Monday, July 28, 2014

What I WOULD Have Sewn Along

Tomorrow is the start of the Challenge Create: Fabric Swap Edition theme I am competing in, Mystery Week!  There has been a sew along for each week.  I really wanted to sew along with all the themes but you know, life happens.  Between preparing to have our house appraised, finishing the altar cloth, and just the general blech-ness of entering the third trimester of pregnancy, I haven't done any sewing beyond completing my challenge project, which will be revealed on Wednesday.  The sew along for this week of the challenge is different.  This time the sew along is for the one favorite thing you've made in 2014.  It was fun to look through this year's projects and decide what I would link up.  Because I am a contestant this week I am also a judge for the sew along.  So I probably shouldn't enter.  :)  But what I CAN do is show what I decided on. It's also given me a good chance to go back and fix the posts with the magically disappearing pictures.  You can enter your own favorite creations by linking up at the bottom of this post.

It was a toss up.  I really, REALLY love my red jeans.  Oddly enough, I never blogged about them.  They (used to) fit me perfectly and I just adore the red.  I don't have a current picture in them because they don't fit my beautifully bloated body right now.  Maybe before the new year...if I'm lucky.  I've gotten comments that they should be made into skinnies, but I don't like the feel of skinny jeans.  Straight leg is the skinniest I'll go with pants for myself.  Here they are, pictured with a top I refashioned this year:
I usually choose a white ribbon for my waist.
As wonderful as those jeans are, my favorite was the Little White Dress.  It stands out as my favorite because it is such a distinctive piece and because the construction was so interesting.  I don't have much occasion to wear the dress.  I hope to wear it to church when I'm done nursing.  Actually, I hope for it to be too big when I'm done nursing but it's not something I'm too concerned about.
It was fun to make a changeable panel for it and to add a fascinator.  I would love to make this dress in another color and probably add a couple more inches to the length so I feel more comfortable sitting in it.
The project I most look forward to next year is making something from the same fabric as the purple panel and fascinator.  That purple makes me happy just looking at it.  I can't wait to make something great out of it and put it on my body.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Altar Cloth

This should be my last in this string of posts that doesn't show something I've sewn.  This post is about a project, just not one that required the use of a sewing machine.  As today is Pioneer Day, I thought this was appropriate.

For the past 18 months or so I have been working on a crochet project.  It is an altar cloth for the temple being built close to my home.  This project has been a labor of love, a source of learning far beyond what I imagined, and my own special offering to the Lord.
View of a long and short edge prior to blocking
My family history is full of men and women who gave their all for what they believe.  Whether it was the pilgrims who came on the Mayflower or the pioneers who crossed the plains into unsettled territory, I have a heritage rich with individuals and families who were willing to sacrifice everything to do what the Lord wanted and for the free exercise of their religion.  They inspire me.
Closeup of the motifs
When the Relief Society President first announced that there was a call for altar cloths to be used in the temple being built just down the road, I jumped at the chance.  I'd been hoping to make something for the temple. Part of me just wanted to have some of my handiwork displayed and used in a such a beautiful, sacred place.  Mostly I wanted to channel my inner pioneer woman and take the opportunity to give a part of myself to the effort of building the temple, just as my ancestors had done.  I wasn't particularly experienced with crochet but I figured I was up for the challenge.  And challenge it was.

In the process of blocking
After looking at approved patterns, I chose the one that looked the most like something on my skill level and went to work.  The learning curve was a steep one.  I understood the abbreviations for stitches and other directions but I was still confused quite a bit at the beginning.  As I made the first few motifs I decided the instructions were stupid and that I knew better than what was printed on the page.  I was mistaken.  The first several motifs had to be pulled out and reworked or simply abandoned altogether.  Only with careful study of the pattern was I able to produce the intended design.  Just as the scriptures and the prophets lay out a pattern for us to have happiness in this life and exaltation in the eternities, so did the crochet pattern spell out what needed to be done in order to achieve a beautiful and usable finished altar cloth.  Deviating from that pattern only brought frustration.  Every time I skipped a step or made some other mistake I had to pull out the offending stitches and start again.  It was a strong reminder of the atonement, that even though we make mistakes or do something contrary to what is right we can change things, start again, and continue on the path as directed.  Even as I worked I knew the finished product would not be perfect (the learning process is evident to me in the difference in thread tension I used as I went) but that, by fixing my mistakes, I could make it flawless.
Detail of finished cloth and of the first (and very flawed) motif I made.  I kept it to remind myself how important it is to follow the directions.
Once I became familiar enough with the pattern and had repeated the motifs sufficiently that I didn't need to consult the pattern for every stitch, I still made careless mistakes.  Often.  Most of the time these mistakes were things that no one would ever notice and that even I didn't notice until I had worked another full round of the motif.  There was a great amount of temptation to simply keep going, knowing the mistake would be invisible.  But I couldn't.  While no one else would ever know, I would be keenly aware that I hadn't given my best.  And if I wasn't going to do my best it wasn't an offering I wanted to make to the Lord for His house.  My husband can attest to the many times I made the same silly mistake and had to pull out my work to fix it.  Now that the cloth is finished I know all the extra fixing to make it as well as I could was worth it. I can look at it and know I gave the best that was in me.
Finished and blocked
The altar cloth is now washed, blocked, and lovingly wrapped in fabric to protect it until I can hand it off to be of use in the temple.  I look forward to participating in temple work and, hopefully, seeing the cloth I made gracing an altar and adding beauty to the room.  The experience has been an emotional one, as I truly have felt a part of the legacy I have inherited.  In the past few days I have felt I was paying tribute to them while I worked at making a gift for the temple.  I am truly blessed.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow...Or a Week Ago

I finally took the plunge with my hair.  I don't do well with long hair during a summer pregnancy so I knew it would have to come off at some point.  This time around the cut was far more drastic than anything I've done in the past.  I went from this:
The girls are looking huge in this shot
to this:
Yay for pixie cuts!
It's been quite the adjustment.  A week and a half later I still feel like I'm wearing a ponytail but without the weight.  My cousin cut my hair.  I showed her a picture of Anne Hathaway that I figured I could pull off.  She asked me a few clarifying questions, made suggestions, and we ended up with this cut.  It's a very different look for me but I'm really loving it.  The weightlessness and ease of my hair is f.a.b.u.l.o.u.s!  It takes almost no time to blow dry, allowing me to take great shots like this:
Fraggle hair and no makeup.  Keepin' it real.
 Having all my hair gone is great motivation to do my makeup every day to display my femininity.  Playing with my makeup a little bit makes it fun.  I've found that if I need to calm my hair down all it takes is a wet comb to tame it into submission.
The completed look with hair and makeup
Several people have asked my how The Hubs feels about the cut.  His official response is that he's happy as long as I have hair.  As for myself, I prefer the way I look with longer hair but I really do love the cut.  Also, I prefer what I see in the mirror to what I see in a selfie.  I'm not sure why that is.  I took a mirror selfie to show you what I see.  The difference may be small to you but it's very noticeable to me.

Have you ever tried a super short cut?  What did you think?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Summer Pregnancy Survival Tips

Now that my third summer pregnancy is well underway, I thought it might be good to share a few survival tips I've learned along the way.  Summer pregnancies are not for the faint of heart.  My first two were born in August and September so when Q-ball was born in April I thought it was pretty much heaven on earth.  Had I not had a miscarriage in October, there would have been a very new baby around these parts and I would have missed out on a third summer of having a built-in heater in my tummy.  But it is what it is and so I will happily use my hard-earned knowledge to make it through as pleasantly as possible.  Below are several things that help or have helped me cope.



Loose clothing
Everything I read about clothes during my first pregnancy advocated wearing fitted t shirts to accentuate the belly and avoid the tent look.  Maybe in winter, but in the summer...not so much.  I much prefer a flowy top that gives me good circulation to a tighter shirt than gives me sweaty under-boobs.


Comfy bra
image via Motherhood.com
I realize this could easily go under the previous heading, but it is important enough to me to merit it's own section.  Early on in this pregnancy I started feeling suffocated by the band on my bra.  I first attempted to just buy an extender.,  Victoria's Secret, however, doesn't sell extenders in white (seriously, no white?!?) so I simply went to Motherhood to buy a couple that would take me all the way through nursing.  After trying on several I decided on the bra pictured above because the band is so stretchy.  The conversation with the girl at the counter went like this:

Counter girl:  So you're going with the lounge bra?
Me:  Lounge bra?  Oh.  Well, no wonder it's so comfortable!
CG: Yeah, it's light support so it's not, like, a real bra...

She trailed off when she saw the shut-up-and-take-my-money look on my face.  Being able to breathe in my bra makes life much happier.


Popsicles
image via happinessblog.com
You would be amazed at how quickly a single popsicle will lower your body temperature.  If you're really into it you can make your own all-natural, organic frozen fruit juice pops with cups and sticks.  Me?  I do Otter Pops.  Lots and lots of Otter Pops.  Sometimes I even share with the kids.  Another thing I really enjoy is a flavored slush from Sonic.  Soooo good!


Pool pass
image via http://www.kenosha.org/departments/parks/pools.html
If you can reasonably get to a pool every day, do it.  When I was pregnant with Blue Eyes I was able to go to the pool at my grandparents' condo for an hour or two every week day.  The buoyancy the water gave my poor, bloated body was heaven on earth.  During my pregnancy with Pink Blur I was given a pass to the city pool, which I used almost daily.  With baby #4 I have three kids under 6 years old to watch out for and that's just too many for me to do by myself.  My solution this summer is more to eat more popsicles and hide out in the air conditioning when the older two kids aren't at swim lessons.  I'll also be getting a haircut pretty soon.


Loose shoes
Here is yet another heading I could have put with clothing, but which deserves mention by itself.  Swelling of the feet and ankles is fairly common, particularly in a summer pregnancy.  Flip fops are your friend.  I like some that have a little heel to them because they are more comfortable than the flat ones.  For a lot of people, flip flops end up being the only shoe they can put on their swollen tootsies.  The picture above was taken when I was eight months pregnant with Blue Eyes and the air conditioning went out at my work.  It was so bad I had to go home because I was overheating.  My swelling lasted for a minimum of six weeks and was bad enough that I could poke my feet, ankles, and sometimes even my calves and it would leave a dimple where I pressed.


Fake ring
This is my real ring.
Okay, so this isn't a necessity, but it certainly makes me feel better.  Along with swollen feet and ankles, my fingers also grow in size when I'm gestating a little one.  I like to just buy a cheap stand in ring to wear on my left hand when my real wedding ring doesn't fit anymore.  Most people don't care whether or not you have a ring but there was a stranger who saw me in the store without my ring and asked if I was considering adoption.  Sigh.  Rude people or not, I like a little sparkle on my hand.  I usually get a $10 ring from Walmart and it passes as real just long enough to get me through until my wedding ring fits again.


Bath and shower powder
image via Walmart.com
Let's get real.  When pregnant (and sometimes when not pregnant) "summer fresh" is more like "summer moist, chafe-y, and kinda stinky" unless you take the appropriate measures.  A few shakes of baby powder or bath and shower powder in your underwear is the answer.  Use it every time you go to the bathroom.  EVERY time.  I realize that during the first and third trimesters that means you're sprinkling more in every five minutes, but it's still totally worth it.  I like to keep an industrial size shaker bottle in my bathroom and a travel size in the diaper bag.  It does more to keep me comfortable and confident than anything else.


So there you have it, my summer pregnancy survival tips.  Is there anything you've found to make a pregnant summer more comfortable?  This baby is due about a week after the weather turns cooler where I live, so I'll take any hints I can get!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Challenge Create: Fabric Swap Edition

Excuse me for a moment while I express my excitement formynext sewing adventure. [Cue the sound of distant squeals of happiness and things falling over as I do a dance]  At the end of July I get to be a contestant for Challenge Create: Fabric Swap Edition, hosted by the lovely ladies of Skirt Fixation.  Whoop! I've always wanted to be a contestant in a sewing contest, so this is super exciting for me.
This contest features five weeks of creative goodness, each week with a different theme and four different contestants.  Sound easy? Well...there's a catch!  The contestants will be swapping fabric with each other so, beyond the theme of our week, we don't know ahead of time what we will be using to make our projects.  I am competing in the final week: Mystery Fabric.  I figured if I was going for a surprise I'd go for a total surprise.  Plus the added element of the unknown increases the excitement for me.  My husband, ever the lovable skeptic, asked why contestants wouldn't just send horrible fabric to each other in the hopes of making it impossible for their recipient to make anything nice.  I was happy to tell him that not only would the winning project's creator be rewarded, but also the contestant who sent the fabric.  Well thought out, ladies!

Mini spoiler: I sent my swap fabric this week and received my project fabric a couple days later.  I loved the fabric I mailed off, but it would have stayed in my stash forever.  I purchased it just before getting into Dressing Your Truth and, beautiful as the fabric is, the color isn't my best.  I'm excited for the projects to post so you can see what I sent.  I miss looking at it.  As for what I received, it's very different than what I sent.  It's fun and fresh and I'm looking forward to creating something great.  Keep an eye out as the contest starts in July and I'll keep you posted on the progress. I'm going to go be giddy about my new fabric now.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Tenth Anniversary Top

The Hubs and I celebrated our tenth anniversary last week.  It was fabulous.  We counted April's trip to Disneyland with the kids as our big anniversary activity.  We went there for our honeymoon so it felt like full circle to go there as a whole family ten years later.  On our actual anniversary all I really wanted to do was have a fancy dinner.  To me, that means yummy food and more than just an entree.  I was prepared to pay for a starter, entree, and dessert and call that good, rather than pony up for the cost of several courses.  The restaurant we went to had a tasting menu (woohoo!) so we went with that and ended up getting five course and paying less for that than we would have for the three I was going to settle for.  It was perfect.  And delectible.  The picture below shows the third course, fish and cipolline with two heavenly sauces.  We also had a chilled soup (amazing!), arugula salad, parmesan crusted chicken, and a dessert of creme brulee with mixed berries.  If you ever go to a restaurant with a tasting menu option, I highly recommend it.
I decided I need something to wear to dinner.  Rather than wear my Electric Flamingo dress, I opted to go with my new black maxi dress ($12 from Old Navy, hooray!) with a crossover half shirt.  That decision was made by the fact that I already had the pattern and had planned to make several tops in different colors to accessorize the dress.

The requirement for the fabric was that I had to have it and matching thread in my stash so I wouldn't need to go to the store.  I found the leftovers of some neon pink swimsuit knit and just barely eked out enough for the top.  The pattern is Simplicity 1468, view A (shown above).  I shortened the top by about 3.5 inches because I wanted it to end at my natural waist and I am freakishly short-waisted.  After shortening it I added a 1.5 inch band to the bottom for a more finished look.  The sleeve length is view C.  I had to narrow the shoulders (nothing new there) for proper fit.  Finally, I raised the neckline to see if I could make it modest enough to want to wear without a shirt underneath, in case I decide to make a full length top out of it.  I think that covers all the pattern changes.

The top would have been a quick and easy sew had it not been for the fabric I used.  The double needle seemed to get a thrill from skipping stitches.  If I sew this pattern again I think I'll gather the front ends before inserting them into the side seams.  That way the crossover lays on my bust would be more flattering if it went under instead of over.  I doubt I'll make the full length shirt, so the height on the neckline won't present a problem.

Conclusion: the pattern is really easy to sew and I would recommend it  I have not yet taken any further pictures of me wearing the top, so you'll have to wait for better views of the finished product.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Checkmate!

Week #4 of Season #4 of Project Sewn is upon us, which means Signature Style Week.  Last time around I was trying to figure out my signature style.  As I sew along this season I am including all the elements they suggest for the challenge: Showcase your style, your strengths, and your personal sewing preferences.

For the style element I chose the super bold chessboard print.  Black and white are great colors for me and I love to wear them because then I can accessorize with pretty much any color under the sun.  Or I can keep to black and white for a more chic look.  The chessboard pattern can be pretty overbearing but I actually feel a boost of confidence wearing it.  The fabric is the Racing Flag Check (I prefer to say chessboard) knit from Girl Charlee.  I wouldn't normally have chosen the shirt pattern I used because it was so plain.  But I couldn't get it off my mind.  When I saw the fabric I instantly thought of the pattern because the funnel neck gives it such a mod feel.  It felt like it was meant to be.

The sewing strengths I am showcasing are invisible zippers and stripe matching for the top, as well as determination for the pants.  I can honestly say I've gotten pretty good at those things.  The top has an invisible zipper at the neckline and, obviously, more squares and lines than you would want to count.  It's fussy that way.  The pants, on the other hand, are simply glad I haven't thrown them into the "donate" pile before now.  Those pants have been problematic since the very beginning and never quite fit as well as I'd originally hoped.  They pulled in a bit too much at the waist.  I couldn't give up on the idea of the pants so I made them work.
Those are pieced raglan sleeves.  Can you find the seam down the center of my arm?
Finally, my personal sewing preferences.  I love to try new and difficult things.  I think I hate new and difficult things while I'm in the process.  As soon as I'm done, though, I always feel really good about having conquered a new skill.  The new thing for the top was using a downloadable pattern from BurdaStyle.  For the pants the new procedure was turning regular pants into maternity pants.
The end of the invisible zipper.  The white you see is fabric print , not thread or a hole.
The pattern for the top (BurdaStyle 02/2012 #127) was not difficult to construct.  I omitted the pockets, figuring they'd be more useful in the dress than in a top.  The problem was in getting the check pattern to match.  Because the design is printed rather than woven in, the checks don't necessarily match up when the grain does.  I decided to take a chance and make the fabric do weird things during layout, hoping against hope that it wouldn't end up a big waste of material.  Lucky for me, it worked out great.  Even after I gave it 24 hours to hang out I still didn't need to do anything to even up the hem.  Sweet!  What I had really wanted to do was make a perfect pattern match in the front for an uninterrupted check pattern.  The center front seam is curved to make room for a growing belly, so a pattern match on the front was not possible.  But on the shoulder seam of the raglan sleeves?  Well...that was pretty good, if I say so myself.
Shown without the ribbon tie, for days I don't want anything around my waist.  It also gives a good view of the line down the center front.
Now on to the pants.  I really wanted to love them after I made them last year.  They just weren't quite comfortable enough for me to ever wear.  I was determined to make them work.  Well, if I wanted comfy pants then there isn't anything much more comfortable than maternity pants.  The Secret Fit belly from Motherhood Maternity is my very favorite.  I have a pair of jeans with that belly that is no longer wearable. The back seam of pants tend to blow out when they are traded back and forth between two people and at least five (possibly six) pregnancies.  Now my purple pants have a navy waist on them and I couldn't be happier about it.  I love loving to wear things I've made, particularly when I spent so much time trying to get them to work in the first place.  If I only get to wear them for the next five months, then so be it.
Marking the pants for their new waistline...and apparently not wearing my wedding ring.
Using this Burda pattern has helped me get over the distaste I felt for them after the blue shorts disaster.  I will be adding ribbon gussets to the shorts to make them fit properly.  I can't give up on them yet, but I need a little break from them.  Ever have a project like that?

The shirt fit quite well, though the fact that it is a maternity top may have had something to do with it.  I'm not in love with having to print and assemble the pattern before cutting it out and then tracing the pieces to add seam allowances, but that's part of a PDF pattern.  I generally stick to paper patterns and just cut once.
And there you have this season's signature style.  It's bold, it features procedures I'm good at, and it gave me a new challenge.  I feel comfortable and confident in it, which was kind of a surprise.  The shirt was in my bag as I went to a doctor appointment today.  I was too nervous to actually wear it.  I put the shirt on to take pictures at my mom's work and then just left it on before I went to the store because I didn't feel like changing.  Before I went in the store I was nervous about the top's boldness again.  Once I was around people it only took half a second before I felt better.  Maybe better isn't a strong enough word.  I felt good enough that I started to...strut.  Just a little bit.  That means this shirt's a winner in my book.  Checkmate!

Don't forget to vote for your favorite project here!