Monday, December 08, 2014

Christmas Pajamas!

Meet the newest project to roll out of my sewing studio.  Drum roll,'s Christmas jammies! 

And really, what could be better than manta rays and bloody-mouthed sharks? The shark fabric's out of print now, I think, but I tracked it down on eBay. (Thank you, once again, Alexander Henry, for another amazing fabric. We're big fans of your designs around here.)

So, I know, I've been gone forever! Total radio silence. Well, for the record, I really HAVE been gone. I've been on orders for months and just finally got home in November. So, the sewing, quilting and blogging fell a bit by the wayside. However, since I got home, I've been catching up on sewing projects...and adding more to the list, of course. In short, I've been sewing with an obsession that would make my friend Tina proud.

I'll fill you in on more of the projects over the coming days, because, I'd like to do something of a holiday sewing series.

From the time I was a little girl, my family always opened presents on Christmas morning, but to ease us into the fun, we were allowed to open a single "December 24th" gift. Inside that box, without fail, was a new pair of pajamas. I always loved curling up on Christmas Eve in soft new jammies, waiting for Santa. It's a tradition we've carried into our own little family.

The hard part is always finding good PJs. Clothes for kids always seem to be made so cheaply these days, and we consider ourselves fortunate if we can find anything that isn't covered in licensed characters.  

So, this year, I decided to make the jammies.*HUGE GRIN*

Here's Big Boy's set...

...and Bitty's.

I drafted my own patterns for everything and used my own assembly methods. I've made lots of PJ pants before, but this time I tried a new approach for the drafting that started with this tutorial. Even though it's easier to cut the front and back pant legs the same, I'm not wild about the fit. If I make jammies for SuperHusband and myself, I'll be ditching pretty much everything from this tutorial except the cuff idea and going back to the original method I learned for drafting drawstring pants. Oh, and pockets. Must add pockets for the adults.

I decided do a few fittings along the way, so the kids have already seen them. (I'm confident, but not that confident.) When I finished them last night, they begged, BEGGED me to let them sleep in them, and -- guess what -- I'm a total sucker.  So these have already been laundered and worn, and they're holding up great!

So here's where I would love a few do-overs:

When I attached Big Boy's red cuffs, I sewed the cuffs on, then completed the side seam, (similar to the way I attached the band on the pillowcase in this tutorial). This process is easier than the alternative -- sewing the leg up first, then attaching the cuffs afterward -- but it doesn't make for a pretty turned-up cuff, as you can see. Thankfully, his pants are the right length without folding the cuffs up, so everybody's still happy.

When I made Bitty's, I did the opposite: sewed the side seams first, then attached the cuffs. Voila! No exposed seams.

This was also my first foray into making knit t-shirts. The knit sewing and working on the serger went quite well, thanks to this really helpful Craftsy class. However, since I drafted my own patterns, the first one is always apt to need some adjustment.  Bitty's neck was a bit too big, so Big Boy's shirt -- my second go 'round -- fits much, much better.

I'm super proud of my finishes. Every one of my knit attempts prior to this project, unless it was from fleece, (which is heavy enough to sew like a woven), was a disaster.

Check out that neckband application!

Here are the inside seam finishes.

And the bottom cover hem. I recently sold my Babylock Imagine Wave from several years ago and upgraded to a used Babylock Evolution that I found from a delightful woman on Craigslist who had given up learning to use it.  I'm thrilled to have a machine that can do this stitch! (We have SO many tshirts laying around that need to be altered, fixed, shortened, etc, etc.)

Let me pay this fantastic tip forward that someone else gave me: If you don't want to pay an arm and a leg ordering high-quality knit fabric when you're just learning to sew on knits, go to the thrift store and shop in the oversized men's shirt (XXL, XXXL, etc) section. I bought a red Alexander Julian Colours mock turtleneck at the thrift store for $4, then cut it apart to get the yardage for Big Boy's tshirt. He didn't want the little embroidered logo, so I cut around it and pieced in the racing stripes. He's in love with them and so am I!

I'm going to start doing a bit more blogging on serging with knits. In my own sewing and quilting journey, I've found there's woeful little out there for people who want to do serious serging, (or any serging at all, for that matter). Don't worry, I'm still primarily here for the beginners. :)

You probably won't see a full-blown tutorial on these pieces. I want to keep sharing projects with you, but in an effort to make my little "negative-profit" more sustainable, I'm going to start offering more patterns. My Halloween costume patterns did pretty well this year, and I'm encouraged. So, that's yet another step that makes me all giggly inside. :)

Is this a project you might like to see in my Craftsy pattern store and my Etsy shop?

Thank you for stopping by and for not forgetting me after all this time away. Despite all the down-time, the blog's audience has grown considerably over the last few months. I appreciate you, sooooo much, and I'm so excited to be back home and sewing again!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The QuiltWest tribute ... One year later

One year ago today, 12 first responders gave their lives in an attempt to save others in the small town of West, Texas.

QuiltWest was born of a desire to give whatever small gift I could to comfort the family members of these men.  I wanted to wrap them with quilts and the warmth of knowing other people felt their loss.  I knew I couldn't do it alone:  In all, 18 ladies from across the nation have opened their hearts and given of themselves to make 12 quilts for the families.  These quilts have taken us on a journey of love, compassion, relationships and hope.

I grew up the daughter of a first responder.  You can learn a little more about my mother's legacy as a paramedic and public servant here and hereShe also loved quilts and quilting, and understood the treasure of a gifted quilt.  I lost her just one month before the events in West, and throughout the project, I carried in my heart a quiet dedication to her.

The families who live in West will receive their quilts today.  My heart broke when I realized work and family schedules simply wouldn't flex to allow me to deliver them personally, but my contact with the City of West has put me at ease.  The fire chief has graciously agreed to pass them along and to see that the remaining quilts are sent to the out-of-town families who couldn't make the trip for the memorial gathering. 

As QuiltWest winds down, it's extremely hard to put my emotion into words.  If you'd like, you can read an excerpt of my letter to the families here.  It's really my best attempt to explain all this.   Thankfully, I have many, many photos of this wonderful journey and the lovely ladies who stitched their love into every quilt.

I truly hope you'll check out the QuiltWest Collection on Flickr for more photos of the quilts, the process and their makers.

If you'd like to learn more about QuiltWest, check out these previous blog postings:

Calling all quilters!  QuiltWest for First Responders' Families - April 25, 2013
Update: QuiltWest - Quilts for West, Texas first responders' families - May 7, 2013
Tutorial:  Basic Jelly Roll Quilt - QuiltWest - May 21, 2013
Today's Photo Journal:  Over the QuiltWest Hump - October 21, 2013

Our love and prayers remain with the families of West, Texas -- all the families of that community -- as they take time today to look back in tribute...and forward with hope.  May God's blessings be with you. 

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Basics: The Great Fabric Stash Organization project

Okay, so I have a confession to make:  I'm a fabric hoarder.  No, not like those gross people on TLC, but I really do struggle with throwing away bits of fabric, let alone yardage(!).  I just can't stand the waste.

If you sew you know how it is -- when you first start sewing, you don't have a stash, so you have to buy new fabric for every project.  Depending on the project, you may have a few bits let over, or you may have quite a lot of fabric left at the end.  It's not just a quilter thing:  Home dec and especially garment sewing usually leave larger, more holey, and funky-shaped scraps. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Basics: Flatlocking and our 100th Day projects!

Whoa.  Apparently, the 100th day of school is a big, big deal these days.  Okay, confession time:  I kind of dreaded this assignment.  We didn't do anything special for the 100th day when I was a kid, and really, who wants to walk around finding 100 different objects, sticking them to a piece of paper and watching them fall off?

I looked around the house and found a large piece of white paper, but my very serious artist explained he wanted a colored page.  Then I found construction paper, but he said that wasn't big enough.  (Some of the kids were using poster board, but it was too late in the day to make that happen.)  My attitude started looking up when I figured out that it didn't have to be a piece of paper, though -- fabric stash to the rescue!  Then Big Boy got jazzed about designing his own custom background.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Goals for a New Year

Ugh.  My blogging has slowed way down.  The last couple of years took away a lot of steam.  At times, my self-imposed blogging deadlines helped me cope, I imagine, but at other times, they really added stress in an already tough situation.  I've already started quilting like crazy again, though, and I'm ready to rediscover the fun in writing!

Part of the solution is to stop feeling guilty about everything.  We women are the world's worst about beating ourselves up with guilt.  A little guilt can be a great motivator...  A lot of guilt can be a paralytic force of devastating proportions.

In 2013, there were some major guilt issues:
...not spending enough time with the children or not being engaged enough when I did -- perhaps the common lament of every parent everywhere since the beginning of time.
...not having the physical or emotional stamina to do everything for my mother I wished I could have.  (That guilt reached back to 2012 when Daddy passed, too.)
...not getting enough estate work done, or tax work, or house work, or church work, or well, you get the point.
I felt guilty about things I didn't even do wrong, thanks to a few rather harsh critics.

But as if those weren't enough, I even gave myself grief about small, inconsequential blog things:
...not blogging twice a week, then once a week, then once a month.
...writing anything that didn't relate to my blog's sewing and quilting focus.
...writing a blog posting without imagery to accompany it.
...not having time to compose lengthy, illustrated tutorials.
...sewing something for sheer enjoyment without stopping to wait for the right afternoon light to take pictures of the project in-progress.  (Shock!  Horror!)

Eventually, I didn't want to do anything at all, because nothing I could ever do would keep me from being overwhelmed, and therefore, I couldn't shut out the guilt.

And so, as we move well into 2014, I'm going to make a few resolutions:

1.  I'm letting myself off the hook.  It's not okay to wallow or be indefinitely paralyzed by stress and guilt, but it is occasionally okay to have a movie day, a sad day, a lazy day, an eat-all-the-chocolate-and-potato-chips-you-want day, a curl-up-under-an-OliviaFurryBlanket day, a sleep-through-the-rain day or all of the above at once.  There's no more room for guilt when it comes to the arts that have previously brought me comfort-bliss. 

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tutorial Part 2: Upcycled Finds into Wild Kratts Costumes for Less Than $35

Time to finish up those Wild Kratts costumes!   When I left off, the vests were pretty plain.  Time for some embellishment...

I started by buying t-shirts in the right colors from the thrift store and cutting pieces from them.  No exact measurements -- I just eye-balled what would work for the size of the vest.  I used Mod Podge Fabric to glue them in place.  I know this picture shows all this stuff positioned on my cutting mat, but you do NOT want to do your gluing on a mat like this.  Stick to a counter or some other surface that you can wipe or scrape clean.

Friday, November 08, 2013

My Mother's Scent

Today is Momma's birthday, and so I can't help but find myself combing through old photos and thinking of her.  That happens more often than I'd like to admit.  No special occasion required, really.  But today will be a closet day.

In my mother’s closet there is a long-sleeved t-shirt covered with gold and silver beads.  The beading takes the form of a deer surrounded by snowflakes.  A Christmas shirt.  For this time of year she loved so much.  She had acquired many Christmas blouses over the years, but the whirls and twirls of this one, in particular, are dear to me.  Special.  So special that it’s buried under a pile of clothing for protection.

Christmas at my sister's house maybe three, four years ago?
No telling what kind of snow-scene was on the vest she was wearing...
I love this picture.  She still looked like herself.  And happy!

When my mother departed this world eight months ago, her entire room in my home smelled of her.  After a couple of days, it was just her closet.  Now, it’s that single blouse...barely.