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1. Fun Gift Idea: Dress Up Bunch Club

DUB-Club-2015-600x600

Saw this on Twitter and had to share! I love Wendi Gratz’s work—her book is one of Beanie’s go-to resources—and this doll + clothes pattern club such a fun idea I had to share.

You’re Invited to the Dress Up Bunch Club! – Shiny Happy World.

Join the club and on the 13th of every month you’ll get a brand new, never-seen before pattern!

The pattern in January will be for a new Dress Up Bunch doll (a human girl).

Every month after that for the rest of the year, the pattern will be for an outfit and some accessory (or accessories) to go with the doll. I don’t know what they’ll be yet (though I have some ideas) but at least some of them will tie in to seasons or holidays.

You’ll receive the pattern by email. You can start sewing that very day!

This isn’t an affiliate link or sponsored post, just a gift idea I thought some of you might enjoy. :)

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2. Making Peg Dolls & More – a very satisfying craft book for families

Making Peg Dolls & More: Toys that spin, fly and bring sweet dreams is a second book by Margaret Bloom full of ideas about how to make the most delightful peg dolls.

pegdolls

Like many families, now we’re in the run up to Christmas, we’re spending time getting crafty together, making presents and decorations, and this book has given us hours of delight. Full of ideas about how to customise wooden peg dolls into adorable characters, Bloom also provides lots of tutorials for how to use your peg dolls in innovative ways, such as in mobiles, wands, wall hangings and pincushion embellishments.

Super clear and friendly instructions, made beautiful and even easier to follow by the inclusion of simple but beautiful watercolour illustrations along with many photos of all sorts of children making and playing with peg dolls made sure this book really appealed to my kids as soon as they set eyes on it.

That the instructions are easy to follow and result in items which the kids are really proud of was clearly demonstrated by the way my 9 year old, M, took the book off by herself and created her first ever felt toys:

pegdolls3

Although M was totally absorbed by herself in her sewing, as a parent I especially enjoyed Bloom’s emphasis in her instructions on how the whole family can take part in making their own peg dolls; she clearly indicates which parts even the youngest children can get involved with, and encourages us grown-ups to be involved, but also to let our kids do their own things with the dolls. This book isn’t about parents turning out coffee-table-book-worthy gorgeous ornaments (although we’re definitely encouraged to play, sew and create along side the kids); it really is about facilitating children’s exploratory play and creativity.

The book includes a list of suppliers of peg dolls, felt and one or two other items that are especially nice to use (such as artificial/millinery flower stamens) and I would heartily encourage you to gift a bundle of supplies, including some watercolours, with this book so that the recipient can dive in straight away. I’ve personally used Craftshapes for my blank wooden peg dolls in the past and they’ve always be lovely to deal with.

What we started with

What we started with

Here are some of the characters we created:

pegdolls1

pegdolls2

Whilst painting, sewing, sticking and playing we listened to:

  • Wedding of the Painted Doll, one of the hit songs from the musical “The Broadway Melody” – indeed, it reach #1 in the charts in 1929! Another version with more lyrics can be heard here.
  • The doll dance from Delibe’s ballet Coppélia
  • Come Over To My Dollhouse by Lunch Money. Whilst in some ways this is a world away from the lovely peg dolls made by Bloom (which are the antithesis to Barbie, who does feature in this song), the video is enormous fun and might inspire you and your kids to make your own video for your favourite music.

  • If you want ideas about how to take things a step further with your peg dolls take a look at:

  • Using corks instead of wooden peg doll blanks. Especially good if you drink a lot of champagne…
  • Using acorns instead of wooden peg doll blanks – I really love these!
  • Turning pinecones and wooden beads into dolls – a priceless idea from Margaret Bloom herself. In fact there are lots of lovely free tutorials on Bloom’s website – I encourage you to take a look! I particularly like the bat tutorial.
  • We’ve thoroughly enjoyed Making Peg Dolls & More: Toys that spin, fly and bring sweet dreams: It is beautiful to look at and filled with enticing projects, which are both achievable and give results to delight in. It is also a book which is very proud to be just a starting point; it’s really about giving you ideas which will bloom in you and your kids’ imaginations.

    What family craft books would you recommend?

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publisher.

    3 Comments on Making Peg Dolls & More – a very satisfying craft book for families, last added: 11/25/2014
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    3. Bald Eagle Costume

    Bald Eagle Costume

    Hope you had a happy Halloween. Ours was lots of fun, and thankfully, the cold and rain held off until right when we were all ready to go in anyway.

    This year, I only made one costume, since my daughter only needed a thrifted dress for her “diva” outfit. Our son, seven, wanted to be a bald eagle. He has a thing for birds of prey. At one point it seemed his visions were never going to match up to reality, but in the end, both of us were happy with how it turned out.

    It’s made from four thrifted items: brown jammy pants (unaltered), long-sleeved brown T-shirt (sized down), brown henley shirt (cut open and scalloped for the wings), and the cut-off top of a fleece hoodie (sized down and scalloped for feathers). My son made talons made of yellow foam and cardboard. He also made the foam beak, which he attached to a pre-bought plain white eye mask. I tried to convince him to just attach a beak to the hood, but he was having none of that.

    I thought he did a great job making eagle poses here. For more semi-homemade costumes from previous years, click here.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been slog, slog, slogging through my novel rewrite. Also, enjoying the fact that Bletchley Circle has new episodes. Woo!


    7 Comments on Bald Eagle Costume, last added: 11/11/2014
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    4. Lola

    This is the time of year where things get  little stretched and a bit schizophrenic as the different categories of making collide. I'll just check in for some show and tell.
     
     
    This birdie is going into the Holiday Sale, I'm kind of attached to her...

    0 Comments on Lola as of 10/30/2014 3:07:00 PM
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    5. Low-Sew Halloween

    It’s time for the yearly round-up of costumes, in case you need some ideas. What are you dressing up as? Last year, I was the Prancercise Lady, but it’s going to be hard to top that one. The kids want to be a diva (10 year old) and a bald eagle (7 year old). We’ll probably get started on costumes this week. This always starts with a trip to the thrift store. Our costumes are of the slapdash variety—-altered rather than sewn from scratch, with not too much (okay, almost no) emphasis on perfection.

    Here are a few from years past:

    Fireman Costume

    Fireman

    Turtle Costume Front

    Turtle Costume

    Green Ninjago Costume

    Ninja (Ninjago)

    Anastasia costume

    Anastasia Romanov (Russian princess)

    Knight Costume

    Knight Tunic and Helmet

    DSC_0125

    Princess

    DSC_0399-002

    Marco Polo

    So glad to get my copy of the Budget Bytes cookbook the other day. If you haven’t yet discovered the Budget Bytes blog, you’re in for a treat. The recipes are on the simple side—weeknight friendly, for the most part, but not boring in the least. As the title suggests, the recipes are wallet-wise, but beyond that, they’re just appealing, and in many cases, less-meatarian, which I love. Also many are gluten-free or easily adaptable to GF. I checked the book out from the library and liked it so much I had to buy my own.

    Discovered another new-to-me podcast for children’s and YA lit enthusiasts. It’s called First Draft, and it’s interviews Sarah Enni conducted with authors during a cross-country road trip. Good stuff, food for thought.

    What about you? Discover anything good lately?


    1 Comments on Low-Sew Halloween, last added: 9/26/2014
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    6. Scrap Quilting with a Seven-Year-Old

    Scrap Quilt

    I actually have three patchwork projects going now. Yes, three. Yes, I have a problem.

    Hopefully more about the others soon. But this one started in the most irresistible way. I was making a bed cover for my daughter (10) when my son (7) declared he wanted a quilt, too. I told him he could look at some of my quilting books for inspiration, and he sat down and thumbed through them. He liked the Gee’s Bend book the best (is this kid good at getting brownie points or what? Gee’s Bend is my inspiration for all things quilty). Then he set about arranging my scraps into patterns.

    Scrap Quilt 2

    It’s been so fun to see what he comes up with. He’s very particular. Also fun to see what surprises come together as the patchwork grows. The way the deep orange pops, the way the blues and greens begin to blend together, the way the prints dance and change character according to their placement and size.

    Scrap Quilt

    All of these fabrics have a story. They’re bits from friends and family or pieces of other projects, some reeeeeally old.

    Scrap Quilt

    He seems to want it to be a lap quilt. For more of my patchwork projects, click here.

    Finished Call the Midwife (the book). It was very good. I especially love the stories about the nuns. Fascinating people.

     


    0 Comments on Scrap Quilting with a Seven-Year-Old as of 1/1/1900
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    7. Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & other knitting picture books

    Indulge me: Have a quick brainstorm about picture books you know for young kids which explore what it feels like to be different?

    [Go on! Play the game!]
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    Of those you’ve come up with, how many are about emotions rather than physical characteristics?

    How many of them feature humans rather than animals?

    How many of them have a boy lead character rather than a girl?

    [I came up with very few, and even then I needed help from the ever resourceful and generous Letterbox Library. Between us we came up with Oliver by Birgitta Sif, Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer and Alex T Smith, Weslandia by Paul Fleischman and Kevin Hawkes but that was pretty much it.]

    raffifrontcoverSo when Made by Raffi written by Craig Pomranz, illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain (@madgiemadge) appeared in my hands for the first time I sat up and noticed; it’s about a boy who feels he doesn’t quite fit in, for instead of football, his passion is knitting and sewing.

    Although he’s a curious and generous kid, he feels sidelined at school. Unlike most of his classmates, he doesn’t like noise and rough play. But thanks to a supportive teacher he discovers a new passion – making his own clothes. When it is time for the school play could this new skill help him gain the respect of his peers? Without giving the game away, the ending is upbeat, but also authentic. This isn’t a sugar-coated story. (For the really interesting background to the story, take a look at this article).

    This book deserves to be in every school and read in every family for a whole plethora of reasons. It’s bold, tackling gender issues that many adults might skirt around: I love Pomranz daring to use the word “girly“, and it certainly helped us talk about how being a girl interested in ‘boys’ things’ is often more accepted by society than a boy interested in ‘girls’ things’. It’s big hearted; not just the warm, loving family Raffi is part of, but also his supportive school. It shows all sorts of children playing together, with different skin colours and different physical abilities, as well as different interests. It’s a joyously inclusive book, which tackles big themes gently and playfully.

    raffiinside

    Margaret Chamberlain’s illustrations are delightful. She uses colour very cleverly to portray moods and to mirror how much more interesting – indeed colourful – the world is for a diverse range of characters; wouldn’t the world be a dull grey place if we all liked only the same things?

    A book about loneliness, respect, difference, and learning to trust your instincts even when it means you don’t follow the crowd, Made by Raffi is a vital, delightful and unusual book I urge you to share.

    M and J were recently shown how to knit by their Grandma, and reading Made by Raffi offered the ideal opportunity to practice their recently acquired skills. (Here are some Youtube tutorials we found helpful to refresh our memories of what Granny had taught us: Casting on, knit stitch, casting off.

    knitting2

    knitting1

    Having a ball of wool with lots of different colours on it was an effective tool in motivating the kids; each child would knit one or two colours and then hand the needles and ball over to the other. It gave them easy targets to aim for, and I’m sure this is partly why they completed a long scarf far more quickly than I was expecting.

    completedscarf

    Whilst knitting we’ve been listening to:

  • Lots of songs by Raffi (an Egyptian-born Canadian singer-songwriter who creates great kid-friendly music), – here’s a whole playlist on youtube.
  • The Knitting Song by Bill Oddie
  • Knitting by Arthur Askey. Massively old fashioned but a great rumble through all sorts of stitches and garments.

  • Other activities which would go well with reading Made by Raffi include:

  • Learning to finger knit. Here’s the youtube video we used to learn how to fingerknit.
  • Letting the kids embellish their own clothing. I found this the easiest/most satisfying way to let the kids have a go at making something themselves – they chose buttons they liked and sewed them onto a couple of pieces of clothing. Simple sewing but with a relatively big (and ‘real’) result.
  • Making a cloak as described in the story. Alternatively, if you can find a department store selling off curtain samples (eg in John Lewis or House of Fraser), you can pick up pretty much prepared cloaks – all you need to do is add something (eg a large hook and eye) so you can have the cloak safely stay on your shoulders as you zoom around wearing it.
  • If in a school or a library setting, making a display with images of clothes designed by men (Galliano, Versace, Gaultier for example, cut out from glossy magazines) and as the centre pieces place Made by Raffi and The Boy in the Dress by David Walliams. Whilst not for primary school kids, I’d also encourage you to read Boys Don’t Knit by T.S.Easton, a hilarious take on a teenage boy who loves to knit. Ben Fletcher and Raffi would definitely like to meet each other!

  • Other picture /illustrated books which feature knitting include:

  • Socks for supper by Jack Kent
  • Knitting Nell by Julie Jersild Roth
  • Mr. Nick’s knitting by Margaret Wild and Dee Huxley
  • Shall I knit you a hat? : a Christmas yarn by Kate Klise and M Sarah Klise
  • Derek, the knitting dinosaur by Mary Blackwood and Kerry Argent
  • Annie Hoot and the knitting extravaganza by Holly Clifton-Brown
  • Mrs. McDockerty’s knitting by Ruth Martinez and Catherine O’Neill
  • Noodle’s knitting by Sheryl Webster and Caroline Pedler
  • The knitting of Elizabeth Amelia by Patricia Lee Gauch and Barbara Lavallee
  • Knitty Kitty by David Elliott and Christopher Denise
  • The truly terribly horrible sweater that Grandma knit by Debbie Macomber, Mary Lou Carney and Vincent Nguyen
  • Carrie measures up! by Linda Williams Aber and Joy Allen
  • knittingpicbooks1

  • Pa Jinglebob, the fastest knitter in the West by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
  • Pa Jinglebob and the Grabble Gang by Mary Arrigan and Korky Paul
  • The best little knitter in the West by Sermsah Bin Saad and Samantha Cook
  • The three billy goats Fluff by Rachael Mortimer and Liz Pichon
  • The long red scarf by Nette Hilton and Margaret Power
  • It’s gone, Jac! by Rob Lewis
  • A winter’s yarn by Kathleen Cook Waldron and Deborah Turney Zagwyn
  • Love from Woolly : a lift-the-flap book of woolly gifts by Nina Michaels and Nicola Smee
  • Pelle’s New Suit by Elsa Beskow
  • Milo Armadillo by Jan Fearnley
  • knittingpicbooks2

    If you like the sound of Made by Raffi and are anywhere near Edinburgh in August, don’t miss the chance to meet author Craig Pomranz talking about his book as part of the Edinburgh Book Festival.

    Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this book from the publishers.

    3 Comments on Made by Raffi by Craig Pomranz & Margaret Chamberlain & other knitting picture books, last added: 7/2/2014
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    8. Why May Is Like December

    Tree Costume

    Well hello again! I’m sorry I’ve been away so long. It’s been a very busy month with not much promise of getting less busy anytime soon. Is it the same for you? I’m betting yes.

    I’ve decided that the end of April through May is really just December all over again, with better weather. All the end-of-year events, school testing, gift-buying obligations opportunities, etc. etc. etc. General nuttiness. With that in mind, I’m trying to give myself permission to buy some ready-to-eat meals, to not bargain-shop every last little thing, to split infinitives, and to volunteer at the school only sometimes and not for every single event.

    That said, I do love the weather, the flowers coming up, the outdoor meals, and time with extended family. Our daughter also (10) had her theatrical debut in a full-length play at our church, which was so, so fun to see. My most recent sewing project was tree costumes for the play. In the rush I forgot to take a photo of the finished costumes, but the photo above gives you an idea of the look.

    Meanwhile, I’ve been very serious about moving forward my nonfiction book and my YA novel. Nose still to grindstone! Both are going well, but I’ve got a few more goals to reach before school lets out. Wish me luck.

    Currently reading Little Failure by Gary Shteyngart. Such an interesting and funny read with a quirky, wry voice that I love. It’s a memoir detailing the author’s move from the Soviet Union to the U.S. in 1978, when he was a child. Thanks, Christina, for the loan!

    Also, listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour podcasts and now All Songs Considered and Tiny Desk Concerts.

    If you’re a kidlit person, maybe you followed the uproar over the lack of diversity at BookCon and the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign that followed on Twitter and Tumblr. One of the coolest things to come out of it was a lot of buzz for a forthcoming book by Varian Johnson, The Great Greene Heist. Billed as Ocean’s Eleven meets middle grade, it sounds like such a fun read and *bonus* has a diverse cast of characters. So excited for Varian, who is a fellow Florence, SC native (though we’ve never met in person, only virtually). I’ve read one of his previous books (My Life as a Rhombus) and was very impressed. If you want to diversify your shelves, join the #greatgreenechallenge and pre-order Varian’s book from your local bookstore.

    Hope to see you here again soon before long.

     

     

     


    0 Comments on Why May Is Like December as of 5/7/2014 5:40:00 PM
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    9. Mixed Pattern Tank Top

    Mixed Pattern Tank Top

    This was another little experiment playing around with pattern mashups. I traced a favorite T-shirt to make a pattern, then played around with the shoulder width (the original shirt had sleeves) until it felt right. I finished the arm and neck holes with a banded treatment. I especially like the floral edging with the stripey part.

    I’m pretty happy with the results, though there are plenty of imperfections. I’d like to try another using a walking foot on my machine. I think I can get a smoother finish that way.

    Unfortunately the color didn’t come out so great on these photos, so I don’t think they quite do it justice, but what can I say? There are only so many hours in a day a girl can spend on modeling, am I right?

    My nine-year-old wants to steal this shirt, so that makes me feel pretty successful. The fabrics are once again from Girl Charlee, and I love their softness and fun prints, but I’d also love to see more fabrics that are over 90% natural fibers and am willing to pay. It gets too hot so quickly around here to be wearing fabrics with a fair amount of poly. My two cents.

    Okay, back to work. I have to prepare a presentation I’m doing with some fifth graders next week about writing an early reader.

    Hope you have a great weekend. I finally have plans to see The Grand Budapest Hotel. Yippeee!

    If you want to see more of my sewing adventures/ experiments, click here.

    Colorblock Tank Top


    2 Comments on Mixed Pattern Tank Top, last added: 4/7/2014
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    10. Mixed Pattern Playdress

    Mixed Pattern Playdress

    This is one of my favorite sewing projects ever. It’s simple, was really fun to sew, and my daughter’s face just glowed when she put it on the first time. It’s just so her, but I love it, too.

    As I’ve mentioned before, she pretty much refuses to wear anything but knits. I’m always trying to find knit play dresses, and I fell in love with some from a certain British catalog that rhymes with Odin. I’m sure they would rather me write “catalogue,” am I right? Their prices are pretty steep for such simple dresses, though, and I thought, hey, I could make that! I’m kind of famous for saying that, but in this case, I actually did it.

    From the catalog, we borrowed the idea of mixing patterns (which is also a big part of my daughter’s style) and went to the half-yard clearance section on Girl Charlee. Little Miss picked out the fabrics. I tried to get her to go with a contrasting color mix, but that was a non-starter. She specified no sleeves and a higher waistline with a full skirt.

    For the bodice I traced another dress’s bodice. The skirt part is just a gathered rectangle. I used to be so scared of sewing with knits, but really, it’s not so bad once you get the hang of it. I definitely do better with slightly weightier knits. I used a regular machine (not a serger) and used zig zag, serger-ish-like, and triple stitches, depending on the seam/ application.

    For some great tutorials on knit finishes, check this and this out.

    This time, there are no booty issues (like here).

    DSC_0431-001

    For more of my sewing adventures, click here.


    4 Comments on Mixed Pattern Playdress, last added: 3/19/2014
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    11. Marco Polo and the Explorer Book

    DSC_0410-001

    At the recommendation of a friend (thanks, Catherine!) I bought Into the Unknown: How Great Explorers Found Their Way by Land, Sea, and Air for my six-year-old boy for Christmas. It’s a beauty of a book, written by Stewart Ross and illustrated by Stephen Biesty (of Incredible Cross-Sections fame). Each chapter follows a different explorer and includes a gorgeous fold out map and diagram of the explorer’s route and travel style.

    DSC_0413-001

     I highly, highly recommend it. Reading it straight through from beginning to end isn’t something my son is ready for (the text is geared toward a slightly older audience), but he likes to pick a small section for me to read at a time, and he always chooses a fold-out to study. He wants to read every label for all the parts (not unlike his fascination with Richard Scarry’s books).

    I love that feeling of just sort of soaking in the book, meandering through and getting to know it bit by bit, landing on favorite parts and coming back to them again and again on a nonlinear journey. It reminds me of my own love for the Oxford University Press story collections as a kid. Beautifully illustrated by Victor Ambrus, they were these great kid-friendly versions of the Canterbury Tales, the great ballets, and King Arthur’s tales, among others. Sadly, they look to be out of print now, but I think I’ll have to chase down some copies to have as our own. Click here for a few cover images from Victor Abrus’s website.

    I didn’t understand everything about those tales at the time, but when I re-encountered them later in school, it was thrilling to realize I already had a framework in place. The stories were familiar and felt like they were already mine. I’m always hoping to give my kids some experiences like that, and I hope Into the Unknown will be one of them.

    The elementary school had its book character parade last week, and my son wanted to dress like Marco Polo. We didn’t find a picture of him in the book, but we found an 18th century illustration online:

     We found a silk jacket at the thrift store (100% real! reversible!), along with a faux fur shrug we could use for the hat. I made the hat (two U-shaped pieces sewn along the curve) from an old T-shirt with a double-thickness of sweatshirt underneath for body. I tacked the fur band around the bottom.

    DSC_0404-001

    DSC_0399-002

    Marco Polo costume

    Since I’m working on a nonfiction children’s book myself, I have a new appreciation for just how much research goes into something like this. I can’t imagine how long it must’ve taken Mr. Ross and Mr. Biesty to create this handsome book. Bravo!

    Speaking of nonfiction for children, I just ordered a couple from my favorite local indie, Park Road Books. Amy Karol of angry chicken recommended two comic-type books, one about the presidents and another about the Greek myths: Amazing Greek Myths of Wonder and Blunder, and Where Do Presidents Come From? They sounded so good that I called up Park Road right away. I’ll be there tonight for the spring author line up, sponsored by the local chapter of the Women’s National Book Association.

    For more posts about books, click here. For more posts about costumes, click here. (Boy! I seem to make/ assemble a lot!)

    P.S. Family: I’d like to get this book (Into the Unknown) for the oldest nephews, so I’m calling dibs now. Sorry!


    3 Comments on Marco Polo and the Explorer Book, last added: 3/11/2014
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    12. Girl’s Waffle Knit Tunic

    Thermal Knit Tunic

    My girl loves knits. She’s nine now, but ever since I can remember, comfort has been her style priority. More often than not, this means knit fabrics. I really hesitate to buy her anything that’s made of wovens.

    Occasionally, though, I have trouble finding as much variety as we want. (okay, there’s Mini Boden, which I love, but I’m not in love with their prices). This tunic was an experiment that started out as a dress in my mind. Until I ran out of fabric. Actually, I think if the pattern sizing was anywhere near the mark it probably would’ve made a dress, no problem.

    I thought I’d try making a raglan T-shirt into a dress by lengthening the bottom, since raglan sleeves can be easier to deal with than the standard set-in kind. I used See & Sew B4322, which is really a pajama pattern, but that was the closest thing to what I wanted that I could find in the fabric store.

    The directions are nice and straightforward, but like I said, the pattern sizing is off by a mile. I know my daughter is slim, but she’s not far off normal store-bought sizing. We ended up with, like, six inches of ease on the sides and a Flashdance neck.

    But anyway, I made it work. I hacked off the sides, took in the shoulders, and gathered the neck (this was pre-finishing). I added a wide waistband what I had leftover, and I’m actually pretty happy with how it turned out. It’s long enough that she can wear it with leggings, which was the goal in the first place.

    I realize I could’ve done a better job with the bow pattern (I’m pretty unexperienced with patterned fabric) but Little Miss doesn’t seem to care, so I don’t, either. Next time, I think I’ll just trace clothes she already has, rather than use that pattern (though the directions are still helpful).

    The fabric came from Girl Charlee. I’ve been enjoying sewing with their fabrics. They are good quality and very reasonably priced, cute selection. If you’re a beginner with knits, I’d recommend going with medium weights. They are easier to work with. I do love these bows!

    For more of my sewing adventure, click here. Hope you have a great weekend!


    0 Comments on Girl’s Waffle Knit Tunic as of 1/24/2014 1:56:00 PM
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    13. Embroidered Wedding Portrait

    1-IMG_0516

    This is the story of a wedding gift (my contribution to it, anyway) for a dear friend. I thought you might like to see the process. The picture is of my friend Jamie and her husband, who got married last June. As a surprise to the couple, her mother asked friends and family each to complete a design on a muslin square. She collected the squares and then had them made into a patchwork quilt as a gift to Jamie and her husband.

    1789o

    Jamie and I go way back, and a big part of our friendship has been about shared words. Books, movies, music, poetry, television. We have a lot of inside jokes about obscure quotes. So I sifted through our collective “library” of shared references, looking for the perfect quote to decorate the wedding square. Nothing seemed quite right.

    When I saw the bride and groom, though, I knew nothing could be more Jamie and Jon than their fabulous wedding outfits.

    I decided to make an embroidered picture and started with the best photo I had of the event. It’s blurry but gave me a good pose to work with. I used Picasa to play with the colors and then used the “posterize” effect to get the lines of the image to show up more clearly.

    1-IMG_0516-003

    I printed the picture, traced over the lines with a Sharpie, and then transferred these to the fabric with a temporary fabric marking pen.

    Embroidery

    I like the back almost as well as the front:

    Embroidery backside

    Here’s the final:

    Embroidered Wedding Portrait

    If you’re interested in seeing more of Jamie and Jon’s wedding, click here.

    Meanwhile, I’m hard at work on my nonfiction project and just got some excellent notes on my novel from an old friend. A little sewing going on, which hopefully I can show you soon. Back to writing now!


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    14. New Year, New (ish) Projects

    Dress Shirt Quilt

    Happy New Year! Did you survive the holidays? Ours started out low key and then sped up after Christmas with the Colorado wedding of a dear friend, a couple of days of skiing, and 3 stitches in my lower lip after a minor fall.

    Don’t worry, I’m fine! Luckily, nothing was broken, so I could go right back to skiing. Actually I can only find 2 stitches now. They are not the dissolvable kind, so I don’t know if I misplaced a stitch or if I just miscounted. Hmmm…

    I’m finding, unexpectedly, that I kind of love January. Not for the weather. Who could love January weather, even in the South? But I love getting back into the routine and not having a bajillion outside actitivities to distract and exhaust me. And the days are getting just a tiny bit longer. So I’m told.

    Currently I’m back to work on my nonfiction book for elementary-aged students. I’d taken several weeks away from it while focusing on my novel, and the break has really helped clarify things. It still needs a lot of work, but I’m excited to see how far it’s come since my initial brainstorm. I’ve been getting some feedback on both projects from writer friends, which is so invigorating!

    The above picture is a sneak peek of a quilt I’m working on. It finally seems to be coming together, though it’s looking like spaghetti to me right now. For more sewing and quilting projects, click here.

    What about you? What’s inspiring you this month? Reading anything fantastic? Stay warm, folks!


    2 Comments on New Year, New (ish) Projects, last added: 1/13/2014
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    15. Gift Cloths

    Gift Wrap Cloths

    Sorry for being away so long! I hope you had a happy Thanksgiving. Ours was nice and low-key, and featured some gluten-free apple pie. There was a big to-do about who got the last pieces, and not just among the GF folks. It’s that good.

    The hubs and I also took a trip just before Thanksgiving, which I’ll have to tell you more about in another post.

    Here I wanted to show you a little holiday craft we did. Last year I made gift cloths with Christmas fabric and existing Christmas linens, but this year I decided to add to the collection by decorating and sewing up scraps of fabric I already had in my stash.

    The red and green stripe in the back left corner was made with watercolor-type fabric paints by Deka. I’ve had that paint forEVER. I tried to find a link to a place you can buy it, but it’s looking like it’s not sold in the US anymore. Bummer. It’s good stuff.

    We decorated the fabric for the center red-ribboned present with Target brand “slick” fabric paints (you squeeze the bottles to draw with them). My least favorite fabric paint ever. Really poor quality, but we made the best of it.

    The blue-ribboned gift cloth is pale pink, and we drew on it with Tee Juice markers, which are great for quick and easy projects, especially with kids. They are totally permanent, though, so, as with all of these supplies, dress accordingly.

    Lastly, on the red-spotted cloth with the dark green ribbon, we used stamps with cheap acrylic paints from Michaels mixed with textile medium. This is one of my favorite ways to paint on fabric, because mixing it yourself gives you a wide range of choices. And in the end you aren’t left with a bunch of fabric paint you may never use again.

    Below are some pre-decorated and hemmed gift cloths: a thrifted plaid tablecloth and two tea towels from Target marked down to 88¢!

    The kids loved trying to guess what all these fake presents were, the favorite by far being the pink one below that’s wrapped like candy. It’s a sack of corn meal.

    Loving this free printable nativity the kids can color themselves at Made by Joel.

    Hope to be back soon with some details of our trip.

    Gift Wrap Cloths


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    16. SkADaMo 27 ~ Merci

    caimin_thanks_RBaird1
    And so they arrived at the fay do do, over to Maman Caiman’s house. Each bringing with them, something to share. They ate till their bellies were full and they make the veiller. So much fun!

    But Maman was worried, she hadn’t heard from Papa since last he left on his trip  to N’awlins.
    “Merci pour m’svoir aide! We’re so happy you came! She said at their guest prepared to leave.

    “Merci to you, Maman Caiman!” I hope you’ve saved some pie for Papa!

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    17. SkADaMo 13 ~ zirondelles

    pierreBear

    Mais dat was one of da biggest zirondelles I ever done seen, said, Pierre Bear.

    Fo true!

    skadamobutton2013monkey220

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    18. Oxford Shirtdress

    Lisette Traveler Dress

    Here’s one of my best sewing creations yet, from this Lisette pattern (the Traveler dress). Yet another pink-ish dress!

    Lisette Traveler Pattern

    It took me a long time, but I did it! The buttonholes were the scariest part, but turns out my sewing machine salesman was right: if you practice twelve times (on the appropriate fabric) you can make them beautifully.

    I made no alterations to the pattern other than to leave off the bottom pockets and to use two different sizes for the top and bottom (aha! That’s why I have trouble fitting in store-bought dresses).

    Didn’t my kids do a good job with the photos?

    Lisette Shirt Dress

    Pattern: Simplicity 2246 by Liesl Gibson

    Fabric: pinklish oxford cloth from an open-air market in Germany

    Earrings: Ron Cravens

    Belt: Target

    Boots: Bruno Premi (no, you can’t have them!)


    14 Comments on Oxford Shirtdress, last added: 11/5/2013
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    19. Linen Colorblock Sundress

    Linen Colorblock Dress

    Here’s one of many projects that has been mostly finished for a long time. It’s finally wearable! It’s based loosely on the Burda Anda pattern, like the one I made here.

    As with my previous version, I petitified it using existing clothing as a guide. This version is color-blocked, obviously, with no sleeves. I used a top from my closet to guide armhole sizing. I lowered the waist a bit and used elastic on the inside, rather than an outer drawstring casing like the pattern calls for.

    I also used the bias tape as a facing rather than as an exposed detail. The tutorial for doing this with the Sorbetto top was very, very helpful and applicable to any number of projects. It’s not as tricky as it might sound, if you’ve used bias tape before. I’m beginning to get the hang of the bias tape thing. It’s really handy once you get used to it.

    Lastly, I made a self belt, a little wider and shorter this time than last.

    The reddish linen came from the bargain booth at the Hannover, Germany Stoffmarkt last June. The cream-colored linen was a remnant given to me by a friend. Earrings by Claire’s, circa the dark ages, and the wooden beaded necklace was a gift from my Granny a bajillion years ago. I want to say she picked it up on a trip to Israel.

    I have to say I’m pretty happy with the dress. Think I’ll wear this one a lot. I’ve almost finished another Anda-inspired dress, if I can find my sewing scissors, so hopefully I can share that soon.

    If you want to see some of my other sewing projects, click here.

    Linen Sundress


    2 Comments on Linen Colorblock Sundress, last added: 5/22/2013
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    20. Self-Dyed Silk Anda Dress

    Dyed Silk Anda Dress

    Tada! I finally worked up the nerve to finish this dress, after lots of fear over working with silk. It’s got plenty of flaws (ahem, wonky tonky hem), but I’ve gone ahead and declared it wearable because…I like it anyway. After all that work, I’m not resigning it to the closet.

    The silk (crepe?) was gifted to me by a friend who was moving. The original color, blue-grey, was a bit too pale for me, so I overdyed it (click here for before and after). That was over a year ago!

    I cut the pattern out way too big, I think overcompensating for fit issues in my first Anda, which was a wee bit snug in the booty. So then I had to cut the silk version down, but  when I finished, the sleeves stuck out in the oddest, ugliest way. I’ve since learned how to use bias tape better—-that might’ve been the problem. Great bias tape tutorial here at Collette Patterns.

    I cut off the sleeves and used the bias tape as a facing, which worked much better.

    Silk Anda Dress

    I’ve worked on the hem some since these pictures were taken, and I will keep tweaking, but I don’t know if it’s ever going to be just so. I’m okay with that. I found another tutorial at Collette Patterns about rolled hems, but it’s too late to re-do this one completely.

    I have to say, working with silk really is tricky, but I think I learned a few things, and I’d try it again. If you’re sewing with silk, another helpful resource is Sunni of A Fashionable Stitch. She offers helpful silk sewing tips here. Now I need a tutorial on ironing silk. I swear, I did iron it before these photos were taken.

    Pattern: Burda Anda, with modifications

    Sandals: gift from my friend (via Vietnam via Texas via Germany)

    Necklace: a gift from my in-laws.

    Photographers: my kids (5 and 9) Didn’t they do a great job? My primary photographer was, um, watching golf and could not be disturbed.

    For more of my sewing, check out this link. This was my third Anda, the second being a linen colorblock one. I’m sure I’ll make more Andas, but I think it’s about time for me to move on to something else.

    Have a great weekend! And oh, if you’re into Instagram, I’m finally actually using it, so you can find me there at emilysmithpearce. I’d love to see you there.


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    21. Child’s Linen Shorts

    Boy's Linen Shorts

    I had enough leftover fabric from this dress to make something kid-sized, and my boy said he’d be up for some new shorts. So many store-bought kids’ shorts seem thick and bunchy at the waist, so I thought I’d make him some that looked sharp but felt light and comfy.

    I used Made by Rae’s free basic pant pattern, which I also used to make these. I gather the pattern is no longer available in that format. Rae does, however, have a new graded pants pattern (Parsley Pants) for sale. It looks to be similar, with maybe more bells and whistles and definitely way more sizes. I have to say she does an awesome job of explaining and tutorializing, so I’m sure you’d be happy with her pattern. The original was a perfect beginner project.

    For the shorts, I followed the directions for flat-front shorts with front and back pockets. It was really so easy. The pockets were lots of fun (no, seriously, I mean that), and in the last photo you can see the lining, made out of a thrifted men’s shirt. Oops, I see threads that need trimming.

    Red Linen Shorts

    Oops again, I didn’t adjust the sizing enough. Rae’s original pattern was for 3T, and I was making them for an almost-six-year-old, so, I should’ve known better. Oh well, no harm done. I added side panels.

    Linen Shorts

    Voila! Now they fit. They must be comfy, because he wore them to play tennis the other day. I do love linen.

    For more of my sewing projects, click here.

    P.S. Currently reading Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Fascinating.

    DSC_0309-001


    2 Comments on Child’s Linen Shorts, last added: 7/24/2013
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    22. Mended Patchwork

    Stained Patchwork

    My first instinct, when I saw these stains, was to freak. No, I knew it wasn’t blood. But markers are NOT allowed in bedrooms in our house! Especially not in bedrooms furnished with handmade patchworks! Especially not with mystery markers that may not be washable!

    When I calmed down, I thought about my options. I could try to get the stains out, but with the mystery markers, there’s no telling what would happen. I saw visions of a splotchy pink stain covering half the duvet.

    I finally decided to cut them out and replace them with appliques.

    Mended Patchwork

    I like the results. I’ve been interested lately in mending that’s meant to be attractive, not invisible. Annekata has done several posts about beautiful mending, like this one. There’s a word in Japanese (wabi sabi) for the imperfect beauty of objects with a history. You’ll get the idea from this wabi sabi Pinterest page. It’s full of the most beautiful mending you’ve ever seen. I love to watch fibers age and weather.

    For more of my patchwork projects, including more pics of this one, click here.

    I’ve been working on a new dress. So far, so good, if I can just master the zipper. Crossing fingers.

    Still reading Quiet and also This One is Mine by Maria Semple. Looking forward to the Austenland movie next month!


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    23. Semi-Homemade Halloween Costumes

    Homemade Halloween Costumes

    It’s that time of year again. Time to slap together a costume or two! I thought I’d list some of our past hits as inspiration for you.

    I don’t put a lot of fuss into making costumes, but I do like them to be comfortable and reusable. My favorite method involves hacking items we find in the thrift store. It’s inexpensive, much of the sewing is already done, and the fabrics are often more comfortable than those used in store-bought costumes.

    For details on these costumes:

    Center: Turtle Costume

    Clockwise, from the top:

    Ninja (Ninjago)

    Anastasia Romanov (Russian princess)

    Knight Tunic and Helmet

    Princess

    Fireman

    One more idea for you. My niece is evidently going to be a mermaid, and I loved the look of this simple costume her mom showed me.

    I hope these inspire you. This reminds me, I have to get my kids to commit to their costumes now, too. If they had their way, they’d probably get 10 costumes and choose one at the last minute. Ha!


    0 Comments on Semi-Homemade Halloween Costumes as of 9/16/2013 1:06:00 PM
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    24. Linen Lisette Passport Dress

    Lisette Portfolio Dress

    This dress is fairly Eastery for September, but that didn’t stop me from wearing it when I finished it last weekend.

    It’s a whole lotta pink! A little girlier than I’d intended. I just can’t seem to stop picking up pink fabric.

    Linen sundress

    The pattern is the Lisette Passport Dress (Simplicity 2209) by Liesl Gibson. While it’s not a particularly intricate pattern, it’s the most ambitious one I’ve sewn so far, and I’m really happy with how it turned out. It’s not perfect, but I’m proud of the finishing work and the fitting I did. Special thanks to my friend Amy G., seamster extraordinaire, who helped me figure out how to shorten the straps after I’d already completely finished them. That was the trickiest bit.

    I had read that inserting the zipper as instructed was frustrating, so I ended up using an invisible zipper and this tutorial instead.

    Besides the zipper part, the directions are very good, better than most commercial patterns I’ve used recently.

    Pink Linen Sundress

    The linen fabric came from the fabric market in Hannover, Germany from when we lived there. Silver necklace from silversmith Gaines Kiker in Blowing Rock, NC. Silver earrings from a shop in Brookline, MA—-they’re over 10 years old so I don’t remember the name, sorry. Belt from Marshalls.

    I’m already cutting out another version of the dress—if I can just figure out how to line it.  For more of my sewing, click here.

    In other news, I’ve really been getting into my nonfiction book project. So good to feel it finally starting to gel. A hint: it has to do with fashion.

    Coming up on the blog: green beans! Craft books! All kinds of thrills.

    Linen Lisette Passport Dress


    2 Comments on Linen Lisette Passport Dress, last added: 10/13/2013
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    25. Cardboard Robots, Take Two

    Cardboard Robot

    I’m sorry to have been away so long—I’ve missed being here in this space. I’ve been very busy on my writing projects and trying to use my days to work on them. But don’t worry, I’m still here.

    My six-year-old made this robot, with just a tiny bit of help from his older sister on the hands. I love it! I think he must’ve been inspired by this robot display photo, sent to us by a friend while she was in London. The robot a continuation of the Cardboard Factory that hatched in our dining room over the summer.

    I’ve been sewing a little, trying to screw up my courage to make some buttonholes (an Achilles heel of mine) on a dress. Also, I’ve been working on another Halloween ninja costume.

    I’m a little stuck in the cooking department, having most days used my creative energy to write. But it’s got to change, because I get tired of the same old stuff. Any great fall ideas for vegetable dishes?

    On the reading front: NEWSFLASH! It’s now scientifically documented that reading literary fiction promotes emotional intelligence. Read all about it here. I understand from a psychologist friend that Eleanor Estes’ The Hundred Dresses (not mentioned in the article) was used in this study.

    I recently received Colette Sewing Handbook as a gift. I’m loving it. It’s so nicely laid out, and already there are so many little details that I’m learning about the sewing process that I never knew before. It comes with five patterns.

    In other completely random news, Trader Joe’s is giving me no money to say this, but I’ve found a couple of new-to-me great things there lately. Their Five Country Blend whole bean espresso is totally awesome, as good as Illy. And I found a Hungarian gruener veltliner wine (Floriana) that reminds us of minerally, grassy, Austrian ones we’ve had but can’t find here. In our TJ’s, it’s in the German wine section, but the shelf label is French, so it’s not so easy to find, but well, there you go. Good luck.

    Have a great weekend! Oh, and I’ve been a bit more active on Instagram and Twitter lately, so meet me there if you want to see more of what I’ve been up to.


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