Friday, March 24, 2017

Spontaneous

A beautiful Spring day called for lunch out-of-doors -- after some unseasonably warm days in February, March has been mostly chilly (and often rainy!), so the opportunity was too much to pass up.

Of the many, many things you don't find out about parenting until you're actually a parent, one of the more pleasant surprises has been the frequent consignments of wildflowers I receive! Handfuls of dandelions seem to come my way almost every day:




For our picnic lunch, we headed to the nearby airport. There's an overlooking hill shaded by pine trees that's the perfect vantage point for take-offs, landings, taxi-ings, luggage unloadings -- all of the exciting events surrounding air travel. There's even a speaker that broadcasts the interchange between the airplanes and air traffic control. I find it rather soothing, actually, perhaps because I hear so much about it from my husband, or perhaps because it all sounds so orderly and well-managed. 

Several crows were perched in the pines, watching us with evident curiosity. Well, watching our food, that is! I tossed a few bits over, which were snatched up after the appropriate interval of cautious approach-and-retreat.





We made short work of our food, too! I find myself buying exorbitant quantities of clementines to keep us "stocked" these days. The new quilt made its debut, too, providing the perfect spot to spread out (though I was the only one sitting long enough to really enjoy it!).







I stationed myself at the top of the hill, while the littles raced up and down, stopping now and then for a nibble, or to share some amazing tidbit about the airport (the airport firetruck drove by! Now it's testing its hoses!). The perfect opportunity to indulge in a little knitting. After a long period of inactivity, I am feeling strongly motivated to finish my White Pine Cardigan, which I started back in July of last year. It was going to be finished for Fall, but I ended up becoming so frustrated with it that I put it aside half-way through the first sleeve. Now, with a baby on the way and growing littles, I desperately want to start some other projects -- but I know if I don't finish this cardigan first, it will irk me no end. So, finish it I shall! I'm already into the pattern work of the second sleeve, so I'm hoping that I can stay motivated long enough to finish. Who knows, maybe I'll even get to wear it once or twice before I put it away for the summer...


Almost done the twisted rib cuff for the second sleeve...

Of course, the very next day was bitterly cold -- it may be Spring, but Winter hasn't quite done with us yet. But as the weather warms up, we might be spontaneous again!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

For the Birds

I have been diligently working away at my fabric stash, as you may have noticed from recent posts! Quilts, aprons, maternity tops and skirts, pinafores -- even fabrics that I'm no longer enthusiastic about have been turned into pajama tops and bottoms for littles and mama alike, or used for mock-ups. I feel like I am always talking about cutting down on my stash, though -- and perhaps you would agree! It's not that I mind having a bit of a stash; on the contrary, having a stock of fabrics available is quite a boon as a seamstress. But I do feel that there is too much of a good thing, and it does seem that fabrics consigned to the stash have a tendency to stick around. Some of the yardage I have is at least a decade old, by my calculations! When I started sewing as a teen, limited funding led to a bit of a hoarding tendency with fabric. Circumstances and mindset have changed since then, and now I'd prefer to have minimal stock on hand (I'll always have my linen scraps, though!), and choose both projects and fabrics very purposefully.

So, with these ideas floating around in my mind, and with renewed purpose and determination to reduce my fabric "holdings," does it make any sense whatsoever to buy more fabric? Certainly not! Apparently, however, reason is not always the determining factor in my decision-making, because a yard of Doodles Birds Interlock came home with me on a recent trip to JoAnn's -- along with the fabric for the Climbing Roses dress! "But it was such a very Boden-ish fabric," I plead. If there is a technique to leaving Boden-ish fabric at the fabric store, I have not mastered it yet.

If the fabric had a Boden flair to it, I thought the garment ought to, as well. After browsing for ideas, I realized that I already had the perfect pattern: Teri's Izzy top from Climbing the Willow. Yes, I'm that predictable! Really, though, are you surprised? By my count, I've made nine versions of the Izzy in the past three years (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9). I suppose you could say the Izzy has been a defining feature of Rosa's childhood!




Just as predictably, I made a few slight alterations to the pattern to suit the design (this also prevents the resulting "Izzies" from looking too similar, I hope). I drafted a Peter Pan collar from the same knit fabric I used to line the bodice (a grey gingham jersey from Girl Charlee, left over from Izzy #8), lining one set of collar pieces with a knit interfacing and adding a stretchy cotton lace trim for the edge. The stretch in the trim wasn't necessary, but it was the perfect size, color, and style -- plus, it was in my stash! I sewed the trim to one side of the collar, then followed those stitching lines when I sewed the collar pieces right-sides-together. The collar was incredibly simple, both to draft and to incorporate. I simply sewed it to the bodice pieces before attaching the bodice to the bodice lining. I was surprised just how well it draped.








I used a Kam snap for the closure in the back, but hid it inside the button tab so that all you see is a bird (not that you really see that, because it's under the collar!




I added a little contrast trim at the waist (a folded piece of the gingham, cut on the bias), and exchanged gathers for pleats in the skirt -- which I lengthened considerably and also widened by about three or four inches. I knew this would be a longer dress so that it will last Rosa a long time, so I though some extra wiggle room would help!

As a last nod to Boden, I added a simple robin applique with a pale pink jersey and a bit more of my grey gingham. Wonder-Under for the appliques and an iron-on tear-away backing made quick work of that step. My recent practice made this process much easier this go around! I hand embroidered a few details and machine zig-zagged the legs. I was worried I might be gilding the lily with the applique (the print is so busy already!), but I really like the result. It's subtle, but such a sweet detail.




It was a bit of a jolt cutting this pattern out -- I'm using the size 5 now, the biggest size in the first of the two Izzy patterns. Rosa is still in the first "half" of 4, but she's a little larger than average and I wanted this dress to last (and it's a bit large on her, so it should!). Even though I used a knit, I treated it like a woven. Well, I did use a slight zig-zag on the seams because they'll hold up better that way, but in every way I treated this as a "normal" dress -- lined bodice, back closure, etc. It was a bit of a gamble, especially since I'm more used to cotton spandex than I am to interlock. However, the results exceeded my expectations! The fabric was a bear to cut out because the birds are in "stripes" but the fabric was not perfectly in grain. I also nearly stymied myself by cutting out the skirt first and having to fudge a bit when cutting out the bodice, but as the dress came together, my fears and frustrations dwindled.




I sewed up a quick pair of leggings in the grey gingham, drafted from a pair that currently fits Rosa (again, the same as the pair for the Climbing Roses dress). Not an ideal fabric choice, because the gingham jersey has almost no stretch! But trimmed with some of the same white trim I used on the collar, they're just right (and they do fit, happily). Plus, with her current track record, the lack of stretch won't matter for long because they'll have holes in the knees in no time...






I'm not always in the mood to go the "extra mile" with details and finishes when sewing (especially children's clothing that will be worn out or outgrown relatively quickly!), but sometimes it's nice to slow down a bit. And in this case, I ended up with one of my favorite projects to date! I just wish all of my impulses had endings this happy... *wink*


Saturday, March 18, 2017

Stashing the Bump

As my waistline has expanded with this pregnancy (pretty much as soon as I got a positive pregnancy test, it seemed! *wink* ), I've ended up wearing the same few skirts over and over again -- mostly my black and charcoal grey maxi skirts, with a few other "stretchy" options thrown in! I had one denim maternity skirt from my last pregnancy, but pickings were slim. And while I do wear my maxi skirts to church, I really wanted a dressier winter option. 

The Stash provided -- yards of a mystery grey fabric, purchased ten years ago (I'm embarrassed to admit!) at Colorado Fabrics. It was a steal of a deal, if I remember correctly! For years I had plans to make a tailored jacket and a skirt (with godets or a flare at the bottom). But marriage and babies followed shortly, and the fabric has been sitting in my stash ever since.

Now most of it is in my closet!





This is the easiest skirt in the world -- Simplicity 2655, cut to the longer length (without pockets or the waistband yoke). Six seams and a hem, plus a stretchy waistband. No closures needed, because it's just big enough to go over my hips. 

Speaking of which, my pregnant hips are a bit wider than Yvonne's, so the fabric actually lays flatter on my torso than on hers (you can thank me now for taking the picture on her instead of me! Ha!). I used my favorite maternity technique, the "harvested" stretch panel from a pair of thrifted maternity pants. Seriously, I love these panels. They are seamless, "hemless" (at the top, I mean -- less bulky, and less visible under shirts), and fit from early pregnancy through the third trimester. And beyond! In fact, I use these on all of my maxi skirts now, because they hold up well and make a truly transitional garment. This "natural" color is my favorite, because it doesn't show under light-colored tops, but they come in black, navy, and even brown. I frequent the mark-downs at local charity shops to score them for under $2. They're usually longer in the front than in the back, but I cut them "even" for simplicity's sake -- and it helps with that transitional aspect, because you can just wear it a little higher on the waist for post-partum use.




This has served me well this winter; I'll be sad to put it away with Spring fast approaching! I still have a bit of my grey fabric left, and I'm thinking it will be perfect as a little skirt or pinafore for Rosa -- next winter...

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Climbing Roses

I must confess a recent spontaneous purchase at JoAnn's -- But considering the results, I can't say that I'm feeling much remorse! And I used up an entire piece of fabric from my stash on both this and another soon-to-be-blogged "Boden-ish" dress, so I may actually be feeling a bit smug. No fabric is going into the stash, and some actually came out. Two steps back, three steps forward, right? Or am I just trying to justify myself...

I drafted a pattern for this based on one of Rosa's existing shirts -- first translating it to a tee, and then to a raglan tee (there are many tutorials for this, but I'm pretty sure I used It's Always Autumn's version!). I've actually made two nightgowns for Rosa using this pattern -- perfect way to "stashbust" knit fabric -- so I was already sure that it would fit.




I did add a scalloped Peter pan collar this time. And I totally cheated by leaving the binding exposed, but I thought it worked with the somewhat casual feel of the dress.




A simple pocket for the front:





The gingham fabric doesn't have much stretch, and I didn't want to worry about the neckline being big enough to slip over Rosa's head -- so I opted for a little keyhole opening in the back with a simple ribbon tie:





Of course, matching leggings are a must! I cut out this dress at the same time that I made the afore-mentioned "Boden-ish dress," so I could be sure I'd be able to fit all of the pieces. The leggings are the same pattern, so it was super simple!





I really like the gingham with the floral print -- and while I'd purchased extra of that gingham knit specifically for another Izzy once Rosa grew out of hers, I'm glad I was able to change things up a bit!




Of course, I realized after I bought my fabrics that Rosa has quite a full summer wardrobe -- oops! But there's always room for a good play dress, right? Now, back to the stash! *wink*

Monday, March 13, 2017

This Little Pinny

When I saw the adorable Ayla Toddler Pinafore Dress by Blythe and Reese, I was charmed! So charmed, in fact, that I shortly set out to make one for Rosa.  After rummaging in my stash, I came up with the perfect fabric candidate -- a thrifted linen skirt in navy blue. I had just enough to eke out this little pinny:




With such a blank canvas, a little embellishment was the order of the day. In this case, a little bird in scrap cotton and linen (both left over from this Izzy -- and I lined the bib/straps with the polka dot cotton, too) :




I decided to make a few changes to the overall design -- I made the pinafore "bib" taper at the bottom, because I thought it was more suited to a small child. Also, I put all of the buttons that secure the bib to the skirt on the inside (the buttons are on the skirt, with corresponding buttonholes on the bib/straps). Oh, and this makes the bib reversible! If I make more using the same pattern, they could even be interchangeable.




This was a simple project to draft -- rectangles for the skirt, rectangles for the straps, and an (almost) rectangle for the bib! There was a bit of pondering to do to figure out the construction, but this was a relatively quick and gratifying sew. 





Most importantly, Rosa loves it (the bird was a big hit!) and generally wants to wear it as soon as it's clean again. And that's good enough for me!


Saturday, March 11, 2017

Linen Love

I've been wanting a linen apron for a while now -- there are so many lovely examples out there to whet one's appetite! Which makes me think, by the by, how happy I am that linen is making a comeback. I feel like it was ignored for quite a while (probably because it was viewed as inseparable from copious amounts of starch!), but now I am seeing it everywhere. Even linen sheets are becoming more commonplace at "trendier" retailers.

But back to aprons. I've been eyeing the simple cross-back "pinafore" aprons, but with an ever-growing belly bump, that's not the most practical style for me at this stage. I needed something bump-friendly, but none of the empire styles I saw were quite what I was looking for. At last I remembered a picture I'd saved from The Vermont Apron Company, and the solution was clear:




Here's the apron that inspired my design (obviously very strongly!):



This was a multi-purpose project -- not only did it solve my need for a new apron, it also used up the grey Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend, which was still in my stash because it wasn't quite the color I'd expected.

I adjusted the design for my needs -- first of all, I added several tucks to the bodice (I measured these carefully with a ruler and a disappearing fabric marker, knowing that they'd be very visible!). This creates some extra fullness in the center front, perfect for "the bump." A few wooden buttons seemed right, somehow:





The hardest part was figuring out how to drape the fabric! My dressform, "Yvonne," was invaluable for that bit. After perusing the Vermont Apron Co. pictures, I cut my yardage straight across the grain, added my tucks to the center of the fabric, and hemmed the top edge. Then the issue was draping the apron without cutting too high up under the arms (that didn't sound comfortable!). However, when I'd solved that to my satisfaction, it created the perfect pleats for the bodice "sides" -- my favorite part of the original apron! I sewed up the sash (making it long enough to wrap around and tie in the front), as well as the neck ties. The sash is top-stitched, which holds down the pleats and provides a "waist" for the apron. 





At this point I picked the length I wanted for the apron (again, Yvonne was so helpful!) and marked a hem with pins -- I didn't want the pointed handkerchief hem of the original apron. I curved it up around the sides, cut, pressed, and stitched.


Bump!

Here's a better view of how the apron looks untied -- for the record, I did not measure or exactly match those side bodice pleats. I evened them out by eye, and they seem fine. This whole project was a bit improvised, so I didn't see the need to get too technical at that point!




This apron is perfect for maternity wear, and should still work well afterwards! I would say my one dislike are the neck ties. I just don't like aprons that tie around the back of the neck! I may stitch the neck ties to the back of the apron (where the sash "leaves" the bodice; my fingertips are just there in the picture above), either straight or in a criss-cross. Oh, and I didn't have enough of my fabric to add pockets, so I may do something about that...

But those are nitpicks. For now I'm content to have something that keeps me a little tidier!

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Tied and True

This poor quilt -- it's been languishing (unfinished) in a bin in the attic for too long! I pieced the top well over a year ago, not long before we moved into this house. Which may have had something to do with my not finishing it at the time... I even had it layered and pinned with batting and backing. At the time, I think I was planning to hand-quilt it, which was quite possibly another deterrent to it actually being completed! Then I lost track of it in the move, wondering every few months where it had gotten to. 






Then I realized that the folded bundle of brown linen in one of my fabric bins was, in fact, my neglected quilt. I pulled it out and decided that it must be finished now -- which seems to be the "theme" of this this pregnancy's nesting so far. And the fastest way to accomplish that would be to tie it! 




Oddly, the only matching embroidery floss I had on hand was the rather unusual blue-green; I had to wait for my next trip to Michael's to pick up the far more common dark brown and tan colors. Though I'm just that lazy that I probably would have used only the green thread if I'd had enough of it... After a bit of a kerfuffle in which I managed to put all of my dark brown ties in the right "row" but the wrong corners (which I didn't even realize was possible!), the rest of the process was relatively smooth sailing.

All of the quilt top fabrics are linen and linen-cotton blends salvaged from garments (you know I love linen and salvaged garments!). It was a bit of an adventure figuring out a design that would make the most of the scraps that I had. The green was actually a Laura Ashley dress that I wore as a teen! The batting is cotton, and the backing is brown linen (leftover from making linen bed sheets several years ago). To bind the edges, I trimmed the batting down to one inch larger than the quilt top. I then trimmed the linen backing so that it would fold over the edge of the batting and onto the quilt top, with enough left to turn under. I hand stitched it to the quilt top/batting, but not all the way through to the underside of the quilt. The result is lovely, but I wonder if I ought to go back and carefully machine stitch the "binding" down to help the quilt keep its shape.




In any case, I am feeling quilt relieved that this project is complete (at long last!), and I think it will be perfect for when the new baby comes -- it's 40" by 48",  just right for outings when our little one  needs a cozy place to rest (and mama, too!).

Sunday, March 05, 2017

Scrambled

After an apprehensive start, our chickens seem to be on the right track -- they are laying more regularly, and we are enjoying the results! 

The dark brown egg on the left is from our Blue Copper Maran, Cooley -- it took her quite a while, but now that she's laying she is the best layer of the flock! Of course, it's easy to tell which eggs are hers, because of their chocolatey coloring. 




We also recently found our largest egg to date in the nesting box -- a whopping 82 grams, compared to the average 60 gram eggs we usually find. I wasn't surprise to find that it contained "twin" yolks! On the same day, a different chicken laid the smallest egg we've found at just 47 grams. And no, I don't usually weigh the eggs! *wink* These two were just so unusual that I had to find out how they compared to our usual finds.

Largest and smallest! The 82 gram egg on the left measured 3 1/2" from top to bottom

We recently found five eggs in the boxes in a single day... which they compensated for by laying none the following day. My "goal" is three eggs per day (that's each chicken laying every-other-day, which should be a very reasonable expectation), and I'm hoping that with Spring well on its way, warmer temperatures and longer days will help increase production. And they're getting quite close to that quota lately, even surpassing it now and then! It's been lovely making our breakfast scrambled eggs with all (or almost all) our own eggs -- especially when there's homemade bread and fresh strawberries to accompany them!