February month-in-review

Aside from the dress in my last post, I thought I’d just do a recap of what else I’ve been making this month, since it’s a lot of works-in-progress and stuff that I wouldn’t give individual posts to. Also, thanks for all of the lovely birthday wishes and compliments on that dress!

1. First off, the totals. I tend to only count stash as busted once the project is actually sewn up, so for this month, I used up a total of 9 1/2 yards of fabric. I did buy one pattern (The Sewaholic Granville blouse, since Tasia was having her big birthday sale and I actually didn’t have a standard button-down shirt pattern in my stash) and a zipper, but overall, I did manage to stick with using things I had.

  • The maternity dress was 3 yards. 
  • I used half a yard of ugly quilt cotton plus some ugly quilted fabric that my mother-in-law dropped off to me the day before to make an ugly pillow to keep between my knees and help me sleep with reduced hip pain, because that’s been an issue for the last couple of months and my OB suggested a thinner pillow than the one I’d been using. I didn’t measure out that quilted fabric, I literally just folded it up into the size I wanted and sewed the ugly cotton into a pillowcase around it. So I’m not going to show that here, though I did post it in the Stashbusting Sewalong group on Facebook, since one category in this month’s fabric contest was Ugly. (I literally don’t even know how that fabric got into my stash. I didn’t buy it.)
  • As for the rest, I made this:

nursery stuffed animal hammockDoug and I almost have the nursery (aka the Hobbit Hole) set up, minus whatever we’re given in the baby shower that my mom’s been planning and a few minor projects. He had the idea to do a hammock for stuffed animals, since we need to keep those away from the dogs. Malkin in particular has a habit of tearing holes and ripping all of the stuffing out as soon as he gets his paws on them! I had a lot of tulle left over from making my wedding dress, because I seriously overestimated how much I would need. Good thing it’s cheap. I didn’t use it all up, since it was in two pieces, but I did manage to use up a 6-yard piece by cutting 4 layers and zig-zagging the edges to hold it all together, then binding the shorter edges/making tabs out of a scrap of thicker white cotton from my scrap bin. Not bad for an afternoon’s work, I think, and I’m happy that I found a way to use up some tulle on a project for a boy!

For the record, a majority of the stuffed animals in there are actually ones I’d kept from my own childhood/teenage years that had some sentimental value. Though the Donald Duck and the little German shepherd puppy were gifts from the soon-to-be grandparents, and there’s a bunch of Dr. Seuss-style fish that my mom made as well.

2. I’d mentioned earlier in the month that I had some pretty massive, time-consuming baby projects to make, so I thought I’d give the update on that.

newborn diaperFirst of all, I’ve been going to my parents’ a couple of times a week to work on the cloth diapers that my mom and I are sewing. They live closer to my teaching than I currently do, so it makes sense on the days I have fewer lessons to drive up there for more than one thing. Most of her projects are packed away now, so she’s using her sewing time to help me, which is so great of her. We still have a long way to go, since we’re ultimately making 72 (2 dozen each of 3 different sizes), but everything is at least cut out and ready to sew, and we’re making a pretty big dent on the smallest size of diaper. So this is one of those.

LotR Quiet book
And this is what I’ve been working on instead of knitting for most evenings lately, using this pattern. It’s taking awhile, since I’ve been having fabric glue issues and therefore have been basically hand-stitching the majority of this, with a little machine sewing thrown in to secure the edges of pages when backing them to hide all of the mess. Oh well…toys for boys need to be sturdy anyway, right?

Fellowship of the Finger Puppets!

And here’s a little closeup of the Fellowship of the Finger Puppets so far–the imagery is based a little more on the movies, so I’m going with that. So this is Boromir, Pippin and Legolas. I probably would have finished all 9 puppets last night, except the fabric glue that I bought yesterday specifically to assemble these just isn’t sticking to the felt very well! (My previous fabric glue had gotten too dried out to use, and these pieces are way too tiny for hot glue. So once again, I’m hand-stitching!) I’ve got 6 puppets in various stages of completion, and then 8 more pages on this book, I think. Some are much less intricate, so that will help. I also have a second book all cut out and ready to go that’s Doctor Who-based. If nothing else, maybe I can have these done in time to give Hobbit for his first Christmas?

So my goals for March, aside from continuing to make as big a dent on these books and diapers as possible:

  1. Sew my diaper bag, which I cut out earlier this week and that is therefore ready to go for my at-home sewing time. I’m planning to start that today.
  2. If I have time, sew myself at least one more article of clothing to get me through the next couple of months. Probably a top, since hopefully the weather will start to warm up and I can at least graduate to 3/4 sleeves. Especially if I make it nursing-friendly so I can wear it in the fall, too. 
  3. On the non-sewing front, I’ll probably also have to start thinking about some cooking days, since one of my plans is to try to get our freezers filled with as many prepped meals as possible so I don’t have to worry about food too much in the first month. (And by prepped, I mean either just defrost, or throw in the crockpot/oven and be done with it.) I have a list of recipes to make, including breakfast and lunch options that I can eat with one hand, plus a second list of ALL the ingredients, but I probably won’t really start with this until closer to the end of the month/beginning of April. We still need to eat in the meantime, so I’m focusing on using up the older stuff that’s in there first.

On a more personal note, since this still sounds like a lot, we’ve decided that I won’t be resuming my retail job this spring as usual. Our plan was for me to stay at home with the baby anyway, though I’m still going to be doing my music and now sewing lessons, which I do have babysitting lined up for. (Thanks, Mom!) But since spring is the busiest season at that job and I’ll be in my third trimester the whole time, and there’s several factors at that job that would make it very physically difficult (having to bend down to lift plants for scanning, stools with no backs, 6-day workweeks, the owner smokes in his office often and cigarette smoke makes me sick even when I’m not pregnant, the nausea still hasn’t fully gone away, etc.), we decided that it would be much better for me to use those last couple of months to just focus on final preparations instead of struggling through two part-time jobs plus all of that. Which is also why I’m planning to do cloth diapers and cook ahead, since in the long run that will save us money on diapers and avoiding takeout while we’re first learning how this parenting thing works. I can’t say I’m too broken-hearted over the thought of having more time in my day to cram in as many hours of sewing and music as I can before having to spend most of my time ensuring the survival of another human!

black is the new red

A little bit of selfish sewing in the midst of baby-sewing craziness! As it happens, I finished this dress just in time for my birthday tomorrow. But I won’t be wearing it, because there’s a chance of snow and it’s only supposed to get up to 33 degrees, tops. That’s .5 degrees for you Celsius folks, and I don’t know how you live with that temperature scale, because that sounds even worse! And this isn’t the sort of dress that would work well with close-toed shoes. February birthdays can suck like that.

IMG_2327Anyway. This is Simplicity 3678, now out of print, which I’ve actually made once before. I’m laughing because in the original post, I did specifically mention possibly revisiting it if I ever needed a maternity dress, because of all of the gathering that I needed to remove to avoid the preggo look! I’d kind of forgotten I’d said that, actually. I guess it’s a good thing I never threw the pattern away. The funny thing is, at least in this picture, I seem to look pretty normal from the front, right?

Maternity maxi-dress
Nope. Definitely a maternity dress. (I’m at 24 1/2 weeks now.)

Aside from lengthening and slightly flaring the skirt, since I really wanted a maxi-dress, here’s the adjustments I made:

  • In some ways, I followed the instructions more closely than the first time. In the original dress, I stitched the pleats down into more of a pintuck, because it was kind of ballooning out funny. For this version, I figured I’ll need the extra room and left those as pleats. I also sewed the facing more as it called for, though with a double row of stitching to try and give it a little more of an RTW look. (I wish I knew why my machine is occasionally skipping stitches for that, since I am doing a slight zigzag on a longer stitch length with a ballpoint jersey needle, just like I’m supposed to be! Any thoughts? My machine doesn’t have that lightning bolt stretch stitch.)
  • I added a little more gathering in the front to accommodate the bump. Probably somewhere close to 2″–honestly, all I did was go out from the center front fold to the still uncut edge of the original pattern tissue.
  • I still had to cut the back in two pieces, which I apparently had to do the first time, too. With all of that extra skirt length, I was barely able to get the pieces to fit! I actually also had to cut the midriff pieces perpendicular to what it called for as well–but after the recent leggings disaster, I made sure the stretch would work for that before I cut it this time. 
    1. IMG_2322
    • Doesn’t look so V-neck now, does it? While that also would have been nursing friendly, my size has already changed enough that this would have been very mentally uncomfortable for me to wear in public. (Seriously–while I know there’s a good reason for it, I’m actually kind of embarrassed at the size bra I had to buy recently!) So I improvised a bit of a faux camisole front for it, and even inserted some elastic in the casing that the stitching made to help hold things in place. It’s not quite as snug as I would have hoped, but it should do the job. 
      • For the bodice/midriff, I did slim down the seam allowances on the side slightly– 1/2″ instead of 5/8″– just to give me a little extra room, since I’m not sure how things will go in the third trimester or if my ribcage will expand or anything like that.
          Nursing adaptation

        • To make this nursing-friendlier so I can wear this for more than just the spring, I took a suggestion from Joanne and added an invisible zipper in the front of the dress! It’s sitting right at the top of the waistband, which I’m hoping will also stabilize the weight of the longer skirt. (I also sewed some clear elastic in the back to help with that as well.) Because of that, I did somewhat have to change the order of the directions, as in sewing the side seams for the bodice/midriff separately instead of all at once. But again, I took a cue from the leggings issues and made sure to baste things first so the seams had a better chance of lining up. Overall, I’m very happy with how this modification worked, and will possibly be doing it again, since I’m hoping to make a second maxi-dress before Hobbit comes. It’s just a case of deciding whether to stick with this pattern, since I already did the hacking, or to play around with modifying last summer’s Tiramisu hack. If I do the latter, I may not need to add extra access points, since that one works better on me as a V-neck.

          It’ll be good to have something new to look forward to, if it ever warms up around here. If I’ve learned one lesson from the last month or so of trying to cobble together outfits, it’s that I’m just not a wardrobe minimalist. I admire those people that can fully commit to the Wardrobe Architect-type thing of paring down her closet to a set of core outfit components that they can mix and match and accessorize to their heart’s content. But frankly, I like having more options, and I’ve definitely been missing having more prints in my life, even if they don’t necessarily go with everything! (I say as I show off a solid black dress, right?)

          IMG_2332Oh, and the title? I’m still trying to play around with keeping up with some of the monthly themes/challenges for the Stashbusting Sewalong and The Monthly Stitch as I can. I can use this for the latter, since it’s a solid color, but the only color specified in this month’s Stashbusting theme was red, which I hardly ever wear or even buy. But Malkin was kind enough to sport a little red on his collar while photobombing me, so that has to count for something. Right?

          so apparently I’m a sewing teacher now

          No pictures today, as I don’t have any finished projects of my own to show yet (though I’m close to one!) But I do have a sewing story.

          A couple of weeks ago, one of my high school classmates contacted me via Facebook to ask if I’d be interested in giving some sewing lessons to her pre-teen daughter, who she said was very interested in both sewing and fashion and was dying to learn how to make some clothes. We hashed out some details about frequency of lessons, payment, materials, etc, and then I told her I’d be willing to give it a shot. Our first lesson was on Monday, so I thought I’d share how it went.

          I wasn’t really sure what to expect as far as her experience goes, though I did know she has a sewing machine. So I decided that for the first project, we’d just do a simple tote bag, because it’s all straight lines and no fitting. I got the directions from one of the free Craftsy mini-classes, and her mom agreed to purchase the fabric ahead of time. So when I got to the girl’s house, she had her three fabrics picked out and all ready to go.

          I think I’m going to like this girl. One of the first things she did was ask if she could show me her sketches of things she’s designed. And she definitely already has her own style aesthetic! Lots of fitted waists, lots of belts– “I like belts,” she said when I commented on that– some 50’s elements, some color-blocking…she even had figured out preliminary prices of what to sell them for! I’d better start working on my pattern hacking skills even harder, because I have a feeling I’m going to need them! I also found out that she’s taken a sewing class at Joann’s before, and made some shorts and a few other things. So at least I know she has a little experience with patterns and such.

          I’ve given plenty of private lessons before for music. Mostly flute, though I did have a year where I taught saxophone to one kid, back when I was teaching for a very small private school band, and I do have a beginner piano student this year. So I think that did help me to have at least some idea of how to proceed. We got her fabric cut out, I walked her through the instructions and showed her a few tricks on her machine (she especially liked the one where you use the threaded machine needle to pull the bobbin thread up), and we actually got her entire bag completed in the first lesson! I was only supposed to be there for 2 hours, but I offered to stay a little longer since she was pretty close to finishing and I’d already had my first flute lesson cancelled for that day. She was very excited about the finished project, and is already planning to take it on an upcoming family vacation.

          I’ll have to figure out the logistics after the baby comes–which I’ll have to do for my music teaching anyway, though I already have a very willing babysitter lined up (aka my mother). But for now, we’re going to be doing 2 hour lessons every other week. She’s already showed me a project she wants to attempt, which is an RTW woven shawl with a hood and pockets–kind of a poncho of sorts. So we may be working on some pattern drafting soon, if we can find some good fabric for that. The next project we’re actually going to do (since her mom wanted something a little more straightforward to shop for) is going to be the Delphine skirt from Tilly’s Love at First Stitch. It’s not a book I have myself, but from everything I’ve read about it, I figured that would be a great reference book for her to start with, so I had her buy that as our “textbook” of sorts. And after seeing her drawings and the fabrics she picked out for her bag (very French-influenced), I think I chose pretty well! So now I have to start learning how to install an invisible zipper without the special foot, since her machine has a zipper foot but not an invisible one. I guess this will be a good way for me to expand my own skills, too!


          It’s not that I haven’t been sewing. I put a lot of hours in last week, actually. But it’s not really stuff that’s exciting to read about. 
          This is what my cutting table looks like right now–plastic bags full of little felt bits for some geeky “quiet books” (the patterns were among my Christmas presents from my parents), and piles of cotton fleece to stuff the cloth diapers that my mom and I are teaming up to make. So I’ve been spending my daytime sewing cutting liners and serging these rectangles, and my evening TV watching time slicing felt. 
          Once I get through the serging, I’ll probably just work on this a couple days a week with my mom, and go back to making some clothes again on the side. I’m already plotting. But I’m pushing through this more boring sewing in the meantime, comforted by the fact that this project will be extremely useful in the long run. (Not to mention that I actually did math, and sewing really is saving us quite a bit of money in this case, though not my time.)
          I’ll be back when I have something a little more interesting to show.
          (P.S. Thanks for all the happy and encouraging comments on my little gender  announcement! I’m starting to get excited about seeing what boy stuff I can come up with.)