Embroidery Excitement: Baby Baskets

The latest acquisition to my closet of a craft room is a Brother Embroidery Machine.  It’s a starter machine that allows me to embroider anything 4×4″ or less, but I can make magic happen in 4 square inches, let me tell you.  I’ve been spending most of my newly acquired machine embroidery skills on baby clothes.  It basically works like this: I download a design off of etsy, fiddle around with it and add some text on my embroidery software, spray some adhesive to stick a stabilizer on my clothing item (onesie, t-shirt, hat, etc.), hoop it, transfer my design from my computer to the machine via USB, choose my colors, and then I let the machine do all the work.  20 minutes later and I have a brand new baby present.  Not bad for 20 minutes.  Since I’m all about the instant gratification, 20 minutes is a lot better than the 4-8 hours it takes me to sew a dress or blanket.  Needless to say, my latest go-to baby shower presents are all embroidered.

olivia-3-of-3-2

For all the crafters out there, I highly recommend an embroidery machine, but I don’t want to kid you- it’s quite an investment.  You need the machine, software, stabilizers, threads, bobbins, and then once you have all that, hours of time to invest in learning the darned things (thank you YouTube).  And then, after all that, you’re gonna want to upgrade your machine and spend thousands of dollars just to be able to embroider an 8×11″ area.  It’s never ending, but fun and I love it.

Here are a few of the things I’ve made so far.  The boy basket includes a few onesies for my nephew Alex (my brother is a firefighter), plus a personalized carseat canopy and ring sling.  The girl basket was for my friend D’s daughter Olivia, and includes onesies, a hat and bib set, a car seat canopy, and a ring sling.  I think every new mom loves seeing her baby’s name on something handmade, don’t you?

Olivia's basket

New baby new carrier: Easy peasy Ring Sling

Another project from:

So you may have noticed my little hiatus.  No biggie, I just took a short break to give birth to our daughter, Elliott.  Born last week, she’s perfect, and already adjusting well to her new house and new family.  Big Brother Fin is also adjusting.  He hasn’t shown a hint of jealousy, but that’s probably due in large part to the fact that Daddy has been home this past week and Griffin has been attached to his hip.

A new baby means lots of things, but most relevant to this little blog of mine are all of the new projects!  First up, a ring sling baby carrier.  This is an easy one, even for a beginner.  It took me two hours start to finish. ring-sling-1-of-1

I should probably mention that I already own two carriers.  The Baby Hawk is great for Dads and hikes, but it takes a little time to put on and can make the baby and the wearer schvitz.  Not so great for this summer heat wave.  I also own the Moby Wrap, which I wear around the house and Elliott seems comfy in it, but it’s not so great to wear outside because it also takes some finagling to get on and the baby strapped in, and the material is so long there’s no way to prevent it from dragging on the dirty ground while you’re trying to tie it.

Recently my friend M sent me a pic of her husband wearing her homemade (and totally unemasculating) ring sling while drinking a beer, along with a website that gives step by step instructions for making one yourself.  After looking online at various ring sling sites, I discovered that a ring sling is quick to put on, quick to get the baby situated, and is great for breastfeeding in public in a pinch because the baby can sit low and the “tail” covers the baby’s face (and the boobie).  After reading the instructions to sew one myself, I decided it was easy enough.

For the fabric, I wanted something sturdy so that I would only need to use one layer, and unisex enough that my husband wouldn’t mind wearing it.  I ordered some fair trade fabric imported from Guatemala.  It wasn’t cheap, but the fabric is thick, strong, and perfect for a sling because there is no “wrong” side.  The front and back of the fabric are the same, which is a good thing because both sides of the fabric are visible after you sew and thread the sling through the rings.  2 1/2 yards is enough to make a sling long enough that will fit an adult male.

Next I ordered rings from SlingRings because you want to make sure the rings you get are strong and weight tested, specifically for slings.  Craft rings from Michaels are a no go for this project.  I ordered the medium sized aluminum rings but probably should have ordered the large rings due to the thickness of my fabric.  The medium ones worked fine, but my sling is a little harder to adjust.

Once I had my fabric and rings, the rest was easy:

  1. Cut fabric so it is 30″ wide by 2 to 2 1/2 yards long (2 yards is long enough if the wearer is an average sized woman, 2 1/2 yards for larger women and men)
  2. Hem both long sides and one short side. (Fold over 1/4″ and press, fold over 1/4″ again and press, sew over folds)
  3. On the last unhemmed side, pin overlapping pleats (follow the instructions here) and sew across the pleats in two places a few inches apart to secure.
  4. Sew edge where pleats are several times to prevent fraying.
  5. Place two rings in pleats, fold pleats over, and sew to enclose the rings.  Done!
  6. Instructions to wearing the sling can be found here (pdf), here (web) or here (video on nursing while wearing sling).

Here’s baby Elliott sitting nice and snug in her sling.  Doesn’t she look comfy?  Don’t mind her manners.  I don’t think she’s giving you the bird, she’s just trying to say “stay away from my milk factory bitches.”  elliott-wk-1-6-of-1

Happy Ring Slinging.

Twice as Sweet: Reversible Baby Girl Dresses

Another project from:

For the last several months we’ve been on a girl kick in my circle of friends.  My friend H adopted her baby girl just a few months ago.  This week my dear friend from law school, M, gave birth to her second child, a healthy beautiful baby girl.  And even though it’s early, it seemed like my own little kidney bean was intent on showing us her goods at my last ultrasound.  Not much modesty there (that’s a view from the bottom of her tush looking up with her legs on the right, the little arrow points out the money shot).  We’ll need to teach her to be a little more ladylike when she gets bigger but for now we were grateful for the sneak peak: it’s a GIRL!

With all these baby girls popping up that gives me more excuses to sew baby girl clothes.  This week I tackled a project from my latest project book: Cute Clothes for Kids by Rob Merrett.  This book contains projects for boys and girls ages newborn to five years.  Of the 25 projects, some are a tad on the cheesy side, but they can be adapted easily to make them cuter. 

Though I’ve just tried one pattern so far, I found that the instructions for this dress were missing a step or two and could have been better explained.  For example, when I was sewing the dress, the instructions should have stated that I needed to turn the contrasting fabric inside out before piecing the two parts together.  The picture just didn’t convey the message and I found myself re-reading several times until I figured out what I was supposed to do, after 20 minutes of pinning and turning and head scratching.  In the end I figured it out without too many annoying turns with my seam ripper, but more detailed instructions would have been nice.

Despite this minor hiccup, this particular dress was very easy to sew: no zippers, no gathering, no buttons.  And, the best part is that it’s reversible! Two looks in one, gotta love that.  The dress pattern includes matching bloomers and when baby grows out of the dress it can be worn as a tunic top.  So this outfit should last a while.

I made one dress with bloomer set for M, and couldn’t resist making another to keep for my own kidney bean.  Since M recently commented that she loved a little jumper I sent her before she gave birth because it wasn’t “pink or frilly,” I thought that she’d appreciate the non-pink fabric: tiny red flowers on a cream background with contrasting sage bloomers. This fabric was a bit of a 70’s throwback.  For the set I’m keeping, I don’t mind a little pink, so I chose a 60’s-ish retro pink and green Amy Butler fabric (you know how I love the retro fabrics).  Which do you prefer?

I hope M likes her “non-pink and non-frilly” dress for her sweet pea.  Thankfully I have a few more months of nesting to fill my kidney bean’s closet with handmade creations.  Right now I’m trying to decide what direction to take for crib bedding.

Decisions decisions.

Halloween treats: Llama Llama Griffin and Pumpkin Whoopie Pies

I may have mentioned that my son is coo-coo over Llama Llama Red Pajama.  What choice did I have but to make him a Llama Llama costume for his very first Halloween (he was 2 weeks old last year and too much of a blob for costumes)?

Llama Llama props

To recreate Llama Llama, I sized down the pants and button down shirt from larger patterns I had in my project books for his red flannel pajamas.  I added a flannel stuffed tail to the back (no comments on the brown wad coming from his behind, it was part of the costume!).  The PJs ended up being a bit roomy on him but not big enough for him to trip.

The booties and hat I bought on Etsy and glued on some black and white felt to create the eyes.  When we added his Llama Llama doll, the transformation was complete.  The toughest part about this costume was getting Griffin to actually wear the hat, which he tore off his head as soon as he realized it was there.  The more distractions, the longer the hat stayed in place.

There he goes!  Catch that Llama!

Llama Llama Griffin

There goes the Llama
To show off celebrate, Griffin was invited to a pre-Halloween birthday party potluck for his playmate.

My contribution to the potluck were these darling pumpkin spice whoopie pies with maple cream cheese filling.  The whoopies were moist and soft, with just enough spice and not too much pumpkin to make them overbearing, and the filling was de-lish (as anything with cream cheese is).  Plus, bonus, they’re pretty easy to make, unlike finicky macarons.  The whoopies were a party favorite, not a crumb left on the plate.  Pumpkin Spice Whoopies

[Note: I also made chocolate whoopies with marshmallow cream, but they were too scary to eat.  Well, actually, they were too dry and crumbly, a recipe disaster that still happens occasionally.  Snapped a photo anyway.  Hee.] Scary spider

Loved the accolades received from my whoopies, but Griffin’s costume made an even bigger impression, as he walked around in his hat (for the 20 minutes it stayed on his head) looking up at each guest and holding out his prized Llama Llama doll to anybody that would catch his infectious smile.  Cuteness in spades.

I always used to dread Halloween.  I was never one to try to recreate a hokey costume into something slutty for the one day out of the year where it’s required to put it on display.  But now that kids are involved, I can get into the holiday spirit the way it was when I was a kid: a cute mom-made costume, candy and treats galore, trick or treating around the neighborhood, and celebrating the arrival of Fall.  Tonight- on with the tricking and the treating!  Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin Spice Whoopie Pies

Serves 20
Prep time 20 minutes
Cook time 25 minutes
Total time 45 minutes
Meal type Dessert

Ingredients

Whoopies

  • 1 1/2 cup Flour (All Purpose)
  • 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon Ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon Ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon Nutmeg (Fresh grated is best)
  • 1 cup Brown sugar (Firmly packed, dark or light is ok)
  • 1/2 cup Canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 cup Pumpkin puree (Canned, but fresh is best if you have time. (Roast halved pumpkin with a little butter until soft, scrape, puree in blender))
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons Unsalted butter (Room temperature)

Whoopies (Optional)

  • 1/2 teaspoon Allspice

Filling

  • 1 1/2 cup Powdered Sugar
  • 4oz Cream cheese (Philadelphia, the brick kind)
  • 1 tablespoon Maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Vanilla extract ((or 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped))

Note

Adapted from Browned Eyed Baker

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Use parchment or silpat lined baking pans or use a whoopie pie pan sprayed with cooking spray (Crate & Barrel has a good one, while you’re there, pick up a 1 tbs sized ice cream scoop)
2. In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and soda, and spices.
3. In your mixer, mix on low the brown sugar and oil, then add the puree, then the egg and vanilla until incorporated.
4. Add 1/2 of your flour mixture to the bowl and mix on low until just combined, then repeat with the second half. Don’t over mix.
5. Use a small 1 Tbs ice cream scoop and drop them onto your baking sheet or in your pan. Leave 1 ” in between for spread.
6. Bake 10-12 minutes until cookies just start to spring back when touched. This will give you a nice moist whoopie. Let cool in pan for 3 minutes, then remove and let cool on wire racks until room temp.
7. For the filling, cream the butter and the cream cheese together until there are no lumps. Add the powdered sugar, syrup, and vanilla and beat until smoothe, but do not overbeat.
8. Assemble cookies by piping or spooning a dollup of cream cheese filling inbetween two cookies.
9. Keep chilled until ready to use, then remove and let come to room temp for a few minutes before serving. They will keep in the fridge under plastic wrap for a few days.

 

 

 

Finally, Baby Girl Clothes: A basket of goodies for baby ADDISON

Another project from:

Besties H+M FINALLY adopted their bundle of joy.  YIPPEEEE!!!!

Addison Grace was born on September 11 and joined her new family the very next morning. She is a perfect little angel with fuzzy blond hair and a sweet-as-can-be face.

You might recall this snuggie I made for H+M back in January when they were expecting to receive another baby.  As these things sometimes go, the birth momma of that baby suddenly changed her mind, so they waited some more.  But their four year wait is over.  Addison is home!

Of course, as soon as I heard the news last month that a baby might be on her way, I kicked it into high gear on the sewing machine.  This baby was going to come home in style, with handmade fashions from her Auntie TamaraEsq.  How exciting to have an excuse to make girl’s clothes!  So exciting, in fact, that the day we went to the house to meet Addison, I neglected to take pictures of the beautiful basket I made for her until after I delivered it.  Momma H graciously let me put it all back together so I could snap a few photos from her living room.  Not my finest pics but you get the idea.

Basket of Goodies for Addison Grace

The basket was filled with all sorts of goodies, mostly handmade items from yours truly with a few other bonuses.  The items I didn’t make included two Aden + Anais cotton muslin swaddlers, two books (Tikki Tikki Tembo and But Not the Hippopotamus, two of Fin’s favorites), a box of Baby Loopies Mary Jane socks, a Zutano A-Line Jumper (onesie/dress), and an Apple Tree to Be, which is an apple tree they can plant in their yard and watch it grow as the baby grows (Addy’s Daddy likes his garden).  Thoughtful, yes?

Bibs

Now for the good stuff.  My handmade creations included a set of booties, a pair of bloomers, 2 bibs with terry cloth on the back, and a stuffed terry cloth bunny toy.  I also made another pinafore dress (remember this one?).  For the dress I had to size down the pattern I had for a size 2.  I hope the dress will fit Addison up to six months.  And I have it on good authority that Addison might just wear her new dress when she greets the world at her baby shower next month!

The last thing I made was a blanket/car seat cover.  It’s a little something I invented but it’s top secret and I’m not ready for the big reveal just yet.  Suffice it to say it’s very handy and very cute (the blanket is rolled up on the left side of the basket next to the bunny in the picture above).

Addison clothes

Watching H open her basket made all the hours I spent sewing the goodies worth it.  I have a few more projects in mind for Addison.  Until I have my own baby girl to dress, Addison will likely be the beneficiary of all the cute girl clothes I have time to sew.  There’s something so sweet and gratifying about dressing a baby in handmade creations.  Sweet Pea creations for our littlest sweet pea, Addison Grace.

Girl Envy: Pinafore Dress

Another project from:

Don’t get me wrong, I love my little boy, and I’m glad we had a little boy, but this project almost makes me wish I had a little girl.  That, or it tempts me to have as many babies as it takes until we get a girl in there somewhere.  Yikes, did I really just think that?

The daughter of Big N’s assistant is turning 2 this weekend, except she’s the size of a three year old.  Big N’s assistant is amazing.  Not only has she learned to keep my husband’s absentmindedness in check, but every once in a while she does favors for me too.  (Like most recently when a rogue gardener kicked up a rock with his weed whacker and smashed my car’s rear window, Big N’s assistant drove it in to have it repaired the same day.)  We love and appreciate her so I wanted to make something special for her daughter, toddler M.  M has dark brown hair, big brown eyes, fair skin, and the sweetest smile, and I knew the yellow and pinks in this lotus fabric would be darling on her.

Like most of the projects in Emma Hardy’s project book Making Children’s Clothes, this pinafore dress was easy to make, and took me about 6 hours start to finish.

The pattern called for flower cut outs to be sewn onto the front of the dress but the fabric I chose was already too busy so I added a sweet yellow ribbon along the bottom and a simple pink and yellow bow.  The cotton fabric makes the dress casual and comfortable but the lining inside gives it a nice drape and the button closure on the back makes the dress a little more special.  This dress was size 4-5 T so little M can grow into it and wear it throughout this summer and maybe even next.  I loved this fabric so much I ordered more to make for my future little miss.

I hope M feels like a princess and does a twirly dance when she wears her dress for the first time. But just in case she wants to be rough and tumble once in a while, she can ride around on her other birthday present, a pink Radio Flyer scooter. No reason little M can’t be a princess and race around on her scooter too. She’s a modern girl.

Pinafore dress Back of dress

 

 

 

Mom Approved Part 2: Baby Stuff Galore

My good friend, the lovely D, recently asked me if I really used all the “stuff” that I received for Fin’s baby shower. My reply: actually, Yes. I fully realize that new mommas are absolutely OB-SESSED with all the baby stuff. I myself spent weeks just researching what stroller we should buy.  A sales clerk at a baby store told me that most parents end up buying 4 strollers by the time they’re finished having kids. (For the record, we now have 2 and I’m contemplating a third).  And at my law firm, my lawyer colleagues who are new mommas actually put together a spreadsheet listing all of their recommendations for their favorite products and comments about why a particular product was a must (we’re Type A after all).  Baby shopping is a SERIOUS business.

So, for all you new mommas or soon-to-be mommas who are as obsessed as I am about all things baby, below are my recommendations for my favorite can’t do without baby products (and some that I could do without but love just the same).  [Read more…]

Gift for Soon-to-be Baby: Fleece Lined Snuggie

Another project from:

 

Dear friends H+M are adopting a baby after three long years of trying and waiting, and more waiting.  The little darling hasn’t been born yet, but things are looking very good.  Not one to wait myself, I was simply too excited to hold off on all the sewing projects I have planned for their soon-to-be baby girl “A”.  Since I didn’t want to overwhelm them either, or jinx the happy news, I started off with an easy one to get them in the spirit.

This snuggie is another project from my go-to project book: Little Stitches for Little Ones snuggie-7-of-8 It took me about 3 hours to sew after I had all the pattern pieces cut out.  I chose a simple pink and brown small pattern cotton fabric (such a pattern hides mistakes much better), and lined the snuggie with cozy fleece so baby feels something soft next to her skin.  You could easily sub out the fleece for some terry cloth and make a hooded towel for after bath.  But I have a feeling that H+M will appreciate the warm fleece lining when they finally bring their newborn home and want to snuggle up to their long-awaited angel.

snuggie-6-of-8 The project itself was simple: attach the border to the fleece, make the hood and attach to one corner, attach the backing to the fleece, and then make and attach the ties.  Nothing to it.  In fact, I liked it so nice, I made it twice!  The second one is for our friend M, whose baby girl S arrived just a couple of months after Fin.  I  think all newborns should have a snuggie like this.  The snuggie may become my signature baby shower gift from Sweet Peas by Tamara.  I like it.

Mom Approved: Newborn Boy’s Clothes

Back when I was a single attorney at Big Firm, my salary afforded me a certain amount of disposable income that I spent faithfully on clothes, shoes, and beauty products.  Now that I’m a mom I’ve transferred all of my shopaholic tendencies to my son.  Where I used to take breaks from billable hour hell by internet shopping for shoulder bags, pumps, and miracle wrinkle cream, I now comb the infant websites for the perfect organic cotton long sleeve onesie that my son will grow out of in five minutes.    

Because cute baby boy clothes are a little tougher to find, I thought I’d share a few of the brands I’m loving for Griffin.  Over the next few weeks I also intend to share my favorite baby products, diapering products, and gadgets.  Babies need so much stuff and it’s easy to go a little nutty sifting through all the products out there.  Moms-to-be are probably the easiest demographic target.  It isn’t hard to convince us that our baby will suffer if he doesn’t have the perfect orthodontic pacifier, or swaddling blanket, or BPA free bottle.  Rather than depend on my own vulnerabilities to hip marketing ploys, when I was pregnant I solicited the advice of my friends to tell me the products they couldn’t live without.  Now that I’ve had 2 whole months of experience, I’m confident that I can pass on some of the collective wisdom.  To start it off, below are some of the brands that are currently in my son’s laundry basket.  [Read more…]

Final Nesting: Griffin’s PJs

Another project from:

They say about a week before baby arrives, momma hen starts nesting with fury– moving furniture, dusting and vacuuming like crazy, or cleaning the stove with a toothbrush (like my friend M did before her little one arrived).  For me, the final urge to nest did kick in, except my nesting instinct manifested itself in sewing.  I was frantically trying to sew one last project before my little one, Griffin, arrived.

I tackled these easy pajamas that I found in Amy Butler’s Little Stitches for Little Ones project book.  The PJ set took me about 8 hours to complete, especially since I was moving a little slower being nine months pregnant and all, and kept bumping my belly against the sewing table and knocking my notions off.  

griffins-pjs- Since these PJs were for a little boy, I wanted a non-girly looking fabric.  I chose this darling truck fabric I found at The Urban Craft Center in Santa Monica, a cute little craft shop that offers sewing classes and sells the most amazing bolts of fabric (pricey but cute).  I chose a contrasting fabric for the accents and even made my own french bias binding out of the accent fabric to finish the ties for the PJ top.  Griffin won’t be able to fit in them for some time, but at least my nesting instinct was satisfied.  Griffin was born two days after these PJs were completed.