Friday, December 31, 2010

pink prototype

More sewing, more casual clothes. I must have been jealous of Milo's hoodies so I finally tried one for myself.   The body of the shirt was copied from my favourite t-shirt (purchased at Target years ago), adjusted to swing out a bit below the bust to keep "operation hide belly" intact. Boy, did I ever learn a lot from the "Knock it Off" class I took at The Workroom last year - all I do now is draft patterns from existing clothes. With this technique I can finally sew for Jay too. I've made him a perfect-fitting long sleeve shirt and then a pair of longjohns for Christmas, not to mention all the easy drafting from Milo and Sadie's clothes. Anyone interested in copying your favourite clothes, I highly recommend taking a class like that! If you're in Toronto it looks like February 13th is the next session at The Workroom.

But back to this pink shirt. I thought I would use this fabric for Sadie but she seems to like hot, dark pinks better. I wasn't convinced the shirt would work out, so I used the slubby pink as a true prototype version, knowing that at least the charcoal grey would make a nice contrast. Worse case - I could dye the shirt afterwards. But I've worn the shirt since the minute I finished it (okay, it's finally being washed now) so I don't think pink is a problem for me. It fits great, it's really comfortable and I love the hood (drafted from an American Apparel shirt). So the prototype worked and I'm itching to make another one. All I need is one long nap from Milo and my order to come in from this Etsy shop (her striped knit fabrics are amazing).

Oh, and here's the silliest part: my favourite detail of the whole shirt - and of this knitwear sewing in general - is the tiny polka dotted label. Sure, it's only for my benefit (or for Jay's because he would never get Milo's clothes on the right way otherwise) but it's cute and makes me love the inside construction just as much as the outside. Plus it's a perfect use for ribbon scraps!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

elf wear

Not only have I been meaning to re-take these photos (they're horrid!), but I have also been meaning to write this post for weeks. So a stomach flu and an entire Christmas bonanza later, I have finally found a moment on the computer. Oh right - there's also the part about our main computer kicking the bucket which means I have been sharing the laptop with Jay. Which means that he has the laptop. All. The. Time.

But enough whining from me. In anticipation of the Christmas season it would seem I went through an elf-inspired sewing binge. First, a pair of comfy pants for Milo made from the sleeves of a thrifted shirt. He's been wearing them a lot since he can carry the elf look quite well. And then for me, a cowl neck shirt made from red t-shirt jersey. To break up the red I opted for striped cuffs and waistband. This pattern is a slight revision of the boatneck pattern I've been using, but I could still refine the cowl neck a bit. Regardless, it's really comfortable and has become my constant around-the-house attire. This time of year (and certainly after a stomach flu) wearing black makes me feel about 20 years older, so the red has been a welcome change.

Like mother elf, like son elf.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

wee baby bolero

Ahh, the season of poor photography is back. This photo was taken close to the window that gets the most natural light but November would simply not cooperate.

I struggled with deciding what to knit for my cousin's new baby girl Evelynn. Perhaps I had hat fatigue, but as a knitter, that sounds outrageously blasphemous. Or perhaps it seemed the perfect opportunity to knit something girlie, and nothing says "little girl" more than ruffles, right? The wool is Classic Elite's Waterlily which has subtle and unpredictable variations in colour. It is very soft and very beautiful but hopefully it is baby-friendly too. The pattern is Stitchymama's Blossom Bolero - easy to follow and conveniently knit in one piece. With this weight wool, it is a fairly quick project.

As usual, now I have a six year old who is convinced that a big girl version is in order. Oh well, she'll just have to wait until her hat is finished.

Clearly my hat fatigue has passed.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

scrappy hudson

Whoa, where did November go? Finally everyone is healthy in the house and I can put a business trip to Calgary behind me. Luckily I've still been able to find pockets of time to knit - and pockets are just how a Hudson Hat comes together.

It's a very simple pattern, but sometimes you just need to be reminded to use up scraps of wool. I had a good range of soft greens and blues which made a sweet stripe pattern that really suits Milo (not that it matters, but I've been choosing all the wrong, too-bright colours for him lately). The pompoms are a super cute touch and Sadie has already made a request for one of her own. They may be five years apart, but she loves the idea of having matching clothes with her little brother.

And now I also have a pile of grey and brown wool scraps set aside for a pattern idea I've been kicking around. Hopefully I can find a few more pockets of time during the holiday season to make that happen.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

fuzzy and warm

When I first started planning this vest I imagined making it in red. Or purple. Or even orange. But after an hour in Romni, I made the same boring decision I always make: black. Which means it is very hard to photograph, but very easy to wear. And wear it I have.

The yarn is Naturally Sensation, a wool/angora blend that is very warm and super fuzzy. The pattern is a free Drops design which was easy to follow. It is written to be knit in three pieces but it wasn't hard to convert to knitting as one piece, so now there are no seams adding extra bulk to the sides. I didn't knit a belt because I had one from another sweater that was just the right black, and I've also worn it without, pinning it closed with a brooch. One of the times I wore it belted the lady at the bagel counter asked if I was pregnant, so I've been a little hesitant to sport that style again. But even still, I'm pretty happy with the pattern and I could see knitting it again - but next time I would make a few decreases to bring the shoulders in just a touch.

I actually finished this vest a while ago, but November has been quite a month for sickness around here. There are projects sitting around waiting to be photographed and my sewing machine is gathering dust. Hopefully we'll all recover in time for some holiday crafting - I even have sewing plans for Jay this year!

Monday, November 08, 2010

favourite things part 2

This is only the second post about my favourite things and already there is a trend: ceramic and Canadian. It's clearly a combo I'm fond of.

So: Lotte lamps. This pair took us a few months of sourcing, involving a series of random visits to the only place in Toronto you can buy them new (there is another place where you can get refurbished vintage ones which we also visited more than once). Designed by Danish-born Canadians Gunnar and Lotte Bostlund in 1957, they are now made in the US but the original molds are still being used. Each lamp is completely handmade and the shades are fibreglass, so the quality of light is really warm and inviting (we've since picked another shade for a different lamp we had). Originally we imagined getting a matching pair, but when we finally saw them in person it didn't seem necessary because the style is so singular that all the shapes work beautifully together. Sadie told us the whole lamp searching endeavour was capital B boring, but it was so worth it to us. Great lighting = happy home.

(Though clearly we're nearing the end of including Sadie in our obsessive design journeys. At least we still have a few years left with Milo, right?)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

hoodie part 2

Another $3 sweater, another track suit for Milo. This hoodie was my second try before realizing that I should adjust the neck to decrease bulk - but now that he's worn it a few times it doesn't seem to make a difference once it's on. I may be being too picky, so we'll see if the whole re-drafting thing actually happens. What I do need to pay attention to is Milo's growing body. The pants had to be re-done with a panel up the center and a band around the waist because they were WAY too tight on him the first time around. I liked the fleece so much it seemed worth getting them right and now I have no scraps left to speak of. Truthfully the hoodie could have been a bit longer too - it sticks to Milo's generous belly and would show some skin if I didn't put a onesie underneath.

Lesson learned. Here's some other boy clothes for sewing inspiration: great vest (and wallpaper!), more 90-Minute goodness complete with elephant, be-tassled hoodie, awesome chambray shirt, and a one-piece jumpsuit. Hmm, I think I've already forgotten about fixing my hoodie pattern so I can move on to that one-piece jumpsuit thing. A toddler would love it, right?

Friday, October 22, 2010

lucky day

Fabricland is not known for having good knit fabrics. But every so often, on a very random day, they have a bin of ends that are just perfect.

I was debating ordering from this Etsy shop (I mean, white stripes on black? red and white stripes? sailor navy? awesome!) but these knit ends were very soft and only $3 a meter. Which means I spent way less money and lugged a whopping 17 meters of the yummy stuff back to the office after my lucky lunchtime errand. And look at those colours! Red and white stripes too! Oh yes, I am a fabric geek. A fabric geek who's having a hard time not going back for more.

Everything is washed and my head is swimming with garment ideas. After having trouble with the neckline of another boatneck (using the coral red) I switched gears and made Milo a ringer shirt. It's handy to have a no-fail project to help keep momentum - plus, now that I see these two colours together, I think I should make a similar shirt for Jay. With 16 1/2 meters of fabric left, he should probably get a garment or two. 

Which would be a first.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

first hoodie

After making these pants, there was just enough of the $3 men's sweatshirt left over to try a hoodie for Milo. Correction: there wasn't quite enough so I had to add in brown jersey left over from this romper. Suffice to say, I made Milo a hoodie. And it won't be the last.

I've been known to own up to 5 black hoodies at one time - they are just that versatile and comfortable (the "in action" shot of Milo makes me think he feels the same way). What I quickly learned about sewing one is that attaching a hood means less finishing of the neck. So putting one of these together takes pretty much the same amount of time as a shirt, but I have to say the result is way cuter. I do have to figure out the front neckline though. It's a bit bulky, but I've slept on the dilemma for a few nights and I think I know how to re-draw the pattern (though I have one more bulky version to share first). The wide band was an accidental design feature but I quite like it and it led to adding the front pocket which is open on both sides in case Milo ever figures out he can put his hands (or random small toy) in there.

Overall, another garment that is quick - and totally satisfying - to sew. And this was a fun photo shoot with Milo even if he couldn't sit still. The best shot doesn't even show the hoodie, but it's a definite keeper. What a funny little guy.

Friday, October 08, 2010

mime wear

My first attempt at using the t-shirt pattern from Wendy Mullin's Sew U Home Stretch was a failure, but finding this striped jersey was enough to inspire another try. The jersey came from Nature's Fabrics and it seemed perfect for the boatneck variation of the pattern. I made a few adjustments - the pattern called for the sleeves to be wide and there was zero waist shaping. In the end I kept the 3/4 length sleeves but made them more fitted and I took the sides in quite a bit high up in the waist to make the shirt more snug around the chest. So with a huge thanks to Wendy's book I now have a wearable shirt. I love it, even if Jay calls me a mime every time I wear it.

There's just something about the boatneck style - isn't is flattering on all body types? Am I making that up? I have a shirt from almost a decade ago, back when the fashion world thought revealing glimpses of your belly was a good idea. Being a beloved boatneck, I've held on to it thinking I would alter it someday. So today was the day. First, the before (note the ridiculous shortness of it) followed by a happy after thanks to some remaining striped jersey:

Thank goodness I can make my own knit shirts now because if fashion swings back to short lengths I am going to be way too old and conservative to show off my had-2-children-and-a-gallbladder-surgery bellybutton.

Two shirts, striped jersey completely gone. Now I just need to start working on my mime act.

(P.S. Check out the Built by Wendy collections - so many awesome designs!)

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

six on the sixth

Six years ago today I fell in love with a baby girl named Sadie.

Then a minute or two passed and suddenly she turned six. Six! We're in a bit of shock today, way more than when she turned five. I guess I should have seen this coming because turning 36 this year was similarly shocking (as the saying goes, I'm on the wrong side of 35). Being on the other side of five means I have a daughter who is in grade one, joined the cross country team at school and sings "feeling so fly like a G6" while she draws. It's crazy and beautiful all at the same time. Oh, and she lost her first tooth on Monday, just in time for picture day. See? Totally crazy.

All that being said, today's festivities were low-key, ending with six crimson, strawberry-topped cupcakes all for the birthday girl (luckily, she was in a sharing mood).  When I asked her what the best part of being six was, her answer was immediate: she's taller.

Goodness, how I love this girl.

Thursday, September 30, 2010


It's not much, but I did finish a pair of pants for Milo on Sunday - the very last day of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge. They are made from the sleeves of a $3 man's sweatshirt and I added pockets to make them feel less pajama-like. The big sleeve cuffs work nicely as pant cuffs, and I have so much sweatshirt left that I'm going to try and make a hoodie for Milo too. I'm totally inspired by Trula's foldover hoodie, so that will be my starting point. When I can sew again, that is.

Since Sunday, I've been slightly distracted by my surgery. It all went fine, but recovery is recovery - you can't speed it up and there is no such thing as a to-do list. Taking these photographs is probably my output for the day. Luckily I have some novels to enjoy (I just started Tinkers by Paul Harding and I'm loving it, plus The Laws of Harmony had me bawling yesterday) and a trusty laptop to keep me entertained.

But I do have one to-do that I recommend highly: visit the Elsie Marley Flickr group and check out all the great kids clothes that were made last week. What a talented bunch of sewers out there.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

stripe roundup

Now I understand the dangers of slippery jersey: when you least expect it, the fabric moves around while you're serging and suddenly you've cut a hole where you really don't want one. And this is after you've spent too much time adjusting the gathers of the skirt and attaching it twice. You'd think it would be the sign to stop sewing right then and there and call this week's challenge a bust, but somehow the little children playing restaurant and serving me fake food while sewing was just enough distraction (or rather, reason to censor any cursing) to make finishing possible. The dress became shorter and the gathers a little less uniform, but at least I had no more serger mishaps.

I based this dress off a cute velour Gap dress with a cowl neck, but I love how this jersey drapes. It changes the dress quite a bit and makes the cowl neck acceptable to Sadie. The aqua stripes are a bit metallic (which I wasn't expecting when I ordered from here), and the gray stripes are heathered, so it's quite a nice combination. It's very easy to sew - serging disaster aside - so I think I'll make another one this season. I've got some gray jersey with black hearts all over that would be perfect.

But next up, Milo. We walked down to Goodwill on Friday night and it was 50% off all clothing, so I picked up some men's shirts to make pants (and hopefully a hoodie?) from. It didn't dawn on me until I was loading them into the washing machine that everything was stripes. And then I realized that even Sadie's dress is striped. Oh, and the waistband of Milo's pajama pants. Looking back, all the knits I have been using are about 95% striped.

Oops. My love of stripes is officially official.

Friday, September 24, 2010

kids clothes week challenge

Thank goodness for some late night surfing because I almost missed Elsie Marley's fall edition of the Kids Clothes Week Challenge. But I haven't been nearly as active this time around for a variety of reasons. First, the only time I have during a work week is post 9:30pm and generally I'm feeling pretty wiped by then. And second, when I have dragged myself upstairs, I'm extra conscious of the noise I'm making and sure enough, the serger woke Sadie up one night (clearly sewing in my bedroom is not the best idea.) Then today, when I could have had Milo's nap to myself, I was hanging out in a hospital for my pre-op appointment...'cause I'm having my uncooperative gallbladder removed on Tuesday. Boo.

But being the Queen of Excuses is a drag. I have made some things, and so far I'm most pleased with these pajama pants for Milo. The nights are much cooler now and he needs his feet covered but he's outgrown all of his sleepers. Instead of investing in new ones that he would outgrow tomorrow, I thought pants would have a longer life. I drafted a pattern from an existing sleeper and these pants sewed (or rather, serged) up quickly. He wore them last night and they seem to do the trick, so I've lined up more jersey for other pairs.

Not as successful though, or more like what-on-earth-was-I-thinking, is an outfit I finished up for Sadie. Behold:

Okay, the cuffs are cute, but a full Hello Kitty outfit? Did I want Sadie to look like she's wearing pajamas to school? Didn't I realize she'd wear both pieces together? And what is with the garish pink? Oh well, at least I finished them. And Sadie thinks they are great. I just need to make a rule for myself about buying less prints...and stick to it.

Two more days to go. And check out the many, many cute garments already made on view here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

chalk love

Fact: Sadie draws a lot. Another fact: we never have enough paper in the house. So, when a corner of the living/computer/front room became empty - and there were holes in the wall that needed repainting - we decided to make it a chalkboard instead. Obviously this is not a new idea at all, but it was totally fun and had us questioning our sanity when I started rolling the inky black paint on the wall Sunday night at 10pm. Two coats and a thoroughly aired out house later and Sadie LOVES it.

As a before and after (above), it's quite a dramatic improvement in an awkward corner space. So far, we have played many games of hangman and the drawings change daily. Even Milo has been at it, though he's really only drawing rain and most of the time we find chalk in his mouth. Sadie has tried to make him her student (the child's desk pretty much screams for that kind of role-playing) but he doesn't sit still for too long.

Overall, it's a total winner. And for now, we'll just have to figure out how to live with a whole lot of chalk dust.

Monday, September 06, 2010

gnome attire

This past week was a holiday from both work (for me) and summer camp (for Sadie). Our goal was to spend some quality girl time together, something we haven't really done since Milo was born. And as I had hoped - it was lovely. Sadie's new favourite place is the ROM, she has a cute haircut from the salon, and in general we simply reconnected because there wasn't a little boy needing our attention.

So why the little boy photo? Well, whenever I have time off work I imagine all the things I can make, but I knew this week would be different. I tired really hard not to dwell on what wasn't happening in favour of enjoying what was. But in the evenings I did manage to make a hat for Milo that is ever-so-cute (I've learned that little projects go a long way - because as much as I told myself that making things this week wasn't important, this tiny garment helped my inner productivity need). The pattern is from this adorable book, and although it's a bit snug Milo can't get it off - perfect for this fall. The yarn is Koigu Kersti which washes well and has some subtle colour changes. Hopefully it looks manly enough, but I sure love the vintage look. Oh, and the fact that Milo looks like a little gnome in it.

Little gnomes and growing girls. It was a lovely week indeed.

Monday, August 30, 2010

back to school skirt

My 5-year-old is an incredibly reluctant model. It took a lot of coaxing to get photos of her new skirt, but there is one thing I don't have to convince her of: a deep love for school. The thought of school starting next week has Sadie in a constant state of glee, and when I asked her what we should name her new skirt the answer was immediate. Meet the Back to School Skirt.

This is a simple pattern and it makes for a very wearable wool skirt (note the dancing shot above). Noro is such a unique yarn, and this skirt allows the inherent striping to really show off. It is so fun to watch the colours appear and reappear in different widths - something you just couldn't plan with individual yarns. As for garment details - the waist is folded inside to create a casing for elastic and there is a true hem to help weight the skirt properly. Blocking would make the hem behave, but Sadie started wearing the skirt before I had a chance to whisk it away. I figure it's a small price to pay for knitting something Sadie loves. Of course, the skirt is small potatoes compared to starting Grade One next Tuesday.

You will need:
3 balls Noro Kureyon
5mm 16”-20” circular needle
1 stitch marker

Gauge 18.5 stitches over 26 rows = 4” square
Size is roughly for a 4-6 year old. Sadie’s waist is 20”, so using negative ease I ended up with a finished waist that is roughly 18” (smaller once the elastic is in). From waist to hem the length is 13”. Overall the pattern is basic enough to adjust to other sizes – simply increase or decrease the number of CO stitches to an amount divisible by 4.

CO 76, join in the round. Place marker to mark the beginning of the round.
Knit for 7 rows.
Purl 1 row (this makes an edge which folds over neatly).
Knit for 11 rows.
INCREASE ROW 1: [K19, M1] 4 times. (80 stitches total)
Knit for 3 rows.
INCREASE ROW 2: [K20, M1] 4 times. (84 stitches total)
Knit for 3 rows.
INCREASE ROW 3: [K21, M1] 4 times. (88 stitches total)
Knit for 3 rows.
INCREASE ROW 4: [K22, M1] 4 times. (92 stitches total)
Knit for 3 rows.
GATHERED ROW: [K1, KFB] to end of row.
Continue knitting until desired skirt length is reached.
Purl 1 row (again, this makes an edge which folds over neatly to create the skirt hem.
Knit for 7 rows and bind off.

To finish, using lengths of Noro yarn (or other, stronger yarn) sew the hem in place using a whip stitch. Do the same for the waist until you have 2-3” left open. Cut a piece of elastic and feed through the waist casing. Join the elastic and finish stitching the waist closed. Weave in ends and block if desired.

(Pattern is for personal use only. Please do not use for commercial purposes.)

Sunday, August 22, 2010

lucky boy

The quickest sewing jobs are always for Milo. And since he's a boy - a 14 month old boy to be exact - he gets his clothes dirty. Instead of doing laundry, I just make him more shirts. Seriously.

This shirt was made during another Friday afternoon nap sewing bonanza. The fabric came from Nature's Fabrics and it is wonderfully soft. The green ribbing is from an old maternity shirt of mine (which I have now completely used every scrap of). I went back to the tried-and-true 90 Minute Shirt pattern because I am always inspired by Sascha's garments (not to mention her lovely blog has taught me a trick or two). I still have 3/4 yard of this fabric, so I guess Milo will get some matching pants, or maybe a hoodie like this awesome one? We'll see what next Friday brings.

But first some leggings or Sadie. Girls need clothes too.

Friday, August 13, 2010


It is surprisingly hard to live without a sewing machine. Or maybe hard is the wrong word - let's say it is somewhat disheartening. I was feeling lost without a work space set up, but finally I have a temporary desk in our bedroom. It's not ideal, but it's something. And while Milo napped today I sewed him a new t-shirt and the whole world felt right again.

I don't work on Fridays, but so far it has been hard to stay away from emails and general contact. Today I actually checked out though, and while Milo napped for a whopping 3 1/2 hours, I watched 2 Mad Men episodes, sewed a t-shirt and finished knitting (and weaving in all the ends!) another toddler vest. Accomplishment and entertainment - it was heavenly.

The vest is knit with Manos Cotton Stria. It's soft and light - perfect for the fall. I'm not wild about the colour and it turns out there is a noticeable difference between the two balls I had, so I may dye the whole thing anyway. And on a recent trip to Cambridge I picked up the little blue hanger above which is a great improvement on my usual plastic white number. It makes for a better photo for sure, handy when you're knitting in the summer and don't feel like torturing your son by forcing him to wear wool.

Fingers crossed next Friday is as productive.

Friday, August 06, 2010


Four years ago I knit Sadie a Swing Thing cardigan using colourful Noro wool. She wasn't even two, and the sweater turned out ginormous so I put it away thinking she could probably wear it when she was five (which, of course, seemed far, far away). In what seems to have been a minute or two, Sadie is now almost to six but the sweater was close to forgotten. Luckily I'm moving things around these days as we get Milo's bedroom ready, and I came across the unworn Swing Thing. Unfortunately it doesn't fit any better with the extra years, and Sadie thinks it's scratchy to boot.

I guess Noro was too stiff a yarn choice because the shoulders resemble those of a football jersey (see center photo for proof). The colours are wonderful though, and even Sadie could see that. So after some brainstorming we decided a skirt would be a nice garment choice - the striping should be similar and it will never be right next to her skin. Win-win all around. I'm currently without my sewing machine, or even a work space, so unravelling a project is about as creative as I get. And winding balls of Noro is more than pleasant - it's like watching a moving mosaic on your lap. I can't wait to start her skirt.

Speaking of skirts, my renewed love for Noro had me poking through Ravelry patterns today and I came across this new skirt pattern from the current Knitty issue. It is downright awesome, and I don't think I'll be able to stop myself from grabbing some more Noro this weekend. I'll call it my treat for having no work space, or more like, something to distract myself from dwelling too much on Milo moving down the hall.

Knitting therapy strikes again.