Sewing for the Kids

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I completely forgot to post this outfit I made for Lucy this past December.


I used Jalie's basic t-shirt pattern, but gave it the long sleeves from another of their patterns. The skirt is just rectangles and out of my head. Lucy was very specific about the colours and placement (no surprise there - she is always specific). I also refashioned the tights into stirrup tights. (In the photo, she is wearing the tights over a pair of fuzzy athletic socks - in ballet flats. She's nearly five, what can I say?)

Here's the story on the outfit. Lucy was invited to the birthday party for a friend from preschool. The party was held at a local gymnastics facility. The invitation specifically mentioned wearing sports clothes. As it turns out, nothing puts horror in my older daughter's heart more than the thought of "sports clothes".

The day before the party Lucy was falling apart right and left. Seriously. Extreme emotion over anything and everything. All day. Now Lucy has strong emotions even on her calm days, but this took the cake. It didn't hit me until bedtime that this was tied to some kind of anxiety about the party. As I coaxed her into her PJs and talked her down out of her tree, it hit me, so I asked her if she was concerned about the party.

She looked at me with nearly tangible relief. I went on to talk with her about how this was a party so the teachers leading the gymnastics activities were going to be nice (we had just dropped out of horribly taught swimming lessons), and that I would be there if she wanted, etc. She looked at me again, took a breath and said, trembling, "But what am I going to WEAR?"

I nearly laughed out loud.

I said, "Well, you should wear something that is comfortable and allows you to move. Something stretchy. Maybe a shirt and leggings."

"But I want to wear a skirt, and I (beginning to SOB) don't have any stretchy skirts!"

Hoo boy!

We did some quick thinking and remembered that she had the black and yellow shirt (maybe I made that in November?), so we decided that I would make a black and yellow spinny skirt. I mentioned that she might want something to cover her legs (weather-appropriate clothing is an important thing). Lucy wanted to wear tights, but I thought they might be too slippery. We had this pair of tights from Children's Place that Lucy refused to wear and that I had forgotten to return. I suggested that I could cut out the toe and the heel from the tights.

And that was that. Lucy went to bed calmly and pleasantly.

Both the tights and the skirt were finished before the party the next afternoon. (I did have to shorten the skirt and tighten the elastic after the party - we didn't have enough time for a proper fitting.) The yellow portion of the skirt is pleated, because I find that far less frustrating than gathering. The tights were cut off in spots (I had her try them on to figure out exactly where to cut the feet),then I stitched clear elastic to the openings, then turned them under and stitched them again. Tricky, slippery work, but not difficult.


Now for more recent (and not nearly as humorous) kid sewing. Peter needs PJs. He has been wearing the same PJs for two years and it shows. He prefers his PJs to be snug -like thermal underwear. Unfortunately, he has reached the age and size where store-bought PJs are loose - like lounge pants and a t-shirt. Then I remembered that Dawn of Two On Two Off makes thermal underwear and PJs for her kids. I did a quick search and found the local fabric store that carries Kwik Sew patterns.

This Wednesday, I bought the pattern and on Thursday I sewed a sample of the XS. It fits very well, but could maybe be a bit longer in the leg. Peter loves them. He also loves the fabric I bought for the "real" PJs. White knit printed with bright blue plaid on the bias. I have to keep my eye out for printed knit that is boy-appropriate, but not camo (we don't do camo at our house) and speaks to me of children and the silliness that is PJs.

Phew! Now I need to make the "real" PJs. Lucy wants a nightgown ("Please, Mommy? You made THREE for Clara." - two were muslins), but that can wait a bit. I want a dress. Two dresses, actually. I have been busily working today on fitting a muslin of the bodice of Burda's 10-2009-119. I just washed my fabric and I need to think about cutting into it.

Deconstruct - Reconstruct

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Remember this shirt? Well, I wore it twice maybe and then decided that it really was the wrong fabric for the style (and that I didn't like the style, but more on that later). So it sat on my sewing table for a few weeks. Then one night I bit the bullet and started ripping out the stitching. I carefully detached the bodice pieces and the sleeves. I also opened a few inches on the sleeve seam and the remaining side seam.

I found I had more than enough fabric from the old bodice fronts for the new bodice pieces and a little extra to add to the bodice back to bring it up to the shoulder seams (sorry, I forgot to get a photo of that bit - although I am pretty pleased with myself). I had plenty in my stash to cut a binding piece for the new neckline edge. And voila! I now have a cute comfortable top that suits my style!

And now, thanks to Cidell, I want to make this dress. It's Burda 10-2009-119 and I don't know how I missed it before. (I would include a link to the line drawing, but Burda has yet to update their archives.) As I was walking to an appointment this morning, I realized that there is a waist seam. Boo. My "waist" is not my narrowest area and certainly not something I'd like to highlight. Here is a perfectly lovely dress from Banana Republic to illustrate what I mean.


I thought about trying to change this to princess seams, but then it hit me that it would probably be easier to simply raise the waist seam to an empire waist. What do you think? Empire waists are far more flattering on me as long as there is not so much fabric that it looks like maternity wear. I think the tucks will mitigate that. I'm heading to a fabric store to look for inspiring fabric to keep my momentum going.

Oh! and if anyone would really love to have the Jalie pattern in the top photo, I'll send it to you!

Joining the "No Poo" Crowd


Like many of you, I have been conditioned to dislike my hair and to fix it with as many products as I can manage. Luckily for me and for the health of my hair, I haven't ever been able to manage more than shampoo, conditioner, and some kind of hair goop to give it oomph and possibly wave holding power.

I have purchased cheap shampoos (Suave), expensive shampoos (Aveda), and a myriad in between (Prairie Naturals, among others). I used to wash my hair every day in the shower. Then I had tiny kids and just couldn't manage a daily shower, so David and I switched to alternating days. This was a hard go for my hair for a while. Midway through the second day I would begin to smell my hair and by the next morning, my hair was limp and stringy.

I've had friends and acquaintances all along who only washed their hair once a week or not at all, but this was never appealing to me because, though several of them had nice looking hair, these people always smelled like they hadn't showered or washed their hair. I'm just not that counter-cultural.

About two years ago, I bought my first bottles of Aveda. I loved it. The ingredients are often organic, the company supports wind power, etc. etc. And, above all, it smelled heavenly. When I finally finished those bottles, I bought larger bottles. Only I bought different Aveda shampoo. Major disappointment. But I had these huge bottles of shampoo that I had shelled out quite a chunk of money for, so instead of selling the remainder on Craigslist, I trudged ahead and continued to use the shampoo.

This past fall, I was reading a sewing blog written by someone in Japan (I have forgotten the name of the blog now), when she mentioned that she and her whole family had given up shampoo and were now washing their hair with baking soda. She said (if I remember correctly) that she was concerned about the number of plastic bottles she was throwing away/recycling.

Living in Vancouver, where living spaces are small, I am often on the lookout for how people organize their lives in other small-space places. Japan certainly fits that category. So this jumped out at me as a legitimate way to reduce the number of bottles that need to be readily accessed in our washroom. (I am going to be the parent of three teenagers in a few years - two of them girls.)

So I thought about it for a few months. Wondered when a good time would be to try to ditch my shampoo. Then NPR ran a story on the "No Poo" movement. Then S. at Academichic posted her attempts at not using shampoo. I did some research on the internet and I finally decided to wash my hair with my shampoo for the last time on December 31.

It took a few trials to work out a routine that I feel works for my hair and for my already established morning routines (which affect 4 other people), but right away, I noticed a difference! My hair stopped smelling bad. It stopped being limp and stringy.

I have a four day cycle.
On day one, I first massage my scalp in the hot shower water. Then I wash my hair with a paste made of 1 tablespoon baking soda and a little water. I start at the nape of my neck, then work up to my crown and temples, and then do the top. I do not actively scrub my hair - I scrub my scalp using the pads of my fingers. Then I rinse with hot water. I do usually blow dry my hair. Done.
On day two, I do nothing - not even shower.
On day three, I massage my scalp in the hot shower water. I can feel the oils in my hair, but instead of feeling greasy, it feels a bit more like a protective coating. I do usually blow dry my hair. Done.
On day four, I do nothing - not even shower.

The next day is day one again. I have now been experimenting with adding an additional rinse of diluted apple cider vinegar. This controls some of my flyaway little hairs, but I think that for my hair length and texture, it is unnecessary. Folks with longer or curlier hair may want to do this.

This last hair cycle, I took pictures every day for documentation. (You'll have to just believe me that my hair doesn't smell.) The collages below go from day 1 to day 4 from left to right. Please note, I still don't actively style my hair. This is just not in my skill set.

Of particular interest to me is the indoor shot on the evening of day two. This is when my hair used to begin to smell and look bad. Looks pretty good, eh?

Skirt BurdaMag 03-2009-104

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I made this skirt using a rough wool remnant that after washing shrunk, fluffed, and felted into an almost blanket-like material. It does look a bit like I am wearing a blanket - particularly in the way I wore it today, with a long shirt over the yoke, but it is warm for a knee-length skirt. It's not terribly frigid here, but wearing "shorter" skirts any time from September to April is pretty much unheard of for me.

I recently posted that wool is not a mom-of-small-children friendly fabric, but I decided to go ahead and use this wool because I think I paid all of $4 for the piece and I'm just trying out this skirt style. It finally dawned on me that I could use another fabric for the yoke (so as not to have any itchy wool near my waist), so I chose the polyester brocade. It's stiffer and slicker, which are good properties in this case. This is also my first foray into a proper lining (though I am certain I didn't do it properly), and I chose a bemberg rayon ($10/metre for lining fabric! Yikes!)

Because the pattern called for stretch fabric, I decided to cut my skirt fabric on the bias. I wanted it to have as much chance as possible to drape well. I cut the yoke on the straight grain, however. I used a fusible woven interfacing on the brocade yoke to increase the fabric's stiffness, and even purchased a lightweight boning, but I don't think the yoke needs it.

I had quite a laugh when I pin fitted the yoke pieces together and marked the new stitching line. I know I am anything but a curvy person, but this is hilarious:
The blue chalk lines are my new sewing lines based on a pin fitting. You can compare them to the pattern's stitching lines on the top two pieces. Waist? What waist? Hahahahaha!

Of course, as it turned out, I could probably take in the yoke by another inch. I don't quite know how I am going to do this yet.

I did make a few changes to the pattern. First off, I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to walk in the skirt without a slit or vent, so I scoured through my Burdas and found a skirt with a vent in the front and traced that off onto the back. This eliminated my chance to cut the back on the fold, but it gave me the chance to move the zipper from the side to the back. And since everyone has been talking about it lately, I decided to try a handpicked zipper. Here it is:

Not bad for a first go! It's not invisible, but I've never been great at hand stitching. I'll get better, but for now I am pleased that the stitching is straight and not wonky like I am certain it would have been had I tried to sew it with my machine.

My lining turned out alright also. The pattern does not include instructions for a lining, so I did the best that I could. I chose to cut the lining on the bias since I wasn't certain that I would be able to fit into the skirt otherwise. I lined the yoke (on the straight grain), which I think was a mistake. All day the skirt kept sliding around and my camisole kept riding up. The lining around my zipper looks very nice, but I have to do a little bit more work on the lining near the walking slit as it keeps peeking out.

Should I make this skirt again (and I might since it is a fairly functional skirt - wore it all day today - to the playground, too) I will remember to make a new pocket lining piece so the fashion fabric isn't doubled up on my thighs. I will also line the yoke with a quilting cotton and take the yoke in some. I have to get over my fear of making the waist too tight.

Child's Waistcoat Burda Mag 06-2009-142

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Peter specifically requested that I make him a waistcoat (buttoned vest) after seeing some in a shop. I had this pattern and since I want to make a waistcoat for myself, this made a good trial run.

He picked out his fabric. Well... that's not entirely true. I told him what kinds of fabric he could pick - otherwise he would have had bright red satin on the outside. So he ended up choosing a paisley printed corduroy and an ombre blue lining. He chose shiny black faceted buttons as well. (Vancouver is such a casually dressed place. I think it makes us all crave something a little fancy.)

The pattern went together very well. I left out the darts - Peter's belly is bigger than his chest. In fact, it was all smooth sailing until I tried to make the buttonholes. Hmmm. Does that sound familiar? Everything going well until the buttonholes? I'm beginning to think my machine just can't make a good buttonhole in anything other than quilting cotton. Bleh. I did make test buttonholes and found that I needed to run the fabric lining side up with a piece of tissue underneath the corduroy. Even so I ended up picking out two buttonholes - which was painstaking, neck breaking, eye straining work. I did manage to avoid tearing the lining fabric, but only just. If only I had more space, I would totally buy an old solid machine and one of those vintage buttonhole making devices.

Here is the collage of the waistcoat. It turned out nicely. I have no idea when he will wear it since he wears sweatpants and t-shirts fairly exclusively. Click on the collage for a larger view.

Next up, I am making this skirt for myself. I am using these fabrics:

The brocade is for the waistband/yoke and the wool I have cut on the bias for the skirt (the pattern called for stretch fabric). This wool is like a blanket. I found it in the remnant bin at Dressew. It originally had a open rough looking weave. I tossed it in the washer and dryer and it shrunk and felted a bit. Now it is spongy and soft.

This is the best photo I could come up with to show how thick the fabric is. The cut edge you see there is along the bias. It is doubled and scrunched in my hand.

Other changes to this pattern include adding a lining and adding a walking vent (slit) at the back - which also means adding a center back seam, so I am considering moving the zipper to the back as well.

Wednesday is my sewing day. I hope to get a fair bit done on the skirt!