What’s Mine is Yours (PR&P Upcycle challenge)

I live with a 2 year old. It has been months since I’ve had my own glass of water, or cookie, or bowl of popcorn, or pretty much anything else (at least while she’s awake!). Shoes taken off by the door are considered community property – I’m kind of impressed how well she can pull of my heels. And sitting down is seen as an invitation to share personal space. It was only logical to share one more thing: my clothes! (as an aside, some of this is an exaggeration. But teaching toddlers is a long process)

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These two shirts migrated to my scrap bin a couple years ago. Most of the problem is the color – neons look awful on me. The blue graphic tee was an impulse buy; the green one was from a college club I felt the need to support. They’ve been waiting for a good purpose – the Upcycle Challenge for Project Run and Play! This dress was 100% free by using the 2 tees and a button from my stash. See how well I did using most of the fabric?!


The pattern is the Go – To Signature dress which for some reason I’ve been procrastinating making. Maybe it was the 20+ pages to trim and tape together. No matter – I did it now, and will be using this pattern like CRAZY! It’s really everything everyone says it is. I made a straight 4T with long sleeves, inseam pockets, and no waist elastic. I estimated the blue cap sleeves to best use the originals. I also added a keyhole at the neckline to compensate for using regular knit instead of ribbing. (I didn’t think until long after to trim the ribbing from the original green neckline). My strip was a little wide to lay nicely but that’s ok. I also need to switch the button loop – currently elastic thread – to something a little less stretchy.


Did you notice the first picture? I’ve joined the garment-taped-to-the-wall photographers. It was a matter of necessity – Grace won an award for “Least Cooperative Model Ever” when we tried to shoot this yesterday at a nearby book store. But I actually kind of like it! I may try that again, especially since Miss is 2.5 and I thoroughly expect more awful photo shoots in our future. I’ll show you modeled pictures, but seriously… Least. Cooperative. Ever.


Nice big pockets. They’re cut from the lime green for contrast.


Yes, those shoes are definitely on the wrong feet. But they’re sparkly!tiled

And a collage of non-cooperation.

But let me tell you… she loves this dress, even if she wouldn’t pose in it. I made it a few weeks back and if it’s clean, she’s wearing it. In my book, a free dress which becomes an instant favorite is a complete win! I’ll be using the Go-To dress patter again this upcoming week for Kid’s Clothes Week, so come back each day if you’re curious what I’m creating. And don’t forget to see the other entries for the Upcyle Challenge at Project Run and Play!


Dress: Go – To Signature Dress size 4T. Upcycled from 2 woman’s tees

Leggings and all accessories: Purchased


Gray Winter Days (PR&P, Winter Wonderland)

“I like these cold, gray winter days. Days like these let you savor a bad mood.” Bill Waterson, author of Calvin and Hobbs

Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine

Winter in Central Illinois is awful. It’s a very unpredictable season. What snow we get is beautiful, for a few few hours at least. And then it will get just warm enough to rain and turn everything to gross mud and slush. Even though the theme at Project Run and Play this week is “Winter Wonderland,” I decided to go more with our Winter Reality. I was up for a challenge: finding beauty and inspiration in the yuck of a midwest January.

Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine


“Winter lies too long in country towns; hangs on until it is stale and shabby, old and sullen.” Willa Cather, My Antonia chapter 7

Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine

Our favorite outfits have layers. Our favorite boots wash off (mostly). We brave the outdoors anyway – because Spring is still a long ways off and we’ll all go crazy if we don’t go out and run for at least a few minutes. This week I made three layers: A gray knit slip, upcycled from an old pillowcase. A Family Reunion Dress from Oliver and S in quilter’s cotton. And a gray cardigan cut down from one of my old ones, misshapen from years of use.

Project Run and Play, Winter 2014

“A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.” Carl Reiner, American actor, film director, producer, writer and comedian.

embroidery closeup on Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine

I bought the Family Reunion pattern for the tab. To me, it is just begging to be embroidered. I stitched this little snowflake in a steely blue floss, which picks up the hit of blue spattered in the background of the main print (it’s very subtle, you can just see it). I used a simple back stitch; the snowflake design is from Handsewn (a fantastic sewing book!). I didn’t get a picture of it but the buttons on the back of the dress are also stitched on using the blue floss. I love the hint of color in the midst of the gray – just like the few minutes of sunshine that  pop through the clouds. There’s nothing prettier than the clear, pale blue sky of winter.

Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine

“Every mile is two in winter.” George Herbert, English clergyman and poet

And every photo shoot is misery, at least if you ask the toddler! It’s ok sweetheart, we’re done now, and we can enjoy the best part of winter: snuggling on the couch in the early dark with a bowl of soup and a cup of tea. And spring will come soon enough.

Family Reunion Dress by Gabi Sunshine

This week’s inspiration image: taken by me last week when the weather randomly decided to be sub-zero temps for a couple days.



Be sure to check out the other sew along entries right here. Many of them are more “Wonderland” – ish, if you’re tired of gray!

2013: Favorites and Flops

Happy New Year! Well, December 30th, but it’s really close. This whole week is dedicated to rebooting into the new year. New calenders, new to – do lists, new habits and routines. New recipes to try and new patterns waiting to be sewn (Black Friday was not a good choice! I think I added at least 12 new patterns? Give or take.)

Before I go too far into the new, I want to take just a minute to flip back through 2013’s sewing accomplishments. It was by far my most productive year yet! And this is only my personal sewing projects – I don’t photograph/blog customer projects for privacy reasons (although you’ll find one customer project in the collage because I’m CRAZY about how it turned out!). So total count for the year? Nearly 40 different sewing projects. In addition to the 28 photos below, there’s at least half a dozen others that went out to customers or gifts I didn’t photograph.

collage 1 copycollage 2 copyFrom left to right: let’s play school; chocolate covered cherry tutu; stripes and spots; just like daddy; toddler ruffle tote; birthday tulips; stripes sundress; yellow rose “Anna”; kissed by a rose; bubble pocket skater girl; linen top; purple polka dot tutu; stretch poplin shorts; the Tuesday dress; pitty flowers; Sweet Little Starburst; plaid pajamas; butterfly princess; little things to keep her warm; khaki skirt refashion; layered look hoodie; Thanksgiving dress; fleece playground dress; Grace’s baby quilt; Christmas dress 2013; felt cookies; felt tea bags; Heartlake Friends lego play mat


My favorite pattern for 2013 is by far the Birthday Party Dress by Lily Bird Studio. It’s super simple. I’ve made it 3 times so far (once in Dec 2012 – going on it’s 2nd year!). It’s not uncommon for all three of them to be in the wash at the same time. There will be MANY more of these in my life! I’ve even made a pattern for Grace’s favorite doll, so she can match 2 of the 3 dresses. I’m a little sad that she’s about to outgrow the blue snowflake version. It’s really short now.

bpd copyAnother favorite is the “Let’s Play School” dress I made for week 1 of Project Run and Play. It’s a casual interpretation of a party dress tutorial. This one is also almost always in the wash. It’s holding up beautifully and will fit for a very long time. Grace is going through this thing where she will only wear dresses and the more they spin, the better. The 88″ of skirt in this one makes it a clear winner.

And for me? My pink and gray roses dress comes out all the time. It’s very easy to wear with flats or heels or even boots and a cardigan. I really love it. (The fact that the waist is loose with a sash helps some days, too…)


No one likes to talk about their failures do they? And I don’t have many this year, but one stands out as an epic flop: the stripes and spots dress I made for Project Run and Play back in January. She wore it for the photo shoot… and that’s it. It’s too short to be a dress, too long for a tunic, gapes funny in the back… It’s one of those projects where my grand ideas got away from  practical life. Cute  though. Maybe it’s time to try it again as a top, if I can ever find a pair of leggings that coordinates with the somewhat odd colors. I mean, it coordinates with nothing! It’s somewhat ironic looking back that in almost every photo, Grace is flopping. She knew it from the first!

Bring on 2014!

I’m really excited to the new year. I already have some ambitious projects planned, like finishing the Little Things to Sew sew-along hosted by Bartacks and Singletrack out of Australia (see my progress here). I’m also hoping to get some more customer projects. I’ve got one underway right now. And of course, my growing girl is now a size 3t on the top and 6 in length, so I’ll be making her a bunch of regular every day clothes as well. And who knows what else.

The one thing I’ve learned more than anything from 2013 is that the plan often changes, and quickly. So I’m hoping to start 2014 with an open heart and my eyes on Christ – since He alone actually knows the plan!

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.  Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that. James 4:13-15

So, my dear friends, if the Lord wills it, Happy New Year!

Project Run and Play Season 7 Wrap Up

I actually completed an entire season of Project Run and Play! I got close for Season 5, but then life got in the way before completing my signature look. Even though life is nothing if not busier now, I actually carved out enough sewing time AND set realistic expectations for myself. Here’s a quick wrap up:

Week 1: Popover Sundress Remix

Pitty Flowers Cap Sleeved Dress (and tutorial)

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Week 2: Inspired by Candy

Sweet Little Starburst tunic and pants

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Week 3: Mad about Plaid

Snuggle Bug jammies

dress 1

Week 4: Signature Look

The Little Butterfly Princess


I hope all the seamstresses had fun sewing along! I know I did! Bring on Season 8 – but in a few months, because I’ve got a list of other things to get done now!

The Little Butterfly Princess (PR&P Signature Look)

It seems like all summer I’ve spent the idea of a signature look rolling around in my head. What do I like to wear? What do I enjoy designing? What colors draw me to them? For myself, I have some more pondering to do. For children’s wear, especially dressing Grace, the answer is much simpler:

Classic/Historical Silhouettes. Bright, youthful colors. And the ever important washable and wearable. Those three elements plus hours of pinterest / google image surfing led to this:


I don’t draw inspiration from any one particular fashion era. I tend to gravitate towards 1950s for me, but I’m pretty equal opportunity when it comes to Grace. Lately, I’ve really loved the sweet drop waist dresses and giant bows of the Edwardian era – roughly 1905-1915 (the era was longer but that’s when this fashion was on-trend). I mean, how can you not ooh and awww over this cutie? (source link)

Or this 1905 dress, from the Wisconsin Historical Society collections (source link):

circ 1905

The slim bodice with a dropped waist over a fuller pleated, fairly short skirt had a resurgence in the 1960s. I found a few available in modern stores, too. Let’s bring this style back! To me, it’s the epitome of sweet little girl innocence. If you want to see more inspiration images, they’re all on a Pinterest board. I’ve named it The Little Butterfly Princess dress after my all time favorite movie – A Little Princess! There’s some screenshots on my board. It was written in 1904; the film is set in the mid 19-teens. The original Tasha Tudor paintings never fail to stir my heart.


To bring this classic style to the modern era, I chose super soft denim for the main fabric of the dress. I love this denim. I’ve used it at least half a dozen times, maybe more. The bow and box pleats are a neon butterfly quilter’s cotton – the very last scrap from Grace’s baby quilt (which I PROMISE I will finish one of these days. It’s only been 2.5 years… The binding is attached, and about 20% stitched in place It’s finished! See here). If Grace could label her signature style, it would definitely be butterflies!


I started with the Oliver + S Sailboat top in a size 3. I altered the sleeves to my favorite elbow length – so much easier with a messy toddler and frequent hand washing! I cut the shirt tails off straight and attached a box pleated drop waist skirt. I did a lot of math on this skirt to make it come out perfectly. The denim is only on the front face of the pleat; everything hidden is butterfly. There are 8 pleats total – 4 front, 4 back.


I found these little pearly buttons in the depths of my stash. I love how simple they are, yet they really pop!


I toned down the bow a little from the 1900’s look. That was a little overwhelming! Although Grace does have the natural curls to pull it off… I may track down one.more.scrap. to make a bigger bow! Speaking of scraps and bows… the sash was supposed to be out of a pink swirl print used in the quilt. Apparently it all got used or misplaced. The blue is borrowed from the neckline of a pillow case dress and while I love the pop against the denim, it isn’t cutting it. I’ll be taking it off to find something better suited.


So there is is – my Signature Look for Fall 2013! Classic sillouette, bright modern colors, and totally washable and wearable, even if pressing those pleats back into place will be a little time consuming. And now, I think I will give my tired design brain a break! See the other signature looks here.


Snuggle Bug (PR & P Mad about Plaid)

It’s week 3 at Project Run and Play Season 7! This week’s theme? Mad about Plaid!

Now, I love plaid. At least in theory I do. But in practice, I own very little and have sewn even less. I’m not really a bold pattern kind of girl in my own wardrobe. When I challenged myself to use only resources I already had in the house, I first thought I’d be sitting this week out. Until the great Stash Reorganization project I’ve mentioned a few times discovered some hidden gems. After some very creative piecing and cutting, a special retired set of jammies turned into this sweet night dress for my silly girl:

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She’s a mess, let’s just throw that out there.

dress 1

The dress is pretty much straight McCall’s 6388 size 3, which is huge. Grace has recently gone through a stage that makes me sad – she’s lost her sweet toddler look and has really thinned out into a little girl. She’s back to a 2T on top and a 4T – or more – in length. My only alterations were to cut the front and back upper bodice on the bias to achieve a chevron look. The skirt section was also cut on the bias. I didn’t use a pattern piece for that; I just used every scrap I had left.

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Way back when we first got married, I thought it would be so cheesy sweet for my husband and I to have matching jammies. Out of flannel. PLAID flannel. And if that wasn’t cheesy sweet enough, I thought it would be just downright delightful to sew them by hand. In the car. On the way to our honeymoon. Awww young love… (Can I say that now we’ve been married 5 years?)

They didn’t get done.

When we got home, I actually did finish his pants and my tank dress by machine and they got a couple years hard use. But since I never did finish the seams (the things you learn over time) they eventually fell apart and found their way to the upcycle bin. There was just. barely. enough. fabric out of both garments to create this single dress. I didn’t even bother saving the scraps; they went in the trash.

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I’m crazy pleased with how this turned out. The skirt is actually 8! separate strips pieced together. As I said – I used every scrap. The plaids in the skirt even almost match (Although I obviously missed the side seam, above):

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Oh, and Grace has hit the “I DO IT MYSELF!” stage, which is why there’s only one large single button on the front. This came out of a big back of antique buttons my mother in law passed on to me. I love the loopy little flower! And in case you’re wondering, this is what happened when I prompted her to yawn.

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I think she’s about as silly as me! If you want to see the other plaid entries, check them out here:

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Sweet Little Star Burst (PR&P Candy Challenge)


title image copy

I have to be honest, when I first saw the challenge list for this season of Project Run & Play, I wasn’t thrilled. Design an outfit inspired by candy? I almost sat this one out. In my mind, the only candy worth eating is chocolate. Good chocolate. Preferably with flakes of crunchy sea salt and maybe some almonds stirred in. With a cup of dark coffee or… Sorry for the rabbit trail! Point being, candy doesn’t inspire me when it comes to clothing. I spent weeks wrestling with ideas – too literal, too costume, too “never going to wear it again.” Plus, I wanted to use only supplies I already had in my house.

Then I decided to actually *sort* my fabric stash and see what I had on hand. It’s now in clear bins organized logically – apparel yardage, cotton yardage, clothes to upcycle, large scraps, small scraps, knits… and as I was sorting, I came across this gem of Ann Kelle diamond print fabric I bought on a whim to round out an order for free shipping back in the spring. It’s in the Summer Remix line. Once I saw it there was only one thing I could think of – STARBURSTS! Those chewy fruity squares of color have never been my favorite for eating, but you’ve got to admit, they’ve got some pretty cool style.

Image from wikihow

Do you remember being a kid and making chains from starburst wrappers? Or gum wrappers? Or sometimes even strips of notebook paper so you didn’t fall asleep in class? (ahem…) Then came the phenomenon of the candy wrapper purses, wallets, bracelets. Which led into the strange (Capri Sun pouch bags, anyone?). But I have fond memories of those little scraps of colorful waxy paper woven together for no other reason than because they were there. And that, my friends, added to the lovely fabric, led to this week’s candy creation.

sillouette copy

A loose cut blouse and clean khaki pants doesn’t sound like much, but I love all the details tucked in these pieces. Starting with they’re layer-able, mix-and-match-able, and even grow-with-her-able. The pants have 4 pockets and and the top floats out when she spins, so Grace is thrilled. The top is actually based on a historically accurate chemise pattern my friend Amy is offering free at her blog, Thistle and Lilly. It’s pretty quiet over there, but that’s only because Amy is working on something really big and really cool – starting her line of historical children’s patterns, primarily for the reenacting community. But I absolutely adore the clean, classic lines! I think they translate really well to modern children’s wear. I only modified it slightly by adding rick rack trim.

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The white rick rack takes the place of the candy wrapper chains, since adding more color to this already colorful print would be overwhelming. I used it at the neckline and armholes on the top, then to edge the pockets on the khaki pants:pockets together copySpeaking of these pants, I’m in love. The pattern is the Ben and Mia pants from Lily Bird Studio. I bought the pattern last winter but was never inspired to make it. Why? Grace wore cloth diapers, which are huge, and I didn’t want to put effort in to fixing the pattern to accommodate. She wore dresses and stretch pants. BUT! We’ve been potty trained for 3 weeks now – it’s time to introduce some real pants into this girl’s wardrobe. The pattern is as close to perfect as I would ask for. It’s got some special details, too, like the directions for ready-to-wear style top stitching. I think that adds such a nice touch and I wouldn’t have thought of it myself.  These slacks just look so PROFESSIONAL! A huge part of that is the pattern. The other part is they started their life as a pair of my husband’s slacks. After an incident with his bike chain they retired to the upcycle pile. These were nice slacks – super soft from 5+ years of washing and wearing, but still very sturdy with lots of life left. Can you see the permanent crease? I was able to cut super carefully to line that up where it belongs on Grace’s pants! Victory!

handband copyAnd of course, the crowning joy – a candy wrapper chain headband. I couldn’t claim to be inspired by them without making one! I used the tropical flavor Starburst pack – same colors as the original but brighter, which better matches my fabric. I used a tapestry needle to thread a ribbon through each end; the ribbons are tied in a bow at her neck. Simple and sweet.

front neck copy

The neckline is a little loose since I sewed after bedtime – this chemise pattern really needs fitted before sewing the neckline. This is neckline #2 – #1 was way, way too tight. A simple cami from her drawer keeps her covered. I can see the top over jeggings and a long sleeved tee as the weather cools off. All in all I met my goals and am extremely pleased: meets the challenge, wearable pieces, and I didn’t buy any fabric! (Full disclosure – I did by a pack of rick rack and the starbursts, though. Grand total, under $5)

A big thanks to my husband who gave me a crash course in Photoshop this afternoon. I feel all fancy, what with watermarks and color balanced pictures and all! And even a collage of out takes! We took these photos at the Farm & Home store, since we needed to buy chicken feed anyway and they’ve got these cute rustic bulk candy bins by the door. And horse feed, which apparently makes a good jungle gym:

outtakes copySo whoever buys crunched up horse feed, sorry? For everyone else, stay sweet!