Monday, May 21, 2018

Gifts for a Tiny Friend

When I discovered that a dear friend was having a baby girl, I knew there was some crafting in my future! After consulting with my friend, the hunt began for fabric to make a car seat canopy, and silicone beads for a teether/pacifier leash. I was given free reign on fabric selection, and I opted for a a print that I love from Birch organics. I was worried their jersey wouldn't be stretchy enough (and I did have to buy 2 yards because their knits are only 45" wide!), but it turned out to be perfectly fine. Of course, the first yardage I ordered turned out to be woven instead of knit, because I forgot to check the listing! But I'm sure I can easily find a use for that (and it was half the price it usually is!). 

I used the tutorial by Make it and Love It for the car seat canopy/cover. It worked perfectly! Though I think I could have gotten away with making it a little shorter -- still, better a bit too long than too short. And it's neatly folded in the picture, in case you're confused about how it's supposed to cover a car seat! I didn't think to take an "action" photo.

For the pacifier leash, I combined some of the wooden beads I already had with a few new beads via Etsy (soooooo many options). And my friend loves birds, so the wooden teether was perfect! There was no reason for the cover and the leash to coordinate, but they ended up looking just right together.

The canopy is already in use, and hopefully my new little friend will enjoy chomping down on her leash once those teeth start coming in. Scout is sporting several new teeth, and he has certainly enjoyed the textures of the leash I made for him! It's still going strong, and I've made a second for his pacifier.

Sewing and crafting are joy enough in themselves, but it's even better when I get to indulge my creative impulses to welcome a precious baby into the world!

Saturday, May 05, 2018


"Precious, no doubt, are these little ones in your eyes; but if you love them, think often of their souls.... 
No part of them should be so dear to you as that part which will never die. The world, with all its glory, shall pass away; the hills shall melt.... 
But the spirit which dwells in those little creatures, whom you love so well, shall outlive them all.... 

In every step you take about them, in every plan, and scheme, and arrangement that concerns them, do not leave out the mighty question, 
'How will this affect their souls?’"

J.C. Ryle, quoted in The Disciple-Making Parent: A Comprehensive Guidebook for Raising Your Children to Love and Follow Jesus Christ, by Chap Bettis

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Looking Forward to Looking Back: May Yarn Along

I'm joining Ginny's Yarn Along for the second time, and hope to make this a more regular thing! Perhaps it will help keep me focused on my knitting (and reading!) projects, and that wouldn't be a bad thing.

I'm now well into my sweater with the Sugar Baby Alpaca. The pattern I'm using is Looking Back, and I'm eager to finish it -- even if I probably won't get to wear it until the fall. After the months and months I spent working on my White Pine cardigan, it feels good to be making quick progress on this sweater! I'm hoping to complete this knit within the next few days, which would be just about a month.

This will be quite a light knit (which works well with the lacy pattern). I do love that it buttons up the back -- though the neckline was so high that I can't imagine wearing it buttons-facing-front. I altered the back neckline to make it practical to wear as a forward-facing cardigan (i.e., maternity friendly, in case I need that in the future). I'm hoping this doesn't make it slip off the shoulders too easily -- it will require an undershirt regardless, so I'm not too worried about it. Still, I'm hoping the neck band will pull it all together (literally and figuratively).

So far, this has been a pretty painless knit! I've had a few hiccups here and there (figuring out the back neckline alteration, picking up stitches around the armholes, and binding off the bottom and sleeve edges), but overall it's been smooth sailing. Now all that remains are the button and neck bands, and I'm having a bit of difficulty there. I finished the buttonhole side, only to realize that it wasn't quite right. I took the whole thing off, blocked the sweater (I hate blocking before the project is finished!), and am now ready to start again after I do a little math to figure out the best pick-up ratio. I'd rather just charge ahead and finish, but I know I'll be happier with the result if I take a little time to do it right.

As for my current reading, I picked up Northanger Abbey on a whim -- it's been years since I last read it, and I still hadn't read any of my "upgraded" Jane Austen volumes (I'd wanted hardcover versions for several years, and I love the tiny Collector's Library editions. They were also quite economical). I'd forgotten just how much I love Jane Austen's writing! I'm thoroughly enjoying it!

That's what's on my needles and my mind this month; I'd love to hear what projects and reads you have underway!

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!