Category Archives: Sewing for children

Odds and Ends and One Thing You Mustn’t Miss

Sewing has been, well, challenging this summer.  In reality, I think I have been able to accomplish just about all I could have hoped for – so far, at least – but it certainly doesn’t seem like very much.

When I packed fabric to bring along to our new vacation home in Wyoming, I tried to think ahead and determine exactly what I would need.  For instance, I brought two decorator fabrics which I had picked out for two of our “new” bedrooms, with plans for making decorative pillows and at least one bed skirt.  I also brought two fabrics with which to make dresses for our two little granddaughters who were arriving, along with the rest of our immediate family, in late July.  I also brought some vintage Moygashel linen, many pieces of shirting and dress cottons, skirt fabric, and a piece of Viyella cotton/wool blend.  What was I thinking?!!  Certainly no one could accuse me of being under-ambitious!

I totally misjudged how much of my time would be taken up with organizing and setting up a new household.  So – what have I been able to sew?  A number of decorative pillows, for one thing. I find them – and all that self-bias tape I had to construct – utterly boring to make, but satisfying once they are completed.    The bed skirts have been moved to the “still to do” list.

was able to make dresses for my granddaughters.  My original intent was to make each dress out of a different fabric, but when I stretched out my ladybug embroidered, striped fabric from Emma One Sock, I realized I had more than I needed for one dress.  With one minor compromise, I knew I could get two dresses from my existing yardage.  So I changed plans and made matching dresses.

I made white piping for the pockets and collars out of kitchen string and white batiste.  The ladybug embroidered fabric is really so cute!

The compromise I had to make involved the sashes, as I did not have enough fabric to cut sashes for two dresses. Fortunately I had enough of the coordinating red fabric to make the sashes. Now I’m glad it worked out that way, as I think it makes the dresses cuter.

I had pre-purchased red decorative buttons, thinking I would need them for just one dress. Normally I would put three in a row centered beneath the collar, but with four buttons, and two dresses … Well, you do the math!  Two on each dress it is!

Having spent many summer days and nights in Wyoming before this year, I knew  from experience how chilly the mornings – and nights – can be throughout the summer.  (The days are warm and glorious, however.)  Warm cozy slippers and a winter-weight bathrobe are necessities. And that is why I brought along the afore-mentioned Viyella fabric.  Although I packed a winter-weight robe which I made a few years ago, I wanted to make a new robe which I can leave here, therefore eliminating one bulky item from future suitcases.

How lovely to have the opportunity to use this vintage Vogue pattern once again.

This robe takes a lot of fabric, and it was a tight squeeze fitting all the pattern pieces on it and matching the plaid as well.  I had to make the sash out of two pieces of fabric, seaming it in the back. Additionally, I had enough fabric for only one pocket (I prefer two.) But, I am happy with the outcome, and very pleased to have used one more piece of fabric from my sizeable collection!

Viyella is the perfect fabric for a lightweight, but warm bathrobe. It is machine washable, and gets softer with age.

While the bathrobe, and the little dresses, were enjoyable to make, neither were challenging in the “couture” sense.  So I did my  “couture” dreaming vicariously through the Susan Khalje  Couture Sewing Club, where inspiration abounds in many forms.  Earlier in the month, Susan was interviewed for the “Love to Sew” podcast.  Treat yourself and spend a lovely hour-plus listening to it, if you haven’t already done so.  The interview, Episode 106, dated August 12th, can be found here:

www.lovetosewpodcast.com.

Among Susan’s new pattern offerings is this jacket:

When I arrive back home in Pennsylvania, I will be searching through my fabric closet for the perfect pairing for this pattern.  I am just itching to challenge myself with such a project.  No more pillows, at least for now!

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Filed under Bathrobes, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Fashion commentary, Sewing for children, Uncategorized, Vintage fabric, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s

Seeing Double – No, Triple!

When I saw this dress pictured on the website of Farmhouse Fabrics, I knew I wanted to use this pattern and this fabric for my granddaughters’ birthday dresses.

Fortunately, the pattern was included in the  Summer 2018 issue of Classic Sewing Magazine, available from Farmhouse Fabrics, as were the fabric and all the trimmings.

This pattern allows for many variations; here is one page from the featured article on this dress in Classic Sewing Magazine.

With birthdays three weeks apart from each other, one in March and one in April, my granddaughters bridge that small gap between Winter and Spring.  Presenting them each with a special Springtime birthday dress has become a real focus for me in planning my annual sewing.  What amazes me is how quickly the time for this particular sewing comes up in the new year.  But somehow I always get them finished in time for the birthday celebrations.

 

I decided to forego the white eyelet collar shown in the example and make the collars out of the dress fabric.  My thought was this change made the dresses more “everyday,” albeit fancy, nice everyday!  Because Farmhouse Fabrics carried this wonderful bias, picot-embellished edging, I chose to trim the collars with it.

In the back of my mind, I had the thought of also embellishing the dresses with rick rack (when do I not have the notion to embellish with rick rack?).  However, I did not want to overdo it, leaving the lovely fabric to carry most of the impact of the dresses.  When I found pale pink jumbo rick rack, I thought it might be the perfect anchor to the skirts, pickling up the zigzag motif on the picot collar edging.

Here is one of the dresses before the rick rack was applied.

I think the rick rack is a very nice addition.

I determined that a single row of rickrack was all I needed.  Of course, to be done correctly, it had to be hand-sewn in place, which took a bit of time.

The final finishing touch was the placement of two pink buttons at the back opening.

I self-lined the bodices.

Another close-up.

This diagram helps to show the details of the pattern. Notice the narrow darts in the bodice, which gives such a nice degree of shaping. This is the type of detail found on well-engineered patterns.

The backs of these dresses are so pretty!

So, two dresses done – and two+ yards of fabric left over!  What would you do?  Silky soft cotton, beautiful Spring colors, an even plaid.  How could I not use it for something?

What do you think of a blouse?  A casual, everyday type of blouse, hopefully perfect for the upcoming casual Summer?  Yep – that’s what I did!

I have already altered, “perfected,” and made this vintage Simplicity pattern from the early 1970s several times, and I must say, I never get tired of making it.

The pattern art here is so dated!

About halfway through the construction of this blouse, I had a moment of questioning my choice.  Was this blouse going to look just a little too “country with a piece of straw in my mouth?”  Or was it just going to look fresh and bright?  But at that point there was no turning back.

I combined two sets of buttons remaining from two previous blouses for the eight buttons I needed here.

Identical size and same look made combining these two sets of buttons an easy decision.

Now that the blouse is finished, I really like it.  We’ll see what my granddaughters think when they see me in it!

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Filed under Blouses, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

It’s a Wonderful Sewing Life

Like so many people in the USA and around the world, my favorite Christmas holiday movie is the 1947 Frank Capra picture, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” starring James Stewart and Donna Reed.  No Christmas season is complete for me without watching it at least once. Bedford Falls, the fictional town where the movie takes place, would have been bereft without the life of Stewart’s character, George Bailey, as he eventually discovers under the benevolent care of his guardian angel, Clarence.  I believe the movie is a good reminder to think about our own lives, the things that make us happy and the talents we have which enable us to do lovely things for others.  And so – I often reflect on how my life would be so much poorer without sewing in it.  I love to sew in all the seasons, but especially at this time of year, I am so grateful that I can sew for my little granddaughters.  It is one of my greatest pleasures to plan and make new dresses for them to wear to all their holiday events.

Last year’s dresses were red and white checked flannel, so this year I thought they should have green dresses.  Trying to find a pretty “Christmas green” in a child-appropriate fabric proved to be a challenge.  Thankfully, on a trip to North Carolina in October, I had the good fortune to visit Mulberry Silks in Carrboro.  There I was able to order a lovely green cotton sateen from a swatch book, and have it sent to my home in Pennsylvania a couple of weeks later.

I already had a vision of a way to make these dresses just a little bit special.  My inspiration came from a feature in Classic Sewing Magazine, Volume 3, Issue 3, purchased from Farmhouse Fabrics earlier in the Fall.

Not only do I love rickrack, I love to embellish it. When I saw this collar and cuffs, I knew I had the inspiration I needed.

Although I wasn’t planning on smocking these dresses, I knew I could embellish the collars and cuffs in the same manner as the illustrated dress.  Of course, I envisioned red and green rickrack crisscrossed, and red and green detailing on the cuffs.

I used lightweight linen for the collars and cuffs, and made self piping for the edge treatment.

Because my girls had outgrown the patterns I used for previous years, I needed a new pattern to configure in their sizes.  Fortunately, the same Classic Sewing Magazine contained this pattern in sizes 4-8.  I knew I could use the smocked dress pattern, by using the bodice lining template as the actual bodice.

The smocked dress on the left had the correct collar, cuffs and long sleeves which I was looking for.

Another feature I wanted to include was this embroidered ribbon which I picked up last year in an after-Christmas sale at a home/design store.

I sewed the ribbon onto a long, unattached sash for each dress.  I have just enough fabric remaining to make plain belts for the dresses in case my daughter thinks the girls can wear them at other times of the year. The pattern called for a buttoned back, but I opted for zippers instead, as a practical alternative.  I thought about adding three little pearl buttons right below the center neckline of the bodices, but then I realized they actually detracted from the design of the collars.

Now it seems every project has some little quirk to it, and this one became apparent to me only when I took photos of the finished dresses.  (I should add here that I was racing the calendar to get these dresses in the mail in early December so they would arrive in New England in time for the Season!)  My photos showed the orientation of the rickrack embroidery was different on the two sets of collars.

What I don’t understand is the fact that I laid out the grid exactly the same on each collar, but once they were attached to the dresses, they were askew from each other.

I am still trying to figure out how the grid on this collar ended up on a slant.

Well, at that point it was too late to try to fix this.  Off they went in the mail, with me scratching my head!  Fortunately, when my daughter sent me some photos of the little ladies in their dresses, this mistake was not very apparent.  And best of all, my little girls love their dresses.

As I am wrapping up my sewing for 2019 (in order to finish wrapping presents, for one thing!), I am so grateful for all the resources available to those of us who sew, I am so fortunate to be part of this global sewing community, and I am so grateful to all of you who read my blog.  Thank you so very much!  I wish each and every one of you a peaceful, loving, happy Holiday Season. And may your guardian angels ever keep watch over you and your loved ones.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Heirloom sewing for children, Sewing for children

Happy Hippos and Dotted Daisies

Sewing for children is a specialized category, one which is certainly not of interest to everyone. For that reason, I sometimes skip doing a post on some of the clothes I make for my two little granddaughters. However, these two dresses turned out so cute that I thought I would share them.

I had not really intended to make more summer dresses for my two little ladies, but this hippo fabric made me do it!

This fabric is by Hoffman California.

I have had this piece stored on my fabric shelves for well over twenty years.  I really do not remember why I ever purchased it.  I always thought it was cute and cheerful.  As luck will have it, my older granddaughter’s favorite animal is a hippo! Little Miss Aida has a stuffed hippo who is well loved (almost to the point of being bedraggled!) and definitely a member of the family.  There really could be no better time to use this fabric to make her a dress, especially as, at age 5, she is still happy to wear a cute print like this. (By age six, maybe not?)

As I only had enough fabric for one dress, I needed to make the dress for her 3-year-old sister from another selection.  This navy, pink, and white fabric I have only had for a couple of years (no time at all in the realm of my sewing room!), purchased specifically with my two girls in mind.

I found this fabric at JoAnn’s. It is one of their premium cottons, and really quite a lovely quality.

Over those two years, however, I have slowly been using sections of it to line a number of “baby bags” which I often make for gifts, leaving me with only enough yardage for one dress, not two.  So voila!  This worked out perfectly – and the cheerful daisy print suits little Miss Carolina’s personality quite well.

I have made so many of these bags and they always seem to be a welcome baby gift. These are made from a Noodlehead pattern.

Showing the daisy lining.

For the dresses, I used the Children’s Corner “Louise” pattern again, this time without a separate band on the skirt.

However, to add interest, I made the collars out of coordinating fabrics, and I added pockets to the skirts.  Luckily, in my fabric collection, I found dotted cottons which worked perfectly for the collars and pockets.  Then rickrack provided the finishing touch.

When I am sewing long-distance for these two little girls, I am usually in a quandary over the length of the hems, especially as they are always, always growing and growing so fast.  This time, they were here for a visit, so I saved the completion of the hems until they arrived.  No guessing this time!

The bodices are lined with a white, lightweight, and very soft linen.

I used aqua colored buttons on the hippo dress and pink buttons on the daisy dress.

This was a very satisfying project – the girls love their new dresses, and I felt very virtuous using two fabrics that have been folded away in my sewing room closet, waiting for their new lives to begin.  Hippos and daisies turned out to be a winning combination.

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

A Spring Tradition

Early to mid-Spring means birthday time in our family, especially so now with our two little granddaughters, who have birthdays in March and April.  Fortunately both little girls love dresses and love wearing them, so of course my Spring sewing agenda has to include making two “birthday dresses.”  (Last year’s dresses were a bit more elaborate than what I had planned for this year. In fact, I just lengthened the hems on these “strawberry” dresses so the girls can wear them for one more year!)

I found these Liberty fabrics last year on Fabric.com and immediately ordered yardage in two colors.  They stayed tucked away in my fabric closet until early March when I got serious about getting these dresses sewn.

All along I intended to pair each print with 16thinch coordinating cotton gingham, and then I set about finding a pattern which would accommodate this idea. I ended up using a Children’s Corner pattern (Louise) which turned out to be the perfect choice. View B showed a hem band and collar in contrasting fabric to the rest of the dress.

View B includes the Peter Pan collar and hem band.

These dresses are quite simple to make, and the pattern is precise.  I really, really like that this company gives you separate pattern pieces for each size in the envelope.  For example, this pattern included sizes 1 – 5.  So – there are full patterns for each size. I used size 3 and size 5, and it was such a pleasure not to have to trace a pattern for each dress. Mysteriously, the seam allowance allotted for the pattern pieces was only ¼”.  I increased it to a standard 5/8” as I am much happier sewing with a more substantial seam allowance.  The only other changes I made to the pattern were to make the back opening button on the left side rather than the right side, and to add three decorative buttons to the bodice.

I needed to move the bottom button on this dress as it was not quite lined up!

First I made the size 5 dress.  I realized once it was well underway that a touch of rickrack would add so much more interest to the dress.  Finding lilac colored rickrack was quite the task, but once again an Etsy shop (Creative Trims) had just what I needed.

Looks too plain without some additional embellishment.

The rickrack looks so much better!

I applied the rickrack by hand.

The second dress came together quickly (for me, at least!) Making the dresses alike, but in different colors was an idea I liked, and I was hopeful that the girls would like that, too!

A back view.

I am happy to report that, according to my daughter, the little girls love their birthday dresses.  Time to start planning for next year!

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Filed under Uncategorized, Liberty cotton, Sewing for children

A Rosy Sewing Year

It seems that every new sewing year – at least for me – does not start right on time, as I am always finishing up a project from the month of December. Such is the case in this early January of 2018. However, that does not keep me from planning and dreaming about the coats and jackets, dresses and blouses to come. I can’t help but think of the new year at hand as a “rosy sewing year,” because the fabrics that are in my queue right now share a common theme – so many are predominantly red or pink or peach or floral, a bouquet of colors and textures.

First up is this red and black “hounds tooth” boucle which I found at Mendel Goldberg. Yes, it will be a Classic French jacket, with a sheath dress to match.

I am planning some variations in detail and trim for this jacket and dress, about which I am excited. It is a big project, so I hope January gives me lots of sewing time! No doubt this will spill over into February…

As I mentioned in one of my December posts, I hope to make a coat from this vintage purple boucle I am so fortunate to own.

A few years ago I found this silk charmeuse (also at Mendel Goldberg) which I intend to use for a coordinating dress with the coat.

Other silks I would love to concentrate on this year are purchases made several years ago from Britex Fabrics in San Francisco:

This is a French crepe de chine.

This silk helps satisfy my penchant for polka dots.

Then there are two linens I never got to in 2017, one a geometric red and the other a ecru and black floral. I assume they are waiting patiently for me. Add to all this my determination to sew for my two little granddaughters and – there’s the year! (And can I possibly finish another classic French jacket next Fall?  We will see.)

But let me complete 2017 first. Whatever made me think I should start (and could possibly finish) another dress for myself in December I will never know. But that’s exactly what went through my head. I had plans to make taffeta “Cinderella” dresses for my granddaughters for Christmas presents, but thought I would sneak in some personal sewing time before I started on that project. Perhaps it was the pattern that made me do it? Or was it the fabric?

When I purchased this pattern at the end of last summer, I really had no idea when I would be using it; I just did not want to miss the opportunity to own it, knowing that I would surely use it someday. Little did I know that someday would be just a couple of months later.

Now it just so happened that I had draped this fabric, below, over my dress form so I could admire it while I worked on other things. I purchased this silk charmeuse from Mendel Goldberg fabrics in 2016 as an end cut, three yards in length.

I knew with three yards I would be able to use a dress pattern which called for more than normal yardage, and I had found a pattern in my collection which I thought I would use:

My idea was to lengthen the sleeves to three-quarter length.

But something just did not seem right. I could not get excited about that pattern in that fabric, even with three-quarter sleeves. Well, I had one of those proverbial light bulb moments when it occurred to me to use the Guy Larouche pattern for the champagne-colored, floral silk. It seems to be a perfect match. The bodice of the pattern is cut on the diagonal, and the meandering flower and vine motif in the fabric lends itself to both straight of grain and diagonal placement. I made my muslin (with quite a few alterations) and was really quite excited about the draped back, shown here in muslin:

And here is the front, minus one sleeve. The front neckline is a bit unusual and I think it will be flattering.

I got as far as transferring the markings onto the silk organza underlining, cutting out the fashion fabric, and basting the two layers together, all ready to start sewing. Then reality hit like a sledgehammer! I had to get those dresses for my granddaughters finished in time for Christmas (which I did, after some frantic sewing – and they love them, which made it all worthwhile!)

Just in case anyone would like to see these dresses, here they are. Big bows in back, and the sleeves are adorned with little bows. Very girly!

So that’s how I am now at this point, finishing up 2017, with the hope of starting the new sewing year one of these days – with my Guy Laroche dress perched in my closet, awaiting its debut. May the New Year be rosy and kind to all of us, and may it end with many sewing dreams fulfilled!

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Filed under Boucle for French style jackets, Chanel-type jackets, Coats, Linen, Moygashel linen, Polka dots, Sewing for children, silk, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s

Two Holiday Dresses

Sewing for my granddaughters, ages 4½ and 2½, generally means I am sewing two of everything. As they get older, I suspect this will not always be the case, but right now, it seems safe to go with identical sister dresses. They live in a part of the country which can get very cold winters, and the specific part of their state where they live tends towards a casual lifestyle. Keeping those parameters in mind, I decided to look for warm flannel when planning for dresses which could see them through the holidays and into the winter months. I wanted the dresses to be festive but not too fussy. When I found this red brushed flannel check, I bought five yards – the details for adding “festive” to the dresses would come to me, of that I was sure!

I went back to a pattern I have been using over and over, adjusting the sizing as the girls have grown, and adding my own varying design aspects to make the dresses look new and different from one season to another. The contrasting collars and cuffs add interest to the dresses, through the use of various trims.

I have used View C of this pattern for birthday dresses, including the Strawberry-print dresses from last Spring.

Finally I did not want these dresses to look so Christmas-y that the girls would not be able to use them beyond the holiday season. I knew that if I made solid holly green the sole accent color, it would limit their versatility. That’s when I got the idea to look for some multi-color wide ribbon, preferably vintage, which could be used not only for sashes, but also for piping for the collars and cuffs. I found some of the most gorgeous plaid ribbons online, especially at Promenade Fine Fabrics. They have a bricks-and-mortar store in New Orleans and a website, but they also have an Etsy Store, and that is where I found this ribbon:

The ribbon is vintage French, of course (!) – 3 1/2″ wide.

Somehow I knew instinctively that the orderly flannel gingham check and the more random plaid of the ribbon would work together. (I have since found the term for this phenomenon, as clearly stated on page 84 of the wonderful little book, 101 Things I Learned in Fashion School by Alfredo Cabrera with Matthew Frederick: “Combining visual patterns – The most effective tool for the harmonious mixing of visual patterns is counterpoint. Scale counterpoint means grouping patterns of dissimilar scales, i.e. a larger pattern with a smaller pattern… If similar patterns are used together [in this case, two plaids], their scales need to be very different. …”) I also knew that making piping out of the ribbon to accent the collars and cuffs would tie the entire look together.

Normally with piping, I try to avoid too many seams, but the ribbon is lightweight and such lovely quality that I was able to piece together bias strips of it easily, and the seams are really imperceptible on the finished dresses.

This gives you an idea of how much piecing I had to do to make the bias strips for piping!

However, the plaid gave me very specific sewing lines when joining the bias pieces.

I made the collars and cuffs out of a creamy white linen and cotton blend, which matched the “white” in the flannel well. I also lined the bodices with that same fabric.

I couldn’t help myself – I put the zippers in by hand.

The buttons are vintage ones that I have had in my button box for decades, just waiting for the right application.

I originally thought I would place each button within a square of the gingham plaid, but it looks so much better to have the buttons straddle the squares.

I added sash carriers to the side seams, and the ribbon just gets tied in a big bow.

The longer sleeves will help keep the girls warm.

And here are Aida and Carolina, after visiting Santa, candy cane included!

This is very satisfying sewing, made especially so by two little girls who seem to love dresses! My daughter tells me they will be wearing them when they go to see a special performance of the Nutcracker Ballet. They may just steal the show!

 

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Filed under Bows as design feature, Buttons - choosing the right ones, Sewing for children, Uncategorized