knit margot mittens.

and now for a more seasonally appropriate post: mittens.

we finally got our first snow of the winter season here last week, which meant margot's first real time to get to play in snow. after spending a ridiculous amount of time bundling her up--tights, pants, socks, onesie, sweatshirt, coat, second coat, hat, explorer boots--we realized we didn't have any mittens. so we temporarily solved the problem by putting two pairs of her socks on her hands. needless to say, this was hilarious. however, my craftiness found this unacceptable, so i got straight to work that evening knitting her up some mittens.

jon insisted that they have thumbs, for maximum adventuring, so i obliged. margot appreciates it, as thumbs make picking up snow snacks much easier.

i was unable to find a pattern out there that fit my needs, so i made one up (meaning mushed a whole bunch of other pattern bits together to get something that worked). the finished mittens are adorably toddler sized (twelve to twenty-four months-ish) with a bright bit of color work to keep things fun.

margot approves. even if trying to get thumbed mittens on toddler sized hands is a pain, it's worth it for all of the snow fun that's to be had. i promise, that's a laughing because i fell in the snow face, not an angry face. she's really into crinkling her nose right now.

the mittens do take a bit of manipulation to get on. with margot though, all i have to say is 'do you want to go outside' and she gets so excited that she puts up with it. however, this also often happens (it's easier to eat the snow off your mittens if they're not on your hands), and there's a lot of re-putting-on of mittens. sometimes i don't even bother putting her thumbs in the thumb hole, but they're nice to have.

on an unrelated to mittens note, margot really loves being hit with snow balls. really really loves it. laughs super hard. here is a series of pictures taken right after i sort of accidentally hit her in the face with one (i wasn't aiming for her face). note, she quickly realized there was delicious snow above her lip, and eventually succeeded in moving it to her mouth. talent.

if you want the pattern, you can download it on my ravelry page here for free! it's never too late to make some mittens...ok, that's probably not true...it's maybe too late, but that's never stopped me!


sewn toddler shorts...in february?

so, i'm a bit ahead of the seasons. it's twenty something degrees outside and i'm sewing shorts. i couldn't help myself. i blame snowy evenings, a stash of woven fabrics, and coming across this ridiculously cute box pleat shorts tutorial. it was meant to be. and shorts can be made into cold weather-ish wear with the addition of tights...or so i'll tell myself.

this was only my second time sewing bottoms, and the first time was so simple that i'm not even sure they count. i've come a long way with my sewing courage since those leggings though, and i was excited for the challenge.

the tutorial was super thorough, and even included a pattern in the correct size (eighteen to twenty-four months), so i didn't even have to start from scratch. the pattern includes some really cute details that let me add to my growing bank of sewing skills--like the front box pleats, faux-fly, and gathered leg holes. i particularly love the faux-fly for toddler pants. an actual fly is unnecessary, but the look of one really puts the cuteness through the roof (like tiny grown up clothes). i'll definitely be using this feature in future shorts and pants making.

i did make some mods though, because i have no self control. i added both front and back pockets, as if margot could actually use them, and trimmed them out with bias tape in a contrasting floral fabric (which you've maybe seen a time or two). i put the back pockets on a bit low though, which makes the pants look like they're constantly sagging. oops.

also, instead of fully encasing the elastic in the waistband, i made an adjustable waistband using button hole elastics, like in this tutorial. i was pretty worried about the fit, since margot is on the small side, so this was pretty good insurance. this is another feature i'll likely include in future shorts.

and, most proudly, this project forced me to conquer my buttonhole foot! i'm not sure why it took me so long, because my machine has an automatic buttonhole foot, but long long ago, when i first got my machine, i tried using it and failed repeatedly. i remember it well--there was much weeping and throwing of things and abandoning half sewn pillows. i was so miffed by the experience that it took me until now to try again. and, alas, success! three times in fact since i needed two buttonholes for the adjustable waistband.

overall, i'm super happy with how they turned out. they fit pretty well and will hopefully fit though the summer, which is lucky because i may have accidentally cut about an inch and a half off the back piece's width (note, the back piece is supposed to be wider than the front piece when you sew the two together...don't ask me how i know that). it was a happy accident though because without it, that adjustable elastic would be working hard to keep those orange shorts up on that tiny bum.

i have also figured out that dum-dums make a better photo shoot bribe than cookies (as long as you're ok with drool marks down shirt fronts). margot approves of this discovery and would now like there to be more photo shoots. she's in luck, because i have a second pair of shorts almost done and a third pair already planned out in my head, not to mention the many other yet to be blogged about margot related projects. it's the cruel truth of the cold months that my productivity peaks at the same time that opportunities and patience for photo taking is at a minimum. oh well.


where the buffalo roam.

i evidently have a thing about dressing my kid like a lumberjack. i promise, it's not intentional. but man does she look cute in flannel. especially buffalo plaid flannel with a pop of yellow. 

i made this shirt using the bolt of clearance flannel i bought at jo ann's. between this and the pencil case, i've now made but a small dent in the five plus yards i bought. my end goal is to make a shirt for myself, but i'm still intimidated by that. adult clothing has shaping and has to fit right. totally not there yet.

so, in the mean time, i'm working up my courage for that by sewing boxy toddler clothing. it gives me a way to practice techniques without getting super discouraged by creating a piece of ill fitting me-clothing. and really, no matter how crummy the sew job is, sticking it on that much cuteness completely makes up for it. even when she's super upset that i won't give her another cookie. (photo shoots take bribing, yo!)

like the lumberjack vest, i made up the pattern for this shirt, basing it off of a store bought shirt. also, like the lumberjack vest, i ended up with a shirt about a size larger than i was going for. measuring would probably help there...

i am really enjoying the process of making clothing from scratch, with minimal experience and the collective knowledge of the internet at my finger tips. i like that it involves a little math, some puzzle piecing, and thinking ahead through the whole order of operations of the process. in the end, i make pages that look like this (complete with margot scribbles) and the floor of our office looks like a fabric store exploded. total bliss.

i know it's not for everyone though, this lawless sewing. most people, i think, like using patterns, with clearly lain out steps. most people, i think, don't like sewing a collar on a shirt, realizing it sticks straight up, ripping it out, redrafting the pattern, cutting a new collar, resewing it on, and then calling it adequate, even though it still gapes quite a bit, but at least it lays flat-ish. but i'm an engineer, so i find the process of repeated failure rather cathartic.

this shirt was pretty heavy on technique practicing, which was what i was going for. it has a ridiculous front pocket trimmed in yellow, which i've had plenty of practice now making. there are also non-functional yellow sleeve tabs, to highlight that carefree, rolled sleeve look. the rolled sleeves are also non-functional, permanently sewed in place, because what toddler is going to stay still long enough to let you roll their sleeves, even with a cookie.

i also successfully (for the first time i think) top stitched two hems in place, for the collar and the lower hem. i used this tutorial for sewing on the collar (treating it like a collar stand and omitting the part about the actual collar). which worked beautifully. i was really sweating getting the collar edge and placket aligned properly, but this method makes it pretty dummy proof.

the most complicated new technique was making the placket (which i learned is the fancy sewing term for the place where buttons go). i used this tutorial, which is for sleeve plackets, but it's the same for a popover-style shirt front. i wanted the underside to be yellow, so i had to piece my placket fabric together. i gave myself a little wiggle room here by making about 1 inch more than half of the placket with the plaid fabric. this way, i guaranteed that all of the front fabric was plaid, even if i didn't line it up completely accurately (which is not a sewing strength of mine). this means that a little of the underside has plaid fabric too, but since you sew the two halves together at the bottom, you never notice this little cheat. it turned out pretty snazzy i think. it's a bit sad at the top, but that's because of the aforementioned collar ripping out that was done. oh well.

it's my most complicated sewing adventure to date and the one that i'm most proud of. hopefully she gets some wear out of it. that's the down side of making toddler clothes i suppose. i'm probably the only person crazy enough to put this much work and detail into something that will be lucky to last through the fall.

margot is obviously unimpressed. she does not think that two cookies is adequate repayment for her modeling work. she plans to unionize in the near future.


boxy pencil case.

i'm a teacher now. which is weird to say. but, so far, awesome. there are still a lot of things about being a teacher that i'm not very teacher-like about. one of those things is being prepared for class. not really in a lesson plan sense, but more in a remembering all of those pesky school supplies sense. so i figured making a sweet case for all of those things that i forget on a daily basis may help me out there (probably not, but it's a good excuse to make something).

i used this tutorial, which was super clear. it took an embarrassing amount of head scratching though to figure out how to make it (faux) leather bottomed (i blame that glass of wine with dinner). if you're interested, i'll try to explain it here.

the tutorial starts with a outer fabric piece 13.5 by 17 inches, so to make it leather bottomed i cut the leather 9.5 x 13.5 inches and then the two grey cotton pieces 4.375 x 13.5 inches. lining up the 13.5 inch sides, i sewed a grey fabric strip to either side of the leather with a quarter inch seam allowance. with these dimensions, the leather is actually over-sized by a quarter of an inch, but i didn't press the seam flat. rather, i rolled the leather a bit and top stitched it where it meets up to the cotton. this takes up the extra length. i wasn't actually sure this would work out, but it did for me. once pieced, you could always trim the whole thing back to 13.5 x 17 if it's too big.  

sorry if that doesn't make sense...

i was really glad to use some more of the spoonflower fabric i designed. i've been hoarding it for awhile for special projects. this is the same woodland print as margot's tiny backpack, but in silver.

the bag is lined with some sweet buffalo plaid flannel, which i now have more than five yards of thanks to a bit of an impulse purchase (and a really good deal!). i also bias bound the seams with some vintage mustard yellow bias tape that i got at a thrift store. mustard yellow goes with everything.

i'm still pretty terrible at sewing with bias tape, but i think i'm getting better. i think part of the terribleness is that i pick really tricky projects to do it on--ones with super bulky seams. i also still can't figure out interfacing. when i use the heavier stuff, i find that the fabric looks nice and smooth when i i start, but by the time i've sewn it up it's all wrinkly. maybe that just means i should use a lighter weight interfacing. all in the name of progress i suppose.

the finished bag is a bit giant. roughly 4.5 x 4.5 x 9 inches. more than enough room to carry all of my school supplies. probably enough room to carry a guinea pig, or a small rabbit. that would make for an interesting class...


tiny pocket tees.

it was seventy degrees here on sunday. in february. crazy. it's the kind of weather that makes you cautiously optimistic for spring. cautiously, because this sunday it's not supposed to get above thirty. alas, weather, you toy with me.

so, the other day, in anticipation (or wishful thinking) of warmer weather, i jazzed up some plain margot tees with some ridiculous tiny pockets.

this is a project i've been meaning to do for a long time. it's quick, uses only the smallest bits of fabric and makes something plain just a little special.

the whole process was quite zen. cutting out tiny bits of fabric, ironing down teeny edges while trying not to burn my fingers (maybe that part was less zen), pinning and sewing in place. i even tried to sew zen--nice and slow, keeping the lines straight and the seam allowances small. slow sewing is not typically how i roll, but i've been trying to be a better person.

the only process shot i got was of these pressed, pre-sewn on pockets looking all dapper. the fabrics make me happy. the llama pocket especially. i finally found a use for that sample swatch of spoonflower fabric i designed. hooray llamas.

the finished pockets are rougly 2.75 inches wide and 3.25 inches from top to the bottom point. this makes for a slightly oversized pocket on a sized two-t shirt, but that's what i was aiming for. i particularly like the pointed pocket style. i think it's extra cute.

i did find that slightly heavier weight fabrics made the whole process a lot easier. the floral print was a light weight cotton, so the seams did not want to stay pressed and the pocket was difficult to place. the llamas and the yellow folk fabric were heavier, like a light weight canvas, and were so much easier to work with. if i were to do this again i would probably use interfacing or at least some spray starch with light weight fabrics.

now i want to put pockets on all of my tee shirts, sweatshirts, and tank tops. all of the pockets. you should do it too. we'll take over the world with pockets.


monster letters.

finally, a post that isn't a sewing post! crazy, i know. don't get used to it, i've got several more sewing projects in the queue.

a couple of years ago i made my nephew a pretty swell set of wooden memory tiles using different animals i had designed (i should maybe post about those...). i came across them a few weeks ago and thought, i should make margot something like that. before my brain could come up a with a new design idea though, i came across these amazing monster alphabet tiles designed by the swell folks at the caravan shoppe. perfection.

i used the pages sized for 2.25 by 1.5 inch tiles (which are the perfect size for margot) and had them printed on card stock at office max, as recommended in the file. i'm super glad i did this too, as it's much better quality and saved me from endless warring with our worthless color printer (we are not friends). and since i am extremely fortunate to have a fab lab in my neighborhood, i just laser cut the wooden rectangles out of a quarter inch sheet of oak plywood. i put the polka dotted backing paper on the sheet of wood before cutting out the tiles. i count this as a stroke of genius, since applying the monsters took much cutting and gluing and almost cost me my sanity. i think it was worth it though. sanity is overrated.

margot is only somewhat impressed by them. so far her favorite thing to do is wait until i have them neatly lain out on the coffee table and then flail her arms, slinging them to the far reaches of the living room. i must admit, i does make quite a nice ruckus. she also thinks they're pretty tasty.

i had a couple of issues with the file, but they probably aren't issues that a sane person would have. for one, the pictures of the finished product on the website show a nice white background. when you buy the pdf though, what you get is the peach color shown in the digital rendering. i wasn't a big fan of the color, so i brightened the background before printing. also, the size tile i used only had images for a 'scrabble alphabet'. so tiles that only appear once in scrabble--j, k, q, x and z--only had the uppercase letter. since i wanted to make a full uppercase and lowercase set, i had to photoshop the missing letters from the other tile sizes. not a huge deal, but i did forget the lowercase z, which makes me pretty sad.

minor issues really. i totally recommend these monster letters. they're a nice way to get professional design quality while still having that sense of diy accomplishment. seriously, who can resist that little j? too cute. now i'm eyeing their olliblocks zoo printable. i see the most adorable fridge magnets ever in my future (says the crazy lady who still has an uppercase set of letters to finish).

on a completely unrelated note (or maybe as a logical followup to the previous crazy lady comment), all of these close up of our coffee table are giving me an itch the refinish it. i've had this coffee table since high school. my dad bought it for me for four dollars at a yard sale (yeah, i was the kid in high school who thought a coffee table was a great present). i think it's time to give it some love. orange much? oy.