Category Archives: sewing

Halloween

Two bundt cakes stack bottom to bottom sort of make for a pumpkin shaped pumpkin cake.  We used carrot juice to color the icing and matcha green tea to tint the marzipan.

They were adorable, carving a pumpkin together.  She sings happy birthday to the pumpkin every time we light a jack ‘o lantern.

Elijah has started making Halloween costumes for his friends as well.  This is Gandolf the Grey’s staff….

and Gimli’s helmet…

A motley crew…

Indiana Jones

The Dread Pirate Roberts, a.k.a. Wesley

And my darling Anne-girl.

It was really nice of our neighbor’s black cat to drop by on Halloween for ambience.

Anne of Green Gables dress details:

I started with the geranium dress pattern.  I used the bodice extension and sash straight from the expansion pack.  I took the straight sleeve from the expansion pack and modified it for the oh-so-important puffs using this tutorial.  I made the sleeves first and she came in to kiss her puffs several times each day.  I took the hem band from the pack and made it 1 1/2 times longer and used that to craft the ruffle at the bottom.  The collar is an actual hand-pieced, antique collar.  After some repairs I added a button and bound button loop so it could be worn, but still remain a separate piece.  The rest is just trim.

   It is brown of course.  Because Mathew bought Anne a brown dress with puffed sleeves.  Mairi Rose was so offended when he gave her a blue dress in the movie!  This was hands-down one of my all-time favorite costumes.  I couldn’t stop watching her in it.  She’s like a china doll.  And that she picked Anne?  Oh my, well this mama heart couldn’t be happier!

This littlest one was seriously too excited to stand still for a picture.  All of these rather poor ones were taken in rapid succession over the course of like 45 seconds, which was way, way longer than she wanted to spend on it.  Which explains why you can’t really tell what her dress looks like in any of the pictures.  I’ll have to get a better picture of it at some point.  She informed me that she plans on wearing it everywhere so I should have plenty of opportunities!

Ever since we were matryoshkas together two years ago, Seraphina is convinced that we require coordinating costumes, which is how I ended up as a Mama Kitty last year.  And really now, how long is this last baby of mine going to want her mama to wear a matching costume?  Not very long at all.  So I humor her.  This year I was informed that herself, myself, Unicorn, and her doll Milky were all to be princesses for Halloween.  Sometimes I humor her a lot.  I asked her if it wouldn’t make more sense for me to be the queen and she assured me it would not.  I was the mama princess and her, Milky and Unicorn where the baby princesses.  End of story.  Yes ma’am.

Seraphina’s dress is also a geranium, with the gathered sleeves from the expansion pack.  The only modification I made was to add three large, lace trimmed ruffles in tiers down the skirt.  I was also told that her dress must be pink.  I had other ideas in mind, but set myself the challenge of making it entirely from what I had around the house.  Adjustments were made and this is the result.  She seems happy with it!

My dress is a heavily, heavily modified Darling Ranges dress, altered to the point of no longer being recognizable as such.  Mine was a freebie sew as well.  I found the material at our local fabric swap.  Since I was taking the time to sew it, and I happen to really need clothing, I was trying to make something that she would consider a princess dress, but that I could get away with for everyday wear.  I’m not 100% sure that I’ve made a success of it, it’s awfully red for one thing, but I’m going to see how it works out.

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: The Etta Dress

Funny story: As alluded to, two or three months ago I tried making a big deal of getting all purdied up for Steve’s birthday.  We were planning to go on a date, just the two of us. I quietly worked on a new dress to wear, in a style he would appreciate, as a surprise. I thought it was a sweet idea, but suspected he might be less thrilled when he found out that Seraphina has been telling everyone we know about daddy having a “secret dress”.

It turns out he just laughed.  Which I knew he would.  But the story is funnier the other way.

So, I do this thing sometimes….just because we are totally weird…where I randomly surprise Steve for special occasions by dressing up in the style of a different era, complete with hair, make-up, etc.  And I direct your attention to our ’50′s Valentine’s day (yikes.  Kind of wishing I hadn’t looked.  4 years and baby #5 had some serious impact!).  No idea where this started or why (actually, after re-reading that post, I think it started then!  The blog is educational!).  Like I said, we’re just kind of weird that way.  In honor of his birthday this year, I went with the decade in which he was born.  I was going for a Joan from Mad Men kind of thing, but Christina Hendricks I ain’t!  What I am is a middle aged mother of five, so you basically get what you get.

Sewing a fitted dress when you are nowhere near an average size and shape??  Holy moly.  I shortened the bodice, the skirt and the sleeves….brought in the waist, let out the high hip, brought in the low hip….did a full bust adjustment…a slight sway back adjustment (should have done more!)…made it narrower through the shoulders…lowered the neckline by two inches when one of my two muslins felt too choke-y* and correspondingly altered the collar.  And probably other things that I can’t think of because I’m blocking out the trauma.

*Just for clarification, I don’t think this is a flaw in the pattern, it’s just that people with a history of breathing problems (me) tend to get freaked out by anything too close to their throat.

My darts are all….I don’t know…awful.  Yup, that’s the word.  Terrible, atrocious and mortifying would all fit as well.  Even though I know how to sew darts properly and I swear I did them the “right” way.  Somehow they are still totally wrong.  I want to blame the fabric, but I’m not sure that’s fair.  And I don’t like where they hit.  I think I should have altered that, but I double checked pictures of the pattern and that is where they are supposed to be.  Side note: I seriously, seriously, seriously need a pressing ham if I’m going to insist on continuing to make women’s dresses.  Seriously.  An invisible zipper foot would be good too.

I felt the fabric would be just perfect.  I was wrong.  It’s a stretch sateen….which quite predictably shows and amplifies every little flaw, both in my figure and sewing ability.   The dress looks ok (and only ok) if I am standing still having just straightened it, but the moment I move at all it shifts and bunches and clumps-clings in funny and awkward ways.  This is probably evident from the photos above.

So much work for something so horribly disappointing!  I think I’ll be sticking with super simple sewing for a while now.

But yes, he liked it.  Though I suspect he wasn’t actually looking at the darts, so I’m not sure how much his opinion should really count for.  Just sayin’.

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Starry, starry night…

Is it irritating for me to be so flighty about my future here?  I’m still laid up and according to the doctors will be for a while yet.  I’m in a good bit of pain, not really sleeping, dwelling on disturbing news and over-all feeling rather despondent.  And kind of lonely and isolated to be honest.  I still can’t talk long without going on a coughing jag.  So reaching out in an accessible way, trying to focus on the positive seems kind of right.  But no word from me for over two months, followed by an emotional possible farewell forever post, and another random post a mere four days later?*  Kind of obnoxious.

The quilt….it’s been in progress for years and years.  I believe I bought the owl fabric for Iain for his 9th birthday?  Maybe even his 8th birthday?  I thought I may have taken him to pick out the fabrics to go with it, but now I’m not sure!  Maybe I picked them out?  I sketched out layouts and ideas, which changed from time to time….there are several in my sketch book…picked out a thread color and then changed my mind…moved the box of “Iain Quilt” fabrics from house to house, taking them out to look at from time to time…and so it went.  In 2015, with his  sixteenth birthday on the horizon, I started work in earnest, wanting to finally be able to give him this long awaited quilt.  It was to be a surprise and every moment he was out of the house I worked away a square at a time.  Each square was pieced and then quilted onto a scrap of cotton fleece.  I used up all the bits of fleece I had leftover from other projects.  I gave him the quilt top for his birthday.

I added a layer of wool batting and a backing of thick chocolate brown cotton velour, for a luxurious touch, and hand tied it all together with deep red floss.  All of this was completed within maybe two weeks of his birthday.  Nothing but binding left to go…..and……it sat.  For over a year.  I don’t know, I had some kind of a hang up about it.  But it is now, finally, totally and completely done and in use.  It is, by far, the warmest quilt I have ever made.  I’m so glad to have finally finished it for him!

*Most of this post was written four days after the last one.  Then somehow it just sat around (quilt like), never getting finished, for nearly a month.  Which is probably a sign.  But I still don’t know.  I’m missing this space right now.  As another side note, I have no idea what’s wrong with the formatting on the pictures from my last post and I’m too tired to even look into it.  Also, I wanted to again mention that I am on Instagram.  Whether or not I get back to regular posting here, that is one way to keep up with us a bit.  I don’t believe you need an account to view photos on-line.  I don’t totally love Instagram, but a single photo and little caption posted once in a while seems more do-able for me right now.

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Hello friends

I started a post about Seraphina’s birthday, one about finishing a quilt for Iain, one about how I thought I was done with blogging.  Not a one of them ever went anywhere.  I know that some of you have been worried and for that I am very sorry.  Others have been sad or frustrated and I apologize for that as well.

I’ve been asked a number of times if I’m no longer in this space for good reasons or for bad and the frank answer is a little of each.

A few months ago we joined a homeschooling co-op.  We meet twice a week for two very long days.  It is both satisfying and all consuming.  I think that for Seraphina it’s like suddenly having 15 new siblings.  She always wants to go so desperately and when we are there it’s running from one thing to the next, all smiles for everyone.  Her current favorite game is to see how outrageously she can behave before Mommy will stop teaching to reprimand her.  When it’s time to leave she cries.  And when we get home, more often then not, she has a complete breakdown and spends the intervening days clinging to me like an infant.  It’s all mommy, all the time, making it pretty impossible to accomplish just about anything.

I’m co-leading a book club for the oldest kids (including Elijah and Iain when he has the time), where we’ve been reading the likes of Wuthering Heights and To Kill a Mockingbird.  And yes, I am  still not-so-secretly in love with Atticus Finch.  Fun fact: I attended the 7th grade book fair as the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw after having donned a lacy nightgown of my mother’s and powdering my face white.

I’m leading a book club for the next level down, including Galen, where we are just finishing up Swallows and Amazons, even though Galen has read it before.  That kiddo is a tough one.  It’s hard to find an appropriate book he hasn’t read.

I teach what I tend to think of as a small, mixed age, Waldorf kindergarten type class, which Seraphina has lovingly christened her “circle time class”.  I have a huge age range, with ten 1-8 year olds.  I lead a circle time with dancing, singing, story telling and finger plays followed by nature crafts.  We’ve made nests and nature weavings and played with snow dough, little clay pinch pots planted out with cress and more.

I’m also assistant teaching two drawing classes and helping out with a singing class.  It’s a lot.  With our dietary restrictions even just the food prep is an ordeal.  We’ve just shifted to a much more laid back, one day a week schedule, with lots of outdoor time and most classes being done until Sept.  I’ll be glad to take a step back and regroup.  Of course we have a singing concert, two performances of a play, an Irish dance concert and a ballet concert, with all the associated dress rehearsals over the course of the next three weeks, so we are still keeping quite busy, but things truly do ease up after that.

This is all the hectic but good developments.  Also in our world…

We were informed that Steve’s job of 14 years is moving several states away at the end of the year, and as we have made the decision not to move with it, there is a lot to consider.

Our ill little one, who miraculously and inexplicably grew well again around Christmas time, just as inexplicably began to decline again by Easter and we’ve found ourselves back in the world of long sleepless nights and seemingly endless worry.  I come unmoored at these times and loose all concept of time or priorities beyond what is in front of me.  I can’t even see beyond that.  It’s not even possible.  Full weeks just drift away without my being able to account for them.

Honestly, the only reason I am managing to finally post at all is that I’m laid up with “post vital cough syndrome”, Pleurisy (inflammation of tissue lining the lungs) and a resurgence of the RADS that hasn’t really given me trouble in over a decade.  In layman’s terms: whenever I try to move about I start coughing so hard that I see stars and feel like I’m going to vomit.

As to my future here, I truly don’t know.  Perhaps this post will be the catalyst that propels me back into regular blogging or maybe this will forever serve as my farewell post.  I feel like it could go either way.  There is so much up in the air right now that I have no idea what the future will bring.

No matter what, please know that this space and your involvement in it has been incredibly dear to me over the years.  Thank you all so much for sharing this little window into our life.  I’ve so enjoyed all of your comments and messages.

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March

And now it is March. Mid-March!  I just can’t keep up! Constant doings, in constant motion. I  thought older kids were supposed to be less work??? What they lack in hands on parenting needs, they sure make up for in administrative work. I’ve spent the last several weeks putting together portfolios of work for every subject that Iain studied in his first two years of high school, so that he can earn all the credits he needs in order to graduate.  I think the scanner is starting to make my brain vibrate.  And all of the paper work!  Forms for end of year dance recitals, forms for the prom, permission slips for outings, registration for 4H events, for school next year, for chess competitions, forms, forms, forms.  One of my favorites?  The back up emergency contact form.  In the event that something happens to my child, while doing his lessons, under my roof, with me present.  For when he finds himself in some sort of dire situation that his teachers on the other side of the state are aware of, but somehow I, in the same building with him, am not.  And somehow they can not contact me…. or Steve-either at work or on his cell phone.  I can’t really formulate a scenario where this would happen, perhaps some sort of crazy hostage situation?  But man, when it all goes down, calling my father, several states away, will help tremendously.

And on the subject of urgent situations, I whipped up some emergency throw pillow covers.  No thought, no planning, just grabbing fabrics at random; old flannel shirts, scraps of linen, pieces of an ill-fitting pillow case and stitching away.  I know you are all thinking, “Melody, there is no such thing as a throw pillow cover emergency.”  And I’m here to tell you that there is!  I won’t go into all the gruesome details, you are just going to have to trust me on this one.

Some little person (I hear she’s actually a snow angel) has a birthday coming up very soon!  Much making and planning under way…

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The Handcrafted Wardrobe: Decluttering Craft Areas

A little update on the 2017 decluttering challenge: I’ve been at it for just about four weeks now and so far I’ve rid our home of 741 items.  I am serious about this.  Conversely in that same time I did come home with a couple of new things.  Circumstances considered, I was very well behaved.  The first series of temptations came during an outing to a rare and used bookstore where everything was being sold for next to nothing.  The second was a craft swap where everything was available for literally nothing.  Books and craft supplies.   My kryptonite.

A hundred and six year old first edition copy of a book that I thought might make a pleasant family read aloud, two children’s magazines from 1937 and 1944 respectively, that have the sweetest illustrations and which I intend to tuck into Mairi’s Easter basket and two old knitting magazines.  Including the six or so books that Mairi, Galen, and Seraphina picked out, we spent $12.

I came home with a few things from the sewing and knitting exchange as well.  There was an entire room full of free sewing and knitting supplies people!  I’m only human.  Still, I dropped off three boxes worth of donations and everything I came home with fit in my handbag.  Not such a bad exchange.

The two designs above are from Bear Brand Campus Knits Vol. 335, cira 1947.  The patterns have rather humorous names such as “Beau Catcher” (Steve checked it out and found the bait inferior).  These two above are “Art Appreciation” and “Collegiate” and I can’t decide which I’d rather grace my needles.

I started sifting through craft supplies before I was truly ready because of the swap.  It’s really an emotional process, much like sorting through sentimental items.  I’m afraid this is one area where I’m guilty of keeping every last thing, just in case.  It’s comforting to me to feel that in lean times I could make whatever might be needed.  But I want to live with more freedom now, not stockpiling for a future which may or may not come.  I’ve started looking at certain fabrics and telling myself that I’ve made my dress or blouse or whatever from it and now I can let what’s left move on to someone else.  It has already served it’s purpose for me.  I don’t have to use up every last scrap.  I’m trying to think less in terms of what I could use, as just about everything falls into that category, and more what I genuinely think I will use.  And perhaps more importantly, what I want to use.

What about you?  Do you have experience with decluttering craft supplies or trying to keep a more minimalist craft set up?

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My birthday was beautiful and I feel blessed.  As a gift to myself I finally, finally, finally sewed the buttons onto my Calligraphy cardigan and blocked it and I’ve refused to take it off since it dried.  It still needs pockets.  I need more pockets in my life.  I’ll get to it at some point.  Unfortunately the buttons seem a bit too small or the holes have stretched a bit too much, either way I might have to do something about that as well.  But none of that is stopping me from wearing it constantly.  The yarn is Swish Worsted in “Doe” (I believe this color has been retired).

I just finished reading The Winthrop Woman.  It was most enjoyable.  I had trouble putting it down.

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January 5th, Our Official Day of Familial Excitement….

Really it all started when one of them decided to be born on the other one’s birthday.  Ever since that year, statistically speaking, 1/5 has been a mostly crazy sort of day for us.

While birthday sweaters were wrapped up with needles still in them and many warnings to be careful in the opening of them so as not to inadvertently drop stitches, I did manage a last minute dress for her.  The pattern is Simplicity 5997 from 1973.  It’s actually meant to be a nightgown (their meaning, not mine), but whatever. The rose covered fabric was thrifted by my mother-in-law.  It’s much paler in person.  I’ve been itching for an excuse to buy some of the prints in Rifle’s new fabric collection, and thought this might just be my chance, but $11 per yard plus shipping versus free and already here?  Guess which fabric won out…  She was quite pleased.  I should have gotten a close up of the vintage floral buttons and hand sewn button holes- sewn with real silk button and button hole twist from a tiny wooden spool- also from my mother-in-law.  Yes, the button hole function on my machine is still not working.

This is the second year in a row where we’ve had to call 911 on their birthday.  Lest you think we just go about calling emergency services for every little thing, these have been the only two times we have ever called.  Ok, well Galen once dialed them by accident when he was 2, but I don’t think that counts (they don’t really care for that kind of thing, by the way).

This year’s calamity involved a chimney fire with flames shooting several feet into the air.  Bless our metal roof and single digit temperatures with frosty snow all around.  And the chimney being run almost entirely outside the house instead of in the walls.  These things and these things alone meant a night of excitement instead of full out disaster.

Seraphina thought that the firefighters were coming to fight us and that we were basically under siege and bravely told Mairi that she would save her.

Iain spent the entire day pretty much too sick to move, poor kid. He did open gifts, but that was about it.  You know your kids are feeling pretty miserable when the whole house is illuminated by flashing lights and surrounded by emergency vehicles with people coming in and out and around every which way and me piling snow boots and sweaters around them in case we are forced to evacuate and two out of the five of them barely bothered to lift their heads or open their eyes or even seem to register what is happening at all.

Also, it would be the case that what felt like half the town would turn out and need entrance to the house immediately after I tore apart the pantry, scattering it’s contents all over ever flat surface in the house.  Along the lines of this…

Only everywhere else as well.  Seriously, that wasn’t embarrassing at all.

Iain is much better now and we did have a belated celebration for him a few days later.

On their birthday, as the fire fighters, first responders, et al left, I resisted the temptation to say that we’d see them next year.  Here’s hoping we don’t!

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Light is returning….

Happy winter to one and all!  And, well, a happy summer to all the rest!

We woke up to snow again this morning.  It feels like it’s going to be a very snowy winter.  We’ll have a white Christmas for sure.  Plans for the day include tea, leftover chili, the baking of sun bread, and Elijah and I settling into some serious sewing.

I sewed a Winter Solstice inspired rope vessel as a gift for our neighbor who always hosts our annual celebration.  I’ve actually made a number of rope bowls/baskets over the last six months or so.  After the holidays I will try to share more.  I feel like I’ve learned a great deal in the making of them.

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Little Autumn Wardrobes

I’ve been sewing up a storm all season.  The girls were in need of cool weather clothing and I’ve been slowly filling out their wardrobes.  These are from early in the autumn.

Seraphina’s wee over-alls were sort of based on this pattern, with a whole lot of changes, except for the elastic flutter straps which I kept exactly the same.  Over-alls are wonderfully warm and practical for toddlers in so many ways, only not so much when it comes to independent potty use.  At those times they can be greatly frustrating.  Elastic straps are the perfect solution.

I made these using leftover fabric from my luna pants and she is the coziest and cuddliest of little sweet loves in them.

I bought this woodland print jersey to make Mairi Rose a dress for her birthday last year, but never got around to it.  There was enough of it that I managed to eek out both a simple tunic for her (at her request) and a little dress for the Violet Girl.  Both patterns were self-drafted.  Their leggings were made from an old velour maternity dress of mine.

Also shown: Seraphina’s Lil Shepherd and Mairi’s old Blackberry Beret (the original, very first prototype for that pattern!). The beret came out of storage with a small hole and since I’m all about the artistic mending these days, I needle felted violet flourish over it before passing the hat on to it’s new owner.

More details on Seraphina’s Gilipeysa sweater….I reinforced with the sewing machine before cutting the steeks instead of the crochet method which I used last time and found nerve-racking.  I like this way every-so-much better and no longer feel the need to avoid steeked projects. Yay!  I covered the steek ends with some sweet vintage trim.

And on the subject of Halloween costumes in later use, apparently Mairi’s work just as well for Seraphine….

Who knew?

p.s. I know that some of you have been patiently waiting for the release of my lace bonnet pattern.  It is ready to go out to test knitters and I actually have several ready made ones to go into my shop as well, but with the holidays I didn’t think people would want to focus on test knitting, and thought it would be best to put it out there in the New Year.  But it is coming.  I promise.  And hopefully the kitty bonnet will follow soon after.

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