Sunday, September 30, 2012

Setting the Table

Remember a while back when I tried to make a paper napkin holder and ended up with a pattern holder instead?  Well, I finally came across another fabric "basket" tute that I thought would work for napkins if I just made it bigger.  And I had just covered some new dining room chairs we bought (which were extremely dirty as they were stored outside behind the store or something) in this paisley fabric, so I made them to match!

The basket tute was on Sew Mama Sew and mentioned this contest where you upload pics of things you made for your dinner table to enter. How perfect! I already wanted to make a table cloth for the big table as well as one for the kids' table, which we break out if we are having guests over to eat who have kids.  And I thought I may as well make some cloth napkins too...... and we ALWAYS need dish

Two types of dish covers, mug rugs, and kids' and adults' napkins

I had been wanting to make the elasticized dish covers for some time and then I saw the square ones with the beads hanging from the corners (to weight it down) on the Sew Mama Sew list of table tutes, so I decided to make those too.  Unfortunately, I learned that these only work for tall bowls, otherwise the beads touch the table (which doesn't look so great, but is probably just as effective).  I should have taken a little more care in deciding which dishes needed covers....... I also saw the tutorial for the "mug rugs" and thought I'd make one of those for each of us too.  We used them the other day for a gelatin snack.  And, of course, I made 4 adult napkins and 4 kid napkins too. 

So, here is the table set for dinner:

That little rooster holding the toothpicks was a souvenir my husband brought me from Portugal several years ago.  And the Fiestaware I brought over from the U.S.

 And the kids' table:

I had to hand dye the lace I used to trim the edges of both table cloths.  That took two tries for each one.  It is very hard to match colors when dyeing!

And here is the table set for a cup of tea:

The green teapot with the flowers was a hand-painted gift from my cousin; and the red teapot was a gift from a friend.

So, there you have it.  Loads of linens to set our tables!  I think the colors are very cheerful and go nicely with our new chairs as well as our everyday dishes.  I think my husband thinks they are a bit loud and maybe don't go together as well as I think they do.  Ah, men! 

One special challenge I had making all of these things was the fact that our electricity supply has been particularly bad the past 2 weeks.  We have only had power in the middle of the night (if that).  And I cannot iron if we are using the generator.  This means, I had to FINGER PRESS both table cloths and all 8 napkins!  Man!  That was tedious and time consuming.  And my patchwork mug rugs aren't quite as neat as they might otherwise be.  Incidentally, we haven't had any power at all from the grid for over 48 hours now, so I guess I shouldn't have been complaining the past couple of weeks.......  Oh!  And it turns out that BOTH of our cameras are broken now, so I had to take all these photos with the video camera. *sigh*  See why we need such cheerful table linens now?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Minnie Me Dollies

I have a group of crafty mom friends who are forever inspiring, encouraging and supporting me!  They really are a wonderful group of women!  Without them, it would be much harder to cope with all the challenges of life in Angola.  So recently, some of them were making Waldorf type dolls for their daughters.  It all started when Steph Carton (The Eli Monster cloth diapers) made this darling doll named "Wei" for her daughter, using a doll form.  I don't know if you know this, but waldorf dolls are expensive!  They are made with all natural materials and are hand-made with care.  One way to make them a little more affordable, is to make some parts yourself, that way you can customize it too!  So, she purchased sort of a blank doll and then embroidered the face, added the gorgeous hair and made her darling outfits.

This is Wei.  Her favorite color is "rainbow".  She wears custom undies made by The Eli Monster (pattern soon to be released) and likes to bathe in the kitchen sink.

Next, Karin Baker (Domino Pads) decided to make one too!  She spun the hair herself from wool roving.  And she made the entire doll from scratch!  She started out buying a doll form but ended up wanting more details, like the more life-like eyes and the sculpted fingers and toes.  She even made her a dress to match her daughter's dress too!

Karin's daughter just got this gorgeous dollie for her birthday! Aren't they  both just adorable?! And those matching frocks (*sigh & smile*)!

Actually, Karin got bitten so badly by the doll-making bug, she started making some to sell!  They are unbelievably gorgeous!  When she takes up a new interest, she really goes for it!  She is all about the fun, the love and quality!  Here are some of the dolls she has been making:

Aren't they amazing?!  Check out her shop, Spinster's Fairytales to see more.  She even sells the yarn for the hair if you wish to make your own doll.

And then, Gretchen (formerly of Smox on Etsy- we have two of her art smox that we LOVE) decided to make "Astoria" for her daughter, also for a birthday present. She also used a doll form and chose beautiful aqua hair.

On the left is the doll form with the yarn laid on top.  Look how happy the little birthday girl looks!  So sweet!

So, of course, my kids needed dollies too!  I so wished I could buy a doll form (or be as quick a learner as Karin)...... but, alas!  I have to make due with what I have on hand.  I knew right away which yarn I would use for their hair.  It is hand spun wool that I got through trades from another crafty mom friend (Spindle Spun who I know from diaperswappers).  I have been trying to come up with worthy projects for a long time.

Rainbow wool for my daughter's.  Sarah hand dyed and spun the blue/green/rust wool (middle pic) for my son.  We experimented with dyes (coffee, tea & fiber reactive) on suedecloth and bamboo jersey to try to match their skin tones.  I decided to leave the blue marker off the doll's skin though.

I started with the boy doll for my son since there is no shortage of girl dolls in this house already.  I roughly followed this tutorial, but I had some batting that I decided to use for the head and then I used some stuffing for the body.  For the girl doll, I was all out of stuffing, so I unstuffed a throw pillow that I didn't need.  The boy doll turned out kind of heavy, and the girl doll much lighter (& a little smaller).

I made the eyes and mouth bigger than a usual Waldorf doll just because I was trying to make him look a little more like my son.
So, here they are, both dolls along with their current wardrobes:

Obviously, I have been making some clothing for the dolls too: Undies (girl's from The Eli Monster's pattern, boxers from my pattern).  I made some jeans, a cardigan, and a hat for the boy, and a sweater, a lacy knitted skirt, and another pair of undies for the girl. All the other clothes (the two knitted vests, the knitted dress, and all the booties) were my kids' newborn clothes.  What luck they fit their dolls!  I had been wondering what to do with those things I spent so much time making.....

My son on the left wearing the white knit vest, and in the middle wearing a hat made from the same yarn as his dolls' hair.  My daughter on the right wearing the knit dress.  Do those two babies look alike or what?!

So, I know my dolls turned out very crude, lumpy and wonky, especially in comparison to the dolls above, but my kids love them, so I am calling it a success.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

I won! I won!

So, you know how I keep talking about the Pattern Stash Contest on Pattern Review?

Pattern Stash 2012

Well, I won!  I sewed 33 different patterns in the month of July!  Woo hoo!  I really use sewing (& knitting) as a way to cope with the difficulties of living here in Angola.  As long as we have power, either from the grid or a working generator with a long extension cord, I'm usually sewing!  Sometimes I have to use a flash light to find things in my sewing storage room after dark (generator usually doesn't power those lights and there is some problem with the wiring, I guess so that light doesn't always work anyway).  And even when there isn't power by any means, there is always the planning, the pattern tracing and all that other stuff to do.  So, the bottom line is, I made a ton of stuff in July (even a few more things than those for the contest- 42 in all), and I was able to cope with all the upsets of life in a 3rd world country in the process.  So, here's all the stuff I made:

Whew!  That's a lot!  Now, I'm taking a little bit of a break and doing knitting and crocheting instead of all the sewing (well, obviously still some sewing).  For instance, I had to make a matching hoodie for my daughter:

as well as a matching pillow cover:

and a pair of jeans for my son's doll:

And of course, I am also working on a doll for my daughter, but I've run out of stuffing and haven't quite decided what to use instead...*scratching head*... I am considering un-stuffing a couch pillow with a recently "decorated" velvet covering.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

More Décor.........

During the Pattern Stash Contest, I sewed some more things for around the house (i.e. non-clothing).

I swear I have been wanting to make some super cool wall thingie to measure the kids height on almost since my son was born. And I finally did it!

I just need to figure out which type of thing we will use for markers.  I am thinking worm and butterfly to start (with height and date).

And I finally made some covers for the kids' throw pillows.

I have also wanted to make one of these for a very long time.

And I finally did.  It was just in time for my son's birthday party.  All of these items were made from patterns from the book Sewing Bits & Pieces.  This book is wonderful for inspiration, but the patterns themselves and the instructions are variable.  If you aren't good at winging it, you might hate this book, I mean, unless you just want to look at the pictures.

The last non-clothing item I made in July was this little pouch on a belt for my son.
Pattern is Simplicity 9080
 He can use it to collect rocks & leaves or to carry tools or Bakugans.  I mean, pockets alone just aren't enough!  Plus he can use this on clothing without pockets............. you know, like underpants!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Some Things to Keep the Kids Warm....

It is winter here right now in the southern hemisphere, and although it doesn't get real cold in Angola, we feel cold sometimes.  We even have to use a sheet or blanket to cover up in bed lately! *Gasp* 

So, I decided to make the kids each a pair of warm, fuzzy, fleece pants.
The black ones I made using a Kwik Sew pattern, and they turned out great.  The blue ones I used a Butterick pattern for, and their sizing is ludicrous.  My daughter calls these her "big, blue, monster pants".

Then I realized that she really just needs lots of little knit pants or leggings to wear under all her dresses, so I whipped up a few.

For the aqua ones I used French terry with lycra and the Riviera leggings pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love, and added a little ruffle.  The navy and purple ones were made from the Lil Blue Boo leggings pattern using a cotton/lycra jersey.  They all fit great; and I know she will get a lot of use out of them. I don't know why I ever buy leggings.  They are so easy to make.  I guess it's because good knits are a bit hard to find.

But then, I thought they needed a new long-sleeved top each, and they love hoods.
I made these using the Imke pattern from Sewing Clothes Kids Love.  I used a really thin cotton jersey for these since I don't want them to sweat too much.

And then, lastly, I decided to make one more little warm thing the night before the Pattern Stash Contest was over.  My daughter never seems to have the right color of sweater.  So I made her this (because she has a lot of dark pink stuff).
This shrug pattern is also from Sewing Clothes Kids Love.  I used an old Gap sweater of mine that I loved but accidentally shrunk and felted a little.  I used part of the belt as the binding around the shrug and then I decided to add some cut in half as a little tie so it doesn't fall off her shoulders.

I have been considering knitting everyone some socks or slippers (because I feel the need to knit lately for sanity), but I just don't think I could tolerate how quickly they would be ruined and/or worn out.  Our socks don't last long at all here, so I just can't bring myself to hand-knit something that will be used up in a short amount of time.  Oh well.  It looks like I'll have to knit more doll clothes and wash cloths.....

Thursday, August 2, 2012

A Few Things for Me

In addition to the Japanese pattern flops and the brown, scrunchie tank top, I made myself a few other things in July.

I made another French terry tank top, this time in dark purple.
Pattern is Kwik Sew 3467.  Great pattern!
I am pretty happy with this one, and I think I will make some more of them when the weather warms back up.  Also, I just can't say enough good things about this French terry fabric.  I don't know why I horded it for so long.  I think I've used it all up now, and I want more!  It's such a stable knit, with plenty of softness and just enough stretch. 

And I made myself a little, purple, knit skirt.

Pattern from Ottobre 2/2010.
It's a little bit too little though, so I am thinking of adding something to the bottom, like maybe a ruffle.  This is a thinner, stretchier knit, obviously with some lycra in it.  I can't remember if it's cotton or bamboo.

And I made myself another knit item, a navy blue sleeveless dress.
Also from Ottobre 2/2010
This one is also a little short.  I haven't decided if I should add to the bottom, shorten it to a tunic, or just wear it as a nightgown......  It's lovely and soft though and I think I will make more of these.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Hooray, Hats & Headbands!

While sewing for the Pattern Stash Contest, and also sewing away the crazy, I made a bunch of hats and headbands.  I made these two hats for my son:

Let's Go Fishing Hat from Sewing for Boys- A great pattern and a great book!

McCall's M58118.  A green, twill cowboy hat with little rope buttons  holding up the sides of the brim.  I expect him to wear this while lassoing.....

I also made two hats for my daughter:

New Look 6193.  This hat wasn't supposed to look like a pirate scarf.  It had 13 pieces and turned out HUGE!

Bananafana Lollipop Beanie pattern.  There is a darling strip-work dress in this pattern as well, which I intend to make eventually.

And I also made a bunch of headbands:

Braided t-shirt headband.  I had been wanting to make some of these for a while!  Now I have (others not shown)!  She and I can both wear them!

JCasa's "Aflutter" headband  and PatchworKids velcro headband.

Okay, so now that our heads are tamed, we can get back to not worrying about the fact that our water tank is nearly empty and there is still no water coming in from the grid........

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Japanese Sewing, part 二 ("ni", aka 2)

I have been admiring this Japanese pattern book called Stylish Dress Book for a long, long time.

I have had it for two years, but could never get up the guts to make anything from it.  I was mostly worried about not having any written instructions I could understand and having to rely on drawings alone.  But recently I made a bunch of things from a Japanese children's pattern magazine called Cucito; and that went so well, it bolstered my confidence.  You can see my post about the Cucito patterns here.

The Pattern Stash Contest on Pattern Review gave me the little extra push I needed to finally leap.  So, I decided to make the dress that is on the cover because it is just so cute and looks so comfy, especially for how hot it is here in Angola.  I decided to use a lovely and soft quilting cotton by Kaffe Fassett for it because it reminded me of two vintage light blue cotton dresses I used to wear all the time in the 1990s.  I did a full bust adjustment on this pattern, my first, and that seemed to turn out just fine.  The rest of the fit, however, was a bit of a nightmare.....

Don't I look sad?  I am very disappointed.....

It turns out if you're not all svelte, then you look like you are wearing a tent!  I tried it with a belt too, but then it was too short on the sides.  What a let down!  I have received a few suggestions on how to fix it, perhaps by lowering the neckline and shortening it to tunic length.  I may try something like that.

I decided to try one more, this time a top. and in a drapey knit fabric to reduce the tent probability.  I used a smaller size (because the dress was too wide and I had to reduce the width of that) and did the FBA again.  With this one I actually think some translation of the instructions might have made a difference.  I didn't study the drawings well enough, I guess, and I sewed the pintucks on the outside (as they usually are done); but they were meant to be on the inside!  So, I just made the inside the outside and vice versa.  I used a soft bamboo jersey for this top, and that stuff is not easy to sew!

Great.  And this one makes me look pregnant......

Alas, this ended up too wide also, even with a bunch more pintucks to try to decrease the width of that panel a bit more.  So, I had to do a weird tuck thing on each side, and then I decided to add some flowers.  At first, I added them in accidentally obscene places (pasties anyone?), so I relocated two of them and ended up with a semi-tent-like jersey top.  I am coming to the conclusion that these patterns just won't work for me because they are designed for a different body shape.  Such a pity!  I wonder if all Japanese pattern books would be equally unsuitable.  Probably.  What a bummer!  I was thinking of getting one of these next:

On left: Sweet Dress Book by Yoshiko Tsukiori (same author as Stylish Dress Book)                      On right: I Love to Make Now DRESS and TUNIC

Or maybe I should just stick with Japanese children's patterns..................

* You know, now that I look at the pics together, if I just lower the neckline a bit and shorten that blue dress, I would approximate the top on the cover of the book here on the left, wouldn't I?  The sleeves are a bit shorter and looser, but I don't know if I could change that.  Maybe there is hope for a wearable item yet.....

** And, you should ask me if I finally remembered to add seam allowances before cutting these out of fabric....... I DID!  So, perhaps, lesson learned?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Pattern Stash Sleepwear

I am still very busy working on items for the Pattern Stash Contest!  I am making all sorts of things, clothing for the kids, things for around the house, clothing for me, and maybe one or two things for my husband even. 

Our washing machine has been broken for like 2 weeks now, and it is getting to be a real problem.  We are supposed to buy a new (better) one this week, so I am trying to hold out and not have to do any hand washing.  We are really running out of clean clothes and towels....... so, what did I do instead of getting my hands dirty?  I made some new stuff instead!

I made my son this robe, and he is totally in love with it!  It´s a thin, cotton woven on the outside and French terry on the inside.
He said he is never taking it off, and he has remained fairly true to his word.  The other night,  his dad took it off of him after he had fallen asleep, and when he woke up, the first thing he said was "Hey!  Where´s my robe?".  This pattern is from the book Sewing for Boys by Patterns by Figgy´s, and it is another great pattern!  There is, however, one error of omission in the instructions.  You must tape together the two pieces that make up the front of the robe before you cut out your fabric!  Sadly, I did not realize this and had to work hard to match dinosaur heads and such.... still, excellent pattern, and I´m sure my daughter will be getting one soon too.

Instead, she got a new nightgown:
This sort of looks like a 70s maxi dress to me!  To her, it´s another princess dress (as almost everything is), and I think she looks pretty cute in it!

I also made my son another pair of boxer briefs (from my own pattern).  I decided to use white and let him decorate them with fabric paint.  I could only find black.
I thought they looked really cute when he had only drawn the face...... and then he went a little nuts.  And the little sister decided to paint herself and the table cloth as well..... *sigh*  I have a feeling I am going to need to make him a few more pairs before our new washing machine is ready, but I think I´ll choose prints instead of paint next time.

Now, the power is on at the moment, so I better get back to it before it goes out again.  Wish me luck!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The Long Awaited Farbenmix Tasche Isabella Bag

Some time last year, I bought the pdf pattern for Farbenmix´s Tasche Isabella bag.  I just fell in love with the messenger bag version after seeing a few made up.  Look at all the beautiful versions that Natalie made:

Check out more of Natalie´s beautiful creations by visiting her blog (it´s in German).

You might remember that I posted a pic of another of these bags that Natalie made.  This one is my favorite. 

Isn´t it just so........

So, last year when I bought this pattern, I didn´t have any of my stash, only the African wax fabrics.  And I just didn´t think those were quite right for this.  So, I waited.  And I am so glad I did.  Here is what I made:

The two middle pics here are interior pockets.

I am really happy with how it turned out.  The big red flower on the front is a  pocket, which is closed by the fabric "clasp".  And I have had that flower button for many, many years!  It might have been my grandma´s.  There is also a cell phone pocket on the strap which is the perfect size for my cell phone (I will have to forever use this size cell phone now). 

As for the pattern, there are English instructions and it was surprisingly easy to follow, except for them missing out one instruction entirely.  You see those little gathers on either side of the round, flower pocket?  Well the pattern never tells you how or when to do those!  That is actually just one piece of fabric, not two sewn together like it looks.  You have to cut into the pattern piece several inches from the sides in toward the center, gather up the bottom bit and re-attach it to the upper bit.  I don´t know if I ever would have figured this out without the help of the ladies over at  They were a HUGE help!

Also, this pattern does not include seam allowances.  Ask me if I remembered to add them.  I did not.  Luckily this pattern doesn´t need to actually fit anybody, so I decided to go ahead and sew it.  To be honest, that was a happy accident because now the bag is not way too big for an everyday purse!  All in all, I am delighted with this new bag.  And this pattern was so much easier than I expected and way more fun too.  It took me a few days to make this, so it wasn´t good strategy for the Pattern Stash Contest, but it was definitely in keeping with the spirit of that contest since this was a pattern I have been wanting to make for a long time.

Pretend I put in a cool, German idiom here, something like "Long live the handbag!"  Sadly, my one semester of German in college did not leave me with any long-lasting vocabulary I do remember how to say Wie geht es Ihnen?, rouladen, bier, and liebfraumilch......

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Japanese Sewing, Part 1

Two years ago I bought a Japanese sewing pattern book and magazine off of Etsy.  I was terribly intrigued, but also terrified.  So, I looked at them, planned projects, but never actually started anything.  Fast forward to now and the Pattern Stash contest.  I finally did it!  I decided to start with a children´s pattern from the Cucito magazine.  I chose a pattern; but then I could never actually find those pattern pieces on any of the pattern sheets, so then I chose another.  I found the relevant lines, traced the pattern pieces, and cut the fabric.  And then I realized I forgot to add seam allowances!  I always forget to add seam allowances. --Let me just say right now that I think it sucks to have to add seam allowances!  I mean, I can see overlapping the patterns to save paper and make pattern books and mags less bulky and less expensive.  But come on!  You can at least add a standard seam allowance.  And then if someone wants to change it, they can.  It´s not just a second tracing that is required to add seam allowances, but a decision on every single line of the pattern about what kind of seam to sew.  It sucks!  And if I ever sell patterns, I will do more of the work to make it easier on the sewist.-- Okay, rant over.  So, I forgot the seam allowances, and I had to decide whether to re-cut it or to go ahead and sew it.  I was torn about whether to do a size 90 or 100 for my daughter (she is 90 cm tall), and I went with size 100, so I decided it might be okay to sew it without added seam allowances.  To double check, I basted together the pattern pieces and tried them on my daughter.

Left: magazine cover and the pattern I selected; middle top: the pattern sheet; middle bottom: the instructions; right: dd wearing Swedish tracing paper.

I found that locating and tracing the relevant pattern pieces was the hardest part of this whole process.  Even though I don´t read Japanese, the instructions have very good drawings that show you the order to put the pieces together.  They even tell you what seam allowances you should add (*cough, not good enough*).  So, it was pretty easy, apart from a few hiccups with the facings.  Here is the result:

I was very encouraged by this result, so I decided to go for another pattern from this magazine (the Pattern Stash contest allows 4 patterns from each book/mag).  I decided on a pair of pants that roll up and button into shorts for my son.  I have been promising him a pair of pants like this for some time and have a Farbenmix pattern for such a pair (Klein Juist Cargohose), but I am feeling hesitant to go for another German one right now.  Then I saw a similar pair that looked easier in Cucito.  Now, OF COURSE, I forgot to add seam allowances AGAIN!  Can you believe how slow I am to learn this lesson?  I decided to go ahead and sew them because he is really skinny.  They do fit, but they are quite slim:

He has decorated himself to be a zebra and chosen this pajama shirt to go with the plaid pants.....

I was really on a roll now.  And my daughter wanted a pair of pants like these too!  I made my husband a pair of sleep shorts with this same fabric, and now her brother had some, and she was feeling left out.  And Cucito had a cute cropped pair that looked simple enough.  So, I whipped these up:

So, they were all matchy matchy and it was the 4th of July!  They might wear these to the Marines´ Independence Day party this weekend here in Luanda (but maybe not.  I might feel like a dork).

But that was only three, so I had to do one more.  So, I did this flower, just to see if I liked it.


And then..... I found out that you can do four items from a pattern book or mag only if they are distinct types of items.  So I would only be able to enter one pair of pants in the contest.  Therefore, I decided to sew a dress/nightgown for my daughter.  She is sorely lacking in sleep clothes.  Here it is:

Vintage buttons (might have been my Grandma´s).

This particular pattern was a lot harder to follow than the others.  I think a little translation would have made a big difference.  Unfortunately, I just tried to wing it and ended up with a pieced skirt.  But, she likes it, and that´s all that matters, really.

And now I will put this magazine aside for a little, until the contest is over.  But I think the patterns are great!  There are several more things I want to make.  Here are some of them:

So, the conclusion is- everyone who said Japanese pattern books and magazines are actually pretty easy to sew from were telling the truth!  I should not have waited so long or been so intimidated.  Ah well, live and learn.  Now, I´m off to make something Japanese for myself!