Thursday, January 29, 2015

An Ode to Cats, Yarn, and the Tinley Tee

You cannot look at a sleeping cat and feel tense. ~Jane Pauley

The trouble with a kitten is that eventually it becomes a cat. ~Ogden Nash

If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. ~Lemony Snicket

No amount of time can erase the memory of a good cat, and no amount of masking tape can ever totally remove his fur from your couch. ~Leo Dworken (or in my case, felt Christmas tree skirt.)

I had been told that the training procedure with cats was difficult. It's not. Mine had me trained in two days. ~Bill Dana

I've used the Tinley Tee pattern from GYCT Designs before and now again for this flutter sleeve version with long sleeves. It's a great t-shirt pattern because it has lots and lots of sleeve options (although the gray sleeve bands are my own addition). The white is cotton lycra from Joann's and the gray is cotton spandex (I think) from Girl Charlee. The kitty is done with a freezer paper stencil. The yarn is stitched on with a zigzag stitch. I normally make a 2 in width and 4 in length for anything I make Elena. This time tried a straight up 3 and the sleeves were too short so I added the gray bands. Boo for monkey arms. Yay for happy accidents because I love the added color.

This outfit actually began with the skirt. I was bored one day last fall while Elena was napping so I found a long strip of 50-some inch wide corduroy (from Joann's a long while back) and some yarn and plastic gems and played around. I laid the yarn out and pinned it down and zigzag stitched over it and then hand-sewed the gems on. They came off of a shirt a neighbor passed onto me.The skirt has a center back seam and an elastic casing for the waist.

She wore it a few times with a ready to wear top but I wanted to make something to go with it and incorporate more of the gray and some kind of graphic on the front. It has been washed and hung to dry a couple times and the acrylic yarn is holding up perfectly. I wasn't sure if I should put it in the dryer or not and since my lovely 1951 house came with 5 lines of clothesline in the basement, there is no need. That's not sarcasm - I love my house, truly. I mean, how many of you have a bathroom sink like this? Isn't it cute?

And so anyway...

The black and white kitty prop was Elena's idea. She's learning that photos can be fun. Finally.

Posing like a pro.

As I write this at nearly 3 in the afternoon, Elena is drowsing off. I know I shouldn't let her nap at this point if I want her to go to bed at 7:30 and be up in time for school at 8 tomorrow, but I'm thinking I need some creative time for myself. Oh what to do. 

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sofilantjes Otium Top & LIV skirt

I have a new favorite outfit for Elena. This outfit is everything I strive for in sewing for her - it's knit so its comfy, it's creative so it was fun for me, it includes handwork so it employs some different skills, and it was very economical. Let's look at those one at a time.

I love sewing knits and let's face it, knits is what we wear most of the time anyway. Good knit patterns are my very favorite patterns to own. This Otium pattern from Sofilantjes Patterns is a great one. It offers lots of options including short, three-quarter, or long sleeves; a normal back or low back with a pretty bow; or a very cool diagonal pocket across the front (great color blocking opportunity here). You don't have to do any hemming because there are neck, sleeve and waist bands so that always speeds things up (and gives more color blocking options). The girls size comes in 12 months to 14 years. The women's version covers sizes XS to XXXL. Both patterns come with layers so you can print only the size you want. And of course, patterns come in either English or Dutch. Putting the pattern together, cutting and sewing all went perfectly. No issues whatsoever.

The LIV skirt pattern is a free knit skirt pattern also available from Sofilantjes. It comes in sizes newborn to 9/10 EN. I only found out about it Friday so I dug out the scraps from the top and added in an old t-shirt and had a matching skirt ready in 45 minutes. Yay! For skinny mini here, I trusted the size chart and went with the 18-24 month size but cut the skirt front and back pieces with the size 3-4 length. Perfection. And I forgot to mention that on the top, I did my usual adjustment to make a size 2 in width and 4 in length. 

Choosing fabric for this top was fun. I was able to pull from my stash. Both the floral and the green are cotton lycra and cotton spandex respectively from Girl Charlee last fall. I've used them both a couple times already so these pieces will be wearable with some other already existing pieces - although it would look very silly to wear this top with matching leggings! Can you imagine? Oh my. (But we do have this outfit from last summer to mix and match with.)

I had time to get fancy with this one and use reverse applique. I love sitting on the couch watching TV and doing something useful at the same time. Much better than spending another evening on Pinterest. This isn't my first reverse applique project. You can see others here and here (a little tutorial on that second link). I think it turned out pretty sweet. I didn't use paint this time. Instead I just drew the pattern on with a disappearing pen and got to the hand-stitching. 

I said this was economical and it sure was. The fabrics weren't much in the first place and these were leftovers anyway. The t-shirt for the skirt was a hand-me-down. I spent $2 on the white pearle cotton for the embroidery, but already had the navy. The skirt pattern is free to everyone. The top pattern I received for free in exchange for this post, but that doesn't affect my opinion at all. This pattern is very versatile and I think I'll make Elena a low back with a bow one once the weather warms up. I may even extend it into a dress or at least tunic length. And how cute would one with the pocket be for putting a dolly into?!

It's economical for you too because, this week, during the tour, the Otium pattern (only the girls' sizes or only the women's sizes)  will be 20% off and the Otium Bundle (inludes girls' and women's sizes) will be 30% off, no coupon code needed at  

Be sure to read to the bottom to enter the rafflecopter giveaway for a chance at lots of patterns!

I did make myself a simple version too. I went with long sleeves but no waist band. I used fabric from the thrift store for a good, wearable muslin. The sleeve length was perfect and the neckband was just the right length. I think I will go a size smaller next time. I was guessing at my measurements because I'm in denial and didn't want to really know what they are these days. Haha. It's a good, comfy basic for me too and will be even better with better fabric. And I like that it has regular sleeves because I have made a couple raglan sleeve tops for myself this winter and I don't think they flatter my wide shoulders. (Sorry for the poor quality photo and dufus look on my face. There was no one home to help take pictures.) 

Let's return to photos of my cutie patootie, Elena. I like those much better and I just love her outfit.

To distract her from the armoire, I gave her a box of bracelets to explore. She was all smiles after that.

Don't miss stopping by all the other stops on the tour to see more amazing versions of the Otium!

Monday, January 26th
Huisje Boompje Boefjes - Pienkel - Straight Grain

Tuesday, January 27th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks so much for reading. I was honored to be a part of this pattern tour. I do highly recommend this pattern.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Folk Art Fireplace Mantel Decorations

The best way to psych myself up to take down Christmas decorations, is to get excited about putting up something new. I try to change up the mantel every season, but just using things we have around the house. It's a fun creative challenge for me. This year, I started things off with a home-sewn stuffed deer head.

This is made from scrap fabric and a great free pattern from Charming Doodle. You can find the pattern and tutorial here. I didn't read the whole thing before I went in search of my fabrics and had already picked out the ear fabric before reading that you are supposed to use felt for those. The felt would be quicker and stands up better. If you use fabric like I did, I would recommend some interfacing if you want them to stand up more.

I love this pattern because it's a fun concept and it's really fun to pick out fabric. Elena recognized the apple print right away as being the same as a dress she has. Those antlers take some time to sew, turn and stuff. I won't lie. If you don't have time, I've seen people use tree branches and that's cute too.

First I hung him up by himself and thought he looked pretty good.

But then I thought I'd play around with the mantel and added in a birch log, some candles, a shell-art piece Olivia made with Elena, and a carved panel. Hanging below is an owl garland I made last year. For more info on that, see this post.

I'm not too sure how long this will stay up. Maybe through February and then we'll start thinking spring. Other than the fact that the deer should be a little further left in my opinion, I think it's a pretty fun look. Do you like to change things up often or do you tend to keep the same decorations up year round?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Project Run & Play January 2015

"Yes, I offered to take pictures, but now I've changed my mind."

"Really, I don't want to, Mom. Maybe later."
 (You know, like when it's dark out and there isn't enough light for pictures.)

"Ok, maybe a couple pictures, but I'm not going to smile."

She's trying hard not to smile.

I took inspiration from Alida's bubble dress and made bubble pants because it has been single digits (Farenheit) here a lot lately and Elena needs more pants. I kept the look of the paper bag-like top and straps by adding suspenders that criss-cross in the back. The pants are wider at the top but slim down to very tapered legs. They are made from navy sweatshirt fleece from Girl Charlee. It is cozy stuff. We've paired them with an old Bimaa because I like navy and pink together.

There is a pleat on each side in the front. 

And now I've had enough. Shoot over. Good-bye.

One of my sewing goals this year is to slow down. Actually, I want to slow everything down. I rush through every little thing I do, whether it's washing the dishes or sewing a dress or even watching TV. It pains to me to watch TV other than the shows I've recorded so I can zip through commercial free. I walk fast, I clean fast, I think fast, I read fast. Sometimes when reading a good book, I have to cover the bottom of the page and the right-hand page to keep my eyes from jumping ahead and spoiling the plot. Pathetic, huh?

So some new years resolutions were made and I am working hard on slowing down. Sewing wise, that means that I want the majority of my projects to be completed over days or weeks instead of hours. Of course there will still be the need for a quick t-shirt here and there and how much time does one need to pour into a maxi skirt for instance. But when I look back at past projects, the ones I am most pleased with are the ones that I took my time on and added something special to.

No one in this house really needs more clothes right now. If I slow the process down, I feel like there will be more creativity and more enjoyment. Fewer items made but each made more unique. I'm going to take my time in the planning stages, the cutting stages and the sewing stages. I'm going to look for opportunities to change patterns up and embellish the heck out of stuff. (Not so much this one though.)

So this first challenge for Project Run & Play was super enjoyable for me. You should know that I took my time, that I sat things down for days at a time and that I have not looked at the link-up YET or any posts related to it. That I'll admit, has been killing me, but I am really excited to check it out as soon as I hit publish.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Winter Dress & Crochet Beenie for Elena

As much as I love PDF patterns, I have to give some serious love to this McCall's pattern that I have used at least 4 times in the past year. It is M6785 and it makes all sorts of raglan sleeved tunics or dresses. There are options for a neckband, turtleneck, or hood. You can make a tunic with or without ruching at the bottom or use the partial circle skirt option. There is also a kangaroo pocket piece, applique pieces, and a leggings pattern that I haven't tried. The possibilities are endless! And when you can buy it for $1 at a Joann's sale it makes me, a frugal person, very happy.
McCall's 6785
McCall's 6785: clockwise from top left: 1. Signature Style 2. Golden Days of Fall 3. Snowflake Dress 4. Version 1

This most recent version uses the turtleneck with the circle skirt in a stretch velour for a really cozy winter dress. Can you get any more comfortable than that? I added length to the sleeves because all my kids have long arms, but I went a bit overboard. They will surely fit all winter. And next winter too! 

Version 1

(Incidentally, her little purse is a free pattern I found here. It's the perfect size for her. I should have lengthened the strap more but I didn't anticipate her wearing it cross-body like her big sister does with her messenger bag. Monkey see, monkey do.)

So that plain version was fine, perfectly nice, but I had a burst of inspiration in the wee hours of one morning so I changed it up. I LOVE it now and am so glad I didn't leave it plain. It's mighty cold out today, but Elena asked to take pictures (code for I want marshmallows). She braved the cold and earned 2 marshmallows and a cup of hot chocolate. 

In order to crochet scallops to the bottom, I needed a way to attach them. I did a quick blanket stitch to provide loops to work through. If you do this, you have to be sure to have loops all the way around, even where you have to join in a new piece of thread.  

Then I did a row of single crochet all the way around. Here's a nice blurry picture of that step.

I'm no crochet expert and I make things up a lot, but the way I did the scallops was to do a single crochet, 3 doubles, and another single in one chain space. Then I skipped one chain space and repeated all the way around. The yarn is from my stash and the label was gone, but I do know that it is 100% cotton and I got it at Walmart last fall.

The beenie began with a magic loop and 11 double crochets. I alternated one row of double crochet, 2 rows of single crochet, and kept repeating until a few final rows of singles for the edge/brim.

I took these pictures in the driveway and front yard of my friend's house right on the lake. I guess I'll find out if she reads my blog or not!

"I can't feel my hands. I can't feel my hands!"

Monday, January 5, 2015

Self-drafted Gathered Knit Top

Olivia is making a rare appearance on the blog today. I sew more often for her than it would seem, she just shuns the camera so I don't blog about it. Most of what I do for her is refashions, alterations, and basic tees or skirts. But this is a top I designed and sewed for her for Christmas and it turned out great.

The fabric is a rayon spandex print that I found at Joann's and knew she would love. Sometimes it's hard to tell with teens, but I was confident when I bought this. It's slinky and drapey without being too thin. Fingers crossed that it holds up well. I washed and machine dried it before cutting, but I intend to hang dry from here on out. I made no attempt at pattern matching, by the way.

You can see that the back is identical to the front, with the exception of the neck height of course.

I started with a basic long sleeved tee pattern (with some shaping, not a boxy one) and traced and cut the bodice into 5 pieces - one full-length center section, and then the side pieces were each cut into a top and bottom.

 The center front piece is 7" wide (but cut on the fold as normal).

The top side pieces are the remainder of the pattern piece with .5" seam allowance added to the center and bottom edges. They are about 12" from the top of the shoulder.

The bottom side pieces are the remainder of the pattern piece with .5" added to the top edge and 5.5" added to the center edge, to roughly double the width.

When designing this, I was just thinking about a general rule of thirds so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the seams fell in a good place. Lucky.

To construct it, I first gathered the bottom sections to their respective top sections. Then I attached them to the center piece. Everything else was just normal t-shirt construction after that. I prefer to sew both shoulders together and attach the neckband in a circle for a cleaner finish. I did more pressing than I normally do with t-shirts and I hemmed the sleeves and bottom with the double needle.

When her same age (16) cousin saw it, she liked it too so I let her pick some fabric from my stash and made her one. Hers is exactly the same except for it being sleeveless because she lives in south Florida and has no need for sleeves. She probably would have preferred a narrower strap like a tank but I followed her school dress code and barely trimmed the arm opening at the top only. I just folded them under and hemmed them with the double needle but it took a couple tries to get them to lay flat without tunneling. And because the fabric she chose isn't as stretchy, I added about .25" extra to the inner edges of the top and bottom side pieces to add an extra inch to the whole top in width.

We were able to catch a couple pictures the night before she flew back home. Less than ideal lighting conditions, but I know she will be pleased to make the blog. Thanks for posing Heather!

Posting pictures of Olivia reminds me that I've been meaning to share some of her artwork here. There is an awesome ceramic piece that isn't glazed yet so I'll wait on that one, but here are some of her drawings/paintings.

Charcoal drawing

Charcoal gargoyle

The only part of her self-portrait that she liked.

Padre Pio painted on a bamboo flooring scrap

A colorful painting for once

This is shell art with acrylic paint she did as a joke for her church youth group leader but I think it's amazing.

Did you make it this far into the post? Kind of a long one. Thanks for reading!