Monday, July 30, 2012

Surviving Summer: Stay-cation

What a great week we had last week.  DH took the week off from work and my aunt came to visit for a few days.  So we spent the week exploring unseen areas and some familiar ones where we live.  Being a nomadic family we always like to take advantage of all the things the local area we call home for a short time may have to offer.  This stay-cation was no exception.

We went to the beach:

Hunted for sharks teeth:

Found some sharks teeth (these are just two of the many):

Went to a museum:

Blew bubbles:

Hiked in the rain.  Sadly there were no pictures of this as we were just trying to get back to our car before lightning struck.

We finished the week by dropping Zachary off at overnight camp.

The house was a little quiet today without our houseguest and Zachary away at camp.  It was a fun week, but the rest Piper and I got today was much needed!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Oliver + S 2+2 Blouse

This was my weekend project.

This was a super fast project to put together.  I cut out the pieces on Saturday morning after breakfast while the kiddos were playing with Play-Doh.  I sewed it up during nap time on Saturday.  Though it was a struggle because I really wanted a nap.  Then, I hemmed and finished when the kiddos went to bed on Saturday evening.

Per the instructions the back of the blouse is to have a button placket with 5 buttons for closure.  I opted to remove the placket and keep the back as one piece.  Have you ever tried to close 5 small buttons on a wiggly 2 year old?  

I haven't actually tried it on Piper yet.  So it may or may not fit over her head.  Since the blouse was made of a quilting cotton there isn't a whole lot of give to it.  I guess if I try it on her and discover it doesn't fit, I will be glad that It was such a quick project to put together because I'll have to make another.

I am already thinking about doing another blouse with this same pattern.  This time though, I might leave off the gathering of the front and instead do some honeycomb smocking.  I just haven't worked out the details in my head yet.  So, stay tuned.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Friday Favorites / Oliver + S Sunday Brunch Jacket

I'm a little late getting my Friday Favorite up this week, but this week's favorite is "getting a project finished that you wanted to give up on."

I think at times we all run into a project or part of a project that really trips us up.  This week for me it was this jacket.

The jacket itself wasn't difficult.  The inside of the jacket is unlined but as the pattern suggests, I tried to bind the inside seams for a nice finish.  The binding was such a pain in the neck I had to walk away from the project for a few days.  I actually avoided my work room for several days the beginning of the week because of this step of the pattern.  In the end I decided that it was the inside of the jacket, not to be seen by anyone while Piper was wearing it.  Sometimes I struggle with finishing a project that is flawed.  When I want to give up on a project, I try to remember something my Aunt Brenda told me one day when we were talking about it, no one else knows if the end product was intentional or not. I have to learn to see the finished item for the good parts, like the buttons and top stitching and not the bad part, like the binding.

I do really like the finished jacket.  I will just close my eyes when I put it on Piper and when it's buttoned I will open them so I don't have to look at the inside.  I used a wool suiting for the jacket since it's intended to be used this fall.  I'm so excited about the fabric.  The wool isn't the scratchy wool, it's the smooth wool the has a beautiful drape to it.  Traditionally this particular wool suiting retails for $19/yard.  I happen to luck in to a fabulous sale and bought it for $4/yard.  This is certainly one of those cases where I could not possibly buy this jacket in a store for the $5-$6 spent to make it.  Last year I bought a similar jacket from Gymboree for significantly more (I won't say the price just in case DH decides to read this ;) ).

The jacket has this adorable cuff at the sleeve.  I'm a big fan of cuffs as they allow for growing room.  

Sewing a cuff on a sleeve this small can be a challenge.  The easiest way to do this I find is to stitch the cuff right side in.  Like this:

You can also see that I am using my edge-stitch foot and have the needle to the right so it will do a little less than a quarter inch seam.  You have to go at it slow, as you can only sew about an inch before you need to readjust but the end results are very nice.

I also used fabric covered buttons for a nice finish.

I love fabric covered buttons.  They just give a fancier feel to a garment, I think.  Making your own covered buttons is really easy.  I'll show you how next week.

In the end, like I said earlier, I am very happy with the end result.  This was another great O+S pattern with wonderful, very detailed directions.  I do plan on using the pattern again and I will try to bind the inside seams the next time.  I have some ideas of how to make it work better.  

I can't wait for fall.  Piper's wardrobe is really coming together.  I am a bit behind schedule, next on the list is some tops.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Skirting the Issue

I like Sunday's.  On Sunday's after breakfast we all seem to migrate downstairs, the kids to the play-room, DH to his workbench and I to my sewing machine.  The kids will come in and out of "The Lair" (the name affectionately given to the workspace DH and I share), we will visit them in the playroom.  Sunday's are a good time to get some serious work done on things on my project list.  Today I used my Sunday morning to make some skirts for the "Skirting the Issue" campaign being sponsored by Liz and Elizabeth of Simple Simon and Co.  They are asking for hand made skirts to be donated to girls in foster care.

My original plan was to make 6 skirts, but you try explaining to a 2 year old that a little girl needs a turtle skirt or lady bug skirt more than she does.  So, I am donating 4 skirts.  I didn't use a pattern.  Making a simple skirt isn't really rocket science so I just sort of winged it.  If you need a pattern or tutorial you can find a good one here, here or here.

I enjoyed making these skirts.  I don't usually like to make a pattern more than once, let a lone 6 times.  I did a sort of assembly line and everything came together pretty quickly.  I utilized my serger a good deal.  It's wonderful for finishing seams.

I was able to create 6 skirts (3 of each design) with 3 yards of fabric and 3 yards of no-roll elastic.  For the main part of the skirt I used the width of the fabric and a length of 12 inches.  For the contrast hem, I used the width of the fabric and a length of 4 inches.  The skirts are a 2T/3T size.  I used Piper's measurements as my guide.  I wrapped each of the skirts to donate in pretty pink tissue and wrapped a pink bow around each one.  I know what the smile on Piper's face looked like when I showed the skirts to her.  I just hope that these simple skirts can bring a smile to another child's face as well.  I encourage anyone with a little sewing skill to get involved with this project.  They are hoping to have 100 skirts donated to foster care by August 10.  So, get sewing!

Friday, July 13, 2012

Friday Favorites

Today's favorite item is quite a handy little tool.  You won't know you need one until you have it and then wonder how you lived without it.  I'm talking about a hem gauge.

A hem gauge is exactly what you think it is.  It is a metal "ruler" used for measuring and ironing the hem of a garment before sewing.  It can be a challenge to get a nice even hem.  You could sew a basting stitch around the area to be hemmed then iron the fabric folding at the basting stitch.  Or, you could just use a hem gauge and eliminate the need to sew a basting stitch then pull out said basting stitch.  Because the gauge  is metal you can safely iron over it.  One word of caution, the gauge is metal so if you iron right on it be careful it will be hot (I have learned this lesson the hard way more than once, you're welcome).  

There are a variety of measurements in both inches and centimeters.  You can use a hem gauge for a straight hem.  Or...

...a curved hem.

I use mine all the time.  It is large so doing the hem on a small sleeve or pants leg can be difficult.  It's still a handy tool to have in your arsenal.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cake

We are a family that likes two things; brown sugar and cinnamon and peanut butter (okay that might be 3 but the brown sugar and cinnamon go together).  Both DH and Zachary tried to convince me that peanut butter works with other things like champagne, but I refused to make a champagne/peanut butter cake.  However, for Zachary's birthday he requested a brown sugar and cinnamon cake.  Specifically he wanted something that tasted like a Cinnabon.  I did a little research online then decided it wasn't rocket science and came up with my own idea.

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Cake

1 yellow cake mix of your choice (either box or from scratch)
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon flour

1.) Prepare cake as directed.  Pour cake batter into pan(s).

2.) In a food processor pulse together butter, brown sugar, cinnamon and flour.  Pulse food processor just a few times to make a crumble.

3.) Sprinkle crumble on top of cake batter in pan(s).  Swirl in with a knife if you like.

4.) Bake cake as directed.

5.) Eat and enjoy!

I tried to take a picture of the finished product but it came out a little blurry.

Trust me, it was delicious.  I used a vanilla buttercream frosting to finish it off.  Maybe not a Cinnabon but still pretty tasty.  I got 2 thumbs up from the birthday boy.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Sew Can She

I'm pretty excited about the new give away on SewCanShe!  SewCanShe is a really cool web-site that offers a free sewing tutorial every day.  You can sign up to get e-mails in your inbox (like I did) so you don't miss a single one.  Now, SewCanShe has gotten even cooler in my book. Just by adding their button to my blog, I can win some fabric.  Who doesn't like free fabric?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Oliver + S Music Box Jumper

I am a sewing fool this week.  I knew I would get a lot done w/ DH home.  I recently finished this adorable Oliver + S Music Box Jumper (view B).

It's done in a green corduroy.  I love the color of the corduroy.  I don't think it's photographing well because it's a beautiful color.  I may have to get DH to break out his fancy camera.  This was a quick project to bring together.  The skirt can be done with either the box pleat like I did or several pleats the entire way around.  The little flap pockets have a secret:

I hope Piper isn't too disappointed when she discovers these are just pocket flaps and not actual pockets.  

The bodice is lined and it too has a secret:

I considered lining the entire dress but it is corduroy so it will be warm enough as it is.  I can't wait to see Piper wearing this with a turtle neck and tights underneath.  Of course, she already wants to wear it.  Try convincing a 2 year old that corduroy isn't the best fabric for 100 degree weather.  Since I have the pattern pieces sitting on my sewing table still, I may have to whip another up for her to wear now.

I tried to think of some tips/tricks/hints that would help to bring this one together easier but really can't come up with anything.  The directions are pretty clear.  This would be a great project for a beginner sew-er as it yields beautiful results with just a little effort.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Friday Favorites

Today's favorites is one of my more recent acquisitions but I instantly fell in love.  I'm talking about an edge stitching foot (sometimes called a joining foot, top stitch foot, etc).

I used to abhor top stitching on a garment.  I would avoid it or skip it all together when I could.  The reason being I could never get it to look nice.  I was using my regular presser foot and eye balling it.  The results were very wonky and frustrating.  I would see pictures of garments online with this gorgeous, straight edge stitching and could not for the life of me figure out how they did it.  I tried everything.  I went slow, I went fast, I tried different thread, different needles, nothing worked.  Then one day I read about the sewing machine foot that changed my life.  I instantly ordered one from Amazon and have been a top/edge stitching fool ever since.

Edge stitching feet have a guide on them that allow you to butt the fabric right up against.  By using the guide, you end up with beautiful, even stitches. By using an edge stitching foot, I now get results like these.

My other "favorite" for today is this a recent article from the NYTimes (click here to read). This article discusses how sewing is making a come back.  People aren't sewing anymore out of necessity but rather to express their individualism.  I was so happy to read an article that puts sewing in the spot light and not just as a hobby for Moms to alter and mend the family clothing but as something that allows people to make personal statements. Yay for sewing!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Oliver + S Hopscotch Skirt

I finished this skirt yesterday:

Now, I know what you are going to say.  Again, it's not finished because there are no buttons.  This time it's not a chance that I would have Piper wear a corduroy in 100 degree weather in July, but more an issue that I haven't found the perfect buttons.  I would really like some wooden buttons, I just can't find ones that I like.

The skirt came together really quickly.  It has a flat front and an elastic back waist.  The pockets have this adorable chinese take-out box look to them.  

My first attempt at the pockets failed.  I made an extra fold and they just didn't work.  For a brief moment I considered abandoning the pockets, the skirt would be cute without them too (I think).  Piper does love her pockets, much easier for carrying Lego men and rocks.  So, I took a moment, reread the instructions carefully and now I have some cute pockets for toys and crayons to fit into.

Since we are on the topic of skirts.  Liz and Elizabeth, they dynamic duo that is Simple Simon and Company  are spear heading a wonderful way for all of us to put our talent to good use.  For the month of July on their blog and the Project Run and Play blog they will be hosting a plethora of craft bloggers with skirt tutorials for their Skirting the Issue campaign.  The Skirting the Issue campaign is an innovative to make skirts for girls in foster care.  I think this is a wonderful idea and plan to get involved.  Those of us that craft and blog about it tend to have wonderful little people in our lives that we love dearly and we make our creations for them.  This is our opportunity to make these girls feel like there are people out there that care about them too.  You never know what kind of an impact a simple thing like a hand made skirt can have on a child.  Skirts can be donated to your local foster care or sent to Liz and Elizabeth and they will donate them.  Join me in making a skirt (or 2 or 10) for a child less fortunate won't you?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Pattern Prep (How To, My Method)

Over the weekend, when I wasn't busy helping DH with this, the result of the terrible storms that swept through MD, DC and VA on Friday night (this was one of 4 that came down on our property but we were blessed that nothing was damaged)...

...I had the chance to prepare 3 patterns I am hoping to work on this coming week.  DH has a long weekend for the holiday, which usually means I can sneak off downstairs to my work room and get a little extra done.  I prepped 2 skirts and one jumper.  I thought I might show you my method of preparing a pattern for use.  When I first started sewing, I would cut my patterns up.  I can hear the gasps in horror from some of you right now.  But, being a self taught sew-er, I didn't know I shouldn't.  It took me a while to figure out that there had to be another way.  I have tried some other methods, like using a tracing wheel and dress maker tracing paper, but it just didn't work out as well as I wanted. In the end, this is the method that I like.

These are the tools I like to use.  You will need your pattern of choice, some pencils, a straight edge / ruler and freezer paper.  You can buy specific pattern tracing paper sold at places like Joann Fabric but a roll of freezer paper works just as well and is a lot cheaper.

Lay out your pattern on any large, flat surface.  This is where the dining room table comes in handy.

Determine which pattern pieces you will be needing.  I was making the skirt (top left) so I needed to trace pattern pieces 11, 12, 13 and 14.

Next you trace the pattern pieces in the size that you need.  Do your best to be as accurate as possible.  Copy all marks, notches, etc.  When in doubt, trace it, that way you aren't going back trying to add something that you forgot later.  Also, be sure to label each piece with the pattern name, number, how many pieces to cut and size as well as any other notes on the original pattern.  A light table would be really handy for this step but since I don't have one I just took it nice and slow.  This step will also remind you that you should not in fact cancel the eye doctor appointment scheduled for the end of the month.

Trace each and label each piece and Ta-Da, you are now ready to cut apart your pattern pieces.  The key to preparing any pattern, no matter what method you choose, is to go slow and trace EVERY detail.  

I already have the fabric cut for one of the skirts.  Maybe the kiddos will go to bed early tonight so I can get some work done.  Wishful thinking, I am sure. :)