Saturday, December 21, 2013

A handwritten Letter

One evening as if by magic, I found myself with my Mother and sisters K and S. My sister S, ever the wise one, told me to call my Hubbie, and let him know we were going out on a ladies evening, and he needed to pick up the kids (my two little ones) and his wife, was going out to eat (and have a few gin and tonics)

So we headed out after the kindly Sarge picked up the kids and we went to Gruene River Grill in Gruene, TX. I love that place. If you have a chance,go there. It's a a 150 year old structure on a high hill above the Guadelupe River and it's just lovely. Great food, nice atmosphere, and you can wear flip flops and eat Creme Brûlée without feeling underdressed.

After regaling the rest of the restaurant with our raucous laughter and bawdy talk of harlequin romance novels and the elderly women who love them.....we went home and on the way picked up our Mother's mail. My Mother is on every catalog and junk mail mailing list in the knows printed universe. The mail lady continually asks my Mother to get a larger mailbox, and my mother counters with she'll just add the largest trash can she can find, and that will be her mailbox, seeing as it's where it ultimately ends up. My mother's mail is often double wrapped in rubber bands to keep the 20 or so magazines, junk mail, and catalogs together.

After pulling the 5 pound stack of glossy paper out my Mother remarked how she would rather have one handwritten letter, than all the junk mail and bills and catalogs. We all agreed and I promised (remember 2 gin and tonics-) to send them all handwritten letters.

A few week later after asking them their favorite animal and flowers, and dragging out my dusty light box,I fulfilled my promise.

I had been working on some design stuff (purely for myself) and was fascinated by the illustrated drop cap. These were my attempts.

For K:
Her Favorite animals: The Secretary bird (right) and the Swallow
tailed Bee eater (left) I chose the protea (the South African
national flower) Since she lived and Loved S.A. so much.

For P:
Humming birds and Orchids were her favorite.

For S:
Chickens were her favorite, but I didn't like the
way it turned out so I tried another one.

Second Attempt for S:
Roosters and Daisy's, (her favorites) and
I liked this one better. We jokingly call it
her "BIG S ROOSTER" (say it fast and loud, it's funny I

So there you go, handwritten letters. I took a bit of license with the term "handwritten letter" but I don't think they'll mind.

I did another one for my Sister G, but forgot to scan it in before I gave it to her. It has narwhales, so she'll have to scan it in for me since, my descriptions doesn't really do it justice.


Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Nightgowns for little girls

My little goose is a wiggler. She can somehow manage to thwart Sarge's and my attempts to dress her, diaper her, keep her in one place for more than a second.

Most days and nights she's in nothing but a diaper and a t-shirt because she kicks and squirms and pajamas with legs are too demanding to put on her. She can take off leggings or pants like some sort of un-dressing Houdini.

I had tried putting her in dresses but she got her knees caught up in them when she tried to crawl. Well, guess what she's doing now....walking. Which means a whole new world of clothing and pajamas are opening up to us....or so I thought.

Almost everything for little 11 month old girls is two piece outfits, usually a tunic with leggings, or a shirt with leggings. The pajamas all have zip up or snap up legs, and again the 2 piece pajamas are all legging based. It requires two people to put her in pants or leggings. And most of the time after the diaper changing acrobatics, we just want the crying and squirming to stop.

I have pictures of myself younger than her wearing nightgowns. I guess that went out of fashion for babies. Maybe because they weren't fire retardant, or because kids are walking later. Who knows.

Me in an adorable nightgown with my baby doll.

 I found a bunch of flannel, and disney themed tricot nightgowns, but they all start at 24months or 2 T. And I tried to find 2T in an actual store, but they were just not there. I found them online but I cant try them on her that way now can I?

It's colder now, so I want to dress her in something, diapers only wont cut it, and she pulls off blankets when she sleeps.

What to do?

Sew something, obviously.

I went to Target, Belk, and Walmart. No baby nightgowns. So I found a cute long sleeve shirts at Kohls, and then went to Hobby Lobby to find some knit fabric. They had about 6 bolts of knits. Which is a shamefully paltry selection. They have 65 bolts of fleece though, so go figure. I'm guessing very few home sewers sew on knits. I couldn't find any colors that I really liked so I had some prints, and a pink knit. (which I'm not fond of)

Here's how I went about this little sewing adventure.
Buy a shirt. I went a little bit bigger than her size (12M ) and got a 18 M.
It's a waffle knit from Jumping Bean brand, in Kohls. It's a baby doll fit
which I thought would suit the idea.

Try it on your baby and measure where  the hem falls
and where you want it to be. I wanted an extra 4 inches.
(give baby something to play with or else
well, she's so wiggly)

Cut some knit fabric in double the measurement
that you needed to extend the shirt

I needed it to fall 4" lower than the hem, so I cut 9 inches
8 inches is doubled, and I added 1/2" seam allowances
Fold it over, (the folded edge will be your new hem.)

At this point I gathered my fabric at the cut edge. 
Measure agains the hem of your shirt, cut to fit the hem
measurement, and sew the sides. Pin the panel on the hem making
sure there are no gaps.
Sew with a serger, or with a zig zag or another stitch
which suits knits,
*take the pins out of your fabric BEFORE
it goes thru the serger*

When I finished the first gown I didn't like the look of it, so I took the extension off, and cut more knit, and gathered it at the unfinished ends. I like that better and then sewed the ruffled knit panel onto the hem. 
* depending on your gathers you may need double the length you had before* 

I used a zig zag the second time to attach it to the hem.

I did a few more. The last two I added ruffled woven fabrics, since
I couldn't find colors I  liked in knits to match them.

Dress your adorable baby in her nightgown/dress

Totally works as a dress too!!

So here you are, a tutorial on how to make a cute dress/nightgown from a shirt.

(All credit for the design goes to my Mom, Patti, who did this same style for me in the '80's. I have pictures of me and my 6 sisters in dresses she made from t-shirts that she added skirt onto.)


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

11 months and look who is walking

11 months

She took two steps in September. But this week, or rather the day she turned eleven months old, she started walking in earnest. She's still crawling, but it wont be long until she's running.

She pretty much already "run's the show" if you know what I mean. She likes kissing, and biting. Usually at  the same time and it's a bit painful. She has less issues with solid food (the puking thing) so that's a big plus. 

Oh my goodness she's found some attitude as well. If you don't do what she wants, screaming will ensue.

But overall, she's just so wonderfully happy. She smiles, she grins, she squeals with delight and makes everyone fall in love with her. She's just charming and lovely, just like her older brother at that age. 

Smiles, smiles and more smiles.....that's my little girl. 

Her big brother is 4 years old and is as imaginative  and affectionate as ever.

He likes helping me, when I'd rather not have help. And will refuse to help me when I truly want him too. 

Oh kids.  

He's trying so hard to keep her still....but she's just too

Great kids, great times.


Sunday, October 20, 2013

Finishing tutu's

I have finished the four tutu's I was making for the Nutcracker this year. I still have 2 volunteers working on the other 4. 

Waltz of the flowers tutu's.

Still more work to do, I need to fit them on the dancers they were made for, and add the hook and eye closures, sew the back straps in to the bodice. 

While I was perusing the internet, looking for more tutu's I came across this.....The New York City Ballet Costumer shop.

This is fabulous.

So cool. Oh how I wish I could have explored that place and picked their brains.

While looking at other tutu's; (because I may be insane) I came across some really great videos, and tutorials. As well as a great website to buy tutu's Prima Donna Tutu's. 

I just want to show you guys some of the fantastic stuff they offer.

All property of Primadonna tutu's.

Man o Man. I wish I could create something like this. 

All property of Primadonna tutu's.

They make these either custom, or you can get basic. I would have loved to buy tutus' from them but they are not kidding around. They will cost upwards of $500 a tutu. Which taking into account the work and struggle that goes into making tutu's, it would be worth it. (But out of the question for a some student ballet company's)

Well, inspiration for another day.


Monday, October 7, 2013

How to make a TUTU

In 2011 I was taking classes as Ballet New Braunfels, for exercise. I hadn't performed in a ballet since 2004, or on pointe. I tried to take ballet classes when I could because I got bored doing the elliptical and treadmill at the gym, plus, I never stopped loving to dance.

One of the dancers in the Nutcracker that year got injured, and so the director asked me to dance in her roles.

Again, I was 30 years old, hadn't danced on stage in 7 years, let alone on pointe and I foolishly said yes.

Well, that year I noticed that the costumes we were dancing in (namely the tutu's) had seen better days. They had originally been recital costumes which are really only made for one or two uses and were falling apart, and didn't fit very well. They had been used 5 years in a row, and they just weren't the kind of costumes you really need or want for a production like the Nutcracker. (You want costumes that really show off from stage, and that will hold up well to many uses) I said I would like to volunteer to help make some nicer, long lasting tutu's. Let it be known that I had only made tutu's once before. So, I went about it like a dressmaker/pattern-maker would. As opposed to  a ballet costumer would.

Last year we tackled Snow Tutu's.

Here was my idea.

The final product minus sleeves

Look better on the dancers than on my dress form. Still, I don't like
 the way I had gathered the tulle, it was expedient, but hardly the
kind of gathers you want on a tutu. Each layer should have been gathered separately,
rather than together. Lesson learned.

It was really just a constructed bodice, with an attached skirt of gathered tulle attached. Due to budget restraints, we only had maybe 6 layers of tulle gathered together, as opposed to 10 gathered separately and attached to a basque (waistband). A proper tutu is supposed to be 2 pieces, and attached later (or tacked). I hadn't done a bunch of research because I thought I knew everything already. (Spoiler alert: I did not)
They didn't really pop from stage

Costumes in 2011

Up-cycled costumes in 2012
Last year, being that I was 8 months pregnant and the due date was right before the Nutcracker, we "updated" the original pink waltz of the flower costumes, and said next year we'd tackle them from scratch.

This year, we tackled Waltz of the Flowers costumes.

Inspiration for new Waltz of the Flowers costumes.
My sketch

Finished costume

Again, this year we used the netting from the original costumes from last year, which was good due to budget, but bad because it is really stiff and gives a weird shape to the gathers. I used 6 layers of tulle above it, but that netting is just too stiff to have the fluff you usually associate with a romantic tutu. All the different colors are gathered separately, and attached to a basque, as opposed to last years tutu's.  I would have liked to have 4 layers of tulle for each color, but again, it just couldn't happen with prices. We went with two layers per color.

A tutu of this kind of construction would probably sell retail for about $300 or more. (not handmade but made in a factory) A regular recital costume would go for about $50. I was able to make these for $60 cost of materials, not including labor or design or development. I volunteered as well as some others. 

Again, this year I used a store bought pattern rather than draping my own for the bodice because why? It's there already and all I have to do is modify it a bit. I added 2 inches of overlap, for the hook and eye closures on the back, and also to allow for different size dancers each year. This is a student company so it doesn't require a certain body size. We will be making 8 this year. I went and did a step by step instruction manual that totaled at about 31 pages. With pictures and drawings. I guess I went a bit overboard but I wanted something that would be easy to follow with just a moderate amount of sewing experience, and when I am no longer able to volunteer, would be able to be followed again without my input. 

I have gotten some feedback from my volunteers about the issues with the instructions, so always, perfection is unattainable. It was nice to have a few hours to remember my designer days of constructing product packs and living in Adobe Illustrator. 

Now, I've got 3 more tutu's to construct, and miles more yards of tulle to go. I'm just glad that the temperature has dropped enough to make sewing in my garage much better. If only I could get rid of the mosquitos. 

In all the years I was sewing, my friends would jokingly call my sewing room a sweat shop. I would love to have those back, now I work in a real sweatshop, a garage, fraught with all the horrible conditions that usually come with working in an overseas sweatshop. Well, it's not that bad. But I like to whine and complain. It comes with being me I guess. 

When It comes to sewing rooms, I'm pretty lucky
because I have a space to do it. Most must just deal with
having no space at all to sew. 

Monday, September 30, 2013

Tennessee waltz Quilt


I was thinking I'd try to do a traditional quilt. I don't usually do those. I can't recall if I have ever made a traditional quilt, in traditional colors. It's a bit out of my wheelhouse.

But, this is new for me. So I did some mock-ups of some color ideas I liked. I went to designs to find the beautiful color palettes.

As you can see, it's a tennessee waltz pattern. I did some color mock-ups in Illustrator, and yes there is a way to register all the edges and make it look nice, but I didn't feel like taking the time to do that, because my daughter was eating paper, and it took some time to fish-hook the wet papery gob out of her mouth before she gagged....again.

Hmn, now that I'm looking at them all together they are all pretty boring. That must be why I don't do to many traditional quilts.

That's ok. I am doing so many tutu's for the nutcracker, that I don't really have the time to do this. At least I didn't buy the fabric and begin it, leaving it an unfinished project mucking up my sewing area. 

I've got tulle to gather, and boning to sew into bodices.

I'll have to show you guys a peek next time I blog. Ha ha, who knows when that will be?


Saturday, August 24, 2013

butterflies and hole in the barn door quilts

My little sister will be having her second child, a daughter, on tuesday. So, in prepartion for said little girl, I made her a quilt. My sis wanted to do pink, and butterflies.

So pink and butterflies she will have.

Bad lighting I know

I turned out well. I just hope it wears well. I appliquéd the butterflies on after I wonder-undered them onto the white background. 

I usually use a zigzag stitch compressed to make a nice satin appliqué border, but it stretched so badly that I tried a blanket stitch.

Then after the butterfly quilt, I other sister, let me know she had an old quilt top she had inherited for an aunt. It had been sitting in her attic for years. She asked if I could finish it, get it long arm quilted, and bound. Well, sure. I KNEW people who could finish it.

I went to the Quilt Haus to look for backing and who should be there? Kelleigh of Kell's Quilting. I grabbed some back and white gingham, and handed it all to Kelleigh, and told her let me know when it's finished. 

When I had researched the quilt pattern Google images identified it as a Hole in the Barn door pattern. I chose a black thread, all over feather meander pattern. I turned out beautifully. The binding I did myself, with mitred corners and it's a God-awful mess. MY part was messy, Kelleigh's was lovely.

Here's my sister Sully with her Attic Quilt (Hole in the Barn Door) and my son, (who must be in all the pictures.

When I had first inspected the quilt I noticed it has been a labor of love for some years. Some of it was hand pieced, some of it machine pieced, and the fabrics spanned 20 years at least.

Next on the menu, more tutu's.


Monday, August 5, 2013

Skirt a Day Sewing

So a few years ago I was slurping on a mint chocolate chip blizzard at a Dairy Queen in Salado on my way to pick up my son from his Grandparents. Then I got a call from my bestie/college roommate Nikki.

Let me add some history to this.

Nikki and I met in our Design 1 class in the School of Visual Arts in at the University of North Texas in Denton back in 2000. We bonded over the awful projects with construction paper, and the fact that our T.A. had a tendency to wear jeans with a hole in the crotch, and no underwear. One day, as he was sitting in-between us during a a critique I looked over at her. While I glanced over I noticed that our T.A. (who was sitting on the table) had a huge hole in the crotch of his jeans.

And pushing thru that hole in said crotch hole was his pink hairy scrotum.

 Immediately I started laughing in shock and terror. I was contorting my face in a battle to cover my shock and laughter and Nikki looked over and saw.  I'm not sure if she saw the T.A.'s testicles or just me having what must have looked like a facial spasm but she started laughing.

We immediately became best friends that day.  

Experiences of that kind tend to bond people.

We were both fashion design majors and then became roommates after both our dorm/apartment roommates went all weird on us. The next four years were a daze of college and crazy, sewing, fabric, and the sweat shop that was our dining room. We had other roommates, Drunk Donna, Cute Mary, Drunk Rachel and a houseful of the strangest weirdest creepiest stuff two strange art major girls could collect.

Well, after four years, she went off to New York to work for Teen People and then Seventeen and I stayed in Dallas/Denton to intern for a manufacturer.  Fast forward 6 years, I'm married with a one year old and I'm a stay at home Mom in central Texas. She's writing a book, the third of hers I think. It's all about pattern making, just like we learned in our patterning making 1 class. (Annie would be so proud)

She had almost finished writing a book. I know, a BOOK! All I had done since college was work in some jobs as a designer, and she had done something more substantial than rework a back pocket embroidery on a pair of jeans, or design 20 skorts for a department store.

She needed a favor. Could I do the re-sketch the illustrations she had already drawn?

(I did a LOT of sketching in my former design jobs. Adobe Illustrator and I were practically married. Flat sketches, technical sketches, illustrations. You name it I did it.)

 So I said yes. She even offered to PAY ME!!!

I was so excited. So when I got home from Dairy Queen, son in tow; I came back to an email and a hundred or so sketches to re-sketch in illustrator. Within two weeks I had done, hmnnnn 70-100 or so. There were some updates and reworking after the bulk were done. And it took quite a while until I heard but it's finally published!!! And I have my name as the illustrator!!!! I even got paid!!!!

I feel so........distinguished.

So here's the book that I worked on with Super Star Author Nicole (Nikki) Smith.

You can buy it here.....and also visit the publishers website here.

Or you can see Nikki's blog here.

Here are some badly taken pictures of my illustrations.

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

Add caption

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

I'm a little sad they didn't use the illustration I had done of the body measurements.

Instead they used a picture, which makes sense when you read the book. 

Property of Nicole Smith/Storey Publishing

All in All, I'm pretty pleased. And I'm super happy for Nikki. 

This makes me happy.

So go out and buy this book.