Friday, February 27, 2015

Two Pretty Dresses

We are winding up the Southern Snowpocalypse down here. The kids have been home from school four days this week - for the second week in a row. It's funny to admit it, but I think we're kind of beginning to establish a nice rhythm with us all home. That said, I'm desperate for Spring to arrive! While stuck indoors with everyone all week, I somehow found some time to make two adorable little dresses for Lyla. They were the perfect kind of sewing projects for a week like this.

This is the Geranium Dress from Made By Rae, probably my favorite dress pattern. I've made several before, but it had been a while. Lyla's measurements put her in an 18-24 month size, but I extended the skirt pattern pieces to the 2T length. It fits perfectly. That's one of my favorite things about this pattern - the fit is so good. It's also quick to sew and perfect for fancy or rumpus play.

I kind of forgot that I'd been hoarding this fabric (for years). It's one of Lizzy House's beautiful butterfly prints from Hello Pilgrim. I don't think this particular color is so easy to fins these days, but the print is going to be released soon in a heap of amazing new colors!!   Thanks to a fun Instagram poll, I chose two wooden buttons for a sweet finish on the back.  Perfection! 

I've made an executive decision this year. I want to sew a million little dresses for this girl, but I think I'm going to try to refrain from harassing her with organized photo shoots. I'd rather catch her unexpectedly, running around the park this Spring or eating ice cream this Summer, wearing a pretty handmade.  I did manage to get a quick iphone shot. She loves this one!   

So, after getting my feet wet in dress sewing again, I decided to try a new pattern. This is dress b from Happy Homemade Vol 2, Sew Chic Kids, the somewhat recent English version of this popular Japanese pattern book. I have admired this book and all of it's wonderfully simple, lovely and practical patterns for years, but was a bit intimidated Japanese patterns.

This simple, squared neckline dress ("dress b") seemed like a good place to start. It's always good to find a thorough blog post about a pattern before you dive in, so I did a bit of research first.  In terms of sewing Japanese patterns in general, I remembered following this series over on you & mie. It has lots of great tips. Some don't really apply to the English version of this book, but some do and were super helpful!  

One of the big differences in Japanese sewing patterns is that seam allowances are not included on the pattern drawings. There is a good section in the book that describes how and where to add them to your pattern pieces. I used this super clever double pencil method that Meg from Elsie Marley describes here. Keep in mind though, it gives an approximate 1/4" seam allowance and the pattern calls for 3/8". So, either you can sew 1/4" seams or cut your pattern out a bit bigger. I decided to just sew generous 1/4" seams through most of the dress (I used 3/8"on the side seams of the skirt), because my daughter is so petite and this dress seems pretty roomy. It worked fine and fits great!  

Another noticeable difference with Japanese sewing patterns is that the pattern instructions are quite limited. Whereas with many English patterns you get pages of written instructions and diagrams, in this book you just get a page or two, with small detailed sketches. I noticed, too, that on some patterns they omit steps, because they are covered in another pattern that uses similar pieces and construction techniques.

If you've sewn quite a few dresses, I think you could easily reason out the basic steps. Still, with this particular pattern, I found myself scratching my head a couple of times. I did what I thought made sense, and it worked, although I'm not sure my steps were consistent with the pattern. On the back of the dress, I either made the button loops too long or didn't place them properly. But they work fine, so I'm not gonna sweat it. The binding on the back placket on the top of the skirt was also a bit tricky, but worked out in the end.

In the end, the dress was about 2-3 inches too long for my little gal, so I shortened it. I wasn't so surprised by this, as the heights in the sizing chart seemed tall, at least for the size 2. And, I'd read that others who've made this pattern had the same experience. On the topic of hems, I have to mention that I've been using this hem trick that I read about over on The Craft Sessions blog, on all of my recent garments. It's such a great method and I've been getting a perfect hem every time! Super love it!

So, those are my thoughts. I definitely enjoyed the experience and plan to make more patterns from this book. And, I/we love this dress! The fabric, is of course, from one of Cotton and Steel's latest collections, Tokyo Train Ride, by Sarah Watts. It's the perfect pairing, in my humble opinion, for this pattern and style. All of my kids got a kick out of this Harajuku print and thought it was so sweet, funny, and cute all at once. So true!

Lyla is now officially dress obsessed. Perhaps almost as much as her Mama. It's making me happy to see her handmade wardrobe growing a bit. Do you have a favorite little girl's dress pattern? Please share!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Creative Thoughts

This year, I've spent a lot more time than usual thinking about why I need to create, and what I really, truly want to spend my time creating. I've mentioned "being in a creative rutt" a couple of times recently on here. I've been making things but not with the enthusiasm I typically have, and definitely not as much. Not, that that's a bad thing.

I can think of a lot of reasons why I haven't exactly been as creative lately, but a few biggies come to mind...First, I started the year with a lot of lingering WIPs (works in progress). Some people like to juggle a bunch of projects at one time, but I do not. I find that the more WIPs I have, the more they weigh on me like a to do list, and inevitably become unenjoyable. Last year, I just started too. many. projects. Looking back now, I'm sort of annoyed with my former self. Because, I started a lot of things I didn't need and maybe didn't love. Lesson learned.

Another reason things have been quiet is because I had a muscle spasm in my neck about a month ago and it seems to agitate me when I sew. I have a history of back issues, and I seem to struggle the most when I have a little one to tote around. So, I'm being super cautious these days.

Oh, sweet little Lyla has not been napping. Oh my goodness, I'm so bummed. Seriously, a good 80% of my sewing takes place during naptime. Also, podcasts, audio books, chocolate, tea, cleaning, cooking. Pretty much life without naptime is going to be a hard adjustment.

So, yes, with all of this in mind, I find I've been pretty moody about my creative life. On one hand, I'm happy for the time to focus on other things, and find new inspiration. I've been reading more and knitting more, which has been fun. On the other hand, I definitely feel a little unfulfilled. All of this has made me realize that I really want to get back to more intentional and mindful making. I want to make things that genuinely excite me and meet needs in my life, and not because I just want to play with new fabric, or so that I have something to show on my blog.

Recently, I've gotten super excited about sewing and knitting for Lyla. I suppose it's her age (because two is the cutest) and the fact that she gets a kick out of dressing herself these days. Also, the speediness of kiddo garments is pretty enticing. Sometimes I convince myself that making clothes for my kiddos is not as worthwhile or as special as making quilts. But then I think about some of the dresses I've made Maggie (this one especially) and the memories they evoke. Lyla doesn't have a lot of clothes and I really don't buy her many. So, I have been going crazy thinking about sewing her oodles of dresses, little flowy skirts and maybe even this little knit cardigan for these impending warmer days. I picked up a couple of new prints that I'm so excited about (these feathers!) and also pulled some more from my stash. I can't wait to get back into this kind of making.

I never stop dreaming about quilts, but the truth is I don't really need to add any more quilts to my WIP pile. Also, with every quilt, I realize over and over again how big the process really is. It's a process that I don't want to rush. More than anything, I want the quilts I work on this year to be meaningful. Just like last year, I have an obligation to lead and finish two quilts for do. Good Stitches. I'll be putting one together next month and another one later this year. I'll also have some traveling quilts to work on for my Sew Carolina friends, which I'm super excited about! Lastly, I have a couple of long overdue quilts for my sweet twin nephews who were born last year - still hemming and hawing over those. So, yeah those plus the 2 or 3 quilts I have lingering from last year will probably be enough, don't ya think? Still there are one or two "just because" quilts that I can't get out of my head. And, to find the time and energy would be wonderful. I'm saving those for special opportunities - like perhaps my weekend away at Sew South in April.

I suppose this is my plan for the time being. I'm hoping to find ways to fulfill those creative spurts without embarking on a heap of new things. I'm slowly but surely checking things off of my WIP list. Just today, I sewed the last seam on a Christmas quilt that has been hogging my design wall for the past couple of months. I really, really wanted to pack up the pieces and put them in a bag, because Christmas in February is really not my thing. But I saved myself a bunch of time and potentially a wasted project, by taking the time to get it done. So, how do you or don't you manage your creative life? Do tell!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Snow Days

I don't have much to say about the snow that I haven't said before. But, I sure do love to capture and document these beautiful events, which are not an annual guarantee where we live. This particular set of images, I think, perfectly reflects the gamut of emotions that come to a family snowed in for the better part of a week. There is so much excitement and joy but definitely some darkness and frustration too. And, I know, I know, we have nothing to complain about, compared to what many are experiencing this year. I will admit, just four days in, I'm over it too. It sure was pretty, though. And, Spring will come. It always does!

Sunday, February 8, 2015

This Girl

People often told me the third child (or perhaps any more than 2) would be "a drop in the bucket". Ha. I'm pretty sure right around 18 months (about a year ago), this one dumped the bucket on our unsuspecting heads. We spent a lot of time this past year talking her down from table tops and trying to remember how to manage an active and curious toddler. You know, as if we figured it out the first two times around. You never know who these people are going to be, but it sure is fun watching it all unwind.

Talking has come very slowly to her...sometimes I think she's going about it backwards, trying to carry on conversations before she knows the words. I do know that one day these mini-monologues of hers will suddenly become clear. We'll all cheer and she'll jump up and down and clap for she does. But, in the meantime, something about her limited speech makes her overstated gestures so much more special. She gets by just fine, grabbing my hand and dragging me to her playroom...."mon, Mama!, mon!" (come on, Mama, come on). Patting the floor in the exact spot I should sit and promptly plopping down on my lap.

I often feel guilty that she seems to get so much less time to enjoy being little, what with so much of our lives being spent driving the older two around, running errands, and just trying to keep up. I'm realizing how special my time with her is. I know that is something that every parent says, and I also know as a parent, it can feel impossible at times to tune out and truly be present. I've been trying harder lately and noticing how meaningful just a few minutes a day can be.


One morning last week we went for a walk and ended up on the swings in the backyard. She held a baby doll on her lap and she insisted I swing alongside her holding "Bear" the dog (not to be confused with "Bear" the bear). She was insistent that we swing precisely together so I had to push her while trying to swing at the exact same speed as her...synchronized, if you will. It was such a two-year old moment to insist on such a thing, but her squealing and laughter over it was one of the brightest moments in my day. This girl. At all of two years old she's teaching me what life is really all about. I really do think so much of the good stuff happens in those little mundane moments when you least expect it. And, I'm so thankful to be able to spend so many with her.    

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Double Gauze Bess Top

My Grandfather had all of these silly little rhymes he used to say when we were young. They will never leave me, my siblings, my parents, or anyone he said them to...I'm sure of that. One of them was "I have a picture on my shelf, it is a picture of myself". Such a simple rhyme, but I can still hear his voice in my head saying it and picture his sweet little smile.

Anyway, I was thinking about this rhyme when I was deciding whether to post about this new top I sewed. Because, people! I don't really like sharing photos of myself like this. It kinda feels like putting a picture of myself on my shelf. I don't think it's a self-conscious thing, but rather an unnatural thing for me.

But, I DO want to share this top because I think it's a really good one and it helped me pass this sewing funk that I'm presently in. I've been feeling creatively stumped, and somewhat unmotivated. But, sometimes I just want to escape and make something...anything. I've been thinking about slowly trying to build up my handmade wardrobe this year. But, I didn't want to deal with a new pattern. So, I figured it was a good opportunity to stitch up a favorite and make another Bess top

This one is done in a super pretty double gauze from the new Charms collection by Ellen Luckett Baker, for Kokka. I ordered mine from Imagine Gnats. There are some really lovely prints in this collection including some amazing metallics, but I quickly settled on this bright double gauze print in plum. I haven't sewn with double gauze that much, but this particular fabric was really nice to work with. Not to mention, it's super soft stuff!

I really love my last Bess Top, but it did end up a bit big on me. So this time I went down a size and and also sewed the shirt length (instead of tunic). I also took some width out of the front and back pattern pieces (right down the middle on the fold). I've started doing this because I have such narrow shoulders and it seems to give a better fit. I have NO idea whether that is the proper way to adjust a pattern for this particular issue, but it has worked for me. All in all, it ended up fitting perfectly! Yay! 

Seriously, the Bess is a super comfortable fit. It reminds me of a dressed up t-shirt. Such a detail, but one of my favorite aspects of the fit is that the armholes aren't too tight. Also, I said it last time but have to say again that the finishing technique Rachael uses on the neckline, sleeves and hem (using knit) is ba-rilliant! Such an easy, clean and soft finish.      

So there you go, some more pictures of me on my blog. That wasn't so bad. : )