13 May 2012

baby trousers and man trousers

A few months ago, I sewed up these baby pants as a gift for my cousin's new little baby girl. They're the Quick Change Trousers from Anna Maria Horner's Handmade Beginnings. They're reversible, so I put a soft flannel on one side and some cheerful cotton prints on the other. Matt was quite taken with them and asked if I could make a pair for him. Yes. I married the most delightful man in the entire world. 

So Matt got his very own Quick Change Trousers. I used the pattern pieces from Simplicity 2290, but followed Anna Maria's instructions so they'd be reversible. 

I originally cut out a size too big, so at first they were swimming on him. The phrase "clown pants" might have been used. But Matt never lost faith in the pants, and after I adjusted the side seams and tightened the elastic waist, they fit him perfectly. 


And here's the reverse side. Yes, this man will wear polka dots on his butt. And if you needed further proof that I married the most delightful man in the world: when asked what he wants for our upcoming second anniversary, his answers have included "rent a bouncy house" and "unicycle."

06 May 2012

01 May 2012

the veil

Early in the wedding planning, Jennie was undecided on whether or not she wanted to wear a veil. On the one hand, it seemed really formal and traditional but on the other, it's romantic and so very bridal. And, it's like a poofy dress--when else are you going to get the chance to wear one? 

I may or may not have made some unseemly comments in the bridal salon about the price of veils. This may be the greatest scam in the bridal industry. It's just tulle!! On a comb! Tulle on a comb! Sheesh. So I told Jennie I wanted to make her a most beautiful veil with lace trim and it would be exactly as she wanted.

Mom ordered the illusion netting from her favorite fabric store and got the beautiful maline lace edging online. Jennie and I experimented with the shape of the tulle until we liked the way it hung on her head. (We settled on a bullet shape, with the arc wider in the front than the back. I still don't understand exactly why this worked. But it did.) I was prepared to hand-sew the lace onto the tulle, but ended up being able to machine-sew it because we didn't mind the line of stitching at the border of the lace. And then I sewed it on a comb. Done!

It was pretty. She was gorgeous. Stunning, in fact.

28 April 2012

for her trousseau

Over a year ago, Jennie and I saw a nightie in Anthropologie that she loved--it was soft coral pink with antique-y looking lace insertion. So when Jennie got engaged, I decided to try to make a similar nightgown for her. I used the Colette pattern Cinnamon, which I really enjoyed sewing. It's not a hard pattern to put together, and the shape of the gown is really attractive. It's cut on the bias and almost all of the seams are zig-zagged, so even though it hugs the body pretty closely, it's still comfortably stretchy.

I searched high and low for a coral pink voile that I liked, but never found the right color. My mom had been making table runners for the wedding from voile that she bought from Dharma Trading and dyed gray, so she suggested we buy some of that voile and dye it the color we wanted. Bingo! I bought the 52" Silky Cotton Voile and a little pot of their coral pink dye, which ended up being so much less expensive than the fabrics I'd been looking at.

I got some maline lace insertion to go along the neckline. I'd never inserted lace before but it's surprisingly easy. I was very happy that my lace lined up in the center!

Along the bottom hem, I attached lace that was leftover from her veil (more on that next post), which is the same "tulip" pattern of maline lace.

One note about the Cinnamon pattern: Sarai recommends that small-busted people make an adjustment to the bust and I will second that! I made a muslin straight from the pattern and it was quite baggy on me. So if you're A or B cup, a small-bust adjustment is definitely necessary. For the final nightgown, I followed Gertie's tutorial. I pinched a good third of the fullness out of the bust pattern pieces, and I probably could have taken out a bit more. So fair warning to ye of wee busts!

Here's the nightie all packaged up for the bride-to-be. The rose is one of my Morning Magic roses, which we planted to grow up our new arbor two years ago. They are growing and blooming like crazy and I think I've only fertilized them twice since planting them. Three cheers for hardy roses!

24 April 2012

my first foray into maternity sewing

This is one of our dearest and oldest friends who is expecting a little boy in two weeks! Doesn't she look beautiful?! This is because: a) she's just an absolutely beautiful person inside and out, b) she's glowing with happiness, and c) she's totally rocking this bridesmaid dress I made for her!

Suzanne was nervous about finding a maternity dress for the wedding that would fit her 8-month baby bump and be both comfortable and pretty. My mom and I boldly offered to make her a dress, which I ended up making because Mom took on so many other projects (you think I try to DIY a lot of stuff, I can't hold a candle to my mom!) I was a wee bit nervous as I've never sewn anything maternity and am still learning my way around my serger. Overall it went well, though, and the only mini-crisis was about a week before the wedding when my serger cut a giant hole in the bodice. ACK. Luckily, it all worked out in the end and she really looked amazing.

We used Burda 7630 which was a fairly simple pattern to work with and Mom and Suzanne picked out a lovely gray jersey from Joann's. It draped beautifully and we knew it would be a comfortable choice. And although the pattern called for both a zipper and a skirt lining, I was able to leave both out thanks to the stretchy fabric.

I made a practice dress which Suzanne tried on a few weeks before the wedding. We made some adjustments to the bodice at that point (the lining of the bodice was strangely small and made the entire bust fit much too tightly, so in the final version I just cut two of the regular bodice pieces to use for both outside and lining). We also decided to make the dress floor-length to hide ankles and feet which are now, toward the end of her pregnancy, swelling uncomfortably by the end of the day. I think the longer length made it look so elegant!

Jennie let each of us bridesmaids pick any gray dress we liked, so we got to show a bit of our own style. The gray made us all look like bridesmaids and it all looked coherent, but we didn't look like crazy bridesmaid clones all in the same dress. I don't know why they do that to bridesmaids! No one likes to be a crazy bridesmaid clone!

22 April 2012

Jennie's Wedding Quilt

I made Jennie a Single Girl quilt to celebrate her marriage.  That sounds a little odd (and Matt kept calling it a jinx!) but I just love the way it's a modern take on the traditional wedding ring pattern. A modern wedding quilt! Just what I wanted. This is by far the biggest quilt I've ever made--it's queen-sized at 85" x 92".

Almost a year ago, I started stashing away red fabrics for this quilt--the pattern calls for 36 different accent fabrics! Jennie's favorite color is red so I focused on red but ended up incorporating some red-oranges and yellows. It was surprisingly hard to find enough red fabrics I liked that were the right tone. I wanted to avoid purpley, dark reds so that it would stay on the very warm side of the red spectrum. I also wanted to keep away from too many pinks so that it wouldn't be girly--it is a wedding quilt so I wanted it to please the groom too!

I used Kona Coal for the background and I really like the way it sets off the circles. I chose it primarily because Jennie and Collin have two dark-haired cats but it also echoes their wedding colors. The bridesmaids all wore gray dresses and the flowers were bright red, pink, orange, and yellow. So it's very reminiscent of their wedding day.

Just the idea of wrestling this thing through my featherweight had me sweating so I sought professional help on the quilting and I am so glad I did! Suzan DeSerres of Singing Stitches in Chapel Hill did the quilting on a long-arm machine. She did an absolutely beautiful job and was such a pleasure to work with. We decided on a simple looping design that goes back and forth across the quilt. I LOVE it.

I found some cute percale sheets online to use for the back. I had read that quilting with high-thread count sheets can be a major headache, but these were 200-thread count which seemed to work just fine. It was nice to only have one seam to sew for the back!

The binding is made from two of the yellow fabrics I had leftover from piecing the front. 

Suzan used an 80/20 cotton/poly blend batting which makes it a versatile weight--light enough for use during the warmer months but still plenty hefty.

We actually ended up using the quilt as the backdrop of our ye olde photo booth at the wedding! Here are our friends Carl, Suzanne, and Kelli being all colonial at the reception. (The wedding was in Williamsburg, VA. It was AMAZING and everything turned out so beautifully!)

Jennie and Collin are just back from the honeymoon yesterday. I think this quilt will be part of a very happy home for many many years. XO

16 March 2012

jennie's invitations

Twin's wedding is now just four weeks away, so the wedding-related crafting is in high gear. Jennie is so organized and prepared that I think we could have the wedding tomorrow. Except that it would just be me and her with a whole carload of handmade decorations and paraphernalia, but no groom and no guests. So we'll wait for April 14 I guess. Probably for the best.

Jennie asked me to design the invitations, an honor and a responsibility I took most seriously. Luckily she gave me good direction and liked what I came up with. She wanted: COLOR! Lots of RED! and FLOWERS! Those were her directions. She had seen some invitations by Anna Bond of Rifle Paper Co which served as our inspiration. Anna Bond's designs are absolutely gorgeous and I could only hope that I could come up with something that would at least approximate their stunning fabulousness.

I pulled out my case of acrylics which hadn't seen the light of day in about 4 years and happily discovered that most of the tubes hadn't dried up. I really had a ton of fun painting these little flowers. The color scheme that Jennie has chosen is so full of life and joy, just like her personality.

Weekend before last we had a printing, cutting, and assembling party. Then the invitations were on their way. Here we go!

21 February 2012

sewing goals 2012

At the beginning of the year, Sarai of Colette Patterns posted her sewing goals for the year. I really love how she writes about sewing and style (for instance, most recently about simplicity and style signatures) and it's had me thinking a lot about my own personal style. I've always been a jeans, tshirt and pony tail kind of girl, without a lot of patience for fashion. But as I learn to sew more, the prospect of making clothes that really reflect my own personality is exciting.

So I've been thinking about the beloved staples of my wardrobe: the pants I wore so long that the corduroy rubbed off, the pleated skirt that makes me feel voluptuous (an adjective that rarely applies to my straight figure), the button-down shirt that fits perfectly and is somehow, miraculously, never wrinkly. As I plan my sewing projects, I want to think carefully and realistically about the kinds of clothes that make me feel good. Because that's what it's all about. I'm also going to be more purposeful in gathering clothing inspiration on a pinterest board. So far I'm seeing a lot of mustard, navy, and simple lines. So predictable! But that's what I love.

So here are some of my clothes-sewing goals for the year:
  1. Experiment with fabric. No more quilting cottons! I think I have enough stacked up to make a lifetime of quilts. It's time to tackle lightweight fabrics, silks, knits, wool, twill, etc. I also tend to buy small quantities of fabric, often less than a yard. I need to be more purposeful in finding garment-worthy fabrics that I love and then buying enough for a specific project. 
  2. Focus on wardrobe staples. And that includes pants. Pants! I will make pants this year! I also want to make a dirndl-style dress and a pencil skirt. 
  3. Use the patterns I already own. Sometimes I feel like my hobby is not sewing, it's buying sewing supplies--including patterns. I've accumulated quite a library of vintage and new patterns, most of which I've never opened.
  4. Think about fit. Every time. I'm usually in such a rush to finish a project that I don't bother making a muslin and I don't think through the simple adjustments that would make the pattern fit my figure better.
  5. Refashion existing garments. My closet is overflowing with clothes I don't wear. Some of it needs to go to Goodwill, but a lot of it could be reborn with a few adjustments.
I feel like I've made these goals before. But they are good goals. Looking forward to a great year of sewing!

11 February 2012

green stuff

I may have jinxed our mild winter because it's gotten quite chilly and gray the past few days. I'm paranoid about "jinxes" because Matt says I don't understand them. Not having grown up in a family where sports were paid much attention, I never learned that saying things like "Oh they're playing well!" or "They can't lose at this point, right?" is bad form. So now I am refining my jinxing abilities just to get his goat each time we watch a sporting event together.

Even if it's gotten a bit gray lately, though, we've still had a pretty sweet winter. And I've already started getting excited for spring, bringing bits inside to set on windows and planning what we'll do this year. (Must order veg seeds pronto.) 

Matt brought in some of the hellebore that's blooming outside. I love this plant. They're also called "Lenten Rose" because they bloom so early. They're the first thing to wake up every year and we've got quite a patch of them in the yard. Someone must have planted white and purple ones years ago, and they've spread quite a bit, so that now we have plants across the spectrum from purple to white. Their hardy evergreen leaves are also a staple in the garden through our hot humid summers and mild winters.

I've never considered myself very lucky with houseplants, but now I'm finding that, as with most things, it just takes a bit of effort and patience. And trying a lot of different plants. I planted these common succulents in tin cans on the kitchen window ledge and they're so easy to take care of. I just set them in the kitchen sink in a couple inches of warm water about once a month. That's all they seem to need.

A sunroom with wide windows and lots of natural light also helps. I honestly think just about anything would grow in our sunroom. I have been babying this maidenhair fern, spritzing it daily and keeping it nice and moist, and he seems really happy.

Matt bought me this foxtail fern last year. It sat on the front porch all summer, and has thrived in the sunroom this winter. It had gotten really potbound so I moved him to this large bamboo pot last week. He looks a little bottom-heavy but I think he'll fill it out quickly.

Happy weekend! We are going to see Todd Snider tonight, which I am really excited about. I hope he tells the tale of KK Rider. I can laugh until tears stream down my face.

05 February 2012

Matt's Gnome Quilt

Compared to last year, I definitely slacked on homemade Christmas gifts this year.  This quilt is the only gift I made, and I didn't even finish it until a few days after Christmas. Considering this quilt has been in the works for at least a year, Matt has been very patient. 

I had about a fat quarter of Heather Ross gnome fabric hoarded in the stash, so I fussy-cut each little gnome to live in the center of my log cabin squares. The other fabrics are a random assortment of prints. I was going for whimsical masculine, which kind of also describes Matt.

Twelve gnomes inside twelve squares. It's sized to be a lap quilt, about 50" x 60".

The back reminds me of the racing stripe on a sports car.

Around the time I was ready to quilt it, Alicia posted about her latest quilt. She used poofy wool batting and ties instead of quilting. Since the quilting step is my least favorite part anyway, I decided to follow her lead. I used green yarn to tie the quilt on each square and around the border. I also put one running line of hand-quilting along the ditch where the border meets the sashing (it's blue, look closely above).

I think the hand-quilting is a nice touch, and I do enjoy doing that kind of quilting. I mostly just don't like wrestling quilts through the sewing machine. Maybe I should add a long-arm quilting machine to my wishlist. You know, for when I win the lottery and have a sewing studio that is four times the size of my current one...

I did get a serger for Christmas, which is extremely exciting. Every time I sew a seam, I have to serge the raw edges. Even when it's not really necessary. Just because I can and it looks so dang cool. I have already made one very wonky t-shirt. Knits really are a whole different world.

Hoping to be back in this space more this spring. We have daffodils and quince and forsythia already. This has been the strangest winter. I'm totally cool with that. Let's move straight into spring!