Archive for the ‘sewing’ Category

with its top edge over the clothes line, juniper's baby quilt.

Because baby girl made her entrance into this world about a week after I expected, there was plenty of time to fill with very-last-minute details.  On the Monday before she was born, I finished Juniper’s baby quilt.  My first quilt, a log cabin design, featuring bits of fabric with various histories in blues, greens and reds.

Like many, I’ve been accumulating scraps of material ever since I can remember.  In this quilt, there are scraps from the sun dress Grandma Blakemore made me my senior year of high school.  Part of the pajama pants I made my brother in 2002 are here, as well as the pajama pants I made Ryan in 2006.  Fabric from a sewing project I did for my sister-in-law is included, along with many pieces from a number of Ryan’s old boxer shorts.  Vintage napkins, drapery from Restoration Hardware, and a pair of my own pajama bottoms help create a story we can share with Juniper when she’s old enough to ask.

The book I read and referenced when cutting, piecing, sandwiching, sewing and binding is Instant Expert Quilting by Jenni Dobson.  I very much recommend this book.  My favorite part, besides that it taught me how to quilt, were the pictures of folk and antique quilts featured throughout: so inspiring.

Juniper’s quilt is about 35 x 35 inches, with each log cabin square 7 x 7 inches.  I must confess that I loved sewing on the double binding.  It was the only bit of hand-sewing I did, (the rest was machine pieced and quilted), the very last step, the most calming and repetitive, and the most rewarding.  Maybe the most rewarding because it was the very last step?  Who knows.  Either way, I’m really looking forward to my next quilting project.  But because it was such an undertaking, this may have to wait for a very future baby.


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tired after her first sunday venture


I think we were still in the birth tub when I said something along the lines of, “A baby girl?  This means I get to accessorize!”  Caring for the last-minute details, aka “accessorizing,” is something as a knitter, sewer and self-proclaimed button addict that is important to me.  Not that I mean to create a girly-girly monster.  I’m just excited about the slightly frilly and unique details, you know, the icing on the already ridiculously sweet cake.

The day before Christmas, known to some as Christmas Eve, I spent some hours in my much-loved sewing room.  My in-laws were in town, so plenty of caring hands were on deck to hold Juniper as she napped and cooed and did her darling, two-week-old baby routine.  I had realized that we had a number of plain white Carter onesies but not much by way of skirts or pants for baby to wear.  But I had an idea, as well as some pretty flannel, a few buttons, elastic and my sewing machine.

I created an empire-waisted bag style gown for Juniper to wear on her first Sunday.

How?  I gathered the hemmed flannel by basting and pinning, then attached it to the onesie with my machine.  The bottom of the dress has elastic in the hem.  The button details are of brown felt, small circles of the same flannel, mother of pearl buttons and embroidery floss.  The headband strap (light brown in the pictures below) is actually a strip of old tee-shirt; when tee-shirt fabric is cut horizontally, it rolls and creates a soft, slightly springy bit of material that can be used for baby headbands, decorative cording and all sorts of other things.

baby's new dress and matching headband

gathering detail on front of dress

headband, or as Ryan calls it, a pirate eye patch

detail on back of dress

closer to detail on back of dress

By the time Ryan, Juniper and I went to church for the first time, she had already grown so much lengthwise that her little feet stuck out of the bottom of the gown.  Not the look I was going for.  Why didn’t someone tell me that babies grow so very fast?!  Still, she wore her new little dress.  And still, she looked her darnedest.

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red leaves on blue

red leaves on blue on me (35 weeks)

Maternity clothes.  How do I feel about them?  I feel lucky in this area for two main reasons.  Number one: I’m nine months pregnant and still wearing tops that are decidedly non-maternity.  This is probably because a few years ago, girls my age were wearing shirts with torsos going down to their knees.  These now fit perfectly over the baby bump; thank-you unexplainable trends.  Number two: every single piece of maternity wear I own (except for three lovely items mom bought me during the first month) is hand-me-down.  Everything!  I’m so blessed to have friends and family that have “been there/done that” not so long ago and are generous.

So, in the tub of maternity clothes that Christine gave me, I found a lovely and oh-so-soft blue knit top.  I like wearing things made from cotton and I like shades of blue, gray and brown.  Sadly, this particular long-sleeved tee was home to a light stain right on top of the belly.  Sadder still, this stain didn’t come out in the wash.  But, lucky me, I was able to tap into a bit of creativity and make the blue shirt wearable again.

red leaves on blue, detail

As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve recently been thinking about and working with rough-edged applique.  A dear friend let me borrow the Alabama Stitch Book by Alabama Chanin founder Natalie Chanin; this book has led to even more applique inspiration.  Natalie is convinced that knots and end threads on the surface of a work are desirable and beautiful and fun.  I found that I agree with her once I tried it out myself.

For this blue top, I cut leaf shapes out of an old white tee dyed brown and cut smaller leaves from scrap stash fabric.  I used an assortment of vintage mother-of-pearl buttons to visually connect the leaves to the vine.  The vine wraps around the side and ends on the back of the shirt.  Instead of embroidery thread, I used heavy-duty coat and button thread, doubled.  I like the 3d effect, as the heavy-duty thread tends to stand up tall instead of laying flat.  And of course, like most of my other embellished pieces, I added a matching stray leaf at the collar and two on the back of the tee.

I like the red leaves on blue.  Hope you do, too.


red leaf at collar

and i just can't ever ignore the back...

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birdie patch romper

romper before the revamp

Some months ago I found the above puppy-dog romper at our favorite thrift store for just a few dollars.  The cotton was supple and soft, the romper sturdy and well-made such that I couldn’t leave the store without it.  But I didn’t really like the puppy-dog.  Mainly because it’s collar was a little too bling for my taste.  Granted, baby may have taken to the metallic embroidery, but I wasn’t thrilled.  So I decided to revamp this romper.  Enter scissors, scrap fabric and thread.

detail of birdie patch

I’m experimenting with applique, particularly a style where rough edges and knots are exposed on the surface rather than hidden on the back of the work.  At a friend’s home I recently saw a hand-made quilt embellished with rough-edged circles: my initial inspiration.  I’m finding that with this technique the possibilities are endless (!).  Machine sewing goes much faster and the overall effect is more unique and rag-doll-like with every wash.  Hurray for new ideas!

B is for Birdie (and baby and Beuthin)

The patch I made by layering, pinning and sewing bits of scrap fabric fit perfectly over the romper’s original puppy-dog.  And of course, I had to tie in the look by including a miniature coordinating patch on the back right shoulder.  I’m so very pleased with the outcome and I hope baby is, too.

patch on the back right shoulder

a whole new look!

So the truth is I had so much fun revamping the romper with this ragged birdie patch that I’m contemplating what it would take to sew an entire baby quilt of similar patches, using the quilt-as-you-go technique.  Who wouldn’t want a quilt with phases of the moon, a squirrel, a faun, some hills and a little village all in one?  I know I’m dreaming big, but just can’t stop dreaming (and sewing)…

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what i did to our moby

Everyone seems to agree that the one baby accessory we must have is a Moby Baby Wrap, for comfortable and cozy baby-wearing.  So for months I’ve kept my eyes peeled for one, used, because sometimes I like things better that way.  At a friend’s garage sale I found what is essentially a Moby: a Hug-a-Bub.  I guess this kind of baby wrap is popular in Australia, where these friends had their firstborn.

On the front middle of this particular baby wrap was a plain tan pocket, slightly stained.  You don’t actually put the baby in the pocket; it’s used for stowing small things like house keys and burp cloths and things.  I had in mind something a bit more cheerful for the front of the wrap, so I proceeded to disassemble the pocket and sew a new one from scratch.

the Moby (actually a Hug-a-Bub) and it's original pocket

I’ve been quilting lately, which I’ve hinted at during the past couple of weeks, and had long fabric strips of various colors and patterns already cut and ready to be pieced together.  Each strip was 1 1/2 inches wide and, as you can see below, were different lengths.  Once they were pieced in a manner with which I was satisfied, I layered the pocket over white muslin and sewed it to the front of the baby wrap.  Baby wrap make-over complete!

Someday soon I’ll take a picture of what it looks like with a baby snuggled close.  For now you’ll have to use your imagination.

baby wrap with a brand new pocket

the pieced pieces. i heart color.

Project cost: $5 (for the baby wrap at the garage sale).
Total time: one sunny Saturday afternoon.

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the two of us and great-great grandma's quilt

Because Lindsey so kindly requested, I’ll take a moment to share a recent belly picture.  This is me and babe at week 27, though technically we’re now at week 28.  I just couldn’t resist asking Ryan to photograph us in a patterned dress against my favorite vintage quilt.

In other news, I’ve finished yet another pair of fingerless mitts.  This time they are for a friend, Soula, and just in time for cool autumnal breezes.  All of the specifications for these mitts are the same as Patience’s, only I knitted with Knit Picks Palette in Merlot Heather (100% Peruvian Highland wool).  Still love the mitt pattern, still love bobbles, still love Knit Pick’s heathered wool.

soula's fingerless mitts

fingerless mitts on the old langer trunk

vine motif and thumb detail

Next creative endeavor: my first ever quilt.  Right now I’m pursing a love that is not knitting.  Can you believe it?  I’ve taken to the sewing machine, mostly late at twilight and night, to sew a quilt.  If you know me at all, you’ll know that for years I’ve been dreaming up quilt designs in my head and collecting random textiles in real life.  Now I’m finally actually piecing and pressing.  This quilt, of course, is for baby (sneak peek photos below).

sewing a little quilt in my little corner

first block of baby's log cabin quilt

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welcome to a little corner of my world on an overcast day

side view of new shelves (love the cast iron brackets)

Finally I’m feeling that the little nook inside our home just for creating, sewing and finishing projects is fully complete.  My wood-working father built and installed beautiful shelves for above my trusty Singer.  Now knitting needles, yarn, favorite artsy books, buttons and thread are all within arm’s reach.  And it just looks so darn pretty.  Thank you, Dad!  What a perfect birthday present.  I think I may want more shelves next year.

sewing space in the sun

With three windows, there is plenty of natural lighting in my little space.  French doors open from our living room and give others a peek at what is currently being dreamed-up.  The chest of drawers is a lucky thrift store find: originally handcrafted in Ludington, Michigan, it was used for eons in a dormitory at Messiah College.  It is now serving as one of the most solid pieces of furniture in our home; I think it’s indestructible.  Anything and everything craft is hidden away in the drawers (fabric, shrunken sweaters, paints and glues, zippers and ribbons and things).

The work table is also from our thrift store.  I believe I related this excellent find in a prior post.  Lamp and blue canvas bag: Restoration Hardware (oh, the perks of having once worked retail).  The old cheese boxes under the table were found at our thrift store (surprised?) and are from a local dairy.  They are now home to more random crafting items.  The little writing desk was Ryan’s Grandpa Langer’s and somehow perfectly matches the sewing bench that was my Grandma Case’s.  The seat of the bench lifts up to reveal sewing miscellaneous stowed inside, just almost exactly as she left it.

The detail that remains is to put a picture of Grandma Case in the black frame on the second shelf.  I’m thinking of the one from 1925 with her and her older sister riding a goat cart in Flint, Michigan.  Yes, a copy of that snapshot would perfectly complete my little sewing space.

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