Saturday, April 28, 2012


My fever finally broke yesterday and I felt well enough to venture outside and check out the damage from the tree that fell the other morning.
I'm still amazed at how close this big old tree came to hitting either the house or the garage.
The branches stopped inches from the new addition to the house.
The tree is hugging the garage, but miraculously there was no damage to it.  There are branches resting on the far side of the garage, where the exterior stairs to my studio are located, so I was a little nervous to walk around and check out the damage.
Initially, it didn't look so good.  I had to push a few small branches out of the way, but this was the very top of the tree so the branches were very small and the stairs were basically open and undamaged.
The very last branches stopped right at the studio door, such a blessing not to discover broken glass and water damage inside the studio.  Also a blessing is the fact that the door opens INTO the room!
So until PJ finishes chopping up the tree, this is the view from my studio!
Speaking of which, here is a hilarious picture of PJ as he began to attack the tree with the chainsaw.  Don't worry, he knows better than to cut a branch while sitting on it.  The other funny thing from this picture is he got bit by something (a spider?) on his stomach.  I looked up symptoms to help us watch for any serious problems.  A few minutes later he says the bite is swollen, he grabs his belly and says that he used to have six-pack rock hard abs!  HA!  Nice try honey!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Hair Bow How To!

So what felt like a little muscle soreness last night has turned into a raging head cold, sore throat, knock you out, and screw up your GI tract virus.  I am home from work (AGAIN), this time taking care of myself.  I did not do any sewing last night for Elsie Marley's KCWC day 3 (but I did devote some time to buying those snaps) and I am NOT doing any new sewing for KCWC day 4 tonight.  I am however holding to my pledge to spend an hour or so doing something related to kid's clothing.  I may be stretching it a bit, but I have been meaning to post about making hair bows for a while and it took about an hour (from the comfort of my couch) to draw all the directions.  Still not convinced that this qualifies?  
Just LOOK at that sweet face and that darling outfit, that wouldn't be nearly so darling without the hair bow!  Still not convinced that I am not being a total slacker?  Let me show you excuse #2.
Just after I typed up my sub plans and just before I returned to my sick bed, the sky turned black and the wind blew sideways, and I went and sat in the bathroom under the stairwell.  When I came out, I saw this. A really big tree fell exactly between our house and our garage, narrowly missing everything that could have easily been in its path.  Speaking of paths, this giant tree is now blocking my way to my studio and has probably done some minor damage to the stairs that go up to the studio.  Seeing as everything I need to sew is up there, I feel totally feel justified in finding alternate projects.
OK, back to the bows.  These are SO simple and I use pretty basic supplies.  I get any kind of ribbon that I like (I buy the whole spool for less then I would spend buying a finished bow), then I go to a hair products store (I use Sally's) for my other main ingredients.  I only use alligator clips and I buy a box of 100 at Sally's.  Now that Lydia is bigger and has more hair, the alligator clip won't hold it all. I have tried bigger barrettes, but the clips are SO much easier to deal with, I just use a hair band to hold her hair and then clip in the hair bow.  
Here is my other secret weapon.  I buy the clear kind for hair bows and the only other thing I need is some fabric glue and fray check.  Once you have your supplies, it's time to get started.
I don't cut the ribbon off the spool, I just wrap it around my hand as shown in the picture above.  If I want a bigger bow, I spread my fingers out wider.  If I want a smaller bow, I only use two or three fingers but I wrap it the same way, two loops on top and two loops on bottom.  Then I cut the end free from the spool of ribbon.
Next I slide the loops down my hand and begin gathering them in the center.  With my free hand (and sometimes my teeth if they are stuck together) I grab a rubber band and work it around the center as shown bellow.
Now it is time to arrange the loops.  Sometimes they end up lopsided or overlapping in a weird way.  Because the loops are joined by a rubber band, it is easy to adjust them.  Once the loops look good, it is time to deal with the ribbon ends.
This is what I usually do.  I angle the edges as shown above.  The other option is to fold the ribbon ends in half long ways and cut at an angle from the outer edge to the center, where the ribbon is folded, as shown below.  Use some fray check on the ends of the ribbon to keep them looking nice.
Next, we need to attach the alligator clip to the BACK of the bow.  The alligator clip has one flat side and one angled side.  I slide that clip under the rubber band so that the flat part would be against the child's head.
The final step involves covering the rubber band and securing the bow to the clip more permanently. Cut about a 2-3 inch length of ribbon and tie a knot in the center.
The final step involves the fabric glue.  First glue the knot to the middle of the front of the bow.  You may want to wait for the knot to dry to make it easier to handle.  Then, hold the alligator clip open with one hand and wrap one of the knot ends around the bow and glue it to the bottom part of the clip.  If there is extra ribbon, cut it off just outside of the clip.  You may want to wait for the glue to dry before trying the last step.  The good news is, if you let go of the alligator clip, it will clamp down and hold everything together.  When you are ready, repeat the process with the last end.  You might want to add a little fray check after you trim the last ribbon end, or just use enough glue that it covers some of the ribbon edge.
And that is the exact process that I use to make almost all of my bows!  A multi-layered bow like the one Lydia had on at Easter, usually begins with the technique shown above.  In this picture, the gold part is this type of bow.  Some other day, when I am not so wiped out, I will share those other types of bows.
Until then, Happy Hair Bows to you!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

$2 and 2 Hours (so far)

I have been hunting interesting t-shirts at thrift stores with plans to make unique boy's clothing.  I actually made some infant gowns out of adult t-shirts before the big gender reveal.  I have also used the scraps from those t-shirts to applique baby outfits.  This project bounces back to using the whole t-shirt, and WHAT a t-shirt I found!!!!
If you saw our Christmas Card, then you got a glimpse of our Chevy Impala station wagon, or "daddy wagon" as we refer to it.  When I found this shirt at my local AmVet's where all the children's clothing is 89 cents a piece, I got SO excited.   I LOVED the vintage feel of the color and the logo.  AND it is super soft, which can be less likely in the thrifted shirt category, but is SO necessary for baby stuff.  This shirt, was a smaller adult or teen, so priced at a very reasonably $2, instead of my usual 89 cents, but who cares!  
I loved this one so much that I didn't want to make a night gown that no one would see.  I also wanted to avoid anything newborn size because I wanted it to be worn for a while.  I had looked at some tutorials on line for making shortalls from old t-shirts.  This link includes an actual pattern that you can download.  I am not really a follow a pattern kind of gal AND I kind of wanted pants instead of shorts, so I created a pattern using an existing baby romper.  First, I laid the one piece outfit on top of the t-shirt and checked for placement of the Chevy logo.  
Next, I started cutting out the basic shape.  I was leaving a little extra room for the seam allowance (the extra fabric that will go into the seam) and noticed that the bottom hem of the shirt was only a little longer than the legs on the outfit.  I didn't want my pants gathered at the bottom, so I just decided to roughly use this distance as the amount of room to leave for the seam allowance everywhere.  The original outfit was a 3-6 month size, so I hope the upcycled outfit will be more like 6-9 months in size and length. At the top, I carefully cut free the neckband and used that as the edge of the new neck.  I did NOT cut above the shoulders, I just left the original shirt in tack all the way up to the shoulder seam, because this design has those shoulders that overlap to allow a head to go through without needing to button in the back.
Here is a close up of the neckline.  On the right is the shoulder as originally cut at just the t-shirt shoulder seam.  On the left is where I have trimmed the shoulder to match the overlap on the baby outfit.  Once you have one of these figured out, it is the same shape for the other side and also for the front and back.  It is also the same neckline shape that I have been using for the baby gowns from upcycled t-shirts
Moving down to the crotch, notice that the front and the back are different here, to accommodate for a bulky diaper butt. I only wanted the front shape for now, so I tucked under the back side to get the right shape.  Just make sure you are cutting the front and back separately if you try something similar.
I also folded my t-shirt fabric in half, so that I could cut once and have both of the front halves be symmetrical.
At this point the main front piece, with the logo was finished.  I used it as a pattern for the back piece up until I cut the crotch.  I had to use the back of the baby outfit to get that shape correct. (sorry no pictures) Also, the crotch had one extra piece to also help with the extra room needed for a bulky diaper.  Don't miss that detail if you are doing something similar.
For the trim at the neckline, I discovered that the off white of the Mickey Mouse shirt that I turned into a night gown was a good contrast.  (I also used some scraps from the MM shirt in the peace sign applique the other day!) I cut it in half at the fold to accommodate the front and the back piece.  This took the place of the sock that I used on the blue night gown and i liked the way it sewed much better.
Here the trim has been sewn to the right side of the front and it just needs to be turned to the inside and edge stitched.
Because the Chevy shirt was smaller in size, the sleeves wouldn't have been long enough.  So I uses the extra from that Mickey Mouse shirt (it was really HUGE) to make a full length sleeve and then overlapped it with a shorter dark grey sleeve.
This picture shows everything during the assembly process, so it is inside out.  I lined up and overlapped the shoulders first.  Then I sewed the sleeves to the shoulder.  Finally  i sewed all the way from the end of the sleeve, into the arm pit, and then down the side seam to the bottom of the pants.  It is SO similar to what I did on the gowns.  The only difference is that I have to deal with that crotch and that requires SNAPS, which I am hoping to buy tonight and spend my hour completing this outfit.  However, Lydia is home sick AGAIN (I am VERY thankful for my sister taking a turn with her so that I didn't need a 5th day off from work in a row!) and I have one work commitment this evening.  So I am cheating a little with 3rd post for Elsie Marley's Kid's Clothing Week Challenge.  I am posting this (almost finished) view of the Chevy romper with my promise to spend an hour shopping for, buying and figuring out how to install those crazy diaper changing snaps in baby clothing.  Honestly, it won't look any different with the snaps, so enjoy a glimpse of the (mostly) finished outfit!

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

An Upcycled Outfit

So today was one of those days where getting anything done, especially an hour or so of craft time to sew for Elsie Marley's Kids Clothing Week Challenge, just seemed impossible.  I was up most of the night with a fitful coughing child.  I awoke to realize that PJ wasn't much better an would be little help in caring for Lydia while she stayed home from school.  So I called in for a substitute, hoped my students could manage one more day without me, and set to work getting everyone doctor's appointments, medicines, and naps.  By 8pm, all my patients were in bed and I decided I could spend one hour at least prepping some projects for sewing later this week.
I had two more t-shirts that I wanted to turn into infant night gowns. This orange "give a hoot" shirt and a brown shirt with Kermit the Frog on the front.
I still have the Mickey Mouse shirt cut out but un-sewn, so I used that as a pattern.
I couldn't believe how fast it was to cut them out when I wasn't also figuring out the pattern!  Kermit is right, it is easy being green!  I need to get some trim for these shirt/gowns to be completely finished, so I set them aside and realized that I still had about 50 minutes left in the hour I committed to sew on kid's clothing.  Fortunately, I had a stack of outfits that I bought at the thrift store for baby Joshua that each needed a little something done to them.
I decided to start with this super boring camouflage outfit.  I bought the pants for 89 cents and thought they might be an interesting neutral with just the right shirt.  That boring grey shirt is NOT just right, but it matched the grey in the camo and did not match anything else in Joshua's wardrobe.  I wanted to add some color and interest to the shirt.  The pants have a little orange stitching in the pockets, so I thought using the orange scraps from the "give a hoot" shirt/gown to make an applique on the front of the shirt might be a good idea.  It took a few minutes to choose a simple but effective design.  See if you can figure out what I am making.
 I started by making an orange square.  I folded the fabric in quarters to make it easier to handle and more likely to be symmetrical.  I started with what would become a 6x6 square, but that ended up being too big for the shirt so it was worked down to 5x5.
I don't have too many problems turning a square into a circle, but if you do I am sure you could get a pattern or a protractor or something.
Because my design is symmetrical, I opened the circle up to where it was only folded in the middle and drew on the back of the fabric to plan where I wanted to cut. You can probably tell by now what I am making, a peace sign!  I thought it would be a fun an ironic twist to all that camouflage!
When I opened up my design and tested the placement on the shirt, I discovered a minor problem.  I did not like that seam at the top of the chest being visible cutting behind the peace sign.  It's a little thing, but it would have bugged me and it is the kind of detail that you wouldn't see in really well made clothing.
This is one of those WONDERFUL instances when the solution to one small problem actually helps out with several other issues down the line.  I realized that the scraps from that Mickey Mouse shirt/gown were a coordinating color, so I cut a circle to place behind the peace sign.  The issue with the visible seam was SOLVED, but now there was a second color added to the design AND the peace sign was even more contrasting to the dark grey shirt!
But wait, there's more!  Sewing all of the peace sign edges to that tiny baby shirt would have been difficult.  Now I could sew the orange peace sign to the off white background circle without the shirt being in the way. 
 I originally made the background circle extra big so that even if it moved a little everything was covered.  Once the middle was sewn down, I cut the circle as small as possible so that there was no way it would peak out from the edge of the peace sign.
 Then I pinned it in place (I rarely use pins, but it was such a small shirt and the peace sign really needed to stay put) and I sewed the outer circle of the peace sign to the shirt.
The finished shirt looked good, but I wanted to bring a little more orange into the pants.
  I had these little strips from the bottom edge of the orange shirt and they were just as long as the pockets were wide.  (Don't see the pockets on the pants?  Well that's the problem with camouflage!)  The orange edge at the very bottom of the pants is a really small detail, but it really ties everything together... and now you can actually SEE the pockets!
Thank you Elsie Marley and the Kid's Clothing Week Challenge for giving me the push to sew for at least one hour (I swear, that is all I spent on everything in this post!) on  a night when I could have easily not down anything at all.  I am so energized from the time that I devoted to this project and SO excited about the outcome!

Monday, April 23, 2012

Adult T-Shirt Turned Baby Gown

 I have decided to attempt participating in the Kids Clothes Week Challenge over at  Unfortunately, I am out of town for a family funeral today.  I am going to use my hour of time devoted to sewing kid's clothes today to planning what I will work on this week.  For now, here is a project that I started a few weeks ago, but couldn't share until the "big news" was out.
 When I first found out that I was having a boy, there was one sewing project that I KNEW I wanted to try.  I wanted to upcycle adult t-shirts (preferably with really interesting graphics) into newborn gowns.
Lydia had some of these newborn gowns and I decided that they were my absolute favorite infant clothing item, especially when baby is really little and requires LOTS of diaper changes.  Unfortunately, they are a dress shape and I haven't seen a lot that I like for a little boy.  I had seen a few tutorials online, but I am not one to follow a pattern, so I just dug out one of Lydia's gowns and used it to make a pattern.  I started by laying everything out to decide on the placement of the design.
I cut the new gown with about an inch of extra space for the seam allowance. 
I cut the shoulders so that the flaps could overlap at the neckline.
Once I had one side figured out, I mirrored that shape to cut out the other side and then to cut out the back.
Here is one finished gown shape from one t-shirt.
 I used the finished edge of the adult short sleeve to create an infant sleeve with a finished edge.  The only other thing that I needed to figure out was the binding around the neckline.  I couldn't come up with anything for the Mickey Mouse gown, so I switched to working on a different shirt/gown.  I had a blue hula shirt and a few old socks that matched it.
I needed a continuous long piece of trim for the neckline, so I opted for the larger sock. I decided to cut it on a diagonal and see what happened.
I got lucky and ended up with 3 long strips.  Next time I can probably figure it out so that I have 2 long strips, one for the front neckline and one for the back.
I also ended up with the ankle ribbing unused and decided to save it for later.
Here is the initial sewing on the neckline.  I sewed it to the right side and then folded it over for a finished edge.
Before I sewed the sleeves, I stitched half of the ankle cuff to the end of the sleeve.  I then flipped it back on itself and tacked it down so that it caught in the side seam and created one of those pockets that can be used to cover baby's hands if needed.
Before I sewed the side seams, I used the bottom edge of the original shirt as an elastic casing.  I just checked the length of the elastic against Lydia's old gown.
I didn't get pictures of the assembly, but it was fairly simple to put it together.  I overlapped and tacked down the shoulders first.  Then I sewed the sleeve to the shoulder.  Last I sewed the side seam, all the way from the bottom of the gown, up to the shoulder seam, and then down the sleeve. Below is the first finished gown.  I can't WAIT to see baby Joshua wearing it!