Cousin Skirts

DSC_0627

DSC_0641

DSC_0643

DSC_0636

I went to the craft store seeking out fabric for a completely different project.  But there was an unavoidably cheerful end cap of all Hello Kitty fabric and accessories and I was immediately sucked in.  My 3-year-old niece loves Hello Kitty, and my daughter is a pretty big fan, too.  It wasn’t long before a yard of this fabric was being cut, and I needed to figure out what I was going to make with it.

Sewing is still new to me, and I’ve been having a lot of fun.  I had sewn up a couple of simple skirts for G over the summer, and decided that this fabric would be perfect to make my niece one too. I quickly figured out that I had enough fabric to make both of them skirts, and a Christmas plan was hatched!

I used a combination of this tutorial and this tutorial (thank you, Pinterest) to create the Cousin Skirts.  I added a bit of the pink print in (from my small but growing stash) to add some interest.

These skirts both went really quickly, and I couldn’t be more delighted with the result!  As with knitting, I find it meaningful to think about the recipient while I’m making something.  I imagined both girls twirling around in these skirts this summer, dripping with red watermelon juice.  We live in different states, so any time they’re together is precious.  I pictured my niece’s energetic smile and goofy little walk.  I imagined G helping me make a skirt for one of her dolls out of the leftovers.

The reality is, they’ll probably both open the skirts on Christmas morning and quickly toss them aside in favor of new toys.  But my secret hope is that when dress up time comes, or the warm weather starts to creep in, they will turn to these skirts and think of one another.  In the meantime, I had fun making them, learned a couple new tricks, and enjoyed the journey.  That’s a win in my book!

Holiday Sewing : Simple Cocktail Napkin Recipe

DSC_0656

In years past I have been bitten by the holiday knitting bug.  I felt inspired and excited to knit gifts for family, teachers, child care providers, and friends.  This year, that feeling isn’t there.  I’m pretty focused on knitting for baby and will soon be starting on G’s birthday sweater.

What I have been inspired to do is sew.  Oh, those cheerful holiday fabrics grabbed me this year!  After spending some time on Pinterest looking for simple sewing ideas, I had a list of projects and hit the fabric store.  I had this retro ornament fabric from a similar spree last year, and needed to find a coordinating fabric.  I couldn’t help it if I left with 2 more holiday prints and fabric to make a skirt!

I’m discovering that my favorite part about sewing is choosing a project and picking out fabrics.  I’m not great at cutting out pieces of fabric.  Sometimes my seams are a little wonky.  And I don’t care!  Those technical skills are slowly building with each project, and I am being very gentle with myself as I learn.

It doesn’t have to be perfect, it just has to be fun.

Here’s my take on a simple cocktail napkin that you can keep or give as gifts.  Play with fun fabric combinations.  Get crazy with that top-stitching design.  Have fun!

Holiday Cocktail Napkin Recipe

Materials:

1/2 yard festive holiday print cotton fabric ( 41 inches wide x 18 inches tall)

1/2 yard coordinating solid or smaller print cotton fabric

Matching thread

The usual sewing basics: sharp fabric scissors, ruler, measuring tape

Nice if you have them: rotary cutter, cutting mat, a template for your napkin (see below)

DSC_0647

Start with washing and pressing your fabric.  Ironing makes such a big difference in the quality of the finished piece.  I find it kind of relaxing and enjoy transforming the fabric or seam into a crisp-looking piece. (I rarely iron my clothes, though!)

Cut out 8 rectangles from each of your two fabrics that are 10 inches wide and 9 inches tall.  It would be handy to make a template for yourself out of cardboard to speed this up. (I like to use cereal boxes)

With right sides facing, sew your main print and coordinating fabric together with a 1/4-inch seam allowance.  Leave a 2 inch opening along the center of one side.

Snip the corners and turn the piece inside out.  Use a pencil, knitting needle, chopstick, or other not-too-pointy gadget to make the corners pop out.

DSC_0649

DSC_0652

Knitting needles: a multipurpose tool!

DSC_0654

Press the seams to flatten. Tuck the edges of your opening under to line up with the seams and press.

With a coordinating thread, topstitch as close to the edge of the napkin as possible. This will close up the gap you left before.

Move one inch in from the first top-stitched seam and sew another decorative border.

Snip threads and repeat on your other napkins!

I folded my napkins in half lengthwise and pressed them to make a pretty stack. Wrap with a ribbon or some yarn, and these are ready to go as a gift!

> > >  < < <

This is a super simple project, one that even a newbie like me could do easily and well.  I plan on keeping this set for our family and making more to give as hostess gifts at holiday parties this season.

Are you making any holiday gifts this season?

Gratitude.

IMG_9369 IMG_9376

DSC_0641

DSC_0645

IMG_9379

IMG_9385

DSC_0663

DSC_0656

DSC_0675

The past 4 days have been full of delicious food, time with family and friends, time spent with my knitting and sewing, time selling yarn to excited knitters, and time getting into that holiday spirit.  Before these days came around, I was worried that it would all be too much, but somehow it all felt just right.

I’m extremely grateful for everything in our lives right now.  For the family and friends we celebrated with, for a healthy vivacious almost-5-year-old, for a supportive and generous partner, for our baby on the way, and for the amazing team of women I work with.  I could go on, but I’ll just keep the rest to myself.  ; )

I hope you had a lovely weekend and holiday (if you celebrate)!

And now that it’s December, I’m curious: How do you get ready for the holidays at your house?

Spring Pillow Makeover

I’ve only followed one or two sewing patterns before, instead leaning toward the experimental approach I like to call intuitive sewing.  This has yielded mixed results, as you may have guessed.  One night, a few weeks back, I excitedly hauled out my sewing machine, set it up at the kitchen table, and tried to make sense of a pillow cover pattern from this book.  Something wasn’t quite right with the measurements suggested in this pattern, and maybe my pillow form was a slightly different shape anyway, because the result was a lovely looking cover that didn’t look as great stuffed.  So although I had the fabric to make many more pillow covers (I would redecorate the living room and guest room with new pillows in a single evening, I thought), I got discouraged and put it all away.

Except I left the fabrics for the living room pillows draped over the back of the sofa, thinking that if they stayed in plain sight I would likely sew them up faster.  Instead, the fabric soon began to resemble that pile of random mail and papers that litters the corner of your desk or kitchen counter: after a little while you just don’t see it anymore.  With the springlike weather happening with vigor outside, it was time to bring some of that color and energy inside.  This week while my mom was visiting, I finally got the courage to try again.

I found this wonderful tutorial and got cutting and sewing.  No problems with measurements, bobbins, or ironing.  Everything went smoothly with my sewing for once, and I followed a pattern.   This could turn into something of a gateway project, I suspect.

Before

After!

I still did a little improvisation, though.  I couldn’t help myself!  I just ran this ribbon through the machine, attaching it to the front piece of fabric before sewing the pillow together.  I’m tempted to add further embellishments to these pillows, but for now I’m mostly happy they’re finished, bringing a fresh and springlike vibe to my living room.

Home Sewn

One of my favorite pit stops on the journey to Home is decorating.  I love rearranging furniture, hanging artwork, creating soft goods, and moving accessories in and out of a room until everything feels right.  Finishing a room is an intangible moment, and only I know when it has arrived; and really, it’s never finished, just complete for now.  Part of the process inevitably involves me making, painting, or repurposing something for the room; each space needs that touch of handwork or whimsy, I believe.

Last week Sweetie had a bit of a backward work schedule, which meant she was home in the mornings and worked later into the evenings.  This meant that while she spent time with PB, I took some glorious uninterrupted time to catch up on a few projects I had been dreaming up.  The crafting wish list is long, so I prioritized and chose the most needed project: curtains for PB’s room.

 

{Fabric is Tweet Tweet by Keiki for moda}

I improvised these curtains, basing my “pattern” on a crude sketch and what I see on my store-bought living room curtains for finishing ideas.  Armed with the window measurements and the idea that I wanted two contrasting fabrics and a fun trim, I headed to the fabric store.  15 minutes later, I was on my way home with several yards of patterned fabric, muslin for a lining, and a whole lot of red rick-a-rack.  My cutting area was a little crude (the hallway), my sewing very slow, and I am thrilled with how they turned out.

These curtains are far from perfect, but that’s what makes them special.  Instead of perfectly straights seams and pointy corners, they contain my love, effort, and hand stitched rick-a-rack, details my daughter may not notice now, but which will serve her well for years to come.  They also came out a hair short, but that’s what the rings are for!  I think she likes them so far.  It’s hard to tell, because she also gets very excited about kitties.

My next home sewing project?  Pillow covers for the living room…

 

The Gift of Handmade

It has been a little overwhelming around here, what with all the baby gifts that keep showing up on our doorstep.  A very high percentage of them have been handmade; knit, crochet, or sewn, people’s talent is astounding.  I am impressed and inspired by the time and thought that has gone into each item.

The blue cabled hat is from my friend Natasha, to whom I will be forever grateful for teaching me how to knit.  She also made the blanket below, complete with itty bitty crochet edging.  The brown hat is from a family friend.  I love the big flower, don’t you?  Just in case Junior is a boy, she included a knit band and two brown buttons that could replace the flower.  Clever!

Another family friend went way above and beyond, sewing up this baby quilt, a matching fitted flannel sheet, and a couple of burp cloths.  The quilt is puffy and soft and fits perfectly in the co-sleeper I recently snagged at Once Upon A Child for 1/4 retail price.  And to think I had almost bought one new for $200!  Can you tell I love a good bargain?

And last but not least is this fabulous red sweater from a fellow Stitch ‘n Bitcher, Denise.  I’m loving the hood and the frog closures:

Thanks again to everyone for their creativity and generosity!

Flanneling the Nest

In the past couple of weeks I have fully entered into the “Show your baby some love by making things” phase.  You’ve seen the knit sweater and hat.  Now I’ll show you some sewing.

I am a novice sewer.  I remember first wielding a sewing machine in high school when I took (gasp) Home Economics from Miss Friday.  She was the same woman who taught my mother a thing or two in Home Ec when she was in high school! It’s possible my sister even took her class. Ah, small towns…

We never got to making garments or anything too complicated, but I do remembering sewing a small Easter bunny.  So I knew the basics of sewing a straight line, back-stitching, turning corners, pinning hems, and…well, that’s about all I know!

With this huge bag of tricks up my sleeve, I decided it might be time to get to work on a little something for baby.  I went to JoAnn’s looking for inexpensive trimmings for a simple baby quilt and was overwhelmed with choices.  I was suddenly inspired when I saw a quilt kit; these were the colors we’re working with for a gender-neutral nursery, and Sweetie and I are both toile nerds, so this was perfect.

IMG_1473

This is where I should probably clarify that I bough this kit months ago.  I cut out all the little squares and sewed them into strips months ago.  The top was complete by the end of May.  I sewed the back flannel onto one side, then folded it up for one reason or another and let it sit until today.

Oh, it feels so good to finish something that you walk by almost every day, staring at you from its Unfinished Corner.

IMG_1475

  • Pattern: Cuddly Quilt Kit in Children at Play 2

  • Fabric: flannel, cotton, and something like teddy bear fur

The lines aren’t perfectly straight, and it could use a good ironing, but it is full of love and hope and imperfections.  It was fun to daydream about my baby snuggled up under this blanket in the winter, or playing on it in the grass in the summer.  And that’s the beauty of making things with our own hands and hearts: it’s not perfect, but it’s filled with good intentions.  And I believe that those who wear and use these things can feel all that goodness.

IMG_1476

Now that this is finished and the dust has been blown off the Singer, I am feeling like making some more baby items.  Have you seen Amanda Blake Soule’s newest book, Handmade Home?  I am loving her emphasis on recycling fabric and notions into new items for the home and those you love.  I wanna make like Soule Mama and sew up a baby sling, a beach blanket, and some cloth diapers!

I’d also like to make a generous pile of burp cloths and flannel receiving blankets.  Can anyone recommend some free patterns, tutorials, or interesting fabric sources?

Sew Fun

A confession:

I fell off the Refashion bandwagon.  Hard.

wr09jail

I won’t go into the details of what I purchased, but I will say that the lure of the new spring fashions on ones birthday is nearly impossible to resist.  The changing of the seasonal clothes is like fashion kryptonite to me, and I was powerless against its force.

Falling off has forced me to refocus and recommit myself to refashioning and creating something new out of what I already have.  Like Mooncalf suggests: Make, do and mend.  Words to live by, my friends.

What I’ve done to counteract my spending spree:

My mom flew in as a surprise for my birthday, and after she took me shopping, she encouraged me to go out and get that sewing machine.  Finally.  I mean, she sent me money to buy one for my birthday last year, and I must have spent it on yarn because a sewing machine never appeared.  So with her support I picked out a swingin’ Singer machine and got to experimenting.

I learned a thing or two about sewing back in Miss Friday’s home economics class.  There were projects, and I completed them with some measure of success.  I think my mom still has that little Easter bunny I made, and if its seams remain sturdy after all these years I must have done something right.

When it came time to break in the Singer, I didn’t want to mess around with things like “patterns” or “information”, I just wanted to get busy!  Recently someone told me about how you could transform an old t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag with a minimum of effort.  Perfect.  I found a shirt that was too small, and while I was digging around I found one that had holes in the armpits.

I like cereal.  A lot.

I like cereal. A lot.

I used a grocery sack as a template for width and length.  Then I simply cut off the sleeves of both shirts below the seam, and cut a new opening.  Since I wanted to show off some snazzy contrast stitching on the lining I just pinned the two fabrics together with an inward fold.  (pardon the lack of technical jargon here–I’m winging it!)

100_4317

I zipped around the armholes and across the top of the straps to ensure stability, then turned the whole thing inside out and sewed the bottom closed.  The entire project took about 30 minutes (not counting the 30 it took me to get the bobbin wound correctly).  It’s not perfect, but that wasn’t the point, was it?

I’m proud of myself for finding a new use for something I wasn’t using anymore.  I think this is something I could do more of, both with clothing and odd items around the house.  It’s exciting and empowering to be able to make your own stuff! As a knitter I already knew this on one level, but this sewing thing has opened up a whole new world to me.

100_4316100_4318

The Pledge

wr092mths

Today is Day 1 of my experiment with Wardrobe Refashion.  When I first started thinking about taking on this challenge, my goals were to spend less, buy less, and learn some sewing skills.  As practice, I didn’t buy any clothing during the month of February (yay!).  Now I’m ready to take it to the next level and start playing around and experimenting with my clothes, thrifted materials, and maybe as a treat, buying some handmade or refashioned clothes from etsy.

From the Wardrobe Refashion site:

The Pledge

I, Sonia, pledge that I shall abstain from the purchase of “new” manufactured items of clothing, for the period of 2 months. I pledge that I shall refashion, renovate, recycle preloved items for myself with my own hands in fabric, yarn or other medium for the term of my contract. I pledge that I will share the love and post a photo of my refashioned, renovated, recycled, crafted or created item of clothing on the Wardrobe Refashion blog, so that others may share the joy that thy thriftiness brings!

I intend to write about this challenge on a weekly basis, sharing whatever comes up for me.  I imagine there will be times where I need to pout about not buying some cute new spring thing.  The good news is, there’s a “Get Out of Jail Free” card available for emergencies.  Other weeks I will share the process of culling my closets, learning to sew, and playing with making my old clothes new again.  Fear not–this is still a knitting blog!  I just wanted to share this new addition to my life with you all.

During this process I welcome your advice, tips, tricks, sewing wisdom, thrifting strategies, and etsy connections.  If you are taking the challenge, let me know!

A Room to Call My Own

In all the craziness of the past few weeks, I neglected to mention that we bought a house! We looked at over 40 houses, seeing some strange and wonderful things: a bedroom converted into a sauna with a sunken hot tub; a blue bathtub with mystery poop in it; a great room with a huge stone fireplace; many houses with neglected fish-tanks (if you have one, please go clean it–those fish need to breathe!); and finally, a cute Cape Cod house with a light-filled room perfect for pursuing ones creative pursuits.

100-pettit-drive.jpg

Life is good.

The property is wooded in the back, perfect for bird-watching and letting the dog run around. There’s also plenty of room for friends and family to come and stay over, which is a necessity since most of my family is in Idaho. Consider this your invitation, friends and family; there’s plenty of room!

Back to the glory that is my craft room…I’ve never had a room devoted to creativity. What a luxury! As soon as I get the bridal wallpaper scraped off, I plan to paint it something really stimulating like red or fuscia. Really. I have a couple of tapestries from a trip to India that I plan to hang in the space, and they are filled with vibrant reds and pinks that I find beautiful. Much more inspiring that this beige and white:

craft-room-before.jpg
I also plan on investing in a sewing machine and a comfortable chair to sit in while knitting or reading. Maybe I should get a bed too, since I’m starting to think I’ll never want to leave this room!
The house has a lot of great windows, and not a single set of blinds or curtains. So I have it in my head that I could sew some, or buy store-bought panels and dress them up a bit. I’ve done this before in my first house, and really enjoyed it. But I need a sewing machine first! Does anyone have suggestions for a good home sewing machines for beginners?
Since I’m basically starting from scratch I have the opportunity to set myself up for success in the organizational department. I’d like to be able to store my yarn in an artistic way, out in the open where I can see it. What about great storage ideas for yarn and notions?
Alright, I suppose it’s time to tear myself away from the computer and get over there. I have a lot of painting and scraping to do before this dream of a craft room can become a reality!