Saturday, March 31, 2012

Introducing Ruby

Once I realized that post-law enforcement I was wanting to sew all the time, I decided it was time to invest in a new sewing machine.  There was nothing WRONG with my old machine, other than, well, it was old and just didn't do some of the things I wanted it to do.  Like do button-holes in a relatively simply manner.  Or have an overcast stitch.  Or do the applique stitch I wanted it to do.  Let's be honest, it first was my grandmother's machine, and when she passed away it became my sister's machine, and at some point my mom used it for a while and then it became mine!  For reference, it is a Kennmore 1946 zig-zag machine, built in 1977.   So, eventually I decided I needed an upgrade.

I did my homework, obsessed about exactly what I wanted in a machine, and then went to a sewing machine store to see what they had.  Then I obsessed some more, researched some more, and made a decision!  The machine for me is a Janome Horizon Memory Craft 7700.  I named her Ruby.

I love her.  Ruby and I are a team.  She not only does button-holes, but they are super simple and there are several styles to choose from!  Plus she will sew on buttons too!  Oh, my Ruby, she is something!  I don't have to use a foot control anymore, though I can if I want.  To be honest, at first I just wasn't sure I would be able to sew without using a foot control but I practiced with using the start/stop button and that is all I do now!  With the touch of a button, Ruby will do the back/forth at the start or end of a seam to set the stitches, or she will do a small knot in place!  And she'll cut the threads for you when you are done, if you want.  There are tons of different stitches she will do (including the overcast and applique ones I was looking for) and also a variety of small embroidery patterns.  And did I mention how quiet she is?  That Ruby, you tell her a secret and she keeps it to herself!  What a fantastic investment she was.  I am just beside myself with happiness and adoration for Ruby.

I still have that Kennmore machine.  I couldn't get rid of it!  I guess it is like a family heirloom or something now.  I figure whenever Ruby has to get her spa treatments at the sewing machine store, I can always pull out the oldie but goodie if I want to sew!  Plus, it will be a great machine for E to start on whenever she decides to learn!

Ahhh, bliss!

Oliver + S Jump Rope Dress

Let me first say that Oliver + S is my ultimate favorite pattern company for kids.  The styles are classic and well designed, and the actual pattern is very well done with thorough instructions.  The pattern packages themselves look like paper dolls, and when you look at them online there are "real" clothes made as well.  Their patterns are for the kinds of clothes we want to see kids wearing, you  know?  Kid-appropriate clothes.  If you sew and have a little person in your life, I highly recommend checking out Oliver + S patterns.  They are wonderful.  Anyway, back a while ago (September 2010) Sew Mama Sew had a sew-along to make the jump rope dress and I signed up!  This was my first sew along and it was great fun! 

I have now made the jump rope dress two times.  One with the full skirt and belt, and one long sleeved without a belt.  Here we go:

This is the one I did with the Sew Mama Sew sew-along.  Even though the pattern instructions were great, the little tips you get on a sew-along are super helpful!  This was my first time doing a button placket or setting in a collar, and it wasn't scary at all!  The Clever Girl is 2 in these pictures, and I made her the size 3 so she could wear it longer.  So yes, it looks kinda big on her, and that was intentional!  I try to get as much wear out of her clothes as possible, especially the handmade ones!

I made the second jump rope dress for the Clever Girl's Christmas dress the same year.  Again, I made the size 3 as it seemed to work and she was then 2 1/2.  I made this one out of a fine wale navy corduroy, and had my fancy new machine (more on that in another post) embroider little snowflakes along the pockets, the hem, and one on the tip of each collar.  Man.  The addition of those snowflakes made the dress go from cute to amazing!

I sometimes feel a little sneaky sewing things for the Clever Girl in blues...  She got her daddy's blue eyes and I just can't help myself sometimes!

Kapowie!  How about those big baby blues??

Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Jane Austen Easter Dress

Other than sewing and baking, my other passion is knitting.  So it seemed to be a perfect blend when I found the pattern for the Jane Austen Dress in Mason-Dixon Knitting Outside the Lines, by Kay Gardiner and Ann Shayne.  The dress is made up of two parts:  a knitted bodice, and a fabric skirt.  Perfect!  I used yarn and fabric I had in my stash, so the dress cost me nothing but time!  Yahoo!  The yarn was Knitpicks Shine Worsted, in Wisteria.  It is a cotton/modal blend that is super soft and machine washable!  Two very important criteria for projects for kids!  The fabric is yellow with little circles and dots which I purchased from my local JoAnns at some point.

I also made the Clever Girl the Jane Austen Shrug to go with the dress.  She was so excited that the dress had this "extra sweater thing" to go with it!  Again, it used stash yarn, Knitpicks Shine Sport in Butter, and Rowan All Seasons Cotton in White for the trim. 
The Clever Girl's lips are a bit rosier than usual in these pictures...  She chose this afternoon to swan dive out of her crib!  Amazingly, she received only a fat lip from the experience!  And she said, "Momma, I climbed out of my bed.  That was NOT a good idea!"  No, sweet girl, it was not!

This was the Clever Girl's Easter dress in 2011 when she was 2.  It is now 2012 and it still fits her!  She seems to  grow taller but doesn't really gain weight so we can keep wearing it!  Yeah!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

An Easter Diva

As you can see, I have made good use of the Little Girls, Big Style book!  Really, I think that is how it has to be.  If I am going to spend the money for a book or patten or what-have-you, I intend to get my money's worth out of it!  And this book has really been fun.  This outfit is actually the first I made from the book, and includes the Flutter-Sleeved Peasant Top (page 81) and the Lace-Edged Gauchos (page 100).

This was our Easter Egg Hunt outfit for church.  I LOVE LOVE LOVE the fabric for the top.  I have purchased many yards and pull it out for all sorts of things.  It is an Alexander Henry Mocca in Chocolate, and the ruffle edge of the top is  Alexander Henry Bangle Dot in blue.  I also have this fabric in a pink variation.  Love it.  The pants are a turquoise with chocolate brown swiss dots, and the pocket is again from the Mocca fabric.  I used a chocolate rick-rack along the hem of the pants instead of lace (1) because I am not really a lace girl and (2) finding lace that isn't white or ecru is hard to do!!

The Clever Girl added the jewelry and diva sunglasses.  The girl has style!

An Apple A Day...

I just couldn't help myself!  This pattern is from Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu.  The top is the Barely Basic Top (page 34) and the pants are the Ruffled Pants (page 94).  I added an additional ruffle to the pants only because they seemed a little short.  My Clever Girl is a slender little gal, so though she is actually 3, I used the size 2 pattern and should have made the length longer to account for the size.  Oh well!  What is one more ruffle for a little girl??  I love how it turned out.  I used fabric from my local JoAnns, in the Tutti-Frutti section.  The fabric is a poly/cotton blend so it is super easy wash and wear!  It is very lightweight and seems to be quite comfortable!  She loves it.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Baby Bootie Cakes

I love to bake.  So when some women at my church got together to plan a baby shower, I offered to make the cakes!  The mommy-to-be grew up in the church and knows everyone, so the entire church was invited!  Luckily, we go to a small/mid-sized church, but still that is a lot of people.  And for some reason RSVP-ing does not seem to really be done anymore (why is that, anyway??), so we had no idea how many people to expect.

Now seriously, I don't know why I didn't just make a sheet cake and some cupcakes or something and call it a day.  Well, maybe I do know why.  Because I am a crazy person and I invited the challenge for doing something out of the ordinary.  I originally found the idea for the baby bootie cakes here on Martha Stewart's site, but they were for numerous tiny cakes and that seemed like too much work.  (???)  So I decided to make 2 ginormous baby booties because for some reason that seemed easier.  (Really??  Easier??  Oh, boy...)

For one of the cakes, I used the recipe for Perfect Party Cakes by Dorie Greenspan's Baking: From My Home to Yours.  It really does make the perfect party cake.  Unlike a lot of white cakes, it has the right amount of lemon zest to give it some zip, and the cake itself is light and delicious.  It has become one of  my go-to cake recipes!  Try it.  I did not use the buttercream from this recipe or the filling, for no reason other than I wanted to try something different.  Dorie suggests spreading raspberry preserves over the layers.  I alternated between raspberry filling and lemon curd.  For the icing, I used a swiss meringue buttercream.  It was my first time trying this one and it was WONDERFUL.  So yummy.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A twirly Christmas dress

I love sewing for my daughter.  I am just filled with ideas for her all the time.  If you have a little girl, I suggest getting the book  Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu.   I have made several items from the book and have really enjoyed them.  The patterns themselves are fairly basic but you can very easily spice them up a bit if you want.  I made the peasant dress for Christmas, but with a few small changes.

I added an additional ruffle on the bottom to make the dress longer.  I figured out the ratio of fabric for each layer and just added that much more for the bottom.  It was a ton of ruffling...  Yards and yards of ruffles.  Zowie.  I own a ruffling foot for my sewing machine but I don't actually know how to use it!  Not a good thing!  I need to figure this one out, that is for sure! 

My second change was with the sleeves.  One thing I wish this book did a little better is to either give finished measurements OR take pictures wherein you can really see the elements of the design.  Pictures of girls sitting or twirling or what-have-you are very cute and do give a general feel for the clothes but don't tell you much about how they fit the body.  The sleeves were shorter than I wanted as well - they seemed more like 3/4 length and I wanted full length.  I added length when I cut them out but that wasn't enough.  Again, had the dress been labeled as a 3/4 sleeve length I would have known to add more.  Or maybe my daughter just has super long arms?  That doesn't seem to be the case with other clothes, so I don't think that is the case!  Anyway, I finished the sleeves and still wanted more length, so I ripped that out and then instead of rolling the hem and enclosing the elastic in the hem, I made a small hem and then added some bias tape to the inside of the sleeve and put the elastic in there.  Does this make sense?  That gave me the small amount more length on the sleeve that I wanted to feel like they were right.  Anyway, this gives my sleeves a little bit of a ruffle on the bottom, which is cute!  The photo of her twirling has the sleeves before I re-did the cuff.  The picture on the bridge has the longer, ruffle sleeve.

 Finally, I added the pink double-sided satin ribbon.  I used some red embroidery floss and crocheted a loop for each side to hold the ribbon in place.  It really sets it off, doesn't it?  The fabric is a batik from the local Hancock Fabrics, a pretty cranberry red with pink leaves.

I love how it turned out and my daughter thought it was wonderful.  As you can see, it made for the perfect twirly dress!

  My pretty girl in her pretty Christmas dress!  It's a winner!

Friday, March 23, 2012

The evolution of the growth chart

When I was little, my parents marked my and my sister's heights on the back of a hall closet door.  Great idea, but if they ever moved (which they unbelievably haven't!!) they couldn't exactly take that door with them, could they?  Not really.  Writing heights on a door or wall or something didn't feel like the best idea for me.  So, I trolled the web and tried to see what was available for purchase (ha, like I would BUY something when I could potentially MAKE IT??) or some good ideas for a new creation.  And it came to me!  Here it is:

It is made of a board about 1'x5', wrapped in batting.  I machine appliqued the calla lilies and numbers on the front.  The ruler is ribbon that just so happens to be a ruler!  And though you can't see this so well in the photo, the small section to the right of the ruler is clear plastic, which is where I write my daughter's heights and the date.  I hang the growth chart 1 foot off of the ground, so actually the bottom of the chart is where the 1 is and the 2 is 12 inches up the chart, and so on.

After I made it, some of my friends saw it and loved it too!  So I made one for my friend Callie, who used to take the most incredible pictures of my little family when she was still in the Houston area. 

This is the one I made for her son!  His is also machine appliqued, except for the tree trunk.  I glued that down with Fabri-Tac and then glued brown ribbon along the edges to cover the fabric edges.  All that applique was getting to be a bit much!
So then another good friend got in on the fun...  Since her son, Owen, was (and still is) totally obsessed with the alphabet and numbers, I used his name to create his growth chart.  Let me tell you, this would not have happened if his name was Bartholomew or something!  Anyway, for this one, I created an animal figure that could be featured with each letter.  It is hard to see, but there is actually a brown O in the brown tree which is on the very top with the owl inside.  I added gold cording to get some contrast there!

This growth chart is made almost entirely out of felt, except the blue background, the water behind the whale, and the brown tree.  Every part of it is glued with Fabri-Tac!  That is the miracle glue!  This one went much faster with no applique, and I could get more detailed, like getting tiny spots on the newt and teeth and an eye on the whale!  Fun! 


When Callie (see above) had her second child, I made another chart for her daughter.  This one is also completely glued - horray!.  It is mostly fabric and ribbon.  I used the same blue background and green at the bottom as her brother's chart, and put the ruler on the opposite side in case they ended up hanging next to each other.

I feel like the growth charts got better and better as I went along!  They are a bit of work, but I think they were worth it!