Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Homespun

Now that I've determined to take up knitting in earnest, I'm gathering supplies and making plans. My strategy? The right tools (AKA, actually paying attention to the size of the knitting needles I'm using -- I know, this seems like a no-brainer), and the "right" materials. I know I'll be more inclined to perservere if I'm working with a yarn that I absolutely love.

A yarn like this:




It's an absolutely gorgeous wool and angora blend from Moss Hollowe on Etsy. And when I say gorgeous, I mean it. Surprisingly soft for wool, it's a beautiful grayish brown hue that pictures don't do justice to. To top it off, Moss Hollowe includes the names of the sheep and rabbits with the skein, along with "head shots" -- talk about provenance! I usually ponder and vacillate when making a purchase, but it didn't take me long to make a decision when I encountered this yarn.




With needles, stitch markers, and accessories ready to go, all that's left is to take a deep breath and start.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Ruffled Cream

With Summer well on its way, a few new tops have been in order. And apparently once one gets a taste for the infinite possibilites of custom shirts, one gets a bit heady. In other words, I find it very hard to be satisfied with what's available at my local charity shops, and very uninclined to shell out the cash for the kind of shirts I do like.

And thus, here's a bit of ruffled cream:




This shirt is not a total success, but it came out sufficiently well for my satisfaction. It's a simple affair, with a bit of ruffling at the neck and some ties to supply the necessary shaping. I'm beginning to suspect that I have a bit of a sway back, which can tend to make me look a bit plump in the middle unless a shirt is uncomfortably tight or tailored in the back. At any rate, the pattern is self-drafted -- it's really very easy to create your own tee pattern, either from your measurements or an existing top. And the nature of knit is such that it's also very simple to adjust and fit the shirt while in construction.




And yes, the topstitching looks a bit obvious in the above picture -- but it's not nearly as noticeable in real life. I do have a feeling that I'll be ironing this top after every wash, though, as I have my doubts about how well the flounces will lie flat on their own.

And just to keep it real, may I draw your attention to just how off-centered the neckline binding is in the back? There are times when I'm just not in the mood to make something perfect -- especially since I almost always wear my hair down. *wink*


What's up with the odd pulling in the back when Yvonne wears my shirt? hmm.

 So in the end, this shirt is an example of when less-than-perfect is just fine. Because, after all, it's just a shirt. A shirt that's going to come in very handy as the temperatures start rising!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Head to Toe Day

I love head-to-toe days. Bow, dress, leggings, and shoes, all Mama-made. 




I'd like to make this a more frequent thing. Just because it's fun, you know?


PS -- The leggings are from this free pattern, slightly modified

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Leather in Bloom

I'm fed up. Despite my best efforts, finding shoes for Rosa has seemed an insurmountable task lately. Even the few brand new pairs I've purchased online have proven to be too large for her (which is fine, since she'll grow into them). The problem is that she has the shortest, fattest little feet you have ever seen. Adorable? Yes. Kissable? Absolutely (assuming they've been washed! Girl, we've got to do something about that foot odor...). Good at fitting in standard shoe sizes? Not a chance. The shoe may be the perfect length, but if it has even a hint of a strap (and let's face it, most toddler shoes won't stay on without one), there's no way to shove her tootsies inside. 

And thus, I turn once again to my trusty leather. Much as I love leather shoes, I've avoided making them for a while; the traditional Robeez look works well on boys, but it's not exactly feminine (though there are some seriously adorable pairs embellished with flowers, birds, etc.). Also, my early attempts at making leather shoes for Rosa were less than successful. Oh, and did I mention that sewing leather is a major pain -- both literally and figuratively? It's also quite time consuming (I can't cajole my machine into stitching it properly, so I'm stuck with hand sewing). But this time, armed with a good pattern and a large modicum of determination, I set to work.








The result, happily, was well worth the effort. Finally releasing myself from the burden of trying to create a pattern, I purchased the Ruffled Mary Jane pattern from Podsshoes on Etsy. Isn't it a delightful design? The pattern was quite satisfactory, too. This is actually my second pair -- I tried the size 4, a bit nervous that it was labeled as "9-12 months" despite the finished size being larger than her foot measurement. Turns out, the 4 was enormous, and I ended up making the "6-9 months/Size 3" for my almost-18-month-old! So definitely go by the measurements instead of the age, just to be safe.




I skipped the leather ruffle for this pair, and instead created a leather flower for each shoe -- I used this leather rose tutorial, though I was disappointed when I discovered the PDF download was no longer available. Fortunately, the blog's author photographed her templates, and from that I was able to recreate them.




I did alter the shoe pattern just a tad -- Besides omitting the ruffle, I extended the strap piece and left the edges square (rather than rounding them). This allowed me to simply sew the strap to the side of the shoe and stitch on a decorative button, rather than deal with snaps (which I don't have on hand, and can be a little pricey). The shoe slides right on, so I'll probably repeat this in the future. 


I did machine sew a little bit -- but since it involves hand-cranking my machine and re-stitching about 75% of
the stitches until they "take," I eventually gave up and pulled out my thimble.

 I'm finally making peace with hand-sewing leather, now that I'm getting the hang of it. Each time it gets a bit easier, sometimes due to an improvement in materials (yay for leather needles and a better thimble!), sometimes due to an improvement in technique (two rounds of running stitches -- first round with a leather needle, second with a regular needle -- is better than trying to back stitch, which will sometimes result in cut threads if you're using a leather needle). And quite honestly, the extra "manipulation" that's possible with hand sewing is a bonus when working with tiny shoes.

Total cost? $0.25 for the leather (I got 4 pairs of shoes out of a $1 garment), and $8 for the pattern -- but that cost will be lowered each time I use it. Actually, I've already used it twice, so I'm down to $4 per use! *wink*

These look so precious on Rosa, and they'll match just about everything in her wardrobe! I'll definitely be pulling this pattern out again (fortunately, she still has two sizes to work through, so it should keep us going for a while).

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Life of Late

We are having the loveliest Spring I can remember in our little corner of Florida. Perhaps that's because I'm determined to enjoy it this year, or perhaps it really is just as extra-specially wonderful as it seems. The temperatures are glorious, and the days are mostly mild (with a few hot and chilly days sprinkled in for variety). 


Little Man is always taking me by surprise with what he's able to do. He's also
incredibly social, and will talk the ear off the nearest stranger he can nab.

I have been treating myself to little luxuries this Spring. It's (hopefully) less self-indulgent than it sounds! Rather, I make a treat of simple things -- a cup of tea, reading a book, a little outing to the park, things like that. It's remarkable how much better the days seems when I take a few moments to thoroughly enjoy something, rather than just charging ahead.


The "dregs" of my Adagio Earl Grey Moonlight. It's creamy, golden deliciousness.

I've also been taking this time to love on my children (hence, more outings to the park). I know this is partly because our recent loss has made me want to cherish the blessings I have. I must admit, I feel sort of lost without a baby in my belly or my arms. Rosa, in true girly style, is still quite a "baby" in the sense that she is extremely sensitive and will cry at the drop of a hat (or the word "no"). But there's no denying that she's more of a toddler than a baby now -- and the little pair of pigtails she's been sporting recently are ample proof of that.

Rosa saw her daddy blowing up the beach ball, and though she'd give it a try, too. Love that girl.

At any rate, I've been trying to fill my time, rather than twiddling my thumbs during this "odd," perplexing, and hopefully brief phase of life. That means more sewing, more playing, more stories, and more "living." I've even decided to take up knitting. *gasp* I worked my way through almost two years of Alicia Paulson's blog, Posie Gets Cozy, and am now officially inspired. If there were some sort of best-dressed baby award, I'd vote for her (just look at this yellow tunic, this Liberty print blouse, this darling cardigan, this little tunic, and especially this hooded coat. Drooling yet? And yes, she made all of them!). Alicia's blog was the last straw. I'm fed up with being too "poor" to afford the kind of knitted garments I love, and too skill-less to make them. The latter seems an easier problem to remedy, so I'm going to give it a go. Fortunately, my basic continental-style knitting skills seem to be in good working order, so most of my education will consist of learning to read patterns and execute more complicated stitches/techniques. Great. Like I needed one more -money-sucking, space-consuming craft to pursue. *wink* I'm now following Alicia's blog so I don't miss a single post; her writing is lovely, and her photographs are so peaceful.


A new favorite dinner in the works -- a layer of refried beans in a 9x13, topped
with sauteed ground beef, onions, black beans, and rotel (with cumin, chili
powder, garlic, and honey for seasoning). Add some shredded cheese and
pop the whole shebang into the oven for a yummy "chip dip" dinner.

We've been escalating our home improvement efforts of late with the realization that once the hubster finishes up his current training, we'll be moving. Our plan is to rent our home out, but there are some much needed upgrades before that can happen. So there are little signs of progress all over the place -- light fixtures, paint, floors. We just put down some laminate flooring in the nursery, and it looks so much better than the horrible, dingy carpet that it replaced! There are two more bedrooms to floor, two more rooms to paint, and new countertops for the kitchen to install. But there is finally an end in sight. I love seeing all of the improvements (which are happening on a faster timetable than we would have undertaken sans moving), even if we won't be able to enjoy them ourselves for very long.

Well, that's the scoop. I'm praying for contentment and patience, and enjoying my husband's relatively empty schedule (grocery shopping alone can be such a luxury!). And now I think it's time to go sew something...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Making Shift

When I saw this babyGAP tulip shift dress, I knew three things. One, I wanted just such a dress for Rosa. Two, there was no way I would spend $33 to acquire said dress from GAP. And three, the solution to my dilemma would be to create my own version!

So far, this is a close as I've gotten:




The difficulty with trying to recreate an exisiting garment that you really like is that it's a bit disappointing if your version isn't identical. But, I'm reconciling myself to "semi-failure," because I actually like how it turned out! It's not quite the chic, casual dress I was trying to recreate, but that's okay. Because Rosa looks sweet in it, anyway.

The fabric is from my stash (I don't buy new fabric for trial runs!). I love the tulip sleeves -- they look much better when filled with chubby toddler arms, by the by.




The back of the dress is a simple button-up-the-back kind of deal. No plackets, no fuss. Five pink buttons from my "button hoard," salvaged from an old shirt and just waiting for this project. 




I'm still brainstorming ways to make my pattern a bit more like the original GAP dress (squarer, narrower yoke? A little less A-line? Longer, deeper armscye?), but for the time being, this works for me.




Does anyone have a quick-fix for "can't-stop-making-clothes-for-my-daughter" syndrome? 'Cause so far I haven't found any effective remedies...

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Brought to You by the Color Pink

Sometimes I have a vision of what I want -- a project materializes in my mind, and I go on a stash hunt (or a fabric store hunt, if necessary) for the corresponding materials. Sometimes, inspiration comes later. When I found a too-long, too-small, but oh-so-cute shirt at the thrift store, I plunked down a dollar and crossed my fingers that I could come up with the right design. 

A dollar's not much of an investment if it all goes "south," but this investment turned out to be quite rewarding. Rewarding, in the sense that I got to scratch my sewing itch and Rosa got a new dress (not that she needed one... *cough*). 





The original shirt had a pink band at the bottom, raglan sleeves with pink sleeve bands, and a wide pink boatneck collar. I just love the perfectly pink-and-white stripes! The fabric is super soft and flowy, too -- which does make the dress look a little odd when it's not being worn. Trust me, in real life the fit is perfect. 

I improvised the pattern, using a size 18 mths tee that I'd also picked up at the thrift store. I added to the sleeves to make them puffed, created a yoke, and added a slightly gathered skirt. Having all of those solid pink bands was so helpful in creating my own bands! I did have a hard time squeezing the bodice out of that oversized collar, but it all turned out fine.




Apparently I need to work on my gathering skills with knits, but fortunately it's a pretty forgiving fabric. I'd show you a picture of the back of the dress, but it looks virtually identical to the front! Which reminds me, I need to start putting "direction" tags in some of my garments. 




And that's that! Much as I love the cold weather, it's nice to be doing a bit of Spring and Summer sewing for the littles (and myself).

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Strapped

I made this camera strap cover quite a while ago, but having omitted to photograph it before replacing it on my camera, I was left in a bit of a quandry. Apparently, it is virtually impossible to take a picture of your camera strap while it's on your camera. Oops. I was in no mood to remove the camera strap, and thus it has gone "unpictured." But no longer. I had to remove the strap when I sent my camera in for repairs, so the first order of business when my camera returned was to take a picture of the strap!




I browsed endless photos of camera straps as I pondered this project, but just couldn't find the right look -- I liked some of the more girly straps, but didn't want to totally embarrass my husband every time he used the camera! In the end, I found some slightly stretchy grey suiting in my stash, and paired it with a bit of raspberry corduroy. I suppose pink is still a bit girly, but at least there aren't any flowers or lace! Oh, and my other requirement was that I wanted a cover, so that I wouldn't destroy the original strap.

The cover was easy to construct -- fold under the edges of the corduroy, run a pair of gathering stitches, topstitch the corduroy onto the suiting, and stitch the suiting into a tube. Once turned inside out, I fed the tube onto my existing strap, folded under the raw edges, and took a few stitches on each end (through the strap) to secure it in place. I can easily remove it if I want, with no damage to my original strap. Now my neck doesn't feel chafed every time I hang the camera around my neck (seriously, Canon, what's up with that?), and my camera's a bit more personalized. It's the little things, you know.