Some sewing happened in 2013

I feel like it’s really late for a year-end review. It’s not even the full list, just a partial selection of sewing projects by the pattern co. oliver+s, designed by Liesl Gibson. Every time I use an oliver+s pattern, I learn something new: a sewing technique, a better way to do things, elements of style and functional design–all things that make me a better sewist (sewer, seamstress, home-sewing enthusiast??). It’s one thing to churn out handmade clothing, but to thoughtfully grasp the meaning behind the process–this is what I am striving for.

I’ve always thought the term “self-taught” was a complete misnomer. It discounts the significance of teachers in all forms: bloggers who write/photograph online tutorials, authors of how-to books, pattern designers, mentors, and the list goes on. As a former teacher, I used to spend hours creating lesson plans to teach students computer software skills that they could pick up rather quickly on their own. My goal was to put together a framework for those skills to be used in a meaningful way–that there is a purpose behind everything. That way, new skills can build upon previously learned skills, opening up possibilities for incredible and original work.

I think a better term would be “self-learned” or even more specific, “self-motivated learner”. It somehow implies that the learning never stops. Even though my basic sewing skills were learned in my home ec. class over 20 years ago, I have learned from countless sewing blogs, YouTube videos, online courses, books, patterns and my mom. This blog helps me document what I’ve learned and also, to give back to the sewing community, from which I have gained so much. (Although, most of my sewing is virtual and only happens in my mind as I scroll through Pinterest…)

For me, improving as a sewist and learning new skills means that I can take my own designs and actually create them into wearable garments. I find this incredibly exciting! On January 13th, I will be sharing my original designs on the Project Run & Play website. I am still amazed at this opportunity. I have gained so much confidence from my continual effort to keep on sewing new things. Receiving positive feedback from this blog is immensely rewarding and gives me that extra “oomph” of motivation.

A couple of my Project Run & Play designs were inspired by the designs of oliver+s. They have my style stamped on them, but were only made possible by the skills I have learned in the past year, from using the patterns. Thank you so very much, Liesl!

For all the sewing tutorial writers out there, keep doing what you do. Chances are, I’ve been to your blog, but haven’t left a comment thanking you for your time and effort. 2014 will be a new year for me to try my best to leave thank-you notes, in the form of warm fuzzy comments. If a retroactive thank you counts, a HUGE “thank you!” for teaching me on my journey to learning new things!

Advertisements

Scoop Neck Wiksten Tova

If my last knit+voile Wiksten Tova was on the masculine side–being grey, with men’s striped shirting fabric and matching Boo’s shirt, this one is oozing with feminine features: florals, swiss dots, rounded corners and pintucks. I’ve become so familiar with this pattern that I took some dramatic liberties with this version–completely altering the inset.

Presenting the scoop neck knit+voile tova!
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I added pintucks to the front inset based on another shirt that I have with swiss dots. I originally tried to make buttonholes, but my first one went askew and took forever to unpick, so I sewed the buttons through both layers. Although I’m not loving the little white flower buttons, they are inconspicuous and blend in with the white fabric.
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I omitted the gathered front and intended to put a nice box pleat in the centre of the shirt instead. What I ended up with is a microscopic pleat with a gap in the middle! Hardly noticeable. At all. Boogers.
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
To explain why that happened, I need to describe what I did to draft a new inset. After creating a scoop neck curve, I lengthened the end of the inset where the placket is attached, to account for the extra width of the pintucks. After making my pintucks, I realized that I didn’t leave enough room for the placket. I had to narrow down the placket, ending up with a wider-than-original inset.
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
To achieve a rounded corner, I traced a small bowl over the corner of the inset, cut it off and taped it to the front pattern piece. When sewing the inset to the front of the shirt, I used a lot of pins on the corners to avoid any puckering. I love the look of the rounded corners!Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I used store-bought 1/4″ double-fold bias tape to finish the inside of the inset.
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
For the back collar, I shortened one collar piece and attached it the same way as the cuffs, except the ends are tucked in, similar to the application of a bias tape finished hem.
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
While I love the floral printed knit, it has very little stretch and it’s not as soft as my grey tova–I have a feeling that it’s not going to hold up so well in the wash. I’m guessing that the fabric is more poly than cotton, which will start pilling with lint balls. I’ll have to remind the hubs not to put it in the dryer when he does the laundry!

Finally, a couple of photos of me in my latest tova. I had Froo take some outside, but it was rather windy:
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
We tried once more before going back inside. This is what Froo’s photos look like, when they haven’t been rotated and cropped:
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I tried taking some photos inside, to escape the elements. These ones are a classic example of my “I’m trying to look focussed, yet at ease” pose:
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
This next pose is “how I really feel when I take these types of photos”:
Scoop Neck Knit+Voile Wiksten Tova
I think my latest tova is dramatically different! I don’t have to worry about flashing a bit of bra here and there with this inset–it is staying shut. The scoop could be a little scoopier, but overall, I’m pretty happy with how it turned out! This is my 7th Wiksten Tova (my 3rd one in knit fabric) and I’ve finally had the courage to alter the pattern. I’m still sewing them up, at least one more–a round-up post will surely ensue.

I’m also drafting a mini version for Froo. I was going to use the same fabric, but then we took a trip to Santa Cruz on Labour Day and stopped by Hart’s Fabric for what seemed like 5 minutes, although the hubs was convinced it was an hour. I was drooling over the fabric selection!

When we finally got to the beach, Froo & Boo had a great time playing in the water. They had absolutely no interest in the boardwalk. The hubs tried a funnel cake for the first time. Boo ate most of my soft serve pineapple icecream. There was a crowded bunch of people trying to savour the last bits of summer. Oh hello, September!
Santa Cruz on Labour Day
Santa Cruz on Labour Day
Santa Cruz on Labour Day

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!

KCW: My 2nd Geranium Dress!

For KCW Summer 2013, I am repeating myself from the last spring edition. I made a Geranium dress for the first time and while it is a lovely dress, I have learned from my mistakes:

  1. Put the back bodice piece together properly. (Previously, I missed a good 1 1/4″ section that made the dress too tight! Oops.)
  2. Get Froo’s input for fabric choices. (It turns out cream & brown are not her faves.)

The last time we went fabric shopping, Froo picked a gorgeous print as soon as we walked in and wouldn’t change her mind. The fabric is called “Treasure” in Courage–part of the Wish collection by Valorie Wells. It is a cotton voile, which is much lighter and finely woven than quilting cotton–perfect for summer!

I chose to make this Geranium dress with faux cap sleeves and a pleated skirt. The only modification I made was to lengthen it by an inch and sew up the sides of the skirt with French seams. Froo did not want pockets, saying, “pockets are not fancy”. She has a point, I guess.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Froo picked matching buttons in a frosted aqua.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
I used muslin as my lining. Since the cotton voile is somewhat sheer, the ivory lining keeps the colours looking a bit “softer”. I was going to use white lining, but somehow, the fabric seemed to brighten up too much at the bodice. The dress is sheer enough that you can see Froo’s silhouette in sunlight, but I think the fullness of the skirt makes it acceptable without lining.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Froo’s first pose:
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Froo was really excited to try on the dress as soon as she woke up. We don’t have the best light in the morning, so my photos are not stellar. Which is perfectly fine with me–what really matters is the smile on her face.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
In the next photo, you’ll notice that Froo got a haircut! A couple of weeks ago, she went to a hair salon for the first time–my mom used to cut it, but since we’ve moved, it has grown out of control. I think she looks much older, but I still deny it every moment I can.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
The pink tulle and bead trim adds a delicate touch to the dress. I bought it months ago at Fabrix in San Francisco for $0.25/yard. I bought 10 yards, not knowing what for, except for the fact that it only cost me $2.50!
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium DressKCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Froo says the cutest things sometimes, such as: “I’m not a princess, I just look like one” or “people think I’m a princess because I wear princess dresses” or my favourite, “when I turn 5 years old, can I still play with my bunny?” Of course you can, my princess. To which she would respond, “I’m not a princess, I just look like one!” Sheesh.
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Froo is in a 5T Geranium dress, so I think this is the last year that she’ll be able to fit into it. Rae recently released the Big G, Geranium Dress in sizes 6-12, which I might have to pick up soon. It’s crazy how fast my little girl is growing!

As for Boo, he is still our photo bomber extraordinaire:
KCW Summer 2013: My Second Geranium Dress
Finally, a couple of Instagram photos of our weekend spent at Half Moon Bay and having some carnival fun, with Froo & Boo in their new KCW summer outfits:
KCW Summer 2013: Froo & Boo
KCW Summer 2013: Froo & Boo
KCW Summer 2013: Froo & Boo
KCW Summer 2013: Froo & Boo
KCW Summer 2013: Froo & Boo
We have traded in our swimming suits for snow pants with iceskating lessons on Saturday afternoons! Keeping it Canadian in the Froo & Boo household, even though the kids are the most tanned they’ve ever been. Hope the rest of your weekend is ever so lovely!

Froo, the (bossy) fashion designer

My pride has been slightly wounded. Froo did not like the chiffon geranium dress I made her for Kids Clothes Week. At all. Admittedly, I was crushed. I still love the dress and I am trying to convince her to wear it to her preschool graduation. We’ll see.

But what I am really proud of, quite unexpectedly, is Froo’s ability to convey the exact dress she wanted me to make for her. She even drew a picture:
Fashion Designer Froo
This was how she described it: “I want a dark pink dress, really dark, with white ruffle sleeves, but I couldn’t draw the white sleeves because the paper is white, so in my picture, they look black. I also want a white ruffle trim on the bottom. I want the white ruffles to be like this (she drew scallops in the air with her finger). Can you help me write, ‘I want a dress like this’ on my paper?”

That is why there is an uppercase “I” on Froo’s drawing. I almost cried. My little Froo is a fashion designer. I humbly complied to Froo’s request. How could I deny her the actualization of her imagined dress?
Fashion Designer Froo
For Froo’s dress, I used the Kate’s Dress pattern by Lily Bird Studio, previously made here, but in size 6. I really love the simplicity of this pattern. The fabric is Kona cotton in Pomegranite. I used an eyelet trim for the ruffle sleeves and hem that I bought at Jo-Ann. 2 yards was just enough to embellish this dress.
Fashion Designer Froo
The buttons on the back are shaped like tiny rosebuds and complements the eyelet floral embroidery.
Fashion Designer Froo
Froo was really happy to wear her dress. It was picture day at preschool today–I’m not sure if it’s an American thing to take a school photo at the end of the school year, but in Canada, we’re accustomed to taking one at the beginning of the year. In any case, she wouldn’t wear tights or a cardigan with her dress, even though the wind was crazy today.
Fashion Designer Froo
Fashion Designer Froo
It was also free choice for show n’ tell today, so she took her LEGO Duplo giraffe to preschool.
Fashion Designer Froo
Then we had another photo bomber incident, thus ending our short photo session.
Fashion Designer Froo
Next time I make Froo a dress, I am going to ask for her input. The white and dark (dark) pink combination is not one I would have paired together myself. (It’s also very difficult to photograph–my camera didn’t like the high contrast and the pink appears much brighter than it should be). Somehow, it works. More importantly, I have a very happy daughter who is proud to wear the dress her mommy made for her.

Happy Birthday, Mama!

This post is dedicated to Froo & Boo’s Mama, or the hubs’ mom, or the best mother-in-law I could ever have wished for. (Seriously). We wish you the very best, most memorable 60th Birthday ever! The sign below reads, “WELCOME MAMA YEYE UNCLE ERIC!”, written and drawn by Froo.
Mama's Birthday
In both the Chinese & Korean language, there is a different title for grandmother, depending on which side of the family she comes from. There are also different titles for siblings, relatives and in-laws, making it easier to identify extended family members. The hubs’ parents are lovingly called, “Mama & Yeye”.
Mama's Birthday
Mama had requested a Froo & Boo Colour Block Tote Bag for her & Yeye to use on the cruise. She wanted to pay for it, but I wanted to make it as a gift for her. It is customized with the titles that her and Yeye wear with the utmost pride and joy. Mama chose navy blue so Yeye wouldn’t object to carrying it as well.
Mama's Birthday Mama's Birthday
Since the tote was something that Mama had requested, I wanted to make her something else, too. So I made her a cowl-neck sweater using this pattern that I got on sale at Jo-Anns. I used a stretch French terry in grey that I was intending to use to make Boo a sweatshirt version of the flashback skinny tee, but the fabric was such a great match for the pattern.

I followed the pattern instructions, except that I sewed most of the seams using my new serger. I also used a double-needle to finish the hems on the neck, sleeves and shirt bottom. After trying it on, I almost wanted to keep it for myself, but I had already told the hubs that I was making a shirt for his mom, so I had to give it up. I am definitely going to make another one for myself. It’s a very easy pattern and the fit is comfy, yet form-flattering. I really like the cowl-neck of the shirt and the serger made it so fast and easy to sew.
Mama's Birthday
My one modification: sleeve tabs. I love sleeve tabs! It gives you the option of having long sleeves and 3/4 length sleeves. I followed the instructions from the Shearwater kaftan pattern using the same anchor covered fabric for my cruise-worthy skirt. I purchased the buttons from Dressew in Vancouver. I love how the dimensions adds a bit of sparkle to the button by reflecting light off the angled surfaces.
Mama's Birthday
Mama, Yeye & Uncle E arrived on February 28, but Mama’s birthday isn’t until today, March 2. We gave Mama her birthday gifts on the day she arrived and she wore her new shirt that night and the very next day. I’m pretty sure that means she loves it as much as I do. This post is scheduled to publish on March 2, while we are away, so I’m not sure when I’ll be posting anything new for awhile. I plan to take it eeeeaaaassssy.
Mama's Birthday
By the way, doesn’t Mama look so young?? She’s not afraid to get down and play with Froo & Boo–joyfully participating in all of Froo’s ideas and plans to have the very best day ever. She’s also hip and has great style. Shopping with her is oodles of fun–we spent the 2 days before the cruise shopping and checking out the new outlets at Livermore. It was the best way to start our holiday cruise!

A cruise-worthy skirt

The Froo & Boo family is going on a Caribbean cruise! We will be celebrating a very special birthday, together with the hubs’ family.
Cruise-worthy skirt
I have been holding onto this fabric for way too long, hoping that it would magically turn into an amazing dress. But I’ve learned that the more you wait, the more things change, then eventually, you change your mind altogether. So now that my mind’s been changed, I need to act on it before it changes again.

Even though I was really excited to have a dress covered with anchors, I decided that the fabric would work better as a skirt. I first found this skirt here and knew I had to make one. Then I found Noodlehead’s skirt sew-along with step-by-step photos so I had no excuses! I got the pattern (Simplicity 2226) on sale for $1.99 at Fabricland a couple of years ago. I am really trying to get all of the projects I’ve planned completed at the beginning of this year, before I start new ones.

I love how it turned out! I used the fabric before in my fabric covered button magnets. It’s from Dear Stella Anchors Away–perfect for a cruise!
Cruise-worthy skirt
I also added a sash in the contrasting white/blue anchors print fabric.
Cruise-worthy skirt Cruise-worthy skirt
I made it in size 8 and when I tried it on, I could hardly breathe with the zipper fully closed. That was on February 5. The following day, I started the 30 Day Shred. I set my iPhone alarm every night and since then, I’ve only missed a couple of days. At first, I thought I was going to die. I was also doing yoga once a week, so I was starting to feel pretty good. Here’s the strange thing: after 3 weeks, I haven’t lost any weight. In fact, I think I’ve gained several pounds. Whaaaat?? I feel stronger and I’m eating healthy meals–the only possible explanation is that the squishy stuff surrounding my mid-section is utterly unimpressed with my efforts. So I’ve resorted to wearing Spanx. How embarrassing:
Cruise-worthy skirt
I’m trying to figure out which pairs of shoes are essential to pack. I’m really digging the pink suede oxfords I recently bought at Nordstrom–I try to wear them with everything.
Cruise-worthy skirt
There are a couple other handmade garments that I am packing for the cruise:
Clothing for the cruise
1. A dress (Simplicity 2584, now out-of-print) I made years ago, shortly after Froo was born. I thought sizing up would do the trick, but it was the first garment I had sewn for myself in a really long time and I didn’t prewash my cotton. I was horrified when I couldn’t zip it up from its lowest point. It finally fits! I think it’ll look good at the beach over a bathing suit. This fabric was also used for Froo’s birthday quiet book. After much more experience with buying fabric, I’ve learned that there is a huge variation in quality, even with quilting fabric. This one is covered with a tiny white floral print and the quality is sub-par with stiff cotton.
Cynthia Rowley - Simplicity 2584
2. A Shearwater Kaftan shirt. I feel a little embarrassed that I copied the look on the pattern cover by using the exact same Nani Iro fabric in double-gauze, but I love this shirt. I wore it on the cruise we went on last winter. I also cut the neck opening on the back of the shirt by mistake, so I had to stitch it together with the bias-binding. Oops. I can’t believe how much Froo has grown!
Shearwater Kaftan
I also like this one tucked into my jeans with a fun belt:
Shearwater Kaftan
3. A Wiksten tank. I’m not sure about using quilting fabric for this top–it would work much better with a lightweight fabric, such as cotton voile or double-gauze. Since there are no darts at the bust, the fabric doesn’t drape very well and hangs awkwardly. I was thinking of making it again while slimming down the sides, but it’s super comfortable and hides the squishy bits just fine. The fabric is from the Melrose collection by Red Rooster. This one is really soft and the print quality is excellent.
Wiksten tank
4. Finally, my favourite Wiksten tova, blogged here. This photo was taken last November when we stopped at Harris Ranch for lunch on our way down to Disneyland. Nani Iro double-gauze is becoming my favourite fabric when it comes to sewing for myself.
Wiksten Tova
I’m really excited about spending time with my family and the hubs’ family on our cruise this year. We had so much fun last year, that we just had to book it again this year. Little Boo has probably transformed the most:
Boo on a cruise
He’s still full of trouble, that one. Last night, I had taken off the sewing machine foot to stitch a button and left the foot beside the machine. This morning, Boo ran to me and handed me the foot and said, “Uh oh, broken. Sorry.” He had the guiltiest look on his face. Even though he didn’t break it, I put him in the timeout corner, where Froo was already serving time. I could hear them giggling with each other, but let them hang out there for awhile before walking towards them. They both went really quiet. I sat across from them and the first person to make eye-contact and break the silence was Froo, with, “Sorry mommy.” Then Boo chimes in, “So-zee! Mommy!” There were stern reminders, more apologies, lots of hugs and kisses–but inside, I wanted to laugh at my darling poo-heads. They crack me up.
Froo & Boo in timeout

Sewing for the hubs for Valentine’s day

Happy Valentine's Day
I have never sewn for my hubs before. I have mended clothing for him, but sewing and mending are completely different! I love to sew because I want to create clothing based on really great design that inspires me or from designs that I think up in my head. Mending clothing is grunt work that takes time away from the creative process. If I were to explain it to the hubs, I would tell him that sewing to create something new is like the process of buying a new car: all the planning involved with choosing colours and options, going for test drives and finally purchasing and driving a brand new car. Yay! Mending is like taking your car in for service because there is a gnarly dent in the bumper or something fails. Yuck.

For Valentine’s day, I made the hubs a pair of pajama pants. The hubs is very particular about his pajama pants: they must have pockets, must be lightweight cotton, not flannel, no drawstring, long enough for his legs without shrinking, with boring colours and if adventurous, maybe plaids. The problem with having a tall husband is that eventually, all pants will shrink and weirdly enough, his pant pockets will get caught on door handles and rip his pants. I have mended several pairs of his pajama pants.
Pajama pants for the hubs
I found this pattern and fabric at Fabric Outlet in San Francisco. The fabric is a light-weight charcoal 100% woven cotton chambray for shirting. After washing the fabric, it came out super soft. At 25% off, it was about $5/yard. The great thing about Fabric Outlet is that it is one block away from Grand Mission Donuts & Bakery. A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to San Francisco by myself and picked up some donuts after going to the Fabric Outlet. The soft, yummy treats sustained my energy to visit 3 more fabric shops, then end up in Union Square for some more shopping. Aside from driving in the city, it was a fabulous day-turned-evening exploring the city’s eclectic mix of fabric shops.

My first experience with sewing men’s clothing? Hmmm…
Pajama pants for the hubs
Soooo huge, right?? Nothing like the fit on the model on the pattern cover. I made them in XL because that’s what the hubs always wears in pajama pants. You could fit him and hide both Froo & Boo in each pant-leg.
Pajama pants for the hubs
The pattern didn’t have any pockets, so I added them myself by tracing the pockets from his current pajama pants and using this tutorial. It’s the same fabric that I used for the lining in Froo’s Burberry-Inspired School Coat and the placket inside her Kate Middleton Military Coat. I used the bar tack stitch from my sewing machine to secure the top and bottom of the pockets.
Pajama pants for the hubs
I also added a little Froo & Boo tag to the back of the waistband so the hubs knows the front from back.
Pajama pants for the hubs
But do you want to know the best part about making these pants? I got to test-drive my new serger! I am not sure why I waited so long before getting one–it’s pretty amazing. It hasn’t been changed from its factory settings yet, but I think Boo might have turned some dials when I wasn’t looking.
Pajama pants for the hubs
Pajama pants for the hubs
The dilemma… the pants have been made. The pants are huge. Now I have to mend them to fit the hubs? I would never have the patience to pick out all the serged seams. However, the serger comes with a cutting blade–I realized that I could serge the inside pant legs in one go, leaving the outside seams with pockets as they are. So I pinned and marked 2″ from the middle crotch seam and drew a straight line to the bottom of each pant-leg opening. Then I used the line as a guide to serge the inside pant seams. Et voila!

Version 2.0 of the hubs’ pajama pants. Much better. Maybe it’s better because they are on the hubs. I think he’s happy with them.
Pajama pants for the hubs
I had to give the hubs his Valentine’s gift early because he almost bought a pair of pajama pants when we went shopping and seemed upset that I wouldn’t let him buy them. He was genuinely surprised that I sewed something for him–it once took me a year to stitch a button for him. Oops.

This year, the hubs has been incredibly thoughtful with my gifts. He usually ignores Valentine’s day, hoping I would too (ha!), but Froo gets really excited about Valentine’s day and wouldn’t let any of us forget it. I recently emailed him a link to David Lebovitz’s blog post on Dandelion chocolate in San Francisco. Yesterday, this showed up in the mail:
Valentine's Day
The packaging is exquisite. I can’t wait to try it.

But that’s not all, the hubs also surprised me with something he had designed on his own. I was really shocked. When we were dating, my nickname for him was “Tin Man” so I was forewarned. I was worried that Froo might be half-robot when she said to me, “Mommy, I can feel my heart beeping.”

My very own plaque:
Valentine's Day
We may overdose on chocolate today, but we can never overdose on love. Wishing you an overdose of love in your heart for yourself and your loved ones. Happy Valentine’s day!

Homemade Valentine's Day Cards for Froo's preschool friends

Homemade Valentine’s Day Cards for Froo’s preschool friends

This boy…

Boy Cushions
This boy is being sleep-trained for the first time in his life. Boo was a terrible newborn sleeper–he spent most of his early months attached to me in his moby wrap. It was the only way I could get anything done. Then at around 3 months, I was able to get him asleep in his crib by himself. From 6 months on, the hubs and I would take turns with his bedtime routine and place him in his crib, where he would wave “bye-bye” to us… with a huge smile. From 6 to 19 months, we lived in sleep bliss. Boo would sleep from 7:30 pm to 7:30 am. He napped for 2-3 hours. Oh sigh.

Last December, at 20 months, something changed. Boo would wake up screaming several times in the middle of the night and need long cuddles until he fell back asleep. Then we spent the last half of December in Vancouver–where his sleep was “horridable” (our Frenglish for Nasty McNastersons). We returned to the SF bay area at the beginning of January hoping that his sleep would return to normal. Umm… We got into this horridable routine of giving him cuddles until he fell asleep. Sometimes it took 10 minutes, sometimes it took over an hour. The hubs and I would take turns falling asleep with him at 7:30 pm and transferring him to his crib when he was dead asleep. If he even detected the slightest movement, he would cry, “No, no, no!”.

Needless to say, I am exhausted. Since I have short “naps” in the evening, I have a hard time falling asleep at night, which results in zombie-mommy mornings, which repeats into a horridable cycle.

Long backstory to explain my latest sewing project. Boy cushions. For the small sofa bed in Boo’s room. Because it gets uncomfortable to hold a 30+ pound boy in your arms, sitting on a sofa for so long. Because I can’t focus on anything more complex. Eventually, the hubs would fall asleep on the ground with Boo next to him, but I preferred slouching into the sofa with Boo in my arms, leaning onto the arm of the sofa. I kept thinking it would be more comfortable with more cushions.

So I made these:
Boy Cushions Boy Cushions
From a remnant piece of home decor weight fabric from Britex in San Francisco. Britex is an AMAZING fabric store–I spent nearly 2 hours there, petting the gorgeous selection of fabric and feasting my eyes on the prettiest lace trims, ribbons and buttons. It’s the kind of fabric store that would supply you with everything you need to make something truly special. I love the dump truck print–it’s clearly “boy” without being cheesy. The navy matches the sofa really well and the olive green adds a nice contrast.

I added navy piping because piping makes cushions so much better.
Boy Cushions
I am getting better at installing invisible zippers! You can see my first attempt here.
Boy Cushions Boy Cushions
The new cushions don’t match the blue & white toile cushion covers that we purchased with the sofa bed, but I don’t think Boo minds much. Oh dear, I didn’t realize that I matched Froo & Boo with the furniture today.
Boy Cushions
Several days ago, while I was putting Boo down to sleep, I realized how crazy our night-time routine had become because I thought I was going crazy myself. This is what I told Boo, “Mommy’s going to put you in your crib. I’ll stay here with you, but if you cry, mommy is going to leave.” Boo cried. I left. He cried for 20 minutes. The next day, he cried for 5 minutes. The day after, we had a really late night celebrating Chinese New Year, so that doesn’t count, but I am aiming for a smile and a kiss by next week.

Incidentally, my sister went through something very similar with her son. Her “internet research” revealed that it’s a common “thing” for boys between 20-24 months to experience a sudden change in their sleep habit. My friend’s son, who is only 10 days younger than Boo, mirrored everything Boo was going through and it was comforting sending and receiving email updates on our sleep troubles. But I don’t think it’s limited to just boys. I remember Froo going through something similar when she was about 22-months old. She needed to sleep with her door open. We lived in a small condo at the time, so the hubs and I would turn off all the lights in our home and watch tv with earphones attached to a long extension cord. Good times.

The pillow forms for the new boy cushions used to be in a pair of silk cushion covers I bought in India. They are now worn thin, ripped and stained. In hindsight, silk cushions in a nursery is not very practical. This is a picture a photographer took of Froo when she was 8 days old:
Froo newborn photo
I never thought I would be one to write, “they grow so fast”, but I guess I just did. Although I want Boo to quickly grow out of this terrible sleeping phase, I want him to slow down, just a bit, so I can enjoy the fact that he gives me the world’s best cuddles.

Using up scraps of fabric & batting

Scraps of Fabric & Batting
Thursday is garbage day. There is a black bin for trash, green for compost, forest green for yard waste and blue for recycling. I wish there was another bin for fabric scraps, preferably in a bright colour, like shocking pink. In the interest of living minimally, I have been throwing small scraps of fabric in the garbage, but have been saving bigger pieces in a clear tote bin. I still have guilt when throwing out the tiniest pieces of fabric.

This little project is a great one for many reasons: it uses up fabric & batting scraps, it’s energy efficient, it saves you money and finally, in the interest of living beautifully, it is totally cute!

Without further ado: a door draft pillow. My friend was complaining about the cold draft from the door to her garage, so I made her one. It’s hard to remember that we are in the middle of winter: the weather in the SF bay area is sunny and warm, but it still gets really cold at night. Even though I’m Canadian, I can’t handle the cold–I am LOVING the weather here. Also, the price of electricity is almost 3x more here, than what we were used to paying in Vancouver.
Door Draft Pillows
I made one a couple of years ago and pulled out the same fabric. It’s a fun printed home decor weight canvas from IKEA.
Fabric - IKEA Gunilla
To make, I cut 2 pieces of fabric, approximately 4.5″ x 42″. Using a 1/4″ seam allowance, I sewed around the edges, leaving a 4″ opening. I filled the bottom with about a cup of poly-pellets. You could use rice, but I think rice is for eating and feel it’s a waste otherwise. Then I filled the pillow with various scraps of leftover batting and fabric. It was a great way to use knit/fleece fabric scraps because I never know what to do with them. Finally, I sewed the opening closed with my sewing machine.
Door Draft Pillows
Door Draft Pillows
The previous one I made was a little skinny and firmly packed with stuffing, so this time I made sure to make it wider and loosely packed with fabric and batting scraps. This is important because the pillow needs to relax and slouch into the door crack in order to fill all the little nooks and crannies to stop the cold drafties from seeping through. Hopefully, it’ll keep spiders out, too. That’s pretty much it. Nothing fancy–just an easy project that will have you wondering why you didn’t make one years ago.