Thursday, September 27, 2007


Oh duuuuuuuuuudes. I am going to be so happy when this weekend is over. I mean, I'm looking forward to a dress-up night out with my hubby, but the lead-in to that is rough.

I have been tapped to do the first reading (Catholic wedding mass) at the very last minute. Despite the fact that I was a teacher, the only thing that terrifies me more than bugs/spiders is public speaking. I said I would do it because I love these people, but now I have to navigate a pew, a marble floor, and several steps in total silence, wearing some very high-heeled shoes. As of this writing, I don't even know what, exactly, I will be reading. Super!

My poor sis-in-law-to-be (M) is stressed to the max. The latest possible problem is that they aren't sure they both have the correct documentation to obtain a NY marriage license. I was able to look up this info in 15 seconds on the web...not sure why they couldn't figure that part out before flying the 3000 miles to bflo.

Also, my meddling mother-in-law (soon to be HER meddling mother-in-law, too...hahahahaha!) is, well, meddling. She and my father-in-law are paying for half of this affair - pretty much all but the reception itself, which M's parents are paying for. So M has planned it out with her parents, though she has entertained input from the in-laws. My personal belief is that it is HER party (and the groom's, of course), so she is entitled to plan it however she wants. My m-i-l seems to believe differently.

Three days ago she called M to tell her she'd purchased an arbor at a craft store. M asked her to please return it. My m-i-l sputtered and stammered that it was for the reception, but M stood her ground and said no, she didn't want it. Which led to my m-i-l calling the groom, crying and having a fit. Then, when M was at the reception place going over the seating with the banquet manager, she found out my m-i-l had just phoned to order twinkle lights for the reception. But she didn't check with M or anyone else first. Well, M doesn't want an arbor, and she doesn't want dang twinkle lights either! Luckily she was able to determine, with the banquet manager, that they lights hadn't yet been paid for, so she nixed that.

Then she had the unenviable job of calling my m-i-l and telling her to please stop trying to make changes FIVE DAYS before the wedding.

This is why she calls me from up on the ledge. And I cackle wildly to myself, and then try to calm her down. This is just my - no, our - m-i-l's way. I mean, when Hubs and I got married, she was still adding guests to her list after the RSVP date had passed. Oh yes. It was rad.

And today my hair dryer died, so I look like a drowned rat. I'm NOT one of those gals who can rock the air-dried look. I have to go out and get another one toot sweet. But it's a catch-22 because I don't want to leave the house with un-blow-dried hair. Gah!

Tonight is the bachelor party and the bachelorette party. Hubs will be hopping in the limo to go see the Canadian ballet with the dudes, but I am sitting this one out. First of all, my hair looks like crap today, how can I go out? Second, the only person I would know at the party is M. Third, we don't want to leave Daughter 3 nights in a row, which I explained to M and she understood. What sucks about this is that Hubs will get home at 4 a.m., so I will have to get Daughter up at her regular time in the morning and somehow hustle her out of the house so she can't go in and jump on his head. Otherwise he will not get enough sleep and will then be miserable for the rehearsal in the evening.

I'm sure some of you read this and think, "what is her problem, this isn't HER wedding! What a loser!" But it's the biggest thing going on in the family right now (well, except for a few really nasty divorces, but we aren't going there), and also the first time we've had to navigate a full weekend of activities with a child in tow. Additionally, it's the first time I've dressed up for a fancy event with my husband since Daughter was born. So it has kind of taken over my thoughts.

Ok, I'm out for the weekend. Back next week, possibly with photos, definitely with normal old knitting and sewing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

i have a headache THIS big...

My job this week seems to be "talking the bride down off a ledge."

Posting may be sparse until after my bro-in-law and his true love are wed.

Friday, September 21, 2007

pretty in (pepto) pink

There is an elusive pattern out there that I keep searching for...the simple, full-skirted, long-sleeved, simple, comfy (and did I mention simple?) playdress for Daughter. I've found the knit version in the Sewbaby Twirly Dress, but I've also been seeking a woven version. I search the commercial pattern company websites often, and always in vain.

If I were less lazy, I would take all the elements of all the patterns I like and draft the perfect dress. But I just don't have the patience. I think ideally it would look just like the dress below, but perhaps with a zipper up the back instead of eighty-seven thousand buttons. Ok, there are just 8 (the pattern calls for 9 but I only had 8 pink ones), but criminy, that's still a lot of sewing buttonholes and stitching buttons.

Here's my latest. It's a newly released pattern - New Look 6745. It's good, people. Well written, clear directions, nice finishing. I liked it a lot, and usually I find stuff to complain about so that's saying something! I made a size 1, which fits Daughter almost perfectly. Believe it or not at 2.5 years old the size 1 still gaps a bit around the neckline/bodice area. But it is certainly wearable, much better than a size 2, and she will wear it all winter before it is outgrown. The fabric is flannel from Joann Fabrics.

I did make some mods.

If you look at the pattern cover, you'll notice there's no plain long-sleeved dress with plain gathered skirt. There are variations on that theme, but I had to cobble together pieces from different views to get exactly what I wanted. The bodice is the same for all views, so no change there. The sleeves are view D, but lengthened because the pattern calls for a separate band to be sewn onto the sleeve base as a decorative element. The skirt I used is from view B. I do plan to make some more of these as shown on the pattern - I have several coordinating fabrics in my stash so I can do the sectioned skirts and sleeve bands - but I wanted a single fabric for this dress.

Also, I neglected to buy matching bias tape, which you need for the neckline (no facings, huzzah!), so I cut my own bias strip from the leftover fabric. Worked great, and I'm thinking I might do this on all the versions I make of this pattern. That way it's always a guaranteed match.

Oh, and here are a few good tricks that you may or may not know about:

Tracing the pattern onto Pattern Ease is my least favorite part of sewing. For a dress like this where the skirt pieces are just giant rectangles, rather than tracing them, you can just fold the tissue pattern piece carefully and press it on the line indicating your chosen size. Pin it down to the fabric and cut very carefully so as not to slice into the folded pattern piece. Then you can just unfold the edges and put it away for next time and all sizes are still intact!

And finally, I stitched the buttons down using my machine. Here's a view of the back:

I used the buttonhole guide included with the pattern to place the buttonholes, and then again to mark the button placement. Once I knew where the buttons had to go, I set each button in place and used a very fine micron pen to mark the placket through the holes in the actual button. Then I measured the distance between the holes, set my machine's stitch width to that number (4.5 mm in this case), and set the stitch length to zero. That part is important because I didn't want the fabric to feed at all. I carefully lined up the button beneath the needle, over the two pen dots I'd made on the placket. I started the stitches by turning the handwheel (so I could be sure I wouldn't hit the button), and then hit the foot pedal for several stitches. I pulled all the threads through to the back and clipped them, and voila, 8 super-secure buttons. I can never get them secure enough by hand, so this is my new method for sewing down shank-free buttons. Try it! Just be careful not to slam your needle into the button.

Overall I give this pattern an A+. Daughter is wearing it right now at her insistence, even though it is a very unseasonable 80 degrees today. Look for more of these in the future! Right after I get the bathrobe done. And the winter coat. Oh, and another knit dress, and some corduroys that are cut and half-finished. And another corduroy dress that's cut and waiting patiently for assembly. Good heavens, somebody stop me.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

playgroup redux

Remember back in the spring when I signed Daughter up for a local playgroup? And I hated it? Remember?

Well, it's the best thing going around here right now, so I signed her up again. They changed the age parameters (it is now 18 months - 2+), so I thought what the heck, for $4 per session we'll give it another go.

It's better this time. 10 kids, mostly girls, which excites me since Daughter was the only girl last time. Also, the age spread is such that Daughter falls pretty much right in the middle. All are at least 2, from what I could figure out today, but no one is right on the cusp of 3 like last time. The only trouble with that is I keep smelling poop and thinking it's my kid (we are potty-training and she has not worn a daytime diaper in over a week...though it takes constant reminders from us to use the potty and NOT go in the training pants). Luckily, it was all other-kid-poop and Daughter even used the classroom mini-potty (heavens, I haven't seen one of those since I was in kindergarten) and got a sticker from the teacher.

And there is only one grandma this time, so I actually find myself feeling bad for her, because I know what it's like to be outnumbered...except last time it was something like 3 moms and 11 grandmas.

Also. Ahem. Lots of the moms are very, very, very pregnant. I had trouble with that, I can't lie. Every time I see a pregnant woman my stomach knots up, and I imagine I'll feel that way until we have another healthy child of our own. Not that I don't wish them well - I truly do. But it is hard for me.

Anyhoo, that's that. Hubs is coming home early today so I'd better get in gear and clean this place up.

Monday, September 17, 2007

twirly dress

On Friday I went a little crazy at Joann's - well, crazy for me, which isn't that bad. I had a few patterns in mind and went seeking some fabrics to make just a few more winter items for Daughter. While there, Daughter and I picked and chose several really cute things, and I just decided to buy them rather than agonize over spending the money. All it amounted to was 2 cuts of corduroy, one interlock knit, and a cut of flannel, along with notions, but I had also placed an order at for coat wool (dress coat for Daughter) and double sided minky (for her bathrobe).

Unfortunately my bro-in-law's wedding has us spending money like coked-up rock stars this month, so this will likely be the last of the fabric purchases for 2007 (*sob*). See, I do the finances for our family, so there's no one to stop me but me. And stop I must, or we'll have no cash for Christmas. Yikes.

Of course I washed and dried everything immediately and during naptime managed to cut out several items. First up, twirly dress:

This was my first real knit garment, and while it is far from perfect, I am fairly pleased with the result. I really dislike gathering, and gathering a knit is even more tedious than gathering a woven fabric, but I did it. There are some puckers and tucks but for a first effort, it's acceptable.

I will definitely make this pattern again. Each size is printed separately - NO tracing! - so Daughter can have these dresses till she's a size 6. Awesome! And the pattern is written for a knit bodice & sleeves and either a knit or woven skirt. The smaller sizes have 6 gores for the skirt, the larger sizes have 8, so you could do some really creative stuff with fabrics. I've had some great Laurel Burch Christmas fabrics stashed for a number of years now...I bought them to make something home-decor-ish, but they really aren't my decorating style. They might look great as skirt fabrics in this dress, though!

Another great thing about this pattern is that it runs true to size. I made the 2 and it fits my kid! A miracle!

My only real problem was with my twin needle. I guess you can buy a ball point twin needle, but I didn't see them at Joann's, so I got a regular one (for wovens) and it worked, but I got some skipped stitches which doesn't look too fab.

Oh well, overall it's totally wearable and I'm happy my first experiment with a knit garment wasn't a disaster!

Thursday, September 13, 2007

the first step is admitting you have a problem

I have reached a new level of sewing insanity. Last night I was lamenting the fact that there is nothing I really need to make for Daughter just now. Her growth has slowed down and most of what she wore last winter/spring still fits. Also, I seem to be in denial about her size, because I keep making size 2 garments even though the pattern chest measurements for size 2 are anywhere from 3-6 inches too big every time.

I can't just keep buying patterns like a freak, I need to use what I have. But most of what I've been accumulating starts with size 2. Aaaaarrrgh! And I must keep sewing because that is what I do to maintain sanity in my stay-home-mom world. Plus I like it.

Sooooo, there I was, tossing and turning until something like 3 a.m., going through my mental rolodex of fabrics and patterns (like I said, a new level of insanity) when it hit me - baby patterns! My poor kid is pretty puny for her age and I have a bunch of baby patterns that might still fit her! It was all I could do to stay in bed...I wanted to get up and start makin' stuff.

Sure enough, when I got up this morning and dug through my patterns with my cup of coffee, I found what I wanted.

This is New Look 6310, still available in stores as far as I know. I bought it when Daughter was a tiny infant because I wanted to make sleep buntings for her. For some reason I misread the envelope (I don't know, maybe because I was sleeping about 4 out of every 24 hours then?) and thought it was only for knits. It is not. But I tried making the bunting (view C) with a knit, and it was a total disaster. I cried, and then threw it out. Knowing what I do now, I would definitely make the bunting again but out of a stinking flannel next time. Duh.

What caught my eye this time was the little wrap top and pants. I love the look of pants with a band at the bottom for little kids, and set out to alter this pattern a bit for my tall, skinny girl. Easy peasy...just added 2 inches of length to the largest size. The waist measurement was plenty big (it's elastic waist anyway).

These photos don't do the pants justice...they are SO CUTE. Maybe I can get a shot outside in natural light tomorrow.


These are made from some cotton from Joann's that I had intended for the blouse in my last post, but I only got a yard, which wasn't enough for the blouse. Repurpose, repurpose! I actually think I made these a tad too long, which is fine because she can wear them all winter and there is some growing room. I want to make a few more pair out of some print corduroy. Cuteness!

Stay tuned...there is more cut out and waiting for free time. And I am knitting my hands into early arthritis to be sure. Can't stop making stuff!!!

Monday, September 10, 2007

not really worth the time and effort

Sometimes when I am sewing a new garment, I get about halfway through it and start to think, "I could buy this at Target for $6.99, why am I bothering to make it?!?" This is about the same time I start wearing my shoulders as earmuffs because the tediousness of the sewing is stressing me out.

McCall's M5456 would be the latest example of this phenomenon.

I don't know why I can't take better photos of my stuff. Sorry. Rest assured it looks much less wrinkly in real life and my Daughter does not go out looking like a rumpled mess every day.

Anyway, I just didn't really enjoy this one. It felt like a slog through the mud rather than a fun, quick little project.

Pattern: McCall's M5456 view E, size 2

Fabric: 100% cotton purchased at Joann's - from their new quilting basics collection, to which I say this: FOR SHAME, JOANN FABRICS! You call this a quilting fabric?!? This is a very thin fabric that I would never, ever, ever use in a quilt unless I wanted that quilt to disintegrate the moment it was washed. I'm not even sure how it will hold up in the washer as a shirt. I only got it because it was soft and pretty and I almost never use "good stuff" on the first run-through of a pattern.

Mods: I stitched a hook & eye closure into the back neck rather than a button and thread loop as called for. This is to be a playshirt, so I didn't want to expend much more effort than I already had by the time I was finishing. Also, rather than sew a casing inside the sleeve into which the elastic would be inserted, I just stretched the 1/4" elastic very tightly and sewed it directly to the inside of the sleeve using a small zig-zag stitch. Came out ok and was much less work.

Here is the back:

I'm not sure if I'll try this one again. Of course, there is no rush as this one probably won't fit Daughter till she's 3 or 4 anyway. I'll try it on her, but she has an 18" chest measurement and this shirt is way bigger than that, I can tell you. If I do make it again, I will try view D, and I'm contemplating drafting the bottom shirt section as a long piece and making a dress out of the thing. I might like that a lot better. We'll see.

Well, because I spent yesterday and today sewing this thing, nothing else has been fact, it's 3:30 and I haven't eaten lunch yet today. Yikes! Time to pack in the sewing for today and scrape up some lunch before I pass out.

Friday, September 07, 2007

everything old is new again

When I was pregnant with Daughter, I never even gave diapering a thought beyond "what brand should I buy?" I certainly didn't consider using cloth diapers. I thought it was impractical and outdated and weird. So I started out with disposables and happily chucked out hundreds of pounds of dipes and waste month after month. Then, after I'd been blogging for awhile, I started to understand that cloth diapering was alive and well and had, in fact, become big business because you can't find cloth diapers anywhere but online. There aren't even diaper services where I live anymore.

So I digested that info, and even switched to cloth dipes for Daughter when she was just over 2 and refusing to go on the potty (I thought sitting in a wet cloth dipe would make her want to go on the toilet instead...didn't work). But then I was super surprised again when I found out people are also looking for old-school wool soakers and longies. I had never even heard of them, though I always wondered what was up with the patterns in my 1940s and 1950s knitting books that looked like wee shorts and leggings. Aha! They are all soakers and longies!

When my buddy Karen asked if I'd make a pair for her baby boy, I figured I'd give them a shot.

Since most of the old patterns I have are written for now non-existent wools in very fine weights (8 sts./inch) and I wanted worsted weight, I used the pattern for denim pants in Last Minute Knitted Gifts instead. They came out really well in Patons Classic Merino (color: new denim).

I was also interested in playing around with a soaker design, so first I tried the free pattern available on the Ottobre website. These are made from scraps of Patons Classic Merino and knitted on size 8 needles. They came out quite small, because the pattern actually calls for unspun wool, but they could certainly be used for a young infant. Bear with me, the colors are weird (leaf green/royal purple) and I don't think garter stitch is ever very pretty. I was just experimenting.



They're supposed to have a ribbon or twill tape woven through the waist ribbing as a tie, but as these are only being worn by Daughter's teddy bear right now, I skipped that part.

Kinda fun - I'm going to keep experimenting.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

pillow talk

Oh, that Mother Nature. She's tricky. When I said I wasn't yet ready for autumn, I did not mean that I wanted a string of 90 degree days instead. But that's what we've got, so not much is happening around here. I hung some clothes on the line this morning and by the time I finished I felt like the top of my head was on fire. I vacuumed the family room, which resulted in a clean carpet but a dirty me. Sweaty pits! Yum!

No crafting today...just sitting on the couch watching tv and trying to stay cool. So I will share something I finished a couple of weeks ago:

I'm working on replacing all the throw pillows in our family room. After 4.5 years of being slept on, kicked around, used as breastfeeding supports, and just general wear, they are getting pretty worn out and faded. Two of our favorites are 24" pillows my mom made me to go in my first apartment after graduation...almost 10 years ago. Yeah, they have been well loved and given us all they can.

This is the first creation. It's based on the Love & a Little Lunacy pattern in this book. It's about 14.5" square. I used heat 'n bond lite for the appliques, then stitched around them by hand using some vintage dmc black embroidery thread (not floss...more like a pearl cotton, but not exactly). The top is quilted by machine around each square and each border, then sewn to the back (which is two overlapping flaps), and finally, bound like a quilt. I cannibalized the stuffing from one of the old dying pillows and made a muslin pillow form for the inside.

Fun! I look forward to making more in different patterns and sizes.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

did it!

Well, what I lack in ability I make up for in sheer determination.

Check out these leggings:

What do you think?
Another angle:

I think they came out ok for a first try with no 'real' pattern. I just told myself that if they came out super crappy I'd toss them and no one would ever have to know.

Here is what I did:

I took the pattern piece for the pants from Butterick 3109, which I recently used to make eleventy-nine pajama sets for Daughter, and MacGyver-ed it into a narrower pattern by folding it over itself in the middle. I compared it to the Gymboree leggings I was trying to copy, and it came pretty close, so I went for it.

The nice thing about this pattern? It has no outside leg seam, so you stitch the inner leg seams, then the crotch seam, a casing and 2 hems and you're done. SO FAST!

It worked just fine. I used a ballpoint needle and it stitched through the knit like a dream. I practiced with a double needle on some scraps before sewing the leggings, but I couldn't get it to stitch well without making a tunnel between the needles. That will take some more experimenting...for now a wide zig-zag does very nicely for the casing and hems.

Problems: Too small around the top, really. Too tight all over compared to what I was going for. These wear more like tights, and in fact I did not even put any elastic in the waistband - they stay up just fine without any. Daughter says they are comfortable, so what the heck, she can certainly wear them! But the next pair will be made slightly bigger for comfort and growing room.

For those interested, the fabric is from Joann's and is what they call, literally, "basic knit." It comes in a tube! I'm so inexperienced when it comes to anything other than wovens that I almost fell over when I got home and discovered I'd bought tubes. And since these leggings came out so well, I am heading back to buy more tubes all the colors! I mean, we're talking leggings for $3 here. To a penny-pincher like me that is beyond exciting.

However, thanks to Anne K., I believe I may have found my fabric mecca. I don't know what is wrong with me that I can't find good fabric sites online (and oh yes, I have tried ebay...friends, I give you credit if you can use ebay. I hate it because I have no patience). Anne left me a comment to check out I am over the moon. I want to make out with And when you place your first order in the US, shipping is only $2.95. I am rubbing my hands together in anticipation! And I am thinking very, very carefully about what I want because I am so taking advantage of that offer! is exactly what I was looking for - great fabrics at totally reasonable prices. Thank you, Anne!!

Action shot!

Sunday, September 02, 2007

stepping up my game


Joann Fabrics, you have disappointed me yet again.

I am on a quest to either find cheap rtw leggings or make them for Daughter. Yes, I can find leggings at Target, but they all have lace around the cuffs a la Madonna in her "Like a Virgin" days, which is not so much the look I want for my 2 year old. I could get really cute ones at Gymboree, but at $12.50 - $14.50 each I won't be able to get many. I have one pair of hand-me-down Gymboree leggings that fit Daughter perfectly and I suppose I can copy them - I'm going to try, anyway.

The problem is, I went to Joann's to take advantage of the Labor Day sale, but they only have solid color knits! Bleh! I want cute prints and stripes! Ay-yi-yi. I know sewing is not always the economical choice these days because fabrics are getting more expensive and if you want good stuff it's going to be pricey, but I was really hoping I could whip up some cute leggings for around half the price of the store-bought ones.

So I got some black and gray basic knit fabric to experiment, but I would like to make some cuter ones if the testers work out. I am asking you, seamstresses - where can I order cute garment fabrics that aren't $20 per yard? It's hard to believe in a metro area the size of Buffalo we can't have more than one place to buy garment fabrics. I can easily drive to 4 or 5 Joann's locations, but there are no other fabric stores that I know of in the area (other than quilt shops). If any WNY people are reading, please tell me if I am wrong about this!

I've also been looking for an easy knit pullover dress pattern. Using my coupon, I picked up the Sewbaby Twirly Dress pattern, which can be made with an existing t-shirt or entirely from scratch. I can see using solid knits for that and embroidering or adding an applique, but prints and patterns would be nice too...if I can find them.

Also, for the record, I have only tried to sew knit fabric one time, and it was such a miserable failure I haven't even wanted to try again. So this will be an interesting experience. I was sharing some stuff from Sewing Mamas with my husband, and lamenting the fact that these women post AMAZING garments, and not only that, they are also homeschooling mothers of 5 with number 6 on the way and somehow they make all their kids' clothes right down to their underwear (not even kidding)...and what is my problem? Why can't I sew like that, with my one kid who takes a good nap each day? My husband's response was: "well, maybe you need to step up your game!"

He meant to be encouraging, of course. He said there's no reason my work can't be that good (though I draw the line at making underwear), and that I should just get the tools I need and try it. If all those women can wrestle knits in to submission, so can I. And I really hope it works, because I have lots of plans for Daughter's wardrobe.