Monday, January 21, 2013

Some Progress

We've been steadily working on the nursery.  J finished putting in new moldings and painting.  I've been working on sewing a few things.  I thought I'd post some in progress photos because I can't believe how pretty the room is.  It's the nicest room in the house now.

J did all the picture frame molding- or faux wainscoting, I'm still not sure what the difference is.   I don't think I'd call it true wainscoting since it's not a whole panel piece.  He installed new chair rail and then used trim pieces to build the the squares and rectangles along each wall.  Then the entire bottom half was painted with enamel.  We know people do this in dining rooms normally, but it was an experiment.  I love it in the nursery.

Here is a before picture for reference.

The previous owners had a baby boy in this room.  It looks like we didn't change the wall color very much in these photos.  But the color we painted above the wainscoting is a very pretty pale blue-gray.  It's Silvery Moon by Benjamin Moore.  Love Ben Moore paint.  It's like a thick milkshake compared to any other brand we've used.

I made curtains!  I said I wasn't going to do pink but....

I am holding off on making the pink crib skirt until we have our last ultrasound this week.  J says he wants confirmation it's a girl before we go forward with all the pink ;)

The sun is insane this time of year.  The window in the room faces southeast and the low morning sun is intense.  My parents bought us the crib and J's parents bought us the matching dresser.  This little girl isn't even here yet and she's already so spoiled ;)  Actually,  it's J and I that are spoiled.  We are both so grateful to our parents for these pieces.  We never would have been able to put anything nearly as nice in to the nursery.  Both the dresser and crib will last a lifetime (the crib converts to a double bed).

I am in love with the furniture.  It is, by far, the best furniture we own.  I originally thought we'd go with a basic white crib, simple and inexpensive.  But when we saw this furniture, we couldn't go back to the idea of having a plain old white crib.  We chose the natural maple since we love our natural maple floors so much.

I made this little rabbit.  It was actually a prototype for something else I'm working on for the nursery.  Who doesn't love making stuffed animals?

We bought the little round shag rug from Shaw floors.  The company J works for is under the Shaw umbrella and we just discovered he gets an employee discount (sweet!).  J designs products for a hardwood flooring company.  He has a very cool job and I can vouch that he does amazing work.

And this brings me to these two little (well, not so little) fuzzy pests.  Our two cats.  They seem to think we are doing all of this for them.  They are in for a rude awakening.  I've been doing some research on how to best bring in baby.  I read an article online that suggested a few funny things.  It said not to totally exclude them from the nursery (which is why they are in there in these photos) or they will see it as a loss of territory.  The article suggested letting them in when baby is not there.  And to keep them off the furniture it said to cut cardboard the same size as wherever they jump up and then cover it with double sided sticky tape...!!!  I promise I'll film it if we go that route.  I'm not worried about the cats doing anything to the baby.  They'll never be left alone anyways.  But the little calico one likes to be destructive when she's mad.  She tears up paper and magazines, scratches things, opens doors, terrorizes the other cat, etc.  She's pretty rotten.  (...yet she's so soft-  we swear her softness is her survival mechanism).  Our sofa was sporting some new scratches when we got home from being in St. John for a week this summer.  Socks will be fine.  He's easy going.  Anyone have any suggestions for helping pets adjust to being knocked down a few notches?  And please don't tell me I have to get rid of them.  If worse comes to worse, they can live in the sun room for a while.

Anyway, some progress has been made!  Some good progress.  We still have a lot to do, but at least the baby has a place to sleep.  I'll post again when it's all finished.

Hope everyone has a great week!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Fashion According to Six Year Olds 2.0

Let me preface this post by saying I love kid art.  Obviously.  Being an elementary art teacher and all.  But I know not everyone is as interested in it as I am.  Or maybe you are?  I dunno.  This post is just for fun.  I am constantly inspired by the kids I teach.  There is something about the enthusiasm and the absolute lack of fear that kids have when it comes to creating.  I hope it rubs off on me in my own projects.  I get excited about so many works I see come to fruition during my everyday.  I've wanted to share a few here on the ole' blog, but for some reason I have it in my head that this blog should only be about sewing.  That may have to change.  Just occasionally anyway.

Skirt made of feathers perhaps?  Looks dramatic.

If you've been reading my blog for a little while you'll remember my original first grade fashion post  (from almost two years ago!- have I really had this blog that long!?!).  I don't teach the same lessons every year.   I like variety.  But I tend to teach this lesson about clothing as art every year for selfish reasons.  It's right up my alley.

Scallops and seaming on the pink strapless dress.  That would be fun to make.
We start the lesson by talking about clothing as an art form.  I read a book about clothing around the world and we talk about fashion designers.  I show them lots of fashion sketches and talk about how clothing designers are artists who spend a lot of time drawing and dreaming of new ideas.  Then we become fashion designers and sketch our ideas.  The sketches are my favorite part. 

 This one doesn't have any color, but I love the stripey dress with the bubble sleeves.  It looks like some haute couture piece that would be in a museum.  I happen to like the shark tee shirt, too. 

All of these drawings are from that first day.  Later on, we actually create an "outfit" out of scraps of construction paper, wrapping paper, wallpaper and anything else we can get our hands on.  The outfit is made large, glued underneath an oval.  When we are finished, we cut out the oval so the kids can "try on" their creation.  Hilarity ensues.

The hair!  The hair just kills me.

I made a dress from a student's sketch before.  In fact, the projects I am most excited about are the ones that are inspired by kid art or related things.  Like my painted jacket and stuffed lion.  I think one day I'll find my niche and figure out exactly what kind of artist I want to be.  One day when I grow up.  And it's going to involve kid art.  For now, I'm just having fun.

That dress above is a work of art, don't you think?  I can see it in real life.  Scallops on the side, purple brooch and yellow fringe at the bottom.

Don't forget that pets can wear clothing, too.   J thinks dogs in sweaters are weird looking because they don't have pants on, too.

How about some men's wear?  I'm now convinced that men's fashion should always be accessorized with a sword and a top hat.

This looks like something Jack White would wear.  Anyone see Austin City Limits the other night?

I saw a pair of jeans in a magazine the other day that I'm going to replicate when my waistline comes back.  They were regular old denim at the top.  Then they were pink denim from just above the knee to the hem.  I thought they were very cool.  These pants remind me of them.

I saved my favorite for last.  See that dress turned sideways in the corner?  I'm going to make that dress post baby.  I already have a plan to paint some fabric for it.

Hope you enjoyed this as much as I did!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Winding Down

Quick and dirty.  Those are the two words I'm using to describe the making of this dress.  It was a fast make.  Super fast.   Which makes pregnant-me very happy.   I'm winding down my maternity sewing.  There are still a couple of things I'm planning to sew.  Only one definite.  But I think from this point forward it's smarter to focus on getting ready for baby.  We are busy working on the nursery.  I've started collecting various types of baby gear.  It kind of makes me panic when I think about how little time there is before she's here.  Three more months!  Ack!

I bought this particular pattern, Butterick 5679 and some double knit at a Hancock sale after seeing Carolyn's version a couple of weeks ago.  In fact, I even picked fabric close to what Carolyn used.  The highest form of flattery, right? ;)  It looked like a pretty easy pattern and I liked the raglan sleeve and cowl.  Like I said before,  I'm all about the quick and easy right now.   I've also never sewn a raglan sleeve before and I was curious.   With a little modification it made a great maternity dress (thanks for the tip, Carolyn!).  The double knit is not the best.  Some of those double knits they have at Hancock are really nice, and some not so much.  This one is extremely synthetic and has a slight smell after drying in the dryer.  But it's fine for winter time wear.  And pregnant girls can't be choosy when it comes to clothes that fit.

I made view B, but I did a quick and dirty full belly alteration (that's for you, Valerie!).  I'm not really sure if that's what it's called, but I like the description.  The lengthen/shorten line was just above the waistline on the front piece.  I cut straight across the lengthen/shorten line and stopped right before the side edge.   Then I pivoted out both pieces and added about two or so inches right where my belly would be.   I lengthened the entire piece by adding about four inches beyond that silly point on the original pattern piece and connected the side seams.  I ended up redrawing the side seam and smoothing it all out.  Actually, I didn't draw anything.  I made all these changes while cutting out my fabric on the fly.  Shame, shame.  But it worked.   I only altered the front piece.  I did not sew a center front seam.  I cut on the fold instead.  I cut the back on the fold as well and added length to accommodate for the alteration I made to the front.

I didn't have enough fabric for the full cowl piece.  The original cowl must be huuuuge.  I cut down the depth by half.  I think I'm happier with a smaller cowl anyway.   I matched my stripes but all the seams are still pretty obvious because it's impossible to match snowflakes, too.  I am not a perfectionist, if you can't already tell.  When I tried it on (after only about an hour and half of sewing!) I loved it but it was just a leetle bit too short for work.  So I added a hem band to add more length.  It took me about as long to add the hem band as it did to sew the whole dress.  I cut the band slightly smaller than the hem to pull it in a bit.  As a result, there is a little bit of misshapen-ness going on there at the side seam.  I can't make myself fix it.  I've worn the dress three times already.  I keep hoping it will work it's way out :)  Lazy, I tell you!

I actually made a muslin, can you believe it?  Well, sort of.   I made up view D (minus those silly hem points again- what is it with sewing pattern companies and pointy hems?!) to take a break from my jacket sewing over the holiday break.   I had high hopes that it would turn out wearable.  Meh.  It did, but I had to majorly modify the back piece.  The neckline was so incredibly wide at first that it slipped off my shoulders completely.  I pinched three or so inches out of the center back piece and re-cut the side and sleeve edges.  Then I resewed the sleeve on to the narrower back to fix it.  It's not the most flattering top ever, but it is comfy.  It sort of reminds me of a nightgown.  I'm planning on re-purposing the knit after baby comes.  I used a nice drapey rayon knit from my stash.  It's so large that I'm hoping I can cut another regular knit top from it later on.   Or possibly a baby onesie ;)

And this is the belly at 28 weeks.  Seven months!  I still feel really good. I was never thankful for my long torso until now (I could never find shirts long enough when I was younger).  I have plenty of room through the middle.  I don't feel too squished yet.  Yet being the operative word here....


I think I'm going to write a separate blog post about this one day (maybe not), but I'm getting to the point where  I'd like for my sewn knits to be a little more polished.  I love knits.  I sew a lot of knits, but I do it on my regular machine and use a narrow zig zag.  I don't have patience for the stretch stitch.  My finish is lacking.  I leave most seams raw.  I overlock occasionally-- if it's an edge that will be seen.  My hemming sucks most of the time.  My machine hates twin needles.  What are my other options?  Are there other techniques out there I don't know about?  Is it time to look in to a serger?  And are there sergers out there that are affordable for a poor teacher with a brand new baby?  I'd love a Babylock, as recommended by a coworker, but I don't buy cars that expensive!  Anyway.  Just wondering if you guys are pro-serger or not.  Is it really worth it?  And if you are- what do you recommend?  Any advice is appreciated.

Happy sewing!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside

Oh boy, oh boy, am I in love with this make.  Or should I say oh girl, oh girl ;)

Yes, I made a maternity jacket.  With a little help from a friend.  Actually, a lot of help.

See, I am convinced that pregnancy totally skews your view of what is socially acceptable for one person to do for another.  When you are pregnant, you think that everyone should drop everything they are doing and assist in meeting your needs.  It starts out innocently enough.  First, people start opening doors for you, picking things up that you drop, offering you their seat, offering to carry your heavy load....  Then something happens.  Maybe it's hormones.  I've started believing that people should wait on me hand and foot.  All the time.  Poor J.  He has no idea what he's in for the next three months. 

Haha! Ok, not really.  But I do feel like I totally took advantage of the lovely Tj of The Perfect Nose.  On one of my first maternity posts a while back, The Perfect Nose very kindly offered to trace some maternity patterns for me.  She linked to a couple of Burda and Patrones issues that she had.  My first reaction was that the offer was super nice.  But I wasn't going to actually request that she spend her precious sewing time tracing patterns for me.  But then those crazy hormones kicked in.... mwahahaha...

I went to check out all the awesome maternity patterns she had on hand and was smitten with this jacket.   So I happily sent an email back and asked her if she would mind tracing off the pattern for me.  Um, there were only about eight billion pieces involved.  (Man,  I'm sorry Tj.  I think I picked the most involved pattern available.  Along with the gigantic wrap dress-  which I will be making up later, don't you worry.)

There's no telling how much time was spent tracing patterns for me.  She even added seam allowances.  Seam allowances!  It was such a treat to not have to trace off a Burda pattern.  Nor add seam allowances, which I always seem to forget.  I don't think I can gush enough and tell Tj how grateful I am.  I am so tickled with how this turned out.  I have worn it everyday this week and I'm sure I'll wear it nonstop until I deliver.  And maybe even after.

Now to the pattern nitty gritty.  I made a muslin.  A straight up, real deal muslin.  I rarely do that.  I usually make up a pseudo-muslin out of some fabric that I really intend to wear.  Or I do a lot of basting and fitting while I sew.  But this time I made a muslin to check fit.  And I'm glad I did because I made several changes.  I lowered and widened the neckline, drafted a new collar, added an inch to the hem, nipped in the midriff and made substantial changes to the upper sleeve.  The sleeves were slim and I tend to need more width for my bodacious biceps.  I wanted the sleeves to be extra big so I could wear bulky things under this jacket.  I added about an inch of width, possibly more.  I did it on the muslin so I'm not sure of the exact amount.   There are some fit issues with the sleeve and armscye.  No doubt due to my alterations.   But I have plenty of room to slip on this jacket over a sweater, which is nice.


Because I changed the neckline so much (and it was a yoke piece- not a traditional front and back bodice) I decided to draft a new collar.  I was stymied trying to figure out how to alter the original collar to fit.  I've also never sewn a collar that looked like this one before (see paper pieces above).  I am, once again, so thankful I own Winifred Aldrich's Metric Pattern Cutting for Women's Wear.  There is so much invaluable drafting info in this book.  I whipped it out and had a new collar in no time.  Although I included original seam allowances out of pure laziness.  Sue me.  I figured it's basically just a rectangle anyway.  It worked just fine except it probably would have benefited from bit of slashing and spreading.

The sleeve vents are another story.  I'm not ready to talk about them right now.  Yes, my experience was that bad.  I almost left them off during muslin stage, but decided they looked too cool not to include.  I read many, many explanations and tutorials on the interwebs before sewing them.  I am still confused.  Sleeve vents are one of those things I'll attempt later on when my skills are better.  For now, I'm avoiding them at all costs. 

I'll even show you a picture of how sorry they look close up.  I sewed them up the only logical way I could think off.  I didn't mitre any corners.  My brain couldn't handle it.  I just turned up the hem and  machine stitched it.  Then I slip stitched the lining hem to the jacket sleeve by hand.  Ick.  It's not the way it should be done and it looks pretty sloppy.  Luckily I don't ever see them while I'm wearing the jacket :)  And can anyone tell me which way is the proper way a sleeve vent is supposed to go?  Is it upper sleeve over lower sleeve, or vice versa?  It's possible I did it backwards.  I did upper sleeve vent over lower. 

You can also see the fabric well in the above photo.  I have no idea what it is.  Some sort of suiting.  I swore it had some wool in it when I bought it.  But now I'm pretty sure it's all acrylic.   It came from the stash so I won't complain too much.  It drapes really well and is heavy.  It's almost a cross between a woven and knit.  The outside is the twill or corded weave you see in the photo.  The inside reminds me of double knit.  Yet it frayed like crazy.  I top stitched all my seams to keep the fabric from fraying apart inside.  It frays that bad.  I top stitched the yoke piece in yellow just because.  I like how it highlights the curved seam at the back.  The fabric is also fuzzy.  After wearing it for a week I've noticed little fur balls under my arms where the fabric rubs together.  And I couldn't iron it without a press cloth.  Shiny marks all over the place.

 The original pattern called for the jacket to made from suede. Many of the instructions were specific to working with leather.   So I scratched the instructions and made it up the way I thought it should be made up.  I lined the jacket with flannel for warmth.  But I used a slippery polyester lining fabric for the sleeves.  It slips on and off so nicely.  And I did the midriff band in the lining fabric, too, to reduce any extra bulk there.  Below are the guts in all their glory.  It's pretty wrinkly from all the wear in the photo.   I left all the length on the sleeve lining.  I probably should have shortened it but I wanted enough ease.   I bound the hem in bias, turned it up once and hand stitched it.  I stitched on all those snaps, too.  I did tons of hand stitching.  I searched high and low for the perfect yellow buttons and never found them.  Instead I was drawn to the pale minty green ones I used for some reason. 

All in all I really, truly love my new jacket.  It fills a major void in my maternity wardrobe (ha! I have five outfits that I rotate) since my fleece jackets don't zip over my belly anymore.  I know I will wear this everyday.  I can't tell you how pleased I am that it buttons over my belly.  Tj, I cannot thank you enough for your pattern tracing magic!!!

And just for fun-- The belly at 27 weeks.   I feel good.  She kicks me constantly now and I love it.   But I'm expanding everywhere.  Every part of my body.  It's all worth it, of course.  Can't believe she'll be here in three more months.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Nerd Alert!

Ok, ok.  I am ousting myself.  I get excited about graphs.  Something about seeing information visually is really cool.  It's totally on the opposite end of the spectrum of what I actually do for a living.  But there was a part of me that loved Statistics in college (especially Educational Statistics).  Weird for an artist, I know.  I have enjoyed reading everyone's end of year posts (Gillian, your Top 5 idea was awesome!).   Though I'm really not a sentimental person.  I don't look back very often.  I am a firm believer in always looking to the future.   But Molly's graphic approach to her 2012 sewing data pumped me up.  I fired up my work computer (which I brought home over break because I swore I was going to get some work done....) and tried to refresh my Excel skills.  I haven't had to use it in years.  On a side note, Excel sure does look different in Microsoft 2010, doesn't it?  Took me a bit to figure it out.  I'm dating myself, I'm sure.

Here is my end of year data in all it's nerdy, graphic glory!  I made a grand total of 47 projects. Not too shabby.  I did quite a few home decor and crafty projects that I counted as well.  If I sewed it, it was included in the data.  I love looking at everything from this point of view because I get so much information about my productivity.  That's good knowledge to have.  Especially when my future sewing time involves also taking care of a babe.

My first chart is number of sewing projects by month.  I was more productive in the summer.  No surprise there since I get eight weeks off then.  And what went on in July?  I have no idea how I churned out so many projects that month.  That was also the month this little baby was created.  Hehehe.  Twas a productive month in many respects.  My productivity dwindled in the fall due to being newly pregnant.  But I managed to make something every month.  I also noticed a shift in my use of knits then, as well.  I seem to have been a little more productive lately.  It's true what they say about getting some energy back in the second trimester.

  Not sure why this chart has a title and none of the others do.  I did quite a few home decor projects early in the year.  I consider the sofa to be my biggest accomplishment of 2012.  It was completed in February, though I spent almost the entire month of January working on it.  I like sewing for the home.  Truly, I like variety.  I also noticed that I sewed a lot of baby clothes.  And no baby of my own yet!  All of the baby items I sewed were for friends or coworkers babies.  I love me some baby gift sewing.   Something about sewing miniature cutesy things is so satisfying.

Next chart is the type of fabric I used for my sewing projects.  I used a lot of cotton wovens.  I labeled that category to describe all sorts of wovens I used that were mostly cotton; seersucker, batiks, shirtings, etc.  That's pretty self-explanatory.  They are easy to sew with.  The polyester category was surprising, although one project was a craft project and the other two were fails.  What does that say about poly?  I love linen, so I'm actually surprised I didn't use more than I did.  I'd love to push myself to sew with some different types of fabric in 2013.  Um, silk would be nice.  But I'm also on a strict fabric diet, so that may be difficult.  I will be sewing from my stash whenever possible in the next year.  I predict that there will be a lot of pink frilly cotton things sewn in the future.

And the last chart is sewing project by pattern.  I didn't include my home decor projects in this chart since they didn't really require patterns.  Just measuring.  I guess I like Simplicity patterns!  I probably own more Simplicity than anything else.  They seem to go on 99 cent sales more often than Vogues or Burdas.  I was pleased to see I actually had a category for self drafted.  Though all of those projects are either a baby robe or an a-line skirt.  The Oliver and S category is misleading because all four of those projects were popover dresses for baby gifts.  I counted each project individually.  I would love to sew some other Oliver and S patterns in the future.  All in all, I'm happy about my year.  I see from my graphs that again,  I like variety.  That's generally how I am with art as well.  I consider myself to be a jack of all trades, master of none ;)  My only sewing goal for 2013 is to manage to carve out some sewing time while taking care of this new baby.  I don't want to let sewing go to the wayside since making is so important me.  I don't foresee that happening, but you know... I'm determined to make it a point to keep sewing.

Lastly, I just want to say thanks so much to all you lovely folks out there who read my dorky ramblings.  I can't tell you how much fulfillment I get from sewing and being a part of this online community.  I truly enjoy starting my day (and usually ending it, too) reading your sewing blogs also.  Like others have noted, sewing blogs are organic, rich and exciting reads.  It's real life.  So much better than any magazine or newspaper I could pick up. I love that I've made online friendships and connections with kindred souls all over the world.  It's a great feeling.

 Wishing everyone an awesome 2013 full of nothing but sewing successes.