Sunday, March 22, 2015

Introducing the Small Human Being Sewalong!

(Does that sound like we're sewing small human beings? Oops. Spoiler alert: we're not.)

Adorable badge by Mikhaela!

One of the things that surprised and delighted me the most about sewing blogging is what a lovely community we have here. When it seems that so much of online interaction is negative (cyberbullying! bodyshaming! awful YouTube comments!), it's nice to be able to count on this corner of Teh Interwebs to be kind, encouraging, and constructive. This was especially evident after I had SHB and so many of you reached out to comfort me that yes, this time is hard, but it will pass and I will sleep, eat leisurely with two hands, and sew again. I'm especially glad for Clio and Mikhaela and their new darling boys to celebrate and commiserate with. We've been emailing back and forth and decided that it would be nice to do a little sew-along to give us the push we need to get back to our machines. Then we started thinking about how many other sewists are welcoming new or coming SHBs, and we thought, why not invite everyone to join us?

As new parents (or even veteran parents!), we know just how hard it is to find the time, inspiration, and energy to sew, so consider this an invitation to push through the the fog of sleep deprivation and cluster-feeding to do something creative. Besides, the nice thing about sewing for such small human beings is that we can finally use up those tiny scraps that are too big to throw away, but not small enough to clothe adults or even kids. Or if you're looking for an excuse to buy new fabric, well, most baby sewing patterns don't need more than a yard of fabric, so you can splurge on something nice. There are so many free baby sewing patterns out there, you don't even need to go out and buy a pattern if you don't want to. Plus, taping up those pdfs will be a piece of cake since there's no way a baby pattern will take up 40 pages!

Want in? Here are the guidelines:

  1. Human babies only, not fur babies (sorry fur babies!). 
  2. Items should be for babies ages 0-12 months old (It's OK if the baby isn’t born yet!).
  3. They can be for any baby -- your own, a friend’s, a niece/nephew/grandchild/whatever, or you can make baby items to donate to charity (we will be posting about a few charities that accept baby-related donations if you would like to do this). 
  4. Sewing only (no knitting or needle felting or other crafts). Hand-sewing, serging and sewing machine are all acceptable construction options. 
  5. The sewn item can be as simple or as complex as you like -- if all you sleep-deprived parents have time to do is sew a simple cotton knit baby hat or serge a pair of reusable nursing pads, that’s cool.

Other details:

Timeline: We'll sew during the month of April, and then at the end of the month we'll do a round-up of our favorite pieces and choose winners for some prizes!

Categories: You can sew as many items as you would like to enter into three categories: 1) Baby Clothing, 2) Baby Accessories and Other Items, such as quilts, toys, burp cloths, bibs, etc., and 3) For Parents -- because you can still do somewhat selfish sewing! -- things like maternity clothes, nursing tops/covers/pads, diaper bags, and baby carriers.

Prizes: We will choose a winner for each category to receive a year's subscription to Ottobre kids' sewing pattern magazine, and randomly select a couple of winners to receive a copy of the Oliver & S Lullaby Layette pdf pattern.

How to participate: Grab the badge for your blog if that's your thing, then leave a comment here or on Clio's or Mikhaela's blogs saying you want in (and your plans, if you know already). You can post photos of your makes on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SHBsewalong, or post to our Flickr group. At the end of the month, we'll also post a call for links if you want to link to a blog post with your items.

If you'd like a more warm-weather badge, there's this option as well!

I'm going to try to make some pajamas and pants for SHB, and if I'm really ambitious I might try to make some more toys for him. And if the seas gang dry and the rocks melt wi' the sun and SHB starts sleeping more, I might even go so far as to make a nursing-appropriate garment for myself. Clio and Mikhaela and I will not only be sharing our makes, but also doing inspiration posts to give you an idea of what's out there and what's possible, so stay tuned! In the meantime, what do you think, sewists? Are there small human beings in your lives you can sew for? (I'm looking at you, Becky, Juebejue, and Amity!)

Here's SHB enjoying gnawing on the plush shark I made for him while lying on the nautical-themed quilt I made for him!
And as you can see, his pants are getting way too short.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Solving the Baby Boy + Cat Problem

I've mentioned before that one of the things that frustrates me most about RTW baby stuff is that manufacturers don't seem to think that boys can be into cats. There's no shortage of blue puppy-themed items and pink cat-themed items, but what's mom of a cat and baby boy to do? Obviously, the answer is to sew my own blue cat-themed item. Oh, I guess I could buck the socially accepted gender-color associations, but TBH, I don't feel strongly enough about it. I do feel strongly about cats, though, so decided that SHB needed something cat-themed to wear. Start 'em early with the indoctrination, right?

I used Kwik-Sew 3127 to whip up this fleece outfit for SHB. Of course, the minute I finish, the weather here takes a turn for the better and it's been way too warm for fleece anything! New Englanders and Canadians, please don't stone me for complaining that it's too warm and sunny. *ducks head* I'm kind of hoping it gets cold again, because look how adorable SHB is in his cozy new suit:

Once again, testing the mobility: can I lick my, hand?

Unfortunately, despite sewing up his recommended size, the outfit is HUGE on him! His feet don't even reach the ankles of the pants, and the body of the jacket is way too wide. The sleeves, hood, and waist of the pants are spot on, though, so I'm not sure what's going on with the sizing. Maybe Kwik-Sew is intended for long-legged, babies with muffin tops? I'm not sure, as this is my first time working with an actual baby sewing pattern.

Can you tell that his knee hits right where the crotch is? And that right footie portion is totally empty. I scrunched up the other pant leg to get his foot into the bottom, but then he just looks like a wrinkly Shar-Pei. 

I didn't bother finishing the inside seams, because come on, baby clothes get worn for such a short time anyway, and fleece doesn't need it.

I did try to trim everything neatly though. 

My stitching of the ears was a little messy. I think if I did this again, I'd line the hood to hide some of this. 

My favorite things about this pattern: elastic in the hood to help hold it on a wiggly baby's head, and the ingenious footie design. It looks so real!

I think it would be pretty easy to reproduce this/scale it up for adult pajamas. 

See, when there isn't a baby in the pants, they look so normal! Then once you put them on, it becomes obvious how comically large they are. 
The sleeves are so long and the jacket body is so wide. It looks like his leg is broken, the way the pants are angled, but that's just because the bottom half of the pant leg is basically empty. But hey! The hood is perfect for his 90th percentile head!

Pattern: Kwik-Sew 3127
Fabric: 1 yard of light turquoise anti-pill fleece, a couple scraps of white fleece for the ears.
Notions: a separating zipper, 3/8" and 1" elastic
Techniques used: Instead of following the instructions for the elastic waist on the pants, I used Lladybird's oh-so-easy tutorial.
Hours: I think around 3? I hand-stitched the ears to the hood, so that took a while.
Will you make it again? I don't see why not! Once I make some alterations to the width of the jacket and length of the pants, that is. These could be made in different fabrics for less warmth, and since I traced the pattern, I can still make all the other sizes as need arises.
Total cost: I got the fleece on sale, so the total cost was $6.
Final thoughts: This was my first time ever working with a Kwik-Sew pattern, and it was overall a good experience. I'm sure if I really wanted to, I could've figured out how to draw up the pattern and sew it myself, but it was nice to let somebody else do the work for me. Especially now that mommy brain has set in (it is all too real!), and figuring out order of operations is too much thinking. The footed pants are especially great, since SHB is all about losing his socks. It's just too bad that the 3-6 month size is ridiculously big on him, and with the way the weather's been heating up, it's unlikely he'll get much wear out of this outfit except for when we go to San Francisco.

Speaking of San Francisco, let's talk about the other reason why I was inspired to make this outfit! It wasn't just about the blue cat business; the last time I went back to the city to my parents' house, I was looking back at my own baby pictures and came across these pictures:

Well looky there, I'm wearing a blue hooded fleece suit with elastic footies! My mom's dress is so fabulously vintage-looking, isn't it? And let's not even get started on the couch. 

So of course I had to try to recreate it with SHB!

I don't look nearly as chic as my mom. 

SHB is also two months younger than I was in that picture, so he's a lot more wiggly and unsteady in a standing position. 

It's really obvious here that his foot doesn't even make it into the footie part of the pants. 

He's also not quite sitting up yet, so we have a lot of outtakes where he's about to fall over...

And of course, it's only natural that Walnut, an actual cat, would photobomb a photo shoot of a cat suit.

Oh hello there, I'm just going to walk in front of you like you're not doing anything important. 

As for the winner of the One Teething Ring, congratulations to Ravenna! Email me with your mailing address so that I can get it out to you as soon as possible!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The One (Teething) Ring and More Geekcrafting

I feel like I'm just repeating myself over and over sometimes: no, SHB isn't sleeping any better, no, I'm not really doing much sewing (brain too tired), and yes, I made more geeky wood-burned items.

I went to Daiso again (it's far enough away that SHB will fall asleep on the drive, and that's really the only reliable way to get him to nap. That, and wearing him, but I can't wear him for all four naps or else my torso might collapse in on itself) and got another box identical to my tea box. While I knew I wanted to burn it, I couldn't figure out what other Tolkien-y panels I could do; the dimensions make it difficult to do another map or anything else based on his drawings. I was having a hard time thinking of another geeky theme that would be suitable for the rustic-ness (rusticity?) of wood-burning, when during one of the interminable middle of the night feedings, my delirious brain hit upon it: a Japanese store...Japanese animation is great...Totoro is a great takes place in a forest...trees are made of wood...

As you can see, I decided to experiment with adding color. I used color pencils, which worked astonishingly well. 

The white color pencil didn't work as well as the other colors. I just love these little forest sprites though!
The title, Tonari no Totoro, and some soot sprites.  

The classic large Totoro with his umbrella!

And of course, a little bonus on the inside!

Since I couldn't manage to make the box into a Tolkien piece, I had to look elsewhere to get my LOTR fix. Thanks to Becky for cluing me in as to the existence of The One Ring teething toys! It was fairly easy to order some blank, unfinished wooden teething rings and burn them myself. It's like these rings are made for the One Ring inscription, because the length of the four lines is just right for the smallest Elvish font that my finest wood-burning tip can manage. I added SHB's Elvish name on the back of the ring as well, then polished it up with coconut oil.

In the Black Speech, it reads, "Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatul√Ľk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."

The top, lighter-colored ring hasn't been oiled yet. I love how the oil gives such a warm honey color to the wood. Also it makes them smell delicious. 

On the back, I put SHB's name in Elvish. The other ring is for Becky's coming Hobbit. 

You may wonder what I'm planning to do with the last, unfinished ring, since SHB doesn't need more than one One Ring (hah!). Well, I'm putting it up for grabs! If you know of a small human being in your life who would appreciate such a mighty gift, leave me a comment and I'll choose a winner on Sunday night. And if the name of your small human being is one that has a Google-able Elvish translation, I'll even add it to the back before oiling it up and mailing it to you.

Of course, if you just want a approximately 3" wooden ring with the One Ring inscription on it for yourself, you can go ahead and throw your name into the running and I won't tell. Do not deny that your heart has greatly desired what I offer! After all,  I offer it to you freely. If you ask it of me, I will give you the One long as your name is the one the random number generator picks. 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Mommy and Me Batman Beyond Cosplay

Before I had SHB, I used to scoff at moms whose wardrobes devolved into leggings/yoga pants and spit-up and milk-stained t-shirts. Can't you be bothered to wear real, clean clothes, I'd secretly think. And because the universe is fair like that, I now find myself the owner of multiple pairs of black leggings and I've totally thrown on a tank top that "only" had a little bit of questionable fluid stain in order to go grocery shopping. I naively thought that once I had my body back I'd go back to wearing my cute fitted dresses made from woven fabric, but alas, stretch knits are so comfortable and none of my geeky dresses have boob access.

Despairing, I wondered how I could get some of my groove back while still being a functional milk machine. Black Milk has geeky leggings, but at $80 a pop they're hardly affordable. Then one day I looked in the mirror and realized I was wearing black leggings and a black fleece jacket (because it's so easy to wipe milk crud off of fleece and it dries quickly to boot, then there's the warmth factor because you know, winter, and zip front = easy access) yet again, and hey, you know which superhero I love wears an almost entirely black outfit? That's right, Batman Beyond. 

From the Batman Beyond animated series: Terry McGinnis, high school student by day, Bruce Wayne's "errand boy" by night.

I used to love watching Batman Beyond when I was in high school. Yes, that's right, I binged on cartoons every Saturday morning as a teen, because gosh darn it I deserved those Saturday mornings after missing out on eight years of cartoon watching, thanks to Chinese school. I thought Terry McGinnis was so cool (he was in high school, just like me, and he had that reformed bad boy persona that silly girls love!) and kind of hot (inasmuch as an animated character can be), and his girlfriend was actually Asian, so it's no surprise that he quickly became my favorite superhero. It's too bad I've never come across any Batman Beyond sheets in my thrifting; I think I would pass out from excitement if I did. Anyway, my glorious return to sewing for myself and not for SHB was to add a red bat applique to my generic Target jacket. Does sewing two seams and doing a lot of ironing of fusible interfacing even count as a sewing project? 

Simplest sewing project ever: sketch bat design on Heat-N-Bond, cut out fleece, fuse to jacket, sew around the edges. Done!

Mom uniform with a smack of geek!
Our green, suburban front yard is just about as opposite as you can get of future Gotham's gritty, run-down urban vibe. 

In the event that two seams and some ironing doesn't qualify as a MBU, I decided that since SHB could use more non-hooded outerwear, I might as well make it subtly geeky. I pulled out the fleece stash and had just enough brown fleece left to make him a little Terry McGinnis jacket. Unfortunately, because of the odd-shaped remnant pieces, I ended up having to cut it so that the stretch runs vertically. I guess that's okay, since SHB is on the long skinny side? He's still wearing his 0-3 month pants because the waist fits, but they're capri-length on him. Hmm, maybe I should make him some pants next. Or I could just pretend that he's a hobbit. From Gotham City. Um. Right. No mixing fandoms.

I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out, even if none of the inside seams are finished and there's no actual closure. 
SHB was pretty pleased with how it turned out, too. I know it looks like he's crying, but this is his happy scream face. 
Despite the grain issues, mobility is good. Good enough for eating links. 
This picture is probably the most accurate in terms of capturing Terry McGinnis' moody, brooding expressions. 

And now, for a rare, unheard-of occurrence: you get to see a superhero and his alter ego at the same time.

Quick, take a picture to capture the evidence! 

Of course, on the day that we're taking pictures of our fleece jackets, it would be 73 degrees. 

Wait, the alter ego isn't supposed to be the one flying through the air. 

Okay, it's time for the alter ego to go inside and fight his nemesis: NAPTIME. *cue dramatic music and JJ Abrams sun flare*

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Hobbit-y Pyrography

These days, SHB is sleeping somewhat better in the evenings, meaning I can be fairly sure of having an hour or so to myself after dinner. I was so excited at first (a whole hour! I can do ALL the things!), but I quickly learned that after working part time and taking care of SHB the rest of the time, not to mention making dinner and cleaning up, I have no energy left for anything mentally taxing. There are so many lovely new patterns I want to get to (hello Sewaholic button-down shirts -- perfect for breastfeeding access!), but I can't seem to muster up the gumption to tackle muslins or fitting or even thinking about where that one fabric is in my stash.

I still want to do something mildly productive, though (I can only read so much before the words start swimming before my eyes), and I have that whole irreversible task resolution, so I have to settle for my brain-dead craft of choice: pyrography. It's essentially tracing, with very little thinking involved, so it's perfect for a tired new mom. And being the geek that I am, naturally it would all be Tolkien-themed. I'm lucky that one of my fandoms lends itself so well to this medium; it's harder to do convincing wood-based, rustic-looking crafts for say, sci-fi fandoms like Star Wars and Firefly.

So, during Christmas break, I burned two small cheese-sized cutting boards:

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

It was tricky getting the wood grain to cooperate to make the elvish designs smooth enough. 

Not actually from the books, admittedly, but I still love the list of hobbit meals. 

Oak leaf motif. Because hobbits. 

IKEA won't let me forget where I got the board from. 

I ended up gifting one to Elaine and keeping the other for myself. It was awfully therapeutic to do, and there's the added bonus of a pleasant smoky wood smell (so nice in winter, especially when you discover that your fireplace is out of commission and will cost $4000 to fix!). It was so fun, I found myself itching to do more. Then I realized that we were storing our teabags in an old gelato container, so when I was at Daiso the other day I picked up this wooden box for making into a more aesthetically pleasing receptacle:

I've always been the tiniest bit sad that I gave these boxes away at my hobbit-themed birthday party, so it was about time I made my own Thorin's-map-themed box.

It pleases me that the green tea is on the Lonely Mountain side, since it's vageuly Mt. Fuji-esque. 

I'm really pleased with how well the wood grain works with the mountains on this side. 

The great wyrms of the North came out looking a little goofy. 

Even though nobody will see it, I like knowing that this inscription is under the, tea. 

All credit for the design on the box goes to Tolkien himself, of course.

It's tempting to make even more random LOTR decor -- Jo-ann's has so many nice blank wood items -- but considering only one person in this house is actually a fan, I think I'd better hold back. Unless, of course, I can indoctrinate SHB...then it'll be two to one!