A Longhorn Baby Gift

Since I’ve gotten pretty into this sewing thing, I decided that instead of buying baby gifts, from now on I’ll make them.  What a great idea!  So, when Jeff’s diehard University of Texas fan cousin revealed she was having a baby boy, I decided that I would get on the fan bandwagon and make her some UT themed baby gifts.

I gathered up tutorials for bibs, burp cloths, and a hat, bought some UT fleece (from Walmart) and some gray gingham flannel, and got to work.

Even though I started the project in July, I didn’t actually finish it until last week (for those of you who are counting, that’s 4 months).  I don’t know what happened.  The fleece got kind of wonky on the burp cloths, I got frustrated, then distracted, and took a while to get around to finishing up.  In my defense, baby boy wasn’t born until October, so it’s not like I was way behind.

I got so frustrated along the way (not just with the bibs, but with sewing in general), that I scuttled plans to make a gift set for my aunt who was pregnant with her fourth.  Sorry, Kelli.

But, somehow things fell right together when I finally tackled the project again a couple of weeks ago.  I finished up the two bibs and two burp cloths and had enough stamina left to put together a little hat, too.  I think it sort of completed the gift set.  I toyed with the idea of putting together some little fleece booties, too, but figured I’d better stop while I was ahead.


Coming soon: a post about what I did with the rest of the gray gingham – a new shirt for Forrest and another Oliver & S pattern!

The Reluctant Raccoon


One of our little family jokes is that Forrest is “Daddy’s Little Raccoon” because he’s always getting into things (especially Daddy’s nightstand drawer), so I decided he needed to be a raccoon for Halloween. 

I didn’t really want to make his costume because I like to devote my limited sewing time to items of clothing that my kids can wear quite a bit and not just for one day.  But, I couldn’t find anything that was cute – pretty much every costume I found just looked stupid.    

So . . . a-sewing I went!  I found this picture and decided to just unabashedly copy it:

Of course, Forrest was persuaded to wear his raccoon costume for a total of about 2 minutes while we took pictures in the morning and then he refused the rest of the day.  So glad we got the pictures in the morning!


A New Purse for My Birthday Girl


Hello, dear readers!  My, my, it’s been a long time.

So, Olive’s birthday has finally come and gone and now I can think about other things.  But, I wanted to share a sweet little purse I put together for her.  Jeff and I decided to start giving her an allowance and I wanted her to have something to put her money in.  I looked all over for little, uncomplicated wallet patterns and couldn’t find anything I liked.  I finally stumbled across this tutorial just when I was about to give up.  I figured it would be pretty simple to turn into a cross body bag for O.

You’ll notice, of course, that the fabric is leftovers from Olive’s bedding.  I just love it so much, although I’m surprised to find that I keep favoring the purple Queen Anne’s Lace pattern over the confetti.   The tutorial is very simple and straightforward.  I had a little trouble getting the lining all stitched up and turned out the right way, but I think it looks pretty good as a finished product . . . if you don’t look too closely!

Olive loves it, too, and she wore it all day on the day of her birthday.  In honor of her special day, we had a Dallas Day and did it up right, feeding the ducks at Exall Lake, playing in the park, buying marbles at Froggie’s  5 & 10, and getting a pizza lunch at Grimaldi in our old stomping grounds.  So proud of my sweet girl but a little sad that she’s growing up so quickly!

Oliver + S Reversible Bucket Hats

The new hats in action!

The new hats in action!

I’ll never sew again.  Not because I don’t want to.  It just seems like my (comparatively simple) life keeps conspiring against me!   Seriously, we have been back from vacation for almost two weeks and I am just now getting my house and laundry back into pre-vacation shape (which ain’t all that great, anyway).

This is the view from the dining room where I did my sewing

This is the view from the dining room where I did my sewing

We spent two weeks with Jeff’s parents in Colorado and I had hoped to just sew, sew, sew!  I figured that maybe having a Grammi and an Aunt Sissy to play with Olive and Forrest might give me a little more freedom to get some projects done, and it did.  But, it won’t come as a surprise to anyone that I didn’t accomplish even a quarter of what I had hoped to.  I did manage to finish a couple of little hats for Olive and Forrest and, I must say, I’m actually quite proud of how they turned out!

Am I the last person to figure out that Oliver + S patterns are amazing?  I downloaded the free Reversible Bucket Hat Pattern from the Oliver + S website, and 2/3 of a yard of fabric for each one and a snippet of interfacing later, I had a couple of hats ready to be put together.  It really is ridiculous how little fabric it takes to make these little hats and they are so adorable!

Forrest is now 2, but has a tiny head, so I made him the size small (his head actually measured 18.5” which straddled the extra-small/small sizes).  I wasn’t exactly sure about his size, so I went ahead and made Olive’s since she measured pretty squarely in the medium size.  I’m glad I waited and fitted O’s on Forrest, because the extra-small would have been a teensy bit snug.

I topstitched the brims, as is suggested by the pattern but not required.  I’m always looking for ways to make my homemade projects look more professional, and the topstitching seemed like a no-brainer.  On Olive’s hat, I didn’t start the stitch in the same place so it looks a little less than neat on the inside of the brim where you can see my slightly bigger backstitching points.  Having learned my lesson, I started in the same place for each row on Forrest’s hat and I think it looks better.  (Yes, I know I’m the only one who will ever notice that.)

I didn’t like doing the hand stitching to finish the inside of the hat on Olive’s, so on Forrest’s I just decided to reverse the steps and attach the inside first.  Then I pressed under the edge on the outside piece and topstitched it.  I think that was a mistake because you can see the stitching on the inside of the hat and it looks none too neat.  I think what I’ll do is make a little hat band for the inside (red side) of Forrest’s hat and, yes, hand stitch it on to cover up my uneven stitching.

I am soooo pleased with how these hats turned out and I have plans to make at least another one for Forrest before we do a little run down to the Texas coast for one more beachy weekend before it turns cool.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

Olive Has New Bedding!

Olive snuggling with her daughter, Olive, in her new bed

Olive snuggling with her daughter, Olive, in her new bed

Hooray!  I finally did it!  I made new sheets and a comforter for Olive’s bed.   I wrote about my struggle to decide on and finally order the miles of fabric that would be required for this big project back in April and am only now getting the project finished and posted here.  Hrmmm . . .

Even though I had the fabric and the tutorials, I will admit that I was pretty intimidated to even start the project.  The sheer amount of fabric that I would be working with seemed like it would just overwhelm!  I mentioned my hesitation about starting to Megan and she said, “What’s to be intimidated about?  You’re just sewing a straight stitch.”  Fine, Megan.  I’ll do it.

And, it really was pretty straightforward.   I cleaned off my counter and went for it and was pleasantly surprised to find that the measuring was really the most onerous part.

I made two sets of sheets for Olive’s bed, which uses a crib mattress.  Each sheet, the fitted (tutorial here) and the flat (tutorial here), used up most of 2 yards.  Add in the pillowcase (tutorial here) — we use travel size pillows on Olive’s bed — and each set of sheets ended up using 4 and a half yards.  At around $10 a yard, that makes them not cheap, but they are exactly what I wanted.  Plus, it is impossible to find toddler sheets that include a flat sheet.  I know it’s unnecessary, but I figured if she’s going to have a “big girl” bed, then she needs big girl sheets!

I was initially going to mix and match fabrics for the trim on the sheets, but Megan and I decided that I would like them more if I didn’t.  I found some bias tape that coordinated beautifully with the pink in the fabric, and ended up using it as the accent on every piece.

The pièce de résistance was the comforter (tutorial here).  I had originally planned to make a duvet for a little Ikea comforter that we already have, but it was so small that I couldn’t tuck it under the mattress and it was always falling off the bed.  So, I decided to just make it a comforter that was long enough to tuck in.  I ended up making it 56 inches long and the width of the fabric sans selvages.  I used a double layer of 1/4” cotton batting, so it has a nice weighty feel.

I used the same bias tape for the edges of the comforter that I had used to trim the sheets.   It looks great, except for the corners.   The tutorial I used just said to fold the corners, and I did, but I really don’t think they look that good.

Overall, I’m very pleased with the results and I wish I hadn’t waited so long to do it.  Olive is growing so fast that I’m afraid we’re going to get only maybe a year out of this bedding!  We’ll see.

Simple. Workout.

The thing about sewing is . . . you have to find the time to do it.  I’m not a late night kind of gal, so I don’t  sew after everyone goes to bed.  I go to bed, too.  My days are filled with my children  – cleaning, playing, wiping, feeding – and my house – just wiping and cleaning.  The only time I can find to get a little sewing in is during nap time.  This wouldn’t be a problem, except until I started sewing again last summer, I used naptime as my chance to work out and get a few things done around the house.  The average naptime around here isn’t much more than 2 hours, so by the time I exercise, unload/reload the dishwasher, and fold a load of clothes, it’s time for everyone to get up again!

I’ve been working out at home since Forrest was little, because he would have such a frickin’ cow every time I tried to leave him in the nursery at the gym.  Plus, I found it was way too much trouble to get all three of us together and get out of the house just to go work out for 45 minutes.  So, I developed a home routine that I enjoyed and that was pretty effective, albeit time consuming.  I tried to work out 4 days a week and did a combination of weight training, yoga, and pilates, with each routine lasting between 45 minutes and an hour.  That eats up a big chunk of nap time!

Last fall, I realized something was going to have to give.  If I was going to have any time to sew, I needed to devote the entire naptime to it.  But, I didn’t want to give up working out.  Not because I’m some kind of fitness freak or anything, but because a very significant part of my ability to be happy is directly linked to how I feel about myself, and how I feel about myself is directly linked, in large part, to how fit I look and feel.

51tJVUcgogL._BO2,204,203,200_PIsitb-sticker-arrow-click,TopRight,35,-76_AA300_SH20_OU01_I happened to be reading Gretchen Rubin’s The Happiness Project, and stumbled across a mention of her workout routine which is designed to provide a full-body workout in 20 to 30 minutes, once a week.  Thinking it too good to be true, I did a little more research and found the source of her routine: Adam Zickerman’s Inform Fitness gym in New York City.  Now, I shan’t be making the trip to NYC just to work out, but Zickerman has a book, Power of 10, that provides the basics of his workout philosophy and the routines to follow to do it on your own at home or in the gym.

My discovery of the Power of 10 provided a way to simplify my workout routine, giving me more time to do what I really wanted to do: sew!

For about 8 months, I did the home routines, twice a week.  It took about 30 to 35 minutes to complete an entire workout, but 35 minutes twice a week to get the same results  I got when I was doing 45 to 60 minutes 4 times a week before was a pretty good trade from my point of view.  Zickerman discourages working out at home since the effectiveness of the workout relies on reaching absolute muscle fatigue which could make the use of free weights dangerous.   I found that I never really pushed to full fatigue because I was nervous about losing control of my weights.  I also got to the point that I needed heavier weight to work out my lower  body than I could lift with my arms.

So, earlier this summer, I took the plunge and joined a gym again.  The real impetus for joining was actually to give Olive and Forrest a chance to play with other children in the Kids Club and swim in their very nice kiddie pool.  I would never have joined just for myself.  But, I’m so glad I did.  I now do my workouts on the machines at the gym and am getting even better results because I don’t have to worry about losing control once I reach muscle failure.  I work out once or twice a week for about 30 minutes, then I go get Olive and Forrest and let them play in the pool for a couple of hours.  (I find it ironic that after years of having blindingly white skin in the summers while I was single and relatively unfettered and really should have been hanging out at the pool, it’s only now that I have children that I am chilling at the pool and getting a tan!)


I keep track of my progress and time my sets with my phone

One of my husband’s favorite and sometimes irritating sayings is, “Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it’s easy.”  And it’s irritatingly true.  This simpler workout is actually much harder to do than my longer workouts from the past.  For it to really work and really simplify my life, I have to push really hard when I’m doing it.  I can’t just go through the motions and do my sets.  I have to reach muscle failure with every exercise.  And, I have to keep track of it, too.  Instead of mindlessly following the directions of my dvd workout gurus, I have to make sure I’m pushing myself every time by keeping track of my progress.  But, it’s worth it!

Are my abs washboards of steel?  No.  Do I have gap between my inner thighs because they’re rock hard with no fat on them?  No.  Do I have a nice little bicep bump on my arms?  Yes.  Do my legs look fitter than they ever have?  Yes.  Do I see and feel my body slowly changing and getting stronger?  Yes!  Being fitter and feeling like I have the power to change my body with a relatively small time commitment are big benefits of my new workout routine.  But, one benefit that I didn’t foresee is how liberating it is to not feel like I should be working out every day.  I feel mentally free to pursue other things and I’m not beating myself up because I didn’t work out that day.  That means that I can dive into my sewing projects whole-heartedly and not have that nagging feeling that I should be doing something else!

Fourth of July AND My First Self-Drafted Pattern!

Is it too late to post about the Fourth of July?

Our lovely holiday where we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence occurred last week and in honor of the celebrations, I decided to make Olive & Forrest coordinating shirts of red, white, and blue fabric.

Forrest in his Independence Day shirt!

Forrest in his Independence Day shirt!

For Forrest, I used the Pox Couture Button-Down pattern that I’ve written about before.  I don’t know what happened, but the front panels were about 1/2 inch longer than the collar and there was no “easing” that much excess out.  I just re-pressed the button plackets, making them bigger and thus taking up that extra half-inch, but they ended up looking a bit tacky on the inside.  Still, the fabric of the shirt was delightful (Ship Shape Signal Flags from fabric.com) and Jeff says that it is the best looking shirt Forrest has ever worn!  So, hooray!  I was planning to pair it with his new linen pants, but pants just seemed to hot, even in linen. It gets really hot here!  So, he wore them with navy shorts instead, and looked totally adorable.

For Olive, I wanted something very summery and not too homemade looking. I happened to walk past Gap and noticed a little shirt that I thought was cute and could be pretty easily reproduced at home.  Here are some shots of my inspiration:

Using Cynthia Rowley Paintbox Pin Dot in Red, again from fabric.com, here’s what I came up with:

I originally wasn’t planning to put a placket on the back, but found that I had made the bodice way too big.  I figured it would be easier to just attach a placket than to rip the bodice apart, cut off the excess, re-ruche the sides, and then re-attach the bodice to the lining.  I just held the gathers in place as I stitched the placket on and then cut off the excess.  Easy peasy.  So, it was a measurement failure, but overall a finished success!

For the back closure, I used some cute anchor buttons that I had cut off of a shirt several years ago — I just feel so crafty saying that!

I’d like to give a little shout-out to Rae of Made-by-Rae and Melly of Blank Slate Patterns.  The techniques I learned making the Geranium Top and the Prepster Pullover are what made it possible for me to make this shirt!

I had thought of putting together a little tutorial on how to make this top, since it’s just a series of rectangles sewn together, but I actually had to do some ripping and re-figuring in the process, so I decided to scrap the idea.  If I make it again, I’ll photograph the process and post the pics.

So, here are a few pics of my sweet little homemade brood on the Fourth of July!

Simple. Style.

I worked retail during grad school at an adult apparel store. (Uh… we sold apparel to adults, not “adult” merchandise.  Not sure if that distinction was necessary.)  During one particularly heavy semester of grad school, I asked to cut back on the hours I was working so that I could focus more on my coursework and the shows I was doing.  It wasn’t long after that reduction of hours spent at the mall that I realized just how much of a mental burden the retail world was for me. It wasn’t just the customers and the constant sales and “loyalty” goals that were exhausting, but the constant proximity to the new and the shiny.  (Don’t get me wrong, every facet of the retail world is exhausting to me, but that’s another post.)  When I wasn’t looking at new clothes all the time, I wasn’t so displeased with the one’s I owned.  I didn’t have to do the math in my head and figure out what my discount was and whether I could afford something. Clothes were not something I spent my mental energy on and it was awesome.

In the last year, as I have re-imagined the woman I want to be, my style has evolved and so has my attitude toward shopping.  The thing is, I like a lot of things, but for my own sanity, I’ve had to narrow my “look” down to the fits and silhouettes that make me feel as I most want to feel. (Any combination of comfortable, powerful, elegant and seductive… I feel you rolling your eyes.)  Anyway, that has helped me a lot in paring down my wardrobe, resisting the clothes I see in stores, and now with choosing my sewing projects and fabrics. I simply do not have the money to buy fabrics that I just “like” but that I have no practical use for and I do not have the time to make the resulting impractical garment.

So, what I’ve ended up with is a look that blends masculine with feminine in flattering and comfortable cuts. None of the pictures below capture it perfectly, but I thought I would share some elements that I like.

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I truly believe that the majority of the work inherent in simplifying your life goes into clarifying your vision.  For those of you who have a dedicated sewing space, think of how long it took you to determine how best to set it up.  Once you have that space organized, that work is done and it makes all of your subsequent sewing easier and more efficient.  This is the “look” that I hope to start from, so that I can make my clothing choices a little easier.

Coastal Cargos Pattern Review

Forrest got another pair of linen pants!

So . . . the last pair of linen pants that I made for Forrest are already in his too small clothes bin.  I simply cut the legs too short when I made them, so he only got to wear them a handful of times. But, I just love the look of little boys in linen pants and I have a whole bunch of linen that I bought planning to make myself a pair of pants (a plan which was quickly scrapped).  So, Forrest got another pair of linen pants!

This time around, I used the Coastal Cargos pattern by Blank Slate.  You may recall that I did a test pair of these for Olive way back when I was trying to put together beach outfits.  The cut of the pants and the size I chose were not a good fit for O, but I figured that since they are a bit on the slim side, they would be perfect for Forrest.  I made the smallest size, 18 months, but still ended up taking in about 2 1/2 inches in the hips.  Forrest is on the very slim side.

Now that I’ve made it a couple of times, I thought I would post my review of the pattern.

Pattern Description & Sizing: These are relatively slim fit, straight leg pants that come in sizes 18m to 8, with tons of options for adding interesting features.  Here’s a list of options:

Bias trim
Belt loops
Functioning zipper fly
Back elastic casing
Welt pockets
Slash pockets
Cargo pockets
Button tabs

Instructions (Clear & Easy to Follow?): Yes!  The instructions were very clear and the pictures were very helpful, especially when it came to installing the front fly zipper.

Changes or Alterations Made: I didn’t use bias tape to finish the inside leg seams.  After I ripped the bias tape off of the side seams so that I could take them in, I figured it was too much trouble.

I made the leg openings on these quite a bit wider than the pattern calls for.  I just think linen pants need to have kind of a wide leg, so I basically cut straight down from the hip, rather than following the much narrower line of the pattern.  That means the bottom leg opening width is cut on the 4T while the rest of the pants are cut on the 18 months line.  I think they turned out rather well that way.

In terms of real alterations, I ended up taking about an inch out of each side seam and then took up about a 1/2 inch on the back center seam.  The hip measurements for the 18 month size are 22 inches with diaper, but Forrest’s with diaper hip measurement is only 19.5 inches.  That was the biggest challenge and, if I had it to do again, I would not put the bias tape on the sides until I was certain the fit was right!  Ripping out the 4 seams on each side was a real pain!

Because I had to gather up the sides and waistband so much, the welt pockets sort of gape open when he has them on.  I stitched them together, but I think I’m going to have to go back and do it again.  I figure these will grow with him for a while (I have two inches of fabric to work with on the hem), so I’m hoping at some point I can pull the stitches out of the welt pockets and make them functional.

Finally, I used a blind stitch to finish the hem.

Would I sew it again and recommend it to others?: Yes!  I’m planning to make a couple of pairs of these for Forrest to wear to school in the fall.  I’m also going to give them a go for Olive, once again (pink with silver bias tape — I can’t wait to see how they turn out!).  I will make sure my measurements are accurate before I cut hers out!

Conclusion: The biggest, most wonderful thing about this pattern, to me, is the functional front fly zipper.  I am so excited that I can make pants for my children that are not just elastic waist.  Figuring out the zipper part was a bit tedious and took some thinking, but I didn’t have to refer to anything besides the pattern (that’s when you know it’s a good pattern – when you don’t have to go to some other resource to figure out how the pattern works!).  I’ve always striven to make my children’s clothes be of a higher quality that I would buy them in the store and I feel like, now that I have this front fly zipper technique, I can really make clothes that I am proud of!