Monday, April 30, 2007

Catching Up: guess what? more pajamas!

By this point, you may be wondering why this blog is called "earthchicknits" instead of something like "earthchick does other stuff." I promise, I have been knitting - I even bounced back from my vest disappointment and produced a small finished object. But the truth is, I have been cheating on my obsession. There were even four solid days in April that I didn't pick up the needles at all.

I can't seem to help it. It turns out I love sewing. Love the planning, love the fabric, love the cutting, love the machine, love how quickly I can finish something. (okay, I don't love making stuffed animals, I find them somewhat trickier than making clothing) The whole process kind of amazes me.

So in April, I did a few more jammie pants, because they're just so darn fun. And easy. This time, I made them for other people.

My Old Man's son, Chris, came to visit for three weeks. I took him to the fabric store and he picked out a couple of soft flannel plaids that he liked. I haven't made the second pair yet (will be shipping them to him in England at a later date), but here's the first. As you can see, I'm still not doing so great on the whole matching up patterns from front to back. I also made the stride too short, by not adding enough fabric at the top when I modified the waist. But I went back and corrected this issue. The correction doesn't look great, at least not from the inside, but it did the trick, and I think I know how to avoid the problem with future pants. This is, again, Simplicity 4380. Simple, straightforward pattern.

I couldn't possibly leave Little Buddha and Tiny Dancer out of the pajama party, especially since I initially wanted to learn to sew in order to make them clothing and, to date, had only ever made them one thing - bizarro pig costumes. The boys went with Chris and me to the fabric store, and Little Buddha picked this fabric out himself.

Isn't it darling? He liked it because it reminded him of Winnie-the-Pooh (we have the boxed set of the classic Pooh books, and all the book covers have these little bees on them). Chris and I both loved this fabric so much that I went back this week to buy more - so the two of us can have bumblebee pj pants, too! (of course mine will have lace cuffs). I'm not intentionally leaving My Old Man out of the pajama parade. He's just not a pj kinda guy.

But these little dudes love 'em.
pattern: Kwik Sew's Sewing for Toddlers Knit Pants
(these are not made of knit fabric, but woven; I just inadvertently chose the wrong pattern, the one without side seams, but they turned out fine)
sizing: sizing was tricky - I did a sort of hybrid between a 4T length and a 1T waist (for Tiny Dancer) and a 2T waist (for Little Buddha).
fabric: JoAnn "tossed bees - blue" for $3.49/yd. Each pair of pants used about 3/4 yard. Add in the elastic for the waist, and each pair cost me roughly $3.

Little Buddha loves showing them off. He is so proud of those bees.
I think of all the things I have ever made (knit or sewed), these little $3 pj pants have gotten the absolute best-ever reaction from a recipient. The boys ask to wear them all the time. It makes my heart smile.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Catching Up: frantic sewing, part 2

The crazed assembly of another pair of pj pants and its unfortunate ill-fitting outcome did not deter me from more late-night frenzied sewing before I left for my trip south. In fact, the last several nights before I got on the plane, I was up until 2:00am or so trying to get everything done. But in this case, I actually ended up with something that fit, and that I took on the trip. In fact, the weather was in the 80s and 90s that week, and this simple cotton top was the perfect thing.

pattern: Simplicty 4589. You know, because everyone else is doing it.
Seriously, every time I saw this shirt online it whispered, "Make me!"
So I finally did. And it won't be the last time.
fabric: cheapo cotton from JoAnn, a sort of peachypink with little rosebuds and white dots.

modifications: None, except to take it in a bit because it turns out that every Simplicity pattern I make ends up running large.
verdict: I really love it, even though it's a tad boxy. I already have some mods in mind for next time, which I think will be coming soon (but not frantically!). This was such a rush job, and it definitely shows in the details. But I was happy with it overall (it's my first shirt), and I learned a lot about basic shirt construction. This pattern comes with several variations, but this is my favorite - I always love a square neckline.

I had a really hard time getting a good shot of this blouse. My tripod has been missing for four years now (ever since we moved into our home), and My Old Man isn't particularly comfortable behind the lens (though he gamely and sweetly hangs in there for endless photo shoots whenever I ask). The top shot above is the best I could do this go-round - camera, on self-timer, stuck on the windowsill.

But Little Buddha, who is interested in nearly every hobby I have, has been begging to try my camera. I may be a fool, but today I let the little guy give it a whirl.

Not bad for a two year-old eh? It may not be a perfect shot of the top, but it's certainly my favorite.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Catching Up: frantic sewing, part 1

Fresh off the victory of making (and liking) my very first pair of pajama pants, I couldn't wait to make more. And because I am a glutton for self-imposed punishment, I set myself a deadline. I wanted, no needed, a second pair for my trip south. I had big plans for several pieces of clothing I was going to make for that trip - 2 pairs of pj pants, a spring top, and some spring pants. This was project #2 towards that end.

pattern: Simplicity 4380, again
fabric: royal blue cotton with light blue stars, from JoAnn
notions: elastic for waistband, lavender lace with tiny rhinestones
modifications: I did the waistband completely different from the pattern, using my handy Sew-U book for reference. This meant adding an inch to the waist so I would have enough to fold over for the elastic casing. In retrospect, I should've added two or three inches, because these pants are too short in the stride. After frantically putting these pants together for the trip, I didn't bring them - they were too uncomfortable. I plan to go back and rip the casing seam, add another couple of inches of fabric, and see if that helps.

Again, my favorite part is the lace cuffs, but this time I put the lace on a bit higher up than I think it should be. So when I redo the waist, I'll redo these too. Of course, without a self-imposed deadline on this project, who knows when I'll get to these again.

Even though these didn't work out in time for my trip, I am glad I made the effort. With each project I sew, I feel like I'm gaining more knowledge and confidence. I am feeling more and more comfortable with modifying patterns, which I think is a great skill to be honing. It's one of the reasons I wanted to learn to sew. My Tiny Dancer is so tiny that pants that fit him length-wise never fit his waist. It will be good for me to know how to alter clothes I buy or make new ones for him with modifications.

In the "lessons I'm not learning" department: still don't know how to accurately gauge the "available time" versus "to-do list" equation.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Catching Up: the best-laid plans

At the rate I'm going, it'll be late summer by the time I finish blogging the things I made in March and April. I've been tempted just to skip it all and move on to where I am with things now. But I know that you, gentle reader, would be sorely disappointed to miss a single bit of news on earthchick's handcrafted adventures. So here ya go.

As mentioned before, I had big plans for Easter. I come from a family that does Easter up big. My cousin (who is the same age as me) and I would get matching dresses every year. That's right. Matching dresses. And matching jewelry and shoes (oh, and the shoes would be white because, you know, Easter marks the start of the white shoe season!). And sometimes even matching Easter hats. No, I am not talking about when we were 4 years old. I'm talking about when we were 14! (basically from the time were 9 or 10 until probably late high school. Okay, maybe a little later than that. I think I remember us having matching dresses when I was 19.) Yeah, I know. Geeky much?

And my mom and aunt and grandmother would get great new dresses too (not matching!). My brother and my male cousin would both wear suits (and my dad too, but he always wore a suit). My family (mom, dad, brother, me) would take about 20 pictures of each other before we left for church. Then we would go to church. Then we'd meet up with my cousin's family at my grandmother's house for more pictures. And they happened in every conceivable configuration - the four cousins, the two female cousins, the two male cousins, my family of four, my cousin's family, all the women, some of the women, etc., etc., etc. Then we'd all get changed and have a picnic. Good times.

Well now I live in Michigan and can't do family Easters any more, but the rest of the family? They still do the same thing as we always did (minus the matching dresses for cousin and me). And every year, I still feel the urge for a new dress. And of course, I have to have sweet little outfits for my boys. My Old Man? He pretty much does like my dad always did - make do with the same old suit.

But this year, since I'm doing the Wardrobe Refashion challenge, I couldn't just go out and buy all the good stuff. I had to make it. Or make do with what I already had in my closet.

Plan #1a. For the boys:

Yellow-striped shirts with coordinated yellow and lavender vests. I intended to buy khaki dress pants from our Parents of Multiples spring sale.

Plan #1b. For me:

An Easter dress for me. (isn't that a precious little print? isn't that a precious little pattern?)

As March marched forward, I soon realized I couldn't do it all. So I scaled back my plans.

Plan #2a. For the boys: do the vests, but buy shirts to go with them. At the end of March my two-month Wardrobe Refashion pledge was over. I re-upped, but this time it was only for myself. When April 1 hit, it was fair game for me to start buying clothes for the boys. I immediately ordered two yellow gingham shirts from Lands' End and went out and got khaki dress pants from The Children's Place (there were none at the Clothing Sale).

Plan #2b. For me: forget the dress, not enough time. Simple A-line skirt from Sew-U, paired with a white Talbot's twinset I already owned. The only thing I would need to get would be shoes (allowable under the Wardrobe Refashion pledge rules). Not white, though.

I happily finished the little Easter vests, using an awesome Zimmermanesque pattern from Little Turtle Knits and some Cascade Cotton Fleece. The yarn was okay, but to work it to gauge meant a looser weaver than is probably best for it (the pattern calls for worsted weight and this is probably closer to a DK weight). Also, over time, I became less-than-thrilled with the color combo. And I made the stupid, insane decision to do the second one completely in stripes. Not only did I not like the final affect, it became a real pain in knitting, esp. once I split the front and back (the bottom is knit in the round). The stripes were three rounds each, so once I split and worked back and forth, I had to cut the yarn at the end of each stripe (rather than let it float till I needed it again, the way I'd done when I was striping in the round). It was a total pain, it slowed me down, and it was not worth the effort. Of course the boys kind of liked it because it reminded them of Piglet.

Other problems ensued. The one on the left, for Tiny Dancer, didn't fit over his head. This could be fixed with a different bind-off, I'm sure, but I haven't done that yet. The one on the right fit fine. But I tried a different bind-off (learning from my first vest). It was definitely stretchier, but it ended up causing the neck and arms to look almost ruffle-y. A very girly effect, actually. In fact, when Little Buddha tried it on, it looked more like a little t-shirt with ruffled cap sleeves than a vest. Also, given the loose weave of the yarn at this gauge, I needed to pick up more stitches for the ribbing than the pattern called for. I did that in the first vest. But in the second vest I didn't, and the looser weave of the ribbing doesn't look great. In fact, overall, the loose weave in both vests bothered me a bit. And then the coup de' grace: the yellow of the vests didn't match the yellow of the gingham shirts (which, of course, I had no way of checking when I ordered them online).

Plan #3a, for the boys. So, on Good Friday afternoon (the day after I figured out the vests were a no-go), I went back out to The Children's Place - where they happened to be having a big sale - and scored the rockin' little ensembles you've already seen. The best part? Little Buddha refused to wear the Children's Place vest I had gotten for him (it coordinates, but doesn't match, Tiny Dancer's). My Old Man said, "Aren't you glad this isn't a handknit vest he's refusing to wear?" Indeed!

It was a bummer, putting 10 days into knitting those vests that didn't work out, when there are so many other projects I want to be doing. But in the end, I was much more pleased with what they wore than I would've been with what I had originally had in mind. I still plan to fix the bind-off on Tiny Dancer's vest (which I like a LOT better than the Piglet-striped one). And maybe I'll get them little white button-down shirts to wear with the vests every now and then. Regardless, I know I'll definitely knit this fun little vest again (and maybe even figure out the calculations to make one for My Old Man). But next time - I'll be using a 100% wool, worsted weight.

I know this post is dreadfully long already, but it wouldn't be complete without flashing the humble little A-line skirt I ended up with for myself (plan #2b worked in my case). Two hours on Good Friday night and I was done - I still can't get over how fast I can sew something versus how long it takes to knit something (not that I would ever knit myself a skirt, though I have to admit that this was so smokin' I almost thought twice about that commitment).

I still love the fabric, but the skirt was kinda blah, and it just wasn't that "dressed-up for Easter" look I have been conditioned to desire. What really did it in was my new Easter shoes - little ballet flats I got from Zappos (which look great with pants but I wasn't wild about them with this skirt). Maybe if they had been white? Next time I wear the skirt, I'll probably pare it with a heel.

The whole experience reminded me all over again of how much I dislike crafting with a deadline. It was particularly inane this year, with multiple other deadlines in my non-crafting life happening at the same time. As soon as I was done with the vests and the skirts, I commenced to working on a completely non-deadlined project, just something I felt like making. And it has been so freeing. But I'll catch you up on that one some other time. I know you can't wait....

Friday, April 20, 2007

Catching Up: wee bunnies

So our Easter wasn't completely non-handmade (thanks for all your sweet comments on my little boys!). After a year of salivating over everyone else's pictures of their Wee Wonderful bunnies, I finally made my own. Three of them - one for step-grandbaby J, and one for each of my boys.

I did baby J's with free fabric I got from a freecycler - soft yellow for the front and yellow, blue, white diamond fabric (from a Peter Rabbit line) for the back. The boys were a little enchanted with him.

I was fairly pleased, too. Unfortunately, my next two attempts didn't turn out as well. Perhaps I rushed myself too much, which exacerbated my tendency towards suckiness in several critical areas: handsewing the last little bit where the stuffing goes in; sewing on pompoms, sewing on little eyes, and embroidering the already-stuffed bunny. It was still kind of fun, though.

These were made with soft leftover light blue fabric from this project (also a gift for baby J), and some free Peter Rabbit from the same freecycler. My boys are crazy about Peter Rabbit, and I thought this fabric was so cute. The above is the only pic I have of both bunnies because the boys quickly tore one of the eyes off one of them, and I've yet to repair it.

It turns out that I like the idea of making little soft toys much better than I actually like making them. Still, I was happy to have done them. And if I can ever master the fine art of sewing a stuffed animal up without it looking completely wretched, I might try again.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Catching Up: a non-homemade Easter

I had the best of plans for homemade Easter outfits for the boys and me: I was going to sew matching shirt for the boys, knit coordinated vests for them, and sew myself a dress. As March fled past by me, I eventually began to adjust my expectations. Okay, I thought, I'll buy them shirts but knit them vests; I'll sew myself a skirt not a dress, and pair it with a twinset I already own.

So I spent several days knitting vests, only to discover two things when I was done. 1) The vests did not really coordinate with the shirts I bought (the yellows were not as close a match as I had hoped). 2) The vests did not look as cute as I had hoped (this was not an issue with the pattern, which I loved, but with the yarn, which was not the right choice gauge-wise). I'll post pics and details of the vests I made in another entry. I have so much blogging (and blog commenting: bloglines = 312 posts to read!) to catch up on.

In the end, I rushed out and bought the boys entire Easter outfits on Good Friday. The upside of last minute shopping? Huge sales. [It's true that I took the Wardrobe Refashion pledge for another two months, but this time I'm only taking it for me, not for my whole family, so these purchases were legit].

I have to admit, I thought my fellas were super-cute.

Tiny Dancer sure can rock the hat, can't he?

And Little Buddha rocks the bunny glasses.

Sadly, there is no such thing as a family picture these days. I can barely get the boys to stand still together for a picture, let alone get them to hold still while two adults try to stand with them. For now, I settle for two-person shots.

me and TD

LB and me

There were actually some handmade aspects of Easter this year - the skirt for me, a couple of Easter goodies for the boys - but I'll save those for another post. I've got lots of catching up to do, blog-wise, craft-wise, and life-wise. And maybe even an admission or two to make. I'll try not to wait another 2 weeks before posting....

Monday, April 02, 2007

Southland in the Springtime

In Georgia, nights are softer than a whisper
Beneath a quilt somebody's mother made by hand

With the farmland like a tapestry passed down through generations
And the peach trees stitched across the land.
There'll be cider up near Helen by the roadside
And boiled peanuts in a bag to warm your fingers
And the smoke from the chimneys meets its maker in the sky
With a song that winter wrote whose melody lingers.
And there's something 'bout the Southland in the springtime
Where the waters flow with confidence and reason
Though I miss her when I'm gone
It won't ever be too long,
When I'm home again to spend my favorite season
(When God make me born a Yankee, he was teasin')
There's no place like home, and none more pleasin'
Than the Southland in the springtime.
- Indigo Girls

[I wasn't born a yankee, but all the rest is true! true! true!] See:

peach trees stitched across the land
(on the verge of bloom, which is always spectacular)
[and to the people driving behind me: I'm sorry if I scared you when I whipped out my camera while driving and began taking photos out of both driver and passenger windows.

My blogging silence has been because I was in Georgia for several days, on retreat. I tell you the truth, there is nothing like the Southland in the springtime. My retreat was dang good too.

This is a busy week for me, typically the busiest of my year, so I will be silent a tad more before I show a few things I've made in the last two weeks. Big thanks for the great props y'all gave me for my fun jammy pants. I have loved wearing them!

In the meantime, a few more shots of God's country.

And to those of you like me, for whom these are the holiest of days, blessed Holy Week (or Happy Passover!) to you.