Friday, December 30, 2011

Three Layer Chocolate Cake

For my mother's birthday, I baked her favorite chocolate cake. She tore the recipe out of a magazine many, many years ago and I just have a xerox of it, so I can't even say what magazine it was, but they called it "Hard-to-Resist Chocolate Supreme." She used to always make it for other people, so now it is nice to make it for her--second year in a row. Also, the frosting is especially delicious.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Martha Stewart knows glitter. This year we made these stars out of mat board (from the December 2011 Martha Stewart Living). 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Pumpkin Place Cards

For Thanksgiving dinner at my parent's house, I made pumpkin place cards based on this tutorial on Oh Happy Day.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sewaholic Lonsdale Dress

I miraculously finished my Lonsdale Dress before the weather got cold, just barely in time for the wedding I was planning on wearing it to. As in, I hemmed it while wearing it on the car ride to the vineyard. (Here we are before getting in the car:)

This was definitely my most involved sewing project, mainly because I made two muslins, and lined it (and lining is not included in the pattern).

This is only the third thing I have made for myself, the first two being Built By Wendy Simplicity 3964 tops, with no alterations. I still love (and in many ways prefer) sewing for my kids, but it was nice to be doing this just for me.

Pomegranate Chocolate Chip Cookies

I saw a pomegranate at our local grocery store today, and I just couldn't escape trying Dana's double dark chocolate pomegranate cookies. Yum. Next time I might try all butter, but this time I followed her recipe. When I made bigger balls (heaping rounded tablespoon), they took 13 minutes to bake.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

My Freshly Painted Desk

A long over due project that I finally got to this fall... painting my desk! This was my mom's desk, before it was my dad's desk, before it was my desk. My mom had painted it a cream color with "shabby chic" style green brush strokes over it as a graduate student. But the paint peeled off easily, was very old, and the desk was embarrassingly dirty, too. Maybe you can see all the finger prints on the drawers in the before pictures...

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Princess Halloween Costume (Simplicity 2463)

Louisa picked her own pattern and her own fabric for her specially-requested princess costume.

Who can resist a pink and purple ombre organza with star sequins?!

I made view A of Simplicity 2463.

We got all the fabric from Jo-Ann, except the lining, which is a pink acetate from that I had purchased for my Lonsdale dress lining, before I realized I wanted to stick with cotton. Acetate is kind of sickly smooth and slippery in its 100% synthetic-ness, but perfect for a princess costume.

The pattern was easy to follow. I'd say it ran a little big, even though I cut it according to her measurements. I made the size 3 and it will definitely still fit her next year.

I cut it a little longer than the 3 because she is tall (and her number-one request was that it go "all the way to my toes!") but it ended up being way too long even after I tacked up the hem and she was tripping on it some while we trick-or-treated.

My other change was to line the yoke (not just the bodice pieces) and skip the neck binding, as someone else had done on

I think it would have looked nice with a contrast binding, however, because the pale pink disappeared a bit against her skin. But I am happy with it fully lined (I even under stitched the neck edge!) and I don't do a great job stitching in the ditch like the binding had called for.

I also left out the net ruffles. I had bought a bunch of purple netting and tulle, but it was a mess to work with, and since the skirt fabric was sheer, it wasn't going to look right. It's not as poofy as it could be, but she still loves it.

Some of these photos are from her Halloween Parade at school and some are from Halloween night. I hadn't finished sewing the jewels on the bodice for her preschool celebration.

I finished all the exposed seam with bias binding because acetate and organza just frays like crazy. Plus the binding looks nice around the sleeves since they are sheer. The skirt and skirt lining seams I did as french seams for the same reasons.

And just in case you were wondering, Leo was a doctor. His scrubs were a gift, and we had the requisite black clogs and fleece jacket already.

Halloween sure is a exhausting! Up late on a school night, candy for dinner, all her friends over here... phew! But the memories are fantastic.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Bucket Hat

This is the first time I've let Louisa pick her own fabric. Luckily her tastes aren't as expensive as mine (yet) and she chose this denim at Jo-Ann for her bucket hat from oliver + s's Little Things to Sew. (I own this adorable book but Liesl has made this particular pattern from it available as a PDF here.)

Yes, it has little silver butterflies on it reminiscent of puffy paint (in a good way?).

I added a neck strap that I had intended to cut and turn into ties, or to find a little draw-string-style end piece for.

Fact is, I never got that far because the hat doesn't quite fit right.

I made the biggest size (large, meant for 6 - 8 years ...she is 3) based on her head measurement and it is still snug (we are a big-headed breed). Also, I think the brim is a little too narrow. It doesn't quite keep enough sun off little noses.

I lined it with a scrap from an old Laura Ashley dress. The pattern makes the hat reversible, but I thought a strap would be more helpful.

This actually wasn't my first denim baby sun hat. Almost three years ago I made the hat seen on Leo below for Louisa from The Children's Year. My mother and sisters and I used to make projects from this book when I was a girl.

I made this one when I was still sewing on my grandmother's Singer Featherweight, and making the brim fit the hat was a challenge for me. My mom showed me how many pins you need to fit two circular pieces together. The hat doesn't stay on long without a chin strap, but I think it is adorable.

And proof that my babies have abnormally small heads... this hat seen above on a five month old Leo, is sized for a three year old.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

My Lonsdale Muslin Doesn't Fit.

I am not very experienced in sewing for myself. I like to sew for my kids so fit isn't so particular. So one of my goals for this year is to do more sewing for me and tackle some fitting and pattern adjustment challenges that I usually avoid. So here is a big one!

I was pretty excited about making a Lonsdale Dress from Sewaholic, especially after following the sew-along last month. I even bought this fabric, and some pale pink lining, and was hoping to wear my finished dress to an early-fall wedding that is coming up in a few weeks.

I decided to make a muslin since my measurements don't fit the sizes very well. And I decided to make the whole dress, so that I could get some practice before I cut into my Anna Maria voile, which is not a cheap fabric.

It's a good thing I did because the bodice fits terribly! I made the size 8 and here it is with no adjustments...

Monday, September 5, 2011

Sleeping Beauty Toddler Backpack

Little Louisa started preschool last week! Time flies. For her big first day I made her the Toddler Backpack by Made by Rae (although it technically wasn't finished til her third day).

I used Heather Ross Far Far Away II. The main panels are Roses in pink and orange, with Sleeping Beauty appliqued to the front with a tight zigzag stitch. (Sleeping Beauty I've been hoarding, but the roses I bought just for this project from Fresh Modern Fabric on etsy.)

Although the FFA fabric is a heavier weight linen/cotton blend, I still used a medium-heavy weight interfacing for extra stiffness.

The bottom panel and straps are a hot pink canvas. I used fusible fleece for the strap padding and bottom panel. And I lined it with a solid purple lightweight cotton from my stash.

As far as modifications, I added two side pockets, one with an elastic top and gathered bottom, to hold a water bottle. I used the side panel pattern piece to cut the pocket and pocket lining, just shortened it an inch or two and widened it by about 4 inches. The slip pocket on the other side is the same height, but I didn't add any extra width.

Inspired by this suggestion on flickr, I followed the instructions for lining the backpack from the Penguin Backpack pattern in the oliver + s book Little Things to Sew. I also added the interior pocket more or less following that pattern.

The nice thing is there are no seams to cover up with this technique and it looks pretty tidy inside.

However, next time I probably won't bother with the lining at all. It is nice to have the pocket inside there, but I don't think it was worth the extra trouble. It also requires you to handstitch the lining to the zipper panel at the end.

I didn't have have any trouble with my sewing machine (a basic Singer Esteem) using a size 14 needle. I went very slowly while attaching all the layers at the top (sewing through the straps, handle, piping, etc.) and around the corners through the padded bottom panel.

However, I couldn't get it to sew the strap adjusters on at all, so I had to hand stitch those on. The hems on my nylon straps looked messy, so I burnt the ends lightly with a lighter to seal them off.  (Unfortunately I couldn't get pink webbing at Joann so I went with black so they wouldn't look dirty right away.)

The good news is, she loves it almost as much as she's loving preschool!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Birthday Banner

I couldn't let the Pooches & Pickups scraps from Leo's birthday shirt go to waste, so I made a penant banner/bunting/garland to decorate our porch during his party.

For Louisa's first birthday, I made a "party garland" from this tutorial on purlbee, which uses several shapes (all edges raw) and invisible thread. Unfortunately invisible thread doesn't hold up so well. Although I was able to use it again for her second birthday, it broke in several pieces and tangled very easily. This is the best picture I could find of it:

So this time, I used bias tape instead, roughly following this tutorial, although I didn't have pinking shears. I think I prefer the unfinished edges.

I made two different sizes of triangles. The larger ones are about seven inches long and six inches across the top, and the smaller ones are four long and four across. Almost all of them I cut as two layers, right sides out (with the exception of some solid broadcloth that didn't have a wrong side, so I strung them individually).

I pinned the triangles to the edge of the binding in completely random order, with just an inch or two between each flag. Then I stitched, folded the binding, and top stitched through all the layers with a contrasting zigzag.

I was particularly excited that I made this project entirely with things already in my stash (the reds and oranges were from some Amy Butler quilted potholders I made for gifts one Christmas). The bias tape was actually a package of old brown quilt binding that I cut down the middle and refolded, to make it six yards of 1/2 inch instead of three yards of one inch.

Super easy one-hour project! It is still hanging on our porch because we like it so much.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

My MADE Header

If you found me through the design-my-header contest on MADE, thanks for visiting! For those of you interested, I started with this photo from Dana's Summer Vacation Dress & Shortie Pattern (a pattern that I own and still haven't made! Maybe this will finally get me to work. Love the shortie variation).

I've read Dana's blog for a while, and I know she loves bold colors, so this photo stood out, especially with her cute daughter looking so celebratory—celebrating is a lot of what MADE is about.

To make the photo work with my vision, I used Photoshop (the clone stamp and a little patch tool) to extend the red background to the left to give me room to fit "made" there.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

First Birthday Shirt

My little Leo turned one a few weeks ago, and this is what he wore. The pattern is Kai's Shirt from Heather Ross's Weekend Sewing. The fabric is Laurie Wisbrun's Pooches & Pickups in "Small Trucks for Summer," which I bought from Hawthorne Threads.

The shirt is styled to fit big, so I knew that the 12 month size would work for Leo, even though he is a big boy. It will fit him for a while.

From what I read on Heather's Weekend Sewing flickr group, it seemed like a few people were having trouble with the collar pieces measuring up right. But I decided to do go ahead and follow the instructions and I actually had no trouble at all. As always when I join two curved pieces, I used lots and lots of pins.

I was making this just the day before his party when I realized I hadn't bought any buttons! Would you believe I found exactly five brown buttons that I have no recollection of buying in my button stash (which is 99% spare Banana Republic buttons from clothes I could no longer identify)? It was meant to be.

I was happy with it how it turned out, but next time I make him a shirt I will find a more fitted pattern. This one is good for a loose, casual look, but from straight on it looks a little boxy.

Happy First Birthday, Leo!

And next up for the blog, his coordinating party banner.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Mermaid Birthday Party

I'm hoping I'm not the only one out there who has planned a birthday party around a 1/2 yard of fabric... but I have to admit that Heather Ross's Mendocino Mermaids was the main impetus for the theme of Louisa's third birthday party. She wanted a ballet party. I never quite convinced her that mermaids are the "ballerinas of the sea" but in the end she had such a good time I think she forgot all about tutus.

We had the party at a Mint Springs, a lake just down the road. Swimming, pizza, homemade funfetti cupcakes, temporary ballerina tattoos, chocolate seashells, and all your closest girlfriends... who could ask for more?

The starfish wands, with real starfish, were from this etsy shop. They were very cute, although the starfish fell off a couple, as you can see in the group shot above. I had two made with "boy" colored ribbons for the two boys who were invited, but one couldn't come and the other left before the photo shoot.

The dress is the same pattern I used for her birthday dress last year. Same size and everything. It's easy to change the length just by adjusting the straps when you tie it on. And luckily so, since I didn't have enough fabric to cut it much bigger.

I paid a somewhat embarrassing price for these two half-yard pieces of fabric (Mermaid Sisters Blush and Kelp Stripe) on ebay last winter and was excited to use it. I have a little bit of the mermaids in fuchsia and would love to make this doll sometime... didn't happen for the mermaid birthday though.

My mother-in-law found these chocolate seashells at Wegmans and bought them for me to put in the favor bags. They were a huge hit. The little bottles of Hello Kitty bubbles from the dollar bin at Target were also popular.

Louisa took a break from her friends to blow bubbles for Leo and his pal Vivian. She actually loves being big sister sometimes.

And now she is three!