KCW: A dress for my niece

I managed to squeeze in one more KCW project–a little dress for my niece, who will be visiting next week! My sister and her family were supposed to come last summer, but she was preggos and her doctor put her on bed rest, then she went back to work (with a newborn and a toddler!) and finally, school’s out and she’s able to visit! My sister has her PhD in medical genetics and teaches at the university we both graduated from. One smart cookie. You can’t tell so much from this photo:
My older sister
I’m not sure what to make of my stunned squirrel expression, except that I think Boo looks a lot like me.

My sister was probably put on bed rest because my niece was really big. She’s still really big-off the charts big. At 6 months old, she is almost as heavy as her 2 1/2 year old big brother. I asked my sister to email me her measurements, but I didn’t get a reply, so I made her dress in size 2T–just to be safe.

The pattern: Kate’s Dress by Lily Bird Studio
The fabric: Chambray (main) & Tea Cakes in Tea Rose Vanilla purchased at Fabric.com (facing, lining and back buttons)
KCW: Roses & Chambray Dress
KCW: Roses & Chambray Dress
The dress is pretty simple, which is great since it highlights the fabric. I’m really loving the fabric combination. The chambray is super soft and has a bit of an airy quality to it. I had some brown piping left over from Froo’s chiffon geranium dress, which pairs nicely with the rose print. The brown buttons are really lovely. They are shiny, sparkly, and a little off-kilter.
KCW: Roses & Chambray Dress
I used the rose print again to make fabric-covered buttons on the back. Sometimes it’s the small, subtle details that make me happy.
KCW: Roses & Chambray Dress
One thing I did to secure the lining to the dress was to stitch in the ditch at the arms by lining up the seam lines. You can hardly tell, but it’ll keep the dress together, especially after a washing.
KCW: Roses & Chambray Dress
So that wraps up KCW for me! Two dresses, a t-shirt and a pair of shorts. Now I can relax with my sister! I’ve missed her terribly. Our personalities are so different, but now that we’re both married, with 2 kids, we are finding out that we have a lot more in common and our reactions to situations are very similar. I think there might be a genetic component. I’ll have to ask her when she gets here!

KCW: Snails & Tails…

KCW: Snails & Tails
I used to tell my little brother the following nursery rhyme:

Girls are made of sugar and spice,
and everything nice.

Boys are made of snails and tails,
and everything… gross.

In hindsight, I guess that wasn’t very nice, considering my little brother is 11 years younger than me. But now that I am a mother to a son, I think there is some truth to my version of the nursery rhyme. I have a new poem about my little boy:

Boo is constantly messy,
his head is always sweaty.
He puts his fingers in everything… gross.

For Boo’s KCW spring edition project, I decided to make him some shorts. I have to change his dirty clothes several times throughout the day and shorts are in short supply. It’s not unusual to find Boo crawling around underneath Chinese restaurant tables, running barefoot outdoors–while chewing on his shoes, rubber stamping his face, and licking mirrors. He’s THAT boy.

As I was looking through Boo’s dresser, I realized most of his shorts have too many pockets, snaps, zippers, belt loops, buttons, drawstrings and extra design elements that don’t serve much purpose for a 2 year old. I wanted to keep his shorts simple and easy to wear, without forgoing style.

The pattern: Ben & Mia pants by Lily Bird Studio
The fabric: Tiny Elephants by Daiwabo, purchased at Hawthorne Threads
The t-shirt: upcycled Threadless.com t-shirt, “Take Me to Tokyo“, designed by Juju’s Delivery
KCW: Snails and Tails
The shorts were pretty straightforward and easy to make. I love the elephant print and the fabric is incredibly soft. I was a little worried because the pattern didn’t come with grainline placement arrows, so I had to guess at how to cut the fabric, but the elephants are lined-up pretty straight.

Before Froo was born, I was obsessed with Threadless.com t-shirts. I still have a bunch in my dresser, but I’m waiting for the day my squishy midsection magically flattens out before wearing them again. The above t-shirt had a tiny hole near the bottom hem, so I thought it would be the perfect one for Boo–every boy needs a cute pink t-shirt.

I used the Flashback Skinny Tee pattern in size 3 to cut out the PERFECT fit for Boo. Here are the steps that I took:

  1. I traced 2 back pieces of the pattern onto Pellon Tru-Grid Pattern-Tracing Material and put them side by side onto my t-shirt (one on the flip side). I did this so I could see where the graphic print would end up and also, to cut through both the front and back of the t-shirt at the same time.
  2. I cut one of my back pattern pieces to make it the front, then I folded the front t-shirt in half, to cut the neckline.
  3. I followed this tutorial to make short sleeves and used the existing hem.

KCW: Snails and Tails
After cutting out all of my fabric, I used a seam ripper to reuse the neck ribbing and serged it altogether. Then I used a double-needle to hem the bottom. It was super fast!

Here’s my Mr. Snails & Tails:
KCW: Snails and Tails
Let’s try again, without blurry elephants.
KCW: Snails and Tails
KCW: Snails and Tails
I have to fix the back pockets. I’m pretty sure I messed up the pattern placement–they are waaaay off. It looks like his butt cheeks are falling down.
KCW: Snails and Tails
But those calves! I bite them all the time. There is nothing sweeter than a little boy who lets his mommy bite his chunky calves.

KCW: My First Geranium Dress!

Over the past couple of weeks leading up to KCW, I have spent too much time agonizing over what to make for Froo & Boo. I feel that a garment that I make them should be extra-special, since it’s handmade and all. But underlying that, it’s because I have found the secret to affordable and cute kids clothing: the GAP Kids clearance rack, when there is an additional 40% off. No contest. Well, almost. I am still sewing for the kids, right?

Here is the 3-point summary of my thought process for my first KCW project of the year:

  1. Replace Froo’s outgrown chiffon wedding dress
  2. Use the embroidered chiffon I bought on sale last Christmas at Fabricana ($5/metre–Score! Although, I think the fabric was intended for sheer curtains…)
  3. Find the perfect dress pattern to go with it, aka the Made by Rae Geranium Dress

When Froo was 1 1/2 years old, our friends visiting from Japan gave her a really cute chiffon dress. She grew to love that dress and called it her “wedding dress” and said she would wear it when she married me. She wore it for years, with it gradually turning into a tight shirt. (It has plenty of elasticized shirring.) I thought I would have oodles of photos of her wearing it, but the last one I have is from her 3rd birthday:
Froo's Wedding Dress
Sadly, it no longer fits. This is one dress that I’m not handing down to friends because I want her to have it when she is older. Also, as a reminder that she once loved me so much, she wanted to marry me!

Before getting into all the construction details of the dress, let me first start by showing you the most beautiful dress I have ever made:
Chiffon Geranium Dress
And seriously, this girl cannot be anymore beautiful than she already is. Froo had her reservations about replacing her old wedding dress with a new one, so it took a lot of convincing to even get her to try it on. This was her first shot:
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Her fourth shot. This photoshoot was going nowhere really fast.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
I brought in my photo assistant, Tiny Little Pig, but she wasn’t much help.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Chiffon Geranium Dress
So now the details, starting with the fabric. Chiffon is sheer and lightweight. It’s totally shifty when you are trying to cut it so the best way to do it is to lay it flat on a cutting mat and use a rotary cutter to cut around your pattern pieces. I traced my pattern onto Pellon Tru-Grid Pattern-Tracing Material, which is sheer and clingy, which helps keep the fabric stable. Also, when cutting the front bodice, I traced both sides of the piece to create one piece, to avoid cutting the fabric on the fold. I did this with the front of the skirt as well. Do not use a ruler when cutting, it somehow stretches the chiffon askew.

For the lining I used a lightweight cotton muslin, which matched the dress perfectly. I also backed each bodice piece with muslin, basting it with a 1/4″ seam allowance.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Here’s what I did differently to create a full lining for the skirt. I cut all of the skirt pieces in muslin and sewed as per the instructions. I did the same for the chiffon, except for the step of sewing down the seam edges on the back of the skirt. Instead, I serged the edges individually and pressed them open, on low heat. I did this because I didn’t want to bulk up the seams and affect the way the skirt draped.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Then I top stitched the openings of the skirt and lining together and basted the top edge together. After that, I sewed my gathering stitches and treated it as one piece.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
For the side seams on both the lining and chiffon, I used 1/4″ French seams to hide the edges. Chiffon frays like crazy, but I didn’t want to add bulk by serging the edges, so I pinked (is that a verb??) the edges before enclosing them in the French seam.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
The sleeves, oh the sleeves! The prettiest part of the dress. To make the sleeves, I just cut off the sleeves on View B, taped them together, added seam allowance and used the embroidered edge as bottom edge of the sleeves. I also sewed a gathering stitch to ease the sleeve in place.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
For the piping, Rae has an excellent tutorial on how to add trim to the skirt. I couldn’t figure out how to machine finish the bodice lining with the piping in the way, so I hand-stitched it in place. It took a long time, but it was well worth the effort.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Now for the sad and somewhat ironic part of this wedding dress replacement project… the bodice is too tight. What makes it doubly ironic is the fact that I used muslin as my lining, when I really should have made a muslin first! I just assumed that size 5T would fit and didn’t bother to measure Froo. I made her the Flashback Skinny Tee in size 5T, which is was big on her. She must have grown again. When did that happen?? So I had to opt out of making buttons and used hook & eye closures instead. Which is a shame because I had the perfect buttons for the dress.
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Here is a side-by-side photo of the old and new wedding dresses:
Chiffon Geranium Dress
Here are a couple of outtakes from our photo shoot this morning:
Chiffon Geranium Dress
The KCW flickr group is full of really creative and beautiful handmade creations–oodles of pretty Geranium dresses abound. I LOVE the eyelet one by Cherie of you & mie that was featured on the KCW blog. I guess that’s what it’s all about–to see kids romping around happily in clothing made especially for them, because they are unique in every way. What a fun and meaningful way to celebrate our children!

Spring Cleaning: Boo’s Toys

Froo & Boo Legos
A couple of months ago, I blogged that my spatial reasoning skills were unimpressive at best. I have since come to believe that spatial reasoning is not a box to check, it’s more of a multi-dimensional skill varying over a spectrum of manifestations. For instance, I can stack a dishwasher like nobody’s business. Or squeeze out multiple projects from one cut of fabric.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to build amazing LEGOs with Froo & Boo, but it turns out to be one of our favourite toys to play with altogether as a family.

Until one of us steps on a brick and throws Froo into a wild frenzy of tears or me holding back a slew of potty-mouth words (picture Hugh Grant late for a wedding–“Oh, eff! Eff! Effity eff!” ). The hubs gets thrown off-balance, which is not good when you’re built like a tree. Boo, however, is completely unaffected and continues to run around, laughing like crazy. His feet are thick like a Hobbit’s.

Anyhoo, I wanted to make a new container for all of our LEGO Duplo bricks. Something easy to tote around, yet big enough to stash all of the pieces. After making a couple of small round-bottom fabric buckets using this awesome FITF tutorial, I thought the large version would be perfect for the LEGOs.
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
I had 1 yard each of the coordinating elephant prints on home decor weight canvas. I changed the measurements of the pattern to make 2 buckets as large as possible, with minimal waste. I ended up with a 13″ diameter circle and 2 rectangles: one 18×40″ and one 20×40″. Even after squaring up my fabric, I had a 38″ yard (yay fabric.com!), so one bucket is 2″ taller. I could have made them both 19″ tall, but that would involve elephants with severed heads. The swatches on the wall are what’s left over. Score another point for me on the spatial reasoning spectrum!
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
Even though the canvas is relatively heavy, I backed the outside fabric with a medium-weight fusible interfacing to give it more structure. Given the larger size, I could have used a heavier interfacing or fused interfacing to the lining as well. The buckets are a little squishy when empty. The elephants on the lining fabric are upside-down, so when folded over, they are right-side up.

The current LEGO box is falling apart because Boo decided it’s more fun to sit in it.
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
After enlarging the buckets, I made one modification: a pair of handles for easy carrying.
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
I can foresee some potato sack races in our near future:
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
One thing I haven’t quite figured out is how we are going to keep the LEGOs inside the bucket. Or how I am going to motivate the kids to clean up after themselves. I guess I haven’t really solved my original problem of LEGOs on the floor.
Round-Bottom Fabric Buckets
I have one more spring cleaning project lined up, but this time, for Froo’s toys. Before I start on that project, I am gearing up for KCW (Kids Clothes Week) that begins on April 22! I still have patterns to print, notions to buy, fabric to pick out and pre-wash, but I am excited to sew some clothing for Froo & Boo. I haven’t made them anything to wear since December. I think Froo & Boo’s spring outfits will be more appropriate for summer–the weather has been incredible! (As I write this wearing a strapless maxi dress…)

My Boo is 2!

Happy 2nd Birthday, Boo!
My baby is not a baby anymore. Not compared to the above photos when we could dress Boo up in cute little toques and have a photographer snap away while he enjoyed his dreamy sleep. These days I have a hard time taking photos of him that are NOT blurry. This is what the usual photo of Boo looks like:
Happy Birthday Boo!
What a happy, happy day it is to be 2 years old! (Especially when mommy bribes you with Easter chocolate to take a couple of photos with your new birthday quilt.)
Birthday quilt for Boo
For Boo’s birthday, I decided to make him a quilt. I started exactly one week before Boo’s birthday and worried that I wouldn’t finish on time. But I managed to get it done on Sunday, with a couple of days to spare! I even had time to make Boo a matching pillow case.

Here is a photo of the finished quilt top:
Birthday quilt for Boo
I really wanted to make the wonky stars pop, so I used light colours to create contrast with the navy blue background. I also placed the wonky stars on a checkerboard pattern so I wouldn’t have to make so many stars! I think it works–since the background is a bit busy, there is enough going on with the quilt that the stars create just enough interest to make them stand out.

Here is a close-up of one of the stars:
Birthday quilt for Boo
This time around, I pin basted the quilt top, batting and backing together. After trying both spray adhesive and pins, I have to say, I prefer pins. With the spray, it’s hard to smooth out all of the layers when you are constantly peeling back the fabric to spray it, causing lots of little bubbles in the fabric. With pins, after smoothing it all out, it’s just a matter of pinning it altogether.

After creating my quilt sandwich, I decided to quilt the layers together using straight line stitches 1/4″ from each seam, similar to the quilting that I did for Froo’s quilt. I also quilted around each of the wonky stars.
Birthday quilt for Boo
For the stitching, I used a variegated blue cotton thread from Sulky. It is very subtle, but shows up nicely on the backside of the quilt:
Birthday quilt for Boo
It’s wrinkly and soft after a trip through the washing machine:
Birthday quilt for Boo
I really love the fabric. As I mentioned in my last post, most of the fabric is from Michele Brummer Everett’s collections: Seven Seas & Monsterz. The fabric is really soft and the sleeping monsters and celestial animals are just too darn tootin’ cute. I ended up substituting one of the prints for the stars, so the green stars are the only non-organic ones in the quilt. I used a soy/organic cotton blend batting that is also very soft. For the binding, I just pieced together leftover fabric from the stars and bound it by machine.

The finished quilt! It measures roughly 36″ x 50″.
Birthday quilt for Boo Birthday quilt for Boo
I had just enough fabric to make a small pillowcase for Boo’s pillow. I guess not quite enough, but I pieced together some fabric to make the pillowcase long enough to create an envelope casing at the opening.
Birthday quilt for Boo
Here’s a look at the quilt and pillow on Boo’s crib:
Birthday quilt for Boo
We are planning to keep Boo in his crib for as long as possible. We moved Froo to a “big girl” bed at 22 months and had the worst time keeping her from escaping at night. We first moved her to a bed because she kept climbing out of her crib and once got stuck hanging onto the bars, on the verge of falling upside down. Boo hasn’t tried to climb over yet, which is surprising since he exhibits no fear at the playground.

The little cloud pillow is the birthday gift I made for Boo last year. It’s what inspired my Sunshine & Grey Skies Cloud pillow in my shop. The massive bunny is a gift the hubs got me while we were dating. For some reason, Boo has really taken a liking to it. We think it’s because he was born in the year of the rabbit.
Birthday quilt for Boo
We had a wonderful day celebrating Boo’s birthday today! Boo’s best friend’s family came over for dinner and gave him the coolest remote control Thomas the Train. His other present was a 2-seater bicycle trailer. This past weekend, we took Froo & Boo out in the trailer hitched to the hubs’ bike and me, riding my new bike–it was the perfect afternoon, even with a bit of rain. Reminded me of home. It’s celebrations like this that gives me a bit of heartache for our friends & family in Vancouver. We miss you dearly. But know that your love reaches us here and the kids are growing in love, with full & happy hearts. xoxo.
Happy 2nd Birthday, Boo!

Cheers to the start of Q2

Kate Spain Central Park
I didn’t sew much in March. I had sewn up an order for my Etsy shop, but that’s pretty much it. Instead, I spent the end of the first quarter of the year with a sinus-muddled head and a persistent cough that has been keeping me awake at night and driving me mad.

So I gave up on sewing for a bit and started watching Downton Abbey–in bed, with the new tv that the hubs put in our bedroom. I stayed in bed until I watched all 3 seasons, which are happily available On Demand. I’m quite surprised by my new-found addiction to the show programme, since I don’t usually watch tv. Books are my thing. Except Downton Abbey is like a Jane Austen novel, only oh-so-much better because of the setting, clothing and characters–who create both chemistry and tension by the subtle nuance of facial expressions and excellent dialogue. Then this quote had me thinking that I should get back to sewing:

“You have a talent that none of the rest of us have. Just find out what it is and use it. It’s doing nothing that’s the enemy.”
— Sybil Crawley, Downton Abbey (Season 2, Episode 2)

You win, Sybil. (The part about doing nothing). Yesterday I started cutting fabric for Boo’s birthday quilt. The photo above is a collection of Kate Spain’s Central Park fabric that I was going to use to make Boo a quilt. I love every single print in the line. But even though there are blues, greens & purples, I couldn’t get over how feminine it is–too many florals, I guess. One of the first things I sewed for Boo were fabric boxes made with the animal print. It’s what got me hooked on quilting fabric, really, so the entire collection makes me a bit sentimental. I made the baby boots with this pattern.
fabric boxes Kate Spain Central Park
The bigger box fits diapers and wipes.
fabric boxes Kate Spain Central Park
So I bought another stack of fabric, mostly from Michele Brummer Everett’s collections: Seven Seas & Monsterz. The other prints are random fat quarters that I bought from Sew Fresh Fabrics. All of the fabric is 100% organic cotton.
Michele Brummer Everett Seven Seas & Monsterz
Today, I sewed up my first wonky star block! This tutorial is excellent–the photos make it easy to follow. Instead of using 4.5″ squares, I used 3″ squares to fit my quilt design. The finished block measures 8″x8″. It took a bit of effort to figure out where to put the points, in order for all of the critters to be right-side-up. Only 17 more to go!
My First Wonky Star Block
I am hoping to have this quilt finished in time for Boo’s birthday next week, but I think that’s a bit ambitious. I’m hoping to post a finished quilt soon–I need something to focus on so I don’t feel the effects of Downton Abbey withdrawal.