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    Entries in sewing (11)


    an early birthday

    I am no good at giving presents. Well, I'd like to think that I'm good at some aspects of gift-giving. I put thought into it, and often a lot of time. But when it comes to waiting or surprising I'm pretty much the worst. It usually works out, since as a procrastinator I don't frequently have long to wait between finalization of gift and handing it over, but every once in awhile I plan ahead and find myself with weeks of lag time. This simply will not do, and do it did not in the case of Zelda and the armless baby.

    Zelda's beloved Gob, a naked thriftstore baby George picked out a long time ago and had since abandoned -- her akimbo limbs and creepy, uneven, dead-eyed blink citable as potential turn-offs -- recently lost an arm. It's no shame for her; she's dragged around by her arms more than anyone can be expected to survive, limbs intact. This hasn't affected Zelda's love much, but it was a good opportunity for me to make her a new doll. With her birthday coming up, I had the occasion in addition to the reasoning. 

    Waldorf doll making has always intimidated me. The particular supplies, the expense and the precise techniques were hurdles I hadn't overcome though I've long admired the style. Meg McElwee's book Growing Up Sew Liberated: Making Handmade Clothes and Projects for Your Creative Child includes a pattern for a Waldorf doll, and it's been in the back of my mind since George was smaller. Alas, he's never really taken to dolls. Zelda is a different story, though, my children being so unbelievably gender stereotypical as to make me think someone is playing a joke.

     I love Meg's book (and blog) and the directions seemed clear enough to allow for some finagling according to my budget and crafting style which is a little more by-the-seat-of-my-pants than Waldorf dolls generally call for.

    I regret that the face isn't shaped, and if I ever make another I'll put more time into the facial features. The body is out of some soft bamboo velour I thought was perfect for a one year-old to snuggle, and the clothes are made from fabric scraps (Heather Ross' beautiful and now out of print mermaids) and leftover yarn. Choosing the hair yarn was tough, and I wish that I'd found something more colorful to make a real rainbow mop but that, too, is something for the next attempt.

    This doll is most definitely a quick and dirty version of a Waldorf doll, but the Sew Liberated pattern and instructions gave me a great starting point and I gained some knowledge about how to attach arms and heads in ways that don't result in droopy shoulders and floppy necks. Because it's tough to have a tea party with someone who can't stay awake.

    She's real cute, and, true to form, I couldn't wait until Zelda's birthday to see the reaction, even though every gift I've ever handmade for my kids has been met with the same vague interest. When will I learn? Never! It doesn't really matter -- most of the fun is in the making, anyway. 

    At their introduction, Zelda dubbed her "Dunna!" which we took to mean Donna, a perfectly suitable sister for an armless baby named Gob. 

    They were fast friends, though Donna's gonna have to do something to prove her unconditional devotion á la allowing herself to be drawn and quartered. 

    The entire project took me three evenings of off and on work, the most time-consuming being the altogether pleasant handwork of the face, hair, and foot shaping.


    I think Zelda's actual birthday may see the opening of a matching outfit or two, because I am that person I would never have expected myself to turn into, who loves matching outfits on pretty much anyone and anything. When I was little, my mom made me a life size Raggedy Ann with a dress and pinafore for each of us, and if photos are to be believed it was a monumental hit.

    I think a more androgynous doll may be next on the agenda. Overalls, shorter hair, and some actual facial features.

    Happy early birthday to you, Goldie. Here's to a (doll's)life-long friendship.



    it's a...

    There are some people who can patiently wait until their baby is born to find out whether it's a boy or a girl. They enjoy the surprise, even. I've heard that it gives them motivation to get through labor, as though you need a motivator besides the small person who is, regardless, tunneling out of your womb. This, to me, is like finding a reason to keep peeing once you start. 

    I am not one of those people. I want to be, sort of, and I even entertained the idea of forcing myself to be one of those people for the four or five months of pregnancy during which knowing the baby's sex is even possible. It seemed fun to announce to everyone that a little boy or a little girl had arrived -- a small bonus to the anticipated name and stats, as neither are we people who name a child prior to meeting him or her. There's also the matter of pre-defining someone's gender, which is a little bit fucked up, and the very real potential for having a baby of the opposite sex than is predicted through ultrasound, or an intersexed baby (of which the prevalence is somewhere between 1.7% and .018% depending on the conditions included). 

    But. I am incapable of being that patient, enlightened person. Instead, I was itching to find out and get started sewing a few things (for a boy; for a girl, let's be frank: an entire wardrobe). What was I going to do? Make all this stuff and not show you? Please.

    So, we found out a couple of weeks ago. I sent text messages to the most fervently enquiring minds while (I kid you not) using the restroom at the ultrasound place, midway through the procedure. That's how hilarious a proposition it was to keep the sex a secret. I couldn't even get out the door. 

    So, here are a few things I've made in the past couple of days, using these tutorials, scaled down slightly so as to be worn sooner (have I mentioned that patience is not one of my virtues?). 

    The fabrics are, top to bottom, Alexander Henry Farmdale Orchard and a kind of robin's egg blue cotton lawn; two prints from Lizzy House Castle Peeps (reeling in my psychosis about making matching outfits, I saved the scraps to put at the hem of some otherwise solid-colored pants for George); and two patterns from Anna Maria Horner's Little Folks voile, which I could swathe myself in 24/7. These tutorials were so easy to follow that I whipped the three dresses up in just one night, plus an hour for finishing. I asked George if he liked them, and he said, "Piddy!" Which either means they're pretty or he pities the next in line to wear the clothes I've made. Based on his jacket review, I'm guessing it's the latter. 


    an autumn jacket (and a little something extra)

    I've had this pattern sitting on the top of the pile for quite awhile, waiting until I didn't have to scale it to fit George. He's finally a true pattern size 2, and with a few alterations, I had visions of the perfect fall jacket. 

    I'm a sucker for a peter pan collar, and the necessary changes were so easy -- lengthen the sleeves, turn the buttons into toggles. The clincher was a couple of yards of plummy quilted cotton I'd been saving for just the right occasion. I cut it out and decided against the collar, in favor of a generous hood, good for pulling over your knit cap for extra protection against the elements. I had some navy and white striped twill left over from making George the Oliver + S sailboat pants and lined the jacket with that, making it a little more masculine (though, I really consider plum to be a sort of neutral). 

    Well, here's the thing. It turned out adorably and fits like a dream, but despite those facts, it's not exactly what I would call a hit. 

    Alas. Maybe he'll warm up to it? I used some scraps from Nathan's beat-up old laptop bag to make the toggle patches and bought some navy bias tape and cording for the edges and button loops. It's a good crisp weather-weight, and I'm hoping it will fit him in the spring, as well, though that seems unlikely. 

    I had plenty leftover, and another pattern on my mind, so I whipped up a little something for the new baby to wear come February. We were at a total loss, wardrobe-wise, with newborn George when it came time for those refreshing walks around the block immediately following the sequestered period post-birth. We bundled him up as best we could and wore him close, but I'd have liked to put him in something extra snuggly. 

    God, do I hate that synthetic fleece, though. It was admittedly more effort to line the entire thing with cotton chenille, but worth it to know my poor kid won't be feeling the icky slick softness of what was formerly soda bottles. 

    These pictures suck, by the way: no need to point it out. We've entered the part of the year when our house requires lamplight during the day and outside it starts looking like dusk while I'm fixing lunch.

    There it is: cozy-soft and so freaking tiny. It boggles the mind that someone's stretched-out arms will fit inside those sleeves. 

    Since I have such an enormous stash, all I had to buy was the bias tape and the cording to complete both the bunting and the jacket. I can't wait to see them both on my littles. And with any luck, at least one of said bundled-up littles won't be miserable. 


    thrifty sunday: monday

    Everyone knows that the Sunday preceding Labor Day is actually a bonus Saturday, and Labor Day is the official Sunday. Right? Then, we all just collectively agree to skip Monday which nobody likes anyway and move right on to Tuesday: homely but pleasant-enough. GREAT. In that case, I am not late in posting these recent thrift store scores. 

    LEGWARMERS! $1.99 and so, so long and toasty. Am I a fool for purchasing leg warmers when it's in the 70s and the weather is finally nice enough to wear tanktops? No, because the Bellingham summer is cruel and will turn on us before we know it, leaving our shins chilly and our spirits (and everything else) dampened. Or, I should say, YOUR shins will be left chilly, because I bought these legwarmers. 


    A matching hat! $1.99. All wool and oh, that pom! It's almost as big as my head. Long winter hair begs for a tight little cap with a giant pom pom, and about the time this hat becomes useful I'll need something to compete with my belly for roundness. I'm into anything aprés ski, though in fairness, in the context of my life, it would be...avant ski? Because I don't ski. 

    A yard of totally awesome knit fabric! $4.99. I'm not sure why this was so expensive, but they must've known some sucker would come along with visions of torturing her children à la the Von Trapp family or these people (who are lovely, I'm sure, and certainly have adorable kids). Nevermind the cat hair.

    A teensy little get-up, $1.99. The embroidered train, the ingenious zipper crotch, the miraculously soft acrylic knit, the matching bonnet-y hat from way back when people didn't think bonnets were too girly and babies still looked like babies and weren't squeezed into size 0-3 month jeans: I love it all. A girl will wear this if we have one, because if she follows the precedent set by her brother, everyone will think she's a boy anyway for the first year of her life. (People: "What's her name?" Me: "George." People: "Girl George?" Me: "Really? That's the most plausible conclusion?")

    Also, this weekend, we bought a television. For the living room. I swore I'd never do it, but here we are, living the American dream. It was decidedly un-thrifty, so I'll spare you the price, but now we can have Oscars parties (first: start watching the Oscars. Or any major motion pictures.) and my kid can turn into one of those I previously scoffed at when, at places like the aquarium, they can only liken what they see to Finding Nemo. Happy Labor Day! 


    homemade diapers

    When George was still cooking, I decided to try my hand at diaper making. It wasn't hard, but having never cloth diapered, I didn't know what I wanted, and those early homemade all-in-ones (henceforth referred to as AIOs) have since been handed down to someone else who, I hope, likes them better than I did. They were cute and all, but one-time-users just aren't my cup of tea.

    We've been trying to think ahead and solve the two kids/one diaper stash dilemma. George has taken it upon himslf to potty learn, and has been using the potty for four months, though not reliably. There's a lot of time between now and February, but also, there's not, and who knows what kind of bathroom-related hijinxs will ensue between now and then. It's like a buddy movie nobody wants to see! 

    I'd be bummed if I bought a whole second supply of diapers only to have George in Elmo underpants by the time I need them, so I'm curbing my drive for preparation ("nesting"?) by sewing up some little newborn diaper covers, good for seven to 15 pounds of stalling while we decide whether or not to pull the trigger on some more fancy one-size-fits-most diapers/covers/whatever. This is riveting, no? My diaper purchasing decision making process. Wow. Anyway,

    The other day, I was shopping my section of bookmarks devoted to free patterns and tutorials and there were those old AIO instructions. Being older, wiser, having changed about fifty gajillion diapers since I last looked at the pattern, I felt like I could make it work for me with a few changes and some stuff I already had: some larger scraps of PUL (the shiny-backed fabric that keeps the -- ahem -- crap inside), some fold-over-elastic left over from when I had a lingerie shop (yes, the things a blog can teach you about its owner!)... oh, and I bought some velcro. 

    They're cute! Functional? Probably. I made one for George to try out and goodness knows that kid can pee; the fact he remained dry leaves me optimistic. The elastic is light pink, but anything bought more than five years ago counts as free, right? So it was free; no complaints. These aren't as cute as the patterned ones you can buy, but the colors are okay and I think they'll do, especially for that anything-goes period between birth and resurfacing for air/real food/social interaction. 

    I changed the original directions by simply cutting out the pattern in PUL, then going around the edges with the FOE, stretching the elastic taut at the legs and around the back. Her instructions are for a full AIO diaper, with an inner soaker and everything, but the shape is the same as that of a regular cover. She has a fancy snap press, it looks like, and I have none (Santa, do you hear me?), so I used velcro, first, on the aqua one, with two tabs on the front. I didn't like the apparent lack of a size range with that method, so on the other two I did a long strip across the whole front, similar to the other diapers and covers I have. Overall, I'm pretty happy with them, and in less than six months, I'll have a little bum to stick 'em on. We'll see how they work!