Ruth: A Two Sided Doll

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On Reid’s birthday post, I mentioned I’d just received the beautiful book Wee Wonderfuls for my birthday. I jumped right into using it, sewing him Lumpy the Dragon and the Doxie Dog for a friend. But as I was choosing those projects, I fell head over heels for the vintage two sided doll, called Margot in the book. I knew I’d be making one for Grace for her birthday.

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Because my sewing stuff was already packed and shipped to our new home, I decided that she would be the perfect car project as we drove well over 1000 miles. She is nearly entirely hand sewn – the only thing done by machine is the white cotton body. Originally that was hand sewn too but the vintage pillow case I’d used ripped to shreds. I tried again with plain quilters cotton after we unpacked.

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This is the most hand sewing I’ve done in a long time. I think I like it, though. Hand work is easier to pick up and set down than machine work, which always feels like if I can’t sew for an hour it isn’t worth my time. There is something gratifying about grabbing handwork for five minutes here and there. It feels so productive!

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All the fabric was scraps from my stash. I love seeing them used again. The apron is a dress of Grace’s; the chambray is always around; the green is from a new Sorbetto tank of mine; the lace was on Grace’s Christmas dress the years she was 3 and 4. The only thing I needed to purchase was a skein of yarn for the hair. For some reason all I have is neon or dishcloth yarn.

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Grace thinks this doll is pretty cool – she named her Ruth right away. Grace has a crib full of other dolls but Ruth is definitely unique. The others are all babies; Ruth is, according to Grace, 14.  She’s a big girl for my rapidly growing girl. She wears and apron and “loves to help work.” When all the work is done she goes to sleep in her beautiful night gown. (The original pattern has one side plain and  one fancy, but awake and asleep seemed better to me.)

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I’m very pleased with how Ruth turned out. I’m even more pleased with watching Grace play with her – Ruth seems to be the perfect channel for all the Little House on the Prairie books we’ve been reading lately. It is an exciting season to be Grace’s mommy as she grows and becomes ever more complex. And now she has a doll suited for this next stage of playing.

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“I want to look like my cake” Birthday Dress

Five years! How has it been five years since this little princess joined our family!

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Actually, five years and almost two months, because we were in the middle of moving cross country during her birthday and I’m only now getting around to posting pictures of her birthday dress. It was done on time – early actually, as we held a joint birthday party for the kids before we moved.

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This year, I  took Grace to the fabric store to pick her own fabric. We’d already decided that the party would be “rainbow themed” in a very loose way. Simple, colorful decorations. She fell for this immediately then demanded that her brother and the cake match!

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“Choose Happy” is a good message for this season of our lives. There’s a lot going on; we have a lot we’ve left behind and a lot we’re trying to reestablish on the other side of the country. But while we’re honoring those feelings, we’re also trying to “choose happy” at the end.

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The dress is the Fairy Tale Dress from Oliver + S, my reliable favorite pattern company for classic designs and well drafted patterns. I’ve been waiting to buy this one until Grace was in the higher size range – I knew as soon as I bought the small one she’d hit a growth spurt! So, this is a size 5 with a 6 length, which has a little extra space in it. I’ve got years more opportunities to get my money’s worth on this pattern. I made View B with the View A waist detail. I love some of the techniques – the waist seam method was new to me – but be warned that there is a lot of handwork. This allows a very professional finish but I hadn’t budgeted my time correctly.

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Reid matched, too, but I was so displeased with his shirt pattern (Peekaboo Classic Oxford) that I haven’t bothered to photograph it or write a review. Though I probably should so others don’t waste their money…

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All in all, I’m grateful for every day I get to “choose happy” this sweet girl is in my life!

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Lumpy the Dragon

A year ago, the most incredible thing happened: I got to become mommy to another tiny human, this time a boy. Now, I’ve absolutely loved being a girl mommy. We snuggle and read and cook together and she picks pretty floral fabric to turn into dresses. I’ll be honest, I was a wee bit nervous when we found out #2 was a boy. But as he grows and starts showing me who he is, I’m learning that I’m going to really, really like being a boy mommy just as much.

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When Reid was about 6 months old, he declared war on the Tupperware cabinet. He is violent – no two lids will remain stacked together; no piece of plastic is to be within touching distance of the shelf. We started joking that the Tupperware cabinet was like a cave and he was hunting a dragon deep inside. And just like that, he became our Reidy the Dragon-Slayer. So it was only necessary that I make him a dragon for his birthday!

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This pattern is “Koji” found inside the new Wee Wonderfuls book by Hillary Lang. She’s got an adorable rag doll blog and Etsy shop; this book has a collection of 24 projects in her style to make yourself. I got it for my birthday and have poured over the beautiful photographs of charming creatures basically every day since then. I love the variety of shapes, sizes, and techniques included in the book. I could make a house full of dolls each completely unique. But first, a dragon.

She describes “koji” as both cute and creepy at the same time; I think I’d agree.

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The Dragon Slayer had to defend his city from the monstrous beast!

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The pattern is a little awkward with shaping, but sewed together alright with generous use of pins and patience. The bottom piece is too small though so I had to gather the back onto it. I also had a heck of a time stuffing the little arms and legs – I’m pretty sure that’s my own fault. The extremities fall a little flat and he can’t sit up without being propped. But as she says in the book, sometimes the imperfections of a toy are what makes us love it.

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My only modification was to embroider the mouth instead of use felt. The only other color felt I had was pink and that’s just not very boy like! This mouth is inspired by the Yeti project in the book Stitch Love (which I made my husband for Christmas).

Reid loves it. I love it. And I’m quite certain I’ll be back to this book repeatedly – in fact, Grace’s birthday present is another Wee Wonderful already in process! And thankfully, that one is almost entirely hand sewn which will come in handy (ahem…) during our cross country move. I’ve still got birthday outfits to finish and post but that might not happen until after; I do, after all, have to pack everything and get us there!

Springtime “Sugar Horses”

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I love spring time! The tulips pop up, the trees are blooming, everything seems fresh and new. And like all the other things going through the spring growth spurt, so is my adorable little girl. Every dress she owns is too short! So, even though we’re moving in less than a month, I have a giant stack of fabric and patterns to plow through in order to keep her appropriate both here and at our new home in Florida.

She picked every bit of this dress. It’s the Sugar Horses pattern from Ellie Inspired sewn in a quilter’s cotton from Joann’s. The pattern has a full crossover on the front bodice. I like how high the crossover is – a little bit of attention but still modest and age appropriate. The bodice is fully lined which makes the neckline both beautiful and simple to accomplish.

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This is lengthened from the original pattern. Grace likes her dresses long, and I like them to last. I think this length is adorable on her.

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The skirt has a true placket. I love it! True plackets – rather than one of the many cheater plackets popular in the PDF world – help the skirt lay neatly and give a very tidy look. I’ve tried several before with no luck. This pattern has the clearest placket directions I’ve ever followed and I couldn’t be happier with the finished result. Note: EI uses illustrations instead of photographs. I’m personally quite comfortable with this. Just follow the directions slowly and steadily.

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Now onto a couple cons: Something is funny with the back arm hole. It seems to come pretty far over towards her shoulder blade and gapes more than I prefer. Now for a sleeveless summer dress it really isn’t a big deal. However, the pattern also includes a sleeved version. I can’t imagine that sleeve would set well into this arm hole. Not only that but the pattern directions for the sleeve were incomprehensible – I have*no* idea what they are telling you to do and I’ve been sewing for over 20 years. I almost feel like there is a step missing? Perhaps the sleeved version was a last minute add on. Whatever the problem is, I know I wouldn’t be making it.

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Will I make it again? Probably. This is one of my favorite classic-but-not-fussy styles for little girls. Grace thinks it’s awesome and I can bust it out quickly. And she’s in the little girl obsessed with horses phase so calling it Sugar Horses is just icing on the cake.

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Happy Springtime!

Rag Rug Loom

My hubby is awesome.

No, wait, that isn’t the entire post, although it could be! Lately I’ve been obsessed with the idea of making rugs. Specifically, rag rugs. Too much Little House on the Prairie and various other pioneer literature around here lately – makes me want to be all rustic. And as we’re preparing to move cross country, I’m sorting through piles of clothes and my fabric stash to narrow down what will actually be coming with us.

It makes me cringe to throw fabric away. I just can’t.

Enter rag rug making – the perfect way to take unusable fabric and make it usable again. And it uses up lots of it, which I have, thus saving giant heaping piles of clothing from the trash (most of it is too worn out for resale shops).

Last week we drove to Georgia to visit relatives and the entire way my husband and I discussed various loom options. We watched youtube videos at the hotels at night and chatted about what features I wanted. Then we got home and he built it for me using scraps we had around from a shelving project. Total cost? Less than $10 for some oak dowels and the hooks to hold them. And I have fabric for who knows how many rugs.

And here it is! Because nothing is better on a cold winter day than weaving at a sunny window.

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Let me show you some of the beautiful details. This loom isn’t taken from any one set of plans, but rather is a hodgepodge of various looms we saw online combined to our own liking.

The frame is a basic 2.5′ b y 3.5′. The top and bottom are the same so it can be flipped. It’s made of 1×2″ doubled on the vertical so it’s thick enough to insert hooks:

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The base is 1×4″ cut 20″ long with more 1×2″ scraps. The frame slips right into it snuggly. He’s going to add a latch to hold the frame in so I can carry it easier, but for now this works.

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There are 4 sets of hooks on the vertical supports. 5/8″ oak dowels slide in to hold the warp. With this set up I can make a rug any width up to 29″ wide and 3 lengths: 18″, 27″, and 36″ (roughly). For my first rug I’m using the middle (27″) length.

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Dowels are held in place by a super fancy rubber band.

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I’m silly excited about this. In the winter, we watch a lot more tv in the evenings. It gets dark here between 4-5pm and it’s really cold. I don’t like just sitting there; this gives me something productive to do that is essentially mindless once I get the pattern going. And look! I’ve already begun. I’ll post more details on this rug as it shapes up. It’s going to be a hug for our feet, all made up of scrap flannel.

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Any one else rag rug? I’d love to geek out with you in the comments if you do!

Summer Capsule Wardrobe: A Necessary Dress

After a few weeks of planning, I’m starting to sew on my summer capsule wardrobe. I first busted out a couple no-alterations-necessary basics to give me something to cover myself with while I work. Now I’m buried deeply in the piles of tissue paper required for pattern alteration. Because honestly – if I’m going to pour this kind of time and money into sewing for myself, I want to be sure I like the outcome. Especially right now as I’m going through so many body transitions after pregnancy. I love the result – my sweet little Reid!- but pregnancy and nursing are definitely hard on my body. I’ve been doing lots of measuring, followed by re-measuring, sewing test garments, adjusting those test garments, more measuring…

There was a good post on Free Notion on “where do I start” to help establish priorities. For me, our family schedule dictated my top priority – a wedding, followed by the dedication of our son at church, followed by another wedding, then business travel the rest of the summer. I was desperate for a good basic dress that 1) fit and 2) is easy to work on. Goal accomplished!

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This is the Jocole Crossover Dress. I made it last summer as a sort of “wearable muslin.” Based on that I made a couple minor tweaks to the pattern – I added 1/4″ to the upper bodice area and cut the armhole out a bit larger to better suit my arms. I also added 5″ to the length (just added it to the bottom) to get the length I want for a little more formal dress.

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I have a last thought to share. Becca’s most recent post on the capsule wardrobe sew along is all about fitting for your own unique, extraordinary body. These little adjustments seem so small. They would be easy to skip – after all, the dress was wearable straight from the pattern. Not perfect, but wearable. And yet they made me self conscious and super aware of my clothes, not in a good way. In my mind the best outfit fits well and is well suited for the activity of the day to the point that it blends into the background. You put it on and never think about it again.

By taking the time to measure myself and carefully adjust the pattern, I achieved that on this dress. I’m so glad I did. The way I feel in this dress is the motivation to take the time on some of the other patterns I’m using this summer that require *a lot* more fitting. Pants. Woven tops. Things that won’t just stretch over my mommy tummy and look decent even if they’re perfect. This is my kick start to get sewing on everything else!

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If you’re wondering, here are the main reasons for my own #extraordinarybody. These two crazy kids are the sunshine in my day! Grace Abigail, age 4 and Reid Isaiah, 6 weeks yesterday. They’re worth every bump, bulge, and stretch mark!

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Summer Capsule Wardrobe: After the Purge

I’m sewing along with the Summer Capsule Wardrobe project hosted by Free Notion. This week I purged my closet. Then, I searched my pattern collection to start filling in the holes.

This has been a therapeutic experience: 2 garbage bags full of clothing removed from my life. Things that never fit or will never fit again, things that haven’t been worn in the past 2 years, things that I bought thinking they might work but didn’t, things that did work – 6 years ago – but are now well beyond the line of being acceptable. Since they weren’t being worn anyway, it was literally all trash taking up space in my closet and slowing me down trying to find the few pieces that do work.

So what am I left with? Not much, but what I do have is guaranteed to fit (mostly at least) and be worn on a regular basis. You know, the way clothing should be.

Tops

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3 short sleeve tee shirts, 1 3/4 sleeve tee shirt, 3 open front cardigans (1 short sleeve, 2 3/4), and one denim jacket. Clearly I will be making a bunch of tops for my wardrobe. The capsule wardrobe “recipe” suggests 15 tops and 2 jackets; I currently have 4 tops, 3 cardigans, 1 jacket. Of those four tops, the pink and white are made by me so I will be reusing those patterns (after I do a FBA, much needed now that I’m nursing Reid). This is my ideal sewing list; we will see what reality allows:

  • Jocole quick dress, extended sleeve (print)
  • Jocole quick dress, sleeveless (probably 2 – one neutral one print)
  • Jocole quick dress, top yoke version (neutral, with detailing)
  • PAB Santa fee tee (probably 2 – one neutral one print)
  • Liesl + Co Metro tee (neutral?)

Bottoms and Dresses

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I own 2 pairs of pants, and they’re both maternity. The only bottom currently missing is 1 navy blue maxi skirt – that’s a total of 3 bottoms when the recipe suggests 9. This is a dismal situation – the jeans don’t even really fit but I’m hanging on to them to avoid nudity. They will be rotated out as soon as replacements are available. I am already working on muslin to make Jocole skinny jeans. I also whipped up a Tie Dye Diva chocolate chip skirt that will be finished today, naptime willing. Here’s what I need:

  • Jocole skinnies, basic denim
  • Jocole skinnies, cropped gray twill
  • Jocole skinnies, shorts dark denim
  • TDD chocolate chip skirt, dark chambray (already sewn, waiting for elastic)
  • TDD chocolate chip skirt, print
  • Jocole crossover dress, something acceptable to wear to multiple weddings and church

Shoes and Scarves

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5 pairs of shoes: flip flops, black flats, white and denim flats, sneakers. Plus two light weight scarves that I wear year round. The black flats are due to be replaced and I could really use a pair of heels and some decent sandals for when flip flops don’t cut it. The capsule “recipe” recommends 9 pairs – this is my closest category!

And that’s it! Well, not counting a random assortment of pajamas, camisoles (I wear them under everything and go through a couple a day – thank you nursing a sloppy baby!), and gym clothes. I wear those at home or working out only; I have a thing against gym clothes in public. I also have one small box in the closet with winter clothes – my favorite boots and a lot of dark clothing. It will be interesting to see if I even pull it out, especially as we are relocating to Florida before next winter.

Clearly I have an awful lot of work laid out in front of me – 12 garments currently listed above, and that’s still far below the “recipe”. The realities of time and finances may dictate a Target run to fill in some of the worst gaps. I can envision my ideal capsule wardrobe – realistically I will have to build as I go, piece by piece and season by season. But now that all my old clothes have left the house, I’m committed! Let the sewing begin!