Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Maxi for Mama

It became very apparent to me a few months ago that some closet upgrades were well overdue! I've been very excited this pregnancy to try maxi skirts -- they came onto my radar just after Rosa was born, and I wish I'd known earlier how comfortable and transitional they are. Pregnancy, post-partum, "normal" -- it's all the same to a skirt with a stretchy waist.

Here's a version I whipped up with a coral knit from Girl Charlee. I used a beige maternity panel salvaged from $1 thrifted pants (I routinely harvest panels to use on skirts) for the waist, but cut off all but the top four inches or so. In essence, it has a stretchy waistband that can sit below a large belly, or right at the waist post-pregnancy. 




I also tried out a detail that I'd been musing over for a while -- a ruched, off-center "drawstring" at the hem, for a little extra flair. I really like how it turned out, and it was quite easy (thanks to knit's no-ravel policy). For a solid skirt, I think it adds a nice touch.

My two "pre-pregnancy" maxi skirts, are working just fine, and I re-made two XXL maxis that I scored on clearance at Target -- the fabric is great and the price was right, so I'm glad I went to the trouble of scaling them down! I'm really looking forward to less "drama" in that awkward no-longer-pregnant-but-still-don't-fit-in-normal-clothes stage. But right now, I'm just enjoying being pregnant -- speaking of, a recent scan showed baby doing well, moving like crazy, and measuring a full week ahead. That, combined with the crisp weather, has left me with a spring in my (admittedly waddle-prone) step.


Monday, October 27, 2014

Sweater the First

At long last, it's done -- my very first sweater! After two failed attempts with too-advanced patterns, the third pattern was the charm. Granted, it still took me a shameful amount of time to complete, but complete it is.




I used the Babe Solids Cardigan pattern with a few alterations (some intentional, some not!). Short sleeves, for one, since I didn't have enough yarn for long sleeves. I also modified the shoulder/sleeve shapes to resemble the shapes I'm used to using for sewing, added the lace pattern to the sleeves, and omitted the ribbing along the center front (along with the buttonholes) due to limited yarn.

Speaking of yarn, I used Knit Picks Wool of the Andes Superwash (worsted weight). The color is Fjord Heather, and it's really delightful. Blue-green, but not boyish. I find that I'm drawn to heathered yarns, as I like the subtle color variation.

This sweater is knitted flat and then joined. Apparently most knitters prefer as little joining as possible, but since my background in sewing is far stronger than my knitting, I found it easier to knit simple shapes and leave more complicated techniques for the future.




I am excessively fond of lace knitting, even though all I've tried so far have been very simple patterns. I'd like to explore those techniques more, as I find it far more interesting than endless rows of knit and purl. I ended up stitching the sweater together with a backstitch, since my joining skills are very limited! 




In the end, I'm very satisfied with this project (though the sleeves came out a little longer than I expected, and I think they look a bit 80's). I'm curious to see how blocking affects it, as the wool I used is superwash. It's a little oversized on Rosa right now, but I think it will be perfect this Spring and next Fall. 




Now on the needles is a tiny Newborn Vertebrae, in a delicious merino-alpaca . Tiny knitting is so rewarding... and quick!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

A Ruffle Top for Rosa

In the mood for a little sewing -- then again, when am I not? -- I finally broke down and bought Burda's Baby's Ruffle Top pattern (the download also includes the pieces for this dress, which I didn't realize at first!). I'm so fond of simple, feminine styling for little girls. Fortunately, I had a good fabric scrap just big enough for this project, so I could try out the pattern.


How hard is it to iron out the crease in the front? Not hard. I'm just *that* lazy.

I made the largest size (24 mths, according to them), which is a tad large for my exactly-24-mont-old Rosa. 


It hangs a little oddly, thanks to the too-big hanger!

The pattern goes together easily, though the instructions might best be described as "terse." I did change a few things -- I doubled the width of the ruffle piece rather than hemming it, which I thought would look better should the underside of the ruffle be exposed (and is also easier than hemming!). I also topstitched the bias tape to the neckline, which I probably will not do if I repeat this pattern in a linen or "non scrap" fabric. Oh, and I stitched the sleeves to the armholes before stitching up the side seams; I find it so much easier to do that with children's clothes, as those tiny armholes can be finicky.




A few stash buttons later, and Rosa has a wearable mock-up. There will certainly be more of these coming, and I can picture all kinds of variations -- short sleeves, empire waist with a gathered skirt (for a dress), etc. Simple and versatile is always a winner with me.


Monday, October 20, 2014

Rosa's Favorite Read Aloud

I've had to excercise a great deal of restraint lately, as I've grown more and more excited about collecting children's literature. Now that I'm reading aloud more and more to the littles, I've been compiling a collection of books (here's my Pinterest board) that we own or would like to own/read. Little by little, I add to our collection. I like to take my time, selecting books that meet my particular set of criteria -- no bad attitudes, unaddressed bad behaviors, or diametrically different worldviews; lovely artwork; and a "worthwhile" story (though I do struggle to find much of a moral in "Sheep in a Jeep," which is one of our favorites... *wink*). I learned so much from literature as a child, and I want to share that with our children.

Lately I've been getting multiple requests per day for Rosa's favorite book (a childhood favorite of mine): Baby Come Out by Fran Manushkin, illustrated by Ronald Himler. It's not very well known, and only recently returned from "out-of-print" status. I'm so glad it did, because it delights me even more as an adult than it did when I was a child!




Whimsical illustrations accompany the charming story, in which a rather stubborn baby is coaxed to "come out" because she wants a kiss from her daddy. I love the way the baby is portrayed (very "tastefully" naked), as I think it emphasizes the concept of personhood before birth. 




I also love the attitude of the family -- no jealous siblings, no angst. Just a great deal of love and eagerness to meet the new baby. 




It has certainly sparked plenty of excitement with our littles, as they anticipate the arrival of their sibling! Little Man likes to talk to the baby, telling it that he loves it, and explaining that it must get bigger and then it can come out. It's delightful to share these moments with them, especially now that Little Man is old enough to understand a bit more. I can't wait to see, Lord willing, their reactions when the baby does come! I wonder how many times we'll have read Baby Come Out before then?


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Mother Deer

I've noticed a particular deer who's visited our yard several times over the past year -- she's not difficult to spot, because she's missing her left front leg and therefore walks with a distinct limp. I was very surprised, then, when I saw her a few weeks ago with a fawn in tow! A four-legged fawn, for the record. *wink* 





I'm still curious about the doe. Is the missing leg a birth defect, or did she somehow lose it? That seems like a rather significant accident for an animal to survive. Somehow it's remarkable to me to see her coping so well that she can take care of not only herself, but a fawn, as well! And to think I struggle to juggle two littles, even with with four functional limbs...

In other news, we're enjoying the aftermath of a vicious storm -- for now, temperatures are cool and the air is crisp and refreshing. I'm sure we still have some hot weather to come, but at least we know Fall is on the way. Though we still have half a pine tree to remove from our roof, thanks to the aforementioned storm. At least it won't be a boring weekend!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Hoo's Who

Poor Rosa was in desperate need of a new bib! I'd made her several about a year ago while I was drafting and tweaking my pattern, but they've been growing snug (and short!) for quite a while now. Owl fabric to the rescue!





This was the fabric that I originally purchased for the table and chairs that I recovered -- the "wrong blue" fabric. I kept it anyway, because I liked the print and it doesn't hurt to have a gender neutral baby fabric on hand. 





All I had to do was find a coordinating yellow print for the reverse (I love reversible!), and I was set. This bib is really a kind of smock, and is quite easy to put together. I used flannel for the interlining and white cotton for the bias trim. 





Velcro is easier to put on, but I had to go with a snap because it wears so much better in the wash. Besides, Rosa can't put these on by herself, so I'd have to fasten it for her, anyway. I originally bought my snap press and snaps at JoAnn's to convert velcro cloth diapers to snaps, but I'm loving them for so many applications! Maybe because they're so easy? Yes, that could definitely have an influence on my preference...





I think one more bib will set us up nicely -- now to come up with ideas for that one!


Thursday, October 09, 2014

Homely

We've been enjoying homely things of late -- "homely" in the English sense, that is. I've never understood the American usage as a description of plain features. Isn't home supposed to be beautiful, anyway? But that's neither here nor there. 

We finally found a bread recipe that works for us -- granted, it's made from that dreaded monster, white flour, but with only a few ingredients and a fool-proof recipe, it's a keeper. There's something so validating about making bread. Perhaps because I've never been very successful in the past? At any rate, this bread is delicious and satisfying spread with some of the local wildflower honey we just bought.




Though nothing can satisfy like the Bread:


"Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; 
whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, 
and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst. 
All that the Father gives Me shall come to me, 
and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out."

John 6:35, 37

Edited to include the recipe, as requested!

The recipe we use is strongly based on Jamie Oliver's bread recipe (video here, slightly different written recipe here). But we've made a few alterations -- or just mixed the two recipes -- until we found what works for us.

I mix everything up in my KitchenAid with the dough hook. My food processor works, but if I do more than half a recipe it gets gummy dough all over everything! Plus, my mixer is easier to clean.

OUR VERSION: 

Ingredients:
  • 1 kg all-purpose flour or bread flour (I put my mixer bowl on our digital scale, set it to 0.0, and then pour flour in until I reach a kilo)
  • 4 1/2 - 6 tsp yeast (2-3 packets)
  • 2 tsp salt 
  • ~600 ml of hot water (I use less and add a bit more if needed; I like the dough to not be too sticky)
  • 2 TBSP of olive oil (I think this is technically for pizza crust, but it works & I'm not changing it!)
  • Generous squirt of honey -- probably 2 -3 TBSP
Directions:
  1. I mix everything in our KitchenAid with a dough hook until everything is combined. I give it a couple of good "kneads" in the bowl (not hard if the dough isn't sticky), cover it with plastic wrap, and put it on the stove under the light to rise. I often turn the warming burner on our glass cooktop on low and put the dough on a cooling rack over it, because our house is usually too cool to get a good "rise."
  2. After about 45 minutes the dough has doubled in size. I knead it more thoroughly on a floured surface, probably 2 minutes or so. Then I divide it in half, shape it (roughly), and place it in two oiled bread pans. It goes back on the stove covered with a tea towel. My oven takes about 15 minutes to preheat to 400 degrees, so I usually just start the preheat now.
  3. In roughly 20 minutes the dough has risen in the pans. I make 2 diagonal cuts on the top of each loaf with a knife (optional) and stick it in the 400 degree oven for about 40 minutes. I notice that the recipe I included says 350 for 25-30 minutes, but I think I'll stick with what's working for us!
  4. When the bread is done I put the pans on cooling racks, then remove the bread (a table knife will loosen the sides if needed) a few minues later. Leaving it in the pans too long will cause it to go soggy. Also, I've heard you should allow it to cool completely before cutting -- we don't always do that... *wink*
And that's that! I've seen and tried other recipes, but most either didn't work well for anything other than thick slices of toast or had so many ingredients that bread making would be a chore (and sometimes an expensive one, if involving milk or copious amounts of honey!). That's why I love this recipe -- it's so ridiculously simple, uses whole ingredients (why are they putting cellulose in bread products now?), and is very forgiving. Seriously, I forget about it sometimes when it's rising, and we've yet to have a failed loaf! Oh, and it's not frustratingly sticky like many of the recipes I've tried.  I did leave out the oil accidentally last time, and the bread is drier and not as delectable, so I'd recommend leaving it in. 

Enjoy!

Monday, October 06, 2014

Having a Ball

As I mentioned in my last post, I've been busily preparing for our first real formal event with the military (and our first Navy ball, to boot!). And I finally got to see Pablo in his dress whites. I can't decide whether I prefer dress blues or white -- but he looks fabulous in both, so it's not that distressing of a dilemma. *wink* 


Isn't it rather cruelt that the dress white uniform includes white shoes with white
soles?!  My poor husband...

The pattern is McCall's 6557 (mostly View C), which, while not a maternity pattern, can be found in the "suitable for maternity" section. Suitable for maternity is definitely an understatement! The skirt flares dramatically -- so much so, in fact, that I actually significantly reduced the flare at the side seams and still have plenty of room. I really think I could wear this gown full term without any difficulty! I'll have to wait to see how it looks "non maternity," but I think it might work equally well. The empire waist is so versatile.

I used Casa Collection Satin in "Bordeaux" from JoAnn Fabrics. Fortunately it wasn't on sale at the time, allowing me to use 50% off coupons for the satin and matching lining and lace. I found a perfectly matching zipper, and then went to look for thread -- ironically, the first spool I picked up was "Barberry Red," the exact shade of the zipper. My search for ribbon (for the sash) was equally successful. Apparently this particular shade of red/burgundy is popular.


The crossover in the front foiled my desire for a perfectly lined garment, but
I found some matching lace hem tape in my stash to "finish" the offending
zipper seam.

Need you even ask or wonder whether or not there were alterations? I lengthened the skirt a good ten inches for starters. The pattern is not technically "formal," but as with many patterns, the fabric and finishes determine the ultimate look. Foolishly, I did not check the pattern before buying fabric, so I didn't realize at first that the pattern would need to be lengthened. Happily, I made a last minute decision to buy five yards instead of the 4 7/8 listed on the pattern -- those few inches made all the difference when I laid out the pattern. Also happily, the Casa satin does not have a nap, which would have been disastrous with the necessarily creative pattern layout!


It's remarkably difficult to capture the correct shade in a photograph -- the first
photo of us together is probably closest to the actual color, versus the dark pink
look in my last post!

I tried to take my time and focus on details, since this is a gown I hope to wear over and over again. And the last thing I wanted was a "formal" that looked homemade. I fully lined the skirt, and even understitched the bodice lining, which is something I'm rarely patient enough to bother with! I added a modesty panel, and had to re-mark the bodice pleats (plus trim a bit off the bottom of the bodice) in order to achieve the right fit. It's nerve-wracking fitting to one's self without assistance, especially with such a fitted garment. Fortunately I've gotten more used to it over the past few years, and it all work out in the end.  

I debated about the lace overlay on the bodice, but in the end I'm thrilled with the result. I had intended to extend the shoulder pattern piece to make a cap sleeve, but totally forgot until I had already cut out the shoulder. Too lazy to re-cut the piece, I decided sleeveless was fine. Then inspiration struck, and I drafted a simple cap sleeve on the edge of the lace. I wasn't sure it would work, but it turned out perfectly! I'm actually far happier with this than I would have been with my initial idea.




I reduced the width of the waistband pieces and ommitted the tie pieces in the side seams -- I replaced them with the aforementioned ribbon sash, which is invisibly tacked to the dress at the side seams and center front, and ties in the back. The ribbon actually perfects the fit, giving a little extra definition to the waist so that I actually look pregnant instead of plump. Though really, this dress design downplays the baby bump, probably due to the full skirt.

Hemming took several hours (even though I hemmed the lining by machine), with a total of 240 inches of hem for each layer. Goodness, that was a task! It did end up a bit long, leaving me to wonder whether it's worth re-hemming. We have a formal event coming up next month that will involve more than the one slow dance we shared at the Navy Ball, but perhaps by then a little extra "bump" will solve the length issue!

I was so relieved to finish this in time, and the Navy Ball was actually quite a blast. It was optional-but-highly-encouraged, but I think we enjoyed ourselves enough to make it a yearly event regardless!