Friday, July 31, 2009

The new dress...

Well, this has been my most successful dress so far. Sophia wore it from the time that I finished to bedtime.
Confused by the material? The first dress was made as a size 3, but swallowed Sophia. The next day I made a second one, size 2. This one turned out okay, but I had the same problems with the ruffle, arrrrggghhh. It also showed the problem that I expected which was that it was somewhat hard to put on since there are no buttons or a zipper.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I know what understitching is, do you?

It has been eight or nine years now since I have either been in school or had a regular job. My life can be challenging, but usually not mentally stimulating. I can also be quite lazy, when allowed, resulting in less than stimulating activities. However, I love learning new stuff especially when that new thing is useful. So I was somewhat giddy when I learned what understitching is, why it exists, and that it is pretty easy to install. I actually learned about it yesterday during the day of hell ( Some of my frustration with yesterday came from the fact that I wanted to finish a dress for Sophia but got waylaid by a screaming kid, fire ants, and understitiching.

Now that I built it up, I bet you are dying to know what the heck I am talking about, so here is a short explanation and a link to a video example of understitching for those that may need to actually do it some day:

As some of you know when you are sewing a garment that has a lining, said lining tends to roll toward the right side of the product. Sometimes this can be cute if the lining is a contrasting fabric, but sometimes not. Well, to keep this from happening, especially around necklines and armholes, you can use understitching. All you have to do is sew the lining to the seam allowance as close to, but not on the seam. I must admit that I pressed my garment first, pressing the seam toward the lining. I like ironing before sewing, it seems to keep everything in better order that way.

That is all. Yeah for simple, but (hopefully) effective methods!

So now the dress:

The colors in the photo seem a little bit funky, but they aren't really. It is just a green bodice and ruffle and a blue body with ducks, frogs, and turtles on it. This is my first McCalls pattern (Number to be added when at a later date). Although it might have been a bit better than the Simplicity patterns that I have used, I was still confused in places.

The biggest confusion was how EXACTLY to attach the ruffle. They didn't really discuss it, so I did it my own way which left two raw edges. I read the instructions several times, but one raw edge at the top of the ruffle (see picture below) really does seem to be the intention of the pattern maker. The other raw edge was on the body of the dress under the ruffle. It never said to hem the body. So, I just did a triple zig-zag on both the upper raw edge of the ruffle and the lower raw edge of the body. It didn't say where to attach the ruffle, so I just attached 1/4" of seam allowance on the body.

There were two other problems: the size and the gathering of the ruffle. I knew the size was a little big because Sophia was actually really excited about this dress and stripped down to try it on before I even had the ruffle sewn. It looked cute, but too big around. I experimented with putting a piece of elastic, the length of Sophia's width in the back bodice between the outside and the lining. I will have to wait until tomorrow to find out if it worked.

I have found, like so many sewers before me, that gathering sucks. I don't know if you can tell in the picture above, but the gathering on the left side is almost nonexistent. The thread broke as I was trying to attach the ruffle and I was just too lazy (and, as always, too determined to get done NOW) that I did not go back and re-baste and re-gather. Other areas of the ruffle are super gathered because as I was attaching and trying to loosen some of the gather to match the skirt, but it would not loosen. I did not want to break any more thread, so I just opted for uneven ruffling.

These mistakes are why I have a hard time with the idea of selling or even giving away clothes. Do people really want clothes that have mistakes? I am excited, though, about having a sewing circle. I plan on taking this dress and the pattern to our next meeting and asking them if they can give suggestions. Maybe, if they can have some good ideas, next time I won't have so many mistakes.

Hopefully, if Sophia and Amelia cooperate, I will update with a pic of Sophia in the dress.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

My Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

As Alexander would say, "I think I'll move to Australia." My only question is: Do they have fire ants in Australia? Yes, the invasion of fire ants all over Sophia's lower half (including her ANUS, yes, that still makes me a bit queasy) was just the icing on the cake that was our day or actually our last couple of weeks.

I am afraid that our lovely little Amelia has turned into a screaming, unhappy-unless-you-are-holding-her thing that we barely know what to do with. She just doesn't eat and then turns around and screams until you feed her, like you were letting her starve. She is content playing in the floor until you dare to move (an INCH) and then she screams until you go to comfort her. And woe to those who dare to put her down when she does not want it. I don't know how to explain how I feel after a day like this, but suffice it to say, not good. After a week, in tears would be how I describe it.

Today was particularly bad with Amelia starting her mattress stomping (that and crib kicking are our alerts that she is waking) at 5:20 AM. She didn't make a verbal sound until 6:10, but who could sleep with their 9 month old kicking the mattress in the room right above them!! So I fed her and, unlike normal, put her back to bed. I knew it was a mistake, but I wanted to see if she would sleep until 7:00. She did. In fact, she slept until 8:30. The funny thing is: During that 2 hour period even though I got to take a shower AND have a nice breakfast with Sophia, I KNEW that this was going to cause problems. Well, it did. She SCREAMED from 10 to 12 for no apparent reason.

Poor Heather, our babysitter, was here while I was upstairs sewing. After 20 minutes, I came to relieve her. She and Sophia went outside to swim while I fed Amelia, hoping that that was the key. It wasn't. An hour later she was still screaming as Heather brought Sophia up so that I could see the fire ant bites. With background screaming, Sophia showed me her bites and then started screaming herself and clutching at her butt. I looked and there were two fire ants just walking around her anus. I felt so bad for her because at that point, when fire ants are biting you in your private region, even a mother's love won't help you.

Now, a couple of hours full of benadryl, food and a movie, the girls are in bed and the house is quiet. I am wondering what tomorrow this afternoon will bring and if I will be able to handle it because I am, mentally at least, exhausted.

And really, no joking...50 min. into her first nap of the day, while I am writing this, she starts to cry.

I'm off to have a beer...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two Bags and a Whale

Sophia is always asking for toys from TV shows or books rather than toys she sees at the store. For instance, she doesn't want a Max or Ruby doll, she wants a red elephant like Max has. Well, I have looked for a red elephant with no avail. Then I saw this post on Crafster ( and thought that I could make her pillow dolls of her desired toys. It just so happened that on the day that I was attempting this, she decided she wanted a blue fish. I found a whale instead and this is the result.

In true Sophia form, she did not say thanks. She said, "It's too big." Arrrgghh. If you know Sophia, you know that she is obsessed with small things. Oh well. I did promise to make a baby whale, but I got distracted with the bags.

We are on our way to Germany in the next few weeks and I wanted to make something for my friend and Sophia's Godmother, Anna. We are not going to see them this trip due to bad planning by me, but I still wanted to make her and her son, Filippo, something. I have also been wanting to try the Everything Tote from Weekend Sewing, so it was a perfect opportunity to do both. The orange bag was my mock-up. I wanted to try out the pattern first and get out a few kinks before I made it as a gift. I had also read online that it was a HUGE bag, so I wanted to try a smaller version.

As so many people have blogged about, the bag is pretty simple to put together. The shape gives it some style and makes it a bit cooler than a normal tote, but basically it is a tote and those are easy now (one class and 6 or 7 totes later). The two main problems that I found are associated with the attachment of the binding and handles.
I do not know if there was a typo in the book or what, but they instructions result in a super thick handle that caused me to break my first needle!! (I am actually pretty proud of that.) I finally had to manually sew the place where the two handles meet by turning the wheel of the sewing machine instead of using the foot pedal. This was not hard, but time consuming and my wrist actually hurt after doing this just for an inch or so on each side.
The other problem is more of just a learning experience. With the first bag I followed the instructions and along with making the handles thick, it also made it difficult to get the binding and handles over far enough on the inside to hide the seams. The picture below shows the sloppy results. I don't mind that for myself (too much), but for a gift, I think not.

So, for Anna's I decided to use the original size (and yes, it is HUGE) since in Europe one is really required to carry lots more stuff with them (It is just not as easy to run home or to your car there). I picked out the fabric to make it look summery and sort of like a beach bag. Anna is from Italy and LOVES the water. I thought using this bag even in the midst of winter might make her smile. I thought that it would be a great bag to carry bulky beach towels and toys when going to either the beach or the indoor swimming pool.

I added a bit of embroidery because I have to make use of my machine!!

I made changes to the binding and handles. I don't know how to explain it, but I will try. The instructions had one making a lined bias tape that was folded three times by the end of the project. On the bag below, I still lined the bindings and handles, but I only folded it twice. This meant that they are a bit wider and much easier to sew. It also took care of covering the inside seams since I had plenty of material to fold to the inside. As you can see at the side, I opted not to overlap the handles. I am not sure if that was a smart idea and I am contemplating sewing the two edges together, but again, it prevented me from having a super thick area to sew over.

All in all, I am pleased with both bags and the whale. I have learned some new stuff and got back into sewing. That was a bit difficult after our trip to TN. I also have to say that it is much easier to sew for others than for oneself. I like my new orange bag, but I really didn't need it. That seems to be my thought on most things. I also like that I take more time and do a better, prettier job on gifts than I do for my own things. For myself, I want to make it and make it NOW. For others, I usually have a deadline, but I also want to be proud of what they get.

That is all for now. I will post soon and share some of the pictures from our Dollywood trip.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

My First Sewing Circle

I wish that I would have gotten a picture of us all hard at work, but alas, we were so hard at work that we didn't think to take a picture of ourselves. Here is a picture of the finished product though.

The circle consisted of several moms from my mommies group: Jodi, our host and teacher, Casey, Dayna, and Melissa. We each picked out our own fabric and then made the dress according to some measurements that Jodi found on the Internet and has adapted during her last few dresses.

This little Winnie-the-Pooh dress is the first for Amelia. I made it a size 12 months, approximately. It is about 16 in. from chest to hem and 34 in. around. I tried to trim the width so that it would not swallow Amelia, but we will have to wait and see if it worked. This dress is for when she can walk, since it would be a bit hard to crawl in.

With that in mind, Amelia is trying hard to be an early walker. She continues to pull up on her crib and playpen. Here she is this morning:

She can now do this with just one hand and it doesn't seem to take as much effort. I need to lower the playpen to its lowest point, but she is so cute peeking over the top!

Back to the sewing circle...It all came about because Jodi had sewn several dresses to donate to a garage sale to benefit Iva (, Melissa's sister-in-law. We all want to help raise money for Iva's cancer treatment, so my second dress from last night will be donated. I hope that we get some other things made so that a "handmade products" link can be added to Iva's donations page. This is still just in the "we should..." phase, so we will have to wait and see. If you would like to donate before then, please do. Currently, as well as donating, you can purchase pictures by Dayna ( with 100% of the proceeds going to help Iva.

I think it is wonderful when you can do something that is fun and still help people. There seems to be a lot of that in the handmade community. I wish I had discovered this long ago. Just image what I could have done in Europe with no job AND no kids.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Fleeting Moments...

Even though I have a hard time with kids sometimes and having four of them around me constantly for five weeks tried my patience and that of my fellow parents (Sonja, Anthony, and Eric), I do realize that these moments are fleeting. Even now, Sophia seems so much older than she did just a few months ago. Amelia too, seems to be bounding towards toddlerhood, growing up so much quicker than I expect. That is why I am so thankful for Dayna who came over in June at the end of Sonja's visit to capture the chaos that is our kids. She was able to show me their smiles and happiness because all I could see at the time were messes and squabbles.

So even though it was hard to choose here are just a few of my favorites...