Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Garden Variety

 A charming blue-and-white button up was calling my name at the charity shop, and for a dollar how could I say "no?" Especially considering that it's incredibly difficult to find tasteful floral fabric yardage (at a good price, anyway). I knew exactly how it would be used. In fact, I already had a pattern, drafted the last time I couldn't say "no" to a thrifted top.

I had plenty of fabric for my needs, and still have some scraps that will make their way into some kind of patchwork project. Though I came close to disaster when I forgot to reverse the pattern piece for the bottom band! I also had to recut the back bodice pieces when I discovered (after sewing the shoulder seams) that the stripes lined up, but were one pattern repeat off -- the flower stripes on one piece lined up with the medallion stripes on the other piece! It was in so obvious a place that I decided it must be remedied.

The contrast fabric was supplied by the creamy linen strips leftover from making a bottom sheet for our bed. Serendipitous, no? 

I opted for right-over left for the back, which is reverse of what I usually do -- I am actually quite perplexed about the "right" way to overlap the back edges of women's garments. I've seen it done both ways, and can't seem to find any consensus! Oh well, I suppose it's not really that important on the back of a garment.

Simple buttons for a simple dress. 

The sleeves were meant to be 3/4, but they ended up an awkward 7/8. I'll probably shorten them, as that seems the easiest solution! Lesson learned? Take the time to measure your child's arm instead of guessing the correct length. *cough*

Sewing like this -- using thrifted and scrap fabrics -- is satisfying on many levels. Not only can I indulge my love for sewing (which I half-jokingly, half-seriously refer to as my "therapy"), but I can clothe my littles for less than it would cost to purchase an equivalent garment. Or even a garment much less to my taste, for that matter! Is it any wonder that I just can't seem to stop?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

The Best Mode of Transport

One of my very fondest memories of my childhood in England was sitting in the upper story of a double decker bus. The real double decker buses, now out of commission, with their vintage charm and tiny steep staircases.

Little Man shares my passion, doubtless fueled by the matchbox version (now quite battered) that he inherited from me. And so, when I saw this whimsical shirt by Boden, I knew I had to make one for my double decker loving boy.

By the by, have you noticed how many British-inspired things have been popping up lately? I'm assuming the recent royal wedding/baby and the Olympics are responsible for the surge in popularity, but regardless of the cause, I'm enjoying the result! 

It is centered, I promise!

For Little Man's shirt I used a like-new tee that I found for $1 at our local charity shop. It would have been easier to add the design if I'd actually made the top, but I thought this was too perfect to pass up. 

Plenty of Wonder Under (and patience) later, the bus took shape. Little scraps from here and there took up their positions, and were painstakingly sewn on. I did forget to interface the back for stability, but it didn't seem to matter in the end.

For the design, I simply enlarged the Boden design, printed it out (in black and white on "draft mode," because I'm a cheapskate), and traced the pieces onto Wonder Under. Talk about a knock off! It's not quite identical, but it's close enough for me!

Little Man has yet to see his shirt, because I know he would want to wear it immediately despite the scorching temperatures. No, it will wait patiently until the weather cools, and then he can sport his favorite mode of transportation to his heart's content.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Wee Stitches for the Wee One

I think I started sewing little newborn clothes within a week or two of finding out we were expecting again. Perhaps because I had so much pent-up nesting instinct that had been disappointed the last time? At any rate, I quickly fished out some knits from the stash and got to work.

Gender neutral was my goal, as we obviously didn't know then (and still don't know) what the baby's gender is. I've also been inspired by many of the European fashions I've seen lately, which tend to be more neutral (so practical if you have multiple children!). However, I think my gender neutral tends to be a little masculine, so this little jacket may be boy-only:

I used the Little Kimono Set tutorial, reducing the size for a (hopefully) newborn fit. I really like the pattern, and anticipate turning to it again in the future! I opted for buttons instead of ties, which sound fidgety and troublesome on a newborn outfit. The fabric is heathered knit from a thrifted men's Orvis shirt. It's thick and soft and luxurious. 

I also whipped up a pair of Tiny Harem Pants in a denim-like knit (thrifted women's skirt), which should be cozy for little legs. Again, the blue may be a bit masculine, but I think I could pair this with something feminine if we have a girl.

I had some small scraps of white cotton spandex, which needed just a little embellishment. After cutting out my pieces I set to work with a tiny star stencil and metallic gold paint mixed with fabric paint medium. The result is far from perfect, but I don't mind a bit of "character."

The pattern is Jalie 3133, which is a fantastic bodysuit pattern with lots of options. I modified the bottom closure a bit to suit my preference, and used my snap press to attach three white snaps. So simple, and very sturdy!

It's been so gratifying to do something for the little baby we are so eager to meet. I have all sorts of knitting ideas in my head, but I know I should wait until we know the gender (or everything will end up being tan and grey). With Little Man I followed the advice I heard to not buy newborn clothes, because they last such a short time. The result was that he was swimming in all of his 0-3 months garments, and I had to go out a buy a few items to get us through the first few weeks. No more! My babies have averaged just over seven pounds so far, so I'm going to indulge my love of tiny garments a bit and have a good stock for the coming little one.

Or maybe I just want another excuse to sew?

It could be that.

Saturday, September 06, 2014

Six and Twenty

I had a birthday a few weeks back, which means that I'm now twenty-six. Not that it feels any different from twenty-five! I no longer look forward to birthdays the way I did when I was little (though I certainly don't dread them... yet), but as it happened I had a splendid birthday thanks to my sweet family. Little Man loves birthdays, and was quite excited that I was having one! Rosa was also excited, mostly because I received cookies as a gift.

Life has been quiet of late, with much reading of picture books and innumerable requests to listen to "Puff, the Magic Dragon." And plenty of sibling disputes. But that means that the siblings are playing together, and it is such a delight (between altercations) to see them interact. Rosa is talking up a storm, and tries to copy every single thing that Little Man does. Which is sometimes good, and sometimes not good! Lately she's been singing snatches of the alphabet song, though most of the letters are rather garbled.

Pablo recently brought home a little chap who was trying to cross the road near our house, and we "entertained" him on the back porch for a while before setting him out in the back yard. He was quiet petite, only about five inches long. I was so pleased that the littles got to see a turtle, because we've passed several on the road without having the time to stop and look.

My apologies to those of you who are squeamish with reptiles!

That weekened we made the lengthy drive to my parents' to visit Little Man's favorite type of museum (not that he's been to many thus far!). Rosa thoroughly enjoyed herself, too, and we had quite a time browsing through the various aircraft on display. It's remarkable how greatly my enjoyment is now linked to theirs -- I may have seen something for the hundredth time, but observing their wide-eyed delight kindles a whole new kind of pleasure.

Ready to explore!

Later we took advantage of the free babysitting to visit one of my favorite restaurants for a birthday meal. My lands, was it ever good! This particular eatery oozes with character and delicious food, so we had quite a memorable time of it.

 The days continue hot and muggy, with now and then a tantalizing respite (usually before a storm) to remind us how delicious the fall weather will be. I never seem to be done eating, as a little smackerel of something about twenty times a day is the only thing to ward off my mild first trimester nausea. It's a bit frightening to think I eat more often than Winnie the Pooh or even a hobbit! Thank goodness my appetite has escalated.

I've been knitting more than sewing lately, as I try to finish up my first cardigan (for Rosa). I'm now on my third pattern, as the first two I picked were too ambitious for my limited skills! But I'm quite pleased with this pattern so far, and think it will be a success -- though possibly too large for this winter. I do need to get back to my sewing machine, though, as I'm running quite low on tops -- most of what I have are either not maternity or very maternity, neither of which are really working for my currently tiny "bump."

And so far, that's six-and-twenty. So far, so good.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Taming the Technology (A few tips to cut down on screen time)

Screens -- they're hard to avoid. From televisions to computers to smart phones, we're constantly bombarded with electronic media. It seems that "unplugging" is becoming increasingly popular as people become dissatisfied with how much time they spend looking at screens of one sort or another.

I perpetually struggle with balancing how much time I spend with media (usually my computer). What makes it challenging is that there are so many good things that can be found via the Internet. Recipes, e-mails to friends, helpful articles, how-to's, blogging, sewing tutorials, craft inspiration, even shopping from home without having to spend gas and time at the store -- none of these things are bad, but they can easily become overwhelming without some limits. So here are a few things that have helped me tame the technology:


1. Be Selective. I am so grateful that we have never had a TV -- we watch our fair share of entertainment on our computer (and someday I would even like to get a bigger "screen" of some sort, as our current viewing situation of either desktop monitor or laptop screen isn't particularly comfortable). But even though we watch shows and movies, we have to pick -- no channel surfing to see if there's anything "good" on (and then settling for something that we wouldn't normally watch, just because there's nothing else on). Also, no stopping everything because "my favorite show is on RIGHT NOW." I still have to be careful with movies, as I like to have something on while I'm sewing (and Netflix can be such a trap!). Even if you own a TV, you can apply the same principle of making conscious decisions about your viewing choices.

2. Limit the Apps. I recently switched to an Android smartphone when Tracfone started offering them. I pay about $7 per month for my phone service and data (which I don't need to use if I'm near WiFi). In fact, I get more minutes for the same price that I was paying for my old flip phone! It took me quite a while to upgrade to a smartphone -- and I wouldn't have done so if I'd had to pay extra per month (though, admittedly, there was an initial investment in the actual phone). I did NOT want to become one of those people who are glued to their devices at all times and interrupt conversations to check their texts and calls. As it turns out, it's been much easier to manage than I anticipated. One way I've avoided becoming too absorbed was to limit the number of apps I put on my phone: Kindle, a Bible, a budgeting app, Pinterest (which I rarely use), e-mail, and a handful of games (Sudoku, 2048, and Scrabble, in case you're wondering... *wink*). Oh, and I turned off "notifications" for e-mail, so that my phone makes less noise and is less distracting. I love being able to access Google Maps when I'm lost, read my Bible while I'm waiting in line at the grocery store, or being able to pull up my current knitting pattern.Yet I feel I'm in control of my phone usage, rather than sucked into a media vortex. Fewer apps means less distraction, as well as less "load" on my phone.

3. Follow Carefully. This, for me, applies to both blogs and Pinterest. I use Blogger, which provides a handy reading list on my dashboard -- it shows me the most recent posts from the blogs I follow, with a picture and a brief excerpt. This helps me quickly see which posts I'm interested in reading, and if there are any new posts from the blogs I follow. By choosing carefully and limiting how many blogs I follow, I save a great deal of time. It usually only takes me about five or ten minutes (sometimes less) to catch up with all of my favorite blogs, even if I'm "behind" a day or two. I currently follow about 30 blogs, many of which do not post frequently. I regularly "curate" my list, and consider carefully before adding. One deletion I'm very happy I made was the Southern Savers website. It clogged up my reading list with lots of information I wasn't even interested in, and tempted me with great "deals" several times a day. I love the Southern Savers website, but find I'm much more content if I access it when I need something, rather than constantly being bombarded with coupons and sales.

As for Pinterest, I apply a similar principle. I rarely browse the category pages, sticking instead to my "feed" (the page that shows up when I'm signed in and type in "Pinterest.com"), which shows the most recent pins of the boards I follow. By avoiding the general pages, I not only limit my exposure to inappropriate content, I also have more control over my time. There are only a handful of people I follow, and I'm rather choosy. Yes, there are MANY more people I could follow, and would even enjoy following. But there's only so much I can sort through in a day. If I feel overwhelmed by a few days' worth of pins, I'm probably following too many boards. Bonus tip. You can follow someone without following all of their boards. I've done this on multiple occasions, when the content of a particular board doesn't apply to or interest me. I just go to that specific board, and click the unfollow button. Also, there are a few cases where I follow just one board, rather than all of that person's pins.

4. Unsubscribe. I often subscribe to a store's newsletter when they offer me a discount for doing so. Unfortunately, this means I end up with tons of promotional junk mail in my inbox. Once in a while it's helpful to weed through the e-mails and find the "unsubscribe" link at the bottom. Not only does this free up time sorting through e-mails, but I'm more content when I don't see all of the "One Day Only!" sales and ads. If you don't want to totally unsubscribe, many retailers allow you to opt for fewer e-mails.

5. First Things First. I often turn to the computer when I'm bored -- or putting off a task I'd rather forget about. In fact, this is the area I probably need to work on the most! If I take care of those tasks first, I may find myself with some guilt-free minutes to work on a craft project, read, catch up with a friend, or even browse Pinterest!

I'd love to hear your ideas for reducing screen time

Sunday, August 31, 2014

The Gallery

After a brief stint of industriously assembling a gallery of my blog projects, I realized that it was taking far too much time and effort! Finding each post and obtaining a picture and a link for the gallery page (plus arranging them) was a bit of a drag. And thus, I sought an easier option -- namely, Pinterest.

Thoughts and Thimbles Project Gallery

Now, if you click on the Gallery tab on my blog, you'll be directed to the Thoughts and Thimbles Project Gallery, which will hopefully be easier to navigate (and easy to maintain!). I'm actually enjoying having a condensed visual representation of my projects. It's interesting to see how my style has altered over the past few years, and how life changes (marriage, kids, etc.) have affected my crafting habits.

 By the by, those of you who follow me on Pinterest should be eternally grateful to me for starting the gallery as a secret board until it was complete, thereby sparing your feeds from the 145 pins I added to the board in the space of a few hours. You're welcome. *wink*

Thursday, August 28, 2014

The Patch Job

For months -- months, you understand -- this particular project has been floating around the sewing room. To wit, one pair of jeans (with holes in the knees thoughtfully provided by my son) and a pair of leather patches (already cut out and ready to go). It's really almost embarrassing how long it took me to finally sew those patches on! 

But better late than never, right? I handstitched the patches to avoid opening up the inner leg seams. Which required less work, in a way, but made the hand stitching a bit more fiddly. Hopefully these poor pants will get a new lease on life -- and "just in time" for the fall weather that should be arriving a very, very long time from now. *ahem*

PS -- I just put these through the washer and the dryer, and they came out beautifully! I was a bit worried about how the suede would hold up. Phew!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Izzy in Bloom

It may surprise you to know that Rosa is actually in need of new clothes. I know, even I was somewhat shocked by that revelation! But little ones grow, clothes wear out, and that means that I have to sew. sigh. Such a sacrifice...

I turned to the Izzy top once again, and that probably won't be a surprise. This is my fourth rendition (One, Two, and Three) in less than six months, and I just keep loving this pattern more and more. Teri, you designed one amazing pattern! Oh, and on the subject of "Izzies," you should go see this beautiful version by "Beloved" -- it's so lovely and well made that it's hard to believe it's her first sewing project! 

And now to the Izzy in hand...

Simply made, in a green floral cotton with natural muslin from the stash. In other words, inexpensive! 

I decided to add a band at the bottom to make it into a dress, which Rosa can also wear next spring/summer with a pair of leggings. The sizing is so flexible with this pattern, because it's roomy in the bodice and transitions well from dress to tunic. 

A covered button, also from the stash, for the back closure. The Izzy is so easy to get on and off, and the single button does its job well while being simple and decorative. One buttonhole? I can do that!

It's super simple to add a contrasting band to the Izzy, because the skirt piece is straight along the bottom. Adding a band to a curved hemline can be tricky, but this is a simple matter of cutting a rectangle twice as wide as you want the band to be, plus seam allowance. I sewed it right sides together to the skirt, then folded it under and topstitched. It's a clean, easy finish, and it seemed like the perfect way to balance the dress with the contrasting bodice and skirt.

Oh, and I made the 2T for my almost-two-year-old. Plenty of room to grow, but it fits perfectly now.

It may seem late in the year for such a summery dress, but the hot weather is here to stay for at least a few more months. We're "braving" it as best we can by staying inside all day like cowards...