Monday, October 25, 2010

Making Progress

I'm making progress on Alice's dress:
The front is smocked, but not embroidered...

This dress requires backsmocking (smocking on the back of the dress to hold the pleats in place). I have 2-1/2 more rows of backsmocking to go.

Then comes the embroidery! I've done some bullion flowers before but this design calls for several stitches I've never done before. Should be fun.

Meanwhile, I'm finishing this up for my niece:
I have a few more leaves to embroider and then I'll construct it.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sweet Apple

Last month was insane. Totally and completely insane. With symphony services 6 days a week, my sewing machine has not seen much use. It was all I could do to get the kid out the door in the morning and make sure we all had clean clothes to wear and food to eat. Plus, it was still in the 90's here so I had little motivation to work on cold weather clothing.

I did find time to get a new smocking project going. Alice is now in dance class twice a week and I have had a lot of visits with the fertility doc lately which has meant a lot of time spent waiting. I hate to sit and wait. I feel much better with something to do. I picked an ambitious pattern:
This is "Sweet Apple" from Australian Smocking and Embroidery #89. I have never made an exact copy of a dress before, but I fell in love with this fabric (and it was on clearance!) so I went for it. It's hard to see in the picture, but it has extensive bullion embroidery. The embroidery you see on the collar is also in the bodice of the dress. This will be Alice's Christmas dress, provided it fits. The pattern only goes up to a size 5. I'm going to enlarge the pattern and I gave it a VERY generous length when I pleated the fabric.

Here's where I am so far:
This is just from sitting and waiting. and waiting. and waiting. I haven't worked on it more that 15 minutes at home.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

This is a fall dress made from two of the fabrics I pulled out for Alice's wardrobe. The pattern is a modified Anna Maria Tunic from the 3/09 issue of Ottobre. I turned it into a dress per Alice's request. It wound up being a looooong dress, which isn't bad because it's also pretty generous around her chest / arms. I expect this will fit her for at least two years, possibly three.

This is a UFO I finished up a few weeks ago. We call it the Karate dress but it's really a Mod Kid Kyoko. Here it is without the sash thing:
With the sash thing:
This is a church dress for the remaining warm weather. It is HUGE on her so if it is too short in the spring I'll add a ruffle around the bottom so she can wear it for church next spring and summer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

1st day of school dress

I have been so busy sewing I haven't had time to post. You see, Alice had a growth spurt and all of the clothes I had planned to use for the beginning of the school year (when it is still in the 90's here) no longer fit.

Here's the dress I made her for the first day of school:

It's on the short side for wearing when the weather warms up again in the spring but we'll cross that road then. I can always alter it into a tunic. This dress was FREE!!! Well, I paid for the thread, but that was it. I won the fabric from Chez Ami for telling them about my worst sewing disaster. The fabric I finished the neckline with was a scrap left from leggings.

Pictures of other outfits coming soon!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Leggings

Alice won't wear any type of pants besides leggings. Ever. I bought her exactly one pair of leggings in the time I've been sewing for her. They got a hole right at a seam within an hour the first time she wore them. As I sat cursing while repairing them, I decided that I would never buy leggings again. And I haven't. Having made her leggings for 4 years now, I've got things down to a science and thought I'd share.

1. The leggings are always solid colors. I also try to coordinate things so that she can match at least 2 different colors of leggings with each dress. This past year her leggings wound up being orange, lime green, pink, and yellow. She also had blue, purple and lilac left from the previous year. Next year she's going to require a bunch of new clothes due to a growth spurt. This year will be pink, orange, brown, green, and turquoise. We've also got one of each legging left over from this year.

2. If I cut extremely carefully I can get 2 pairs of leggings from a yard of fabric. This year that required cutting the first pair with a double thickness of fabric and then cutting the second pair one leg at a time. Next year I think I'll have to get more than a yard to make two pairs. (She'll be in 2nd grade next year to give you an idea of sizing...) Ottobre 4/04 has my favorite leggings pattern. It's sized from baby through big kid and dips in the front. Very flattering and comfortable. I always cut them on the long side to allow for growth during the year and to try to eek out a 2nd year's wear from some of them.

2-1/2. I save my scraps from the leggings in case I need to repair them. This year Alice ripped the knee on one pair and I rescued them by sewing a heart-shaped patch over the hole. They became her very favorite pair to wear.

3. In April I stop being very concerned about treating the knees of the leggings for stains. When it starts getting warm out I cut a few pairs off for bike shorts. When it REALLY gets warm out (May!) I go through, set aside the pair in each color that has worn the best and cut the rest off into bike shorts for the summer. This allows for cold weather in the summer as well as expanding her color choices for the next year. It also buys me time if I don't get the new set of leggings done in time for fall weather.

4. I cut the shorts long. This way it is possible to get more than one year's worth of wear out of them. She has a few this summer that she's been wearing since she was three. She'll be 6 this summer.

I tend to make a ton of pairs of leggings at a time. This year I've got 12 pairs cut out. I make them assembly style.

Here is a big pile o' leggings that I've chain serged the leg seams:

Here are two pairs all finished:
Alice doing modern dance. Notice the top. This was a product of a nice long sewing weekend with a friend. Her little girl has a matching top. This top is so darling I've changed my mind about making dresses from jersey in favor of more tunic tops.

12 pairs of leggings cost me roughly $35 in materials or $2.91 each. Granted, two pairs were free fabric, but even if I bought that fabric @ $6 / yd it only brings the total to $3.41 a piece. Not bad.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Function and Style

Today I'm going to talk about the last two elements in wardrobe planning: function and style.

Function = What does she need? What will she be doing in her clothes? Does she need something for church? Will she be running around in gym class in these clothes? Does she need something for a special occasion? What will the weather be like when she's wearing these clothes? How long do I need this outfit to last / fit?

For now I'm focusing on cool weather school clothes. We've scored some great deals on gently worn second-hand dresses that are more appropriate for church than everyday, so that is one wardrobe category where Alice is set, at least until it gets really cold.

Once I figure out function I start hunting through my patterns to figure out the specific styles I want to sew. When I see something I like, I sketch it in my idea book along with pattern details. I'll also mark which fabrics I might like to use. Here are my design pages:

As you can see, it's nearly all dresses and tunics. This is the first year I'm planning to make tops with sleeves. I've stuck with jumpers or tunic length jumpers in the past because that way Alice is able to get optimal wear out of her clothes. She wears them sleeveless in the summer, with short sleeves in the early fall and spring, and with long sleeves in the winter. She has one jumper she's worn regularly for three years. I'm changing things up this year because I'm afraid she will decide that that type of outfit is babyish. I'm trying to keep a step in front of her to keep her happy in her hand made clothes.

When I make clothes in mass quantity I like to stick with a few basic patterns. If you think about it, this is probably how you'd shop if you were buying clothes anyway. Or, at least, you probably wouldn't automatically reject something because you already have a similar cut in a different fabric. Sticking with a few basic styles keeps the process manageable. Details and trim can always be changed.

Don't feel like you have follow your plan to the letter. You can see that I had decided to make a bunch of long sleeved knit dresses. Then I got together with a friend who was in the planning process of her little girl's fall wardrobe. Over the course of a long weekend we made our girls matching long sleeved knit tunic tops that are so incredibly cute that I'm re-thinking the dresses.

Next time we start sewing!!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fabric, fabric, and fabric!

There are several factors that go into planning a wardrobe for a child (or anyone, really.)

* Type of clothing
* Type of fabric
* Color
* Print
* Function
* Specific Style

In the first four categories, I strongly suggest you go with your child's preferences. That little sailor dress might be so precious it makes your teeth hurt, but if your child hates dresses, or thinks its babyish, it is a waste of your sewing time.

I also cautiously suggest you consider current fashion when wardrobe planning. Generally, the clothes that are out there for the elementary set make me ill. I could go on about how sick it is that society insists on sexualizing our young girls through "fashion" but I won't. You need to know what's out there, though, because that is what your child's peers will be wearing.

I figure out type of clothing first. Alice prefers leggings and dresses. Tunic tops are also fine. Jeans are not. Jeans precipitate a screaming, crying fit. They hurt her ears. (I don't exactly understand either.) I don't let her wear teeshirts with leggings because I don't think it's modest, so regular length tees are out too unless they are going under a jumper. Then I figure out what she needs so we don't wind up with 22 dresses and 3 pairs of leggings. This year that part is easy because she needs everything, lol.

Next I figure out my fabrics, colors and prints. Following the Gymboree model, I try to pick things that have commonalities. Here are the prints I've chosen for this year:
Wovens are on the left, knits on the right. These will all be made into tops or dresses. I *may* make her one pair of woven pants.
We'll see.

Then I pick colors for leggings. My rule is that each print MUST match at least two colors of leggings and each color of legging must match at least two prints. The more the better. Here are the colors I've chosen for leggings:
I generally stick to solids for leggings. The green / white polka dot was free (I won it for having a sewing disaster!) and I think it's neutral enough to work.

Here are the fabrics they match:
Brown leggings

Pink leggings

Aqua leggings

Green / white polka dot leggings

Orange leggings. They only match two things right now, but this is U of Tennessee Vol country and people bleed orange here. During football season the kids are encouraged to wear orange every Friday. No beating it, so why fight it? Besides, orange leggings are surprisingly versatile (who would have thought?!). These will also go with the few dresses she still has in her closet and any Halloween dress I make.

Now the fun begins! I get to decide what styles to make! To make this easier (and portable) I glued one inch square swatches of each fabric onto a piece of paper. This is totally optional, but it makes the planning process portable rather than tied to your sewing area.

Tomorrow I'll show you what I've got planned....

Wardrobe Planning

When Alice was born I fell in love with Gymboree. She was too tall for normal preemie clothes and too scrawny even for the newborn clothes I shrunk. Gymboree preemie clothes fit her perfectly. Actually, Gymboree is the only line of clothing that has consistently fit Alice well.

Alas, we can't afford to dress her in Gymboree 24/7, and, besides, what fun is that anyway? Why dress her in cute outfits that a bazillion other little girls have when we can sew our own for a fraction of the cost?

Alice has been wearing a 90% home-sewn wardrobe since she was about 3. I've learned a lot about wardrobe planning along the way. At first I didn't plan at all, which resulted in Alice dressing herself in outfits such as a red striped shirt under a purple jumper with orange leggings. It also resulted in too many stressful mornings of not being able to find a single pair of clean leggings that matched any clean top.

Last year I took a page from Gymboree. Everything within a Gymboree line is mix and match. If you stick in the same line it's difficult to make a mistake getting dressed. Simple idea, but it was a revelation to me. Mornings were much, much easier last year. I didn't fret about laundry and Alice was easily able to put together outfits that didn't blind people.

This year my task is daunting. Alice has been wearing a lot of her dresses for three years. She has finally outgrown most of them, and the ones she hasn't outgrown are showing their wear. This year I need to make her more clothes than I've ever made her at one time.

Tomorrow I'll show you how I plan...

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Travel Duffel and Luggage Tag

Oh yes, I haven't posted in so so long. Work has been a time suck this season. Luckily, the symphony season is DONE on Friday evening and I will have much more time for important things like sewing!

I had to post these pictures, though, because I am so very tickled by this bag.

I got the pattern off of I avoided that site like the plague for a very long time because it is dangerous! Instant downloads = a lot of temptation. I gave in when Alice needed a name tag for her skunk. It was Animal day at Kindergarten and she was afraid that Esmeralda would 1. run away, 2. get lost, or 3. be skunk-napped. I downloaded a pattern for this luggage tag to make a last-minute name tag:

The duffel bag is by the same woman who came up with the luggage tag. The bag in the pictures is for Alice's Kindy teacher for an end of the year gift. It is HUGE. In the picture I stuffed it with 5 bath towels to make it stand up nicely. I could have easily fit another 2 or 3 inside. I LOVE this pattern and plan to make one for Alice and myself. Two friends have requested this bag as a birthday gift.

It has a zippered pocket on one side with gussets to make it e x p a n d a b l e.

The handles are made of jute webbing. Hobby Lobby carries this. Cherie suggests not washing the jute because it shrinks, bleeds and unravels. I wanted the bag to be washable, so I did wash the jute. I serged the ends, stuck it in a delicates bag and washed it on hot with some stuff that quilters use to set dye. Then I stuck it in the dryer. It did shrink A LOT. And it was horribly wrinkly, but some patience and a lot of steam with the iron took care of that. Ultimately I think the ability to machine wash the bag outweighs the shrinkage and extra time involved in prepping the jute.
Do you see the pocket between the straps on the side?

This is a great pattern. I would recommend having some experience sewing before you take this on, though. It's not terribly hard but it uses a lot of different skills. Here is the link to Studio Cherie's You Can Make This! page.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Serious Fun

"Serious Fun" adapted from a recent Australian Smocking and Embroidery. Made for my niece for Christmas.

(the piping turned out better than it looks in the photo...)

Shades of Pink


I *love* this dress. Of the non-smocked things that I've made, this is my favorite. It has completely sold me on the importance of top-stitching. The lace on the bodice was a goodwill find. I also really love the double buttons. We hand most of Alice's clothes down as she outgrows them, but I think this will be one we will keep.

(Tim took these pics at an old somewhat abandoned botanical garden in town. Aren't they great?!)



This is an EASY project and you could totally do it even if you don't sew. Makes a fabulous cheap birthday gift! I got the tutorial here. This was for one of Alice's classmates. Apparently it was the hit of the birthday party.

Pig Pillowcase

This was a project I was hired to sew. I have another one cut out and partially completed for Alice. These are pretty simple, if I ever get my act together I'll stick a tutorial of sorts up.

pig pillowcase

I was pretty tickled when I figured out how to make a curly tail. I used ribbon and sewed a line of shirring (elastic in my bobbin) close to one side which made it curl up into ringlets.
curly tail

Peapod dress

peapod dress

Outfit for Alice