Sunday, January 14, 2018

Sewing: Swimwear for Kids

Here it is.  The last make of 2017 and the final post I wanted to write before I start all my 2017 reviews. 

Enna has long requested a "swimsuit that matches" --one with no sleeves and one piece.  Or at least a tankini that has matching tops and bottoms.  This is impossible to buy since she fits in 2T bottoms but has the length of a 4-5 year old.  In the past, I have purchased a swim suit and only used the bottoms or bought swim shorts and then purchased a rash guard separately to wear on top.  You can sort of see the setup below.

After a number of requests, I decided to try my hand at making a swimsuit.  I had her pick out a fabric she liked from The Fabric Fairy.  She surprised me by picking out the black fabric with moons, hearts, and stars.  Finn also needed a new rashguard (he doesn't like not wearing a shirt) and so he picked out some colors for me to make him a top.

For Finns shirt, I just used the Oliver & S school bus t-shirt pattern since I already had it.  I cut out a size 5 and added length to be an 8.  I didn't, however, take into account his shoulders which are as broad as an 8 year old.  Also, the neckline is quite small.  He has a *very* hard time getting it over his head. Next time I make this (either as a rashguard or a regular shirt), I will add to the shoulders and increase the neck opening.  I also might make the sleeves longer.  Despite these faults, I feel like this fits and works better than the rashguards we have previously purchased.  Those shirts are quite wide on him and really flap about in the pool.  He mentioned that he was able to swim better in this one.

Enna wanted a 1-piece swimsuit.  I, however, do not want to help my daughter go to the bathroom while she is wearing a wet 1-piece.  Instead I made a tankini.  For the top, I made Jalie 3023.  I asked around the internet and heard that Jalie makes top-notch swimsuit patterns.  The size range is super impressive ranging from toddlers to grown women.  I will be able to make myself a swimsuit using this pattern if I so choose.  For the bottoms, I wanted something with more coverage than a normal swim bottom.  I used 3247: low-rise gym shorts.  I think they work great.  I might in future pairs increase the rise a touch but so far, it hasn't been a problem as is.  To figure out the size for the top, I used the instructions for a 1-piece.  I picked the size for her hips/waist/chest and added the length to the top that I needed based on her length measurement.  For the bottoms, I used the width that corresponded to her measurement but added a bit in length.

I had never made a Jalie pattern before, so I was a bit disoriented as I figured out how the patterns were laid out and where the instructions were written (as they are written in both English and French).  However, once I started sewing, I had no problems figuring out what I needed to do.  Also, they have some helpful links to tutorials either they have created or links to other's tutorials for their patterns. 

Also, I didn't think that Enna's fabric was directional, so I didn't pay attention to how I cut out the pieces.  Doh.  Oh well.  I figure that no one else will be checking her suit out as closely as I am and notice it.

They pattern doesn't say to cross the straps.  However, I read other blog posts on this pattern and depending on the fabric and how it behaves when wet, the straps can loosen up and get baggy.  I preemptively took care of this by making them cross in the back. 

By the time I sewed Enna's swimsuit, I had received my Christmas present: a new serger!  The main seams I sewed on the serger and then sewed the yolk, straps, waistband, and hems on my sewing machine.  It was so delightful and easy that I was sad that I didn't have it when I was sewing Finn's top.  It would have been so much easier/nicer.

I was surprised how quickly all the swimwear came together, especially for this swimwear novice.  I think I will be making future more suits in the future. 

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Sewing: Liesl & Co Metro T

Let's face it, I basically wear t-shirts and jeans.  Mostly because that is what feels comfortable.  I believe much of that is due to ready-to-wear woven shirts not fitting me well in my back, and not being long enough in the arms--something I hope to remedy by making my own shirts.  However, I wasn't feeling that great in my knit shirts either.  Again, I wanted them longer in the arms.  Also, I felt like they accented my flabby bits a bit too much.  I wanted them to skim, not to encase like sausage.  However, larger sizes were just....large.  Therein lies the beauty of making your own clothes: you can give yourself more room just where you need it.

There are a lot of basic t-shirt patterns out there, and everyone seems to have a favorite.  I figured I was going to have to make adjustments regardless, so I went with the Family t-shirt pack from Liesl and Co.  The benefit was that I now have basic t-shirt patterns for the whole family.  Additionally, I just love Liesl's style, both for her women's patterns as well as her children's patterns.  At this point, I am really familiar with her instructions and find them to be among the best. 

I started out making a muslin using this 100% poly knit that I ordered cheaply from  It had the minimal amount of stretch required by the pattern.  I also used the book Knits for Real People for fitting advice. The authors advise for fitting the pattern pieces so that they come to your center front and back despite using knit fabric unless it is a wrap top or one with negative ease.  They have found that this ends up with a more flattering fit.  With that in mind, I made the following adjustments:

  • I chose a size medium and graded to large at hips based on measurements
  • 1 5/8" full broad back adjustment
  • 3/8" sloping shoulder adjustment
  • 4/8" upper rounded back adjustment
  • 1" horizontal wedge taking out in upper bust and back.
  • 1" added in length to body
  • 2" added in length to sleeve
  • 1 1/2" full arm adjustment

Those adjustments brought me to this version in an art gallery cotton/lycra knit:

However, I was still annoyed by those armscye wrinkles.  I posted on a sewing forum and the consensus was that I needed 1) to broaden the shoulder piece so that it was actually at my shoulder but to also 2) lower the armscye.

I did that, but still had some extra fabric around the bust.  I decided to see if I could pinch it out into a dart.  I did successfully, behold, you get this version again in cotton/lycra:

I then transferred the bust dart (which is in kind of a weird location by the armscye) and added it to my pattern piece.  From that updated pattern, I made the last version in a slub wool jersey:

Are these perfect?  No.  However, I feel that 1) they are more flattering than the shirts I can buy and 2) they are more comfortable because they are wide enough and long enough.  I plan on using this pattern as a basic block to make turtle-neck and cowl-neck tops.  For those, I will play around with rotating the dart to a different location.  After taking so much effort a basic t-shirt, I am more interested in seeing how I can adapt this one, than trying to refit another pattern that is basically the same shape. 

And of course, we had some silly outtakes:

The pose on the left is a "yoga" pose that my daughter does in preschool where they do a modified tree pose and hold their hands like they are sipping hot cocoa.  

Monday, January 1, 2018

Christmas 2017

I have some 2017 review posts to write: books, recipes, sewing, and the like.  But I have a few things from 2017 that I want to post.

My goals this year were to 1) have presents planned by Black Friday so that 2) I could take advantage of any deals and 3) get my shopping done early.  This more or less happened, and it was so nice to spend most of December doing fun, non-crucial things.  Yes, I stressed out the week before Christmas because there were a number of food-related items that needed to be made (as usual), but for the most part, I could relax and have fun making the handmade Christmas cards and ornaments, going to local events, and spending time with the family without having the dread of shopping hanging over me.  I would have to say that this is the most contented and relaxed I have felt at Christmas time.  

In addition to our normal traditions, I had time to put together a slide show of "Christmas Pasts."  This is a tradition borrowed from my sister and brother-in-law.  Every Christmas Eve, they watch a slide show of Christmas pictures starting with the grandparents as children and ending with the previous year's Christmas.  The kids laugh over seeing their father as a teenager dressed in a woman's house coat and the hairstyles their uncles sported in the 80's.  Ours slide show isn't as extensive.  I have a few pictures of my childhood Christmases, but the majority of the pictures are from the last 7 years.  The kids loved seeing themselves as babies and toddlers.  As I already sort through our photos and put the best ones on Flickr, it was relatively easy to assemble them together.  This is a fun tradition that I want to continue.   

It snowed Christmas Eve, and the children woke up to a white Christmas.  It was truly magical.  The children were more interested in playing in the snow than with their new toys, which is as it should be.  I really couldn't have asked for a more ideal Christmas. 

More photos of December and Christmas activities can be found here.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Sewing: The Esme Top and why I am never going to make it big with these posts.

One of the first shirts that I sewed for myself was the scout woven t-shirt by Grainline.  I had seen a number of scouts on the internet, and it looked like a good basic shape that could be adapted or hacked in a myriad of ways.  Unfortunately, it is not a super flattering shape for me, as it felt very sack-like.  I learned that I preferred the look of a darted shirt.

Enter the Esme top by Lotta Jansdotter from her her book, Everyday Style.  It is a basic shirt, similar to the Scout tee, but has bust darts.  The neckline also has a facing which I kept in the versions that I made, but could easily be swapped out with a bias bound neckline. 

I thought the shirt fit pretty well initially with my standard adjustments.  However, I look at my notes and I could see how the list of adjustments I made might still be intimidating to someone not used to making adjustments.

The adjustments I made:

  • 3/4" upper broad back adjustment
  • 1/2" slopping shoulder adjustment
  • 3/8" rounded upper back adjustment
  • 3/8" forward shoulder adjustment.  (this was a first one for me, but it was so obvious this pattern needed it.)
  • Scooped out front arm scythe and added 1/4" to back arm scythe
  • 1 1/4" inched added in length
  • Full arm adjustment (of unsure amount since I can't find my pattern piece) for my burly arms. *eye roll*
  • Lengthened sleeve

I really enjoy making really basic patterns that I can make 2-3 versions of.  The first one, I kept basic.  I made it out of Robert Kaufman houndstooth flannel. 

The second one, I added a notched neckline.  (The pattern has a notched neckline for the kaftan version.  However, that notch is a lot lower than I wanted.  I just figured out where I wanted it to hit, and made the notch shorter.)  The fabric is an Allison Glass double gauze that is pretty dreamy. 

The third one, I experimented with some color blocking.  The top piece of the front is a indigo herringbone and the bottom is a chambray.  I like the subtle difference. I was going to to hem using bias binding.  Perhaps even doing an external facing at the bottom, but the herringbone fabric was really quite shifty and wasn't behaving nicely.  I decided just to do a small hem for both the bottom and the sleeves.

You guys, I am so bad at this fashion/sewing blog thing.  First, I just grabbed these shirts from the closet without ironing.  As a result, they look a bit crumpled and sad.  But honestly, that is how I roll most of the time: crumpled and sad.  Also, I have absolutely no space to take pictures in my house, and outside is too cold or rainy.  I opted for in front of our Christmas tree.  And because of the wide-angled lens, I look like a large human in a hobbit house.  (Although our tree isn't super large either.)  Next, I had to cut of my face from a lot of these because I look demented. And to top it off, I was being photo-bombed by my children.  Because I mistakenly thought I could take these pictures while they were home.  So, there ended up being a lot of these, because they wanted funny, interesting pictures:

Which is probably more reflective of how things are around here. 

Anyway, I am pleased to have some long-sleeved woven shirts that fit me.  The pattern is also great, despite my less that professional examples shown here.  I borrowed the book from my library.  I might play around with adding a pleat to the center, ala the Collette Sorbetto.  I have some short-sleeve versions planned too.  I would like a rayon version with a bias bound neckline and perhaps a ruffled sleeve(?) for a more dressed up blouse.   Lots of options for a pretty basic shape. 

Monday, November 13, 2017

Who am I?

I started writing here almost eleven years ago, come January.  In that span of time I have gotten married, had two kids, acquired two auto-immune diseases, majorly switched our diet 5 times, struggled with depression and anxiety, and moved across the country--to name a few things. 

I have successfully survived the infancy and toddlerhood of my two children, with all the exhaustion and mental focus that takes, to find myself here and now.  Who am I?  What do I even like to do any more?  What are my interests/passions?  I feel like one of the moms in a Maria Semple novel (author of Where'd You Go, Bernadette and Today Will Be Different.)--where the mom finally "wakes up" after being on autopilot for so long and realizes she doesn't even recognize her life anymore.  And unfortunately for me, I have no conceivable way of getting to Antartica, ala Bernadette, to "find myself."  (Although, ironically, that was a dream of mine--to study penguins in Antartica.  You can thank Madeline L'Engle for that.)

For a mental exercise, I made up a Venn diagram of roles/titles I used to identify with, those that still pertain, and those with which I currently identify.  The latter category is quite spare. 

Another reason for feeling adrift is that I have yet to make real connections here.  It has been a year and a half, and while I feel like I have a good grasp of the area and what it offers,  I haven't yet found my local tribe: people with similar interests, passions, and ways of thinking.  There are factors that work against me: being a stay-at-home mom, having autoimmune conditions that make it difficult to socialize, and my homebody/introvert nature.  Yet, I still feel like I should be able to make those connections, if only I knew where to look. 

I am experiencing a mid-life crisis.  I am faced with the big questions: where do I go from here?, and how do I make it happen?  What are my interests?  Where are my kindred spirits and how do I find them?  When I heard people talk about mid-life crises, I did not expect these to be the questions.  I also did not expect to experience one, especially at the relatively young age of 38. 

Can anyone out there relate?  Have you experienced this?  And most importantly, have you found your answers?  I could use some assistance.

Friday, November 10, 2017

October 2017 Happenings: Visits from family!

Is it just our family, or is October just always a bit crazy?  I guess it is the unofficial start of the holiday season.  I don't get much of a breather from October to December.

Enna started the festivities with a preschool outing to a local pumpkin patch/working farm.  The preschool kids met the farmer and all the animals: sheep, goats, llama, geese, ducks, and chickens. They took a walk through the vegetable plot, and then walked through a corn maze.  Afterwards, they got to pick out a small pumpkin to keep.  It was fun, and the weather was gorgeous.

My sister, N, came for a visit.  I haven't seen her for about two years, which seems tragically long.  I miss not being closer to my sisters.  It is one of the downsides of moving to Washington.  While she was here, we kept her so busy, we had no time for pictures.  The kids were excited for her visit, even though Finn kept calling her by my other sister's name.  (They sound not at all similar.)  She read numerous books, played a LOT of games, and she and I went on a bike ride and a couple of hikes.  (One of which was in the dark and the rain, which made me feel hardcore, but didn't phase N.)  Although I didn't take her on a particularly hilly bike ride, I thought she would show some sort of effort on the inclines.  No.  Not at all.  I was huffing and puffing, and she looked like she was riding a beach cruiser (which she wasn't).  I came back home sweaty and winded, and I don't think she even broke a sweat.  I guess that is the result of hiking the Himalayas all summer.

Stolen shamelessly from her Facebook page.  Here is my awesome sister in her native habitat: Really Tall Mountains.
After N's visit, the grandparents came.  One of my father-in-law's hobbies is photography, so it is nice to hand over the photography duties and get some fun shots.  Soon after their arrival, Finn's school had their "Trick or Treat Street."  The school gets spookified and the teachers, staff, and high school students dress up and pass out candy.  It is put on by the PTSA, and is so much fun.  They also have teal pumpkins spread throughout which is nice since that means that Enna will get things that she can actually keep: glow in the dark bracelets, rings, pencils, allergy-free candy.

Next on the agenda, we visited a pumpkin patch.  We chose to stay more local than last year (which was fun and awesome but so so crowded and an hour away.)  I also wanted to go to a different patch than the one we went to for Enna's preschool.  This one was small, but nice.  The patch had a small hay maze to explore and some pumpkins strewn inorganically out on the field.  The kids were a bit disappointed that there weren't pumpkins their own size and body weight to choose.  They had to resign themselves to the largest pumpkins they could find--still ones that they couldn't lift on their own.  The day was stunningly beautiful.  There wasn't a cloud in the sky, and I loved the contrast between the blue sky and the yellow, orange and red trees and pumpkins.

Between the pumpkin patch and Halloween, Enna got quite sick: a high fever for a couple of days.  She sat out the primary program that Sunday, and didn't feel well enough to carve her pumpkin.  (This will come up later.)  Luckily by the time Halloween came around, she felt better and could go trick or treating.  And of course, the day after Halloween, Finn came down with the same thing.

For Halloween, we went downtown to trick or treat.  I love this for a multitude of reasons.  1) It is from 4-6, so it is still light outside.  2) We can still be back in time for only a slightly later dinner and bedtime.  3) It is mostly younger kids and parents, so I don't have to worry about super scary costumes giving my kids nightmares for weeks.  4) The same goes for house decorations.  5) The kids get a bunch of candy and enjoy a solid Halloween experience.  6)  The ice cream shop gives out free scoops of ice cream.  (That is gluten-free and nut-free).  7) Because it is light outside and draws a lot of people, it is really fun to see all the different costumes.

You would think that that would be the end of the October/Halloween post, wouldn't you?  But no.  Despite it being November 10th, we just know carved Enna's pumpkin.  And we just now lit both kids' pumpkins.  Finn's had been hanging out in the garage and had started to mold.  (Do, I need to tell you the tears that were involved when he discovered this?)  I mean, good thing I waited until now to type this up, or else I would have said there was no carving and lighting of Jack-o-lanterns.  Tragedy.

I hope your October also included beautiful weather and fun outings.  Do you find this time of year incredibly busy?  Does this stress you out?  (I had to have some "recovery" days after all of this.  IE stay in bed all day and not shower.)  Are you energized by all the activities and excitement.  (If so, can you bottle that and send it to me?)   

I have so many more pictures of October.  The downtown trick or treating ones are especially fun.  You can see them all here

Sunday, September 24, 2017

First Day of School: 2nd Grade and Preschool

For the first time ever, I have both kids in school!  I won't lie, I am really enjoying the kid-free hours I have in the afternoons, four days a week.  However, as much as I was looking forward to the kid-free time, I surprised myself by really missed my little buddy, Enna, when I dropped her off at preschool that first day.  Parenthood: it is such the conflict of emotions!

I really need to prioritize how I spend those precious, kid-free hours.  I have mistakenly scheduled appointments during that time and have been subsequently annoyed that I spent those hours at doctor's offices or the like instead of doing something I enjoy and is rejuvenating.  I want to reserve those times for bike riding and sewing projects.

Finn is enjoying school so far.  We have had a few snags: The teacher (who isn't new) sent the kids home with a number of homework tasks: math worksheet, 15 minutes of reading, a written reading response, spelling word practice, and math facts review.  All together, it added up to about an hour's worth of homework which seemed a bit excessive for second grade.  The teacher has since tweaked the requirements so that they are a bit more reasonable.  But I am interested, if you have a similarly aged child, how much homework do they have a night?

We also had an incident with our bus driver.  Last year, the normal and excellent bus driver retired.  There was a substitute driver who finished out the last few months of the school year who was also excellent.  This year, we have a different bus driver with a completely different temperament.  After the first day there were complaints of yelling and mocking from the bus driver.  The bus driver was also routinely late.  I was willing to chalk it up to a new route and a new year.  However, the other week, I picked Finn up from the bus stop.  We were walking across the street when the bus pulls up to us, stops, and the door opens.  From her seat, the bus driver starts telling me (yelling since I was not close and she was in the bus) how "naughty" Finn was on the bus.  Completely non-plussed by this unexpected complaint, I asked her 1) if she had the right kid and 2) how he was being naughty.  She said yes, it was the right kid and that he wasn't staying in his seat and talking too loudly, etc.  

So there are many things wrong here.  1) If there was a problem, and I needed to be aware of it, she should have asked me to come up to her seat to talk it over, or called me later. 2) She publicly shamed my child by telling everyone in earshot about his misbehavior.  And as she was yelling from the bus, this was a lot of people.  3) She had the wrong child.  After discussing the situation extensively with Finn, it turns out he was the middle child of three on a bench.  He could not easily get out of his seat.  Also, it turns out he was being harassed the whole time by fourth grader (one who was sitting next to him and by the aisle) about the status of his teeth.  (A whole other story about how awful and mean kids are.)  I am pretty confident that there was another child who was causing trouble and the bus driver misidentified the kid.  Not completely surprising as the children all wear the same colors (it is a uniformed school), but also annoying because she has not taken the initiative to learn the children's names, a task that even the temporary substitute from last year managed.  And now, my son, has some anxiety about riding the bus this year.  Yay.  I called and complained, and I hope things go more smoothly from here on out.

(This is my first time dealing with a situation like this, and WHOA.......It hit a lot of my feeling buttons!)  

I should also mention that I have already received quite a bit of positive feedback from Finn from his second grade teacher.  She has written a few times about how she enjoys having him in class and that he is just so good!  This makes my mama heart sing.  (And it makes me want to shove this praise in the bus driver's face.  "You have the wrong boy!  My son is not the type to misbehave on the bus!")

Enna has had a much smoother time starting preschool.  She absolutely LOVES going to preschool and is distraught and despairing on those days when she doesn't get to go.  Mondays are the worst when Finn gets to go to school, but she does not.  I get to hear about the unfairness of it all every. single. week.  (o.k.  So it has only been a week and a half of her actually going to preschool, but I sense a definite trend here.)  I love that she enjoys it so much.  The teachers are great and make it a point of sharing what the kids are learning and playing.  They have also made a point of talking to me individually about Enna and what she did and worked on that day.  Also, as Enna has a nut allergy, the preschool has made the all the classes nut-free.  I love that they are so accommodating.  

And that is the new school year!  Perhaps a bit more of a rocky start than I wanted, but still, very good.  


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