Printing patterns.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

I should know better than to make my sewing goals public.  When you do that, your failure to meet those goals becomes public too.  But that accountability may be just what I need to get moving.  January is whirring past, February is fast approaching, and I have yet to do any sewing for myself (Goal 1).  This means I've got some late nights ahead of me.  And some coffee.

The good thing about waiting until the last minute to begin your projects is that you can change the scope and choose a simple project (and, if you're smooth and savvy, you can act like that's all you ever planned).  I've been wanting some boatneck tees for a while.  That should be a quick and easy project, right?  I should be able to knock out a boatneck tee for myself in no time, right?  Maybe.  Or maybe not.

It turns out that good boatneck tee patterns are not so easy to come by.  I looked and looked, and I found three contenders:  Jalie 2005, Burda 8906, and Burda WOF 2/2009.  All are out of print.  I shopped Etsy and Ebay, I hit up my friends at Sewing Mamas.  No luck.

Fortunately, Jalie sells electronic versions of their out of print patterns.  Purchase, download, print, and off you go.  I paid my $9 and thought I was well on my way to meeting Goal 1.

Now I'm not new to buying electronic patterns.  I've downloaded and printed lots of patterns.  The Etsy homemade pattern section and I are good friends.  I've been thrilled with many, disappointed with a few.  Mostly, it's a great way to purchase patterns, especially for somebody who needs to move quickly.

Imagine my shock at discovering that the Jalie pattern was 72 pages long.  Yes, you read that correctly.  72 pages!  I wish I had taken a photo of the stack of paper.  It was huge.

After staring at what looked like an entire ream of paper for days, I finally worked up the courage to assemble the pattern.  Each page has to be trimmed on at least two sides, some on three or four.  There are tiny marks to align, then tape.  The pages overlap by inches.  I didn't need all the pages, because I only want the boatneck tee, but I must have used at least 50 pages.

I don't think the photos come close to showing how much labor went into this.  It's absurd, really.

After going to all that trouble, I'm sure not going to cut the pattern.  What if I need another size later?  Instead, I'll trace, which will take still more time.

So much for the quick and easy project.  I should have just bought a $6 boatneck tee at Old Navy.

Paws mitten scarf.

As I've mentioned, I want to spend some time in February celebrating my boy and sewing for him.  A couple of my favorite bloggers, Dana of MADE and Rae of Made by Rae, sponsor a month devoted to sewing and craft project for the boys in our lives.  They've been accepting ideas for this year's Celebrate the Boy month, which I believe is scheduled to begin in mid-February.

I thought long and hard about my boy sewing and came to the conclusion that I didn't have anything worthy of submission.  But then I wondered if anyone might be interested in my paws mitten scarf.  I designed and sewed this as part of Big Sister's Halloween costume (she was a panda), but there's no reason a boy wouldn't love something similar.  I have not put together a tutorial, so I'm putting this out there as inspiration to anyone who might be interested in making something similar.  I assure you that this is an easy and fun project anyone can do.  Here are some pictures:

Baby gifts and Zwergenverpackung.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Normally, baby gifts are my favorite thing in the world to sew.  Soft fabrics, tiny patterns, cute-as-can-be designs that go together quickly.  It's practically why I learned to sew.  But sometimes they're not so fun.  When you choose a pattern without any real instructions and repeatedly find yourself guessing, for example.  Or when you sew a sleeve on inside out and don't realize it until the entire shirt is finished and then find yourself picking apart a million stitches late at night.  Even in those situations, though, the end result is worth every bit of the trouble.  See?

Our Longhorn-loving friends just had a baby boy, so I knew I had to sew something with burnt orange trim.  Since I was making one little outfit with burnt orange trim, I went ahead and made a second for Big Sister's former teacher, who is due to deliver a baby boy very soon as well.  I think this heathered, striped rib knit by Kumquat (but available at The Fabric Fairy), along with the coordinating cotton-lycra French terry is the perfect cute-but-not-too-cute fabric for a baby boy. 

I used patterns in the Farbenmix Zwergenverpackung baby collection, which I purchased from Banberry Place.  For one lap tee, I used a coverstitch binding attachment.

The other I used the MADE 90-minute shirt tutorial, so the serged edges would show.

The lap tees came together very nicely, and I'm happy with the look.  I only wish I had a tiny baby to try them on.

The pants are the simple trousers in the Zwergenverpackung collection, but not made reversible.  They did not come together nearly as easily as I would have guessed.  The instructions for sewing these pants are not at all clear.  I had no idea what width elastic I should use, how much I should fold over the waist, whether I should add hem allowance to the legs or seam allowance to the waist.  I ended up pulling out some of Baby Brother's old knit pants and using them as a guide.  Based on those, I think the Zwergenverpackung trousers are very high-waisted.  I trimmed more than an inch off the back and considerably more than that off the front, and I used 3/4-in. elastic.  Still, these pants are higher-waisted than the two pairs of Tea Collection pants I compared them to.  But they look nicely proportioned and very likely to fit a real baby. 

I also made some beaded chains for pacifiers/teethers/toys.  I know some parents will see these and panic, especially first-time moms.  But I feel really confident in their safety.  I use industrial strength, thick nylon cord.  I double string and double-knot them, and I have separately-knotted safety beads on each end.  It would be nearly impossible for a bead to come off.  Little Brother still uses these, and we've never had an incident.  I know not all parents would feel comfortable with this, and that's okay.  But it does make a nice gift presentation, doesn't it?

Kim's Magic Pop.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A friend and foodie blogger recently recommended Magic Pop as a great snack for kids.  It's made with a special industrial popper, which our local Central Market stores have (as do other stores around the country).  The kids love to watch the popper shoot out puffed discs about the size of a small frisbee or corn tortilla.  They're all natural, vegan, and each disc is only 15 calories.  The come in lots of flavors -- our store sells regular, strawberry, and onion, but I'd love to try pumpkin and cinnamon.  There's nothing especially nutritious in there, but there's nothing bad either (unless you avoid Red Dye No. 40, which is in the strawberry and may be in other flavors as well). 

We like them plain, but they're great with various spreads and toppings.  Central Market has a special right now for a free chocolate/hazlenut spread (like Nutella only organic and better!) when you buy a bag of Magic Pop.  It's a great deal (but, of course, that's lots more than 15 calories).  I think the best thing about Magic Pop is watching the kids eat frisbees.


Have you seen Pinterest?  It's a brilliantly fun "pinboard," or a place to collect images.  I'm not sure if pleasing visual design was part of the idea in creating Pinterest, but right now, with lots of design-oriented bloggers using it, it is loaded with beautiful images full of inspiration.

You easily install a "pin it" button to your browser toolbar, and when you see an image you like, you click that button to add the image to one of your "boards."  As far as I can tell, you can have unlimited boards, categorized and named any way you choose.  You can tag images and share them (not sure if there's a private option or not).  The "pins," or images, link back to their source.  So say that you find a terribly cute gift idea, which you know you'd like to be able to find again later --> pin it.  Or say that you find a photo with a paint color that would be perfect for your bathroom --> pin it.  Or you find a photo of a dress somebody sewed their little girl, which you'd like to use for inspiration in sewing your own --> pin it.  You get the idea.  Add it all together, and you get some fabulous eye candy:

What makes it even more fun is that there's a social aspect to it.  You can see what other people have pinned and, when you like something, "re-pin" to your own boards.  Other people can re-pin your images.  You can "follow" other people, and they can follow you.  You can check out my boards my pins and boards here, and then you'll have an option to follow me as I collect pretty things.  I'm not quite sure why you'd want to do this, but I'm happy to share in my Pinterest fun.

Pinterest is still in beta, and you need an invitation to join.  I requested an invitation and received one the same day, but I've heard of others having to wait longer.  I'm pretty sure I can send friends an invitation, so if you'd like one, please let me know and leave your email address in a comment.

I will warn you that Pinterest is addicting.  It's a really good way to lose hours and hours to the Internet.  But those hours are fun and will leave you feeling inspired and creative.  So get pinning...

(By the way, I admit freely that I don't fully understand the ethics or legalities of taking other people's images and collecting them in your own Pinterest boards, which are then shared with others.  It seems there's not so much concern about image theft and misuse through Pinterest because images are credited back to their original sources.  I haven't thought through whether that really adds much protection, or whether Pinterest creates any significant safety concerns that were not already present.  I guess it's another good reminder to always be mindful of safety and the potential for image theft/misuse when posting photos online.)

Stomp Rockets -- good old fashioned fun.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Santa brought Little Brother a Stomp Rocket Jr. Glow kit.  Easy peasy assembly of a few parts, and off you go.

Our yard has lots of trees, so we took the rockets to the park.  After a quick demonstration, the two-year-old had no trouble setting the rocket on the launch pad all by himself.

Then jump!  If you don't even weigh 35 pounds, and haven't quite mastered big jumps yet, you might need just a little help.

But if you're nearing 50 pounds, you can practically launch a rocket to the moon.

Higher, higher!

Then you get to run and retrieve the rocket (which hopefully hasn't gotten stuck in a tree).

It's amazing how high these things go (or how far, if you aim horizontally).  It's great fun for the whole family. 

We can't wait to take our rockets back to the park.  But, until then, we'll practice with the indoor version, which doesn't go nearly as high but is still quite fun.

Heidi & Finn Urban Hoodies.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

I wish the Heidi & Finn Urban Hoodie pattern came in my size.  It's so cute for both boys and girls.  The slim cut is great, not too generous or boxy.  It's easy to put together, totally lined, and easy to get over small kids' big heads.

I cut out two, a 5T for Big Sister and a 2T for Little Brother.  I read instructions carefully (they're very clear), noting the 5/8-in. seam allowance (included).  I sewed the big one first, using a french terry print and thin rib knit for the lining.  When I had the basic shape of the shirt assembled, I tried it on my big girl.  Too small.  Not even close.  I went ahead and finished the hoodie, knowing that it wouldn't fit Big Sister.  It turned out quite cute, and I've heard that our little friend in the neighborhood, who turns three this month, loves it.  And apparently it fits her well.

Based on the one or two reviews I could find, and the few photos I'd seen, I decided to take an inch or so off the sleeves.  I think it was a good decision -- they'd be really long otherwise.  I used one button instead of three.

Recall that Little Brother's hoodie was already cut, so I couldn't size up.  Instead, I used a 1/4-in. seam allowance instead of 5/8-in. (that's what I typically use on knits anyway).  Worked perfectly.  His is a thinner french terry print (owls!) and a thicker rib knit lining.  I again took an inch or so off the sleeves, and they're still a bit long.  And I used a single button.  The little guy loves his hoodie:

I've read some reviews of this pattern, and it appears that others have not had the fit problems I did (too small all over, but especially under the arms).  I double-checked, and the pattern did print correctly.  So I'm not sure what went wrong for me, but using a smaller seam allowance seems to solve the problem.

Next time I sew this pattern, I'll probably shorten the sleeves even more and use ribbing for wider cuffs and the waist-band, stretching a bit.  As it is, the cuffs and waistband are the same size as the sleeves/bodice and don't have any stretch to them.

Three Kings Day.

Friday, January 7, 2011

In December, parents visited my daughter's preschool class to talk about family holiday traditions.  During one of the first visits, Big Sister learned about Three Kings Day.  Ever since, she has insisted that we put our shoes outside on the night of January 6, so the three wise kings can fill them with goodies.  We hoped she'd forget about it (isn't filled stockings enough; do we really need our shoes filled too?).  But she did not forget.  She told us exactly what was going to happen.  After all, they had put their shoes in the school hallway during naptime, and the three wise kings put goodies in their shoes then.  Of course they would visit our home!

I don't know much about Three Kings Day, but we indulged her.  We ignored the parts about putting grass or paper in the shoes, and we didn't write the kings any notes, as they had at school.  We did heed the warning that we must put out one shoe only, or the kings will think we are greedy and will not give us any goodies.  We gathered shoes quickly and threw them out on the doormat before going to bed.  Big Sister, being quite smart, chose her largest shoe, a boot.  Little Brother chose his brightest shoe (and, because he is quite helpful, he also chose Mr. Great's shoe).  I didn't stop to consider that I would share this with the world, so I most certainly did not select my cutest shoe.  

The kids woke early this morning.  No doubt the anticipation had interfered with our morning slumber.  Had the kings come?  

Yes!  You can't see everything here -- it was quite cold and I photographed quickly -- but even Mr. Great (the doubter) got some goodies in his shoe.

This morning I did a little research on Three Kings Day and the shoe tradition.  Epiphany -- Twelfth Night -- is when Christ was visited by the Three Wise Men, and his divinity was revealed to the world (see Matthew 2:1-12).  It is observed on January 6 (or sometimes the Sunday after) as Christian feast day, the end of the Christmas season.  Celebrations take different forms in different cultures and parts of the world.  Some involve shoes or boxes, as ours did.  Some involve Three Kings Bread or Cake (Rosca de Reyes), which may have a tiny baby baked into it to symbolizing Jesus.

As far as I can tell, the shoe tradition has Hispanic origins.  On Dia de Reyes, children collect grass or straw in boxes or shoes, which they place on the porch, under their beds, or under the Christmas tree.  Some also leave water in a bowl or other container.  Legend holds that the Magi, tired from their long travels across the world, will come in the middle of the night and feed their weary camels the grass and water (though Big Big Sister has determined that it is not practical to walk all over the world in one night on camels, so the three wise kings must use cars and maybe planes).  To show their gratitude, the three wise kings leave small gifts for the children.  In some cultures, the children write a note to the kings, including a wish list.  They then receive their gifts the next morning from the kings, rather than on Christmas from Santa Claus.

I don't know if the Three Kings Day shoe ritual will become on of our family traditions, but it is a fun way to mark the end of the Christmas season.  Now we can take down the Christmas tree and decorations.  After all, Valentine's Day is just around the corner.

Growth in the New Year.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I gave one gift this year that I'm particularly proud of and excited about.  Remember how Mr. Great and Big Sister volunteered at an organic farm recently?  After that, they both talked a lot about gardening and growing vegetables.  Mr. Great in particular seemed surprisingly motivated about the idea.  I even caught him reading You Grow Girl, a beginner's guide to gardening with great illustrations (incidentally, I just discovered that the author of the book, Gayla Trail, has a fun and informative website).  I began researching and scheming, trying to figure out just how I could actually give a garden for Christmas.

Mr. Great is a busy man.  It's all he can do to fit a couple of trips to the gym each week into his schedule.  I knew that if I gave him a garden, it could not be yet another source of how-can-I-fit-it-in stress.  Installation would have to be easy, and we'd need a garden that required little daily maintenance. 

Did you know that there are small businesses out there run by garden-loving individuals who will help you plan, install, and maintain a garden?  It's a fabulous concept.  And what a fun job that must be!  I found Zach, owner of Yard Farm almost by accident.  I left him a rambling message about how I'd like to give my husband a garden for Christmas.  Zach was fabulous -- he offered great advice, helped identify the best location, and provided reasonable options. 

I decided on two raised beds in steel boxes, bordering our front driveway.  Zach and his guys (Santa's elves) arrived one morning just days before Christmas, right after Mr. Great went to work.  They worked tirelessly to move loads of rocks and install the beds (with drip irrigation lines) before we returned home from work that evening.  They planted one bed and left the other empty, for us to plant.

Mr. Great was thrilled with the surprise.

He's most excited about growing broccoli -- we already have tiny heads forming:

Big Sister is looking forward to planting strawberries.

Little Brother, well, he's most excited about the dirt.

Sewing gifts and goals.

Monday, January 3, 2011

I hope you all had happy holidays and that 2011 has brought a fresh start, renewed inspiration and optimism, and a deepening of your commitment to the things that are truly important in life -- health, friends and family, and whatever it is that keeps your soul happy.  I always love the spark of newness and excitement that accompanies the change in calendar.  I love the time of reflection, thinking about the past year and what it meant for us, reviewing the highlights and lowlights, taking stock of what we've done and what we still want to accomplish.  I love the organizing, planning, mapping out of the year to come.  I look forward to 2011 and plan to laugh, play, learn, and sew as much as I possibly can.

For us, the New Year began with a stomach bug, which was no fun at all.  But yesterday we recovered nicely with a fully-costumed family production of Cinderella (I got to play the fairy godmother AND the evil stepmother!), a dance performance to "Frosty the Snowman" by Little Brother, an inspection of our new garden (tiny heads of broccoli has emerged!), launching stomp rockets, playing at the park, cooking in our new convection oven, art projects featuring favorite Little Pet Shop creatures (who Big Sister calls Yoohoo Friends), and rides on a carousel.  Last night I returned to my sewing room after a long absense.  That gave me a chance to admire my Christmas sewing gifts:

I'm so fortunate to have family members who not only tolerate my obsession with sewing, but also feed the addiction.  They're too good to me, really.  My in-laws gave me the iron, a Reliable Velocity V-50, which is awesomely orange.  Don't be fooled by the manufacturer's description -- it's not compact at all.  In fact, it's larger and heavier than my old Rowenta.  But it's a steam machine and it's got me more excited about ironing than I've ever been in my life.  My sister gave me the bobbin box, which has a fabulous retro starburst.  My parents gave me the coverstitch binder, which I've really been wanting.  It makes a super wide binding (perfect for little boy shirts!).  And I'm thrilled to bits with the rainbow of my favorite thread, Mettler Metrosene.  It's not exactly convenient to buy locally, so having bunches of colors on hand is a tremendous joy.  Not pictured are an orange utensil cup that two-year-old Little Brother picked out himself and the best gift of all, from Mr. Great:  a framed piece of fabric featuring my my greatjen logo.  We actually need to take it back to the frame store for a little adjustment, so you'll have to wait for the big reveal.

After filing my thread rainbow and tidying up my sewing room, I took some time to think about my 2011 sewing goals.  The list is long, as always.  There are baby gifts to be sewn, jeans to be hemmed, t-shirts and twirly dresses to be made.  I'm sure that alone could fill my very limited sewing time.  But here are a few specific goals for the coming year:

1.  Sew something for myself in January.

2.  Sew at least two things for Little Brother during Celebrate the Boy month in February sponsored by Made by Rae and MADE.

3.  Sew buttons on Mr. Great's dress shirts.

4.  Sew something with Kraft Paper Fabric.

5.  Take more and better photos of my creations.

6.  Sew more fabric, buy less.

I've got some fun projects in mind.  Can't wait to get started!