Girl Envy: Pinafore Dress

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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




Weekend Project: Happy Stacker

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Fin is getting into all sorts of trouble thanks to his crazy rolling / (almost) crawling skills.  To keep him out of harm’s way I decided to stock his play room with soft plushy toys for the time being.  The Happy Stacker pattern from Heather Bailey fit the bill and made for a fun project.  This project is best reserved for a weekend as it took me about 12 hours to complete. 

Happy stacker

I started with the largest ring first.  Figuring out the pattern was a little tricky and it took me about 3 hours for just the first ring.  The instructions are well-written, but it still takes a little head scratching to match the pictures and instructions with the half-sewn thing in your hand.  Once I had the first ring down the rest came much easier.  The hardest part of the project was hand sewing the pole and the rings closed after I stuffed.  I’ve never worked with polyfill before and the floor of my sewing room looks like it snowed recently.



The nice thing about this project is choosing mismatched fabrics to make each ring stand out.  I tried to stick to fun but neutral (non-baby) fabrics (mostly from Amy Butler’s awesome collections) so the finished result wouldn’t look too feminine.  Cutting and sewing perfect circles is challenging, and mine came out far from perfect, but I don’t think Fin noticed.  When I stuck the completed toy in front of him he seemed confused at first, then dived right in.  He is still a little young for this toy (he tried to eat it) but he’ll grow into it.  Thankfully the rings are machine washable.

Another “made with love” project that’s Fin approved.  He’ll be stacking away and learning his shapes in no time.

Fin approved Playing with Happy Stacker

Stop stepping on your jeans: hem with original seam

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When you pay nearly $200 for jeans these days part of what you’re paying for is the wash, which makes them looked slightly relaxed, disheveled, lived in.  Funny how we pay more for new things when they look like old things.  Also funny that you can pay $200 for jeans but they still come in just one length, because if you’re rich enough to pay $200 for jeans then you must have long model-like legs, right?  So the designers leave it up to us shorties to pay more money to hem our expensive jeans, except when we do the alteration place cuts them from the  bottom and we lose all that expensive lived-in wash.  So our jeans end up looking like this (on the left).  When instead we want them to look like this (on the right).  See the difference?

Keeping the original seam is not as complicated as it sounds.  In fact, it’s actually easier than hemming them the other way.

Here’s a step-by-step:

1. Wash and dry your jeans first (they shrink) unless you are the type of person that exclusively dry cleans (you did just pay $200 for jeans after all).

2. Measure the amount you need to shorten. (Have your subject stand up, then fold them under to figure out where you want them to hit.  I usually try to get jeans as close to the floor as possible without stepping on them).  Place a pin to mark the spot.  Unfold them and measure how much you need to shorten from the bottom of the seam to your pin.  These are Big N’s jeans, and needed to be shortened 2 inches.


3. Divide how much you need to shorten (2 inches) by half (1 inch).  Fold the jeans up like a cuff.  Measure from the fold in the cuff to the bottom of the original seam using your half measurement (1 inch in this case).  You can see in the picture below that I measured 1 inch from the bottom of the fold to the red marker on my ruler.  Because the original seam is going to remain in place, you don’t count it in your measurement.  That’s why you measure just to the bottom of the original seam.  Pin all the way around and check your measurements in various places to make sure you’re even.  Repeat on the other leg.


4. With your sewing machine, “stitch in the ditch” just below the fold of the original seam.  Do this slowly and carefully.  You want to get as close as possible to the original seam without sewing on top of the original seam.  Backstitch where you stop and start.  Repeat on the other leg.


5. This is what you’ll have after you sew (as seen from the inside and the outside).  On the inside is a flap of fabric.  On the outside is the original seam and the shortened part is folded over so it meets the top of the original seam.


6. Turn the flap up (so it’s folded inside your jeans) and iron in place with a steaming hot iron so the original seam is now on the bottom and the sewed flap is tucked inside the jeans above the original seam.


7. Try them on with the shoes you normally wear with your jeans to make sure the hem hits in the right place (before you cut anything and are stuck with it).  You can still pull out the stitches if you need to redo it.  After you cut there’s no turning back.

8. Turn the pants inside out.  Cut the flap with sharp scissors, leaving about 1/4″ of the flap in place.


9.  My machine comes with a special foot that does an overlock stitch.  If yours can do an overlock stitch, use it and with the jeans turned inside out, stitch all the way around the cut part of the flap to prevent fraying.  (Stitch just the edges of the flap.  The original seam should be tucked away so you don’t stitch through it too).  Repeat with the other leg.  If your machine doesn’t have this stitch, you can simply use a zig-zag stitch all the way around.  If you’re really lazy, you can simply cut with pinking shears and forego this step all together, but I can’t guarantee they won’t fray on you.


10. This is what you have after you do the overlock stitch on the cut edge.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, nobody will see this part.


11. Iron the jeans again.


12. Finished.  Admire your handiwork.  Can you see the difference?  Up close you may notice the fold above the original seam, but you won’t when you wear them.  Promise.


Wouldn’t you know it? After I played the role of the good wifey and hemmed Big N’s jeans, I was hanging them up and noticed that these particular expensive jeans do come in various inseam lengths.  I took exactly 2 inches off his jeans.  Had he bought the appropriate size I wouldn’t have had to go through the trouble.  When confronted with this information, however, Big N swore it not to be the case.  He proclaimed that had he bought the correct inseam size they would have been “high water” jeans due to shrinkage.  I’m not convinced.  At least we got a nifty tutorial out of it.  Happy sewing.

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

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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

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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.

Baby shower winner: Kimonos for Twins

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My friend J had a very tough 2009.  Good thing she’s a tough cookie herself.  But this year life for J did a complete backflip and she’s pregnant, with identical twin girls.  Life can be funny that way I guess.  Lucky for me, J’s baby shower coincided with my maternity leave and I had all this extra time on my hands to nest, organize, putter, shop, and sew sew sew.  My sewing machine received quite the workout this week, especially since I’ve been waking up nearly every morning at 4:30 a.m. with nothing but unchecked energy that I’ve channeled into sewing baby clothes.  It’s surprising how much sewing you can do before sunrise.

For the twinsies I turned once again to project book Weekend Sewing and selected one of the easier projects, a kimono wrap shirt for newborns.  This project takes less than 1/2 yard of fabric and I chose a sweet retro floral pattern from Amy Butler.  After cutting the pattern pieces I first sewed the front wrap pieces to the back.  Then I carefully pinned and sewed bias tape all around the collar, leaving extra tape to form the wrap ties.  Next I attached the sleeves, then sewed up the sides, attaching the remaining inside and outside ties.  Finally I hemmed the sleeves and bottom of the kimono. 

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Birthday PJ pants: Daniel’s 1st Birthday

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Hard to believe that my nephew turned one year old.  In this year he’s grown from a helpless infant to a happy, perceptive, stubborn, demanding, lovable, darling boy.  Gone is his newborn baby smell, replaced by dirty hands and an ever smudged mouth as he explores the world around him on all fours, grabbing and tasting whatever he finds in his path.  Any day now he’ll be walking on his own, when the challenge will really begin for my brother and sister-in-law.

Last weekend we attended Daniel’s birthday party.  Daniel was the life of the party, splashing in the pool, greeting what seemed like dozens of babies around him, and wearing his birthday boy hat proudly.  By the time it came to the traditional first birthday cake smashing, poor Daniel was so exhausted from all the excitement and attention that he cried after we sang him “happy birthday” and his parents tried to get him to enthusiastically nose dive into his cake.  The poor little guy was surrounded by 75 people all anxiously awaiting the performance.  Once he obliged, mommy put him down for a nap. 

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Craftastic: Baby Shower Thank You Notes

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It’s T-minus three weeks until the Bambino arrives and I am officially on maternity leave (the sabbatical I’ve been anxiously anticipating for the last several years)!  Waking up sans alarm clock with no preplanned agenda has been quite an adjustment for a gal used to working 50+ hours a week and cramming everything else I need to get done, like family time, errand running, blogging, photography, sewing, baking, shopping, etc. on the weekends.  Now with all this time on my hands I’m spending most of my days in the house starting projects that I have every good intention of finishing before the big day.  And of course one project always leads to another, so I’ve been planning a gazillion future projects because I have these utopian visions of sewing and crafting while baby sleeps soundly in the next room.   I’ve been told (ad nauseum as a matter of fact) that the first 3 months caring for an infant doesn’t leave a new mom time to shower much less time to hobby-craft and that I should keep my expectations for free time low.  But I do hope I can manage to squeeze in a few fun things that will make my home confinement after baby arrives a little more bearable.

I recently dipped my toe into the world of Martha Stewart, whose book the Encyclopedia of Crafts was given to me by my mother-in-law.   The Enclyclopedia contains “how to” instructions for every project imaginable, from decoupage to silk screening, to candle and soap making.  For my first project I started with something easy: rubber stamped stationery.

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