Japanese-inspired top and shorts

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Here is my favorite outfit I sewed up for Clementine for spring Kid’s Clothes Week. Only a month late, but whatever. You know…life…work…blah blah blah :-)

Lately I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how much time I waste on my smart phone and social media. When I’m in a more positive mood and not just comparing myself to all the other sewing mamas who sew ALL THE BEAUTIFUL THINGS for their loved ones, however, I am simply amazed at how we have instant access to fresh ideas, tutorial, patterns, and amazing fabric at the literal click of a button. Both the ideas and the materials can travel to my doorstep (or my mind) from anywhere in the world, so very quickly. In the days leading up to KCW I kept returning to this idea of how I have learned how to sew, have been inspired to sew for my daughter, and have purchased so many fabrics, all from afar. All these beautiful things travel to me.

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Crosses baby quilt

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My sweet cousin gave birth to her first baby this morning, and it reminded me that I wanted to share the baby quilt I made for her. The best part was that I got to gift it to her in person, and thus avoid the sad, sad fate of my last quilt.

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This quilt has a very special story. The two paisley prints and the teal and orange solids were used in my cousin’s wedding. Her mom gave some of the fabric to me after the wedding so that I could eventually use it for a baby quilt. I agonized for a long time over a pattern, and finally settled on crosses to add a little modernity to the fabrics. I added in some other fabrics from my stash and spent a long time arranging it all. Seriously, why is it so hard to just pick a dang placement for a bunch of squares of fabric?

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I think my very favorite part is the orange dot fabric that I used for binding. I can’t remember what it is other than that it was from a Halloween-themed line and I got it from my local quilt store.

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Thanks to my brother for taking these photos for me. Those are my mom’s blackberry bushes at the top :-)

Oh, and just for fun, here’s a photo I snapped with my phone while arranging the quilt top during my kid’s nap. And below that, about two minutes after she got up from nap! Good thing I had a picture of it for reference.

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Swoon block baby quilt

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A good friend from grad school had her second baby recently, and I felt compelled to make a quilt for the sweet little babe since I had made one for her older sister. I’ve had a large piece of Lizzy House fabric languishing in my stash for ages and I finally decided to use it as a quilt backing.

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I pulled out a few oranges and greens that coordinated with it and made a large swoon/carpenter block for the front. I created it completely from squares and half-square triangles, which I know wasn’t the most efficient method but I didn’t feel like working my brain (and I don’t have a pattern, although I’d REALLY like to make a legit swoon quilt some day). With each quilt I make I see my points matching up just a little better, and that really motivates me to keep at it :-)

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I straight-line quilted in a pattern that sort of mimics the block shape. At first I attempted cotton quilting thread, but it looked pretty awful with uneven stitches and slightly wavy lines . After I switched back to regular polyester thread it went much more smoothly. I attached the binding completely by machine, which I think was a first for me. I usually enjoy sewing binding by hand on the back, but I really needed to get this quilt done. It took a few turns of starting and ripping out what I had started before I got the binding lined up properly on the backside to get it stitched down somewhat neatly. That is an art in and of itself.

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Now do you want to hear the really tragic part of this story? The quilt is gone. LOST. I mailed it a month ago and there has been no sign of it since. I’ve had a couple weeks to adjust to the hard truth, so I won’t do any more whining about it now. I’ll just accept that I made a decent looking quilt and then move on. I am still trying to decide if I should make another for my friend or maybe make something else instead.

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KCW Spring 2015: Wild Butterflies Dress

Happy KCW, dudes! I can barely stand to look at the project pool; I want to sew all the things! Well, I have managed to finish one thing at least. I sewed this dress Monday night but it took a few days to convince Clementine to wear it so I could take pictures. I finally bribed her by telling her she could wear pink tights with it. She never felt very cooperative while taking pictures though!

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Without exaggeration, this past winter was the longest and hardest of my life. Lots of things contributed to the reasoning behind that and I don’t need to get into it all here, instead let me just say that I have never counted the days until spring like I have this year! I am so excited for this summer with Clementine. Last summer she still wanted to be held and entertained most the time, even while we were outside. This year, she is so entertained just by being outside and taking in the sights and sounds and smells and feel of everything, and it makes me so happy.

Anyway, when the KCW theme “Wild” was announced this season my mind jumped to thinking about warmer weather, and summer nights in particular. Memories from my childhood are dominated by recollections of evenings spent outside, especially during that time when it’s just starting to get dark and insect sounds are deafening. I would run around with my brothers, expending our last bits of energy jumping in water, climbing trees, catching lightning bugs, hiding from our parents, and so forth, until we finally came in the house, dirty and tired but so, so full of life. I felt so wild. I want that for Clementine.

Enough of that soliloquy! This border print from Sarah Watson’s Biology collection for Cloud9 fabrics takes me back to those wild summer nights, so I snatched some up in anticipation of using it for KCW. I have several other plans for KCW but also have a bunch of commitments the rest of the week while trying to get ready to travel, so this is probably my sole finish for the week. At least I’m happy with it!

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I wanted a really simply dress to show off the beautiful print, so I went with the Louisa Dress by Compagnie-M, without the large front pocket. My first version of this pattern can be seen here. The dress is size 2T. The fit is great but it’s just a little short so it will probably be more of a tunic before long.

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I fully lined the dress with Cambridge cotton lawn in aqua. I tried leaving the lining a little longer at the hem for some extra color, but it turned out a little wonky and keeps getting pulled up in the dress. We’ll see how crazy it drives me–I may have to shorten it yet!

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I haven’t inserted many zippers yet and I get so nervous every time I have to. I almost talked myself into just using buttons down the back of this dress but I forced myself to be brave. I don’t have an invisible zipper foot so I knew the zipper would show; fortunately I had a teal-colored zipper that matched really well. After two big mistakes while attaching the zipper (twisting it the first time and sewing one side to the wrong part of the dress the second time, gah!) I think it turned out quite nice.

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Oh, by the way, Clementine picked out her sandals and hat for our quick photoshoot. This combination perfectly illustrates my confusion over our weather lately. It’s technically spring, and we’ve had some weather that has felt like spring…but today it was back to snowing!

Happy spring to those of you in the northern hemisphere. Hope your vitamin D reserves are being restored :-)

A birthday Joey dress

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When Clementine’s birthday fell over spring break last month, we decided to celebrate with a trip down to Baltimore to visit the National Aquarium. I knew just the fabric I wanted to use to make her traditional “themed” birthday dress–I’ve loved this Jay-Cyn Feather River print since it first came out. I wanted to keep the dress casual so decided to try out the Joey Dress pattern.

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I sewed a 2T for the now-two-year-old (sob!) and the fit is great. There’s just a little extra room so it should fit for the rest of the summer, and probably into the fall at least. Her growth has slowed down so much that she is “merely average” in height and weight, according to the husband (in contrast with her placement at >99th percentile for height and weight up until age 1). It’s such a relief that her clothes fit for more than a few weeks now!

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I know lots of folks have made this dress already, and I didn’t do any modifications and the sewing is straightforward, so I don’t have much else to say about it. The kid, on the other hand…I could talk about her all day. Oh, this kid. She’s full of fire, quick to anger but just as quick to love, sharp as a tack, and so hilarious. Just amazing. Of course, I’m not biased or anything. Now I’ll go cry some more about how my baby isn’t a baby anymore.

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Selfish Sewing Week: Linden sweatshirt and Hemlock tee

I was so excited to participate in this year’s Selfish Sewing Week challenge–I had patterns lined up and fabric ready to be chopped up–when I realized I wouldn’t have much time to sew because we had family visiting for part of the week and then we were taking a short spring break trip the rest of the week. I pulled myself together and got started a few days early, and was able to finish two tops this week. I even got photographs of them taken and downloaded right away, which is basically unheard of for me! Then last night when I tried to upload them, I realized the patterns I had used weren’t available through IndieSew and therefore weren’t eligible to enter the challenge…doh. Womp womp. Oh well, at least I was motivated enough to get these done this week!

 

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To start I sewed up my first Linden sweatshirt. Like every other gal who has sewed this pattern, I adored it and can’t wait to make more. I used this thick jersey fabric from Fancy Tiger Crafts. It doesn’t have a lot of stretch so I erred on the side of caution and sewed a 10, a size up from what I would have done if I had used a stretchier fabric. I think an 8 would have been fine but I like how comfy this one is too. I think my only alteration was to chop about an inch of the sleeves before adding the cuff. I also wanted to add an inch or two to the shirt length but didn’t have enough fabric, and I’ll probably widen the neckband a little in subsequent versions.

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I sewed this completely on my serger, which worked great except for when one little gather formed while I was attaching the neckband. Guess that’s why you’re supposed to attach with a sewing machine; it makes those mistakes a little easier to correct! I didn’t think it was too noticeable but am seeing it a lot more in these pics. Oh well, I love this shirt so much. The fabric is just a tiny bit itchy on my arms but it has already softened up after a couple washes so I expect it will even more. I just love the simplicity of both the fabric and the pattern, while the yarn dyed style of the fabric keeps it from being too boring. I want all the colors! Even Husband commented on this; he said this might be the best thing I’ve ever sewn. I think he might mean this fits my personality/style the most?

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I had a hard time getting the girl to stay out of the photos! We had a couple warmer days last week and most the snow melted rapidly, but it’s been colder again the last few days. I was freezing in these pics. Let’s just blame my awkward looks on that, ok?

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Second, I sewed a Hemlock tee using this incredibly soft knit from Spool Fabric. I also love the colors of this fabric, and it is so comfy although it bordered on being difficult to sew (for me). I wanted to wear this with leggings so I lengthened the back hem and curved it up to meet the front. I think the fabric might be a little too slinky for that style though, as it seemed to accentuate rather than conceal in the rear, ahem… So I may be re-doing the length in the future. I ended up cuffing the sleeves because I wanted to keep them long (need to add a little length to the pattern for true long sleeves) and that was probably a poor choice because they ended up kind of weird, although you can’t really see in the pics. I was so nervous when it was time to sew the hem. I used my walking foot and a double needle and it turned out ok, but a little wavy in the back. I’m still worried about busted stitches, though, because the fabric is so stretchy. I attempted to use my double needle last summer but had some issues with it, and have finally gotten around to trying it again lately. Here’s hoping that my stitches last! I did a decent job lining up the stripes on the side, and I’m also pleased with the neckband. Oh, I also lowered the front neckline about an inch or so.

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The Hemlock tee pics were taken at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. This tee + leggings = secret pajamas outfit :-)

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A couple other random thoughts: I realized that the last 3 pieces of clothing I’ve sewn for myself have been in shades of brown. While purchasing fabric I must have been channeling the post-snowmelt, muddy, mucky conditions I’d be living while finishing these items up.

My next clothing sew will most likely be an Archer, finally. I have fabric ready to go. Clearly, I am a Grainline groupie as of late.

I’m so in love with so many of the amazing Selfish Sewing Week entries. It’s rather distracting.

 

 

Chambray Shirt Dress

Before we had family photos taken in January, I was looking for a basic, casual, and quick dress to sew for myself. (The dress I sewed for C can be seen here.) I had recently discovered Salme Sewing Patterns and liked the simplicity of the Buttonless Shirt Dress. There is a wide variety of patterns available from this company for a steal at $7 or $8 each. The downsides are that most patterns are only available as pdf downloads and do not include seam allowances. I’m not much bothered by either of these things so I was excited to give one of these patterns a try. {Note: At the time I purchased my pattern, I don’t think (unless I missed them?) any paper patterns were available. In looking them up to write this post I found that a selection of the patterns is now available in print and do appear to include seam allowances. The prices are still low; however this is a UK company and I didn’t check out what shipping might be like. Currently it looks like the Buttonless Shirt Dress pattern is still only available for download purchase, and only through the Salme website, whereas other patterns are available both on the website and in the Etsy store.}

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The sewing of the dress was really straightforward.  As the front has a seam down the middle, you’ll need to select an appropriate fabric or take care in pattern-matching, if needed. As I mentioned, I don’t usually have a problem adding seam allowances (if the pattern price is appropriate!), especially on a basic pattern like this. It did end up being a little more complicated on this dress because I wasn’t able to use my serger, but the fabric was fraying a lot so I wanted to make sure I created sturdy yet clean-looking finishes on the seam allowances. I decided I wanted to use a couple different types of finishes (flat felled and french), so I needed to add different seam allowances in a couple spots. I didn’t bother with the belt or belt loops as I was short on time and I already had a belt I thought would look nice with it.

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In reading other reviews of the pattern, many noted that the dress was a little loose, especially around the armholes. My measurements placed me anywhere from size 6 to size 12, and based on the other reviews I decided to go with a size 8. My finished dress fits comfortably but I think could stand to be a little looser throughout the waist and hips. However, the armholes are quite roomy, which was funny as the armholes are usually snug on tops I sew. I wouldn’t want them any bigger so if I sew this again I’ll probably stick with an 8 at the top and grade out to a 10 in the hips. I also like the idea of sewing a “buttoned” version of this shirt dress, with a row of buttons down the front.

The little gathers just below the front of the collar ended up a little funny on my dress. I think it is gathered too tightly so the front collar parts are pulled open, even after I iron it all flat. If I do the dress again I’ll make my basted gathering lines a little longer so I don’t have to gather it quite so tightly.

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Now, my real problems with this dress have resulted from my fabric choice. I used Robert Kaufman’s Chambray Union Dots in indigo. I absolutely adore this fabric in appearance, and I’ve seen lots of examples around the web of it being used for apparel, seemingly with no major complaints about it. Indeed, the fabric is lightweight and and has a nice drape to it, making it very suitable for tops and dresses in particular. I didn’t realize before I had it in my hand that each row of dots is created by four single strands of white thread woven loosely through the chambray. This is what makes it fray so easily when cutting into it. Unfortunately, in my experience the white threads are also very easily snagged. I think I’ve only worn it three times so far (for family photos, out to dinner, and to work) and have tried to be very careful with it, but I already have at least a handful of snags. In some spots I can pull the threads back through to the underside a little, but I know it’s just going to keep snagging. Most of the snags are below the waist on my dress, where I’m probably more likely to bump into things (and also where little feet are rubbing when I have the kid on my hip, I suppose).

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From what I’ve seen on other blogs, it looks like most people have used the fabrics for tops, so that might be minimizing their issues. I know I’ve seen at least one or two pieces of kid’s clothing made from it though, and I just can’t imagine how that is holding up. I’m trying to decide how my dress would look if I shortened it to a top or short tunic length, which would cut off some of the most damaged parts and hopefully minimize future snags. Also, I’m curious about the Robert Kaufman cotton chambray dots…anybody have experience with that fabric? I’m curious if the dots are created in the same manner or if that fabric is any sturdier?