Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Little House on the bobbin

At the beginning of the summer Amy of During Quiet Time started a project with her eight-year-old daughter. As I'm also in possession of an eight-year-old daughter, I was immediately curious. And then, amazingly, it was a sewing project based on her daughter's reading of the Little House on the Prairie Books, which my own daughter had just begun reading.

Amy and her daughter have planned a quilt built on blocks based on each of the Little House books. Amy posts a quilt block pattern or two to her blog whenever her daughter finishes a book. Her daughter sews the blocks, but Amy does the cutting and pinning. Following this model, I knew my own girl would love to sew along with this project. My girl is reading a little slower than Amy's girl, as mine likes to read about a dozen books at once. But she's halfway through By the Shores of Silver Lake, and has completed her first four sew-along quilt blocks.

Like Amy, I did most of the cutting and pinning. My girl did 100% of this sewing, and she most emphatically made all of the fabric selections, too.

In honor of the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, Amy led us through making a traditional quilt block known as a log cabin. My girl's log cabin is humongous because she couldn't narrow down her fabric choices:

The second block is a cat, for Black Susan, the family pet that Laura and her family left behind when they left the Big Woods:

In Little House on the Prairie, Laura falls madly in love with Pet and Patty, the family's horses:

And then we took a detour away from Laura's childhood to read about her future husband Almonzo's childhood in Farmer Boy. My girl surprised me with how much she loved Farmer Boy, and here we have the award-winning milk-fed pumpkin that Almonzo grew:

And she's halfway through her block for By the Banks of Plum Creek, which will be the first where we've deviated from Amy's designs. My girl has insisted we need a block to show the dugout, the underground home that Laura and her family first lived in until Pa could build them a wood-frame home. The bottom two-thirds of it are finished but we're waiting on a special order of a fat-quarter of cow fabric, because one simply can't sew a dugout without adding the cow who once put her hoof through the roof.

So here are the first four blocks together. I figure I'll come back and show you when she has the next few together? After the dugout, she wants to add Amy's wheat block for Plum Creek, Almonzo's pig to go with his pumpkin, and something with feathers to represent the Indians who figure so prominently on the Prairie. She's planning a train engine car for Silver Lake, so give us another month or so and we should have more blocks to show off to you.

Pretty fun, don't you think? I get so little time at the sewing machine and I'm giving most of it to supervising her, so it's slowing down my own projects' progress, but I am really enjoying this collaboration with her, especially watching how it makes her consider these books in ways she might not have otherwise. 

I might be in trouble, though, because she's already talking of quilts to correspond to all the other book series she loves. That justifies me daydreaming about this ridiculously complicated Harry Potter quilt, yes?

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Here, kitty kitty!

It's stupid the things that still make me feel shy, years after I think I should have outgrown that sensation. I find gift-giving to be very, very hard, and the more I like the person and the more thought I've put into the gift, the harder it is. I can feel embarrassed by my own care, if that makes any sense.

So I did something today that felt brave, although that's a silly description to apply. There was a baby shower for a colleague at work today. She's about to have her first child. Sometimes any interactions at work make me feel shy. I'm new to this office and sometimes feel like I'm elbowing into a close-knit family. And I'm the new girl, and I brought something handmade to the party.

Anyway, is this making sense? For the first time I made a major sewn gift for someone not related to me, and self-equated it to store-bought regard. That took some confidence-steeling, but this is a coworker I hold in high regard, and babies don't just show up every day.

I made a baby quilt and I gave it away. My handmade goods show room for growth, but they also show that they're made with love, surely.

I used the basic block from the catvent quilt-along, 30 different scraps, and a Kaffee Fassett shot cotton in tobacco.

I quilted in a cat-nose-shaped spiral,

and pieced a backing,

including my little "love, Robin" label of which I'm so fond.

I bound the quilt with the Catnap mice, who make me very happy. And if it took me three tries to feel (mostly) satisfied with the binding, it just means I should go finish another quilt, right? Because there's only one way to get better.

And as for this one, it's awaiting the arrival of a sweet little cherub whose job it is to drool on it and worse -- so a baby quilt can't possibly be the best place for dwelling on perfection. So like pretty much everything, it's a lesson in not over-worrying, and just moving forward.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

A new wallet

This was my old wallet, sewn by someone who wasn't me, bought years ago on Etsy:

I loved it and used it until it fell apart, and even as I realized it was time for a new wallet, it took me a while to realize that just as I had loved a home-sewn wallet, I probably have it in my ability now to create my own sewn wallet. Isn't this just the kind of challenge that prodded me to want to learn to sew?

Meet my new wallet:

My hand model is eight and wears more rainbow loom than your hand model.

I used a free tutorial I found online, and it was just not-good enough that I'm disinclined to link to it. It called for a velcro closure and I wanted the snap, so I improvised that. I added the zipper pocket on the back on my own, too.

I enjoyed the challenge of figuring out those details on my own, but I should probably recommend that you just buy a full pattern somewhere, because I struggled through that challenge. And my wallet opens right-to-left instead of left-to-right because my self-installing understanding of the snap closure put it on backwards, and the zipper opens right-to-left, too, which was the opposite of my intention. I'm left-handed and I always understand spatial relations backwards and second- and triple-guess myself. A proper pattern would have helped.

Who cares, though - I conquered the challenge, I used favorite fabrics, and now I'm walking around with a sewn wallet of my own creation.

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Sunday, March 9, 2014

The possibly-creepy, deeply-beloved daddy dolls

Sometimes I want to tell you about a project and then I can't find the USB cord to my camera because my son has a habit of building snake nests out of anything long and skinny and not telling anybody that he stole all your essential cords for playtime. Snakes are sneaky, you know, so their nests might be anywhere, and then it takes me a month to tell you a story: I finished the daddy dolls.

I used Transfer Artist Paper and old dress shirts of the lovely husband's and the Hans pattern I used once before to make these daddy dolls to help my kids who do miss their daddy so much when he travels for work, which is rather a lot this year.

The dolls have helped! The kids sleep with them when the lovely husband is away, and they're less sad about his absence.

And you know that thing kids do where they drag their dolls around all dangly-sideways by a single limb? It's only disconcerting to see your husband's likeness mauled around like that for the first week or so. Then you get used to it.

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Monday, February 17, 2014

Kindle cover

The eldest, a 2nd grade bookworm, just received a Kindle for her birthday. She read through Flora and Ulysses in 24 hours, finishing just a day before the announcement that it had been awarded this year's Newberry Medal. And I can't think of a more auspicious way to embark on a new leg of one's reading journey than with an award-winning talking squirrel...

...except maybe if you add in a purple cover for your e-reader.

After reading a novel in a day (that's my girl, y'all), she had only one complaint, which is that the Kindle isn't too comfortable to hold. She kept lying on her back and dropping it on her nose. It needed grippability and cushioning.  I'd seen lots of sewn Kindle holders that were pouch-like, but I wanted to find a pattern for one that wrapped around the device as the commercial holders do. After some poking around, I found this fantastic tutorial from Whipstitch.

It's book-shaped, and designed like a Moleskine, held closed with a strip of elastic (bright purple, of course).

On the back I used one of her favorite purple floral prints and a scrap of an Aneela Hoey fabric featuring a long-haired brunette lost in a book. Thematic!

Inside are her two favorite prints, long-gone Lizzy House purples, but if I could buy them by the bolt and use nothing else for this girl for the rest of her life, I would and she'd be happy. My scraps of these are nearly gone, but I'll use every last inch.

When you're ready to get serious about your book, the front flap folds behind and that same elastic holds it in place.

And you can access all the buttons and the charging port without pulling it out of its cover, which I think is the biggest factor in its ease-of-use for a girl who wanted something pretty and personalized but who doesn't want any extra steps between herself and her fiction.

Now we need to get her her own library card, fast, and connect in to the free books.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Birthday dress

At the beginning of this month I took an introductory class on sewing with knits. It was great, I learned a ton, and at the end of six hours, I had...a t-shirt. I am extremely proud of that shirt that looks just like one you could buy off the clearance rack at Target for $7.88. And it's really a size too big because I didn't account all that well for how I like a knit shirt to cling a bit, you know? And this is too big to cling. So I might have spent $49 on tuition and $8 on a pattern and $9 on (clearance!) fabric and a vacation day from work ($300? I don't even know) and various new notions to make a $375 seven-dollar sleeping shirt. But knowledge needs a confident foundation, and there are some things I learn best by being shown, and I have no regrets (and a super cute sleeping shirt).

But this is like that thing where you say a Tylenol pill costs a penny to make and the contrarian scientist type you know (because we all know one) tells you that the second Tylenol pill is worth a penny but the first-ever Tylenol pill was worth gazbillions of dollars in research and development and now I tell you that my too-big sleeping shirt is like life-changing discovery, because for me, it was.

The eldest child had a birthday this weekend. She turned eight (and can we pause for a moment on that? Eight!) and had an ice skating party, and sweetly informed me that she needed me to make her a twirly skating dress. And it had to be comfortable. And it had to be purple. (I knew that part without being told.)

Behold, my second-ever project at sewing with knits, the birthday dress:

I used the Modkid Abigail pattern, which promised to be easy on a knits-newbie, and it was. My birthday girl was so happy with it that I couldn't get her to hold still for a picture. She needed to practice her ice twirls, right in our hallway. That's called party prep, you know.

I added my little tag to the back of the dress (heart+comma+bird="love, Robin") both because she always admonishes me that I've forgotten to sew my tag onto my creations and so she can identify the back, because if you don't look too closely, you just get dizzied by the purple.

She wore it all through her birthday day and slept in it last night. So I think it was well-received.

Fabric designer Lizzy House just posted something brilliant on her blog about sewing clothing:
As I continued to sew my own clothing, it started to feel like I was being rebellious. That every stitch that I made was an act of defiance against what has been established as normal. What we are allowed to wear. Where our clothing is made. Who makes it. Where the materials are sourced. I got to make all the decisions. And that felt, and still feels defiant.
You should go read that whole thing. I loved it. It obviously can't be economical for me to make clothes for the kids or myself. But it can be deliberate, purposeful, filled with intention and consideration -- and lots of love, of course, because my biggest girl, she's eight years old now, and such a milestone demands twirly purple.

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Sunday, December 22, 2013

Christmas gifts

There was a time in our preschool career when I gave presents to every teacher there. It was silly, our situation: with three kids enrolled and only four classrooms in the school, there was never a teacher that we hadn't had within a given year or wouldn't have in the coming year. We gave something to everybody.

Now that the girls have grown up and away to the wilds of elementary school and only the boy remains, for the first time ever we only have interaction with one set of teachers. So for the first time ever, I made a portion of their presents. With the boy on my lap and helping, I used a tutorial for earbud pouches, and I made them in the teachers' favorite colors of red, green and pink.

They finish at about 3" across. They're each lined with a contrasting dot fabric, which I also used for the key ring tab.

The red one with the fussycut back is my favorite.

When the teachers unzip them, they'll find out that I stuffed them with money, because these young women are dedicated, underpaid, and wonderful...and that's probably what they want and need more than anything else.

We are Jewish, and as such don't actually celebrate Christmas. But I love this time of year, when the holiday makes most everyone a little extra happy. If this is your holiday, I hope it's wonderful!

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