April 30, 2012

Out with a Whimper

I like to think I would have finished everything I had cut out for KCWC on time, despite the (probably) 11 mile bike ride on Saturday. (Yeah, I know, 11 miles isn't much to regular bicyclists, but we're new at this. And Caitlyn's riding a bike that's too small and doesn't have gears. Forgive me if I'm over here all impressed with us all for that outing.)

But Caitlyn woke up sick Sunday morning. There has been no sewing. There's been no anything, really, just holding a bucket and her hair for her, then layering her with cool cloths. I've read til I'm hoarse, drunk tea and then read some more. I've spent a lot of time sitting with her as she naps. She plans to be much improved tomorrow, since if she's not she'll miss a field trip and the opening day of the farmers' market on Wednesday. I'll be surprised, though, given her fever this afternoon.

I do have a finished top to post, and I'm half-way done with the green and yellow dress. I'll finish up later this week, perhaps, then tidy my sewing corner for May's parade of quilt blocks. I've got blocks for both April and May for my three BOMs. I'm signed up for the Modern Siggy Swap (sign ups close tonight or tomorrow - I'm such a slacker about sharing this one) and Sew. Quilt. Give., a charity quilting bee (which still has space, I think). It's time to check in on the garden(s) and do the springtime pantry inventory, too.

But for right now, I'll be in Caitlyn's room, reading about mice and dogs and a girl with no gravity.

April 27, 2012

Of Tissue Paper and French Seams

Last year, I made Caitlyn a sunhat. For whatever reason (misreading the pattern, getting carried away), I bought a lot more fabric than I needed. I offered to make Caitlyn a skirt out of the leftovers and promptly buried the fabric in the piles of "pending" projects.
bright skirt
But it's KCWC! I found the buried fabric when digging through the piles for other fabrics, and now there is a skirt.

I drafted a pattern of sorts for this, mostly by using the assortment of lines on my
cutting mat/board. I started with Caitlyn's waist measurement (although it probably would have been smart to start with a hip measurement), added about 10 inches to it for waistband gathers and general "fudge" room, divided it by 4, added in seam allowance, and put a piece of tissue paper down on the cutting mat to line up with where the distance between the edge of the mat and the mat's diagonal line matched the number I'd calculated.

Sorry, I should have taken a picture of that. I bet the sentence above would make a lot more sense if I'd taken a picture.

Anyway, I used the mat's diagonal and handy scallop lines to shape the pattern piece. And then I decided that 4 sections of skirt weren't quite what I had in mind, so I folded my pattern piece in half vertically then adjusted my fold to account for seam allowance.

And, I should have taken a picture of that.

If I were really clever, I would have figured out how to adjust the pattern piece to get a waistband that I could just fold over into a casing. But since the skirt panels are flared for an a-line-ish shape, I went with an added casing. And I did remember to take a picture of that process:
making a casing
I sewed the eight skirt panels together but left the last seam open so I could lay it flat. I put down tissue paper over the top of the skirt to create a pattern that matched the necessary length for the casing/facing and the curve at the top of the skirt. Ta-da! It worked!
a casing!
I used a narrow hem in spite of my general tendency to add extra inches and hem up 3 or 4 of them for growing room for Caitlyn. The flared shape of the skirt would have made a fat hem weird. As it is, this is about 3 inches below Caitlyn's knee. I'm hoping we've moved past most of the shocking growth spurts and she'll take a few years at least to add in the inevitable next foot in height.
hemming with French seams
But I have learned that narrow hems (probably all hems, really) in cotton fabric don't like French seams. I've been more or less obsessed with French seams since I figured them out; the insides of things look so tidy in French seams. No exposed edges or dangling threads. But French seams are bulky, which is probably why the general recommendation is to serge or zig-zag raw edges unless you are working with sheer or very lightweight fabric. In quilting cotton (yes, most of the clothes I've made to-date are in quilting fabric), French seams, pressed to one side, are 5 layers of fabric. Fold them over on themselves twice for a rolled hem and you've tripled the stack of fabric you're working with. Awkward.

So, Caitlyn gets a skirt and I get one more reason to think about a serger.

April 26, 2012

Start with the Basics

This is not going to win any sort of cuteness awards. But what nearly-seven year old can't use a pair of purple shorts?
purple shorts
I gave these to Caitlyn last night to check the fit.

"Oh, Mama! You made pockets!"

I feel a bit like I missed the memo. Pockets? Since when was she excited about pockets? There are pockets on her other clothes (although not many of the ones I've made) and she doesn't use them (although, to be fair, the pockets are tiny and practically useless). I thought the critical thing was the purple color, since these aren't covered with a bold print or glitter.
purple shorts
But these shorts have pockets. She inspected them thoroughly, checking out the lining fabric (hot pink) and the size, before putting on the shorts and stuffing her hands into both pockets. I think I must have asked three times, "Please, hands out of the pockets while I check the fit of these!"

Which is pretty good, although there's no real room to grow. These sit right above her hip bones, where they should, and the leg length is good. I'm a little worried that they are too snug in the bum, but she says they are comfortable. If I make these again in a fabric that doesn't have stretch (which this strange purple stuff does), I might add just a little bit of room. Although I haven't the slightest idea how to to that in the back without getting all gappy and saggy in the front.

The pattern came from CraftPassion, and I didn't have any trouble with the instructions. I didn't put the knit band at the hem, opting for a regular hem.
purple shorts
I did look up how to do a blind hem for these. I'm not super thrilled with how it came out, since I think if I'd done the hem by hand the stitches would be less noticeable. I'll need to try the blind hem thing on different fabric, though, before I give up on it entirely. It could be that the technique is not well-suited to this fabric weight.

When is comes to sewing clothing, I've kept pretty much to tops, skirts and dresses. Pants and shorts kinda scare me. But I've got ideas about sewing pants for me, so perhaps starting off with shorts and pants for Caitlyn is a nice, gentle way to get started. After all, she's ok with elastic waistbands and she doesn't have any curves yet!

April 25, 2012

Perhaps Foolhardy

Despite the original idea that I would mostly ignore Kids Clothing Week this year in favor of making April Clothing Caitlyn Month, I find that now that KCWC is here, I'm not ignoring it. In fact, I may be a bit ambitious.
KCWC Spring 2012
So, here's what's cut out and ready to go, from left to right.
  • McCall's 6387, in green and yellow daffodils, with fabric purchased at Stash, my new neighborhood fabric shop (squee!)
  • a home-drafted a-line-ish skirt with panels of fabric left from Caitlyn's summer hat
  • McCall's 6530 in purple and polka dots
  • McCall's 6062, view A (View B is this dress) in a red and pink from the stash. I realize that M6052 and M6530 are similar designs; I really should go through the pattern collection before I impulsively buy more patterns, even if they are on sale!
  • purple shorts using this free pattern and fabric off the remnant table (I've started these already). If they come out nicely, maybe I'll make another version in a denim

Here's what's not cut out:
  • a self-drafted knit top (copying existing t-shirts)
  • two versions of McCall's 6157, one in yellow and one in pink
  • a blue version of McCall's 5694
  • a pleated skirt based on this tutorial in a butterfly fabric
  • McCall's 6389 although I can't recall at the moment if I've got fabric picked out for it
  • a random embellishing project using a plain white t-shirt and the Bo-Nash kit I picked up at the Sewing Expo

So, I know what I'm doing for the rest of the week. Anyone else think I may have bitten off a bit much here?

April 23, 2012

Spring Break Recap, or Skimble Won't Let Anything Go Wrong

Last week was Spring Break in these parts, and I'd love to be able to say that Caitlyn and I did all sorts of amazing things. Instead, I had a cold. Not a bad one, just enough to slow me down and make me tired all the time. At one point I had kicked around the notion of heading east-ish for a day hike during Caitlyn's time off school. We settled for an outing to KidzBounce for nearly two hours of bouncy houses.

The highlight of the week off, though, was a production of Cats. For better or worse, I sang songs from the show to Caitlyn when she was a baby (Did she stop fussing because I was singing or pacing?) and she's had the soundtrack album as part of her music collection since she could handle a CD; she knows the music and has a favorite cat (Skimbleshanks). We didn't tell her we were going, just headed downtown, walked to the theatre and let her figure it out. Her happy dance is pretty good.

And she got to wear a new dress!
Caitlyn's new dress
I really wanted to finish this for Easter, but it just didn't happen. It's McCall's 6062, and while it's not a hard dress to make, it does have lot of parts and a lot of gathering!
Caitlyn's new dress
I bought the pattern a couple years ago, when she was smaller, so I was a bit concerned about the sizing now, even going so far a to make a muslin for the bodice. Holding up the pattern tissue felt so inconclusive! In the end, I did do a bit of pattern grading, mostly to move the waist down, since Caitlyn is so tall for her age.
Caitlyn's new dress
If I were to do it again, I think I'd try to take in the waist a bit. The ties in the back are nice but there's a lot of skirt that gets bunched together there. I may still try to do some shirring (which will be a totally new thing) with some elastic thread to at least make the bunching even.
Caitlyn's new dress
Maybe it's the colors or maybe it's the two layer skirt, but this dress came out a bit more on the fancy side of things than I was really planning or expecting. It's a great thing to wear out for a evening at the theatre ("Growltiger was a Bravo Cat who traveled on a barge..."), but I'm having a really hard time seeing it as standard school-and-playground wear.

Fortunately, I've got much more basic things all cut out for KCWC. Of course, with the break last week, I'm behind in everything else now...

April 13, 2012

Challenge Check-In

No, I haven't been slacking on my personal sewing for Caitlyn challenge. And I hope to have more to show soon!

In the meantime, a nightgown.
new nightgown
I bought this pattern (McCall's 5510) several years ago in a fit of frustration. Caitlyn needed summer weight jammies and everything I found at the various department stores I checked out (ok, maybe it was only one) was branded with characters I didn't want in the house. I think Caitlyn was perhaps three at the time and there was no way I was going to buy something with Miley Cyrus or High School Musical on it (She was three! Sure, she's going to be exposed to marketing and all the conflicting messages about women and bodies and sexuality, but I don't need to rush into that!). We were reasonably close to Pacific Fabric's Sodo location, so I took my frustrated self there, picked out a pattern and told Caitlyn to pick something off the cotton remnants table.

(I also used this pattern for her tiger costume back in 2009.)

So, the first step in making this new nightgown was to grade the pattern up to fit the new, larger, almost 7 year old Caitlyn.
pattern grading
I don't really know what I'm doing when I grade patterns, having only skimmed over some how-tos. In the past, I've tended to just add length to the bottom and in the center where the pattern is placed on the center fold of the fabric. Last time I did that, though, I ended up with a dress that was mostly unwearable for a year while Caitlyn grew into it.

But this is a nightgown. If it's swimmingly huge, it's ok.

Oh, and look! I made my own bias tape for the neckline! Thanks to Coletterie for their continuous bias tape tutorial and for some guidance on figuring out how much tape to make. I might want one of those Clover bias tape makers someday, but as long as I'm making only 36 inches of tape at a time, I can do the folding without it.
home made bias tape

Surprisingly, the nightgown fits pretty well. I added a lot of length to the skirt so it has an enormous hem right now. I figure Caitlyn's more likely to grow up than out, so with any luck this nightgown will last us another three or four years.

Now, on to things she can wear for more than bedtime!

April 09, 2012

Easter Treats

Last week, I found Betz White's photo tutorial for some super-cute, adorably tiny Easter baskets made from 3 oz. Dixie cups.

Naturally, I decided that I needed to make these for Easter. And put homemade candy in them. Never mind that I came up with this plan about a week before Easter. Clearly, it's a very sensible plan.

making mini Easter baskets
We painted our cups (instead of using markers like Betz) and I glittered some of them. Someday I'd like to upgrade the paint in our craft supplies from the washable Crayola stuff to something that doesn't feel like chalk when it's dry.

making mini Easter baskets
Caitlyn had a fine time painting. The weaving turned out to be a bit much, especially after the first round. I really should have checked out the instructions one more time before launching this project, since it might have been easier for her if I hadn't been taking a "I think it goes like this" approach. It could have also been that we were making 13 tiny baskets. Why thirteen? No idea.

I off-roaded a bit when it came to the candy making, too. The last batch of divinity I made (which apparently I didn't post about, so I can't link to it) lasted forever. It also used half a box of strawberry Jell-o, which gave the finished candy a rather aggressive fake strawberry flavor. So, this time, I cut the recipe in half and used plain gelatine with a teaspoon of lemon extract.
making lemon divinity
What we ended up with this time is a bit closer to lemon marshmallows. The lemon flavor comes through, although something lemony and this sweet is a bit odd, but the sugar/gelatine ratio is off. Perhaps there isn't a one-to-one correspondence between plain gelatine and Jell-o? The resulting candy isn't light and airy like divinity but chewy like several large marshmallows all at once, although thankfully without a similar volume.
lemon divinity

I had much better success with my variation on White Chocolate Creme Eggs. I didn't have pecans, so I used almonds. And I didn't have white chocolate, so I used semi-sweet. And I didn't shape them into eggs, because rolling balls is so much easier. Whoops, looks like I made accidental truffles!
chocolate eggs
Come Christmas, I've got to remember chopsticks for candy dipping. This method worked out so much better than my multiple spoon technique! Also, cool the candies on wax paper. The balls all get a bit flat on the bottom but this is a vastly preferred alternative to having them sink into a wire cooling rack and breaking all to bits when you try to get them off again!

homemade Easter candy
Two baking sheets filled with lemony-marshmallowy treats and vanilla-almond creme truffles. Not what I started out making but fine things to end with.

homemade Easter candy and basket
Each mini Easter basket got one of each candy. This one had a moment to chat with the Shasta daisies by the back gate, where the daisies are plotting to hop the sidewalk and embark on a mission of colonization.

Hooray for neighbors who throw large Easter brunch parties! The candy (for better or worse) was our contribution to the menu (don't worry, it fit right in between the doughnuts and the French toast bake), and all those baskets went off to new homes.

I do have leftover Easter candy in the fridge now, though. Anyone want a lemon marshmallow?

April 06, 2012

Spring Flowers

flowering currant

something cute and yellow


It's been raining for ages here. But the sun is out today, it's thinking about being warm-ish, the flowering trees are gorgeous, our fruit trees are about to bloom, and there are flowers about. Every autumn I love the change in the season, thinking "This is my favorite time of year!" only to think the same about spring, six months later.

Hoping your day is lovely, too, where ever you are!

April 04, 2012

Snip, Snip, Sew, Sew

You may have seen this dress before.

purple dress
I made it for Caitlyn when she was in preschool and it's been one of her favorites. See it in the back yard, at the Ren Faire, on the first day of kindergarten, with a shark, and with a hat. It's had a long and much loved run.

And it'd become too short.

We'd recently read I Had a Favorite Dress, in which a girl outgrows her favorite dress and her (rather amazing) mother turns it into a whole series of things (a shirt, a skirt, a scarf, a hair clip, etc).

Inspired by the book and by my current clothing-making obsessions, I cut the top off, made a waistband and - ta-da! - "new" skirt!
purple skirt

For the most part, I'm pretty pleased with how this turned out. I picked out several rows of stitching to detach the bodice from the skirt, measured Caitlyn repeatedly, used two layers of scrap lightweight interfacing to give the waistband some structure, and finished off with some topstitching.

purple skirt

The fit isn't quite right, despite all the measuring, but I think it's because I let the new waistband follow the slight curve of the original bodice. Keeping the curve meant that the waistband could be a bit taller, but it also bows out a little in front instead of lying flat. This bothers me a lot more than it bothers Caitlyn. Also, she doesn't care a bit that the zipper in the back is off-center, or that I didn't do a fantastic job of putting it back in, so it's a more visible zipper than it was on the dress.

purple skirt
Nope. Caitlyn doesn't care. She's got her purple skirt again.

April 02, 2012

Keeping Caitlyn Clothed

KCWC Spring 2012One day last week, Caitlyn picked out an outfit for school but then changed her skirt choice by the time she was ready to have Mama do her hair for the day. When I asked her why the change, she told me that when she had put on the original skirt and made sure the waistband wasn't below her hips, she realized the skirt was too short.

At this rate, we're not going to make it until April 23-30 for Elsie Marley's Kids Clothes Week Challenge. I've already dropped all the hems I can drop. If it's too short now, it must be retired.

Besides I've been collecting fabric for Caitlyn clothes for nearly a year. No way can I get through this stack in a week.
fabric stack

So, I hereby declare that around here and for this year, April will be Clothing Caitlyn Challenge Month. Here's what's on deck:
If you don't hear from me, maybe someone will come check to be sure the fabric piles haven't tipped over and buried me?