Going Green

Jabin had a green birthday.
Jabin promptly named this guy "Normy".

It was inundated with piggies.

He's barely taken this hat off since (2 weeks, now).

Mom makes him take it off at meals, though. :-)

I still have two baby piggies to go. The hat was made using a combination of the tutorials found at Obsessively Stitching and Tracy's Treasury.

Who knew it would be so much fun being green? :-)

Pillow Fight

When Jude was born, one of his baby gifts was a child-size body pillow covered in flannel decorated with ducklings and cutesy ladybugs. It soon became one of his favourite possessions.

This pillow has gotten a lot of use over the years.

As moral support when learning to put on socks:

As a dance mat, before Wii was invented (Daddy's shoes make it even better):

As a surface long enough to accommodate a brotherly moment of bonding:

When Jabin got old enough, he became quite attached to the pillow, too. (Noah, not liking confrontation, chose to stay mum on the subject.)

The mutual attachment soon became a source of constant friction--both between the two boys, and on Mom's and Dad's nerves. Finally, after years of this, and various "systems" to try and get the boys to share it peacefully that all failed miserably, I had had enough. I went to the fabric store, bought some flannel and quilt batting, and using some muslin I had at home made not one, but two more body pillows, plus pillowcases for all three. (No sense leaving Noah out--when the prospect of having one of his own arose, he was duly thrilled.)

Finally, a truce. And we are ALL happy about it. :-)

Sewing the Tramp (or the Sewing Tramp?)

Today, we did some spring maintenance on our trampoline. First, we replaced some bolts that had worked loose and gone missing. Then, we decided that rather than unlace the entire net so I could pull it inside to sew on an elastic strap that had broken off, it would actually be easier to sew it right there on the trampoline.

This is definitely a first for me--sewing outdoors. If a tramp is a promiscuous woman, (anytime, anywhere), would sewing a tramp ON a tramp make me a sewing tramp? ;-)

Out With the Old...

Sewing was the first handicraft I fell in love with.

Yes, my grandma had taught me to knit and crochet at about the age of 5, so I knew how to do both already, but that work was slow, and finicky, and beyond my young attention span.

When I was nine and my brother seven, my parents (like all good Canadian parents do*) put him into hockey. I was a little peeved that I didn't get to "do anything" (I was really angling for ballet lessons, but for reasons I now understand, that wasn't about to happen), so my mom made a deal with me that she would give me sewing lessons.

I had always been fascinated with sewing. My mom and her mom both did a lot of it, and I had seen them make the most beautiful bridesmaids gowns, and dresses for me that made the best twirly dresses with full skirts down to my ankles. (I was the first granddaughter, so I got spoiled from both machines). Other than things sewn directly for me or received as birthday gifts, all of my clothes were hand-me-downs. I didn't have a problem with that, but when I was offered the chance to learn how to make my own clothes, I jumped at it.

For my first real project, I chose a jumpsuit (for you Brits, that is not a sweater, but a bibbed coverall) and made it out of black corduroy.

Mom had let me start on making Barbie clothes (though I'm not sure why--probably to waste less fabric if I screwed up, but anything that small is way harder than normal people clothes!) When I was quite young, she would let me stand beside the machine and take out the pins as she was sewing seams. So by the time I started on the jumper, I was not intimidated. Also, it was a good start on learning how to match fabric and to keep the grain straight when cutting out. I was so excited, and managed to finish them in a few weeks. I had planned to use them as my "Christmas" outfit that year--except I broke and dislocated my arm a few days before Christmas, and ended up spending it in the hospital. Oh, well! I still had the coveralls. The good feeling I got from knowing I made it myself (with my mom's help, of course!) was addicting, and I never looked back.

(Aside: When I actually took Home Economics in Grade 8, I was a little dismayed that we were expected to do a pair of boxing shorts or a tie as our "first" project. I had purchased a pattern and blue taffeta for my first fancy dress long before the sewing unit came up, which dismayed my teacher more than a little. After my mom had a talk with her and reassured her that not only could I do it, I could do it without any help, she "let" me do it as my project, and even let me work on it at home. After three days, I was finished, and got to read novels for the remaining two weeks of the sewing unit. End aside.)

Husqvarna sewing machine

My mother's machine was a sturdy Husqvarna that had been given to her as a gift from her mother when she graduated from high school. And later, she gave it to me as a graduation gift.

That machine sewed my first project. It sewed my first gown and my prom dress. It sewed my wedding gown, and a wedding gown for a friend. It sewed dresses for myself, my friends, pants that fit (something that became crucial as I continued to stretch skywards), clothes for my children, costumes, quilts for friends' babies, and more. I took it to college with me, where it adorned one wall of my bedroom.

And then, about a year and a half ago, the gears started stripping. The longer the stitch I set it on, the worse it was. Our local "sewing machine doctor" (the male half of the couple that owns the local fabric store--a very senior gentleman who tinkers with sewing machines in his spare time) couldn't do anything about it, and said it was too old to get parts for.

Dismay, this time at the fact that I was without a sewing machine for the first time in my life!!

When she heard of my plight, my friend L gave me a Pfaff Hobby machine of hers that she no longer used. The first project I made on it was a pair of fluffy flannel pajamas for Jude. When I went over the flat-felled crotch seam (about 6-8 layers of fabric), something in the machine growled fiercely at me, and it was broken. The good doctor wasn't able to do anything about this one either. (I think it might be fixable at a Pfaff store, but we don't have one of those here.)

So, I started saving my pennies for a fancy, new machine that can do embroidery, but with our very expensive summer last year, those pennies seemed to keep getting misplaced into other projects.

As the December holidays approached, though, I really started to feel the absence of a sewing machine. Yes, there is always knitting (which you all know I now LOVE), but there are some things that just need to be sewn. I started thinking that maybe all I really need right now is something functional, not fancy.

Then, my in-laws gave me $100 to spend at Sears for Christmas. And my friend Colleen told me about a machine she had heard about that Sears has that is only about $300, and pretty good, too. And when I went looking for it, I found out that the very well-reviewed machine was indeed there, and on sale for only $200, but the sale was ending that night. So I bought it, of course.

And when it came, I found out that it has pink on it. How great is that?!! (I have to glory in areas of femininity when I can, you know.)

DSC04191 web.jpg

So, I quickly went stash-busting to find a quick project to make that would test the capabilities of this new machine. I discovered that there have been some pretty nifty new inventions in sewing machine technology in the last fifty years. (I'm in love with the automatic buttonholer.) Here is the vest I made first, using some fabric rescued from some horrible curtains and vintage buttons from my Grandma's stash (the weird crop is to spare you a view of my armpit):

Brown Tunic Vest 2

Now I am working on a linen-and-lace peasant top of my own design:

Linen Peasant top

And you already know about the Angry Birds.

Red Angry Bird 1

Ah... a sewing machine is back in my life. All is right with the world again... (Okay, maybe not, but that certainly helps me cope!! :-D)

*Jason and I have sworn off hockey, as it is the most expensive, time-consuming sport available--so I guess we are the bad Canadian parents!

Monkey Turns 8!

As the kids settled in for the Children's Moment with Mr. Krahn at church on Sunday morning, we all heard, "It's my birthday!"

"Well, happy birthday, Mr. Winters," Lauren responded jovially.

Noah was so. excited. And the day didn't let him down.

After church, we had several of his friends over to help him celebrate the achievement of the Big Number Eight. I say "achievement," because he has had some kind of mental milestone put in place at some point in his life (I'm not sure by whom), and I have been hearing more than once over the last few weeks that once he is eight, he will be a "big kid." Okee-dokee... Check that one off the list, I guess!

The predicted "cold snap" referenced in my last post was short-lived--only Saturday and Sunday, and it wasn't really even that cold. So, after the pizza, and the chocolate strawberry shortcake (which EVERYONE was glad that Noah requested!), and the adults had had a few minutes to digest, Jason hauled those kids who wanted to go around on our field on sleds behind the truck.

For the first time ever, no spit on the cake! Yay!!

This birthday, I wanted to make something special for Noah. He had been really wanting to get some Angry Birds plushies, but the steep prices had turned me off. He had thought about saving up for them himself, he wanted them so badly. Well, lo and behold, about two weeks ago I found a wonderful tutorial someone had put together for free about how to make them over at Obsessively Stitching. Easy, and I already had several of the colours of fleece. I got excited... and even moreso once I realized how fast and fun they were. This is my first time doing applique of any kind, and the little guys were so cute I kinda went overboard... and made one for each of the guests as party favours.

So, because of that, I had a few late nights, and didn't get quite as many of the different kinds of birds done up for Noah pre-birthday-party as I would have liked. (It's a little tricky when I can only work on it after they are in bed... which of course, I now no longer have to worry about.) However, the look on Noah's face when he opened the gift bag and saw them was TOTALLY worth it!

DSC04350 cropped web.jpg

Also, Noah lost another tooth that day. (See the new gap on the bottom left?) I think he has chalked it up to one of his best days ever.

Monkey and his Angry Birds

Since Sunday, I can't tell you the number of times I have heard, "Mom, are you going to make some more Angry Birds now?" It's cute... a little really annoying, but cute.

It Was a Dark and Smokey Night...

I have just been outside to do my evening chores, and even though it would normally not be dusk for about another hour, the thick haze of smoke filling the air makes it feel like one is walking through the pages of a ghost story, or maybe "the mists of time." I was amazed by photos of Edmonton (5 hours south-east of here) this week, with smoke so thick that public health officials are warning people with respiratory conditions to stay indoors. I have not yet seen photos of the fires in British Columbia, but if it is this bad here, the source must be completely devastated.

I have actually been wondering if that is part of the cause of the very cool, fallish-feeling weather we have had here this week. Despite the contents of my last post (the photos from which were actually taken in July), every day this week has felt like "pants weather," and it has made me start thinking of digging out my fall wardrobe. Or making a new one. Either way.

I have had the sewing bug pretty bad, lately, but I am currently still working on a rather summery design. For some reason, it feels a little inappropriate at the moment!

Part of the reason my current piece is taking so long (over two weeks, now), other than that I am making it "from scratch" (drafting the pattern myself), is that I got several new books from Amazon.com this week, one of which was Claire Schaeffer's Couture Sewing Techniques.Have you ever wondered how haute couture pieces could be valued at such crazy prices as $10,000 for a day dress, or $20,000 for an evening gown--or more? I have. Now I know. Besides the fabulous fabrics they use in high fashion, almost all the sewing is done by hand!! Not only is it done by hand, the garment is draped, and basted, and ripped apart, and fitted (often on a custom dress form padded just to your measurements) over and over again during the process of making it. That is the secret of those beautiful clothes that fit so amazingly. So, now I know why they are worth so much--but I am still a little amazed that there are people who choose to pay it!

Anyway, I do not intend to start constructing everything I make by hand, but I have found the techniques in the book to be helpful, and I will definitely use them judiciously to construct better clothes. And since the dress I am currently working on is meant to be a "practice piece", I have been using several of the hand-sewing techniques I have just learned on it. Needless to say, this has slowed down the construction process quite a bit.

It occurred to me today that Jabin will be having his orientation day for kindergarten in only nine more days. When I told him that, Jabin was thrilled. "Yessss!!" he shouted, making a fist and drawing his elbow back in the commonly-used gesture of excitement that looks like you are pulling the bus bell. (Where did that come from, anyway?)

Mommy is a little less excited. This is my last "baby", off to school, after all. *pouty face*

The kids have been begging to go mini-golfing almost every day this summer, so today we finally took them. The winners fell in the same placement by score as by age--Jason creamed us all with a 60 (on a par 54), and Jabin took home the "booby prize" at 122. The rest of us fell in line between there. (Okay, there wasn't really a prize. I made that part up.)

Well, that's enough rambling for one night. Back to my needle and thread...

My Style

The hubby's sleeping. Two of the kids are sleeping. I am taking a second day "off" in a row--and scrapbooking for the first time in months.

The photos in this layout were taken in January of 2009. Here is another photo of the dress under the coat, taken last fall with my stylin', comfy (and modest! when the wind blows the dress up à la Marilyn Monroe) red-with-white-polka-dots bloomers:

I made this dress in January of '09 while Jason was in Nashville at the Financial Peace Counselor training. In fact, I believe that it was only the second time I'd worn it in the layout photos. It ended up looking much more like the cotton dresses my grandmother wore in the 50's and 60's than I thought it would, but I like it. I also like that I raided my mom's vintage button stash for it, and that there are at least three different styles and sizes of buttons on it.

Here is another example of my vintage, eclectic style: the dress I made and designed in December of 2009 out of a rather heavy denim that my mom had given me:

This was inspired by a desire to stay warm and to look stylish at the same time. The pleated ruffles are cut on the bias and unfinished, so after it had been washed a couple of times the edges got a little fuzzy and stood out more, especially the one on the skirt. Again, my favourite part is the buttons. I find that I can usually make entire dresses for under $20, but if $12-$15 of that is spent on buttons, it makes the whole dress look more expensive. (Free material really helps!)

The journaling on my layout reads:

"If it's a little vintage,
A little unique,
A little modern
A little chic,
A little classy,
A little sweet,
A little homemade,
A little neat,
A little red,
And versatile,
Once all that's said
It's Just My Style."

Spot o' Tea?

THIS week, I was staying up stupid hours, re-learning HTML so I could re-vamp my eBay listings (which I still have not finished), and catching Noah's cold for my efforts.

THIS week, I didn't have time to blog, or to do anything particularly blog-worthy.

But LAST week, I made a new dress, which I love!

I've always loved wearing dresses, and this winter I have discovered that I can wear dresses in the wintertime, too, if I layer up. I've taken a cue from those Regency women, with their chemises, stockings, pantalettes, and long gowns, and found I can stay cozy warm in the draftiest of houses! Thus, my typical daily fashion this winter has been tights, socks (often wool), pants (usually jeans) or bloomers (more about these in a later post), a chemise (I have one in linen and one in broadcloth--the linen is my favourite), a turtleneck or shirt, and a calf-length dress. Sometimes, I also put a cardigan over top.

Until recently, I haven't actually owned any long dresses, other than my wedding dress. And I'm not about to pop my wedding dress on for working around the house, going to town, or any other reason! (Assuming I could even get into it anymore--which I can't!)

I was a little stunned a couple of weeks ago when I put on one of my favourite green calico dresses, which I have owned for eleven years, and discovered that it had actually worn out around the armholes (it was sleeveless)! I had already been planning a trip to the fabric store that day, and was thrilled to discover that they actually had a sale on--something that's kind of rare in our local fabric store. I picked up some poly-wool tweed for only $4/m. I knew already that this dress would be down to my ankles, and it would be inspired by the Regency styles I love so much. I was going for warmth, here.

The photo above and below show the front closure on this dress. I was altering a pattern from Sense & Sensibility Patterns that actually had a black closure (but who wants a button-up back?!! Yikes! We don't have dressers and maids anymore!) I styled this front closure after the style of many of the dresses in the 2005 Pride and Prejudice movie.

I succeeded. This thing is like wearing a warm blanket. And nothing makes you feel more British than wearing a Regency-style dress in tweed!

Maybe not the sexiest thing I've ever made--but it's modest, it's warm, it's comfortable and it does the job.

And, most importantly, I like it!

Costume Diary: Captain Jack, part One

Well, most of last weekend was spent in the creation of Captain Jack Sparrow's vest and shirt. I am only semi-happy with the results.

I found a lot of wonderful information about how to make Jack's costume from this site: How To Make A Captain Jack Sparrow Costume. When I was doing the original research for this costume two years ago, I also saved some really terrific photos of the original garments used in the film. I had originally intended to use a modern pattern and alter it to 18th-century cuts with my limited knowledge base, helped out by these photos and one pattern illustration of a man's coat that I found on the internet. (I don't know where all this stuff is now--I didn't bookmark any of it.)

However, when I was pattern-shopping a couple of weeks ago, I found Simplicity Pattern 4923--a passable replication of Jack Sparrow's garb. With a few alterations, it would be perfect. And score! It was only $1.99!

The vest turned out looking much more Will Turner than Captain Jack. I should have altered the neckline on the vest some. Also, if I remember correctly, the original film-used vest was unlined, but since the fabric I chose was fairly thin, I chose to line it anyway.

I purchased all this fabric in Peace River, and our selection up there was pretty limited, so the colours are not 100% on, either. I substituted the dark blue front of the vest for a lighter blue, and the brown-striped back of the vest for a gray-striped. In other words, the waistcoat--while looking fairly 18th-century--does not look much like Jack Sparrow's. Sigh.

For the shirt, I used the really amazing and authentic pattern found at Esoteric Creations. I find it laughable now that I thought that the pattern must be easy-peasy because it was created completely from squares and rectangles. Hah!

In truth, the pattern is not that difficult, but there are a few words of caution I would add to anyone trying it:
  • Remember to add seam allowances over and above what the measurements given are. This only became a problem for me on the cuffs, fortunately. Even more fortunately, Jack Sparrow usually leaves one or both cuffs unbuttoned, so this time around, it is not a big deal.
  • If you have never flat-felled a seam before, perhaps you should try making a swatch for practice first, instead of having to rip out your seams over, and over, and over...
  • Some parts, like the neck gussets, are actually easier to apply with hand-sewing.
  • Don't be watching really engrossing movies during it's creation, such as Pirates of the Caribbean 3, or you will have to rip out your seams and start over, and over, and over...
  • Try not to sew later than your normal bedtime. The later you stay up after that, the more mistakes you are likely to make.
Despite all that, the shirt was finished, and although made from broadcloth instead of linen, works well enough for costuming purposes. In fact, it looks comfy enough to be my night-shirt! (Ahem.)

To be continued...

Captain Jack, Part Two