pass I become more hopeful. We recently had our first sonogram, and the relief of seeing our baby's heartbeat was great, indeed. Still, for some reason it's difficult to imagine why this pregnancy would go any better than the last. There are still many weeks to go (and several more before we're past the point at which we lost our last baby), so I crave your continued prayer for a safe and healthy pregnancy.

Lamentations 3 was a source of comfort to me over those dark months following our loss, and its verses still bring me comfort:

But I call this to mind, and therefore I have hope: 
the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; 
His mercies never come to an end; 
they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. 
"The Lord is my portion," says my soul, "
therefore I will hope in Him." 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Leggings for Mama

It may surprise you to learn that while I've cranked out almost a dozen pairs of leggings for Rosa and frequently wear leggings myself under dresses, my first by-me-for-me leggings came off the machine only a few weeks ago. Armed with a yard of lightweight cotton spandex from Girl Charlee, I used the same self-drafted legging pattern that I used for my swimsuit bottom. The fabric is actually much lighter than I anticipated, so it has a tendency to bag a little at the knees over time. I think a little adjustment in the knee area is all that's needed to fix that, though.

The most nerve-wracking aspect of the project was a detail that I've been wanting to incorporate into leggings for the longest time. Inspired by this image (which is now just an image with a broken link, as the item is no longer available), I wanted a button-and-lace detail on the sides. Fortunately, it was faster and easier than I anticipated -- a good thing, since I'm pretty sure I held my breath the whole time!

I'm so pleased with how they turned out! They're remarkably comfortable, and I actually remembered to make the back of the waist higher than the front. The waistband is a doubled length of white spandex -- I decided that I wanted a thicker fabric at the waist, and no one will see the difference in color!

Alas, no good pictures of me actually wearing  the leggings, but aside from the button detail, they're remarkably... ordinary. I'm so pleased that my experiment was successful, and that I now know I can get a pair of leggings from one yard of reasonably wide material.

Now excuse me while I go think up uses for the pound of dried lavender that just came in the mail!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rolly Tootsie Wrappers

No, the title of this post (though confusing) is not muddled. For the topic in hand are new "wrappers" for the rolliest tootsies in the house, belonging -- of course -- to Rosa.

Since my predilection for leather shoe-making is clearly here to stay, I actually invested in some leather sheets via Etsy and decided to have a bit of fun. Little pink shoes were just too much to resist! I used the same pattern as I did for Rosa's tan leather shoes (and a pair of "undocumented" red leather Mary Janes), namely, Podsshoes's Ruffled Mary Janes via Etsy. Rosa has outgrown her other pairs, and they're truly in sad shape, anyway. She's now very comfortable in a size 4. Consider that there are 5 sizes in the pattern, and the largest size is supposed to go up to 18 months. Rosa will be turning two in October! I think the sizing may run a little big, but still, my girly has tiny, pudgy feet.

I used a dark grey leather suede for the soles -- these had already been worn a few times before I snapped
photos, so you can see some little toe-prints if you look carefully! *wink*

My only real modification this time (besides omitting the ruffle) was to the change the strap design. Rather than a single piece that crosses to the other side, I shortened the strap and added the "difference" to the other side of the shoe back -- this created two short straps instead of one long strap.

I also omitted the lining pieces, since the leather I was working with was quite thick. Instead, I stitched a rectangle of thin leather to the ankle area, thus creating the casing for the elastic.

The straps are connected with a small loop of elastic, with a pink bow stitched to the front. They slip onto Rosa's feet with just a hint of persuasion.

I took my time with the stitching this time, using an awl to keep my stitches even and thick buttonhole thread for durability. I think it paid off, as these are by far the tidiest pair of leather shoes I've made to date. Over time, I'm hoping to increase my skill -- and perhaps my stash of tools -- but it's nice to know that I have enough to make simple shoes and such.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Sugar and Spice

A few weeks back, I needed something to go along with the little dress (actually store bought, by the by) we were giving our first niece. And what better than a bow? Or two. Or several. Because a girl needs options, right? 

In the end, I assembled a little "folder" of bows, with a few elastic headbands thrown in for variety (and because newborns rarely have enough hair to handle a full-fledged bow). I prefer double-fold elastic for baby headbands, since the narrow elastics seem like they would be rather uncomfortable. My method is to hand sew the ends of the elastic together with a 1/4" overlap, and then wrap the seam with a short piece of elastic (sewn together on the back side of the headband) -- this allows you to affix a bow to the "wrap" so the bow clip doesn't contact the baby's head, and also is a tidy finish if you're not using a bow. 

Bow making is such a blast! One of these days I need to take a picture of Rosa's bows, because her collection is already rather large. I primarily use the Ribbon Retreat tutorials and, when necessary, a homemade bow-making jig (i.e., a short 2x4 drilled with 1/4" holes and a pair of 1/4" dowels). 

Presentation was a bit of a puzzle, until I decided on a "folder." Two pieces of scrapbook paper (one was card stock weight) were affixed together, folded in the right places, and finished with two card stock bow holders. The edges of the folder are covered in gold washi tape, since the raw edge of the paper was not particularly attractive! Yes, I often obsess over gift wrapping. Yes, I know that's probably not healthy.

Little Man and Rosa finally have a cousin, something Little Man is particularly excited about. He talks lovingly about holding her and patting her on the back, and then (when she gets "bigger and bigger") taking her to Wal Mart to buy a swimsuit so she can play in his sprinkler with him. At any rate, hopefully she will not be at a loss for bows any time soon!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Little Leggings

I find myself making more and more of Rosa's clothing, especially as I grow confident with knits. It sounds so grand to say that I'm "confident with knits," though really it's nothing special when you consider how forgiving a fabric it is! *wink* At any rate, leggings have been coming off the assembly line lately, since I find them perfect to pair with tunics and dresses that are now a little too short. Also, I can usually fit a pair on the leftover fabric from one of my tops, so the fabric is generally free.

I usually keep it simple -- a two-piece pattern with a hem at the bottom (sometimes pre-provided if I'm using an existing shirt) and a casing with elastic at the top. It's almost shamefully easy. The middle pair below has my favorite waistband, namely, a waistband casing that stitches right-side-together to the leggings and is topstitched down. It just looks so tidy!

The pair on the right was made from an incredibly soft Old Navy top I thrifted for $1 -- it was hopeless for me, but perfect for leggings. And I was even able to salvage the adorable double-layered, bobble-trimmed cap sleeves to use as ruffles.   

Simple and gratifying. Now that's the kind of sewing I like!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Blueberry Bush

How long have we lived in this house? Four, going on five years? Surely by now we'd know our house and grounds pretty well, right? Well, we were in for a surprise this summer when one of the nondescript bushes in our yard started producing blueberries!

I vaguely recall suspecting such a thing last summer, but the berries were so tiny and decidedly not blue that I decided I must be mistaken. If I'm correct, blueberries require two bushes of different varieties in order to produce. We must have an anomaly, then, because we just have one bush. One enormous, overgrown, formerly-unidentified bush. Seriously, it's about eight feet tall. 

The Littles have been loving our new find, and Little Man is on a constant hunt for "dark ones." That snapshot of berries in Rosa's hand above? I had about a second to capture that before they all went in her mouth. They're tiny little berries, and not particularly sweet -- but that hasn't stopped us from munching up every berry we can find, as soon as they're ripe. I'm rather surprised it's bearing so late, as I believe late June is more typical for our area.

 It's been such a treat to enjoy some homegrown food -- especially since it cost no effort on our part! After some of the "discoveries" this house has dished up, it's nice to have a surprise of the pleasant variety. Now just to save up enough berries at one time to make some muffins...

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Little Toms

An invitation to a baby shower for a little fellow in our church finally offered me an excuse to try Leisha's free pattern and tutorial for mini "TOMS." They're just too precious not to try, don't you think?

I use a thick navy linen with a homespun texture, with a pale khaki twill for the lining and soles. The elastic was actually salvaged from the "shelf bra" of a camisole (seriously, when will clothing manufacturers realize that an extra layer of fabric with a band of elastic does NOT constitute a substitute for a proper supportive undergarment?). It's thick and slightly fuzzy, and worked perfectly.

I made two significant alterations to the infant pattern, besides omitting the tags and adding a little bit of length to the sole, since the aforementioned baby is two months old. One was the construction of the "V" shape -- mine is lined, in a sense, which should eliminate the possibility of raveling at the corners of the "V's" (which I could see was inevitable had I followed the instructions as written). The other alteration was to make the sole lining conceal all raw edges by waiting to stitch it on until the end. Next time I make a pair I may take a few pictures of these steps, as they're hard to describe but are worth trying.

Hopefully these fit the little chap they were intended for -- otherwise, I'll get busy stitching up a slightly larger pair! My babies had such tiny feet that I can never get a good sense for how big baby shoes should be. I have a feeling I'll be buying the pattern downloads so that I have access to all of the sizes that Leisha has designed. I love the style, and think they're perfect for little ones!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Finery and Progress

I've developed a fascination with linen sheets of late, ever since I discovered their existence -- sadly, that's an expensive fascination, though apparently a good sheet will last many years.

And then, I remembered. In a box under our bed, we had a carefully folded top sheet and set of matching pillowcases, given to me at my bridal shower by a dear family friend. And not just any top sheet -- a snowy, antique French sheet with beautiful embroidery. My recent research made me suspect it might be linen, and my suspicions were quickly confirmed when I pulled it out.

Look at all of that incredible hand stitching!

I'd never used the sheet, considering it too precious and special to be subjected to wear and tear. In fact, it still had the tag from the fancy antique linen shop it had been purchased from. My reasoning, of course, was ridiculous. It was given to us to put on our bed, not under it. And why own something "too nice" to use? I delayed a day or two, then finally washed it and put it on our bed. The verdict? Not only is it beautiful, it's incredibly luxurious. It has a lovely weight and drape, and the way it breathes helps regulate temperature. I'd no idea sheets could be so lovely! I now need a bottom sheet, which I'm considering sewing myself. For now, it's a luxury to have some finery for every-day.

In other news, here's the current project on my needles:

It's a Harriet cardigan, in Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash Worsted. The color is Fjord Heather, and is rather lighter than it shows up in the photo. This little sweater is destined for Rosa once the cooler months arrive -- though it currently seems as though cooler weather will never come! The pattern jumps from 24 months to 4T, so I'm trying to size it in between. So far, so good -- though my ribbing looks untidy, a problem which will hopefully resolve when I block it. But there are a number of rows between now and then...