Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Getting ready for baby!

My new niece is almost here!

Thanks to the infant dress pattern and the onesie idea from rebecca, I was able to make my own little dresses and onesies for baby emma. I just had to post them because they all came out so cute.

Look how cute the hearts and stitching is on this onesie that my mom did. Such a cute idea.

Picnic Blanket

For a while I have been keeping my eyes open for a good use for some oilcloth. There are always lunch bags, etc. but I don't really need one and I wanted to make something useful. I found a free pattern by Amy Butler called, Laminated Picnic Blanket with Carrying Case, and it struck a chord with me. I hate bringing out even our old blankets and getting them full of sticker burs and other roughage. And where I am from it rains a lot, so there is always a chance that the dampness will seep through and wet our little bums. So, for me this pattern was a bit of inspiration.

I found this lovely Japanese oilcloth at the local Sew Crafty. It is from the line Echino by Etsuko Furuya.

It matched perfectly with this fabric I already had from the same line called Border Print Grassy Plain that I got at the International Quilt Festival last year. It has been sitting in my "must find something good for this fabric soon" pile for almost a year.

Anyway, I did not really follow the instructions, just saw her idea and jumped right in. But this is not one of those projects I am going to say is "so easy" or "you could whip this up in no time." I hated working on this project. Oil cloth was so not easy to work with! I even bought a special pressure foot and everything. But, it is done. It works. And it is as cute as I hoped it would be, even though I was pulling out my hair the whole time.

I even made my own little carrying case. I cut a strip 2 inches longer than the circumference of the rolled up blanket and sewed Velcro at each end. Then, I made some bias tape for the handle and attached it to one end. I added a button hole to the other end. When the case is wrapped around the bundle and velcroed shut, the handle slips through the button hole, making it nice and secure. I think the picture gives better detail than my explanation.

If anyone has tips on working with this beastly fabric, I'd love to hear them.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Japanese Dress Making, a,b: Part 1

I fell in love with this fabric and finally decided on a dress pattern I thought would compliment the beautiful design - something not too busy so that the focus is more on the print than the pattern. The pattern came from the Japanese dress book: Stylish Dress Book, most likely found on

I really like the selvage edges of fabric and think it is a shame they are so often trimmed off and thrown out. I thought it would be fun to include it in my dress. It adds a token of who made the fabric and I thought it added an appropriate modern look to the neckline. I added a slightly raised boat neck to the dress as well, which is done with a really thick binding. I thought this also helped to bring in an element of elegance. This way the dress is swanky enough for a date, elegant enough for church and casual enough to go shopping in.

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Japanese Dress Making a,b: Part 2

I added my favorite grosgrain to accent the skirt of the dress as well as on the sleeves.

The dress pattern came from dress a which is a simple a-line pattern. I added a drop waist by sewing swimsuit elastic to the inside, to help give the shape we westerners appreciate.

The sleeves were from dress, or top, b which are my favorite sleeves in the whole book. They are made of 2 parts: a top form-fitting piece attached to the lower piece which bubbles out a bit with a gathering. It is an elegant 3/4 sleeve length which can easily be lengthened if desired.
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Guest-Room Slippers

Taking a break from Amy Butler's In Stitches I finally completed these little house shoes. The pattern is found in Weekend Sewing by Heather Ross. I started these about a month ago, intending them to be the project that would ease me back into sewing upon returning from our trip. They took no time at all, I was nearly done when I got to the soles. The soles, as pictured below, are made from felted wool for durability. It is a great idea. I really was all for having a sole on my slippers, until I read the how-to. I was supposed to attach it with a nice attractive and decorative blanket-stitch. I had never done it before, thought, "how hard could it be," and made my first attempt at it on my precious shoes. Disaster. It was horrendous! In the end I ditched the idea of having a thick sole; "Who needs a decent protective sole on their shoes," I questioned to no one in particular. I set the shoes on my nightstand, and there they remained for a hole month. They tried on a new hat and became my personal coasters for a while. And one day last week, clearing away a few papers, I noticed my sad little slippers doing a job that just wasn't in their hearts. They were born to shod my feet and i knew right then and there that I needed to restore them to their rightful place. Disregarding the rules, I abandoned the blanket-stitch (it is not a very attractive stitch, after all), and used a tried-and-true straight stitch, recalling a method used once before. Perfect. These two were made for each other.

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Amy Butler's Wide-Leg Lounge Pants

Right now I am loving pairing pastels, especially soft purples, with black and I wanted an excuse to use this combination. I decided to make these super comfy lounge pants from Amy Butler's In Stitches. Adam looooves them! I am not sure why, they look kind of dorky on me, but he thinks they are the bees knees. :)

These are perfectly cozy & roomy. They are breezy while still keeping you warm; the perfect combination for hot weather outside, and the a/c going inside.

The pattern comes together pretty quickly and easily. However, I did make one change. The pattern says to make a drawstring out of the fabric, insert it into the two buttonholes in the front of the pants - and then you're done. Well, being a connosieur of comfy pants, I knew exactly what I wanted. For me, comfy lounge pants means one thing: an elastic waist. So, first I left about a 1 1/2" opening at the seam where the drawstring would go (the seam at the waist). Then I took a piece of no-roll 1" elastic and placed it around my waist and measured it. I added one inch to that length, cut it off, attached a safety pin to one end and fed the piece into the opening, threaded it around the waist and back out the same opening. I stitched the 2 ends together with a 1/2" seam allowance. Then I stitched the opening closed. Next, I inserted purple ribbon through one button hole and out the other, using a safety pin. This finishes the look with a cute accent!
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French Seam

This is a seam I learned recently and I have found it very useful. It is not appropriate for all projects, however, when you can use it, I highly recommend it. It adds a great finished and professional look to your projects.

The French Seam is comprised of only two straight stitches and creates a finished seam. It is ideal to use especially if you do not have a serger or an over-locking stitch, or similar, on your sewing machine. It also uses far less thread than serging or over-locking and is much quicker.

To begin, take your two pieces of fabric and place them WRONG sides together. Sew the edges together with a seam allowance of half of what the pattern allows. For example, if your pattern has a seam allowance of 1/2", then sew 1/4". Pictured below is an example. I sewed these 2 pieces of fabric Wrong sides together at a 1/4" seam.

Next, iron the seam open, pictured below. It may seam like a good step to skip, but it really helps to create a smooth finished seam.

Now fold the two pieces at the seam with RIGHT sides facing. You can iron at this point, if you wish:

Finally, sew along the seam 1/4" from the edge (a 1/4" seam allowance). This gives you a total of 1/2" seam allowance used. The finished seam has all raw edges tucked nicely inside the two pieces and out of sight. I really love this new technique. It is not always the most appropriate "serging" option, so I recommend reading through all the instructions first to make sure that it will not get in the way before using it. For example, I just made some drawstring bags and because of a few steps where you actually go in and open the seam at 2 points, and insert the drawstring, this type of seam would have really been a nuisance to deal with.

Anyway, if this stitch is new for you, I hope you find it useful!

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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Berry Sorbet

In the July issue of Martha Stewart, she had a recipe card for raspberry sorbet. It is the easiest thing I have ever made with such a high pay-off.

Pulse 12 oz of frozen berries in food processor. Mix together 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup water until sugar dissolves. Add to berries and pulse until smooth. Put it in an air tight container for at least 30 minutes. Serve with homemade whipped cream. Makes about 4 servings.

I've made this twice now, once with raspberries and once with a triple berry mixture. Both so very good. The raspberry sorbet is a gorgeous, bright color and is very tart, which I love. The triple berry is sweeter and very tasty. I bought a large bag of frozen berries, made three batches, and put them in the same container to keep in the freezer. I plan on having some of this in my freezer at all times this summer.

(This is the triple berry sorbet. Pictures aren't great. It was nighttime and we have a dark house.)

Friday, July 9, 2010

4th of July Triple Berry Pie!

*** Stars ***
I got this idea from the Martha Stewart Living magazine for July 2010 (or was it June? July makes more sense). I made a strawberry, blackberry, and raspberry filling that I sort of made up based on other recipes. I found these tiny star cookie cutters from Williams Sonoma on sale and this pie turned out so darn cute! The red boiling over only added to the festive look of this pie. Most importantly, it tasted delicious! This triple combination of berries was so tasty. I used all fresh berries. I highly recommend trying it before the summer is over.
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Japanese Dress Making: Part 2

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Japanese Dress Making, i: Part 1

After being gone for so long I could not wait to clear the dust off of my sewing machine and get to work. My first project was this dress. It is sort of a Frankenstein of many parts of the Japanese dress making book: Stylish Dress Book. I was rather intimidated to begin this project as all instructions are in Japanese. But, I bought it from a seller on who also provides a link to many translated sewing terms. Also, a quick Google search gave me a few more resources to buoy up my courage. The google results were actually more helpful than the ones from the seller because I could not match a single Japanese character from the instructions to her list!

I must say that out of all of the dresses I have made so far, this one is my most successful. Normally I end a dress project saying something like, "OK, so I can't lift my left arm up all the way, and I sewed the skirt on backwards, but it looks good so that's OK with me!. I did something!"

so that really made me happy. :)

I did dress i from the book which is pictured below on the model in black. I used sleeves from a different pattern, added a belt for some shape, and made some ruffles for style, and there you have it! The fabric is also Japanese which I bought here from Purl Soho.

I highly recommend this book if you want a lot of dress patterns. This is more of a beginner-intermediate level dress making book. The patterns also use a lot of the same pieces to make the different variations, so it is easy to exchange parts of a pattern with others in the book. One thing to remember is that these patterns do not come with seam allowances so you need to add those in when copying your pattern.A source of inspiration for me is Make Something a blog by a woman who runs a fabric shop out of Canada. There is a whole section of her blog dedicated to Japanese dress making.

Fat Quarter Dress

This is a really sweet little dress made for infants. It fits 6-12 lb. babies. It is fast and easy to make, cheap and fun to embellish. You only need 1 fat quarter for the back and the bottom portion for the front. Then you use another scrap of fabric (or you can just go ahead and buy another fat quarter that coordinates, like I did with these) for the top piece in the front. You also need a couple of snaps or buttons for the back. The pattern makes a sleeveless dress, but I think puckered sleeves are so cute on little babies, so I had to add some. You can buy the pattern here. Or you know you can always borrow mine. I added ribbon and rickrack to mine because that is what I had on hand, but of course the possibilities are endless!
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Amy Butler: Kimono Style Robe

Ok - let me start out by telling you how much I love this robe. The fabric is wonderful. It is not too thin or too thick and it feels great! I bought it from a website that was liquidating their stores, so I got the fabric and the ribbon for just a few bucks. This was a relatively easy project (it took me longer to make the infant fat quarter dress than this). I love wearing robes. I have thick soft ones and a nice thick towel one. They are great especially in cold weather. But when it is hot, or when traveling I wanted to have a nice lightweight robe that would be easy to pack. This pattern is perfect. I made it a size too big because I love having a roomy robe. Makes it all the more cozy! :) I think I will embroider an initial or something on it. It took 3 yards of fabric and that is all you need. I embellished it with the ribbon at the bottom, which is the nice thing about this robe, you can really have fun with it if you want - or just be sort of boring like me and not go outside of the patterns instructions. Pattern is found in her In Stitches book.
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