Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A little back story first.

I'm not sure when it started sometime around my tenth or eleventh birthday. My mother asked me "Your birthday is on the 9th, right?" "No, Mom it's on the 8th." At first I thought she was joking, she had that kind of sense of humour. Year after year  of "Your birthday is on the 9th, right?" "No, Mom it's on the 8th." made me unsure.

So unsure that when I finally got a hold of my birth certificate I was relieved to see that it really was the 8th. 

After my 18th birthday the question only came up every few years. She'd still ask every once in awhile and I'd tell her no, it was George's birthday that was on the 9th. 

I never did find out for sure if she was joking or just had so many kids she couldn't quite remember. It was probably a bit of both. 

So Monday Pat calls me and says "Happy Birthday". We talk for a minute and I begin to suspect that he thinks it actually is my birthday. "You know my birthday was yesterday, right?' "Isn't your birthday on the 9th?"

I laughed and laughed and then explained about Mom to him. I got off the phone feeling a little better. Maybe even a lot better. I just miss Mom so much that I basically pushed through my birthday waiting for it to be over. When I least expected it was like she found a way to reach out and wish me a Happy Birthday one last time. 

What an amazing gift.

Friday, November 22, 2013

How do you take the measure of a life? Is it in the years you've lived? Is it in the money you've made? Amount of friends? Your great successes?

My mother was the seventh of eleven children. She was "raised" by a terribly abusive father and harsh and selfish mother. Despite being dirt poor, abused and sometimes abandoned she could look back on her childhood and pluck out moments of great joy and real humour. Though we knew that her childhood had been rough to say the least, we also were treated to fabulous tales of failed flight from chicken coops, snakes tucked under caps intended to terrify her mother and hilarious stories of her capers with my Aunt Carol. My mother chose to look back at the love and the light in her life as opposed to the pain and darkness. She always believed it was better to laugh than cry.

The legacy of abuse by her father stopped with her. Our mother did not hit us or belittle us. She was so opposed to spanking that one of the rare times my father swatted my bottom for saying a swear, Mom threw a rolling pin at him that narrowly missed his head, flew through a window and hit the side of the neighbours house. When we started school she told us if any teacher were to ever send us down to the office for a spanking we were instead to leave the school and go home to get her and she would take care of the matter.

She was always our champion. When any of my brothers and sisters did something wrong (I was the good child) she was always at the forefront defending us whether we deserved it or not. She always told us we were the best and smartest and wonderfullest children in the world. Not to bolster our self esteem but because she really and truly believed it.

Mom believed that family was the most important thing. She instilled in us a sense of friendship and camaraderie and "usness" that people on the outside often don't understand. "How can you work together/see each other so often and not fight? We do fight, we do get angry, we are not perfect but there are no other people in the world like my sisters and brothers. We don't always get along (although we do usually get along) but we always have each others back. It is in our best interest to work out our differences and work together. And we learned that from Mom.

She was not perfect but she did her best to fill our childhood with love, laughter and joy.

She did that for a lot of people.

Some came to sit by her side for just a moment longer. For you who held her hand, spoke to her and aided in her comfort we are ever grateful. The love that surrounded my mother in that room was like a sun to light her way.

I am so blessed to be a part of her life 

Friday, November 15, 2013

At the water's edge...

In our lives we come to places of deep and terrible waters
The banks are a treacherous and slippery slope
As we tumble in some us flail about thrashing and beating at the cold dark waves not noticing the ones who are pummeled in our panic
Others slip beneath the waves unable to fight the undercurrents that grasp and suck them down
Some foolishly believe a few deep breaths will be enough carry them safely through to the opposite shore.
Me? I am floating.
Surrounded by deep ripples and tricksome waves that plague my eyes and ears.
I have no time for flailing or drowning or gasping
I must stay afloat in this bitter brackish sea.
I must float
Soon my water wings will break and my tears will be the sea
Soon my broken heart will pour out it's endless pain
and I will cry until there are no more tears and suck in this bitter sea to make myself some more.
but not yet...for now I must float.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Home Made Halloween

Well we got Wub's Firestar costume done in time for Trick or Treat to be rescheduled. We're under a severe weather warning here. It's been raining and ick all day long. Hopefully tomorrow night will have better weather and She'll get to go to a few houses.
I finished up her mask at 1:00 in the morning last night. It's definitely flamey enough now.
I'm ridiculously happy with how it all turned out. 
I  had three other costumes to make this year. My nephew Brandon needed a bit of help with his costume for work. I was so super excited to help. 
I followed this tutorial at CraftaholicsAnonymous.
Because our costume was a wee bit larger I made a few changes. We used a queen size egg crate and the overalls were made from a twin size flat sheet. I had to sew parts of it because I didn't think the glue would hold up. Considering how quick and easy Wub's costume was I would have to say this definitely qualifies as a labour of love. There is probably 20-30 hours of work in it including having to hand sew in nearly 10 feer of velcro tape so the whole thing would close. Her advice about the aspirin and wine? I wish I could have taken it. Funny thing is I want to make an army of them next year, so it didn't break me. 
 And yes, he really is ginormous. the costume on was in the 8-9 feet tall range. To give you some perspective here is a picture of me and him together. I am 5'9" and he towers over me. 
Which brings us to my last two costumes. Both of which took less than an hour apiece to make.
Let's start with MHM's.
Basically I took a long sleeve knit shirt, (we didn't have black so this grey henley was our best option. The I took about 1/2 yard of black felt and folded it in half.. Used the shirt as a guide I eyeballed a triangle shape then traced a dinner plate along the  edge of the triangle to form the wings. I held the felt together and cut both wings at once. 
I then used a zigzag stitch to attach the wings to each sleeve and side of the shirt.  I found a bat mask I liked with a Google image search. Printed it out then traced the shape onto black foam. Cut out the mask and sewed an elastic to it. From first cut to final fit 43 minutes. That includes having to replace the needle on my sewing machine. 

For my spider costume I cut four circles out of red foam and four our of black and sandwiched a pipe cleaner in between. These are the spider eyes. I wrapped the pipe cleaners around a coffee stirrer because they were too floppy then pushed these into my bun and bobby pinned in place. My original idea had been to cover ascending sized styrofoam balls in red paint and red glitter. I was going to stack them on long wooden skewers and use them as eyes/hair ornaments. I forgot to buy the styrofoam balls so that went bye bye.

I wore a black maxi dress and a black sweater that reminded me of witchy/spider webs. A long sleeved black tee and black pants would have worked to. I thought about freezer paper stenciling a red violin on the back of my long sleeve black tee but decided against it because the shirt fits perfectly, is super comfy and is a great finish piece for a casual outfit. Not so much with a glittery red violin on the back. Also nobody got time for that. 

I measured a piece of elastic to fit snugly and comfortably below the bust. I then cut 3 pieces of black felt about 4 inches wide times the entire width of the fabric. I sewed the each strip along one edge and then trimmed close to the stitching. I threaded the elastic through one of the tubes stay stitching the elastic at each end. Then I formed the elasticised felt tube into a ring and stitched together using several passes of zigzag stitches. I the centered the two remaining tubes over this and zigzagged them down. These are the legs.

Next I took some cotton twine and tied a knot around the end of the leg I wanted to be the bottom leg. I then took the end of the felt tube and knotted it over the string to keep it secure. I eyeballed about a foot of play in the twine and tied another knot around the top leg again knotting the felt around the twine. I then eyeballed about 18 inches and tied a slipknot loop for my wrist. Lather, rinse repeat for the other side.
 All told 1 hour from cut to finish. This included breaking a sewing machine needle at the start and sewing one entire leg without any bobbin thread. (which of course required winding a bobbin and rethreading the machine) 
In the morning I put on a boat load of eye makeup, my dress and sweater, settled the belt under my bust with the legs at the back. Shoved the eyes into my bun and looped the slipknots over my wrist. Voila! Spider costume!
Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Two birds with one sewn...

It's Kids Clothes Week. I am seriously going to try to follow the rules although I am a day behind. (probably a dollar short too)

Wub is in desperate need of new pajamas. Over  the summer she had a ridiculous growth spurt. Barely 5T at the beginning of summer is now pushing her way out of size 7. What happened?

I decided to make her the Alex and Anna Winter Pajamas from Peek-a-Boo Pattern Shop. I scored a set of  yellow jersey sheets on clearance at Target and made the neckband, cuffs and leg bands from a scrap tee shirt from the striped dress I made her earlier.

The directions are fairly straightforward and the whole thing came together super quick. The only modification I made was this, a freezer paper stencil of flames.
Why pray tell would I want to freezer paper stencil flames on her pajamas?*

Because in addition to needing new pajamas Wub also needed

The Most Awesome Halloween Costume EVER.

Since she was Spiderman last year this year she wanted to be Firestar! 

One of the Amazing Friends from back in the 80's. 

The wig is an Ariel's but it's pretty perfect fit for Firestar too. I still have to finish up the mask. She's actually got a paper mask from her birthday party taped to her face for blogland's sake. The real mask for this costume is going to be much more flamier. (her word)

If I get a chance I'm going to try to make her some red duct tape boots to wear. But if I don't she'll be wearing her shiny red, shiny shoes and red socks. 

All in all it was a pretty easy project. The pattern was great, fits perfectly and went together in a snap. Gotta love it. She does. 

*Funny thing about the freezer paper stencil. Originally I was going to sew the flames out of orange and red knit scavenged from tee shirts. I had half of an orange tee that I had been saving FOREVER but when I decided to get started on her costume it was nowhere to be found. I finally gave up looking and decided to go buy some orange knit after work the next day. 

I went to bed that night and about 2:00 am I woke suddenly, sat straight up in bed and said "Paint the flames on using freezer paper idiot!" then I said "Okay thanks God for saving me from myself." and fell promptly back to sleep. The important part is, I remembered in the morning. 

Thursday, October 03, 2013

Secret Identity...or why I chose underwear to define my signature style.

When I decided I wanted to participate with the Project Run & Play sew along. I had great dreams and realistic expectations of what would happen. That I've sewn along twice is amazing to me since my sewing time is so limited.

Yes, the second sew along is a pairs of panties and yes, they took me almost no time to sew. However that is part of who I am as a sewer...sewist...sewanista? My time is limited. If I add a task to my already overflowing brain it has to be something that fits into my schedule. It has to be quick and easy so my mind doesn't go into panic mode.

Sure I do make things for Wub that take days and days to sew. I love to sew things for her that are beautiful and full of wonderful details. Which brings me to the second part of who I am when I'm sewing.

Five years ago I didn't want to sew. I hated to sew. I will pin that blame squarely on my eighth grade home ec teacher. She so thoroughly spoiled the act of sewing for  me that I forgot that I ever liked it in the first place. It took twenty two years and one amazing little girl to change all that.

One day I was perusing Etsy and came across an amazing dress. There is of course no link to show you the dress but I can remember it very clearly. It was a beautiful black and white print of gorgeous pocket watches and fobs. The bottom was a wide band of deep red and it had red straps across the shoulders. I was dumb struck with longing to own it.

Or make it. I mean I may have hated to sew but in reality this dress was two rectangles with some straps and shirring. How hard could shirring be? So I looked it up on the internet. And although all I had was a $10.00 kids sewing machine that had never been out of the package I made the trip to JoAnn's for elastic thread and remnant of fabric to see if I could pull it off. I made a test dress and it worked beautifully. I couldn't wait to try it again. I made her three of those rectangle shirred dresses before my $10.00 machine couldn't take it anymore. With no sewing machine I figured that was the end of the brief sewing madness.

Then Mr. Husband Man bought me a real machine for my birthday. Boy howdy, did I make some rectangle dresses then. Including a black and white print with a red hem and ties.
I scoured the internet for tutorials on how to make clothes that didn't require a pattern. After all it was a shorts pattern that sealed my previous hatred of sewing. So I made countless elastic waistband skirts,  shirred tops and aprons. Then I came across Charity from Indietutes fantastic instructions on how to make a peasant blouse. Not quite a pattern but it broke me out of  my comfort zone. Then I discovered her Solar Dress Pattern.  and I decided it was time to sew something from a real pattern. Her directions were so clear and the process was so painless that it made me hungry for more. 

From there I haven't looked back. I still use the internet and the wonderful resources that women and men share as an inspiration daily. I wouldn't be able to sew the things I do without Dana from Made, Charity from Indietutes. Zabet from AntiCraft. Melissa from MellySews or liZ and Elizabeth  from Simple Simon. Plus countless others who share their skills and knowledge on blogs and YouTube videos across the interwebs.

Along the way I discovered two things about myself. One is I really only enjoy sewing for Wubby. I love MHM to the ends of the earth and back but I've only ever sewn him a pair of pajama pants. Two is that the things I love most about sewing are often the things that no one sees or would notice. 

That three inch deep hem on a dress? Love it! it's a special touch that says hand made not store bought. The eensy weensy rolled hem on the bottom of a shirt? Yes, it took me forever to figure out how do it but it's the perfect way to finish of a delicate piece of sewing. Binding all of her collars on with pink bias because that's her favorite color? Making pockets from a totally unexpected fabric? Lining a school jumper with a sweet surprise? These are all things I do to show my daughter how much I love her, how much I want to give her something special and unique. Because she is special and unique and I want to celebrate that. 

One of the things that I love most about my daughter is her love (okay obsession with) Spider-man. Though I'm not really big on showcasing most licensed characters on my kid's clothing. There are a few notable exceptions. Charlie and Lola, Dr. Seuss and Spider-Man. My favorite way to give in to licensed characters? Underpants. Sure no one is supposed to see them (She is five so I have no delusions that they aren't occasionally out on view.) but it gives her a way to carry a beloved character throughout the day. 

Since they don't make Spider-Man underwear for little girls I took matters into my own hands. Now she has a unique article of clothing. A happy little secret that will hopefully remind her of how much I love her.
You can read how I transformed an ordinary tee shirt into something super here.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

An Open Letter to Mr. Stan Lee

Dear Mr. Stan  Lee,
  I've lived in your universe for nearly my entire life. As a child I loved Spider-Man. (still do) Not because he was innovative. Not because he was different than any other super hero. Because he spoke to my heart with his sense of humor and his humanity. He was the reallest super hero out there. To this day I attribute a portion of my wacky sense of humour to an overdose of Spider-Man quips as a child.

 As I got older my respect for you grew immensely. Your heroes are truly amazing. Your sense of the world is so fresh and different. The risks you take with the genre are astounding. A hero based on a spider? What?!? Are you crazy? People hate, HATE spiders. Yet we root for him. Super heroes with no secret identity? How's that supposed to work? But it's believable that these figures walk among us in celebrity.

 Your heroes have always been richly imagined and wonderfully detailed.Your female supers? Don't get me started. Not merely the copycat counterpoint to some "super" male figure but strong, complex characters that shine on their own. Fire Star, Jean Grey, Storm and The Invisible Woman are all characters I am pleased to let my daughter watch.

 As for that daughter, she loves Spider-Man too. So much that she dressed up like him for Halloween last year. So much that we have countless Spider-Man figurines, watch countless episodes of Amazing Friends and own no less than four pairs of Spider-Man jammies.

 Mr. Lee, you taught us that spiders can be heroes and that women aren't just the less interesting side of the same coin. You're the same man who had the courage to portray gay super heroes and even more courage to stand by and let them shine.

  With all your forward thinking and innovation I have one question for you Mr. Lee. Why is it that no matter how much my daughter loves Spidey and Marvel, she can't have the holy grail of licensed products? Why can't I buy my daughter Spider-Man underwear?

 If she was a little boy I would have a treasure trove of options. In fact when she was younger I did buy her boys underwear because she wanted them so desperately. I can remember exactly how unjust it felt thirty five years ago when my brother could have super hero underpants and I was stuck with Holly Hobby.

 So sure boy underwear worked to some extent. However, Wub, for all her love of Spidey, is still a pretty girly girl. Y fronts don't exactly fit her sense of style. She needs something just a touch more delicate and feminine and a bit less easy open fly.

  So Mr. Lee I only ask that you do what you do best. Innovate. Blaze new trails. Break down barriers. Go ahead, license Spider-Man for little girl panties. You might be surprised by the results. (But I won't be.)

Kristi White
Wub's Mom and long time Spider-Man fan.

That being said...
You know the tune...

Sewing mom, sewing mom does whatever a sewing mom does. Fashions panties for a girl from a printed Spidey shirt. Makes pair out of two, too small pairs of boys pants. Because...she is a sewing mom!

Forgive the rough quality of the pictures but I wanted to show just how quickly you can fashion a new pair of undies from an old tee shirt.

You will need:
An underwear pattern.  I used a free one from Ottobre "Baby Undies". The largest size just fits Wub. You could also cut apart and trace a pair that fits your kid (or you)

A tee shirt with a cool graphic
A small amount of coordinating knit fabric with good recovery. (That means it bounces back when stretched.) This can come from the graphic tee or another tee you may have cut up for some other project.

A sewing machine with a zigzag stitch and all the stuff you 'd normally need to sew. 
You do not need a serger. You do not need a double needle. I have both of these and I chose to sew this with only zigzag because it can be done. Not having "fancy stuff" shouldn't stop you from doing something new. 
(See? One needle, set to a small zigzag)
First decide which side of the panties you want to have the graphic. I wanted it on the tushy so I could preserve as much of it as possible. Fold the graphic half of the tee in half and trace (or pin) your pattern.
Once I've got the pattern traced I like to pin the folded piece to keep it from separating when I cut it out. Now cut out it out
.Do the same with your other pattern piece. It's already starting to take shape. 
Next you are going to pin your crotch pieces right sides together (graphic on the inside) and sew them with a fairly narrow zigzag stitch. Try not to tug or stretch the fabric as goes through the machine. If your machine is struggling try increasing the size of your zigzag slightly until the fabric feeds through nicely. (You might want to practice on scraps first)
Repeat with the side seams.
Now you should have something that really resembles a pair of underwear. Turn them right sides out.
Use a tape measure to measure around the leg holes and around the waistband. Cut 2 strips of knit fabric 3 inches wide by leg hole measurement. (For me this was 3x13.5) and one strip of knit fabric 3 inches wide by waistband measurement. (for me this was 3x22)

Fold the strips in half and sew ends together to form a ring.
I'm going to admit it. I was being super lazy while I was making these so I didn't iron anything. Yes, these would be nicer if I'd taken my time and pressed a few things here and there. But they're still super cute and they were super fast. Iron if you must or just fold the tubes in  half  lenghtwise to form a double layer tube. You can either pin or just hold the legband to the outside of the leg hole. Graphic now facing out.

Using the same narrow zigzag sew the legband to the leg hole. Repeat on opposite side. 
Turn legbands down. 
Attach waistband in the same manner.
You do not need to finish the interior seams because the knit will not fray. You can if you want to though.
All told, from cutting out and taping the pattern to finished undies less than hour.
Not bad...
Tune in next time when our intrepid hero...er sewing mom shows you how to make one pair of girls underwear out of two pairs of boy underwear.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The Maggie May Dress from Shwin & Shwin

 I have to be honest I wasn't 100% sure  I liked the Maggie May Tunic/Dress when I bought the pattern. I was very on the fence. Mostly because I wasn't sure I could come up with a fabric combo I would really love.

 But there was something about the pleats that whispered to me. I know, I know but I HATE gathering stuff. It's so fiddly. Frustrates me. And ever since I made myself a pleat flipper from a Jenga block, two bamboo skewers and some scotch tape I've chosen to pleat over gather whenever practical.

 There are only three pattern pieces to the Maggie May. Two multipurpose back and front pieces and a pocket. The rest is measured rectangles. So there wasn't a lot of tape this to that and line up this with that. Considering the last pattern I cut out and put together was the W Pants by Blank Slate Patterns (a fantastic pattern by the way) this was a welcome relief.

 The directions are wee bit sparse but a confident beginner could definitely figure them out. I mostly followed the directions except I put the pleats in the skirt before I sewed the skirt pieces together. One other thing I would change the next time I sew it. (And I will definitely sew it again because it looks a-mazing on Wub.) would be to attach the contrast band to the bottom before I sewed the skirt sides together.

  Because Wub is in a size that doesn't actually exist commercially I'm pretty careful to measure her before I sew something. I sewed the size six and it was spot on for sizing.

 I managed to get this sewed over three evenings. If that sounds like a long time, take into account we get home from work between 5:30 and 6:00. We cook and eat dinner, get Wub's lunch ready, do any homework she has, bathe and sometimes we pretend we care about housework. Also if I stay up past 10:00pm that's like 4:00 am in twenty year old time. So all told maybe three and a half hours. At least a half hour of that time was me picking out the same button hole four times because I kept bleeping it up.

  As for the fabric combo? I kinda feel like I knocked that one out of the park.
The linen is a fabric remnant I got at JoAnn's for maybe a dollar fifty. The floral is from a brand new (circa 1971) Canon Blossom Festival  full size sheet that I bought on Ebay. I think I paid $14 for it. I still have several yards of it left.
The back doesn't quite line up but I'm 98% sure this was a "user" error and not the pattern itself. 

 I let Wub pick out the buttons. She had the choice of deep clear green, pale yellow or these orange ones. Even though it meant a lot of buttonholes and button sewing. I think they are the perfect choice. 

You can't see it when it's all buttoned up but the second from the top buttonhole is the one I had to pick out four times. It's actually still slightly wonky but I was afraid I was going to damage te fabric if I picked out any more stitches.

And the pockets? Love them. They are perfectly sized and perfectly placed. If pockets hadn't been included I probably would have added them in a future version.

For all the wonderful and special details the Maggie May is a pretty easy sew. I will definitely be making a couple of few more.

I have quite a bit of the Blossom Festival in the pink colorway. I think it would be GORGEOUS and on trend with a navy blue top and bottom. Maybe in maxi length.

I also picture white, red piping, black maybe more red piping and black again.

I have to say I'm a weensie bit jealous of Wub. If my pattern making skills were a little stronger I'd attempt a grown up version. Oh well maybe they'll come up with a plus size version. I'd definitely buy that.

Did I mention the pleats?
And the pockets?

Yup, we love it and would absolutely recommend it.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Surprise in the middle...

As a child this was my favorite commercial EVER.

Plus I love Tootsie Pops anyway. Sweet tangy lollipops with a delightfully chewy, chocolate center. Who can resist?

So when I read that Project and Run and Play's theme for Week 2 was candy inspired. I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

I wanted something Vanellope Von Schweetz inspired. Young, sassy, stripey, modern but still incredibly sweet. In my mind I planned a pair of candy striped leggings, a fluffy tutu embellished with candy findings and raglan tee with a freezer paper stencil of a piece of hard candy wrapping across the front and side.

What does this have to do with Tootsie Pops you ask? Not much at all.

Wub's school uniform policy is pretty easy to follow. Solid colored polos or blouses with collars and sleeves and uniform style pants, capris, shorts, skorts, skirts or jumpers in khaki, black or navy.

The one thing I don't like about the uniform policy is it makes it hard to put her in something "special". (Which I know is the point.) On picture day I made her this blouse.

The beautiful piping on the peter pan collar and triangle buttons made it extra special without  breaking any school rules. I did bend them slightly with the fabric choice. It's a white on white floral ditsy print. Technically prints are not allowed but this is so subtle it reads as white until you are right up on it.
We have a lot of uniform skirts because Wub is in a size that doesn't actually exist. Size 6 and a half waist with size 5 leg length would be the perfect size. Therefore making her uniform pants is pretty necessary.

I was at JoAnn's buying some lovely navy (My favorite on her because it plays up the pink tones in her skin.) stretch twill to make Wub some uniform pants from Blank Slate Patterns W pants pattern.  When I also discovered some wonderful fabric that threw my original idea out the window.

My brain started churning. How can I make something that's so everyday, like her uniform, special? I needed to do it so Wub wouldn't have issues but that she would know about anyway. Then I set about to sneak some candy into class.

I used a vintage pattern (Butterick 5776) I bought at Goodwill for either 50¢ or a dime and proceeded to stupidly follow the directions on the pattern instead of using my own good sense. The sewing/basting rip out took roughly 3 more hours then it should have.

 I will note here. If your pattern says "Sew skirt sides together, then make pleats and baste them down, then pick out all the basting once the dress is put together, then hem." Your pattern instructions are stupid. Hem first. Then pleats. Then sew sides together. Really The other way lies madness and we don't need that now do we?

Other than that bit it went together pretty easy and I ended up with this:

But wait...

What's that peeking out? Is it...

Wise Mr. Owl?

It is. It's the sweet surprise center of Wub's uniform jumper.

And...the world may never know.