Friday, April 20, 2018

The Ella Bella Cardigan

After purchasing my Wool and the Gang alpaca (a well-thought-out, but nevertheless spontaneous purchase), I guiltily dug through my stash and started a project! I'd had plans for a cardigan for Rosa using KnitPicks Shine Sport in "Blush," but when the pattern I'd picked turned out to be harder than anticipated, I lost momentum.

Determined to finally make it work, I settled on the "Elizabeth" cardigan by Georgie Nicolson. The pattern name "Elizabeth" reminded me of my daughter's Bitty Baby doll, which used to be mine when I was her age. I named her "Elizabeth," and now my daughter calls her "Baby Ella." The name "Ella" reminded me of Ella Bella ballerina from James Mayhew's delightfully illustrated book series. And this little cardi seemed perfect for a ballerina, especially in the colorway "blush!" So, "Ella Bella" it is (goodness, if that's not the most circumlocutory way to come up with a project name, I don't know what is! It all makes sense in my brain... Also, you get bonus points if you know which Dickens novel features the Circumlocution Office). 

I loved this pattern so much! Far more than I thought I would when, part way through, I was required to pick up and knit -- a technique that still causes me considerable stress (though "pick up and knit" is much better than just "pick up!"). There ended up being quite a bit of that technique, but I somehow made it through. 

The lace pattern is so lovely, and also very simple. Which is a winning combination, in my opinion. I did make a few mistakes, which were (fortunately) easy to fix, partly thanks to my training-wheels method of placing stitch markers at every pattern repeat (and there were a lot of them!).

The yarn was also a treat; the mix of Pima cotton and modal is silky and satisfying as it slides through your fingers and off the needles. I tend to prefer animal fibers, but the Shine sport is a lovely and inexpensive yarn.

I think I'll be knitting this again in a few years, though I'm hoping Rosa will have at least another year out of this cardigan (the sizing is forgiving). My gauge was a bit big, so I knitted the size 4 to a size 5 length for my five-year-old.

Of course, I still ended up with almost an entire skein left! I'm wondering if there's any way to get a Bitty-Baby sized sweater (in a simpler style) out of that much yarn...

It felt lovely to finish a larger project -- well, a child's sweater isn't exactly large, but it's more than just a hat or scarf, you know? Anyway, the next project in my queue involves some "selfish" knitting with that Sugar Baby Alpaca!

Raveled here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

On Display (and Behind the Scenes)

We were treated to quite the show at the zoo recently -- it must be mating season for the peafowl, because all of the peacocks are in full plumage. Such stunning, unbelievable colors! What a glorious tribute to the endless artistry of our great Creator God.

Pictures simply can't do them justice. Of course, all of that finery requires maintenance:

The peacocks are quite tame, and allow spectators to approach. Who knew that a peacock had so many individual types and colors of feathers (apart from the gorgeous tail plumes)?

I couldn't help but smile, though, when the showy fellow in the top picture turned around -- the view is a little less exciting from the back! I suppose for every showy display, there's a "behind the scenes?"

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Just a Yard

It seems like every effort I make to clear out my fabric stash is thwarted by my own optimism. "Sure I have 8,000 yards of fabric at home, but this fabric will be perfect for such-and-such a project! And I have so much spare time that I'll get it done in a jiffy." You can easily see the flaws in this reasoning. I can easily see the flaws in this reasoning! And yet... 

Well, at least my stash clearing efforts keep my collection in a state of relative equilibrium. This project used up a single yard, but the beauty of sewing for babies is that a yard, carefully cut, can produce two garments.

Nothing fancy here -- Jalie 3133 for the bodysuit (added a back snap placket because my baby's head is enormous), and my self-drafted harem pants pattern for the pants. There's plenty of room for that cloth diaper! The fabric is a mystery sweater-ish terry-ish knit that I bought ages ago from Girl Charlee. It was intended for a cardigan, but I decided it was too lightweight, and it was relegated to the stash (ah, the danger of buying fabric online!). 

All of the contrast fabric is just the reverse of the material (trying to cut all those extra bindings made the challenge of fitting everything on the fabric that much more difficult!). I have my doubts about how well this will wear -- in fact, it had been washed a few times before I took pictures and you can see a bit of pilling on the waist band -- but it was intended for sleepwear, anyway. I doubt Scout will complain...

I lined the waistband with some random black knit I had lying around, because I knew the fabric itself (even doubled) wasn't thick enough. Worked like a charm! No elastic needed. I also love the little pocket. So completely unnecessary, but when in history have seamstresses confined themselves to "necessary?" 

I've done so many of these types of projects that they come together quite swiftly -- which is a good thing when you're babysitter, educator, housekeeper, cook, and scullery maid all rolled into one. *wink* Quite honestly, though, it probably took me less time to make this outfit than it would have for me to find second-hand cloth-diaper-friendly pants. Sometimes it's easier to sew than it is to wrangle four children at a charity shop.

So here's to cozy babies, creative outlets, and one more yard of fabric out of the stash!

Thursday, April 12, 2018


A recent thrifting expedition yielded some very satisfying results -- for $3, I brought home a silk smocked dress for Rosa (she and Little Man call it her "Scottish dress" because of the plaid pattern!), a men's large henley shirt, and a men's XXL heathered cotton sweater. And considering that I ended up getting five garments out of those three pieces, I'm quite pleased with that expenditure. Don't worry, I didn't hack up the silk dress!

First up, the men's henley. It had contrasting sleeves, which was the perfect opportunity for an outfit. The bodysuit came from the shirt, and the pants and trim from the sleeves! I used Jalie 3133, with a few minor modifications (most notably, adding a bit to the crotch to accommodate cloth diapers, and slightly adjusting the crotch closure method). I've used this pattern once or twice before, and like the results! I just need to remember to make the leg openings higher on the side next time -- they really do come down a bit too far.

For the pants, I used the existing sleeve cuffs for the bottom leg openings and traced a self-drafted pants shape. I tried a new "extra room" technique by adding a gusset between the front and back (you can see this idea more clearly in this pair of pants). It does seem to provide some extra room, and it's not a noticeable addition. For the waist, I folded over the top waistband allowance and sewed the elastic straight in. I've had trouble with elastic folding over in my casings lately, and this method solved that problem!

I harvested the original shirt's neck ribbing, too! I should have cut the neck opening a little larger and stretched the ribbing a bit more (it bags a little), but I can get it over Scout's head and that's all that really matters.

I've already shared one of the projects I got from the men's sweater, but the dungarees I made did not use up the whole sweater! I still had the sleeves, and that was enough to get another pair of pants: 

 Again, I used the existing sleeve cuffs for the leg openings. The ribbing from the sweater waist serves as the waistband (I'd only used half of it for the dungarees). These were intended as pajama or "lounge" pants, which is probably good considering that Scout is so mobile now that he has actually crawled out of these. The cotton ribbing at the waist is not really strong enough, especially as it starts to "relax" during wear.

I may go back and change the waistband so they don't slide off -- but look how comfy they are! At least my model is happy, if a bit squirmy...

I find upcycling unwanted clothing so satisfying -- remaking a discarded garment into something custom is an exciting challenge! And when the stakes are so low (worst case scenario, I've wasted a dollar), it's more relaxing than using expensive fabrics. Really, the only limiting factor for me is time. I think I'd make almost all of my children's clothing if I didn't have... well, children! *wink*

Monday, April 09, 2018

Hello, I'm New Here

We planted more daffodil bulbs last fall, and now we're enjoying the "consequences." From a mixed bag at the local home store, we've had some yellow-and-orange blooms, and, best of all, these gorgeous double-bloom beauties:

I've had a long-term love affair with daffodils, but the double-blooms make my heart skip a beat. Gardening had never really been a passion of mine, but the more I pursue it here in Virginia, the more I love it. There is wonder and delight in "possessing" such beauty! Now I just need my gardening skills to match my enthusiasm.

Fortunately, I don't have to grow everything -- the local nature trails are a year-round hub of growth. Like this little Mayapple, with its umbrella canopy still furled:

One day it will look like this, but not yet. I've seen wisteria here and there, so I suspect it's time to visit the trails again -- there's always a glorious display in the spring, and somehow I missed it last year!

Also new here, Opal apples. These gorgeous golden beauties from New Zealand were waiting for us at the grocery store. I don't usually fall prey to "fancy" (read: expensive) fruit, but these were under $1 per pound for some incomprehensible reason. They turned out to be some of the best apples we've ever had. I wish I'd bought all of them!

This is new, too -- a $2 find at the thrift store. It's a hideous skirt (in my humble opinion), but it's all leather! Four different colors of leather (and the "white" has a pearly, silvery finish), which will be perfect for baby shoes and what-not.

And last but not least, I had a "moment" and gave in to a long-term urge to buy wool from Wool and the Gang (50% sale + $15 off first purchase = Too much to resist). I think because of the name? I'm similarly tempted to buy wool made by Hedgehog Fibres, for no better reason than my love for their moniker! In my defense, I would never buy wool I didn't like just because of the name. Anyways, the perfect sale and the perfect sweater pattern converged, and now my "personal spending" budget is a little diminished. But no regrets here -- the wool (Sugar Baby Alpaca) is a sheer delight, and it came packaged in a branded paper bag sealed with a sticker. If only it were as easy to make a sweater as it is to purchase the materials...

That's what's new around here! The weather has been toying with us -- short sleeves and brilliant sunshine one day, cold drizzle the next -- but the birds and the flowers and the hints of green everywhere lend a hopeful aura, even on the chilliest days. Wishing some sunshine your way today!

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

Yarn Along: Knitting for the Girl

I've been wanting to join Ginny's Yarn Along for ages, and just haven't for some reason! Granted, I've only just picked up my knitting again after a bit of a hiatus, so I wouldn't have had much to show...

I've been working on an Elizabeth cardigan for Rosa -- I've had the yarn for ages, but, as usual, had procrastinated actually starting the project. 

The pattern is a dream! I've been enjoying it immensely -- it's interesting without being tear-your-hair-out difficult. I'm enough of a novice lace knitter that I put in a stitch marker for each and every pattern repeat (every six stitches!), and I'm so glad I did; noticing that I had seven stitches in a repeat instead of six has saved me from making a number of costly errors.

I'm also reading The Modern Natural Dyer, which I miraculously found in our library system -- there was even a copy at our teeny tiny local branch! I've been curious about dyeing yarn for some time (mostly due to Ginny!), and this gorgeous illustrated book seems to have everything I'd need to know to give it a shot. We'll see...

This picture is actually a week old, so I hope to be able to post a picture of the finished cardigan soon!

Linking up to Ginny's April Yarn Along

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Taming the Toys

Ask any parent, and toy storage/organization would probably feature as an area that is (or was) an issue! It certainly has been for us. While we have tried to be careful about how many toys we've allowed into our home, the "keepers" still need a home! Between moves and new babies and other priorities, most of our toys were sorted into a variety of bins stashed in a variety of places (mostly the floor of our sunroom/playroom). And with most of the toys stored on the floor, our littles found it difficult to discern between toys on the floor versus toys in a bin on the floor. Cleanup was a nightmare! 

I liked the idea of the IKEA Trofast system, but didn't like the look of the actual units. Then I spotted Shanty 2 Chic's DIY Trofast unit, and I was sold! In the past we've designed (or at least seriously modified) plans for most of the furniture we've built, so the idea of following instructions to the letter was actually quite appealing. 

We did make a few changes, of course. We added top pieces to each support, so that the bins won't topple out when they're half-way open (because with so many little kids, they are bound to be half-open quite a bit! This has proved to be incredibly helpful). We also added a few supports to the top area, giving us the option to use either medium or small bins. The other change was to add a piece of wood to the top; our dimensional lumber wasn't quite nice enough to look good on its own, so we stained a piece for the top.

I can't believe how much of a difference this little unit has made. Not only does it fit more toys than I thought it would, but there was an instant improvement in the clean-up routine. "Time to clean up" is no longer followed by "Don't you see all the stuff that's still on the floor?" The top of the unit serves as a home for Lego creations, which was another source of mess and aggravation.

At last, there's a little peace in the toy department -- and peace of any kind is welcome with four active littles underfoot! Scout has recently added himself to the fray, dragging himself around the house with a grin on his face and a pacifier trailing along behind (which inevitably collects all of the hair that I'm losing postpartum. Grr.). We've made a few other pieces to help with organization, that I might get around to sharing -- unless I'm too preoccupied picking up little bits of who-knows-what before they end up in Scout's mouth...

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Handmade Christmas

So, I might be a little late in posting this (what's three months amongst friends?), but I had to share some Christmas projects!

I'll start with my favorites -- A dragon dress-up set for Laddie. Little Man and Rosa have accumulated some dress-up, which Laddie shares, but I wanted him to have something of his own. And he loves dragons, so it was an obvious choice. Also, the perfect opportunity to try out a few patterns I'd been eyeing for several years!

Here's a quick round-up of the patterns I used:

I used a combination of red fleece and red "scale" fabric from JoAnn's cosplay collection -- I was sure the shiny "scales" would be perfect, and I'm quite pleased with how it all turned out! Sewing with that fabric was a nightmare, but tissue paper seemed to help. The only downside is that I have a feeling the scale fabric will not be very durable, and that may result in my having to re-make the dragon softie in the future.

The dragon softie (which we dubbed Bartholomew, or "Bart" for short) was quite time consuming, but it was my first time working with such a detailed stuffed animal. Also, I forgot to interface the wings! 

It's hard to get a good shot of a very active toddler (and red is such a hard color to photograph!), but Laddie absolutely loves his costume and wears it frequently. It cracks me up every time to see him chasing his older siblings with that tail! The wings are a favorite of mine, and were surprisingly easy to make. Thankfully we had a metal hanger on hand (which provides the structure for the wings). 

And then, of course, there are the Christmas pajamas! The kids open these on Christmas Eve and wear them that night. The patterns are just simple shapes (I made everything except Little Man's shirt), usually drafted from an existing garment that fits them.

I spotted the Curious George fabric at Wal Mart, and knew immediately that I would make Laddie's pants out of it -- he is obsessed with Curious George, and even has a stuffed "Georgie" that he sleeps with. I was going to purchase a tee at JoAnn's during one of their 5 for $10 sales, but the smallest sizes they had were still far too large. So I bought a men's XXL and used the fabric to make a smaller tee!  By using the t-shirt's existing hems and reusing the ribbed neckline, it was very easy to put together. I added a little fussy cut patch pocket, and made a tiny pair of pants for Laddie's stuffed Curious George. First time I've ever measured the rise and inseam for a monkey...

For Little Man's pajamas, I used a JoAnn's tee and added a chambray pocket. He loves vintage planes, and I'd scored a little applique patch on clearance for $0.50 a few years back. I had some vintage plane fabric leftover from when I'd made sheets for his nap mat (also years ago!) that I used for his pants. I was worried he'd be disappointed that he'd seen the fabric before, but he was actually thrilled that I'd made pajama pants out of it!

Rosa got a simple peasant top with a pair of flannel pants (hedgehogs!), along with a matching nightgown for Baby Ella (a Bitty Baby American Girl doll that my parents gave me about 27 years ago). The coral fabric is actually the same that I used for a maternity top a while back. 

Christmas may be long gone, but these little projects have been well-used since then, and that I will count as a success! I keep waiting for the time when the littles are less-than-excited about Mama making things for them, but so far... well, I'm counting my blessings!