Some Smurfy Sewing.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's not quite all-Batman-all-the-time around here.  We allow brief infatuations with other characters occasionally.  We recently had a short Smurfs phase.  At Big Sister's insistence, I whipped up a Smurfs dress. 

This is the Maya dress pattern by modkid.  Size 7, alternate tie neckline thanks to the Sewing Blonde, knit fabric from Ixat (she recently moved over from Etsy, and I don't know if she has more Smurfs fabric, but I do know that she's very nice and helpful). 

I think this dress looks much better on a little Smurfette than on the hanger, even when it's a monkey hanger.

This fabric is an all-cotton knit (interlock, I guess), which is very stable and doesn't have a lot of stretch.  The red dot trim fabric doesn't have a ton of stretch either.  The sizing here worked well enough, but we probably would have been just fine with a size 8 (gulp).  I did have to make the waistband a little larger than the pattern provided, but that's probably due mostly to my fabric choice and only a little to a cute, still-somewhat-round belly.

One construction note for anyone tackling the Maya pattern:  The cutting diagram in the instruction booklet shows the skirt panel piece as being on the fold, where the waistband is clearly shown as not on the fold.  That's a bit confusing when the skirt pattern piece itself does not show it on the fold, and it says "cut 2."  I emailed modkid for clarification and had a very nice response from Patty Young herself within a couple of hours.  She explained that the cutting diagrams show the largest pattern pieces they offer, and here the size 8 pattern piece is 28 inches long, which would require positioning it very close to the fold of the fabric in order to fit.  We both agree that having two pieces cut on the fold would be much too much fabric (and a lot of gathering!).  So cut 2 skirt panel pieces, but not on the fold

Here you can see the tie neck.  I like the look, but next time I'd probably just do a regular neckband and attach a separate bow.  I think that would be a little faster and easier, and look pretty much the same.

Poor kid did not want her picture taken at the end of the day, but she's a good sport.  Even with the awful flash.

Not wanting to be left out, Little Brother requested Smurfs pajamas.  So I pulled out the same one-piece pattern I used for Batman pants, traced one size bigger and went to work.

I have a ridiculous weakness for t-shirt patterns and love to try new ones even when I have already have patterns that work great.  This is the Basic Tees pattern from Make It Perfect (all the way from Australia!).  Please excuse the bath hair and flash photography (again).

I sized up here too (size 4 tee), in hopes that these PJs would last through the summer.  Because this is such a stable knit, the pants don't have a lot of extra room.  The fit of this shirt, which turned out quite good, totally surprises me.  From the moment I traced the pattern, I felt sure that the shirt would be huge and that the width across the shoulders would be much too broad.  This is certainly a relaxed style, but I think it's actually proportioned pretty well.  I used the view C short sleeve piece.

As it turns out, I finished these pieces just in time for the end of our short Smurfs phase.  It appears we've now moved on to Wonder Woman and the Flash.  Go thing those fabrics are hard to find!

100+ Hearts.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Apparently kindergarteners everywhere count the days of school until they reach 100, and then they celebrate.  Part of their celebration is counting -- 100 sprinkles for the cake, 100 steps around the school, 100 pieces of candy, 100 paper cups in a stack.  Each kindergartener brings a project from home that incorporates 100 somethings -- 100 dry spaghetti noodles, 100 pennies, 100 toy dinosaurs.  You get the idea.

For Big Sister's 100th day, I tried repeatedly to talk her into making a necklace with 100 beads.  Easy.  Cute.  She refused, firmly.  She wanted 100 ladybugs, firmly.  Not sure how to make that happen, I looked for other ideas.  We ultimately settled on a decoration for her classroom.  Knowing Valentine's Day was around the corner, hearts were an obvious choice.  We found some cardstock and a heart punch, and Big Sister went to work.  I did a little sewing, Big Sister did a little backyard exploring, and next thing we knew, we had a 100-day project.

Big Sister was very proud.  The hearts decorated her classroom through Valentine's Day, and now they hang in her room, where we all enjoy them.

Little Brother was no help at all in putting the 100-day project together, but we still love him.  In case you've been wondering, the Batman obsession continues.  He rarely calls me Mama anymore, only Robin.  My car is the Batmobile, and I'm often required to wear a cape.

You may have noticed that the title of this post is 100+ hearts.  Wondering where the rest are?  In Big Sister's lunch, of course.

I recently discovered a blog, Meet the Dubiens, that has given me lots of great ideas for cute ways to pack lunches.  Here, I've got tiny heart sandwiches, heart cheese and crackers, some fruit, and a frozen smoothie (with protein powder!).  I've started making a batch of smoothies and freezing them in little cups.  Perfect by lunchtime!

Holy Hearts, Valentine!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

I decided not to sew for Valentine's Day this year.  It felt like too much, especially knowing that we had to have valentines prepared for two classes of kids, and Big Sister would certainly want to make hers.  But I couldn't let the holiday go without making something.  I planned something quick and simple -- t-shirts with iron-on transfers.  In the end, I could have sewn matching shirts for all of us in the time I spent on this little project.  But I learned a lot.  I think.

Big Sister loves cute things, so I found an image of a vintage valentine with the cutest kitties ever, thanks to Two Crazy Crafters.  Little Brother loves Batman and Robin, so I bought some vintage Super Friends valentines from Ebay.

That was the easy part.  Attaching them to the shirts proved far more difficult than I'd imagined.  Details below, for anyone interested in the specifics.  After many failed attempts, I finally ended up with cute shirts that shimmer.  Perfect for Valentine's Day.

Check out the happy superhero moves!

The transfer nitty-gritty:

I first tried SuperSoft Inkjet Transfer Paper from Dharma Trading Co., which everybody in the crafty and blog worlds seems to love.  But it didn't work for me.  Not at all.  I will admit that mine is past the six-month shelf life (six months!!).  But it's been stored unopened, in optimal conditions.  Still, that could be the problem.  The problem could also be the printing -- I have an Epson Artisan 730 printer, and the product instructions didn't exactly tell me what print settings I should use (the settings given are not choices for me).  I tried choosing lustre photo paper, ultra premium glossy paper, and regular paper.  They all printed fine and ironed fine.  But peeling the paper off was a nightmare.  My test shirt was an old undershirt of Mr. Great's, so it's possible that was the problem.  I tried two different irons, and I tried both linen and cotton settings.  I tried peeling the paper off warm, and I tried cool.  Every attempt ended in frustration. 

I then rushed to Hobby Lobby and picked up some June Tailor Print 'n Press transfer paper.  But it very clearly and adamantly says not to pre-wash your shirts, which I'd already done.  And it sounded like I might end up with something a little plasticky-looking.

So I dug around and found an unopened pack of Inkjet Sparkle Transfer Paper from Dharma Trading Co., also beyond the six-month shelf life.  Ultimately, this worked great.  But the instructions left a lot to be desired.  Again, the printer settings didn't apply to my printer (if I chose regular paper, I could not choose photo quality).  I used the Presentation Paper Matte setting, and that allowed me to select photo quality printing.  That worked well.  The instructions didn't tell me to cut around my image, but I did it anyway.  That was the right choice.  The ironing instructions are very confusing.  For my own reference, and in hopes of helping someone else, here's my advice:
  • They're serious about not printing a mirror image for the sparkle paper.  You really don't.
  • I ironed on a corian-type cutting board, which I covered in aluminum foil and placed a pillowcase on.
  • Iron the pillowcase so there are no creases.  Place the t-shirt on the ironing surface, and iron it well.
  • Trim around the image, leaving as little extra paper around the image as possible.  You don't have to stick with straight lines or rectangles.  Irregular shapes work great.
  • While the iron is heating (I used cotton setting), peel the paper backing off of your trimmed image.  It's hard to get started.  Fingernails help.  If your image is trimmed in an irregular shape, this can be tricky.
  • Carefully place the image where you want it on the shirt.  If it's in multiple pieces, place all pieces.
  • Do use parchment paper to cover your image (cover all pieces of image with one piece of parchment paper).  It works great.
  • On cotton setting, dry (no steam), iron in sections, pressing firmly, about 20 seconds per section.  I did this from left to right, then I did it again from top to bottom just to be sure I had everything set.
  • Quickly iron over the entire image, so the whole thing is hot.
  • After about five seconds, remove the parchment paper.
  • The instructions talk about removing the paper backing.  At this point, there is no paper backing.  It was taken off long ago, before you started ironing (the instructions don't tell you that either).  The only paper involved in the ironing process is the parchment paper.
I haven't tried washing the shirts yet, so no advice there.

I tried to convince Mr. Great that he should wear this to work today, but he wasn't buying it.

On further thought, I think this is begging to be made into one of those fun Handmade Ryan Gosling-style pics, which crack me up.  "Hey, girl, there's some space on my shoulder.  Why don't I iron these kitties for you?"

Happy Three.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

This little Christmas bundle recently turned three.

I can hardly believe it's been three years since Little Brother joined our family.  I can't imagine, and can barely remember, our family without him.

This morning I watched Little Brother's birthday interview on video, and I smiled all the way through.  A few excerpts:

What is your favorite food?  Gingerbread cookies.

What snack do you like best?  Strawberries.

What is your favorite sport to play?  Basketball.

What is the best show on television?  Fireman Sam.

What music do you like best?  Hip-hop music.

What is your favorite song?  It's a Hard-Knock Life (from Annie, sung as loudly as possible).

What book have you loved reading the most?  Batman and superhero books.

Who is the coolest person in the world?  Mama.

Who are your best friends?  Mama.

What is your favorite color?  Brown.  And gold.

What are you best at?  Playing games on my electronic, the Batman game.

What is your favorite treat?  Chocolate kiss.

What do you want to be when you grow up?  Batman.

If you were a superhero, what special power would you have?  Fighting bad guys.

What are you afraid of?  When Dada puts me to bed and turns off the light.

What makes you happy?  Turn the light on.

What makes you sad?  When Dada turns off the light.

What have you learned in the past year?  To play Batman.

For Little Brother's third birthday, we planned a trip to an ancient little amusement park for kids called Kiddie Acres.  It turns out that was a dream come true:

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?  Kiddie Acres.

If you had a lot of money, what would you do with it?  Go to Kiddie Acres.

What are you most looking forward to in the next year?  Going to Kiddie Acres.

If you had one wish, what would it be?  To go to Kiddie Acres.

So we did.  We went to Kiddie Acres, and the grandparents joined us.  It was a little chilly, but I'm not sure Little Brother even noticed.  I'm not sure who had more fun, the kids, or the grown-ups who got to watch the kids.

Then we took the birthday cowboy pilot to Starbucks to warm up and eat cupcakes.

There were even a few presents.

We love this little guy.  Even when he's challenging us with this Three-ness, we love him.

Scene from the Sewing Studio.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

This is a stack of 24 used t-shirts, with the hems sewn shut and lines drawn around the collars, waiting for Daisy Scouts to work some scissor magic and turn them into reusable shopping bags for World Thinking Day.  For those of you new to girls scouting, as I am, each February 22, girl scouts and guides across the world think of each other and raise awareness of the global nature of the girl scouting movement.  There is a theme for each World Thinking Day.  This year, it's "we can save our planet."  So our Daisy Scout troop will be saving the planet one shopping bag at a time.

Great Gorillas.

In the spirit of family fun and adventures, we recently participated in a run to benefit mountain gorillas.  We each put on a gorilla suit and headed downtown to join lots of other gorillas in a 5K fun-run.

It was crazy.  It was ridiculous.  It was exactly the sort of thing this family needs.

Because gorilla suits themselves aren't wild enough, the race encouraged costumes.  So we had Wonder Woman gorilla:

And Batman gorilla, who may well have been the tiniest gorilla suited up:

I was SuperMama gorilla.  Little Brother kindly loaned me his cape.

And there was Beatles Fan gorilla, who couldn't quite believe what his wife was making him do bright and early on a Saturday morning.  Poor Mr. Great was feeling a bit under the weather, which made him all the more incredulous.

We were not the craziest gorillas.  Our costumes were very modest compared to some.

We enjoyed the excellent people-watching and entertainment.

The run itself was a bit on the cold side (who would have guessed that the wind would blow right through those hairy gorilla suits?!).  But we did our best to warm up as we scooted through downtown.

We were not the last gorillas to finish, which is how this family defines race success.  Well done, gorillas!

After the race, we had some snacks, and enjoyed the rare opportunity to stroll through our downtown jungle dressed as gorillas.  We made lots of people smile.

This family adventure even landed us a blog feature!  Karen, an expert physical trainer who specializes in pre-and post-natal fitness, blogs about fitness and life balance at Balance.  Thanks, Karen, for highlighting our wild and crazy family fitness activity.  We look forward to seeing your crew in gorilla suits next year!

The race benefitted the Mountain Gorilla Conservation Fund, which is committed to keeping alive Dian Fossey's dreams of protecting Africa's highly endangered mountain gorillas, which do not survive in captivity.   In 1987, there were only 248 mountain gorillas alive in the world, but through the veterinary and conservation efforts of the MGCF, the population has nearly tripled to 720.  We're proud to support this effort, and we look forward to pulling out our gorilla suits again for next year's run.