little things…

I made some balls. Balls for Froo, balls for Boo. Fabric juggling balls from the Oliver + S book, “little things to sew“. They were a request from Froo. She said she wanted “stuffing balls” and tried to make one by clumping stuffing together, as one would make a snowball by gathering snow. I told her we could make fabric balls to put the stuffing into instead.

Froo picked some fabric scraps to make her own patterns:
little things to sew: juggling balls
little things to sew: juggling balls
Froo also picked some fabric for Boo since he was napping. Boo says his favourite colour is blue, but we both know that his “real” favourite colour is orange.
little things to sew: juggling balls
little things to sew: juggling balls
These balls were quick to make and they take up very little fabric. As much as I love fabric, I actually have a tiny fabric stash. I could fit all of my fabric in 3 large tote bins divided equally into 3 categories: quilting, apparel and knit fabric. My fabric scraps fit in 2 shoebox-sized tote bins: one for quilting fabric, the other for everything else. I save even the tiniest scraps! The other scraps get used up in small projects, like a door draft pillow.

Now that Froo is in Kindergarten in the morning, we have the afternoons together while Boo naps. Froo was content to sort through the scraps, then fold and stack them back in the box. She helped me stuff all of the balls as well. Inside each ball, I added a tiny beanbag filled with poly-pellets to give them a weighted feel. It makes them roll funny, which is all part of the fun.
little things to sew: juggling balls
It makes me happy to make toys for Froo & Boo from remnants of previous handmade goodies, especially since Froo & Boo love their new juggling balls! For real. They both sleep with at least one ball each. They play with them in the car. They make up games with the balls, marking off areas on the carpet with washi tape as targets. I have no idea where Froo gets her ideas–I simply observe with wonder at how small and simple toys can stimulate such imaginative play.

Can you tell that I love rearranging the little decorations on the fireplace mantle? The hubs and I used to collect wooden dolls on our travels. We bought the Team Canada (1998 Nagano Olympics) nesting dolls in Prague. The wooden girls are from Japan. Tintin (not wooden) is from Paris. The San Francisco print on wood was purchased at the Renegade Craft Fair last year.
little things to sew: juggling balls
Sometimes the little things give the big things their significance. Boo found the smallest scrap with construction trucks and held onto it tightly, asking me to use it in a ball. That fabric was used to make his drooly bibs ages ago! I didn’t blog that one because it went missing and I later found it with a bunch of others in a suitcase. This small scrap brought me back to a time when Boo was a newborn–all the angst, love and care focussed on keeping this precious new baby alive. I still worry about keeping Boo alive–not from my negligence, but his own boyish and crazed adventure-seeking carefree nature.

Here’s a round-up of some of the projects from which the smallest of scraps originated:

To view details on any of these projects, click on the Photo Index link above.

To view details on any of these projects, click on the Photo Index link above.

As for the book “little things to sew”, the more I sew from it, the more genius I think it is. It is the perfect combination of useful, cute and child-appropriate fun–with the addition of excellent instruction for basic to advanced sewing techniques. I’ve learned oodles from this book, giving me the confidence to try more challenging sewing projects.

This morning, I put the explorer vests on Froo & Boo to see if they still fit. They have been well-worn, keeping the kids warm in the mornings, although they haven’t been worn this summer–I think we’ve finally acclimated to the weather here. Froo & Boo have really grown in a year:
little things to sew: explorer vests
There are oodles of happy little things going on right now. I made some balls. I’m pretty happy with that.

Datura Blouse + Bias Tape Hem Tutorial

Froo & Boo: Bias Tape and Buttons
Have you ever started a project and never got around to finishing it because of something small, like buttons? Or a bias tape finished hem? Or both? That’s what happened with my Datura blouse.

When I became a contestant for the Super Online Sewing Match, I had to send in a self-portrait. Holy smokes–who knew it would be so hard to find a decent photo of myself? All of the photos I’m in either include Froo or Boo or both. Even finding a photo of just the hubs & me is rare. So I threw on my Datura blouse with an open-flap back/unfinished hem and asked Froo to take a photo of me. This is the photo that ended up on the Sew Mama Sew blog:
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
Does the fabric combination look familiar? I must have been in a creative rut, sewing a shirt for myself using the exact same fabric in a baby girl’s dress:
Roses & Chambray Dress
In a “who wore it best?” contest, my little niece would win hands-down, with 100% of the popular vote. I must have thought it worked so well on her, that it would work on me, too. I was completely outstyled by a baby–I guess that’s why I never got around to finishing the blouse. The weather also cooled down considerably in July, so that might have something to do with it. Excuses!

The Datura blouse pattern is available from the Deer and Doe pattern shop. I think the chambray and country roses are fitting for my first ever French pattern:
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
But nothing is more chic than covered buttons:
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
Yay! My buttons are finished! I took the easy way out and omitted button holes, sewing the buttons straight through both layers. I used size 5/8″ covered buttons to make a dozen buttons, mimicking the look of a wedding gown. C’est romantique, non?

I would delve into the details of sewing construction, but I don’t remember making this blouse. Looking through my past posts, I must have started at the end of June, which isn’t that long ago! I’ll share what I do know:

  1. I made the blouse in size 38 and the fit is parfait.
  2. The instructions are sparse. Par exemple, the instructions read, “Stitch the remaining bias tape as hem facing, at the bottom of the blouse.” No illustrations, no detailed step-by-step dialogue guiding me through my confusion.
  3. I will definitely make it again. Encore!

I thought I would provide a mini bias tape hem facing tutorial, if you’re a visual learner, like me. As a disclaimer, I’m pretty new to bias tape and the method I use is the one that makes the most sense to me. There are oodles of online tutorials on how to make bias tape (I’ll leave you to find your preferred method), but not too many on how to sew a hem facing with bias tape. Even the good ones I’ve found are missing the crucial photo on how to start and finish when hemming with bias tape.

I made some bias tape with quilting cotton from Jo-Ann. I chose to use quilting cotton because it is heavier than chambray, creases better and provides structure. Besides, the dusty aqua with small and squishy polka dots is a fun surprise on the inside of the blouse! I cut 1″ strips on the bias and used the #12 (1/2 inch) Clover bias tape maker. This is what single-fold 1/2″ bias tape looks like:
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
My brain looks at that and I immediately think, there are 2 folds, that must be double-fold bias tape. Oh no no no. If you were to take single-fold bias tape and fold it again, in half, that would become double-fold bias tape. So my 1/2″ single-fold bias tape can be transformed into 1/4″ double-fold bias tape:
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 1: Leaving a 1/2″ tail, align right side of bias tape on top of the right side of the shirt, a scant 1/4″ from the bottom edge. Pin.Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 2: Tuck in the tail to align with the edge of the placket. Pin. (My placket is purposely inside out because I liked the look of it better this way.)
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 3: Using the fold line as a guide, sew the bias tape onto the shirt. Your stitch line + scant 1/4″ edge should give you less than a 1/2″ seam allowance. Sew until you are about 2″ from the other end of the shirt.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 4: Trim bias tape to leave 1/2″ tail and tuck it in (as in Step 2), then sew down.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 5: Press bias tape up, towards the bottom of the shirt, tucking the edges of the shirt underneath the top fold.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 6: Trim edges as needed. Then press to the inside of the shirt.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing TutorialDatura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 7
: Press entire bias strip on fold.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 8
: Starting from the bottom edge, top stitch the bias tape to the placket, then pivot the needle at the corner to top stitch the entire length of the bias tape. (I really should have started on the other side–I had to shove the shirt through the neck of the sewing machine!)
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 9: Press everything in place and admire your work.
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Datura Blouse Hem Facing Tutorial
Step 10: Have someone take photos of you wearing your new Datura blouse. Froo was behind the camera again:
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
I must admit, I love everything about this blouse! If I had a wee complaint, it would be my lack of bottoms to match–I wear jeans 90% of the time and chambray on denim is just too blue. I haven’t worn these khaki pants in about a year. I kept trying to put my hands in my pockets, but the pockets are horribly shallow.
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
Datura Blouse by Deer and Doe Patterns
When I took off my blouse, Froo poked my belly and asked, “mommy, why do you look like a pumpkin?” I couldn’t stop laughing! Underneath my Datura blouse, hides a pumpkin–I feel a bit like Cinderella. Yet another reason to love the Datura!

Grey Wiksten Tova & Flashback Skinny Tee

After my last post about an experimental Wiksten Tova, I was excited to test the success of a second knit+voile tova. I chose to start with the grey because the fabric is a dream–butter soft and thin, without being sheer. The fibre content is a mystery, but I think it’s cotton blended with either lycra or polyester, with just enough stretch to give it drape without a boingy yo-yo effect.
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
Just as I was starting, I came across this helpful post by Grainline Studio when sewing with knits. One thing that I find really important when sewing with knits is to take the time to really smooth out the bumps and bubbles, without stretching the fabric when preparing it for cutting. A small bubble could distort the entire shape of a pattern piece.

Et voilà, my grey Wiksten tova!
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten TovaGrey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
One improvement that I made with this version is my recent discovery of the stretch tricot stitch on my sewing machine. It works like a zigzag, but oh so much prettier. (When sewing knit fabric, a regular straight stitch has no give and the thread would break when the seams are stretched. That’s why a zigzag stitch or a serger is used for knit fabric.) A double-needle is a great solution, but I am finding that it doesn’t work well with all types of knits, especially the thin stuff.
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
A detailed look at the stretch tricot stitch on the hem:
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
The fabric for the inset is not actually voile–it’s a lightweight cotton shirting fabric. I couldn’t decide if I wanted the stripes running vertically or horizontally–as a happy compromise, I choose to position the stripes diagonally. I like how it turned out.
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I accidentally sewed the inset inside out when attaching it to the front of the shirt. You can tell because the placket detail is on the inside. Luckily, the stripes are identical both inside and out, so it doesn’t really matter. But I spent a lot of time trying to match up the stripes on the placket, only to have them hidden!
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I sized this tova down and changed the sleeves to omit the sleeve cuffs. I originally wanted it to have fitted 3/4 length sleeves, so I took in the width of the sleeves, using the Made-by-Rae Flashback Skinny Tee pattern as a guide. Unfortunately, my arms are not as skinny as I would like them to be and the sleeves were too tight! I had to cut new sleeves, but ran out of fabric, so I settled for short sleeves. I would have liked them a bit shorter, but this length is great for covering up my not-so-skinny arms.
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I am looking forward to making more knit tovas! It is so easy to wear. The soft knit is incredibly comfortable and the fit of the shirt is loose, yet flattering at the same time. I am planning my next with a matching one for Froo.

With 2 yards of the grey knit, I was able to eke out a flashback skinny tee for Boo–luckily before I had my sleeve issue. I made his shirt in size 3T, but I lengthened the arms and shirt because the flashback tee I made him a couple of months ago is getting small. I liked the look of the diagonal stripes, so I stitched together 2 pieces on a 45 degree angle to create a chevron print for a tiny pocket.
Grey Flashback Skinny Tee
I had a mishap with the neckband and serger, which couldn’t be undone. I ended up having to cut off the neckband, making the neck opening really wide and terribly unsymmetrical. Boo’s skinny tee became a boatneck tee. After his first fitting, he looked like a ballet dancer. I ended up pulling up the neckline and stitching it down with a button at the shoulders. The fish button was a last minute addition to play on the nautical theme.Grey Flashback Skinny Tee
Boo loves the fish button! He wanted to wear his fish shirt to preschool this morning, but I didn’t want it to get dirty until after we took photos.Grey Flashback Skinny Tee
My Boo will not stay still for photos. Even when I try to bribe him with gummy bears, he starts jumping up and down, causing all sorts of blurry motion.Grey Flashback Skinny TeeGrey Flashback Skinny TeeGrey Flashback Skinny Tee
Grey Flashback Skinny TeeGrey Flashback Skinny Tee
This is the first matching project I made for Boo & me. The softness of Boo’s shirt makes me want to hug him all day long. Cuddles in bed while watching Little Einsteins. If only he would stay still… Maybe I should enroll Boo in ballet.

Froo is becoming my reliable fashion photographer:
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova and Flashback Skinny Tee
Grey Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova and Flashback Skinny Tee
Today was Boo’s last day of the summer session of preschool. There was a cute little party for parents just before the regular pick-up time. Boo’s teacher told me that he is very happy, sociable and will play with everyone. I am so proud of my little man.

An Experimental Wiksten Tova

Everything about this sewing project was an experiment. A potential game-changer in my wardrobe. If successful, my discovery would lead to the perfect harmony of style and comfort.

I’ll start at the beginning: while exploring the Hiller Aviation Museum last Sunday, I spotted a mom wearing a beautiful navy (jersey?) knit shirt with a woven (voile?) yoke in a navy floral print. At the same moment, I realized that the style was very similar to the Wiksten Tova. My excitement could not be contained at the possibility of a knit+voile tova!

The closest thing I could find from searching a couple of my favourite shops is the Castello V-Neck from Anthropologie. I think I need to learn how to embroider…

I used whatever fabric I already had, being experimental and all. For the front inset, collar and sleeve cuffs, I used the cotton voile from the Geranium dress I made for Froo, called “Treasure” in Courage. The heather pink cotton/lycra blend knit fabric is from Jo-Ann. Both are not fabrics I would have chosen for myself. On a personal note, I rarely wear pink. I’ve always been told that I was “cute”, so I avoided anything pink, wearing colours like navy and grey instead. Pink and aqua–now we’re into sorbet and pastel dessert territory. Yikes. But I soldiered on, hoping for the best, yet, wondering if it might end up in my pajama pile.

Ta da! My knit+voile Wiksten tova!
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
If you look closely, you’ll see a seam running down the centre of the shirt. Totally unintentional–I cut 2 front pieces instead of one piece on the fold. I didn’t have enough fabric to cut a new piece, so I serged the 2 pieces together. Oops.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
I’m still not sure if the aqua and pink are working together or competing against each other. This is my fourth tova and by far the best job I’ve done on the front inset. The voile makes such a huge difference! I also machine-basted the collar before top-stitching it together.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
When sewing the knit fabric, I followed most of the instructions from the pattern. My sewing machine has a built-in walking foot that helped keep the fabric from stretching. The knit does not need to stretch where it meets the voile, so a straight stitch worked well, finished with edges serged together. For the side and sleeve seams, I only used the serger, to give it more ease. Since the tova is a loose-fitting shirt, I hemmed the shirt with a straight stitch as well.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
I had Froo take some photos, but she kept chopping off my head. Next time, I will have her stand on a stool. Or maybe I should just buy a tripod and remote. But taking photos with Froo is oodles fun–she’s seriously bossy and my photos end up with some interesting perspective and angles.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
We came back inside and got one in front of the mirror:
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
Then we took a couple more photos together. We part our hair on the same side, but that’s where the resemblance ends. Froo is a carbon copy of the hubs. She thinks my new pink shirt is lovely and asked me how I got her dress into my shirt.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
The result of my experiment: this version is too bubblegum pink for me, but the knit+voile tova definitely works as a super comfy and stylish shirt. After dropping Froo off at school this morning, Boo and I took a drive to San Francisco for a “Friday Fabric Field trip” at Fabric Outlet. I managed to pick up fabric for 3 more knit+voile tovas. It was hard to narrow down my choices–with the endless possibility of prints, contrasting solids, tone-on-tone combinations, embroidered voile in swiss dots and eyelet–so exciting! As an added bonus, all of the fabric combined was cheaper than the Nani Iro double-gauze I used in my previous tova. (Still my all-time favourite shirt.)
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
The lightweight blue voile is gorgeous–it has the look of indigo-dyed plaid, with subtle textured diagonal stripes. Not something I would have considered, if it hadn’t been for my attempt to find something to match the navy knit.
Knit + Voile Wiksten Tova
For my next knit+voile tova, I think I will size it down–the front inset tends to gape open from the stretch of the knit. I might even be brave enough to try one with a lace back, like the incredibly sexy one by Venus of Suburbia Soup. Although, I like the knit version because it hides all of the squishy bits, instead of exposing them! I think I will send my experimental tova to my sister–it is better suited as a nursing shirt. Serendipity never looked so good.

I am celebrating my one-year blogiversary today. It’s already been one year since I first published this post. My desk does not look like that anymore. I would update my photo, but it’s pretty messy all the time at the moment. My beautiful jewelry box has been vandalized by Boo, in an attempt to open it. But it’s still glued shut and the contents will remain a happy mystery. Thank you for visiting my blog!

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Froo’s 1st (Mon)day of Kindergarten

After Kids Clothes Week wrapped up, I started making an outfit for Froo’s first day of Kindergarten. That already happened last Wednesday. Oops. So this outfit is for Froo’s first Monday of Kindergarten. School in August? Strange, but true at a year-round school.
Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
An outfit that is a little serious and grown-up, yet maintains a girlie flair with some pleats and pintucks: my first ever Oliver + S pattern–none other than the music class blouse and skirt. I ordered the pattern last year, after seeing this photo on flickr. I knew I wanted to make a similar shirt for Froo, also in flannel, to be worn as a lightweight jacket.
Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
Since moving to the San Francisco Bay Area last May, I’ve come to expect variable weather patterns on the peninsula. Overcast, windy and cold one moment, hot and sunny the next, then back to cold. I check my weather app obsessively. Everyone just says the same thing: “layers”. The music class blouse is the perfect layering piece.
Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
The selvedge on the flannel reads: “Faye Burgos for MARCUS Fabrics”. It’s incredibly soft and feels more substantial than most flannels. I used a variegated pink cotton thread from Sulky to sew 2 rows of topstitching to give the blouse the look of outerwear and to secure the seams on the inside. The pretty ivory enamel and gold-detailed buttons are from Discount Fabrics in San Francisco.Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
The music class blouse pattern is detailed, slightly complex, yet easy to follow with clear instructions. However, I still managed to mess up the collar–I’m not sure what happened, but at 2 am, I should have called it quits much earlier and started fresh the next day. It’s only noticeable upon careful inspection, so I decided to leave it as is. The pintucks on the front and back are tiny details that add volumes of style. Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + SkirtOliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
The skirt is seriously cute. I made it in chambray, giving it a very French look, especially with the pleats. The skirt was an afterthought, really. I wasn’t going to make it, but I figured I should, since I was already tracing all of my pattern pieces for the blouse. I’m so happy I did–the fabric is just perfect for this skirt! If you look closely, you’ll notice that one side of pleats is directionally challenged. Oops.Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
I love Froo’s TOMS–sparkly black mary janes. I wish they came in my size.Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + SkirtOliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
I attached tiny golden heart buttons to the patch pockets I added to the front of the blouse (pattern piece from the geranium dress), sleeve cuffs and skirt pockets. I wanted the heart theme to run throughout this outfit. Originally, the Secret Heart Summer Tunic top was part of the outfit, but it was too much fun and had to be worn on its own!

Not that this outfit isn’t fun, it just represents the huge leap Froo is taking from being a large toddler to becoming an independent child. I think Froo senses it too–she is always asking if she can continue to do something, ie. use crayons or play with her bunny or be my best friend, when she turns 5 years old. I have to keep reminding myself that Froo is still 4 years old, despite making both blouse and skirt in size 6!
Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt
Froo is adjusting well to Kindergarten. Even through my endless worries, I knew she would. I’m the one who is an emotional wreck. I can’t help it when I think of how much she’s grown. Remembering the day she was born–what an amazing gift. Reflecting upon the parenting choices the hubs and I have made, including the difficult decision to move from Canada to California. Trying to get over the mommy guilt that I have for expecting so much from my baby girl. Being surprised by how she’s exceeded my expectations in every way imaginable. Witnessing the tender moments when Froo patiently teaches Boo, while he looks up to his big sister.

My Froo continues to teach me to be present in each moment and to share the secret that we are so so sooo lucky to love each other. Shhh, that is our little secret!
Oliver + S Music Class Blouse + Skirt