Sunday, December 27, 2009

Bibs Again: Bigger than Ever

So the child is growing and the bibs are staying the same size. With the mess level at meals staying pretty much the same (we did Baby-Led Weaning , so we pretty much sit him down and let him have at it~ still), we needed a better solution to the shrinking bibs.

To make bigger bibs, I took View A of the New Conceptions Pattern that I liked so much originally and printed it at 110% and added two inches to the length. I also made the pockets taller and made a couple of them at an angle for no other reason than style~ I think they look a little Art Deco.

I made eight for our rotation this time, and used my snap press for the closure. I made them all using PUL with FOE.

After using them, I think the length could have been kept at 110% of the pattern, or maybe only one inch longer, but maybe they will be better as he keeps getting bigger. I still think the pocket on the bib is essential for keeping the mess slightly contained.
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Pattern Review: Habitual Kimono

What a fabulous kimono pattern and great instructions! Actually, it is all instructions and you have to take the instructions and draft your own pattern from them but it is so well-explained that it is as if there is a pattern there. Really.

I found a few kimono patterns online. The one from Martha Stewart turned out so badly that it's not worth my time to review it-- that's how much I hated it and found it confusing and illogical and badly marked and won't try any of her other sewing tutorials.

This one is from Habitual and can be found here. It is sized from newborn to 8 years old. This is done with a chart and drawing that is very clear. It gives the suggestion to make the pattern out of muslin instead of paper, which is clever (I, of course, opted for paper anyway). If I would cut the pattern again, I would have only drawn and cut half of the back and made a note to place it on the fold, instead of just folding the paper and cutting the cloth on the fold.

When making the kimono, the directions are straightforward and clear. The only one I struggled with was the interior tie on my first pass at the kimono. I didn't realize that this was a two-tie shirt, with one tie visible and the other on the inside. When the directions said to put a piece of the tie on the inside seam allowance, it took me a bit of thinking to figure out that they meant for me to put it in the seam allowance and face the tie inwards.

I made this pattern twice before it occurred to me that my toddler is a bit old for a kimono, and he looks fine in a t-shirt or vest and is okay with things being pulled over his head.

The first one I made using some fleece I don't love (I bought it in the remnant bin and didn't see the whole pattern). I was so scarred from the Martha Stewart kimono experience that I didn't want to waste any good fleece. I made it out of fleece because I was hoping to be able to use it at night if the little guy has a big miss and his shirt is wet and I need to take it off. I thought it would be a good idea to minimize pulling things over his head when he is sleeping. He has since not had a big miss, and it has been too cold to sleep him in anything short-sleeved. I have used it a few times as a vest and it is ok. The fit is nice, but I am not sure if the style is what I am looking for. Also, I thought tying the inner bow was awkward, so I moved it to the other side in my next attempt at the pattern. Also, I used FOE instead of making binding, and the tie is elastic, of course, so it doesn't hold great.

The second time I made this kimono, I made it out of a hard cotton weave with terry on the inside. I actually made the binding for this one, and also used a cotton woven for the binding. I was lazy and did not iron the binding, and it would have been a bit thinner and tidier had I followed that direction. I changed the side of the tie on this one, and it is better. I thought it would made a fun bathrobe and may use it after swim class in the winter between class and the locker room, or after bath. The problem with using it after bath is that you need to change the baby twice instead of just once (and who wants to do that with an active toddler??). I had considered making it reversible, and hiding the inner seams, but decided against that because I think you'd always want the terry against the skin if you were using this one. I also modified the pattern to make it long-sleeved. On the arms, I cut the terry pieces an inch longer than the cotton pieces so they could be seen when hemmed.

So, in conclusion, the Habitual Kimono Tutorial is a great find. I think it would be more useful with a girl child than a boy child, or in the newborn times when you don't want to put anything over the baby's head. I am happy to have a bathrobe for this winter for swim class, too.
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EC in the time of Renoir

I ran across these paintings from Renoir in the Yahoo! EC Group files.

I love how they are doing just what we do!
...supervising baby touching the kitty gently without pants on...
...nursing while holding baby on a cloth...
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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Pattern Review: Hobo Bag

I finally found a bag pattern that I really like and feel like I can improve to make the elusive "perfect" bag (for me).

This is the Hobo Bag from jcarolinecreative's online tutorial. It ends up a really nice size and weight, and I learned two things while following her tutorial. The first thing I learned was a clever way to add form to the bottom of a bag. The other was a clever way to install a zipper pocket on the side.

The tone of the tutorial was nice and funny while being easy enough to follow. I wish the first photo of hers would have shown all of the pieces that she cut, because it was a little bit hard to figure out how many of each piece to cut. Had she had the different pieces connect with different markings than all circles the same size, it would have also made it easier. It took me a little bit of figuring to sort out which piece was for the bottom and which was for the side and how many of each to cut (the shorter one is the bottom, and you need one of those and two of the longer ones, which are for the side-- in both the interior and exterior fabric, if you are curious). She could have labeled the pattern pieces with the part, too, to make it easier to follow.

While making this, I was quite impressed with her description of how to enclose closed-cell foam and make it attach to the bottom of the bag. She didn't have a photo, but her explanation was quite clever. I didn't have any of said foam, and used a double-layer of Zorb, and it worked nicely.

I was also really impressed at her step-by-step explanation of a side zipper pocket and like how my first attempt turned out. Next time, I will turn under my cut edges slightly more so that it would hide my initial seams more fully.

Another modification I made was to use a snap instead of a magnetic closure and I think it works okay here (I have lots of snaps and no magnetic closures, plus she says you should use a product to keep it from fraying, and I would like to stay away from making things that will make my items fray in the first place).

I think the strap is really cute, with the rings and the square knot. I didn't have any rings, so I used some plastic d-rings from an old pair of gloves. They made the fabric squish up a bit, since they were quite a bit smaller than the size rings she calls for, but I like upcycling and am happy enough with them. Next time, I am going to cut both exterior side pieces about two inches longer to make it easier to work around rings of some sort, as mine ended up a little closer to the bag than hers did in her pictures, and they seem a bit squished.

I am curious how structurally sound the straps will be, since there are four seams and a knot holding the strap on to the bag. On her cutting directions, I was confused about the straps and initially only cut the longer strap. Perhaps a list of pieces needing to be cut would be helpful. Also, with the strap, I am not sure it is long enough. This may be one of the modifications I will make next time (lengthening the strap).

Also, I skipped the interfacing completely. I was happy that it used less than a yard of the exterior fabric, and the interior is an old sheet. I have been having bad luck with interfacing lately, and thought the weight of the flannel would make up for the lack of interfacing. You can see through the light interior fabric slightly, which would have been avoided had I used interfacing or a darker interior fabric.

I am really excited about this bag. In addition to making the straps a bit longer next time, I may add a pouch pocket on the side opposite to the zipper pocket. But maybe that would make it less simple and detract from the bag overall?
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Monday, November 30, 2009

Pattern Review: Amy Butler Nappy Bag

I had been eyeing the Amy Butler Nappy Bag pattern for a while, and finally decided to go for it. Her marketing is slick, and I was drawn in!

This sling bag is really big and has a lot of pockets. It also feels heavy when it is empty. I used a lot of different fabrics because it calls for a ton of material.

When I was making it, it was fun to make. The directions were straightforward and laid out nicely. I also like that the pattern comes on white paper instead of thin pattern paper. I made one side of the bag's interior in PUL so that I would have waterproof pockets for food and soiled clothing and I like this modification. I also added a few zippers, and like them. If I did it again, I would add them again, but I would do a tidier job of putting them in.

She has a bottle bags on both sides on the interior and has them designed to overlap half of each of the side pockets. I thought that was a waste of space, and raised the bottle pockets and turned them sideways on the inside. I added a snap to one and a zipper to the other.

I like the bag, but would do it again by skipping the interfacing and skipping the bottle pockets. I would zipper 4 of the 6 interior pockets (my guy's little hands like to reach in and take stuff out and he hasn't mastered all zippers yet). I would use a bland solid color for the interior because hardly any of it ends up showing. I would use all hard cotton materials (my pocket exterior fabric was a stretch and I had problems with it bunching). I would also consider cutting the strap fabric separately and stitching it together to waste/ use less fabric.

I like the bag, but I don't love it. I love the size and how it falls on my shoulder, and the amount of interior pockets, but I think I need to re-make it with the changes, since I don't love how it looks.
UPDATE: I have now traveled with this bag and really like it. The size is great and the pockets are great. I am thinking it needs a snap-on cover so that it can be hung from a roller bag as we go through the airport and we don't need to worry about stuff falling out. I definitely want to re-make this in other fabric.
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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Vintage Pattern Review: Butterick 3505

Butterick's Vintage Pattern 3505 is for drop-flap footed toddler pajamas. When I found it online, I thought it might just be heaven. The idea that I could sleep our little guy warmly but still be able to get him to the bathroom in the middle of the night in a timely manner was very appealing.

The pattern arrived and I got going. I made a 2T, and it is HUGE on my 15-month old, who wears a 2T in a lot of clothes. Maybe sizing has changed over the years. I made it in flannel, thinking I had more flannel than fleece, and could make the fleece one later, after I got the kinks worked out of the pattern. I only had yard cuts of flannel, though, so I used two coordinating prints. I used another color for the soles of the feet. If I make this again, I will use a fabric called Jiffy Grip for the soles, which has gripping dots so help keep the little ones from slipping when they are walking. I used white 4-way stretch cotton for the wrists (the pattern called for rib knit, which I didn't have). It called for 4 buttons on each side of the drop-flap, and I used 2 snaps instead, thinking that would be enough work to take off and re-snap, and that eight would be a lot in the middle of the night.

It was pretty easy to put together. The directions were straightforward and clear. The pattern was marked nicely and the steps were logical. The only step I had trouble with was in measuring the ankle elastic. The directions said to measure the ankle and add on a specific amount for stretch and seams. BUT my issue was that by that point it was clear that this was going to fit at some future time, so I was going to have to estimate ankle circumference. I would have liked to have guidelines to go up and down from.

I am looking forward to using these pajamas. I don't think they are going to be my winter answer, though, since 4 snaps in the middle of the night is still a lot of snapping down then up while trying to disturb the little one's sleep as little as possible. I am considering using the idea but making them split-crotch instead of drop-flap. But then that brings me full-circle to what we use now: a long-sleeve shirt and fleece split-crotch pants.
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Scandi Mei Tai - Take 2 - Reversible Cowboy Mei Tai

The other Scandi Mei Tai I made in September 09 does not get that much use around our house because the hood simply isn't large enough. Another downfall is that I removed the pocket and haven't come up with a better solution for it yet. So I decided to give the Scandi Mei Tai Tutorial another try.
This time, I made it reversible. I upcycled an old pair of jeans as part of the project. I took the pockets off and used one on each side of the body of the carrier. I left the pockets intact in case I can figure out how to use them on the waistband (you can sort of see them in the top photo).

The hood on this one is a LOT larger-- I used the hood pattern for a 4T jacket from Kwik Sew 2911 and elongated it by another 3" at the bottom. The hood loops are longer than she recommends in the tutorial and I put them overhanging the inside edge of the straps. An improvement on this would be to find somewhere to store the hood when not in use so it doesn't block the pattern of the body of the carrier. It does seem to be big enough to afford us some privacy for sleeping or nursing.

I really like how this carrier looks. I also like how it feels. After testing it in the house, our little guy has pulled it out and brought it to me a number of times. Maybe that means he likes it, too!
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Box Bag

I really enjoy following tutorials on the internet, and finding new ideas to try. When I found this box bag tutorial , I decided to give my new zipper prowess a try.

Well, the lovely bag you see pictured here took a really really long time to make!

The zipper is hidden between the lining and the outer material, and the instructions left me a bit confused on this, and I had to rip it out twice.

Another error I made was in making it really long. I misunderstood which side of the rectangle of fabric I needed to put the zipper on, so I ended up with a rectangle more than a box.

I also had to re-read the directions on how to make the ends a few times. I am happy with their box-ness, though.

I liked how the handle went into the bag, but had to re-stitch it twice as well. I had originally followed the tutorial and made it twice as wide as needed.

This LONG exercise taught me that I should make sure and read to the end of the instructions and make it in my head before deciding to do the project.
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Thursday, November 5, 2009

Pattern Review: Kwik Sew 2911 Vest

Kwik Sew 2911: Toddler Vest and Jacket
The other pattern I saw for a toddler vest was Kwik Sew 2911. I am really happy with the pattern, and have made six already. I made the one in the top photo using the pattern almost exactly. It calls for swimsuit material and does the binding this way. The material I found was striped and it didn't end up lining up exactly, so some of my binding is two-toned, and I'm not sure how much I like that. The directions also didn't specify to pull it tight or not, and I was happier with it when I pulled it tight, but it was still a bit wide. I found the zipper instructions fine-- they got me through it but I had to re-read them a few times to figure out how to cope with the excess length on the top. I loved how they have you do the collar-- by sewing on the inside-- but have yet to perfect it (I keep having it land in a crooked line of what looks like topstitching from the front side). I modified the 1Ts and 2Ts of the pattern I made to take out the pockets.
I made two renditions of the vest with a hood (from the hooded jacket portion of the pattern). This is because my little guy seems to take off his hat all the time and will leave a hood on from time to time. I really like these. They solve the issue of the collar stitching not going straight, since there is no collar stitching here. I am back and forth on how much I like the aesthetic of a hooded vest versus a collared vest. It uses a lot more fabric, and is larger to carry in a diaper bag, but then it is possibly warmer. The red vest is made of a higher quality fleece, and feels really thick and toasty.
After the first vest, I started using FOE (fold over elastic) to bind the armholes and bottom. The only issue with this is trying to figure out how to have the binding and zipper meet.

In the bottom photo, the camouflage vest is a size 4T. I did my first pockets here. The directions have a lot of overstitching on the inside, and I didn't find it all that useful. My guess is that it would be more useful if you were using something other than fleece as the material. All three of these in the photo are gifts.

Overall, I really like this pattern. The pieces are easy to cut, there aren't too many of them, and it stitches up nicely. It fits well, almost like an oversized sweatshirt. The length is nice, as is the size of the armholes and the collar. I went down in zipper length from the recommended length, and like the how the 12" zipper lays more than the 14" zipper.
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Pattern Review: McCall's 3416 Vest

With fall upon us, we needed a vest for the little guy. Instead of buying one at REI, I opted to find a pattern and make one. The first pattern I found was the McCall's 3416 in size XS/S. It is for a vest, shirt, and pants.
I cut out the vest pattern and realized the XS was WAY too big for us for this year. So I took it to the copy store and re-sized it to 75%.
With the fabric I chose, I decided to skip the pockets on the front. My 15-month old son doesn't use pockets yet, so I wasn't motivated to use the extra fabric required to make the pocket pattern match the underneath pattern.
I think it is an ok pattern. It has interfacing on the armholes and inside the zipper, and uses quite a bit of hand stitching (on the inside of the collar and around the armhole interfacing). The directions to stitch the inside of the collar were a bit confusing when I got to the part about attaching the front facing and the collar. But it was my first zipper ever and I found the directions quite easy to follow to put it in.
The fit is just ok as well. I am not sure if this is because I re-sized the pattern, or if that is how it is meant to be. In re-sizing, I kept the seam allowance as stated, so perhaps this complicated things. My complaints about the size are that it is a bit too short and that the arm holes are too wide. I like that it is trim through the torso.
Overall, I really like this piece and am disappointed that my little one has almost grown out of it and it's only been a few weeks. I will most likely not try the pattern again as he gets older, since I think the Kwik Sew one I found is a lot better (see next post). The advantage of this one is that the fit is more trim through the body and fits more like a shirt than an oversized jacket.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Easy Baby TShirt Applique

This project was so easy that I feel bad calling it mine. But I did it, and it is an original, so here goes:

I got a long-sleeve white t-shirt on sale and thought it was a good quality shirt that would be fun to customize. My son has some t-shirts with a square of fabric in the drool zone, and I like them because they add another layer of absorbency before the shirt is too wet to keep wearing.

So-- all I did here was take a square of fleece and sew it to the middle front of the t-shirt using a wide and long zig-zag stitch and making sure one side of the stitch hit the fleece and one hit the shirt. I used fleece because fleece doesn't fray. If you would do this with a fabric that frays, you'd want to press under a hem on all sides before doing the applique.
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Reusable Produce Bags

In trying to live a "greener" life, I notice that our grocery shopping trips use a lot of plastic and a lot of packaging. I have been trying to buy less produce that is packaged (ie Trader Joe's-- which I LOVE for other things) and trying to buy our produce from a local market called Monterey Market that sources many organic local farms. It has been very eye-opening to learn what is seasonal and to try and cook more seasonal local fresh veggies. I have found they taste better and are cheaper.
But I digress. We use the plastic produce bags for kitty litter, but seem to have extra. So, after reading about them in "Sew & Stow" by Oppenheimer, I decided to give re-usable produce bags a try.
To make these, I used an old sheet. I cut it into pieces that were mostly 21" by 15". I hemmed the long edge and then folded them and made an inner seam and turned them inside out. I made a LOT of them, and some were smaller (hey, for chilies or something).

We took them to the store and used them this weekend. They worked fine as we were going around the store. When we got to the checkout, they also worked fine, although some had gotten wet from other produce that hadn't been bagged. Unloading the cart went a lot quicker than usual, because I bagged more than I usually do (I often just put loose items in the cart to save on bags). The checkout lady didn't flinch, and just peeked inside each bag. The bagger took a little longer because he had to look inside the bags to see what was delicate and what wasn't.

When I was checking out, I saw that they had re-usable produce bags for sale. They were mesh and had drawstring closures. They were 4 for $10. The mesh would be nice because they would probably dry faster, and you'd be able to see what was inside.
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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bikini with Boy Short Bottoms

So if I am making the baby a bathing suit, why not one for mama?

Well, it is actually a bit harder than it looks. I think it would have been easier had I chosen a color of fabric other than white. With white, I was concerned about not only the cut, but making sure it was not see-through... probably not the best choice for a first pass.

So, to make this, I traced a bikini top I had and underwear that I liked the cut. I traced them onto white paper and then added a seam allowance. When sewing, I used two layers of fabric for each. On the inside of the bikini top, I attached the straps using a box stitch (like you'd attach straps to a bag). On the bottom, instead of using underwear elastic, I folded a piece of swimsuit fabric in half and stretched it to fit (like when making baby trainers or pants).

I am happy with it BUT it takes way too long to dry. It would be better to use a liner material of some sort instead of two layers of swimsuit material. Had I done this, the pineapple pattern wouldn't be showing through from the back to the front like it does now. Also, I made a casing for the bottom strap of the bikini after turning and topstitching. I ran into a bit of a problem with the curve bunching the fabric. If I'd do it again, I would lace the bottom strap through-- between the layers-- and topstitch to form a casing instead.
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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

My Favorite Baby and Early Toddler Books

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