Wednesday, April 27, 2011

End radio silence. Ask a bunch of questions. Resume radio silence.

First question. Is there anything cuter than this?

Wait. Before you answer, look at this.

Eric won tickets to Sesame Street Live and Rylee and I went last night for a girls' night out with some BFFs. I didn't make an Easter dress for Rylee this year so I would have time to make matching Elmo groupie outfits. It's about priorities.

The top is a simple pillowcase shirt made from a yellow poly-blend knit with the cuteness pumped up by a lettuce edge.

I got the Elmo applique pattern from this Etsy seller and you should go buy many appliques from her because they are adorable and easy to make AND she lets people sell things made from her patterns. Skill and generosity should be rewarded.

The skirt is my third attempt at a Kitschy Coo pettiskirt and this time I used some stretch mesh based on Amanda's suggestion. Less puffy, more swirly. Observe.

I only used three layers of mesh with a satin underskirt because I could only scrape up 2 yards and a few inches of the wonderful stuff. Three layers was plenty and allowed me to make two skirts. The Sesame Street Live motto is GO BFF MATCHY OR GO HOME.

A few more questions, inspired by this picture.

Q. Are you really that excited to see Elmo's Healthy Heroes?
A. No.  But it was actually pretty cute. Lots of showtunes and other adult references to keep it tolerable.

Q. Since there was only one camera taking your picture, where are you looking if not in the lens?
A. No idea. I didn't even have a margarita at dinner!

Q. How much sunscreen are you wearing at the pool these days?
A. Not enough, apparently.

It was fun and the girls had a blast. And seeing them swish around like manic muppet twins was worth gathering more yards of mesh than I care to contemplate.

Now about that radio silence. In late February I actually got a short-term contract and spent some time Working For The Man. No time for blogging or even sewing, and since I was doing a lot of writing there weren't any excess words for blogging even when time allowed. I'm hoping (and they indicated) that they'll have me back on a semi-regular basis so I think I'm hanging up the keyboard here. Thanks to everyone who spared a moment to read my ramblings when I was going toddler-mommy stir crazy. You can find me on Facebook with my handle (auntninn) attached to an email account at gmail.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tutorial: Lazy Bubble Skirt

Skirts were the very first thing I ever sewed for Rylee, mostly because toddler skirts are about the easiest things in the world to sew. There was a period where she didn't wear them because they got in the way of playing, stooping and crawling. Now that her legs are much longer she can wear them again without interfering with all the glorious rampaging and mess making that compose her days. But A-lines and twirly skirts started to bore me so I decided to try a bubble skirt. I searched around and found a number of tutorials that, while good, seemed needlessly complicated. At the rate she's growing I want a minimum investment for maximum cute.

Thus, I give you: the lazy bubble skirt. I hesitate to say *easy* since one step is a little tricky but it's the laziest possible way I can think of to construct a cute, poofy skirt for a little girl from about 12m - 5T or so.

You will need:
* Approx 1/2 yard of shell (main) fabric
* Approx 1/2 yard of lining fabric
* 1/2 yard of VERY soft and stretchy 1/4" elastic. I like knit elastic for this. For a stiffer elastic you might want to allow a little more.
* Approx 1/2 yard (waist measurement) of 3/4" elastic
* Waist measurement and skirt length measurement of the child to be clad

NOTE: Because I really, truly mean it when I say I wanted this to be a lazy undertaking I give myself a lot of "slop" in the yardage so I don't have to do things like iron 1/8" hems. Because who wants to do that? So if you have a piece of fabric that you are just DYING to use but it's a little bit short you can get by with less if you use narrower elastic in the waist and narrower seam allowances.

Step 1: Measure child from waist to the desired skirt length. I love to have these hit around the knee. I made the one in the tutorial a little longer because I want it to last. For Rylee this was 12".

Step 2: Cut your main fabric four inches longer than your desired skirt length. E.g. for this skirt I cut the main fabric 16" long. One full fabric width (usually about 44") should be right for 12month - 5T. At the outside edges of that range you might have to play around with cutting it narrower or sewing a few extra inches on the edge.

Step 3: Cut your lining fabric two inches longer than your desired skirt length (or put another way, two inches shorter than your main fabric). For Rylee's dress that was 14". Trim the fabric if necessary to make the lining and the main fabric the same width. I also trimmed the selvage here to avoid a huge seam allowance on the fashion fabric.

Step 4: Right sides together sew the short edge (marked with a red line in the photo above) on the main fabric. Repeat for the lining fabric. You should have two tubes (i.e. you are not yet sewing these together). Make sure to use the same seam allowance to keep the tubes the same size. Press the seam allowance open.

Step 5: With right sides together, aligning seams, slip the lining tube into the main fabric tube, aligning the bottom edges. NOTE: Very important that you align the BOTTOM edges, especially if you have a directional print. I had to check with my video game geek husband AND the internet to make sure I had my invaders going the right way. In the photo below I am pinching the BOTTOM edges of the fabric.

Step 6: Divide the bottom edge into quarters. One mark will be the pressed seams. Mark the opposite edge with a pin (show above), pinning fabric and lining together. Mark the points midway between the pin/seam by either folding the tubes in half again or measuring. Your fabric should now be pinned together in three places.

Step 7: Cut 18" of your soft, 1/4" elastic. This will be stretching around the entire circumference of your skirt (approx. 44"). This is also the part that will be around the little knees and you want to make sure there is still room to run. If your elastic won't stretch that far then cut a slightly larger piece.  Divide the elastic into quarters by folding or measuring, marking with pins.

Step 8: The only tricky step in the whole process. The one place where speed and slapdashery are  NOT your friend. Go slowly in this step and you will be amply rewarded because it is really 2-3 steps in one. You are going to attach the elastic AND seam the shell/lining together in a single step. I use a triple zizag for this to make sure it's nice and stretchy. If your machine doesn't have a triple zigzag then double should be fine. Starting at the pressed seam(s) lay the elastic down just inside the aligned edges of the shell and lining. I like to line the fabric edges up with my presser foot and have the elastic just slightly inside that. You might need to mess around with the stitch width to make sure you are catching the elastic. Hand crank a few stitches and stop with your needle down in the fabric. Now stretch the elastic until you align the first pin in the elastic with the first pin in the fabric as shown below. S-L-O-W-L-Y sew the elastic to the first pins.

Step 9: Repeat for each quarter section of fabric and elastic ending back at the pressed seams. The last section won't have aligned pins, you'll just be finishing up the last piece aligning it with your starting point.

Step 10: Check and make sure you seamed all the way around. If your elastic doesn't quite reach it's ok. Just make sure you complete your seam all the way back to the beginning and do a few reverse stitches to secure. At the very end of my seam here the elastic snapped away and I couldn't quite make it reach. It doesn't matter as long as the fabrics are joined all the way around.

Step 11: You now have a gathered "bag" of your fabrics.

Step 12: Turn the skirt so that the wrong sides are together and your lining fabric is to the outside. Line up the top edges of the fabrics.

Step 13: To make the waistband first turn under about 1/2" on the top. If you are short on fabric you can serge the edges together here, but I like a neater look. You can also make this first turn a little narrower, but it's hard to turn both much narrower than this and an extra 1/2" of fabric is worth it to me to be lazy.

Step 14: Turn again about an inch to an inch and half. A little less if your waistband elastic is narrower than 3/4". Again, lazy wins the day for me here and I make a very generous band. Sew around the lower edge leaving a 2" opening to insert your elastic.

Step 15: Cut your waistband elastic about 1" shorter than child's waist measurement. I sometimes do a little bigger if the elastic is stiff and I want to make sure it doesn't pinch. Bonus tip: Use tailor's chalk, pen or marker to mark once side of the elastic so you can check to see if it twisted while you pulled it.  This happens to me all the time and I don't know why it took me so long to figure this out.

Step 16: Using a safety pin or bodkin, pull elastic through the waistband, secure it and then sew the seam shut. Done!

Side note: I'd love to say that this was all part of sewing things up to match Rylee's orphan garments, but the plain truth is that I bought the fabric because I was coveting. BUT, I did just buy the shirt at a Just Between Friends sale and both it and the baby legs *were* orphans. And I really dig the demure plaid collar with the over-the-top geeky fabric. So we'll call it a win.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

McCalls 6155 or Bamboo Jersey, where have you been all my life?

This shirt has already been through the wash twice, so I guess it's about time to blog about it. 

I've been trying to sew pieces for Rylee that go with orphans in her wardrobe. I'm a total sucker for discount and clearance shopping and I tend to buy things just because they are cheap. She has a pair of Gymboree teapot leggings I got for something like $2 but they have been languishing with no match.

I bought THE most beautiful fabric from The Fabric Fairy. They say it's made of bamboo with 8% lycra but I suspect it's actually spun from sunshine and puppy kisses. It's gorgeous to sew and moves beautifully. Just holding it makes me happy and it was embarrassingly difficult to throw out the scraps. I think I might make myself something out of it.

I used McCalls 6155 and I agree with the comments of the first reviewer at that link. The cut is very pretty but I hated the neckline, which was folded over and sewn down. The pattern also calls for interfacing and putting buttons in the back. That sort of misses the point of a knit in my world, so if I sew this again I'll just cut the back on the fold at the center and use ribbing at the neck.

To embellish the front I bought some pre-made fabric buttons on Etsy. Not because these buttons are hard to make, but because it was cheaper than buying this obviously awesome teacup fabric. More precisely, it was most likely cheaper than starting a hunt for this fabric that would certainly have lead to a purchase of at least five other fabrics.

I made size 2 and the fit is absolutely enormous on her. She's tall, lean and lanky so the shoulders in particular are huge. She runs around rocking the Flashdance shoulder reveal and you can see by the pooling of the fabric how long the sleeves are on her. But it's wearable now and will probably need a matching set of leggings soon since she's sprouting out of pants every time I turn around.

I've quit telling her to smile in pictures and tell her to laugh instead. It makes for a better shot and also gets me poses like this that tell me quite clearly what kind of teenager I'll have.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Just a note to say we are ok

Since The Pickled Weasel  was sweet enough to wonder after us I'm posting a quick note.

Along with everyone in Tucson we are still reeling with shock and sadness over what happened here over the weekend. But our family is ok and was not involved. Thanks for thinking of us. And please continue to pray for the families of the people who died and for the recovery of the injured.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Covered in glitter and recriminations

In spite of my Big Plans to make more felt toys and other handmade goodies for Christmas my two-year old niece Ella is the only one getting a handmade gift this year. Armed with my lessons learned from my first attempt at Kitschy Coo Pettiskirt tutorial I got to work.

The first time around I messed up my seam allowances and ended up with something very poofy due to short layers. My tulle was also too lightweight and wispy (read that: cheap). This time I got stiffer, sparkle tulle. So stiff in fact that I still ended up with something way poofier than I was aiming for.

I've had the sweater for months and wanted to make a pettiskirt to match. Due to the weird effect of a flash on the sparkle tulle and the seafoam underskirt you'll have to take my word that it *does* match.

The satin underskirt matches the tutu of the ballerina on the sweater. Which also matches the top cuffs of the baby legs I made.

As I was pulling the elastic Rylee walked by and saw the pile of princess craziness on my lap and proclaimed "That's mine's."

When I tried it on her to check the waist fit she immediately began to switch her hips and declare "I'm the true princess!" She was also willing to model the underskirt, if not change out of her favorite monkey pants.

She was finally willing to grudgingly concede that it was "Lella's" and mommy would make her one soon. So I'll be blogging a third attempt at some point in the near future.

And lest you think I'm the worst mother in the world for letting her be barefoot outside in the winter I'll just add that it was almost 60 degrees. So I'm only a moderately bad mother. For that reason at least.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This goes down in my house a few times a month

We have two golden retrievers, a female named Gala and a male named Marc Anthony.  We call Gala our nanny dog, because she's always taken care of all of us as best as she can without thumbs. Sometimes when something terrible happens to Rylee - getting her milk in the wrong cup for example, as happened in the video - it makes Gala very, very sad. She will come from anywhere in the house to be sad near Rylee, as you see her in the video. Sometimes this will make Marc Anthony sad. And the result is funny and sad, in proportion to the amount of sleep I've had.

As a bonus you can hear the best Christmas album ever at the beginning before the family starts in. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

When favorite things collide

I love sewing for Rylee and had a few ideas for a handmade costume this year. Then someone offered me this free, new-with-tags pig costume.

I love free stuff almost as much as Rylee loves the first piece of Halloween candy.

I made the bag. Last year. It counts.