Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Crayon mania

I decided to make E a drawing case for an upcoming trip. I figured the novelty of it would keep her fairly occupied on the plane - hopefully for longer than 10 minutes. Being somewhat of a cheapskate, I decided to try and draft my own pattern rather than buy one, but then a friend ended up loaning me her pattern. Unfortunately, I'd already cut most of the pieces according to my own measurements, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover they actually weren't all that far off from those in the pattern. So after a few adjustments and a little bit of re-cutting, here's the finished product!

IMG_10616 by you.

IMG_10614 by you.

I have to say, while there were some good ideas in the store-bought pattern, I think that I could definitely improve on it. I'm definitely going to give it another try when I get back. The bad news was that I ended up wasting quite a bit of the pretty (and not cheap) butterfly print fabric. I did, however, manage to save enough to make a crayon roll.

IMG_10620 by you.

The inside:
IMG_10619 by you.

And while I was cutting the fabric for that one, I decided to go ahead and cut a whole bunch more. I have a ton of ladybug fabric leftover from the nap mat I made last year, so when I came across some fat quarters in the sale bin that had a coordinating red & black polka dot print, I knew they'd make super cute crayon rolls. I'm hoping to sell some to try and recoup some of my fabric purchases of late. These are actually quite fun to make once you have them all cut and ready to go (cutting has always been my least favorite step), not to mention a great way to use up leftover fabric.

IMG_10623 by you.

I'll also note that while the original crayon roll I made for E was based on a couple of the tutorials I've found online, these are modified to be a bit more to my liking. I also made them padded by lining them with fusible fleece. It makes them a little bit bulkier, but they also feel sturdier. Get ready to be bombarded with lots of crayon rolls over the next month or so!

Friday, July 24, 2009


Here are a couple outfits I started about 3 months ago and finally finished up this week. One was easy, but I just lazy about finishing a step that required a serger, and the other seemed easy until I hit a major stumbling block and then gave up out of frustration.

First up is my very first Ottobre pattern! For those that don't know what I'm talking about, Ottobre is a cool pattern magazine from Finland. They have a couple different editions, and a few months back I signed up for a subscription to the kids' version (in English, of course). They print all the patterns on a couple big sheets, overlapping in different colors, so it makes your head spin to look at and trace them, but once they're traced and cut they're not all that hard. Or at least, the one I picked was not.

I picked this dress in particular, partly because it was cute and also because I knew it'd be easy. It's essentially a glorified pillowcase dress. I loved the addition of the little ruffle-y "sleeves" which are really just two petal-shaped pieces that are threaded onto a ribbon between the front and back pieces.

For those that are thinking of trying out this magazine, I'll warn you, the patterns do NOT include the seam allowance. I didn't realize this until after I'd already traced and cut my pieces. But because this is such a simple design, it was pretty forgiving and didn't make too big a difference - the arm holes are bigger than they should be and it's overall probably 2-3 inches shorter than I'd like as well. But as I mentioned before, I started this several months ago, and E has since grown at least an inch or two, which contributes all the more to the shortness.

Here's a pic of E modeling it (excuse the milk mustache).

Next up is the PortabelloPixie reversible jumper (from the Gracie pattern) that I also started like, 3 months ago. After being pleasantly surprised by how easy the Claire peasant dress/top was, I thought this would also be a piece of cake. Oh, how wrong I was!

The pattern seemed straightforward enough until I reached the neck yoke, which I could not figure out to save my life. I read the directions over and over again and studied the diagrams till my eyes crossed, but I could not get it to line up or look remotely right. I even asked a couple friends who are much more experienced seamstresses, and they were also confused by the directions. Finally, one of them suggested a method totally different from the pattern instructions that made more sense. Still, my frustration was such that I needed to put this project aside for a while.

I decided to come back to it last week, when I discovered it hiding under a pile of fabric as I was cleaning off my sewing table. Like I mentioned before, I'm trying really hard to clear out my backlog of projects before I start new ones and/or buy new fabric, so I figured it was about time I finished it up. Also, I realized that if I waited any longer, it would probably be too small for E to wear (she has had the most insane growth spurts lately), not to mention that summer is almost over.

Not to bore you with the details of how I ended up putting the neckpiece, but for anyone else out there who is attempting this pattern, here's what I did (everyone else skip to the next paragraph):
Instead of sandwiching the entire top between the upside-down neck yoke pieces, I separately sewed the yoke pieces wrong sides together and left spaces to insert the front and sides of the main body of the jumper. Then I turned it out and pressed it, making sure to fold the raw edges under, and then stuck the gathered top and the sides of the body inbetween. Then I topstitched the entire yoke piece to secure it. The big downside to doing the neck this way is that you're sort of flying blind with how the bottom side is going to line up. I ended up ripping a few sections and re-doing them more than once to get it to look right and I'm still not totally happy.

So let's just say that this way was still kind of a pain in the ass, but it got the job done. However, I was rather excited to finally use the buttonhole function on my machine for the very first time! Woohoo! I had no idea how easy it would be!

Here is the finished product. I didn't like the way the pocket looked, so I left it off.

I'm about 90% happy with it. The neck is still kind of a mess and I wish that I'd done a neater job topstitching overall, but honestly I'm more annoyed that what was billed as a reversible jumper is really not that reversible unless you sew buttons on both sides, which I think would be uncomfortable for a kid to wear. So I feel like I went to all this trouble to use the two fabrics and line up seams, and it was all for naught. Also, I don't know why it has you turn the jumper right sides out and topstitch before sewing the bottom hem together. Seems like a waste since you end up having to turn both sides in and sew it at the end.

Here's a shot of the back.

Still, I guess it is pretty cute and I did get a lot of compliments on it when E wore it out today, so I can't complain too much. It's just not the best written pattern, in my opinion, and if I ever make it again, I'll likely ignore the instructions.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

A new "packback" for E

IMG_10555 by you.

Despite saying I wasn't going to, I suddenly decided this week that I wanted to make a backpack for E after all. We're going on another trip soon, and I really wanted her to be able to carry her own books and toys. Plus, I know she loves "packbacks," as she calls them, and the monster one I made before just doesn't cut it for anything beyond home play - it really needs a velcro closure.

I've long admired the Dante Beatrix backpacks, but I couldn't ever bring myself to spend that much money on a toddler backpack, so I decided to make my own version after a friend turned me on to a pattern from Etsy. Believe it or not, except for some notions (zipper, piping, and D-rings), I bought nothing for this! All the fabric used was from my stash, as well as the nylon webbing and ribbon.

I'll be honest. This was not that easy to make. Matching the front & back panels up to the sides & bottom was difficult (especially the bottom), and I spent a fair amount of time ripping seams and re-sewing to make it fit together right. And just after I took these photos, I realized I had a big mistake at the bottom back edge and I think I'm going to have to spend a couple hours ripping the seams that I super-reinforced to fix it. *sigh*

I'm not super happy with the straps though; not sure if I misunderstood the directions or what, but I don't really get why the bottom ones are so long. I may go back and shorten them once E tries it on and I get a feel for how long they need to be. I'll also note that I have an absolute TON of this ugly nylon webbing, which is why it keeps turning up, usually sadly dressed up with some ribbon. It's hard to find webbing in fun colors, and I sort of regret being lazy and not making both straps now.

IMG_10556 by you.

I used some leftover home decor fabric from the Everything Bag. It's fairly stiff and holds its shape ok, but if I do make this again, I'm definitely going to add a layer of interfacing. I love the piping. It gives the bag a very finished, store-bought look, so even though it was a pain to deal with (I had to use a zipper foot to sew the bag together), I think it was worth it.

But the bag is more or les) done in plenty of time for our trip (I learned my lesson after the 4th of July top) and looks vaguely like the original that I aspired to. Here's a close-up of the bunny applique. He's made from some fuzzy furry material I had bought to "pimp" E's cozy coupe into a panda. His carrot is made of wool felt and the eyes are purple buttons. I'm debating whether to add a little pink to his ears.

IMG_10557 by you.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009


Woohoo for an FO!

Since I couldn't bring my sewing machine on my recent vacation, I was forced to limit myself to buying fabric and crocheting. Despite having about a 101 unfinished projects already, I decided to go ahead and start a new one. Today I finally finished it: an amigurumi sheep from
this pattern for one of E's little friends who happens to be obsessed with sheep. He ended up a bit bigger than I had anticipated, and I'm not 100% happy with how I did his face (I think white on black may have been a mistake), but overall I think he's pretty cute.

In case you're wondering, I used one strand of regular old acrylic yarn and one strand of nylon eyelash yarn (some Lion Brand "Tiffany" that I found in a clearance bin for $1!) to make him fuzzy.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Toddler pillow

toddler pillow
I threw together a little quickie project for E while she was in her bath tonight.

Ikea ANJA pillowE loves having pillows for her "big girl bed," so we picked up this $2 pillow from Ikea a couple months back. It's the perfect size for her toddler bed. At the time, I didn't realize it was going to become her actual pillow that she uses every night. She also likes to drag it all over the house. I decided to make a little pillow case for it so it would be easier to keep clean. Also, being a cheap $2 Ikea pillow, some of the red & black dyes have bled, so it's not looking so pretty anymore.

I decided to do an overlapping envelope-style for the back, just to keep the pillow from falling out too easily.

In case you're curious, a little backstory on the fabric I used:
Those of you with kids will probably immediately recognize the print as the children from Eric Carle's Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? Apparently, you can buy Eric Carle fabric. E spotted a fat quarter with the children on it when we were in a fabric store last month and went crazy for it. After she dragged it all over the store and even put it in her mouth, I felt compelled to buy it. Hrmph. But she really seemed to love it and has been playing with it, using it as a doll blanket, among other things, and she refers to it as "my fabric."

I wasn't sure what I was going to do with her fabric until last week, when she spotted another Eric Carle print, this time from The Very Hungry Caterpiller (she refers to it as "the balls). I figured what the heck and bought it too.

It actually me longer to figure out the math on how I needed to cut the pieces than it did to sew the pillowcase. But for anyone interested in making one for this specific pillow, here's what I did:
I cut one 18"x12" piece for the front of the pillow.

For the back, I wanted to cut two 11"x12" pieces, but I ran into a minor problem. Fat quarters are generally around 18"x22" and once you wash them (I almost always pre-wash), you lose a bit to shrinkage. So I fudged a bit and ended up with two 10 1/2"x12" pieces instead.(*see note below)

Take one of the back pieces and on the 12" edge, turn it about 1/2 inch and press, then turn another 1/2 inch and press again. I used to be lazy and skip using an iron (I'd just finger-press), but I got tired of wonky seams and edges so I'm now an ironing-convert. Sew down the turned edge (I used a 3/8" seam because that's what I get when I line the edge of the fabric up with my presser foot). Repeat for the other back piece.

Then I laid the large front panel on my table right-side up and lined up the two back pieces on top of it, right-sides down, so that the outer edges lined up and they overlapped in the middle. Pin all around. I also put a couple pins in the middle of the overlap, just to keep it all straight.

Sew around the entire edge (again, I used a 3/8" seam, but 1/4" would be fine too). Clip the corners and turn out. I reinforced my seams with an overcast stitch, but you don't necessarily have to do that.

*Honestly, 10 1/2 inches was really cutting it close, and if you have a particularly fluffy pillow, you may end up with some gapping at the overlap. If I make another, I'll probably cut 12"x12" pieces, just to be safe. Unfortunately, that rules out using fat quarters unless you have an extra. Or alternatively, when you press down the edges, you could make the turns much smaller, like 1/4" or even 1/8".

Saturday, July 11, 2009

A new pledge (or subtitled: yes, I really do need an intervention)

I am going on the fabric wagon. For real.

Here's my new pledge. I am not buying a single scrap of fabric until I get rid of some of what I have. I have easily 2o sewing projects in my queue right now (don't even get me started on the dozens of unfinished/unstarted knitting & crochet projects), mostly for other people, and until I knock out a significant number of them, I am not buying another bit of fabric. Seriously. I'm counting on you people to hold me accountable.

Just to give you a taste of how crazy things have gotten, here are some pics of recent fabric acquisitions. Never mind that my craft room is already packed to the gills with bins and shelves and bags of fabric.

Top two are Japanese prints that I got for reasonably cheap from a website that was going out of business. The bottom two are Michael Miller prints that I got on sale about 3 weeks ago. I hadn't intended on getting very much until E looked at them and demanded that I make her a new nap mat. So I guess I'm making her a new nap mat for this fall. Whatevs.

Robot fabric!! Need I say more?

Random cute fabric. Had to take advantage of being in Iowa last week to pick up some licensed fabric from the local Jo-Ann. And who doesn't love owls? And sushi?

And here's a big bunch of fat quarters, most of which I got on sale yesterday. I'm planning on churning out a ton of crayon rolls and maybe some drawing cases or bags too. In fact, I'm thinking I may try and sell a bunch to fund my habit. I'm happy to take special requests. ;)

Maybe when I'm feeling less embarrassed, I'll post some more of my gigantor stash. Or better yet, maybe I'll be able to post it as FOs!

I'm really in trouble now...

I think I've been bitten by the quilting bug. I don't quite know how it happened. I always swore that I had no interest in quilting, that the idea of cutting and sewing all those small pieces would surely drive me insane. And yet...

OK, so I did make a little quilt for E. That was sort of the start of it. I never knew that you could buy pre-cut squares of fabric (called charm packs)! So when I came across them at this amazing fabric store a few months ago, I thought, how hard could it be? Half the work is cutting, and that's been eliminated! That was the the beginning of the end. I actually finished the crib-size quilt in (for me) a reasonably quick mannger, even though the actual machine quilting was such a pain that I swore I'd never make another one.

Then a few weeks ago, I came across a "layer cake," which is big 10" squares, in this adorable set of Christmas prints and at almost half off! How could I resist? I thought, "This would make a wonderful Christmas gift for a family member." I resolved to pay someone else to do the quilting with a long-arm machine, since that was the part I most disliked. And that's where I got totally sucked in.

I started thinking to myself, well, just sewing these giant squares together is sort of boring. Maybe I should try and do a slightly more complicated pattern. So I started looking online at patterns and tutorials. And then I wandered into another cool local fabric shop with the idea that I'd at least pick up coordinating fabric for the backing and binding, and pretty much all was lost. I came out of there with a pattern, a ridiculous number of fat quarters (I'll save my stash issues for another post), a million ideas for new projects, and neither backing nor binding fabric. Eep.

So now I'm waffling on whether to actually use the pattern I bought or to save it for some future new quilt (because I'm realizing there WILL be more quilts in my future). And I've realized from the yardage requirements on the pattern I bought that I don't have quite enough to make as a big a quilt as I had originally intended, so I've started debating whether I should try and find another layer cake, or maybe get some yardage and do more borders...and it just gets crazier and crazier. My initial savings of $20 is probably going to end up costing me hundreds.

Although I'm happy to say, at least I'm taking others down with me; I think I've managed to suck a few friends into my new quilting mania. Haha!


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