Tag Archives: sewing for children

Sleepy Time for Two Little Valentines

Not all sewing needs to be couture-inspired. Sometimes simple pajamas are just right, especially when they are for two little granddaughters, with Valentine’s Day in mind.

Sleepy Time

I stumbled across this cozy flannel last year on Fabric.com.

Sleepy time

Designed by Riley Blake and in her “Lovey Dovey” collection, it is certainly “heart” oriented, but not so much that it is restricted just to February 14th. I bought 3 yards and tucked it away for the day when my youngest granddaughter no longer needed to be in onesies. Well, guess what? That is this year!

I picked up this Butterick pattern as I really liked view CE on the left, and set about to make matching PJs for my two little girls.

sleepy-time-pattern

One of the nice design details is the longer shirttail back of the pajama top. This makes it easier to tuck in if desired.

One of the nice design details is the longer shirttail back of the pajama top. This makes it easier to tuck in if desired.

Sleepy time

I’m very glad I have so much experience working with not enough fabric! I had to get very creative with the placement of the pattern pieces, and I was still a little short. I solved the problem by making the undercollars out of plain white flannel (which I had on hand.)

Sleepy time

I don’t own a serger, so to finish the seams and make them extra sturdy for many washings, I made flat felled seams throughout.

Sleepy time

I also added elastic to the sleeves and to the pajama pants legs, to help keep the cold air out and the warm body heat in.

Sleepy time

The fabric is so busy that I knew it did not need much embellishment, but I can never resist a little bit of rick rack, so I added a small flourish to the collars, applying it free-form.

Sleepy time

Sleepy time

When I “auditioned” the fabric for buttons, pink and red ones simply did not add any interest, so instead I chose to pick up the contrasting aqua.

Sleepy time

What fun to make something so simple, but so cute!

Wrapped up in festive paper, off they went across the miles…

Sleepy time

May your Valentine’s Day be cozy and sweet and a celebration of some of life’s simple joys!

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

The Old Year Sails Away

“Where there’s a will, there’s a way” is a maxim I grew up with, and once again, it served me well to remember it. Although much of my sewing had to be put on hold after I injured my left hand in October, I was determined to get a dress made for each of my two granddaughters for Christmas. Matching sister dresses seemed to be the way to go.

Sailboat dresses

My inspiration was a child’s jumper I had seen on Pinterest, with appliquéd sailboats, but first I needed to find the right fabric. I knew I wanted to make the jumpers out of fine wale corduroy, and a quick search on fabrics.com produced a lovely Robert Kaufman fabric with the requisite anchors embroidered onto it.

a-little-sewing-fabric

The coordinating cottons I found at JoAnn’s, along with a pattern which I adapted to this particular use:

This is a very adaptable pattern. I was quite pleased with it!

This is a very adaptable pattern. I was quite pleased with it!

I turned the shoulder seams into button tabs, with the thought that this would make the dresses more “adjustable.” (I still installed zippers in the center back seams, as this just makes it so much easier to get two little busy girls dressed.) Button tabs also allowed me to use two sets of vintage buttons I had stashed away, waiting for the perfect application for them.

The larger buttons I used for my older granddaughter's dress and the smaller ones for my younger one's dress.

The larger buttons I used for my older granddaughter’s dress and the smaller ones for my younger one’s dress.

I lined the bodices in red polka dotted cotton, and I took a little bit of the fullness out of the skirt patterns. I added carriers to the sides of each bodice, for the belts to slip through.

Sailboat dresses

The belts come off completely, for easy washing. Being sewn on the diagonal keeps them from twisting, and it also makes them more interesting!

The belts come off completely, for easy washing. Being sewn on the diagonal keeps them from twisting, and it also makes them more interesting!

Then I left the hull of the sailboats open along the top edge, so my little girls could use them as pockets if they like. And, of course, I had to add some rickrack embellishment – to the mast as streamers, and below the boats, as waves.

Sailboat dresses

Although I was fairly certain the girls would like these jumpers, I was gratified and somewhat amazed at their excited and happy reactions to what they dubbed their “swirly dresses.” After what turned out to be a difficult year for me, it was rewarding to end it with a little success!

 

 

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Jumpers, Sewing for children, vintage buttons

The Silky, Shimmery Colors of Spring

Just as with the elusive answer to “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?,” those of us who sew can try to answer “Which comes first, the fabric or the pattern?” The answer, at least as I see it, is “It depends.” And sometimes, even, it is a little of both.

When I saw this fabric on the website of Mendel Goldberg Fabrics last Fall, I really did not stop to think about a pattern. It was a “bolt end,” 1 3/8 yards of 58” wide Italian silk. With that width, I wasn’t particularly concerned about the length being under 1 and ½ yards. I just ordered it as soon as I could.

The colors of Spring

Upon arrival, the fabric was even prettier in person, shimmery with “polka dots” woven in, fluid as only silk can be, and the picture of Spring. At that point, I was up to my ears with my Winter sewing, so I thought about it only casually until just a few weeks ago. I already had this pattern in my collection, and in the back of my mind, I had paired that fabric with the dress in View B on the right.

Oh the things we can learn, no 10

One interesting thing about vintage patterns is the yardage requirements are often given for widths that are narrower than many modern fabrics are produced in. For that reason, it can be difficult to determine exactly how much fabric is needed for a particular design. I’m getting better at sensing what I need, so I just assumed that I would have enough fabric to make that dress.   I had my heart set on it, actually. So much so, that when Britex Fabrics announced an upcoming sale of silk fabrics, I sent off for swatches for coordinating silk for the short jacket (in view A) and lining for the dress.

The green is a lightweight silk/cotton blend. The goldenrod yellow is silk taffeta from Italy, without the stiffness that taffeta so often has.

The green is a lightweight silk/cotton blend. The goldenrod yellow is silk taffeta from Italy, without the stiffness that taffeta so often has.

Dutifully ordered, the fabric arrived from California, and it, too, was even prettier in person! I was in love, and really could not wait to get started, first on the dress, and then on the jacket.

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The green for the lining . . .

The colors of Spring

… and the yellow for the short jacket in View A.

Then reality hit. When I took out the pattern pieces, here is what I found for that unusual flounced skirt:

This skirt piece uses almost a yard in length, and the diagonal shaping on it uses more fabric than normal.

This skirt piece uses almost a yard in length, and the diagonal shaping on it uses more fabric than normal.

My heart sank as I knew immediately I did not have enough fabric. There was going to be no Rumplestiltskin to help me with this one.   I went back to my pattern collection and pulled out two more possibilities.

I love this dress, but I thought it might be too tailored for the fabric. Also, the seaming detail would be lost entirely with the busy design of the silk.

I love this dress, but I thought it might be too tailored for the fabric. Also, the seaming detail which adds so much to this dress would be lost entirely with the busy design of the silk.

I felt like Goldilocks evaluating this pattern for my fabric. Just not right...

I felt like Goldilocks evaluating this pattern for my fabric. Just not right…

With both these dresses I would have to rethink the jacket, as the styles would not compliment each other. I stewed over this, re-measured, re-thought, and left it all in a heap in my sewing room. There was something about that shimmery silk that kept telling me that a dress made from it needed to have some movement to it –  like the flounced half-skirt pictured in the pattern. And then it hit me. If I made the front part of the skirt the same as the back, I could probably just squeak it out.

I did a quick diagram to consider this option.

I did a quick diagram to consider this option.

My completed muslin verified this for me, and, not only that, I loved the look, at least done up in muslin. Once again, using the couture technique of laying out and cutting each pattern piece individually enabled me to manipulate the pieces to make the most of the fabric I had available to me. Fortunately, there was no matching to be done, although there is a specific up and down to the design.

Now this is what is called making the most of one's available fabric!

Now this is what is called making the most of one’s available fabric! This shows my silk organza underlining pieces in place, ready to cut.

As far as the jacket – losing the diagonally shaped flounces on the skirt, makes the effect of the jacket not quite as dramatic, but I think it will still be very flattering – and appropriate. (The jacket has a million pieces to it, so it will be quite the project…!)

Well, I can’t leave this post without sharing another color of Spring, although this one is not silk and not shimmery. Pink cotton gingham is the picture of Spring, especially in a little dress for a little girl! When I made a crib quilt for my younger granddaughter, Carolina, I backed it in pink gingham, appropriately called “Carolina Pink.” I ordered enough so that I would be able to make her a dress for her first birthday (earlier in April) and here it is:

The colors of Spring

The colors of Spring

The bodice is lined in soft white cotton, which makes a lovely finish.

The bodice is lined in soft white cotton, which makes a lovely finish.

In my tins of buttons, I found these little ceramic ones, purchased years ago when Carolina’s mommy was my little girl. (Well, she is still my little girl, but you know what I mean.) How appropriate to use them for one of her daughter’s dresses.

The colors of Spring

These buttons, with their delicate cross-hatch design, were just waiting for this dress.

And with this dress –  the fabric absolutely came first!

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Filed under Buttons - choosing the right ones, Formal or fancy dresses, Heirloom sewing for children, Mid-Century style, Sewing for children, sewing in silk, Silk taffeta, Uncategorized, vintage Vogue Designer patterns, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1950s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1960s, vintage Vogue patterns from the 1970s

A Second Chance

Although I did quite a lot of sewing for my two children when they were young, there were a few particular dresses I had always wanted to make for our daughter. Somehow by the time I had the time to think about making them, she had grown just a bit too old for these dresses better suited for a two, three, or four-year-old. But now I have a second chance to make them, this time for granddaughters. (Lucky me!)

With our oldest granddaughter’s third birthday approaching, I picked one of my favorite “sewing-for-children” books off of my shelf, and went right to the section on what has to be my favorite little girl’s dress of all time.

This beautiful book by Kitty Benton was published in 1981, by Hearst Book, New York. It is extensively illustrated, with explicit instructions for every project. It also has a complete section on Sewing Techniques, including smocking, embroidery stitches, hems, sewing on buttons, etc., etc. The book is an invaluable guide for heirloom sewing. Copies of it are available on Amazon and through a few Etsy shops.

This beautiful book by Kitty Benton was published in 1981, by Hearst Books, New York. It is extensively illustrated, with explicit instructions for every project. It also has a complete section on Sewing Techniques, including smocking, embroidery stitches, hems, sewing on buttons, etc., etc. The book is an invaluable guide for heirloom sewing. Copies of it are available on Amazon and through a few Etsy shops.

And here is the dress I love so much!

And here is the dress I have always loved so much!

The dress in the book is geared towards a two-year-old, so I decided to lengthen the bodice to fall at the waist, better suited for a young lady of three. I actually used this New Look pattern, version C (in lavender), for my pattern.

Obviously, I intended for the sash to tie in the back.

Obviously, I intended for the sash to tie in the back.

I lengthened the sleeves as well, in keeping with the intention of Kitty Benton’s design.

To transfer the embroidery design onto the bodice, I photo-copied it and enhanced the stitching lines with a fine-tipped black marker. Then I held it up to a window, with the blue gingham bodice piece centered on top, and I traced the design lightly with a sharp pencil.

A Second Chance embroidery pattern

A simple and sweet flower bouquet.

I used purchased yellow piping, being fortunate enough to find the perfect color. No need to make more work for myself when what I needed was readily available.

The embroidery on the dress took me longer than I anticipated, but I was able to finish the dress in the nick of time (except for a hook and eye at the back neck; I actually finished much of the hand sewing on it while spending the past 9 days with my daughter and granddaughters while our son-in-law was away on business; I forgot to bring hooks and eyes with me, so on my next visit, I’ll be doing that little addition!)

A Second Chance

I actually hand-picked the zipper! I'll be happy when I can get that neck properly finished with hook and eye.

I actually hand-picked the zipper. I’ll be happy when I can get that neck properly finished with hook and eye.

And a close-up look at what makes this little dress so endearing, besides the little person who will wear it!

And a close-up look at what makes this little dress so endearing, besides the little person who will wear it!

All I had to do was hope that the dress would fit little Aida well, and most importantly, that she would like it! Fortunately, both concerns were quickly dismissed, as she seemed to love the dress from first glance in the box and immediately wanted to put it on.

DSC_1147

A Second Chance

Her birthday party was held on the first day of Spring, and although it felt more like Winter, Aida happily wore her new dress for that special day.

The birthday girl!

The birthday girl!

Aida has already given me more joy than she will ever know – and also a second chance for some “little” sewing!

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

A Quilt for Carolina

The calendar tells me it is January of 2016. However, I cannot quite let go of Christmas 2015 yet – at least not until I share the story of the small quilt I made for the newest member of our family.

A quilt for Carolina

Dear little Carolina was born in April, and it was then that I began to plan the quilt I knew I would make for her first Christmas. I had done the same for her big sister, Aida, two years ago.

This is the quilt I made for Aida two Christmases ago.

This is the quilt I made for Aida two Christmases ago.

Once we knew what her name was (Carolina is pronounced like the American states, North and South Carolina, with a long “I”), it seemed an easy decision to anchor each corner of the quilt with a “Carolina lily.” Here is a classic Carolina lily quilt square:

A quilt for Carolina

However, there are a ga-zillion variations of this design, and because I don’t enjoy “piecing,” I designed a block with an appliquéd lily, set in a blue pot. I thought I would tie these blocks together with rows of undulating vines, as seen in the first image above.  And then I got stuck. I wanted to draw on some of the design features in Aida’s quilt, but make it look entirely different. Initially I thought I’d like the great middle field of this quilt to be of a “random” nature similar to this quilt pictured in one of my books:

This quilt is pictured in Crib Quilts and Other Small Wonders, by Thos. K. Woodrd and Blanche Greenstein, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1981, p. 16.

This quilt is pictured in Crib Quilts and Other Small Wonders, by Thos. K. Woodard and Blanche Greenstein, E. P. Dutton, New York, New York, 1981, p. 16.

I spent hours fiddling with paper appliqués and trying to get inspired. Nothing was working and time was flying by!! Even small quilts (Carolina’s quilt is 46” square) take a long time to make. I finally realized that this quilt needed to be orderly, but whimsical, for me to come up with a successful design. I like a quilt that can be rotated and viewed logically from all four edges – so I decided each side of the quilt had to be anchored by something. I thought about some of the memories Carolina might have of her first home – and then it all became obvious. Tall – very tall and very green – pine trees define the property where Carolina and her Mommy, Daddy, big sister, and dog live. The pines are sheltering, sturdy but sometimes swaying, and home to untold numbers of birds and animals. They would be the perfect definition for this quilt, too.

A quilt for Carolina

Two blue birds are on each of the tall middle trees.

The animals – dog, cat, chicken, and bees (flying around their hive) – practically designed themselves:

The dog's ear is floppy! I lined it with pink gingham. Here i have it pinned back so you can see it!

The dog’s ear is floppy! I lined it with pink gingham. Here I have it pinned back so you can see it.

I am a big fan of the dog's ear - so another look at it!

I am a big fan of the dog’s ear – so another look at it.

One of our cats wears a pink collar - thus the pink gingham ribbon for this cat. I added her smile after I had taken this photo.

One of our cats wears a pink collar – thus the pink gingham ribbon for this cat. I added her smile after I had taken this photo.

I embellished the chicken with wide rick rack. One of the fun aspects of designing a quilt is the ability to select the perfect fabric to tell your story - this hen has feathers!

I embellished the chicken with wide rick rack. One of the fun aspects of designing a quilt is the ability to select the perfect fabric to tell your story – this hen has feathers!

Bees a-buzzing around their hive!

Bees a-buzzing around their hive!

Each interior corner of the middle field is anchored by the Sun, the Moon, and the Stars:

The sun in this corner.

The sun in this corner.

A smiling moon, with rick rack mouth and a green button eye.

A smiling moon, with rick rack mouth and a green button eye.

Polka dotted stars in the other corners.

Polka dotted stars in the other corners.

You are seeing sections of the finished quilt, but here are some “in progress” photos, showing the freezer paper appliqués that were easy to spread out so that I could consider  the placement of each one.

This was how I knew I had the right composition of the quilt. Then it was on to hours and hours and hours of hand appliqué!

This was how I knew I had the right composition of the quilt. Then it was on to hours and hours and hours of hand appliqué!

It was rewarding to see this progress!

It was rewarding to see this progress!

I would occasionally place the border pieces on the edges to see if I like how it looked. With quilts, I am known to make decisions as i go along.

I would occasionally place the border pieces on the edges to see if I liked how it looked. With quilts, I am known to make decisions as I go along.

Once I had the center finished, the borders needed something else. I decided Carolina’s initials – CHT – would be the perfect addition, appliquéd with the surname initial in the prominent outer and middle position on each edge. See the above photo for my thinking process on this.

A baby hand is appliquéd in the center, surrounded by baskets, ready to be filled to their brims by her imagination, just as with Aida’s quilt.

I added the red rick rack bows, secured by vintage buttons, because i thought the center of the quilt needed more "heft" - and I was pleased with the effect this small addition made. (I took this photo before I had trimmed the ends of the rick rack even.)

I added the red rick rack bows, secured by vintage buttons, because I thought the center of the quilt needed more “heft” – and I was pleased with the effect this small addition made. (I took this photo before I had trimmed the ends of the rick rack even.)

I neglected to take a photo of the back of the quilt. I chose pink gingham cotton – in Carolina pink! – to make cuddling under it even more fun – and it serves as a tie-in with the bow on the cat, and the dog’s floppy ear.

I finally finished this quilt just one day before our whole family arrived for the holiday. I was obviously so glad to have it done, but then I found myself filled with weepy emotion and grateful wonder at the great blessing of grandchildren and the love that such a quilt can represent.

Made with love!

Made with love!

Carolina with her new quilt!

Carolina with her new quilt!

Oh, yes – lest you think Granddaughter #1 was to go without something handmade by her Coco (the name our granddaughters call me!),  please think again. I had purchased this pattern a couple of years ago, and decided this was the time to use it.

Quilt for Carolina - bear pattern

I made the baby polar bear, opting for pink ears and a pink gingham ribbon around its neck.

With button eyes and an embroidered nose.

With button eyes and an embroidered nose.

DSC_1031

DSC_1032

Hello, Aida!

Hello, Aida!

Now, at last – I am ready for the New Year, with all its promise and mystery! Happy 2016 to all of you around the world!

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Filed under Baby quilts, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

Frigid February

For such a short month, February is certainly making itself heard loud and clear here in the northeastern United States. Windy, snowy, bitter, bitter cold. The only way to push through it is to try to have some fun with it. So – in that vein, I am delighted to announce the winner of my February give-away, who is Adecia!

Frigid February - winner tag Adecia, I’ll be sending you an email so that I can get your mailing address. And a warm (emphasis on warm, mind you!) thank you to all who commented and added so many wonderful additions to my “hopeless dressmaker” list.

Of course, another way to have fun with winter days which keep us housebound is to spend those days sewing. And so I have! In anticipation of Valentine’s Day, I did some sewing for my almost-two-year-old granddaughter, First I made her a little apron to wear when she is playing with her little kitchen – or helping her mommy in the real kitchen:

I found the red gingham in one of my fabric drawers, and I purchased yards and yards of the heart lace when Waechter's (sadly) went out of business.

I found the red gingham in one of my fabric drawers, and I purchased yards and yards of the heart lace when Waechter’s (sadly) went out of business.

Next, I made her a white flannel blouse, using a pattern which I had used 30-some years ago when I was sewing for her mommy (my daughter).

The best view of the blouse is in View B on the left.

The best view of the blouse is in View B on the left.

I made the blouse out of flannel so that it would be warm and practical, and I lengthened the sleeves so that they would reach to her wrists. Next, I changed another pattern, also left over from my daughter’s toddler days, and made a red jumper, embellished with rick rack (of course!)

I started with the yoke part of the yellow dress and made it into a jumper.

I started with the yoke part of the yellow dress and made it into a jumper.

Frigid February

With adjustable buttons on the jumper...

With adjustable buttons on the jumper…

The back view.

The back view.

More fun sewing was spent on two baby bags. One baby bag was for a new little girl, so I chose a pink and navy blue color scheme.

Frigid February

Frigid February
 The next one was part of a shower gift for a little baby boy, expected in April. I chose an orange and navy “sailing” theme for this little one.

Frigid February

Frigid February

Now it is back to some serious sewing, as I have finally started work on a cashmere wool suit dress. One way to get the weather to improve is to spend these final weeks of Winter sewing with wool, right? By the time I have it completed, the days will be longer and the sun warmer. But if Mother Nature continues her wrath, I may be able to wear it once this year – and that is what I am hoping for (I think)!

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Filed under aprons, Sewing for children, Uncategorized

Sewing a Circle

December would not be December without a sewing project intended for gift-giving. Last year found me working furiously on a quilt for granddaughter Aida. This December I finished a dress for her the Saturday before Christmas, just a day before she and her parents arrived for the holiday. Just a few days before, I had finished a corduroy jumper for her.

This jumper turned out to be a little too big for our petite little girl, so she will have to wait a bit to wear it.

This jumper turned out to be a little too big for our petite little girl, so she will have to wait a bit to wear it.

Rick rack and primary colors – a favorite combination!

I knew this was the year I had to make this flannel “Black-watch” plaid dress.

Sewing a circle

I had limited fabric, enough to fit a 21-month-old, but only enough.   The fabric was left over from a dress I had made for her mother (my daughter) twenty-some years ago. The pattern I used actually was designed to be smocked below the front yoke, but I had neither the time nor enough fabric to manage that little trick. So I took out some of the width of the skirted section of the dress, machine-gathered along the smocking lines and placed rick-rack on top of the gathering lines. Another line of rick-rack along the lower edge of the dress tied the whole thing together.

With plaids to match, I was really tight on fabric.  I faced the hem to stretch it out a bit, but the dress ended up fitting Aida perfectly!

With plaids to match, I was really tight on fabric. I faced the hem to stretch it out a bit, but the dress ended up fitting Aida perfectly!

It's difficult to pose for a picture when there is cooking to be done with Aida's new kitchen!

It’s difficult to pose for a picture when there is cooking to be done with my new kitchen!

What does everyone want  for Christmas dinner?

What does everyone want for Christmas dinner?

Next year, I think I had better start earlier, as next year I will be making another baby quilt (now that I have set a precedent!), this time for Aida’s brother or sister, due in April. And, of course, Aida will have something handmade by me as well. This is what we, as sewers, do. We give a bit of ourselves even when it means late nights, and fitting sewing time in between a million other things.

Did someone say sewing?  I prefer taking it easy!

Did someone say sewing?

And then, in what seemed to be a time-defying split second, it was the end of the year – and the final chapter in one life. My 90-year-old mother died on December 31, a much-needed peaceful end to a life increasingly compromised by illness. My mother sewed for me when I was young. And I am sure she, too, spent hours making Christmas gifts and dresses for my sister and me.

My mother taught me to sew, and that has made all the difference.

The beginning of a new year now brings with it the anticipation of newborn life and the continued wonder and joy of our little granddaughter. The never-ending circle of life has never been in clearer focus for me: it is scattered with fabric and buttons and pins and thread, just the way it should be.

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Filed under Sewing for children, Uncategorized