The handmade wardrobe

See that spunky little girl up there?  She’s mine.  She is feisty and girly and her own individual person every moment of the day. Apparently, she’s exactly how I was as a child. She is very opinionated about her clothing and loves sparkles and ruffles, so when we shop together, I know if what I buy will be worn happily or not.  But as time as passed since she’s been born, I’ve followed more and more sewing blogs and am always amazed at how many of these women are making what appears to be the lion’s portion of their daughter’s clothing.

My absolute favorite way to dress a little girl is in a knit dress and leggings.  Sylvi adds her own twist to this by also wearing boots.  This girl loves boots.  Especially her hot pink Kamik rain boots. But then, who doesn’t?

As I looked over her closet for this winter, I realized I didn’t have many knit dresses and decided that instead of heading to the mall, I’d just make my own.  Most of these fabrics are from JoAnn’s, but I did order the mustard colored one from Birch Fabrics.  It’s organic cotton knit and yes, it was a splurge, but considering that I hadn’t spent more than $8 on all the other fabrics combined, I felt it was more than justified.  And that fabric?  A dream.  I have heard fabrics described as “buttery” and wondered what was meant by that, but as soon as I pulled this out of the package, I knew.  It is amazing.

After I’d made the owl patterned dress, I tried it on Sylvi and she complained that there were no pockets.  Sooooo…. I added pockets to the two dresses pictured together (fabrics from FabricWorm) and then to one knit dress.  You know what?  They are far easier than I’d ever imagined they would be!

All the dresses are from my own patterns. I looked up dresses I liked online (Hanna Anderson, Children’s Place, Old Navy and l.l. bean for inspiration) and replicated them as best I could. Using the dress she’s pictured in at the top of this page for sizing, I used my experience from Oliver + S Patterns and the Sunki dress from Figgy’s Patterns to put the rest together.

At this point, she has 6 dresses in the closet that were made by me for this season, 1 already for the Spring and 2 that I made her this summer that were big enough I think she’ll be able to wear again in 2014.  The tunic with lace-trimmed sleeves brings the total of tops up to four (including what I made this week) and I’ve made 1 pair of leggings (also included in the Sunki Pattern).

What do I have planned next?  More leggings.  For sure.  Her legs are so tiny that I need to figure out a material weight that will cling better when combined with a 12 month width, 2T length.  I’m planning to make the kids’ Christmas PJs (I found the perfect material last week and can’t wait for it to arrive!!!) and have material set aside to make her Christmas dress.  Right now, making her clothes is such a joy and it’s so inexpensive.  To make a long-sleeved top, I only need half a yard of fabric and can get a dress out of 1 yard, including the lining.  I’ve learned how to line, insert hidden zippers, sew with a double needle, create patterns and do a variety of gatherings. So, for as long as she loves me making her clothes, I will.  Liam has loved the pjs I made this week and begs to wear the pants all the time, so I see a future of a lot of handmade pjs for him.  I would like to perfect my raglan skills so that in time I can add some of those to his wardrobe.

All this sewing has brought a whole new level of joy in my life.  I’m a creative person and this is such a wonderful outlet for me.  It used to be that when I was stressed or down, I’d bake.  Which is nice and I learned a host of valuable skills, but I can certainly blame at least 20 of these extra pounds on that hobby.  Now when I am stressed, an hour at my machine or just wandering a fabric store, I am a much more peaceful and content person.  Life is what it is, but I have realized that I can choose to use my time to make beautiful things to show my love for my family and friends.  But this post is long enough as it is… more later this week!


Kids Clothes Week in Review

I noticed that several other blogs did daily posts, but I wasn’t up to doing that this week.  I was lucky to even squeeze in sewing time!  My email was a constant rush of incoming communications that couldn’t be ignored, the kids and hubs were sick and I was selling kids/baby stuff and had to do over 10 meetups.  I wasn’t so great with managing my time.

However, my end tally for the week is as follows:

  • 2 sets of size 4T pjs, one in jersy knit and one in flannel
  • 1 pair of jersery knit pj pants  in size 4T (I had a storebought shirt for the top)
  • 3 long-sleeved knit tops (in varying weights) in a generous size 2T

I spent a LOT of time prepping patterns pieces and cutting the materials out last weekend and it really paid off in the end.  Each of the t-shirts took about a little over half an hour to make once they were laid out!  I used an actual pattern for the 4T shirts and can’t say I liked it very much.  For all the other pieces, I used clothing from the kids’ drawers that fit how I wanted my pieces to as the patterns. And I must tell you that this time last year I was following Jess’ blog, Craftiness is Not Optional and marveling that someone could do that!  Now when I look at clothing, I can see how all those seams come together 🙂

Tomorrow’s post is being inspired by a conversation with my high school friend, Erin, as we talked about the percentages of our kids’ wardrobes that could logistically be handmade.  She is my knitting hero and I really enjoy reading her blog… you should too!  But come back tomorrow for a post on handmade wardrobes and what I’m learning!

Check out the official Kids Clothes Week Blog for photos and updates from the participants this week.  What about you?  Did you participate?

Popcorn and Bones

Matt and I have been watching Bones since it first came out.  Which is about as long as we’ve been together and tonight… tonight is THE night!!!  Booth and Bones are finally getting married!!!  I’m probably a little more excited about this than absolutely necessary. My night is cleared and I’m about to make a batch of this Pumpkin Caramel Popcorn.

Sweet, Cinnamon-y and addictive, this is the first popcorn experiment that I’ve tried that Matt has told me “must stay in the house always”.  It’s a good snack that will hold up for packing in a lunch box or taking to the drive-in for a movie night. Now… if you will excuse me, I have a snack to make for the wedding I’ve been waiting for since Season 1!

Pumpkin Caramel Popcorn

  • 10 cups popped popcorn
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger

Melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the sugar, honey and spices.  Bring to a boil as the sugar melts and let it bubble for about 5 minutes, stirring well.  Then, pour the caramel sauce over the popcorn, stirring to coat.  Once all the popcorn has been coated, spread it out on a baking sheet evenly.  Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake at 200 degrees for an hour.  Check frequently to make sure the caramel isn’t burning and stir each time.  Eat as soon as you can.  Or wait until it cools.  Whatever you like.  It keeps well in an air-tight container.

Kids Clothes Week Prep

This is now the third year that I have read about Kids Clothes Week and wondered if I could handle it. I have a whole bunch of posts I need to actually write up and share with you about handmade kids’ clothes. I’ve been reading Jess’ blog Craftiness is Not Optional very closely for a few years and wondered how much of her kids’ clothing she actually makes… but I tell you, as many pieces she turns out, this has to be something I can do.  I decided that I was going to tackle Sylvi’s wardrobe this Fall/Winter and try to make all her dresses.  Done and Done.  But I did it too far in advance of KCW.

Last week, I switched the kids’ clothes to the warmer options and realized Liam had ONE pair of pjs for winter.  And by ONE, I mean I grabbed them at a garage sale because they glowed in the dark.  Whoops.  So I zipped to my ever-growing fabric stash in the basement and hoped I had something masculine.  Lucky for me, I have dinos, rock monsters and mustaches.  So my main goal for KWC is to make three sets of pjs for Liam.

If I have time (and gumption), I’d also like to make a few tops for Sylvi.  She has plenty of 2T tops, but I remember that last winter, the 12-18 month tops were suddenly way too short and I had to break out the next size, so I’m hoping to prepare in advance.  I have a thermal knit, a basic brown floral knit and a really soft blue floral knit I ordered from Girl Charlee.  Oh my, my… if I could just click and add everything I see into my shopping cart on that site… oh my.

Today, I made my plans. I cut the pj fabrics out.  I realized I don’t have enough to make anything longer than Capris out of the rock monster fabric.  I will be creative!!!

So what about you? Are you participating in Kids Clothes Week?

October 15th

Today is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Day. I was in college when I first heard about it.  And I thought it was the saddest thing I’d ever heard of.  Young and naive and unaware of what could happen.  It wasn’t until I was in a nursing class that I learned that there is a 15% chance of miscarriage in the first trimester. Being still young and naive, I still considered this very sad, but foolishly believed that it couldn’t happen to me.

But it has. It’s happened to me four times.  And as sad as this is, it’s still nothing compared to the horrible 1% of pregnancies that end in stillbirth.  I only knew the joy of two pink lines and telling family.  I only started to plan out what everything would be like.  I never felt those babies kick. I didn’t get to see their sweet profiles on the ultrasound in glorious detail. And I didn’t hold them in my arms after they were born.

For all the families who have felt this pain, my heart just breaks.  I ache for their losses, their pain, their dreams that will never come true.  Miscarriage is horrible and in my life has been crushing.  But I haven’t had to bury a child so I am grateful. I had planned to have six children in my life. I do. Everyone who has ever lost a child, regardless of their date of gestation, is still a parent. They are still mothers and fathers, regardless of where or not there is an accompanying car seat and dirty diapers.

My last miscarriage was two years ago this Christmas. And we’ve spent the last 22 months trying and praying and hoping for another baby.  Oh, how I’ve wanted another baby. This summer, I started hunting for another doctor’s opinion.  Several opinions later, we accepted that we won’t be having more children. In a few weeks, I’ll be having surgery so repair an internal issue from so many pregnancies in a short amount of time, but there is nothing they can do to fix the fact that my body will not support another pregnancy.  My heart will always wish for more children. It is going to hurt for a long time when people announce subsequent pregnancies, because no matter how happy I am for them, that longing in my heart will always be there.

This post serves to remind you, dear readers that there is always someone in the world who is hurting. Love on the people around you, even if she starts to cry when she sees your baby. Be kind to the man next door who hasn’t had it together enough to keep up on the yardwork.  You don’t know where people are in their lives.

Fall Flavors and Family

My dad’s birthday was earlier this month, but because of soccer schedules, we didn’t manage to get together until this weekend.  I kind of waited until the last moment to figure out what I was serving because October weather has been so odd this year!  Today, for instance, was supposed to be warm and sunny.  It’s overcast, breezy and cool.  If I can ever get myself together, it will be a perfect day to work on a new baby quilt.  I have my strips cut and a fresh pot of coffee, so half the battle has been won!

I made the Pumpkin Cream Farfalle from Whitney’s book and added green peas and chopped chicken breast so it was a complete meal.  It’s the third time I’ve made it since the book arrived a few weeks ago and once again, it was a hit.  Whitney wrote a fabulous cookbook, but I tell you, this is definitely my favorite of all!

For as long as I can remember, my dad has always requested pumpkin pie for his birthday.  But I didn’t feel like wrestling with pie crust and since there was already so much pumpkin in the pasta, I wanted a different flavor.

Thank Heavens for Pinterest.  There, I found this recipe for apple cider pound cake.  It looked glorious and comforting and since I had fresh apple cider in my fridge, the perfect solution to our dessert quest.  And then, I saw the actual recipe and realized I needed to make some adjustments.  The result was amazing!  My family loved it and although the glaze looks nothing like what the original showed, I’m very pleased.  Pleased enough that I think this will accompany my usual pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving!

Apple Cider Pound Cake with Caramel Maple Syrup Glaze (adapted from Culinary Concoctions by Peabody)

  • 1 cup butter (softened)
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup fresh apple cider
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Beat the butter, sugars, eggs and vanilla together until smooth and fluffy.  Then, mix in the spices, salt and baking powder. Add one cup of flour and mix through.  Pour in about half of the apple cider and mix.  Stop the mixer and scrape down the sides before adding the rest of flour and cider.  Mix on medium until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated and the batter is flecked with the cinnamon and nutmeg.  Pour batter into a very well greased loaf pan.  Bake at 325 degrees for an hour and 20 minutes.  Test with a knife in the center to make sure it comes out clean.  Allow the cake to cool enough to handle before removing it from the pan, making sure to loosen the sides before you do so.

This is what was left of the Apple Cider Pound Cake… it got eaten too fast for me to take a photo of the full plate!

In a small pan, once the cake comes out of the oven, mix together, 1/4 cup sugar, 3 Tbsp. butter, 2 Tbsp. milk, 2 Tbsp maple syrup and 1/2 tsp. vanilla.  Bring to a boil and stir frequently.  It will take 5-8 minutes for the sugars to caramelize, so you will need to stay nearby, stirring.  Keep the glaze boiling, until the caramel turns to the color you desire.  I boiled mine for about 7 minutes and the color wasn’t that dark.  But, oh…  it tasted so good!  Drizzle over the pound cake, while the cake is still warm from the oven.

Cooler weather, Cabbage and Disapproving Preschoolers

Weather in Ohio is sketchy this time of year. It can be in the upper 70s one day and then the next in the low 50s.  I finally started to write down the meals I had bought food for and decide on a day-to-day basis what I’d be serving for supper.  Tomorrow and Saturday are supposed to be perfect weather days… and after that, the forecast looks like it will be on the downhill temperature slide.

So my grocery list is finally being filled with brussel sprouts, broccoli, beans and cabbage.  Casseroles and stews will soon be the most common items in my home!  Yay!  In the cooler days of September, I experimented with a few recipe twists for my beloved cabbage and brussel sprouts. This cabbage recipe is mother-in-law approved. Oh yes.  And husband approved.  Also two-year-old approved.  The four-year-old does not.  But he’s four.  He approves of nothing these days.

This cabbage dish is meant to be a side dish, but if you wanted to make this into an entire meal, you could add some rice noodles (from the Asian aisle, not the ones in the gluten-free section) and call it a vegetarian success. Use dairy-free sour cream and it’s even a vegan success.  In the meantime, whip up a batch of this cabbage and watch your opinion of this vegetable turn from disinterest to delight!

Cabbage and Onion Saute

  • 1 small green cabbage
  • 1 large onion
  • sour cream
  • garlic
  • salt
  • pepper
  • butter

Shred or thinly slice the cabbage and onion.  Saute in butter until tender.  The edges will brown, as much as you let it… I like mine a little more browned than maybe you do, just depends on your taste!  Season with salt and pepper and then stir in sour cream. I don’t use much more than a quarter cup, I just use the sour cream as another level of flavor and texture.  And it’s so good.  And the leftovers? IF you have any, it makes a great topping on a meatloaf sandwich.  But that’s only IF you have leftovers…