14 August 2014

Pleated Pencil Skirt: A Delia Pattern Review

Have you seen it, have you seen it?!  The pencil skirt of all pencil skirts.  That clever Delia has come up with THE pencil skirt pattern!  Look no further.  Are you convinced yet?  Or should I keep asking questions and punctuating with exclamation marks?!
Even if you have a hard time with sizing, Delia explains it all.  In fact, my waist is 2 sizes bigger than my hip size, a very decent reason to shy away from form fitted.  Basically, I'm a rectangle with hair and have never been very good friends with pencil skirts.  

Delia shows you how to make those differing sizes become one.  I merged those two numbers to make a number I would wear anywhere. (Say that 10 times fast.)  Also, she poses so much better for the camera than I can ever dream to.  I either look evil or eviler.  ;)
Despite the weather (this was the last 20 minutes of decent light and the clouds were hogging the sun) and my photographer (I won't name names) being uncooperative, I think you get the gist that I'm in love with my new skirt.  I love the taper toward the knees and the cute little kick pleat in the back that is cleverly created.
And not only is it a simple, quick sew (even with it being fully lined!), Delia has all sorts of variations.  The only thing I changed up was making the waistband a different color for a bit of pop, but now that I've got one under my belt (pun intended), I am dreaming of a whole closet of fits-me-just-right skirts.  Ryan's half of the closet might be feeling a little crowding once I get through.  You need this pencil in your life. 
Mwahahaha! Because that's my evil laugh to go with my photo.

26 July 2014

Kaftan Coverup Critique

One of the best things about sewing is that nobody has the same article of clothing anywhere.  I recently bought a cheap little coverup because I was lazy.  It was a week later when I saw someone else wearing the same thing.  Really, it's not that big of a deal, but I wanted to burn my cheap coverup and crawl into a hole.  It was probably the same week when Toni, of Make it Perfect, asked if I would review her Shearwater Kaftan pattern.

Perfect timing!  And she also a children's version, to which Olive was the recipient.
I didn't make any adjustments other than two small ones.  I thought it might be fun to have a little color peeking out from the facing. THEN I thought it would be even better if the facing was on the front. Now you know how I work.  I just make things up as a I go along, usually without a specific plan. ;) I modified the shape of the facing to mimic the pattern of my fabric (a batik which I think came from fabric.com) and added a bit of interfacing.
Mark the center where you will be sewing and pin the RIGHT side of the facing to the WRONG side of the fabric.  When I flipped it to the right side after sewing, I liked how the facing pulled a bit of the shirt fabric to look like piping, so I left it that way.
To finish it off, I did a satin stitch.  To finish it even more, I did a triple stitch (not shown here, but it's the stitch where the machine takes two stitches forward and then to backward and two forward again).  I also added some bands to the sleeves because I have monkey arms and they were too short. The fit is very generous and SO comfortable.
Olive's favorite color is yellow, so I did her facing in a bright yellow, the batik fabric also came from fabric.com.
They would also be cute with jeans or leggings (or jeggings! ;)  Or you could lengthen it for a fun summer dress.
Toni has all sorts of patterns that you'll want to check out. Oh.  And today I'm halfway to 70 years old. I bought myself a cheap hat, expensive perfume and a fake leather skirt. Wahoo!

30 June 2014

Vivienne Pattern Review & Giveaway!

I love saying yes to trying out new women's patterns because it forces me to sew for myself.  My-asymetrical-not-entirely-content-with-my-body-self.  (Is anyone ever entirely content with one's body?) Because sometimes we need to be forced to do good (hard) things.  So when the girls of Violette Field Threads asked if I'd try out their Vivienne skirt and blouse, I agreed. 

We've all seen the cute girl's pattern, and enough moms out there understandingly wanted it for themselves!
Basically, it's two skirts: one simple gathered skirt with rows of ruffles, and one overskirt that just wraps around.  The shirt pattern (not the one pictured above) is loosely shaped with buttons up (or would you say down?) the back, which makes it a bit difficult to get dressed by yourself, but it's always fun to feel pampered and maybe a bit nostalgic to have your loved one fasten you up. ;) And I'm always up for a challenge.
I made several minor alterations that I'll share, some very visible, some not so much. I wanted to make something that I feel comfortable and confident in and that I'll wear frequently, but you can, of course, sew this straight up and get great results:
 I added 2 additional darts (there are already two bust darts and I added two princess seam darts, you could also add a couple to the back as well) to the front of the shirt and took in the sides to make it fitted.  Blouse-y doesn't look good on me, so I felt much better about the more tailored look.
 I took the gathers out of the sleeves because I have very broad shoulders to begin with that any added poof makes me look more like a football player.
 I lengthened the underskirt by several inches (maybe 7?) and lengthened the overskirt by a few, so if you sew it up as is, the overskirt covers more of the ruffles than mine does.
 Instead of a casing for the waist, I used a thick ruffled elastic for the waistband.  Speaking of elastic, don't you love that it's ruffled?! I got it from my favorite ruffle fabric store.  I like to drool at all their amazing elastic (not to mention fabric!)  They even have aztec elastic! I know!
 I didn't do buttons on the overskirt for the closure.  The buttons are definitely a cute feature, but I was messing around with it and thought about tying it.  It's just long enough that you can tie it in a knot and since it's double-sided, it shows a peek of the lining fabric when you do. Fun!
The neckline is very sweet and flattering.  I considered adding a collar, but then decided to just make the appearance of a color with some tiny black lace.  
One of the great things about this is you can mix each piece up.  The shirt would be great with pants, you can wear the underskirt alone, you can tie the overskirt around some jeans or leggings.
All very versatile!
Over the years of making clothes for 6 girls (yes, I'm counting myself, too!) I've ruffled (more than) my fair share of ruffles.  I've figured a few things out, but I always learn something new. Some pointers for ruffling on this project:
 It's very helpful if you use a fabric that can rip easily to rip the strips of fabric.
 To hem the bottom of the strips, invest in a rolled hem foot for your sewing machine.  What this means is you don't have to spend hours and hours ironing the edge up once and then twice and then sewing.  It does it all at the same time.  Trust me.  You will thank me.
 To finish the top portion of the strips, use the rolled hem stitch on your serger. This just zips through your machine, nicely finishing the edges. You could also do a satin stitch on your sewing machine, but it would take longer.
 I used my ruffling foot to gather the strips.  Set it to the longest stitch length (5mm) which will prevent it from gathering too much.
For the "collar" I basted the edges of the lace so I could get it to curve.  Easy peasy.
(My knotty view from up here :)
It's become a game now, that my kids ask where I'm going to put "no big dill".  I went bigger than usual on this. ;) I would have written it in Chinese, but it's a little rusty.

It's hard to tell in the photos is a light cotton with tiny greyish/bluish fuzzy dots.  They are so varied in size and intensity (I don't think it's intended) that I didn't think I'd ever use this fabric, but ripping it up into strips and ruffling them was the perfect use. ;)
I laughed to myself as I was putting it all together as this is such an eclectic mix with the asian print, the batik fabric with the feminine touches of ruffles and lace.  Perhaps that's one of the advantages of sewing until 5 in the morning?
So.  How about a giveaway?  A chance to win one of three sets of mommy & daughter Vivienne Patterns!  How fun is that! 
✚ Simply leave a comment!
✚ I will leave it open for a week and then choose and contact 3 winners.
✚ PLEASE include an email if your contact information isn't included in your profile link so you don't forfeit your chance to win.
✚ Hooray!! Thanks, Violette Field Threads! 

26 June 2014

Let's Sew Together: Giant Dollhouse Pillow

When I told Rubyellen I would love to review her new book, little did she know I would keep emailing her over and over (and over!) that I wasn't quite finished, and that I just needed to add a few more things to my house.  Oh!  Wait, now it needs a little book on top of the dresser!  Oh, wait!  I really should add a vase with a giant poppy on the table....
I get emails asking how to go about teaching a child to sew.  My first response is that it needs to be fun.  If you make them do a series of drab exercises in sewing a straight line, you're going to suck the sewing fun (and success, might I add) right out of their little bodies.  Something that we DO NOT want to happen.  

Just like starting them on a good machine will help, starting them on a good project that has little chance for failure will boost their wee sewing spirits to tackle something else until they are practicing on all sorts of projects before you know it.

Ruby's book is such a fantastic place to start.  The dollhouse is the most advanced project, so don't think they're all so involved.
Everything from slippers and banners to jewelry and clothes they draw, they are projects (featuring her adorable girls!) that are attainable for the entire family.
Those windows?  They're pockets.  I know.  A child's dream to have pockets ON pillows.  The perfect place for a toothfairy to leave a few coins in exchange for those sweet little teeth.
Clover designed the door herself.  She wanted a heart window.  She does have love in her middle. ;)
When I got to the interior, I started pulling out possible fabrics, trim, buttons, ribbon, feathers!
My sewing studio has (almost) never seen such a mess.  It was so fun.
I think my favorite part is the free-motion embroidered chairs.  I did them in a silver thread, but decided they needed more of a spotlight, so I added the black outline.  Now I'm on the hunt to find the real things for my table.  Hehe.
I just used a fabric pencil that comes out with water to draw the general design before using my free-motion foot to scribble in the lines.  (Just don't forget to drop your feed dogs!) (and then raise them again when you're finished ;) (Do we just need a tutorial?) (Okay.)
This little house has a story with each detail.  The rug is part of Ryan's belt that he cut off because it was too long.  I told him I wanted the scrap.  He gave me a quizzical look, but didn't ask questions because he's known me long enough to know that I don't know until I know.  And now I know.  It needed to become a rug on a giant dollhouse pillow. The black buttons (above on the couch) I purchased in New York at the most peculiar shop.  We call it the Debris Store because you're literally walking on beads and bits through narrow passages made by stacks and stacks of boxes full of you-never-know-what-until-you-rummage-through.  I found a bag of these buttons and, you guessed it, I needed them.
I also pulled out my ebay vintage glass buttons still on the old cards, worn with years.  Somebody has to finally use them, right?
The little mouse who is strategically covering a little spot...because I sew in a house full of curious little hands.
One of my Christmas ornaments with a scalloped hem, reincarnated.  I used to sell these back in the day when every little penny counted while Ryan was in graduate school.
And a silver mirror over the dresser with the tiniest buttons that were waiting to be debuted as tiny knobs.  The tiny book on top?  Well, that's just no big dill.  I can now say I've written a book. ;)  I could have continued adding details, but Ryan finally said I just needed to finish and blog it.  So, while there is room for a tiny painting and pair of high heels, the dollhouse is finished.  For now.  And then there's the possibility of doing a house for each season, snow capped roof, spring blossoms, fall leaves with a rake leaning against the house.  A row of rainboots...see?  Thank you Ruby for the absolute fun I had with one of your Let's Sew Together projects.  It's a fun book, guys.  A birthday gift for your little crafter?  Something to do during the summer hours.
And one more thing.  Want a chance to have this in your own house?  Despite pleas from lots of little girls who wanted this for their bed, I am raffling it off to help raise money for my sister's family.  (See previous post.) All you have to do is contribute any amount of money you are able and your name will be entered into a raffle for this pillow!  Every little bit helps!  Thank you to those who have already contributed, your name will be entered automatically, too (even if you're anonymous). :) Go here!

25 June 2014

Mary Deane's Life!

It was a week full of multiple ambulance rides, 2 scheduled surgeries (for a baby and a 5 year-old), two emergency surgeries, several ambulance rides, and 50% blood loss for one (not to mention the scare to all those who love them deeply).  But let me back up to several months ago.
Last year I left my own six children in capable hands to travel up to Virginia.  My baby sister, Ann, had her third baby and I wanted to be there, to help and play with her other kids, and make dinners, and clean, the things women do for other women when we bring new life into the world.  So, I overlapped my time there with my mom's (because we like to play, too). 
But, let us back up even more, to about 5 and a half years earlier.
Ann's firstborn is Mary Deane, the namesake of our maternal grandmother, lover of high heels and all things blue.  Mary Deane was born with Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic condition that wasn't routinely tested for at the time, but now is mandatory in 37 states.  A condition that shortens the life span of it's victim.
But, let us wind the clock back even further.  Let's say 20 some odd years when Ann was a child.  Ann was the meticulous type of child that liked to know all the facts.  Not just the pertinent ones, the superfluous ones as well.  When a medication was administered for whatever ailment, even a relatively benign one, Ann was the type to not only read every word on the back of the bottle, she would pull out the elephantine pamphlet with it's abundant mapfolds, smooth it out over the counter, hunch over, and read every warning and caution, quite possibly also in all 10 languages.
It drove my parents nuts, that she just wouldn't accept their word that what they were giving her to swallow was okay(!).  She needed to find out for herself and sometimes emphatically inform them that she could have a seizure, or paralysis, or even die!  Little did any of us know that she was given the tenacity and the persistence that she would need for her own children.
When Mary Deane was born, Ann knew, as a mother usually does, even when "they" discount your feelings, that something was not right.  She went to pediatrician after pediatrician until finally, one actually listened.  One who asked questions that might not come up in a normal exam such as skin saltiness.  This doctor listened and suggested they test for Cystic Fibrosis.  
Ann and Brendon are both carriers of the gene, unknown at the time, and have a one in four chance having a child with CF, a 50% chance of having one as a carrier, and a one in four chance with no CF gene at all.  That there is my 9th grade biology manifest, thank you very much. ;)
"1 in 3,700 children are born with CF.  Cystic Fibrosis (CF) is a lifelong, hereditary disease that causes  thick, sticky mucus to form in the lungs, pancreas, and other organs. In the lungs, this mucus blocks the airways, causing lung damage, making it hard to breathe, and leading to serious lung infections . In the pancreas, it clogs the pathways leading to the digestive system, interfering with proper digestion. In 90 percent of cystic fibrosis cases, the airways are affected. In the 1950s, few people with CF lived to go to elementary school. In 1985, the median survival age was about 25 years. In 2007, the predicted survival age was 37.4 years. Thanks to dedicated researchers and earlier diagnosis, the age of survival for patients with CF continues to increase" source  
When I stayed with Ann, she taught me what needs to be done for Mary Deane when she is feeling well, including medications, nebulizer treatments, the vibrating vest (I'm sure there's a more technical lingo) that loosens the mucus in her lungs, and then the enzymes that are essential for her to have before food to help her absorb fat, both administered through her G-tube.  It's such a feeling of awe to feed someone and watch the food go directly into their stomach all the while watching cartoons on the computer without so much as a glance in my direction.
Ann said to me one day, "you and mom are the only ones who really understand what we go through each day."  Because it has to be learned, and you can't just run out the door for a fun outing because everything is revolved around getting each medication and procedure done at the right time.  It is about milking every day of her life, as much as possible.
Ann and Brendon went on to have sweet Clark, a nod to my mother's maiden name, who is blissfully CF-free.  The "easy" one.  And I have never seen siblings who play together more peacefully and kindly as these two do, because they are best friends.
Then came Hyrum who was thought to have CF because a mass on his lungs was found inutero.  But, it turned out to be unrelated to Cystic Fibrosis, though worrisome nonetheless.
And now we are close to present time.  Mary Deane had a surgery scheduled to enlarge her sinuses and remove her adnoids, and was supposed to be quick, easy, and simple.  That was going to be the smooth surgery.  Hyrum had a surgery scheduled for days later to remove a portion of his lung that was several hours long.  
My mom flew in, once again, to be there to help.  Mary Deane had her surgery and all was thought to be fine.  She returned home for recovery.  Days later Ann and Brendon took Hyrum in for his surgery.  Meanwhile, Mary Deane began throwing up blood profusely and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance followed by an emergency surgery to stop the bleeding.
Over the course of the next week, Ann and Brendon were torn over which hospital room to be in, which child to hold, and wondering what was happening. 
There was another emergency surgery for Mary Deane, more ambulance rides, and at one point, she had only 50% of her blood keeping her alive.  All week long texts were dinging between family members, and asking for prayers and offering prayers.  So many prayers, and so many questions, and faith being tested to what felt like the very capacity.
At one point Ann asked my mom in the hospital room if she thought Mary Deane was going to live.  My mom responded that she had, up to this point, tried to hard to be positive, but just wasn't sure anymore.
Ann said that she was willing to give Mary Deane back to God if it meant that her suffering would end.
But she never let her faith waver that all was in His hands.  We all watched her with her tenacity and her persistence in her belief that there were things to learn in this trial and that she did not doubt God's path and knowledge of Mary Deane's sweet life.
Hyrum's surgery went so smoothly.  His body adjusted and his lungs did just what they were supposed to do.
Mary Deane, being the feisty soul she is, finally got her smile back, which meant her body was not giving in.
Her one request was to see grandma in her bathing suit.  Haha!  
Clark had been scooped up by grandma and cared for in the midst of all the chaos.
While I was there, Ann told me of an experimental medication that was just getting ready to be put on the market, it doesn't cure, but greatly helps those with CF. There are several types of CF and it happened to be for the type that Mary Deane has.
But it isn't released until September.  And you have to be 6 to take it.
Guess who turns 6 in September?
If you want to help with medical expenses, I've set up an account where you can donate any amount here. And if you want to read Ann's incredible blog post about this experience, go here.