Monday, December 19, 2011

Apparently I have a weakness for giraffe fabric.  I have yards and yards of it, in all sorts of colors.  As much as I love it in my fabric cabinet, it looks even better on kids. 

I used a cotton French terry piece to make Big Sister a raglan nightgown.

This is design 36 from the 6/2009 issue of Ottobre magazine, which I adore.  I've used this pattern a bunch (though never with French terry), and it's perfect for my nightgown-loving girl.  I've discovered recently, however, that my girl has gotten quite tall, and it's now more of a challenge to get by with just one yard of fabric.  Hence the band at the bottom, and the upside down fabric on the back, which doesn't show in this photo.

Little Brother got PJs out of a thinner fabric (probably jersey).  Also Ottobre 6/2009, but designs 34 and 35.  Also great patterns, perfect fit.

For a baby who should be born any day now (another Christmas baby perhaps?), a set made with my favorite pattern, New Conceptions Baby Essentials.

Did you notice that all three sets have the same brown trim?  They do.  I'm pretty sure it's a cotton-lycra knit from Chez Ami, whose knit fabrics are excellent quality.

I still have plenty of giraffe fabric left, but I think I'll move on to something else for a little while.  Elephants?  Birds?  Robots?

Robot Pants.

Friday, December 16, 2011

I made Little Brother some pants recently.  I'd hoped to get some better photos, but there's way too much going on these days, so I'm using what I've got.

These are the basic pocket pants from the book Growing Up Sew Liberated by Meg McElwee.  I used some heavy twill that I bought as a JoAnn remnant, which has a nice herringbone weave, combined with a fun cotton-linen robot fabric from Japan.  I used a pair I found on the Small & Friendly blog as inspiration -- I love the way Carla used a print on the inner pocket pieces only as an accent for solid-colored pants.  Here are mine:

I love the look of this pocket design and shape.  The small strips of bias binding on the pocket edges work out perfectly.  The itch-free stitch lines around the seams are another great detail.

I will admit to having some fit issues with these pants.  Those may well be entirely my fault, as I did some squirrely things, but I'll mention them here in case it might help someone.  Having read a few places that these pants run big, I traced a 2T for my little guy.  But before I managed to actually cut out the fabric, I realized that my guy isn't nearly as little as I thought.  I decided to continue on using a 3/8-inch seam allowance (instead of 1/2-inch) and hope for the best.  I added a bunch of length (2 1/2 or 3 inches, I think?) based on some pants that currently fit.  Overall, that worked out fine, and the pants generally fit.

What I don't love about the fit is that the front is poofy and the back sags down despite the waist elastic being plenty tight (hello, crack!).  I knew the poofy front was a possibility -- Carla noticed that in hers, and after studying several pictures of sewn-up pocket pants, I saw that it seems to be pretty common.  I tried to compensate for this by changing the crotch lines ever so slightly.  I'm not sure if my changes made it worse, better, or had no effect at all.  I'm certainly no expert at fitting adjustments, so who knows.  And I hadn't heard about the saggy backside trouble before, so I probably contributed to that.  My fabric choice -- very stiff twill -- didn't seem to help with this either.  Next time I make these, I will definitely try something lighter, which should hang better and not result in extremely bulky seams where the bias binding attaches.

I should mention that I went ahead and tried out the itch-free method described in the book, just for fun.  I won't do that again.  I love the look of the extra rows of stitches, but it's a lot of extra sewing and extra time.  Tacking back the seam allowance on each side of the seams is tricky business and, in my case, I felt like it compromised the strength of the seams a bit.  I wasn't even confident that the crotch seams would hold (again, stiff twill may be partly to blame here), so I took out the stitching on the lower part of the front and back crotch seams, reinforced those crotch seams with an extra row of stitching right next to the original, and resewed those seam allowances to the side.  I would definitely recommend starting off this way, if you plan on going itch-free.  As for side seams, I tried several times to tack those seam allowances to the side and, after messing with it for nearly an hour, concluded that it's flat-out impossible.  Maybe with softer, thinner fabric this might be doable (still tricky though), but with this twill, I don't think anyone could have managed it. 

So, my final verdict on these pants:  I really like the pocket design, and I'd love to figure out how to modify them so they won't be poofy in front and sag in back.  If anyone has a suggestion about how to modify crotch/thigh seams for this, please leave a comment.  I hope the next pair will be a better fit.

School pictures.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

We buy them no matter what.  We love to hate them.  We laugh about the funny looks and messed up hair.  Who doesn't love school pictures?

Here are this year's gems.

Big Sister:

She got to choose the background color.  Pink was not an option, so she chose purple.  But it looks blue.

Little Brother:

This poor kid's parents forgot about picture day and didn't even bother to comb his hair that morning.  Apparently we didn't bother to dress him in a clean shirt either.  Oops.

While we're on the subject of cheesy, overpriced photos, here's a bonus for you.  Santa!

Elf Antics.

Have elves been busy at your house?  Sparkle and Nicky, who Santa delivered a couple of weeks ago, have been up to all sorts of silly things.  Our mornings start with a search for the mischievous elves, to discover what they were up to while we all slept.  Here's what we've found.

They read Christmas books, and spread them all over the coffee table.

They made tiny donuts and left tiny bottles of milk.

These elves are very helpful when it comes to deocating the house.  The put up the advent calendar, kids' nativity set, and small kids' Christmas tree.

They fed the cat, with a front-end loader.

They brought a fun wool felt tree craft (more on that later).

They even decorated our ceiling fan.

They brought a new, easy-to-read book.  Our elves love to read.  Obviously.

I'll share more of this year's antics soon.  Here's more elf mischief from previous years.

They decorated with snowflakes, large and small.

The love spelling words with blocks.

They brought clementines (pears too, but no picture of that).

They brought gingerbread-scented playdough.

They brought an invisible ink coloring book and did a little coloring.

They got stuck in kids' water bottles.

And they got tangled in Christmas lights.

They brought a DVD of Christmas songs that's been watched a million times.

Thanks to Sparkle and Nicky, and Big Sister, our house is bursting with Christmas Spirit.

Little Sewing Hands: Felt Circle Garland.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

A few months ago I set up a station in my sewing room for Big Sister.  She has her own machine that sits on a kid's table, so she can reach the pedal.

We haven't been able to use it as much as I'd hoped, but it's been great for teaching Big Sister the basics of operating a sewing machine.  

I think she likes it, don't you?

I recently came up with a beginning sewing machine project that Big Sister could do almost entirely on her own -- a felt circle garland.  I ordered one-inch circles from the bbd supplies Etsy shop, which come in great colors and saved me the trouble of having to cut out lots of circles by hand (that was worth every penny!).  We already had white thread in the machine, so we stuck with that.  Big Sister came up with a color pattern.

I got Big Sister started and showed her how to guide the circles to the presser foot.  She was nervous about it initially, but in minutes she was doing it completely on her own.

I was so proud of her for both guiding the felt and controlling the pedal.  She's a natural!

Although she didn't have an endless attention span for this project (there was a mystery box waiting to be opened!), she did stick with it long enough to create a pretty garland.

And it looks very nice on the foot of her bed.

I hope we can make more of these soon.  They'd look great on the Christmas tree, around a doorway, on wrapped gifts, and plenty of other places.  

The Elves Have Arrived!

Friday, December 2, 2011

When I picked Big Sister up from school yesterday, she was confused and concerned about why a classmate's elf had already arrived (it is December after all), but our elves were still absent.  So, after finishing homework, Big Sister went to work.  In a flurry of activity, she colored, cut, collected, assembled, and arranged.  Next thing I knew, the kids' little family room chairs were each filled with notes, pictures, and trinkets addressed to their elves.  I had to photograph selectively, to avoid the names, but here's a sample from Big Sister's chair.

See that "I love yuo" note?  Sweetest thing ever.

This morning, Big Sister ran to the family room to check the chairs.  To great excitement, she found that her love notes had worked.  Sparkle and Nicky, our Christmas Elves, have returned!

And they brought friends!  The note from Santa says that because he understands how hard it can be to refrain from touching the shy and delicate elves, he made each child a toy elf to play with and sleep with.  Big Sister couldn't wait to take her toy elf to school for show-and-tell.

As in past years, our elves can report back to Santa on the kids' behavior.  Although they sleep during the day in their little bed, they are active at night, making mischief, decorating, getting themselves into funny places, and finding treats for the kids.  I listed some of our elf-on-the-shelf antics last year, and I've been collecting other good ideas on my Pinterest elves-on-shelves board.  I hope to share some pictures this year.

But this year, according to Santa's letter, something different is happening.  Inspired, I'm sure, by The Christmas Angel and it's free 25 days of messages, the elves will also be giving the kids some little assignments to spread kindness and Christmas cheer and, hopefully, keep us focused on the true meaning of Christmas.

For anyone interested, I've saved the letter from Santa as a Google document.

Bowl Full of Blessings.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

As November comes to a close, we are wrapping up our month of Thankful Things.  We find our Thankful Bowl full of blessings and ourselves more conscious of our good fortune.  We are a family rich in love, tradition, warmth, and laughter.  I am Thankful, every day, for this life.

Hearing the kids discuss what they are thankful for has been a joy.  Big Sister's Thankful Things often sound like a prayer.  Little Brother keeps it simple.  They've surprised me with their awareness and amused me with their honesty.  These are some of my favorites from the past month.

Big Sister's Thankful Things:
  • Having an easy life.
  • Having a brother who loves me.
  • Lots of hugs.
  • Good teachers who like us a lot and don't be mean to us.
  • Good views on our family hike.
  • Having friends and family that take care of us and love us a million.
  • Being loved, being together.
Little Brother's Thankful Things:
  • Ravioli.
  • People who love us.
  • Mini Wheats.
  • Banana ice cream.
  • Having a sister and nice family.
  • Doctors helping kids.
  • Watering the garden with the bucket.
I know this family tradition has made an impact on my children when I see their reluctance to give it up.  Thanksgiving has now passed, and the pull of Christmas is strong.  Yet Big Sister runs from the dinner table for pen and paper, insisting that we discuss the blessings we enjoy.  That makes me happy.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

We loaded up and went to a wedding a few weeks ago.  All four of us.  Turns out we clean up pretty well.

Our hotel was on a lake, with a miniature lighthouse out back.  We had fun exploring the surroundings, even with a bit of wind.

That's Big Sister in her Sara Dress, remember?  This is Little Brother, King of the World:

This is before the wedding, all dressed up:

I have no idea what he's doing.  I do know that's marker on his fingers, and not blood!

Truth be told, we did not do well during the ceremony.  We lasted only a few minutes before having to retreat to somewhere that noise and movement are more acceptable.  But we enjoyed the reception, which was at a castle.  A castle!

That one's great, but this one (below) is my life:

I don't have a tripod, and I never take pictures in the dark, so this picture of the castle was the best I could manage:

Big Sister was fascinated with the bride.  Maybe it was her cool dreadlocks.  Or maybe the cowgirl boots with the pretty white dress.  Or maybe just the magic of a wedding.  Whatever it was, it had us peeking around corners, always trying to get a glimpse of the beautiful bride.

We wish these two all the best as they begin their life together!