Caroline's Birthday Dress

carolines birthday dress7 Last week my Sweet Caroline turned 2. TWO! I'm stuck squarely in that conundrum of "she's only two?" and "how is she already two?"

Two years of fun and sass, she's finding her way in to her own little personality now and  she's a force to be reckoned with. Adventurous and headstrong, loving and silly.

Of course a birthday means a new birthday dress, so after I was mostly over my sickness and a day before her birthday I started this dress. I finished it during her birthday nap and gifted it that night. This continues my tradition of continually sewing last minute gifts for my children. Because one must not break with tradition, you know. 

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Meanwhile, we've been enjoying lots and lots of backyard time. I thought the fact that grass didn't grow back there was a huge bummer but it turns out my kids couldn't care less! They love digging in the dirt and adding nature treasures to their collections. I was hoping to grow some lush grass back there next year but now I'm thinking I'll just embrace the natural setting and let it be wild. It's less work, anyway.

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You may recognize this pattern if you've been around here (or my instagram) much lately... it's self drafted and a work in progress to become my first for-sale pattern. I'M SO EXCITED! It's a bit slow going lately with a two week trip to visit family and illness thrown in the mix, but my goal is to release it in early summer. I'll post more details about the pattern later this week, but for now here are the details on this particular version of the dress:

Pattern: Self-drafted

Fabric: Gramercy by Leah Duncan from Finch (no longer in stock) and Mustard Double Gauze from Imagine Gnats for the binding and lining

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also I'd like to say- dat sprout.

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I've given her SO MANY haircuts to keep the baby mullet away. Still, the sprout seems to be the only 'do we can do without some more front hair growing in. Cmon hair!

Happy Birthday to my Sweet Caroline- BAH BAH BAH! Good times never seem so good!

Charly turned 4!

charlyturns4 My spunky-crazy-sassy-silly-sweet-precocious-clever-tender Charly bug turned 4 this week. This girl made me a mother, and every day she's making me a better person. She tests my every limit and is the best snuggler. She's quite possibly the funniest person I know. She knows what she wants. She's a lover of all- every color, every animal, and every person (except bad people. and robbers. and horse bandits) and makes friends with everyone she meets. She's a lot like me in some ways, and completely different in so many ways that I admire.

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Here's to four years of motherhood, four years of snuggles, four years of tears, four years of the most heart wrenching love imaginable. I love you Charly!

I promised her a new dress for her birthday, one with lots of colors and even gold. I cut it out the night before her birthday and got it just about sewn up while she was out with Nana for her birthday. I gave it to her unhemmed that night and finished it the next day, which means I'm now ok with giving half finished gifts, haha! This is not good for my procrastinating tendencies :)

I used the Caroline Party Dress pattern from Mouse House Creations, just like the one I made for Caroline last spring. It came together even quicker this time, which proves to me that all the sewing I've done over the past year has made a difference!

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Things I loved:

  • just a few pattern pieces means less tracing!
  • the cap sleeve bodice doesn't require setting in sleeves

Things I changed:

  • omitted the collar since I planned to pair it with this sweater

Things I'll change next time:

  • match my pattern better on the back seam
  • try a version with the collar

Notions & Fabric:

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These red Chucks SLAY me. She's had strong opinions on clothing lately and a lot of my handmades haven't fit the bill. I'm happy to say she loves this one (for now) and loves the shoes too! I know these things don't really matter, but man, it sure makes me happy.

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THIS. is a Charly face. Happy Birthday Charly!

Handmade Halloween: Anna and Olaf

I kinda wish I was sewing something more inventive or funky this Halloween. I mean, if you've got to sew something that likely will only be worn a few times, it might as well be a show stopper, right? But Halloween costumes aren't about me, and Charly is Frozen obsessed like every other 2-6 year old girl right now. An Anna costume was in order, which WILL get tons of wear. IT WILL SO HELP ME!! Olaf of course had to happen next, since Caroline is always whatever character Charly deems her to be.

For the Anna costume I used Simplicity S0733 and made very little changes. I used a charcoal tweed for the bodice just to make it a little more special, and I used cotton everywhere else. I lined the bodice with more cotton so the tweed wouldn't be itchy, and I stitched the bias tape binding from the neckline to the lining by hand to give it a more polished look. My goal was to have a very wearable and washable costume, unlike the ones you can purchase in major stores. We actually bought an Anna costume for her back in January for her birthday and it started to fall apart the same day she opened it. Such poor quality. The tags on those dress ups actually tell you not to wash them- no dry-cleaning, no hand washing, no machine washing. Seriously. Have they ever been around children??

But I digress. Where was I? Anna costume. The dress was fairly easy to assemble, and I liked that this one actually had a mandarin collar and a few other details, unlike the McCalls pattern I initially purchased. The appliqués were a beast, though. Matt cut them out for me, bless his soul, and saved me hours of time, but unfortunately my ironing board cover was sacrificed in the process. Don't ask. It's a sore subject. As is the insane amount of time I spent sewing around the appliqués. The pattern advises using puffy paint to secure the edges but since "wearable and washable" was my goal I figured I'd put in the time on the sewing machine and have this last for the long haul. It was miserable. It could have been made better if I was any good at appliqué or had a free motion quilting foot. I'll try to remember that next time, haha!
The cape was a cinch- cut out of felt so no hemming was necessary, and the purple and black details are just ironed on. They are holding up so far and have had at least 8 wears already, but if they start to peel I'll go ahead and stitch around those, too.
And of course, OLAF!
I made Caroline's Olaf costume using the Bimaa pattern because I love the fit, it's quick to sew, and I knew anything more costume-y wouldn't fly with Caroline. She doesn't tolerate much in the way of dress ups yet. I followed the pattern exactly, adding felt "buttons" to the front, and the felt face appliqué pieces to the outer hood before it was sewn to the hood lining. The teeth are formed by a piece of white felt folded over and stitched down the sides and center to give some definition. The verdict: She tolerates it. Barely. I'm surprised we got any pictures with the hood on- she's pretty adamant about pulling it down pretty promptly. Candy helped. Luckily it still looks cute with the little Olaf face draping down her back.
We even managed to bring Sven along for a bit.
So there they are- Handmade Halloween 2014. Who else is sewing costumes? I'm a bit of a curmudgeon about it, but it sure is fun to see the delight on their faces- or at least on Charly's face!
And just for fun, here's Halloween 2013 and Halloween 2011.

Kenzie's Wedding Dress

Two posts in one week?! I'm on a roll here, folks! I finished my sister's wedding dress on wedding eve with some last minute hemming and alterations. Last minute sewing is the price of making a wedding dress for someone who lives on the other side of the continent. We arrived in Utah on August 30, one week before the wedding, but I got a stomach bug shortly thereafter that set me back a couple of days. Luckily my laid back and patient sister didn't seem one bit bothered by the fact that her dress was one of the final pieces of the puzzle to come together before the wedding, so I just chugged along! I am so happy to have been able to add to her special day by making her dress. She was radiant- really and truly- and my pictures don't do it- or her- justice at all. Nevertheless, my pictures are all we have right now, so they'll have to do!

I had planned to do a photoshoot with her a few days before the wedding to get some good pictures, but since the dress was finished the evening before I ended up just following the photographer around between the ceremony and reception as she took their photos. This explains why they aren't looking at me in nearly any of the pictures:) This also explains the sub par pictures. I work well in one kind of light and that light only- I have very little photographic range. Hopefully that will change soon- I'm going to a photography workshop in October at Lake Anna, VA and I CANT WAAAIIIIIITTTTT!
The dress was inspired by a few she found on pinterest- this one and this one, mainly. She wanted strapless, sweetheart neckline, form fitting bodice with lace appliqué, and a gathered flowy skirt. I used Burda Style 7086 for the bodice and made a simple gathered skirt for the bottom.
The bodice was fairly straightforward, only my fabric choice made things difficult. Apparently chiffon is like, kind of tricky? Yeah, first time chiffon sewing here. Any tutorials/advice on sewing it said stuff like "practice on a simple project first" and "don't make something you care too much about on your first try" ..... and so I made a wedding dress. Ha! Still, I managed, and while it isn't perfect (I'm looking at you, little lace leaf on the upper bust! Stop drooping like that!) I'm really happy with how it came out. And most of all, she liked it!
And now, for my pattern review summary:
Things I loved:
  • the bust shaping- the pattern pieces came together quite lovely
  • the boning insertion was easy and straightforward (its been a good while since I've done boning)
Things I changed:
  • omitted the skirt pieces and opted for a gathered skirt instead
  • added a chiffon overlay to each bodice pattern piece
  • applied lace appliqué over the entire bodice, post assembly
Things I'll change, next time:
  • use a more stable base fabric to better support boning (you can see it buckling a bit in some pictures)
  • omit some fullness of underskirt to reduce bulk at the waist
Notions & Fabric:
  • dove colored chiffon from Joann Fabrics
  • lightweight poly for bodice, lining and underskirt from Joann Fabrics
  • invisible zipper from, you guessed it, Joann Fabrics
  • Lace from Touch of Lace (lightly dyed to match the fabric better with a poly dye)
Congrats Kenzie and Abe! Aren't they a fantastic pair?! Thanks for sharing your special day with us!

Sunki Village Dress & Pattern Parcel #5

Hello my friends! I've been a busy seamstress, and I should have a post up with pictures and details from my sister's wedding dress SOOOOOON!! The wedding was lovely and our trip was too much fun. I've missed the desert air. Utah was on the cusp of autumn when we left, and had I not known that the blissful Virginia autumn was soon to come I may never have left that dry and blessed state. I'm done with humidity, yo. Thankfully, the leaves are starting to turn and we've even had a couple of boot-and-soup days so I'm in my element. I even made pumpkin crap cookies, which is the official mascot of fall in this house.

But yes, enough blabbering about air and cookies, right? This post is about clothes! I'm happy to be sewing along for Perfect Pattern Parcel again with Parcel #5- girls and tweens! It's a stellar parcel, to be sure. Every parcel seems to have a few patterns I've been eyeing and a few new-to-me patterns, which is a perfect mix I think. For those unfamiliar, Perfect Pattern Parcel offers limited time sales of pattern bundles from indie designers, and donates all profits to a charity called Donors Choose. Donors Choose provides supplies to teachers and students for their classrooms. It's a win-win-win- support indie designers, help students, and get patterns!

This particular bundle of patterns includes sizes from toddler to tween- meaning these patterns will be in rotation in my house for YEARS to come! A few of the "tween" sizes may even fit me, so I'm excited to see how versatile these patterns become. Click through the links or pictures to learn more about the patterns in this parcel!

Pattern Parcel #5: Choose your own price and support DonorsChoose. Win/win!

Oh, and did I mention that you can name your own price?! Yes. I know. Unreal. And hey, if you name a price of $28 or more, you'll be sent the bonus pattern as well- the Sunki Dress!

Pattern Parcel #5: Choose your own price and support DonorsChoose. Win/win So what did I sew? There's a sneaky peek at the top, but I couldn't resist making another Sunki Dress. Yes, I've sewn it before (twice actually, but this one is my fave) but it's just. so. good. I'm a Figgy's fangirl, truly. The Sunki Dress was my first indie pattern purchase. I saw it and the Nituna Coat (you can see the one I made here) on Pinterest in the early early days (like, 2010, folks) and I pined after them for a long time. I had never seen such hip patterns before. I just dig the aesthetic and the ease of wear. So modern and still kid friendly. Both the Sunki and Nituna are some of my favorite kid makes to date:

So here's the deal: I started with this wool skirt I bought earlier this year at the thrift store.
It is dated and kinda weird but the print sucked me in. It's a village scene that, despite being fairly dreary, is completely whimsical at the same time. I loved the juxtaposition of those muted colors with the intricate village scene, full of towers and mountains, fishermen and horseback riders, just waiting for a story to be told. So I bought it, with every intention of turning it in to children's clothing. Sunki was perfect for showcasing the scene, with no gathers or pleats to interrupt the pattern.
It is dark and chic but still totally wearable and playable.
To keep it from feeling too grown up or dreary I decided to embellish the scene with a little embroidery. I kept it simple, mainly because my embroidery skills are rudimentary at best, but also because I love how subtle it is.
And the easier to see version- Charly said she wanted an orange haired princess in the tower. Orange hair it is!
I tried to line up the horizontal pattern as much as possible. The large repeat meant total pattern matching was impossible, but I did manage to line the sleeves up fairly well.
I love how easy this dress is- not necessarily assembly wise, but wear wise. Sure, it's wool, and pretty grown-up looking, but that won't stop the puddle jumping, leaf collecting, bug catching girl who is wearing it.

Also, it layers sooooo well! Perfect for autumn! I wish I could show every part of this fabric. It truly is beautiful, the way the colors flow and the village streets blend to marshland and then mountain scenes. I'm so happy to have rescued it and given it a good imaginative home! Surely many stories will be conjured up for the orange haired princess in her tower! Will she call out to the fisherman below? Are the horsemen coming to her rescue- or is she diligently guarding the kingdom from their attack?

So, the details:
Things I loved:
  • That silhouette, y'all. The pocket detail gets me every time
  • I finally totally get the pocket construction- 3rd time's the charm! But wait- there's a picture tutorial here to guide you!
  • The fit is spot on with my daughter's chest measurement, with just enough room to grow
Things I changed:
  • Added piping at the pocket detail
  • Created a lining- sort of. I didn't want this fabric to get itchy, so I basted lining fabric to the body pieces (using the back pattern piece and the assembled front piece with pockets as patterns) and then sewed as usual. It's a cheater lining, but I'll take it:)
  • Added an inch to the hem for my tall skinny gal
  • Cut the back piece on the fold so the pattern wouldn't be interrupted, then did an exposed zipper over top
  • Cut the side panels on the bias
Things I'll change next time:
  • I won't change anything about the pattern- but I'm sure I'll find a way to customize again! Maybe patchwork pocket details in some modern solid colors with a neutral main fabric. Mmm now that sounds right up my alley.
Notions & Fabric:
  • Thrifted 100% wool fabric (As a side note, I disregard wash labels on thrifted fabric often for kids clothing. Aint no way I'm going to dry clean this bad boy.)
  • Black piping from Hobby Lobby
  • Black fashion zipper, also from Hobby Lobby
  • Lining fabric from the thrifted skirt

Special thanks to my model, who worked splendidly on two conditions: 1. We HAD to have a pajama photo shoot first, and 2. Gummy worms.

I work for gummy worms, too.

Ombre Bohemian Babydoll

When I saw the Bohemian Babydoll Dress and Top pattern by Elegance and Elephants popping up all over my blog feed I fell in love. The curves are phenomenal and the simplicity is right up my alley. No closures means my fiercely independent three year old can dress herself at will (which she does, multiple times, every day) without needing me to button or zip every time she's ready for a change. Hallelujah! She also demands dresses most days, but loose fitting, flowy tops are considered dresses in Charly land, so I also knew this would actually make it into her rotation. The hem band appealed to me because I just don't like hemming. It isn't hard, or complicated, I just don't like it. I think it is the folding and ironing. I'll iron seams all day long, but folding the edge and keeping it consistent is tedious to me. I don't purchase a lot of patterns; I have to REALLY love something to buy it, and then I try to use it in several different ways. But man, I had to have this one. So I pulled the trigger and sewed up three of them assembly line style, one for a gift and one for each of my girls. This one is the one I made for Charly.

First, the fabric. Matt hates it, but that's ok. He says it reminds him of a grandma's tablecloth. That's what I like about it!  And the ombre... is ombre still in? I'm a little slow on trends, but... I love it. I found it at Wal Mart of all places, on clearance for $2 a yard, so naturally I bought 4 yards of it and now I've got to figure out what to do with it. It's a poly/cotton blend, and the pattern is woven, not printed. It's a bit stiff, sort of like chiffon, but not too fancy feeling. It could easily be dressed up or down. I lined it with white cotton broadcloth because it is cheap and lightweight.

So the pattern. Here's the thing. This pattern is adorable. I'd say it requires intermediate sewing skills, despite the lack of zipper/button holes. Because it doesn't have a back closure, the armholes of the main bodice and lining have to be folded, ironed, and topstitched together. Remember that part where I don't like folding and ironing? Yeah. Bummer. And because it is curved it is kind of tricky to get those to lay just right, so I had quite the time getting those armholes to lay nicely and look right. Maybe it was the fabric? I think I would have preferred a zipper or button. I may try finishing the armholes with binding next time for a slightly different (and hopefully easier) look. After that the construction went together swimmingly, until I got to the hem band and realized I'd still have to fold over the raw edge and iron it down before topstitching- and of course since it is a high/low hem, it's folding and ironing curves. My favorite!  I know, I know. It's part of the whole process and I just need to get used to it.  And I like the look of it, so that's a plus. Next time I'm going to use this as a chance to add a fun print or pop of color. Maybe in the same fabric as the armhole binding... hmmm...

A word about sizing: I do this all the time. Pattern says my three year old should wear 12-18m. I think that's silly and don't want to make something too small, so I choose a middle ground and cut a 2. Size 2 ends up being baggy and I curse the fact that so many patterns just run so so big. Sure my little gal is skinny, but she wears a solid 3t in most ready to wear brands, so I kind of scoff at the thought of making her something 12-18m size. Sure enough, a size 2 is a bit large (you can see it especially around the armholes) and the 12-18m top I sewed for Caroline fits Charly perfectly, with a little room to grow and ease to get it on and off. The size chart won't lead you astray, as long as you FOLLOW IT! Sigh. When will I ever learn? Or when will pattern makers start using blocks that are more consistent with modern sizing?? But I digress. Measure your kids. You won't regret it.

That is one happy customer! Now on to more projects. I'm on a roll here so I should have some fun projects to share coming up in the next couple of weeks! Anyone else doing some summer sewing? Or constantly disregard sizing info and live to regret it? Tell me all about it.

Mod Paisley Dress (AKA The Merida, or "I made my kid a muu muu")

Once again, a dress I sewed several months ago, photographed a couple months later, and now I'm finally posting. Hooray! This one is a variation on the Maggie Mae pattern, which I used to make this dress. Dark blue means it's a Merida dress, just like the one Merida wears in the latter part of the movie Brave. So. Much. Princess talk. All day, you guys.

THE FABRIC

I thrifted this dress a long time ago, so I don't remember the cost, but it couldn't be more than $7 or so. I can't get enough of this fabric. The colors are saturated and fun and the print begged to be a little mod dress. I think the fabric is rayon- something kinda silky and unexpected for kids clothes. I like that. It was a little tricky to work with, but nothing unmanageable.

THE SEWING

I used the Maggie Mae pattern as a base, and used the tutorial from Shwin and Shwin to lengthen the sleeves.  I altered the bodice by adding 5" to the width (in the center), and lengthening it to dress length, omitting the skirt pieces. I gathered the added width in both front and back before sewing it to the top bodice/sleeve piece. The top bodice portion is lined and the inside seams are all finished with either bias tape (on the seams connecting the bodice pieces) or french seams (the skirt side seams). Lining the top bodice/sleeve portion was tricky. Next time I'll opt to leave the lining out if I do long sleeves. I'll also make the sleeves a little wider, since they are snug around her elbow already.

Once I got it all sewed up I looked at it and realized I basically designed a muu muu for my child. And spent several hours making it. I guess 60's mod is only a few steps away from a full blown muu muu:) This is probably Charly's favorite dress- she's worn it nearly twice a week since I finished it. It has transitioned to winter nicely with the addition of some tights, a cardigan and a belt (which I usually can't convince her to keep on).

Green and Gold (AKA The Tiana Dress)

I sewed this dress up over the summer, took pictures in the fall, and now here we are in December and I'm blogging about it. Better late than never?

This is another Geranium dress I whipped up (and yes, that is the right term- it sews up so fast!) but this time I added some embroidery. I was inspired by this picture (uploaded to Pinterest, so I don't know the original source- sorry!) of sashiko- Japanese embroidery- and decided to try my hand at some simple line embroidery.  Charly is my little princess lover, so anything I make is automatically beloved if I can link it to a princess. Green dress= Tiana dress. Logical. I'm just grateful she has a good imagination and doesn't require it to look exactly like the dress from the movie. You'd better believe she runs and sings (screams) songs from The Princess and the Frog every time she wears it. My favorite is "tuh-RIALS and trib-uh-lay-shuns, yuh know I, had my SHAAA-are!"

Gold shoes are a must. One advantage to living in such an ethnically diverse area as DC is that gems like these are readily available, even at a thrift store!

THE FABRIC

Green Kona cotton from Joanns, and lined in the same. The embroidery floss is gold metallic and a pain to work with, but my isn't it pretty?! The buttons are from an antique store in Leesburg, VA.

THE SEWING

The embroidery, as I mentioned, was made more difficult by user error- why did I not think about how difficult it would be to keep that cut pattern piece in an embroidery hoop?! I made it work though, and the rest came together easy breezy.

This dress has gotten tons of wear, and I've finally learned the trick to making things my daughter likes. Tie it to a movie and she's sold!

Ultimate Refashion: The Big Reveal!

Hello my friends! It is finally time for the wedding dress refashion post! I just realized my last post (that wasn't a {this moment} post) was Charly's Easter dress. Something about the combination of a half marathon, making a wedding dress,  a trip to Utah, and helping my family pull off said wedding, has made for sparse post-age around here. I even forgot to do Charly's 16 month update- and now she's a week away from being 17 months! I've got some catching up to do on all fronts, but I just can't wait to get this post rolling! I had a partially written dress update post written a few weeks before the wedding that I never finished, so I'll be sharing some of that later.

When the big day came I failed to get even one picture of my darling sister in the dress I had made, so all of these pictures come from the fabulous photographer Bryce Olsen. Bryce was kind enough to send me some photos to share with all of you. Thanks Bryce! Check out his site and his blog for more amazing images. He was fabulous to work with- big group shots were effortless and quick, and he was everywhere he needed to be without being in the way. He captured Chelsie and Tyler's special day perfectly, and we couldn't be happier with the pictures we've seen so far!

Anyway, since you all have probably skipped my blathering on to see the before and after pictures, here they are!

To refresh your memories, here are a few pictures of the front of the dress before:

And here is the front of the dress (and the lovely bride!) after:

Here is a before picture of the back of the dress:

And some after pictures:

If you remember, the train was pretty looooooooonnnnnnng:

Chelsie opted for something much shorter, and I love the silhouette:

Have you ever seen a more beautiful bride? Chelsie was absolutely radiant! She and Tyler make an adorable and endearing couple, and I couldn't be happier for them! Thank you Chelsie and Tyler for letting me be part of your special day!

As for the process, I shared this post about deconstructing and making a muslin of the bodice, and this post about sizing down the skirt. I'll be back with more pictures and commentary on how this all went down when I get my bearings and get my house back in order!

Thanks for reading!

Refashion: Preppy Pleat Skirt

Once upon a time there was a blog post about three dresses. They all desperately needed new life. The first one was granted its wish and became an easy breezy skirt. Sadly, the owner was a procrastinator, and the two other dresses sat in the closet, untouched, for months. Then, one day, a friend came to visit. She, too, brought an ugly dress that needed new life. It became a beautiful skirt as well. The owner was encouraged to work on her dresses, and the Preppy Pleat skirt was born. There was rejoicing in all the land.

Confused? Ok, so maybe I don't have a future in children's literature.

Basically, this green dress used to look like this:

and after a crafting day with my friend Annie (who refashioned this dress) it now looks like this:

It was a fun refashion. I used a basting stitch all the way around the top of the skirt to keep the pleats in place while I gutted the dress and reconstructed it with a wide waistband.

I took for.ev.er to post this because I didn't have a picture that I liked (and still don't- notice how my head is cropped out?) but I finally took some pictures of this and other finished projects today, so you can look forward to a few more project posts this week!

PS- Did you notice those fab shoes? I thrifted em! Seven bucks- and they are pretty much my new favorites.