Did it.

“Did it!” is what Camilla proudly announces when she’s completed a difficult task, like climbing on top of a chair. And that’s exactly how I felt when I finished my sofa slipcover on Sunday evening.

New sofa slipcover.

As a friend pointed out on facebook, the gestation period of this slipcover has been only slightly less than that of our newest child. I started on the project in late September but only managed to finish the cushion covers before morning sickness derailed me. Those were quite a bit of work, however, and every time I opened the closet I could hear them whisper, You’ve done the hardest part already…you’re not going to give up now, are you?

I think that one of the big differences between making a slipcover and reupholstering is you have to draft your own pattern. With true upholstery I’m assuming that you just cut apart the old fabric and use that. But with a slipcover, you have to start from scratch and people, believe me, it’s a whole lotta work. Things that probably started as straight lines have gotten rounded and lumpy from use and you find that what should be a nice mathematical solution pulls in funny places. I spent a really, really long time working on the fit of my muslin. It’s still not perfect, but it’s as close as this non-professional, 36.5 weeks pregnant, sleep-deprived, aching, nesting woman can make it.

Another thing that took a long time was that I serged and topstitched all the seams, essentially sewing everything three times. My machine started having a few tension and stitch length issues toward the end so it’s best if you don’t look at the topstitching very carefully, but I’m hoping that it will hold up well in the wash. Because I’m sure it’s going to be washed a lot.

Anna Maria Horner velveteen cushion cover.

I also sewed two new pillow covers from some really lovely Anna Maria Horner velveteen, putting in my first invisible zippers along the way. That was also a confidence-booster (although I am just now noticing that the pillows are upside down in these photos…oops). As a side note, to keep the cost of the slipcover project down I used velcro and not zippers on the cushion covers. I was a leetle bit afraid that it might come apart loudly when we sat down for the first time, but so far so good.

As part of my nesting kick, I also put up a new white curtain rod and some brown curtains from Ikea. And I touched up the paint in the living room, which always makes everything look cleaner. The ottoman needs a removable cover since it’s getting pretty dirty,  so if baby waits longer I might be able to finish that as well. I also whipped out a new curtain for Camilla’s room, a long piece of fabric with pockets on both ends that fits over the arms of my nursing chair (which will be swapped with the living room chair when the time comes), and a little pad for Camilla’s mini rocking chair.

Camilla's rocking chair cushion.

I’m hoping that I can convince her to rock next to me and not need to climb up on my lap when I’m feeding the new baby. (Good luck, right?) The floral feedsack print matches the curtain in her room.

The back has green dots on cream and the whole thing is reversible. I’d kind of like to paint the chair ivory — don’t hate me, the finish is not in great shape and the chair itself is not particularly well made — but we’ll have to see if that actually happens.

I also finally found the perfect green rug for her room, and since it was on sale I ordered two and plan to try to stitch them together. I have been looking for a bright grassy green rug for a long time, and two small ones were cheaper and give more surface area than one big one so I figured it’s worth the risk that it might not work out.  I’ll try to take a photo after the rugs arrive since it’s been a long time since I showed y’all her nursery and it looks a lot different now than it did back in the day.

In other news, I still don’t have a computer (weep) or Photoshop (weep, weep) and Picasa is driving me batty. Does anyone know how to get it to stop doing that annoying scroll thingy?? I would hate to hurl Josh’s computer across the room, seeing as it’s the only one we’ve got. I wanted to get the whole computer situation settled before the baby arrives, but I’m starting to think that she’s a little bit antsier than I had thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly happy to wait until my due date (June 20) or later. But something inside me says that I need to get ready NOW and I’m afraid to suffer the consequences if I ignore it.

So excuse me, I’ve got a little more nesting to do.

Pretty practical.

I find it almost impossible not to accumulate a stash of pretty fabric. Every once in a while I go through and purge the vintage fabrics of uncertain fiber content, the one-off pieces found on sale. But I usually have a very full shelf in my hall closet that includes everything from wool to muslin to quilting fabric. And there it sits, looking at me plaintively whenever I open the door.

Part of the problem is that many of the pieces were purchased for projects that never came to pass. Oh, but that’s for Camilla’s Thanksgiving dress! I’ll think, despite repeated evidence that Thanksgiving never seems to be a very good time for sewing dresses. It’s taken me a while to learn that (a) I shouldn’t buy fabric unless it’s for a project that’s going to happen right away and (b) when I do feel the urge to sew, I should shop my closet first. Often, it’s a pleasant surprise.

On Sunday night, as I was trying to fall asleep, I ran through my litany of future knitting projects and thought, You know, you should whip yourself up a cute little holder for your loose knitting needles. And since that thought didn’t put me to sleep, I ran through the logistics and got a pretty fair idea of what I wanted plus some rules: I must be able to finish it in one day (so I don’t get too behind on the actual knitting!) and I must use fabric from my stash. Yesterday involved 1.5 reasonable naps, so this is what I came up with.

My new knitting needle holder.

It looks a little lumpier than it was in my Sunday-night imagination, but it does the job.

I’ve got a slot for sizes 1 through 10.5 and crochet hooks on the end. Eventually I might get motivated to embroider the size numbers, but probably not. My knitting needle stash isn’t that big yet, but I know it’s going to get bigger and how’s this for some motivation to buy more needles?

The pattern is modeled on a bamboo brush holder of which I am very fond, but with the added feature of a top flap that you can velcro closed to keep everything from falling out.

I always wished that the brush-holder people had thought of that.

Oops...goofed on the top flap.

Now, I did goof on the top flap: the polka dots are supposed to show on the outside, not the muslin. But since I didn’t discover this until I had I had turned the whole thing right-side out and it was 9:00 pm and I was keeping the rules in mind, I just left it.

Given that I got this project to an acceptable state of completion, fixed Baby’s dress, and half-sewed two diaper holders, I felt like I could call it a day.

Next up — new adventures in knitting (or: why I love books on tape)

A dress for Baby.

I should clarify here at the beginning that Baby is Camilla’s doll, not her little sister. Almost anything that has vaguely human features and is between the ages of unborn and 30 is currently referred to as “baby,” even though she can also say “boy” and “girl.”

Baby is a plastic Fisher-Price doll that was graciously given to us by Camilla’s grandparents for her first birthday. She has been the object of much interest lately and gets a ride around the house several times a day in the miniature stroller I found at the Goodwill (possibly the best use of $3 I have ever made).

Now, the only problem with Baby is that she came scantily clad since she was specifically intended to be for bath time. I’m sure that this, like so many other parenting scruples, will eventually fall by the wayside, but I just don’t like naked dolls. And since Baby came with only booties, a towel, and a diaper, that’s how she inevitably ended up.

I temporarily solved the problem with an oversized pink clownsuit that I picked up for 25 cents at a yard sale, but since Baby has become popular to the point where we now take her out in public I decided that she had earned a classier set of clothing.

Baby's new dress.

So I made her this reversible dress and diaper set.

Baby's new diaper.

I ran up against a few problems along the way. First and foremost was the lack of pattern, which meant that I spent an hour tracing shapes on paper, cutting them out, holding them up to her, muttering, and tracing some more. Then, once I had finally made myself a nice pattern for a close-fitting dress, cut the fabric, and started sewing, I realized that I had overlooked two major problems: Baby has an absolutely enormous head, and her arms aren’t flexible. Gahh. No matter how I tried, that cute little bodice just wouldn’t go on. So I extended the slit at the back to the point where I can just squeak it on, and now it looks like this. :(

I intend to fix the problem by adding another velcro tab when I pull out the sewing machine next, but so far Camilla hasn’t complained. (It’s hard to tell, but I also had a problem with the flowered fabric being much thinner and stretchier than the polka dot quilting fabric on the other side. Mysteriously, the flowered side now has a bit of ruching around the waist. Oops.)

Because it’s really too chilly for a sleeveless dress right now, even in Florida, I also had pity on Baby and knit her a hat.

Baby's new hat.

I have a mini sweater half-finished on my needles, and I’m hoping to have it done by the end of the week. It’s my first sweater and will hopefully be a big confidence-booster since I’ve never done something so complicated from a pattern. But now that I’m starting to knit sweaters, I am terribly excited about the possibilities for non-plastic Babies #1 and #2, who obviously need their mother to knit them something even more than this Baby does. But I thought I’d practice on her first.

The New Sewing, part 2.

So, my sewing fervor is still in full swing and I have three new products to show & tell: two for me, one for the babe. They are a step up in complexity from the pjs (patterns! patterned fabric! lining! buttons!), but I stayed true to my rules and finished them as nicely as I could. I’ve decided to keep a scorekeeping record of my projects on a scale of 1 – 10 for future reference, making a note about things to fix next time around. So far, the scorecard looks something like this:

1. Knit longsleeve baby shirts: 7 / 10
need to use thicker ribbing, make general fit and neckline larger, and find a way to finish the ends of the serged seams

2. Knit baby leggings: 8 / 10
make waistband higher, make elastic a little tighter than I think it needs to be, and find a way to finish the ends of the serged seams

I have three new projects to add to the list, and I’ll start with the most complex:

3. Anna Maria Horner “Four Corners Nursing Top”: 6 / 10

This top is modified from the pattern in Anna Maria‘s awesome new book Handmade Beginnings. There are some really nice maternity and baby patterns in it, but the thing that first caught my eye was that she actually took the time to design a few tops for breastfeeding women. Genius! As someone who has been needing to find clothing with, um, access for 11.5 months now, I can tell you that there is a serious shortage of cute nursing gear. I feel like I’m on my way to the office in most button-front shirts and while knit shirts are usually better, you run the risk of flashing someone with a bit of blindingly white postpartum tummy. Which is about as attractive as it sounds.

Anyhow, I didn’t follow the pattern in the book exactly: I decided to join a lot of the little pieces in the front so that I ended up with just two big pieces, the band/yoke at the top and the gathered fabric at the bottom, mostly because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to match my print up exactly. I also reduced the gathering in the front and lengthened it a bit. It’s hard to tell, but the thing that makes this a nursing top is that front is basically one big panel that can be lifted up on either side since it lays on top of two side panels that wrap around you pretty securely. I reduced the gathering on the side panels as well since they can add rather a lot of bulk unless your fabric is quite thin.

[And now we come to the awkward I-need-to-take-a-photo-of-myself-in-this-shirt shots. You know, where I set up the tripod, try to settle on a not-too-dorky expression, fiddle with my new remote (which, incidentally, is MUCH nicer than setting the timer and sprinting toward the wall), and contemplate how much I need a haircut. Seeing photos of yourself is always a helpful boost to the humility levels, right?]

The front (okay).

Aha, I forgot that I also made another big modification. The front panel has to have something to keep it from fluttering up and in the original pattern it’s a set of ties. I happen to not care for ties, however. Whether you tie them in a knot or a bow, they always leave a lump in your sweater and are uncomfortable to lean back on. So I made the side ties thicker and much shorter and added a third one that wraps around that back and connects at the sides with buttons. Presto! Problem solved.

The back (good).

Alas, I am afraid that the back side is the cutest part of the shirt. Keeping rule no. 4 in mind (“make sure that the fabric is appropriate to the project and a wearable print”), I picked this totally cute Anna-Maria-meets-Jonathan-Adler cotton print out at Joann’s while it was on sale for $3.50/yard. I thought that the fabric was thin and just a teeny bit drapey, but evidently I was wrong.

The side (ugh).

I will be the first person to admit that I do not have a flat stomach, but it doesn’t stick out this much. Either I should have completely eliminated the gathers under the placket, used a much drapier fabric, or both.

I spent a long time matching up the pieces.

It pains me to say this after having spent a ridiculous amount of time carefully matching up the pattern on all my pieces, but I think this one is going in the maternity box.

At least I have a new maternity shirt to look forward to, right? (In addition to another baby.)

4. The Eugenia Kim cloche: 8 / 10

I have a little problem with hats. I often see such cute ones at the store (Liberty had some adorable sunhats at Target), but it seems that I have an enormous head because hats that aren’t stretchy very rarely fit me. One day, it occurred to me that I could actually do something about this problem and sew my own.

The Eugenia Kim + Denyse Schmidt hat.

This sunhat was based on the basic cloche pattern in Eugenia Kim’s Saturday Night Hat, a copy of which was kindly sent to me by a friend. To make sure that it fit my giant noggin, however, I measured my head, divided by six, added my seam allowances, and adjusted the pattern accordingly. Oh, and I made a muslin. As a result, the fit is quite precise albeit a bit perky at the very top.

The top side is made from some polka dot Denyse Schmidt fabric from my stash and the underside is unbleached linen. The linen makes the hat a little floppier than I wanted, but since it’s a pretty beachy-looking thing I decided that’s okay.

Almost...but not quite.

Once again, I worked hard to match up the prints and I *almost* did it.  I give this an 8 / 10 for the floppiness factor and minor fit issues, but I plan to make it again out of a stiff wool for the winter and I think everything will be solved then.

Home-sewn shirt + hat.

6. Oliver + S ruffled halter: 10 / 10

I saved the best for last because I looooooove this shirt. I have been wanting to try an Oliver + S pattern for a while and am saving up for the Ice Cream Dress. In the meantime, this pattern came with the last issue of Stitch magazine, which was available at Joann’s (where I happened to have a 40% coupon and a gift card…with me, proximity and price almost always win out in the end).

Oliver + S ruffled halter.

There was one catch, however: the pattern is sized from 18 mo/2T up to a 12, but I wanted it to fit an 11 mo baby. So I cut out the pieces in the 18 mo size and then pinched 2 inches from the main body, 2 inches from the top ruffle, 3 inches from the middle ruffle, and 4 inches from the bottom one. (You could just cut it, but the pattern is a download and I’m lazy and don’t want to print it out all over again when she’s two.)

On the model.

And as a result…it fits perfectly!

The back has elastic for a nice, trim fit and an adorable tie at the nape of the neck.

So cute from the back!

I initially wasn’t so keen on the halter idea, but I just love seeing her little white shoulders. I want to eat them.

A cascade of ruffles.

The ruffles are all cut on the bias, which give them a nice drape and means that you don’t need to hem them.

This project was so successful (in my mind, at least) that it has been banished to the closet until her first birthday party, which is coming up soon.

If it gets a stain on her birthday, at least I will feel like it was for a good cause.

The New Sewing, part 1.

I don’t know why, but I caught the sewing bug a few weeks ago. I am fully aware that I have a short attention span and that my interest flits from project to project…sometimes it’s painting, sometimes it’s photography, sometimes it’s fixing things up around the house. But right now all I want to do is sew. And when I sew, I want to make clothes. Not curtains, not cushion covers, not tablecloths. Clothes.

The only problem with this is that I have not had great luck sewing clothing in the past. And it is very frustrating to stay up late finishing that dress/skirt/blouse/thing and find out, in the end, that it either screams “I made this myself” or is just so unflattering that it’s not worth wearing more than once before it is condemned to the dark recesses of the closet.

Despite my previous track record, however, I’ve decided to have another go at sewing a few bits of clothing for myself and for Camilla. To separate my current wave of enthusiasm from my previous endeavors, I am calling it The New Sewing and have established a few rules:

1. I will look through my own clothes (and Camilla’s) before sewing something from scratch to see if I already own anything that could be made more wearable through simple alterations.

2. I will sew to meet a specific need and not just for the heck of it.

3. I will not buy fabric unless I have a very specific project in mind, and I will check my current stash first to see if I can use anything I already own.

4. I will make sure that the fabric is appropriate to the project and is a wearable and flattering color or print. (I’m thinking of some specific “short sleeve plaid flannel shirt” and “blue/brown prairie print skirt” fiascos here.)

4. I will take the time to prewash the fabric, make measurements, baste seams, sew a muslin, serge the edges, and whatever else it takes to make a fully-functional garment that is designed to be washed and worn for many years.

5. I will seek out and pay for good patterns if I think they have a better chance of fitting myself or Camilla than buying cheap ones or making my own.

Well, that’s a pretty lofty list and I’ve already broken, um, a few of these. But I feel that it’s good for me to at least start with these points in mind, especially since it’s very easy for me to get an idea in the morning and want to start making it that afternoon. But good sewing really doesn’t work that way. Picking out fabric, washing it, finding a pattern, cutting it out, making adjustments, sewing and picking out seams, hand stitching buttons…all these things can be so slooooow. But I need to learn patience. And I really want to become a better seamstress, which isn’t going to happen if I just slap some fabric together and call it good. Practice doesn’t make perfect if your practice is always sloppy.

I’m now going on week two (three?) of The New Sewing, so I’m obviously running a little behind with my blog posts. But I can show you one of my first projects, which — I am proud to say — produced my baby’s first mama-made garments. Unbelievably, I had not sewn anything for Camilla thus far. Usually I find so many cute things at the thrift store or Target that I decide that it’s not worth the effort, and for really complicated clothes (jackets, jeans, button-up shirts) I still think that’s a better use of time and resources. A few weeks ago, however, we found that the babe was running low on pajamas and that gave me an idea. You see, my darling mum gave me an old and incredibly heavy serger for Christmas that was still sitting in my closet because I was strangely terrified to use it. But what better first serger project could there be than jammies? Good fit isn’t essential and no one will see them besides family. (Oh, and everyone who reads this blog.) Plus, I am predisposed to be forgiving because she just looks so cute when she wakes up with scrunchy hair that I won’t even notice a few wonky seams.

So, that’s what I did. For fabric, I went to the Goodwill on their 99 cent tag sale day and came home with a pile of extra-stretchy t-shirts. I have to say that, if you’re trying to sew baby pajamas, old t-shirts are really where it’s at. They’re pre-shrunk, they come in way more colors and patterns than the knit fabric at JoAnn’s, you can find them with a lot of different weights, softnesses, and stretchiness, and you have the option of using the existing t-shirt hems instead of sewing your own. Score!

From t-shirts to pajamas...

For patterns, I used the 90-minute shirt tutorial on Made and the baby tights tutorial on Made by Rae with a few adjustments (i.e. no feet). I wish I had made my patterns a little bigger since these fit perfectly right now and I had been hoping for something a little loose. But I can easily adjust my homemade patterns the next time around.

They look better when she wears them.

I cut out five shirts and five pairs of leggings but have only finished a few since I need to rethread my serger in black before doing the others and am therefore finishing every single project I can think of that uses white thread. These are the first ones I finished and I admit that they don’t look all that great on the table. The fabric I used for ribbing was way too thin and ended up looking really wavy after I serged it. (Side note: the only solution I could find online to this problem is to adjust the “differential feed,” but my machine is so old that I can’t do this. Do any experienced sergers out there have any other suggestions?)

The other jammies.

But, I think they look pretty cute when they’re worn by the model.

I need to make the neck opening a bit bigger next time around, but I can still squeeze the shirts over her head.

The "I don't want any" face.

See how enthusiastic she is about her new jammies?

Oops, the pants are a bit low.

I accidentally made the waist too short on this pair of leggings…oops. My baby wears lowriders.


Oh, can I also take a minute to brag about her standing prowess?

Helping mommy with the laundry.

It comes in very helpful when you want to help mommy do the laundry.

Did you SEE what was in there?

Which is evidently waaaaayyyyy more fun than she realized.

Silly mommy.

Modeling her new jams.

This is the other set I finished.

I wrapped the ribbing around the unfinished edges instead of just sewing it on top, and I think it looks a little bit cleaner.

Sounding her barbaric yawp.

I made this set from an old long-sleeved tshirt of mine and was just able to eke out both the shirt and the pants.

It’s a little hard to see, but I was able to re-use the decorative hem for the pant cuffs and shirt bottom.

Oh, and the color matches her eyes.

Pondering my camera strap.

Which are usually fixated on whatever fascinating object is dangling nearby.

Running from daddy.

Unless the foot monster is coming.

Beware the foot monster!

You think that you are fast…

He got her anyway.

…but HE is faster.

The foot monster!

And when he catches you, he will eat you up. With kisses.

New teeth.

Which makes you smile like this.

(More sewing projects to come, as soon as I can get some decent photos…)

She still sews sometimes.

I uploaded these onto Flickr a while ago and never posted them here, so it might be that everyone who reads this blog has seen them already. Sorry! Half-finished projects are the name of the game right now.

These are the Christmas scarves that I told you about a while ago…all of them are made from thrifted & felted wool sweaters and/or an Army blanket. So I guess I think of this as a recycling project of sorts. I had five girls and one guy on my list, and I tried to come up with something unique for each one.

(Please excuse the strange pensive expressions. It is very hard to know how to look when you’re trying to take pictures of yourself.)

The ruched scarf.

The Ruched Scarf.

The Victorian scarf.

The Victorian.

The kelp scarf.

The Kelp Scarf.

The double helix scarf.

The Double Helix. (You can’t tell, but the ends do twist just like DNA.)

The boy scarf.

The Boy Scarf.

The tree nymph scarf.

The Tree Nymph.

I tried to make all of the designs my own except for the last one, which is based on the fabulous scarf on the cover of Sewing Green.

I think I mentioned that I also did a lot of baby/child-present sewing. I made nine softies in all; seven of them were based off of this pattern by Wee Wonderfuls, and two were little robots that I forgot to take a photo of before they left the house. They were all very fun to make, but after doing so many I was (and still am) ready to take a break from softies. Those little arms and legs are hard to turn out and stuff.

For Catherine.

For Catherine.

For Ransom.

For Ransom.

For Ellie.

For Ellie.

For Etta.

For Etta.

For Samantha.

For Samantha.

My friend Nathalie and I have begun a little experiment where we get together every other week, pen the babies in my kitchen, and try to get some sewing done. Our inagural session went really well: my baby was fascinated by her baby and her baby was fascinated by the dog, so everyone had something to look at. The babies stayed up way to long due too the excitement and then crashed and took long naps, so we actually got something done! I finished a diaper holder for my purse that’s very handy but looks so-so since I didn’t plan my seam allowances well enough, so I don’t really want to show it here. There are a plethora of projects on my to-sew list, however, so I’m sure that something else will make the cut. (I reorganized a few closets the other day and put my sewing things in the kitchen closet, so I’m hoping I can whip out the sewing machine a little more often in the future.)

To be honest, my head has been exploding with ideas lately and my body just can’t keep up the pace. I have big projects in the works for the now-closed Etsy shop, another possible art/design adventure, some local consignment opportunities, lots of sewing and re-decorating for the apartment…it just goes on and on. I feel like half-finished projects and ideas are littered all around me at the moment. All I need is a lot of time. Oh, and money. Both of which are in short supply. Sometimes I wish that Good Ideas came at regular intervals instead of alternating between none and an avalanche.

On the baby front, Camilla has been growing like a (very pretty) weed and sprouted two teeth last week. Or was it the week before? I’ve already lost track. The teeth did not come quietly and I found myself plumbing the depths of sleep deprivation yet again. Sheesh, I think it was as bad as the newborn days. This combined with some bad sleep habits led me to believe that we needed to set some napping and nighttime goals and actually stick with them. I started a long post about this but quit because I don’t think we’ve gotten far enough for me to make any profound observations. After considering and briefly trying a variety of methods, we have landed somewhere in between Drs. Ferber and Sears…my goal is to find a sleep solution that isn’t full of crying but which leaves her in the crib. And while we have come a long way, I am REALLY looking forward to that wonderful, blissful night which must surely be in my future somewhere when I get 8 hours of sleep. In a row.

Until then, I am nodding my head a little as I watch the child roll happily around the living room. I think crawling is just around the corner, but I’ve thought that since December. Who knows…

My little elf.

I pulled out the sewing machine last week when the temperature took another little dip. Camilla and I were going to take a walk and I thought “Aha! I’ll just whip up a little hat while she naps.”

Famous last words.

Going for a walk in the fall-ish weather.

I downsized the adorable pattern from this book and used some grey knit I already had. The pattern is made for fleece and, if I were to do it again, I would definitely use that instead.

What's that, mommy? I look pretty darn cute?

You see, it turns out that my beloved sewing machine really dislikes knit. It’s just a little too slippery for the feed dogs and the tension is whacko, so my quick little project turned into a two-hour saga of missed stitches, tension adjustments, machine cleaning, needle changing, and the like. Anyone else had problems like this??

(This photo describes how I felt…)

Hurry up!

It turned out okay in the end, but the ribbons attach in the wrong places and there is no way I’m going to rip out my hard-won seams to fix it. Guess I won’t be working with knits again anytime soon.

Thank you all for the kind words and prayers for my family. I am sad that we won’t be able to go to grandpa’s funeral, but I’m working on a slideshow of his life and home that makes me feel as though I am sending a little bit of me across the miles. I am hoping I can condense many years into a fitting tribute to a man who loved and cared for us very much.

Woman has new sewing machine…

…feels that she can accomplish anything.

This would be the headline for my day yesterday. After trying with mixed success to clean the apartment, work on lesson plans, etc., I gave in and spent the entire day sewing. Result: four new pillow covers, a gumdrop pillow, and a new curtain for the bedroom. Not bad, eh?

I can blame the sewing frenzy on my first project, a little pillow for Bean’s crate. She has been sleeping on a ratty old towel for some time so something soft and pretty was in order.

A pillow for the Beans.

The fabric came from a little quilt shop in Bellevue, WA, I think. And now that I’m looking at it, I vaguely remember that half of it technically belongs to my mum (sorry mom!). But isn’t it bright and pretty? And wouldn’t the leftovers make a cute little girl’s dress…?


Because my new machine has some embroidery stitches, it was absolutely essential to try one out and add a scalloped edge. I am sure that Sabina appreciates my attention to detail.

Nice and squishy.

At least I got the level of squishyness right.

So, fueled by the success of the dog pillow I moved on to one of my long-term goals: recover the dreadful brown-and-tan zebra print pillows that came with our sofa.

Sewing for the living room.

Side note: as I was scrutinizing our couch prior to embarking on this project, I noticed that the left side of the couch is distinctly closer to the floor than the right side. You can see it if you look at the photo hard enough. This is VERY displeasing, especially since the salesman who sold us the sofa gave a really long spiel about quality and took all the cushions off and jumped on the springs for emphasis. I am going to see about that warrantee.

Second side note: didn’t Josh give me a lovely red knitted blanket for Christmas?

New cushion covers #1.

The pleasantly dotted fabric came from Joann’s, of all places. I was surprised to find something I liked so much there. A few days after I bought the fabric some friends and I discovered a GIANT interior decorating fabric store not too far from here, but even after wandering around for a long time I didn’t find anything that would go in our living room as well as this stuff. (See what I mean about that awful zebra print?)

New cushion covers #2.

I bought the white fabric as option b so I could swap the covers from time to time but ended up using it on a set of down pillows I bought at Ikea a while back. Since these pillows aren’t washable I added a placket and two cute buttons on the back. In doing so, I discovered that button holes — which I have always dreaded and have been known to sew by hand — are a breeze on my new machine. Seriously. You don’t even have to measure the button, you just pop it in the back of the button hole foot, move a little lever, and presto — the machine sews one that’s just the right size! This was a very liberating discovery and opens up new realms of sewing for me as I have heretofore avoided most projects involving buttons (and zippers, but I have new hope that those will be easy as well).

New gumdrop pillow.

The most complicated project of the day, however, was my Amy Butler gumdrop pillow (and even this wasn’t that hard). I won it and a few other patterns on that Decor8 inspiration board contest way back when, and this was always the one I was most keen on.

Very dotty.

My vision was to make a sort of soft ottoman to rest pregnant feet on, but this is a tad too squishy for that. I might add another bag of stuffing, or I might use it with the super-sweet chair I just scored today since it’s lower to the ground.

Isn’t it just so cute, though? Even if I didn’t get all the lines just perfect? I feel like this pattern might be really useful to make pillows for the baby’s room in the future…kind of like a bean bag, but cooler.

Tummy rub time.

Of course, all of this sewing and photo-taking was interspersed with a lot of tummy-rubbing. Husband is out of town for a while so Sabina and I are having a lot of bonding time. I think that when it’s just the two of us, she has a little memory lapse to the good ol’ days when we were sharing an adorable little apartment in Providence, RI. I do miss that place — the house was built in the 1920s and had nice molding and newly-refinished floors. Anyhow, back in the day I had no one but a dog when I came home so she got lots and lots of lovin’. She has since learned to settle for less, but I think she’s secretly pleased when she’s my “only child” again.

Not for long, little Bean.

Funny Bunny and the Polka Dot Puppy.

So my comments about “evening sickness” seem to have been unfounded…it’s now more like all-day sickness. I am calling all nausea remedies, ladies: so far I’ve heard about motion sickness bracelets, ginger pills, eating a piece of toast at 3 am so you don’t wake up with an empty stomach, and basically just trying to nibble on something all the time. I came thisclose to throwing up at church yesterday, which would have been the first time in four years (my body really really hates to throw up), which lets me know that Baby is really working some magic.


Fortunately, I only need to pull it together a couple days a week in order to teach and can spend a lot of quality time with the couch. This quality time has led to a bit of handsewing, since I don’t currently own a sewing machine and I really kinda like using a needle and thread anyway. And since my mind has been full of Baby, well…I thought I’d go ahead and get started on some little softies for the nursery.

Funny Bunny and the Polka Dot Puppy.

These are the first two members of what I hope will be a growing menagerie. I didn’t have a pattern for either of them, so I just started cutting fabric.

See Spot try to stand up.

Polka Dot Puppy is a little less successful than the bunny, as I had some trouble with the legs. I re-stuffed him after I took these photos so he can stand up on his own.

A look of surprise.

Funny Bunny is also prone to tipping over, but I think that this flaw is counteracted by his lovely long ears (which are very nice for pulling).


My stitches were pretty small, so I’m hoping that the softies will be able to handle some chewing and tugging.

Soft and squishable.

And, of course, squeezing. But we all know that it’s not just kids who like to squeeze toys.

Little buddies.

Next up: a special little pig with a curly tail.

(And a whole lot of ginger ale.)

What, she still sews?

I found out about Craftzine’s Amy Butler Sew Inspiring Contest at the beginning of February and immediately hatched a plan to sew a purse. A quick look at my fabric shelves told me that this was the time to use that favorite vintage skirt that I’ve been slowly cutting up (hey, it was made for the skinniest woman ever!) and my precious yard 1/2 yard of Amy Butler’s Chrysanthemum, picked up a year ago at a quilt store in Bellevue.

My inspired-by-Amy purse.

So I opened up the pattern, pulled out the fabric, cut my pieces, and started sewing. Things were going along swimmingly when good ol’ recruitment weekend hit and everything was put back in the craft room. This normally wouldn’t be a cause for concern, but given the poster situation I wondered a few times if I would actually be able to finish the project + take photos before the February 29 deadline. See, one of the downsides of winter — besides snow + slush + cold — is that the only time that I am home during daylight hours is on the weekend. So, if I want to take photos in natural light I have to finish the project in time to take pics before it gets dark on Sunday afternoon.

Purse lining.

Here’s the exciting part: after getting my poster turned in on Saturday morning and spending some time cleaning the apartment, I told husband that I’d be able to finish the bag by evening. And I did!

Translation = I accurately judged how long it would take me to finish a project!

Sitting up pretty.

This might not sound very momentous to you, but I am constantly tripping over the disconnect between how long I think it will take me to do something and how long it actually takes. So this is big. Very big. And I know that the main reason why it worked this way is that I actually used a pattern*, instead of deciding to make it all up myself.

*I modified it a little teensy bit, but that really doesn’t count.

Detail of purse straps.

So right now I am really, really excited about Amy Butler patterns with all their cuteness and time-saving abilities. There are a lot of great entries in the contest so I’m pretty doubtful that I’ll win, but hey — I came out with a cute new bag and a new sense of time management.

Thank you, Amy Butler.

P.S. I included some sewing descriptions, etc. with the photos in flickr, but you have to click on the image to be able to see them (if you’re interested).