Monthly Archives

January 2013

Sewing Past, Present, and Future

This week I have been working on putting together a family photo album.  An entire year of snapshots.  It is one of those projects that sounds easy, but hours and hours later, I still haven’t finished it.  I made one last year, and even though the photo quality is pretty bad, I love it.  I love that it is something tangible, something to be held and passed around by visiting friends and family.  This year I did a little internet research and chose My Publisher after seeing it recommended from two photography-loving Mamas.  So far, so good, but I’ll do an update when it is actually finished and in my hands.

When sifting through the hundreds and hundreds of photos I took last year, I came across my very first sewing projects.  At the time I had just borrowed my Mom’s sewing machine to see if I wanted to buy one myself.  Then mother’s day came around, and apparently Amazon sees those as a suitable Mother’s Day gift because they had them all on sale.  And I am not one to argue with Amazon, so I bought my own.

Although I am still very-much a new sewer (I have yet to attempt a closure of any kind!), those photographs from last year reminded me of how much I didn’t know.  Having to change a bobbin mid-project used to make me want to cry because it seemed so overly complicated.  I would thread the machine and cross my fingers that the bobbin-thread would properly catch.  I didn’t have a manual, and watched the same you tube video a dozen times to make sure I was doing everything just right.  Of course I’m still annoyed when my bobbin thread runs out, but not in that verge of tears kind of way.  The process reminds me of learning to tie your shoes.

Here was my very first project, after seeing my first sewing tutorial and visiting my first sewing blog.

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It was the circle skirt from MADE, and her tutorials catered to the most basic beginner and so I felt like I might actually be able to follow along.  I don’t know why that one seemed the easiest, I definitely prefer a little gathered skirt now, but this is where I started. It was perfect for spinning, and this is the only decent photo in my stash, but see how I didn’t even know to turn the hem twice to encase the raw edges?  I guess I ignored that part.  Good thing, because I remember hemming this circle hem was….ahhhh…not fun.

Round two was the best of the bunch.  This time it was a gathered skirt, and went much more smoothly.  I loved the circles for ease of cutting straight lines.  The fabric was also NOT quilting cotton, so I’m sure that helped.  This skirt was the only one that made it into regular wearing rotation, and I loved seeing her wear it.

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Round three was another circle skirt in a quilting cotton.   Quilting cotton that didn’t translate well to clothing, even though I loved the pattern.   Also, it was a little short.  Probably was worn twice.  And I still am not quite sure  what I did, but I didn’t even cut the fabric properly, so instead of one big doughnut,  I had a no less than four pieces.  Um, whoops.  Spacial awareness is not my strong suit.

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 Next up, I made some baby blankets.  I remember it took me forever to cut out the fabric, and then I sewed one of them right-side to wrong-side and had to take it all apart.   These definitely took me much longer than last weeks baby blanket.  I also sewed a bunch of burp cloths, but I guess I never took any pictures of those.

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Then I tried a little applique.  She wore this quite a bit, I loved the little fawn.

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Then came one for the big girl.  I used a Hanes t-shirt that I altered a bit so it didn’t look like a box.  I have a feeling this phase may already be over, but she wore this shirt and two of those skirts all last summer.  If I made it, she wanted to wear it.  So sweet.  I also made the little skirt, another circle version.  These three projects were my first experience with knit fabric and I learned that a ball point needle was a must.

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Then came this dress, and a huge turning point in how I felt about sewing.  The tutorial had just the lessons I needed, with little tips to help me on my way.   I still love this pattern, and plan on making it again.  Maybe even trying to work it out in my size.

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Next I made a blanket for my daughter to bring for Kindergarten nap-time when school started.  It was my first quilting attempt, salvaged from her old crib bumper.  She still has the blanket from this set, and it is her favorite.  She calls it ‘cold blanky’ because the cotton stays cool, like when you flip your pillow over in the middle of summer.  The batting was an old fleece blanket, and the backing was an old sheet, but it didn’t compare with the original and it never made its way to school.   It is currently well-loved and resides in my toddler’s crib.  I loved that I found away to reuse all this fabric!

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Then I graduated up to purchasing and sewing my very first pattern.  It was Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee, and I am SO happy I did.  It is like being mentored through the whole process.  I made one shirt in purple that I never photographed, and then turned it into a dress.  I think part of being new to sewing means you aren’t afraid to just try something new.  Looking back, I really didn’t know what I was doing, but it worked!  The knit was a pain to sew with, it was really thin and stretchy and the ribbing for the cuffs and hem were even worse.  I wound up doing some internet research and sewing it with a piece of paper on top to stabilize it.  I have heard terms like ‘stabilizer’ and tear-away stabilizer,’ so apparently there are real versions you can buy, but paper works, too.  And doesn’t require a two-hour round trip to acquire.  Rae actually put this picture on her blog when doing a skinny-t round up, and I was incredibly thrilled.  Like groupie/rockstar kind of thrilled.

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Next up, were onesies with tutu’s.  This was the first time I didn’t follow a tutorial or pattern to make something and it took me hours to figure out just how I wanted to do the tutu and attach it.  Then I spent hours changing it, only to find I preferred the original version.  She looked so sweet in this!  DSC_0097 (Large)

Then, a few items I sent with a friend to sell at a fund-raiser event.  It was right before Christmas, if you can’t tell.

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This next one isn’t sewing, but a little freezer paper screen printing.  Pink.  Sparkly.  Unicorns.  ‘Nough said.  This has washed much better than I had expected, which is always great.  I had bought my daughter quite a bit of gray clothing to mix into her wardrobe, and she apparently, really, really doe not like gray.  So this was a peace offering.

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And…the last sewing project was this little dolly.  Of course I made it with the intention of it being loved by one of my little girls, but the big one discovered American Girl Dolls this Christmas, and the other one has created a deep bond with a large, stuffed replica of The Grinch.

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And that’s all she wrote, er, sewed.  The next project is already chronicled in this space.   It is fun to look back and remember what it felt like to learn and sew the techniques each of these projects involved.  I don’t always realize how much I’ve already learned when there is so much to learn.

I have a few broad goals for this year, and a few very specific ones in the near future (closures!).  My main hope is to make a few more items for the kids while they are so thrilled with having items made just for them.  My little guy has requested everything from shirts, to blankets, to underwear.

Well then, I guess Mama better get sewing!

Women’s Shirt to Toddler Dress

Wow, I’m pretty sure  that this title is the first time I’ve referred to my baby as a toddler.  Sigh.

Anyway, on to this week’s new sewing challenge!  Over the weekend, I went with a friend to do some out-of-town errands.  Which, when you live in the Adirondacks, means driving an hour-and-a-half for a doctor’s appointment.   But there was a Chipotle and a Target next door, so that was a bonus.

I also had to pop in an Old Navy for some returns.  Target had been full of clearanced clothing items, so I browsed around Old Navy to see if I could find some fun knit fabric to use for a sewing project.  While there, I saw this dress.sweater
I loved the preppy vibe, and those stripes.

Then I found a blue and white striped sweater-type-shirt on clearance for $3.99, and I decided to take it home and  see what I could do.  I remembered this tutorial from MADE where Dana tutorialed how to turn a big sweater into a little one.


After tracing a dress that fit my daughter pretty well, I cut out the dress and then the sleeves.  I was nervous about getting the sleeve shape right, and it was the first time I sewed them set-in style, but it seemed to work so I’ll roll with it.  Then I removed the neck binding and sewed it on my new little dress.  This went…mmm….okay.  I’ve bound a neckline with knit before (for this dress), but never when the neck is already a circle.  If anyone has some tips and tricks for this, I’d love to hear them!

I didn’t have to hem the bottom, since I used the shirts original hemline (love that!), so it was just a quick hem of the sleeves and I was done.  The dress was simple and cute as is, but I did love that red heart on the original dress, so I did a quick applique of simple felt.  I really loved the dress without any embellishment, and will probably see if I can take off the heart after Valentines Day.


And, the final verdict is…


Cute, but then again, she makes anything cute.  The heart was a bit kindergarten-cut-out, though.  I didn’t realize how big it was until it was on her little body.  So I cut it down a bit and sewed it back on, this time using a buttonhole stitch.



Oh yes, much better.  Right Lily?

Her strut says yes.

Leggings, versions 2-4

After seeing what a quick sew leggings can be, I made a few more pairs over the weekend.  I think I have a little problem.   Addiction, even.

I also completed my very first re-fashion, which adds an extra little thrill.  (I mean, as if sewing isn’t thrilling enough…)  First up, a fun striped pair that lived its first life as a dress.  I was just able to squeak out the full pattern (okay, maybe they are a bit short), and used the original hem, which I like.

Adirondack Inspired: Legging Re-fashion
Step 1: find fun fabric you already own
Adirondack Inspired: Legging Re-fashion
Step 2: trace pattern and cut
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Step 3: sew them together, use original hem to save a step.

The final step is to put them on your model and chase her around to take pictures.

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…and she’s done.

The next two pairs were made from leggings that I only wore during pregnancy.  My non-pregnant body prefers jeans and yoga pants.  It seemed fitting to re-fashion them for the baby who was in my belly when I wore them.  And, unlike the garage sale stash of BRIGHT knits that I have, these leggings were a nice, easy-on-the-eyes  gray and brown.

I also decided to try yoga waistbands for these last two.  I cut strips of fabric approximately 18″x4.5″ and then sewed the short sides together.  Then you fold the band in half length wise so one side is the fold and the other side has two raw edges.  You put the band right sides together with the leggings, lining up the 3 raw edges and sew.  I just kind of winged it, and while they work, they are extremely high wasted and a little loose on her belly.  When the mood strikes I will cut the waistbands off and re-sew.  It will be a gratifying project for another day.

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I have to say, I am loving this re-fashioning thing.  Those leggings were not going to be worn again by this mama, and certain parts (the, ahem, back part) were so stretched at the seems that I wouldn’t have given them away, so it was nice to see them transform into something cute!  Plus, it is hard to find knit in Joann’s that isn’t interlock, and the jersey was much nicer for the leggings.  I also scaled down the pattern a smidge, so they aren’t as loose as the striped pair.

And while I could make ten more, I was inspired this weekend for a new project.  It’s something I’ve never tried before, but–good, bad, or ugly–I’ll be sure to share.

Leggings v. 1.0

One of the earlier projects I had bookmarked to make were leggings.  They looked simple enough, and with two little girls in the house, are certainly in-demand enough to make them a worthy sewing endeavor.

But time went on, and not a single pair of leggings were to be made.  Other projects came first, and then I just stuck to what I knew.  I made the same knit dress three times, but in my defense, the tutorial came in the exact three ages I needed.  And look how sweet!  The incredibly detailed tutorial/sewing lesson can be found here.


But this was to be the beginning and end of my sewing with knits…until today.  I was organizing my sewing Pinterest board (what, you don’t do that?) and saw the sweet little leggings I had pinned months and months ago and knew today was the day to try it.  I felt a little under-the-weather (aka like crap), and certainly not up to tackling anything as strenuous as housework, so sewing it was. 

I looked up a few different tutorials, and decided on makeit-loveit’s, because it was only two pattern pieces.  What can I say, it sounded easier and I am all about the lazy.  I do want to try a couple more tutorials and do a little comparison, though.

So I laid out some knit fabric I picked up at a garage sale, and went to work tracing a pair of Old Navy leggings that fit my daughter well.  The fabric is some sort of jersey, and still smells like moth balls, but I’m hoping a few more washes will change that.

I sewed all of the leggings using my machine’s stretch stitch, which is a really tight, slanted ziz-zag.  I was worried this would look funny on the hem, but it sewed up great without any puckering or weirdness.

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When it was time for the elastic casing, the belly to be measured was taking a nap (hence the sewing), so I just pulled up a measuring chart from Old Navy and used their guidelines and it worked perfectly.  The next version will skip the elastic, and just try for a knit waistband.

And once they were all sewn up, and Lily was awake, I couldn’t wait to put her in them.  She was really excited to wear them too, which was cute.  I think she thought we were going ‘bye-bye’ as that’s usually when I change her out of comfy pj’s.  Here’s a cute diapered bum and little toes…

Adirondack Inspired: Sewn Leggings  She’s a little hard to photograph these days…Here she is standing on a chair, as that’s the only way I could get her in front of the window and we were losing daylight.

Adirondack Inspired: Sewn Leggings
check out the hemming….oops, one is the wrong way.

And one last unobstructed shot…  It’s a bit blurry, she was not into standing still.  Models are notoriously high maintenance, you know.

Adirondack Inspired: Sewn Leggings

And that’s that.  I made a pair of leggings.  It still shocks me when I hold them up and think I made these?  I wish I hadn’t waited so long, but I have a feeling I will be making up for lost time as her sister put an order in, too.  Hey, I’ll take the enthusiasm for Mama’s sewing while I can get it…

Adirondack Baby Blanket

I have been having trouble sitting down at the sewing machine lately. I have project after project that I would like to do, techniques I want to learn, but I fall into that trap of pinning these things to Pinterest and feeling like I’ve accomplished something.  Similar to watching so much Food Network that you know the correct way to cut onions and peel garlic and roast a chicken, but you’re still eating cereal for dinner.

Ahem. Anyway…there are a few women I know expecting babies this winter. One such baby boy could arrive any day now, and I wanted to send a little something his way. There is nothing like a baby to inspire some sewing action.

So today I decided he should have a rugged little Adirondack blanket.

I used the same flannel shirting that I used for my sons beloved pj pants and found some cuddle fabric for the back and, lo, a blanket was made.  It was the perfect motivation for dusting off the sewing machine.

Here it is laid out on the back of the couch.  I didn’t want it to be too plain, so added a little fuzzy bear paw applique.  I’m not sure what blankets are in stores now, but my little guy received items in exactly three colors: blue, green, and brown.  I loved his little clothes, but the variety was lacking.

Adirondack Inspired:

My little guy approved!  Don’t tell him, but he may get one, too…

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Getting ready to wrap and send on its way!

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Crafting It Old School

My morning routine, after sippy cups and oatmeal, consists of coffee and the usual internet checks– email, facebook, flickr, pinterest.

Pinterest being the most dangerous as it has that never-ending scrolling feature.  The other  morning, I stumbled across this pin from Purl Bee.  I love the Purl Bee, they have a way of making simple projects pay off in a big way.  But this particular pin, well, this was something I already knew how to do.  Friendship bracelets were totally my jam in the mid ’90’s.

You made friendship bracelets for yourself, your friends, and for that boy that was totally just a friend…except he totally wasn’t.  You walked around school with half-finished bracelets looped around a safety pin stuck to your jeans.  Or your pajama pants, because those were totally acceptable school attire in the grungy ’90’s.

So this week I sat down to make my five-year-old a friendship bracelet form her mama.  I wasn’t sure if I would remember how to make them, but it was like riding a bike.  I didn’t really have to think, my hands just went into the familiar pattern of tying knots.

The first step is to choose your color scheme.
Adirondack Inspred: frienship bracelet

Then loop the string around, giving you both a way to safety pin it to your jeans, and the loop for tying the finished bracelet.
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet

Now spread it out in the pattern you would like, making it a mirror image.  This shows a pattern of red, pink, white, pink.  Although I didn’t stick to this for some reason, and my ultimate pattern was red, pink, pink, white.

Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet

Then you start your knots.  First working in from the left, then repeating in from the right.
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet

It takes a couple of rows until the embroidery floss behaves nicely, like this.
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet

The pattern is repetitive, it’s rather soothing.  It is easy to stop suddenly (you know, for diaper changes, sippy cup refills, etc), and pick right back up where you left off.

The finished result will look like this, a trendy little chevron pattern.
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet
Adirondack Inspired: friendship bracelet

And they come together so quickly, they may even work for sweet little valentines.  Of course, I first have to convince a certain 5-year-old that boys will like these, too…

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Twinkle, Twinkle Little Skirt

I wanted to sew a few items to give away as Christmas presents this year, but I was hesitant to give clothes to my little nieces.   Handmade or not, clothes are still clothes, and not toys. I settled on little sparkly dress-up skirts for two of them, a nice little hybrid of clothes meets toy for two dress-up-loving girls.

I walked around JoAnn’s a bit for some inspiration and found this gray sparkly fabric in a bin of leftover Halloween fabrics.

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I loved it. I’m not sure what a fabric like this is called–it kind of looked like tulle, but the raw edges frayed. Since this meant it would need to be hemmed, I grabbed some soft pink ribbon to try a new hemming technique.

The skirts came together pretty fast.  It was the first time I bound a raw edge in a ribbon, but I followed these directions from Prudent Baby.  Easy, easy!  Really, I love this method.  At first, I pinned the ribbon to the wrong (non sparkly) side.

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But it was hard to pin it tight enough to the fabric, and my final hem came out kind of wonky and ripply, even after a good pressing.  Not that the little girls would have noticed, of course.  So in the end, I just sewed without pinning, and that actually turned out to be the best ‘method.’  Yay for laziness!

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look mom, no pins!

Next, I had to finish the top of the skirt.  I just zig-zagged the top, since this fabric doesn’t really like to be ironed.  Then I just lined up the elastic, folded the fabric over for my measurement, and pinned.  With one of the skirts, I was able to use the selvedge end and skip the zig-zag step.  I love when those things happen.

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Then I just had to sew down the casing , and slide the elastic back in (it comes out before you sew, it’s just a measuring device at this point).  I pinned the elastic at the edges, then stretched and let go to get nice even gathers.  Then I just sewed up a side seem, finishing the skirt and closing up the elastic in one pass.  And voila, one gift done.

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Serious cuteness.

I haven’t heard back to hear how much ‘fairy dust’ the skirts leave behind.  There were sparkles everywhere after this project.  Oops.  I don’t think the girls will mind, though!

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my pants, now with more sparkle

I do love a project like this.  Comes together quick, and the reward was big!  Happy sewing.

And Then It Was Winter

If you live in the Adirondacks, chances are you actually like winter.  Of course, there are plenty that don’t, and the fortunate of that group  are snowbirds, meaning they leave anywhere from late fall to the day after Christmas and return somewhere around June.

But then there are the rest of us.  The ones who love winter and track snowstorms. At least until March. Then we break up.

This winter started with a whisper…

Adirondack Inspired: snowfall
the tease

A teaser snowfall, but enough for Christmas as it ought to be.

Adirondack Inspired: winter travel
taken from the passenger seat

The next dumped a luxurious 18 inches.  Followed a few days later by almost a foot.

Adirondack Inspired: WinterAdirondack Inspired

Adirondack Inspired
time to bundle up

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Adirondack Inspired: Winter

And then it was winter.

And the people were happy.

Sewing For Boys Is Fun. Who Knew.

Okay, so I haven’t sewn a lot for the kids, but what I have sewn has been for the girls.  Simple skirts, circle skirts, a dress or two.  Conner has watched all of this, since he is three and has no way to escape the house.  He watches.  He jumps over the fabric.  He pets the material and calls it ‘Mama’s fabric.’  For being a truck-obsessed little guy, he’s rather sweet about it all.  He has also been asking for me to make something for him.

And since this all occurred around Christmas time, I figured I’d make him some big-boy pj pants.  Ones that looked like Daddy’s.  So I hit up Jo-Ann’s for some flannel shirting, downloaded the lovely Dana’s (MADE) convenient little  pattern, and crossed my fingers since pants are definitely not skirts.

One part of living so far away from everything, is that you use what you have. Candle holders as pattern weights and a black sharpie to trace the pattern and I was in business. Sewing is good for me, it makes me do things ‘not the right way.’ I have a little issue with that. If the world ran according to me, everything you did would have a little lesson book accompaniment. (Ask me how many baby sleep books I’ve read). And that’s probably why this project went so smoothly, because I had the tutorial that went along with the pattern. I’m actually a little afraid of pattern sewing, because I don’t think they come with full color step-by-step pictures. I like all the hand holding.

And one nap-time later…

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I was just about to comment on the lack of pink in the project, but I remembered the only elastic I had was this:

Let’s just keep that between us, okay?

One final note, I think that when you sew plaids, technically the two legs should look the same.  I’m not sure, I don’t make the rules, but my Mom agreed with this so it must be so.  I didn’t have enough fabric to do that if I wanted to (this project was 1/2 a yard), but I really loved the end result.   I love the stripes of yellow down the one leg.  It kind of makes it.  That and the fact that he loves them.

His only critique:  “Mama, you forgot to put the tag in here.”  Silly Mama.