Rainy Days and Sensory Play

Are you sure this is July? This has been the weirdest year for weather I can remember. Days of steady rain more normal for April or October have us stuck in the house. Since we don’t have cable and I hesitate to turn on a movie (again) I’m delving into my treasure trove of sensory play activities to keep us entertained. Here’s a collection from the past few weeks:

Water beads plus measuring scoops and a ladle (buried in the beads)

Water beads plus measuring scoops and a ladle (buried in the beads)

A "Small World Play" with toilet paper tube trees, a water bead lake, green rice, a bear and some people

A “Small World Play” with toilet paper tube trees, a water bead lake, green rice, a bear and some people


White board and markers - CLOSELY SUPERVISED!!!

White board and markers – she wrote me a story

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Washing dishes at the water table in between rain storms

Then we got brave and made some new-to-us play mediums I’ve seen floating around Pinterest for a while.

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First we made cloud dough. It’s a silky soft dough that you can shape and mold like wet sand, except it feels better. It’s similar in some ways to that “Moon Sand” that was popular when I was a kid. I used 6c all purpose flour and a little under 1c baby oil. I just dumped them in the bin and let Grace mix to her heart’s content. As she played I added a little salt for texture and some glitter for sparkle. A few kitchen tools gave her things to scoop, shape, dump and fill.

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She absolutely loved it 🙂 I’ve heard this will keep indefinitely, since there’s nothing in it that could spoil.

Then today I made a colored salt writing tray. This idea keeps popping up on one of my favorite blogs, The Imagination Tree. We made sort-of-purple salt with anther generous shake of glitter. Here’s one post on the idea. I left out the essential oil since I don’t have any except Tea Tree – wonderfully useful, not wonderful for smelling.

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Grace isn’t writing yet, but we did practice some shapes in between free playing:




Circle (ish)

This is another that should keep indefinitely. But even if it doesn’t, these are super cheap to mix up another batch. I think the salt tray has about $0.25 worth of material. That half hour of complete focus was worth every penny and more!

Do you have a favorite sensory activity when the weather keeps you inside? I’m always looking for more!

Bubble Pocket Skater Girl {Tutorial}

A few days back I showed you my contribution for Flip This Pattern July – a combination of the Roller Skate Dress from Oliver + S and the Bubble Pocket Tunic from Elegance & Elephants. I still love it. Grace still loves it. She’s worn it twice more since I made it on Thursday. I’m considering fabric choices for more renditions, probably utilizing the currently popular color blocking. Combining these two absolutely lovely patterns makes for the perfect dress for my rough-and-tumble toddler.

Want to combine them yourself? I’m describing everything as if you own both patterns, which you should. They’re beautiful patterns with a lot of workable pieces, and they’re copyrighted! Therefore I’m not giving any measurements, just techniques. Roller Skate Dress from Oliver + S; Bubble Pocket Tunic from Elegance & Elephants.

Here’s how it works:

1. Prepare your pattern. I love digital patterns for drafting because I can print only the pieces I need, then draw all over them, cut them up, tape them back together, and draw on them some more without losing my original pattern. Then next time I can start all over with a fresh digital print-out. For this flip, you need all the pieces from the Roller Skate dress except the yoke, unless you want that style detail. It doesn’t affect this project. You also need the side front and bubble pocket pieces from the E&E Tunic pattern. Cut each out to your needed size (Grace is a 3!)

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2. To add the pocket, we need to add a side front piece to the Skate Dress front. I sketched it onto this pattern piece – roughly straight down from the bottom of the cap sleeve. This creates a barely A-line center front piece.

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Trace your new center front onto tissue paper (I save it from birthday parties) and add a 1/2″ seam allowance. Don’t cut up the original – you need it for the lining.

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3. Now we draft the side front piece. Be brave, this is pretty simple and the patterns are forgiving. Let me show you the picture first then explain what all the different lines are:

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First, trace the side front section we drew in Step 2 onto a fresh sheet of tissue paper. You’ll want the parallel lines for the elastic casing, too. These are the pencil lines in the middle of the piece. Second, lay the E&E side front pattern under your tissue, lined up with the arm hole seam. Copy the pocket placement line onto the tissue (in pencil, parallel to the hem). Third, we’re going to widen the side front piece to accommodate the pocket. The tricky part of this is we do not want to add any width to the elastic casing area because that will mess up that step of the Skate Dress. You can see where I drew these in, angled starting at the bottom line of the casing out to meet the pocket placement line. Below the pocket I took it straight down so I’m not adding too much sweep to the hem.

Take a breath, the hard part is done! And it wasn’t too hard, was it? Add a 1/2″ seam allowance to where it will meet the center front only – it’s already included on the side seam. Smooth the lines out for easier sewing. Add a notch to help you line it up (I placed it on one of the large circles on the Skate Dress, originally to help tape the printed pattern together). You can see my final pattern piece in black marker.

4. Cut out of fashion fabric: back, new side front, new center front, bubble pocket, button loop, and yoke if you’re using it. Cut out of lining: back, original front. Start by assembling the side front/pocket section using the directions from the Bubble Pocket Tunic pattern:

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Then attach those to the center front section to get your completed front:

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And from here, follow the directions from the Roller Skate Dress to assemble the rest of the dress.

It’s such a simple alteration, but I’m mad in love with it. This is my new “perfect dress” – at least until the next one comes along!

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It’s hot (Or, I own no summer clothing)

My sewing machines are getting their workouts in this month! The past two weeks, summer finally showed up after a long, late winter (18″ of snow the last week of March!) and a cool, wet spring. And that’s about the time I realized I own essentially no summer clothing for myself. One tank top that doesn’t need a cardigan. A few skirts. One pair of capris. One dress. Let me tell you, that’s not going to cut it as the temperature soars near the triple digits along with 80%+ humidity.

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I started with Butterick 5644 View C out of a vine-print linen cotton blend I found on clearance at Joann’s. What the print is hiding is pleats at the shoulders and darts under the bust – just enough styling to make it “special”. It stitched up super quickly and the result is super light and comfy. And it requires neither a cami underneath nor a cardigan over – perfect! My only edit to the pattern was to fully line the top of the bodice. I didn’t want to hem that long crossover neckline {nightmares…} and the fabric is ever so slightly sheer. A lining solves both problems without making me too hot. It ends at the elastic casing.

Butterick 5644

This top really reminds me of the Roller Skate Dress, which I just made for my daughter yesterday. Especially view B, in the purple sketch. Once I have some free time {ha!} I’m going to play with that idea to make a dress for myself. I really love my flipped version for Grace and can see it working for a grown-up, too.

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Kiss break!

Then to resolve the “I haven’t owned shorts in years” problem: I’m super super picky with shorts. Most available are just the wrong length for me. Or they’re too tight. Or they’re pink/ aqua/ purple {I’m not wearing pink shorts}. But did I mention that it’s really hot? When I found New Look 6100 I knew these shorts would work for me – fitted where it needs to be, loose where it needs to be, and as a seamstress I can make the length whatever I want it to be. Surprisingly, the pattern length was actually perfect already. I made zero alterations to the pattern!

Forgive the expression - hot toddlers tend to be cranky, which I find exhausting.

Forgive the expression – hot toddlers tend to be cranky, which I find exhausting.

I’m mad in love with these shorts. They’re a 97% cotton 3% spandex poplin, again from Joann’s. They have great deep pockets… always necessary for things like cell phones and the rocks Grace wants me to carry. I love that these shorts zip at the side – 1st, because I didn’t have to figure out a front fly on a time crunch and 2nd because I think it looks more flattering.

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I was between sizes but closer to the larger, so I made the 18. They’re a bit big. Originally the belt loops were a style element but I actually need a belt to keep these on. I think I’ll make a denim version soon in a 16. I need to pattern off this tank top, too, and make several more. It seems like the more sewing I accomplish, the more I have left to do!

Stay cool, everyone! August is coming – it’ll get worse before it gets cooler.

Bubble Pocket Skater Girl {Flip This Pattern}

Do you remember a few years ago – back before the housing market crashed and burned – when “flipping” was the big thing to do? Investors would go in and buy a house for cheap, then improve it and sell it for a profit. Bad idea, really, but it made interesting tv for a few seasons. Thankfully, there’s a much better spin-off going around blog-land these days – Flip This Pattern, hosted by Frances Suzanne! Every month for the next YEAR seamstresses will take the inspiration pattern and “flip” it – apply their own creativity to it in order to come up with a unique garment all their own. And I knew that I’d be sewing in July the moment I saw the pattern: The Roller Skate Dress + Tunic from Oliver + S.

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Now, this is not the dress I’d originally intended. But like every good episode of the flipping shows, mine was filled with a fair bit of drama. Primarily, I thought the sew-a-long closed NEXT week. Alas, no… it’s today.

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Then, my fabric was missing. I still can’t find it. Thankfully I’ve got a fairly stashified stash! The pink daisies are left over from the back of Grace’s baby quilt {which, ahem, isn’t quite done yet} and serve beautifully. I buy lining fabric by the bolt and have a button box and elastic box. Now… if only I were able to find the original fabric… I absolutely love my flip and will definitely be doing another!

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Grace is in need of sturdy cotton play dresses. She’s going through a phase of utter girliness. Yesterday she had 3 bows in her hair. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve heard “pitty dess!” today – the one I’m wearing, the one she’s wearing, the ones she pulled out of her closet while I was distracted by sewing… But she’s also so rough-and-tumble, getting hot, dirty, and sweaty with reckless abandon. She’s also in love with pockets which lead me straight to the newly released Bubble Pocket Tunic from Elegance and Elephants!

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That’s the heart of my flip – combining these two simplistically beautiful patterns into one “pitty dess!” that will stand up to my sweet toddler’s crazy antics.

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Like a house flipper racing to sell before the next mortgage payment comes due, I raced today. From absolutely nothing at 8am, to a drafted pattern and fabric in the dryer at 9am, I finished the hem at 4:57pm. I even kept my appointments of the day – gymnastics for Grace {followed by a blessedly long nap} and a catch-up date with a dear friend. The Roller Skate dress is *so simple* and yet *so perfectly adorable*. I can see many, many of these in the near future – probably some inspired by the other flips everyone submitted!

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{Oh and in case you’re interested, I’m writing up a tutorial for combining these two patterns. The pictures are done but I  think I should cook dinner instead of writing… since I spent the day sewing instead of doing housework!} EDIT: Tutorial is here

Kiss from a rose on the gray

Do you remember that song Seal put out ages ago? I have no idea what point he was trying to get at, but the poetry is kind of catchy:

“I compare you to a kiss from a rose on the gray.
The more I get of you,
The stranger it feels, yeah.
And now that your rose is in bloom.
A light hits the gloom on the gray.”

Seriously… no idea what he was getting at, but the song has stuck in my head for years, and was absolutely the first thing I thought of when I saw the fabric that I made this dress from:

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It’s a silky print of abstract roses over splotches of gray. Kind of water color-ish, but more abstract color play than actual flowers. I really, really love it.

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The pattern is Simplicity 1810 with zero alterations except for length. I added a couple inches to make a nice, deep hem – necessary on a fabric this light to keep it where it belongs. There’s a couple things I may change if I make it again – mainly the placement of the sashes – but not much. The pattern was only ok; not earth shattering “I have to make it again now!”, not hated by any means. The dress wore really well to church this morning, too.

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There’s a little too much fabric in the back for my figure so I actually had to change the way it wraps. The sashes attach at back darts. You’re supposed to pull them from there around to the front and then to the back. For me, this sat too low, making the top too blousey and making me look way heavier than I am – not good! So instead, I criss-crossed the straps across the back before pulling them around, essentially making a big pleat in the back. This is a much trimmer look for me and keeps the side seams where they belong  instead of tugging them to the front. And this crazy fabric hides it all so you can’t see anything but abstract colors blending all over the place! I doubt it would look this good from a solid fabric.

I’m glad I made this – I love the fabric and I love the adjustability of the tie waist. And now I need to put it away for a few days to get a different song stuck in my head!

Yellow Rose “Anna” Dress

This dress has been underway forever, or at least 7 months. That’s really ridiculously long for such a simple dress, but I have an excuse – Project Run and Play got in the way, and then my buttonholes didn’t work. But in June I finally got my buttonhole fixed and finished this cutie up right away.

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I used the Anna Dress tutorials from Craftiness is Not Optional – have I mentioned that I love nearly every one of her projects? Her taste is similar to mine, at least in terms of silhouettes. I’ve lost track of how many CINO dresses I’ve made at this point.

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I used a nice sturdy quilter’s cotton from Joann’s for this dress. There are yellow roses scattered along blue vines; the blue waistband and trim is another quilter’s cotton. I wanted an easy wash, easy wear every day dress that Grace was able to play in. I love her in dresses, especially as we begin the journey known as “potty training.” It helps that she likes them too!

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This is such a simple dress. I love it. I used cap sleeves I’d drafted for a different project since puff sleeves aren’t really my style. There’s also 2 pretty deep growth tucks in the skirt. You can tell the dress is huge. When I first drafted the pattern back in December or January, Grace still had more of a “baby body” rather than her strong, lean little girl body she’s growing into. Although her weight hasn’t changed since November, she’s gained something ridiculous like 6 inches in height and went from a pattern size 3 in the chest/waist region, down to a size 1.

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I love the full, play-friendly skirt. I think I’ll be heading to the fabric store for some more novelty cottons to make more Annas in. It’s everything I want in a day-to-day dress. I’m seeing some crazy print on the top over a denim skirt… the possibilities are endless.

Oh, and photographing a 2 year old is nearly impossible. Here’s some priceless out takes:

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“I dangle like Daddy!”

"I crawl. I baby!"

“I crawl. I baby!”

Running away instead of smiling at me

Running away instead of smiling at me