Monday, November 30, 2015

Holiday Dress for a Little Bug- MADE First Day Dress

There are so many cute holiday dresses out there for little girls, so in the past I've just bought her something lovely. But this year I really wanted to make something unique for my special Little Bug.

I used my TNT pattern for her... MADE's First Day Dress. I know I'm a bit stuck in a rut (Leopard Dress, Purple Party Dress), but I just love the classic, simple pattern and the circle skirt.

I was quite stuck on what fabric to use. I knew I wanted velvet for the bodice, and something really special for the skirt. Browsing my favorite online stores wasn't inspiring me, and the prices were not attractive, especially since I only really needed a yard for the skirt, and 1/2 a yard for the bodice. Everything at my local Joanne's just seemed so plasticy, and their velvet either felt cheap or was very expensive.

Then I had the idea to see what I could find at the local thrift store. This turned out to be the golden idea! Why do manufacturers have access to such a range of fabrics that don't seem to be available to us home sewists? I found another girls dress with a beautiful, thick, stretchy velvet that was perfect for the bodice, and a women's shirt with a very unique "burnout" pattern. It is probably some sort of poly mix but it feels very cottony to the touch, and the pattern is so unique... holiday without being cliche. I also used some rayon bemberg from my stash for lining the skirt, and tulle from Joannes for the built in "petticoat."

When I sewed it up and called Little Bug over for a first fitting, she burst into tears. TEARS, I tell you. All because the skirt did not touch the ground. Sigh. Arguments about how nice a shorter dress would be for dancing fell on deaf ears. So, guess what... the tulle petticoat ended up being a bit longer than I had anticipated. Even so, we had a bit of an argument about it... it is apparently not long enough yet! But I calmly explained that it would not be a good thing for all of that nice white tulle to be dragging on the floor, and I may have won that argument for the time being. Just maybe.

For a little girl that attends Waldorf school and watches no TV (she hasn't seen a single Disney princess movie yet)... that princess thing is in the blood of some little girls, and mine has it very strongly!

Anyhow, here are some construction details, for anyone who is interested. Sorry there are no pics of the original thrifted garments, forgot about that detail. But the hardest part was definitely piecing together the semi-circle skirt out of the shirt. I decided seaming was just part of the design, and just sewed the seam allowances down in sort of a lazy flat-fell. This was similar to how the original shirt was constructed, except their seams are surged. I didn't apply any additional finish since the fabric doesn't seam to fray very much.

Cutting the velvet bodice was easy. The original garment was princess-seamed, so I centered the seams as best I could. The bust seams don't fall right on the bust, but I think that isn't so bad of a thing on a little girl dress. For the neckline, I just turned over the edge and stitched with a double needle. No closure was needed since the fabric is stretchy. The sleeves were improvised... I used the already hemmed bottom of the dress, then just added a bit of a gather at the top.

The rayon bemberg lining is sewn separately, but attached to the bodice like an underlining. At first I attached the lining to enclose the waist seam, and realized it looked terrible because then the waist seam showed through the red burnout fabric-- doh! So I unpicked and attached the two skirt pieces to the bodice as if they were a single layer. The waist seam shows on the inside, but oh well! I considered enclosing all of the inside seams in seam tape but then I came to my senses and just left well enough alone.

The tulle is gathered and attached to the rayon bemberg lining. There are two yards of it, folded in quarters, so it is rather poofy. Sort of a good thing, since it was not my intention to make a floor length gown, and it needs the extra poof to help maintain the profile of the skirt.

I still prefer my original design idea, where the tulle would stick out a couple inches... but alas, I'm not the one in control here anymore! If she is happy, we are all happy. And I think she is... she didn't want to take the dress off, I could only convince her to take it off before bed by talking about how wrinkled it would get, so she put it next to her in the bed so it would be there when she woke up. 

Velvet (thrifted)= $2
Red Burnout fabric (thifted)=$3
Tulle= $2
Bemberg (stash, so sort of free, but I know how much I paid for it)= $6
Total Cost= $13

Monday, November 23, 2015

Ice Blue Fleece Bunting-Snowsuit

I have been doing rather a lot of self-less sewing. Although, as my husband points out, sewing for your kids is almost like sewing for yourself-- there is such a personal joy at seeing things you have made on these little people that you love so dearly. 

So, my latest sewing make is an ice-blue fleece bunting for Little Lion. I actually thought long and hard before embarking on this project... really, I would have been happy to find one pre-made! I've made one before, and I know how long it took me, and the result was only so-so. I really thought Lion would fit into his 0-3 month Patagonia bunting for another season-- I know that sounds crazy, but Lilly fit into hers for two years, Patagonia leaves lots of growing room. Alas, his legs are so long that I was feeling bad stuffing him into a fleece where his little feet were always straining at the ends.

We also have an 18 month Patagonia snowsuit, so I was using that in the meantime, but there are no attached booties. I tried all manner of socks and boots. Forget about socks, he just wiggles out of those. I bought a new pair of Robeez shoes, since those were the ones that worked for Little Bug, but even those were iffy on his feet. I made a pair of bungee corded booties (I have yet to blog them) after an innovative style that also worked for Little Bug, but again, they kept coming off his little feet. People would come after me in supermarkets or I'd be running back seeking the lost boot... it got tiresome. I suppose I could go for all out tights, but they would frustrate him as soon as he was inside and wanted to crawl (he likes to use his feet for extra purchase when crawling).

I trawled the local used kids clothes stores and the internet in search of a nice fleece bunting with attached footsies. I admit to being a bit picky about such stuff... I like quality fleece, I hate the cheap thin pill-y stuff. I love the Patagonia buntings, but I couldn't find one in his size that was new on sale, and the ebay ones in his size were either very pink, or had histories I deemed suspect.

Of course at this point, I'm thinking how hard can it really be to make one? Heh-heh. The Rainshed had some gorgeous ice-blue Malden Mills fleece on sale, and I ordered some... and then I was committed to the project!

I think I also had it in my mind to redeem myself from my last mostly failed attempt to make a baby bunting. That was a long time ago, before Little Bug was born, and I was new to sewing. I just made up a pattern based on a onesie and pictures of fleece buntings on the internet. It took me forever, and we're talking about back when I actually could sew uninterrupted for hours at a time! I was super proud of my handiwork, but I made one big mistake... the torso length was rather short, especially for a cloth-diaper baby. Little Bug wore it only once or twice when she was newborn before it no longer fit.

This time I had a couple of nice Patagonia bunting/like things to look at for examples, years more sewing experience, and an actual baby to try it on. I mostly used the 18-month snowsuit as a pattern, tracing carefully using pins to mark seams. Since I really need a 6-12 month size, I shortened the arms and legs by a couple of inches after I was done tracing the pattern.

The bunting came together relatively quickly, my biggest problem is that I have only tiny slots of time in which to sew. I really enjoyed the process... now that I have a better understanding of construction, it is pretty easy to figure out and rewarding when it all comes together.

To reduce bulk, I did fake flatlocking of the seams whenever possible. My machine doesn't have a lot of fancy stitches, but it worked fine to first sew the seam, then zig zag over the seam with the seam allowance open, then trim the remaining seam allowances. I used the widest zigzag my machine had with the stitches set fairly close.

To create the zipper guard, I used a single unhemmed piece of fleece, and used a piece of grosgrain ribbon (also from The Rainshed) directly under the zipper teeth. This is probably not really necessary, but it looks nice (and it is how it was done on the Patagonia bunting that Little Lion outgrew).

I used a bit of striped spandex for binding. I bought it from Peak Fabrics to make a top for myself, but it just matched so perfectly with the ice-blue fleece. I used it to bind the arms and legs, and also the top of the attached mittens on the sleeves and feet. I also put a bit around the seam where the hood attaches to the body, a detail borrowed from the Patagonia bunting and something I've seen on other RTW hoodies.

I incorporated the details that make the fit on the Patagonia bunting so nice.. the wide raglan sleeves that are so easy to sneak little baby arms into, the three-piece hood, and the generous gusseted crotch.

Oddly, neither of the Patagonia pieces that I have use a two-way separating zipper. The fleece has a rather complicated system that allow the piece to be zipped into a true bunting (like a little baby bag) but I didn't need all that. But it might be nice in some circumstances to be able to do a diaper change without totally undressing the baby, and the two-way zipper down one leg allows you to do this.

After trying the partially finished suit on Leo for a day, I decided the legs were too short, so I added two inches of length to the legs. This was after I had already installed the zipper, so I had to add an extension of the zipper guard to block drafts, and a piece of velcro to act as a closure.

It of course has built in mittens for the hands and the feet- these are really practical for keeping a baby cozy. These are super simple, just flaps of fleece on the back of the suit that you can flip over the hand and arm openings.

I added elastic in the hood, and just cinched it a bit on the sides, following the model of the Patagonia bunting.

Little Lion has been wearing it since before I finished it. I just feel good having something warm and cozy to put him in on chilly mornings!

Monday, November 9, 2015

The Cuddly Lion is a Threads Costume Contest Semi-Finalist- Vote for Us!

We are totally honored to be chosen as one of the 5 Semi-Finalists in the Threads 2015 Costume Contest!

There is so much creativity and cleverness in the Threads Halloween Contest Gallery, and we are totally humbled to be chosen as one of the top 5 this year. What amazing company we are in! 

I do have to admit to going a bit crazy getting this Little Lion costume just-so. I know it is just Halloween, but I love beautiful materials and well-crafted garments, and I can't just let all that go even for a costume! You can read about the details in the blog post

And Leo is putting on such a fantastic performance, he's so into the cute lion act! I had that fear in the back of my head that my little 7 month old might not much care for being covered in fur, but he is was such a great sport, and genuinely happy to be part of that craziness that is Halloween.

And here's our little circus act! (I did make all our costumes, but Leo's is the pièce de résistance!)

Monday, November 2, 2015

Little Lion as a Lion- Simplicity 1767

Wow, if I knew what I was getting into when I decided to make Leo a lion costume...

... I'd do it anyway!

How difficult could it be, I thought? In searching for a pattern, I found Simplicity 1767 and noted the next pattern sale date at my local Joannes (fortunately, later that same week-- this was around the last week of September). But that's where the easy going ended! When I perused Joannes for an appropriate fake fur, I found NOTHING at all that looked even vaguely lion-like. A sympathetic Joanne's employee suggested that I try dying some fur... but then noted that there wasn't even any fur that was the right color and texture for dying. I figured if there wasn't a fur, there would at least be a nice fur-like minky or sherpa fleece type thing... but no, nothing of the sort. Really quite a sad selection for Halloween-time! I probably should have given up there.

Instead, I did what any crazed costume-focused mom would do-- I trawled the internet that very night, while the kids were asleep, and ordered some fake fur, sight unseen, from the internet! Thank fortune, the fur that I ordered from which seemed to be just the right shade of gold, did indeed turn out to be just the right shade of gold. That's the body fabric you see above.

The longer fur I ordered for the mane from Etsy turned out to be not quite so fortunate of a choice... what had appeared to be a lovely gold mongolian fur in the photograph turned out to be a sort of ugly shade of greenish-beige. My husband suggested dying it. I duly researched poly-dyes, and it did seem like it might be possible using iDye Poly, but I'd need two packets of the stuff and a dye-pot. I was not enthused- not only did it seem messy and risky, but seemed an expensive prospect since the original fur was only $10. Then it occurred to me that I might be able to pick up the dye on a planned trip to NYC, thereby bypassing shipping fees from Dharma. And then a totally wonderful idea occurred to me-- skip the dye and go buy a new piece of fur! As one might imagine, the selection of furs at Mood was fabulous, and I found one that fit my idea of a mane within minutes. Unfortunately the smallest cut was a yard (the fur was $30/yard!), but at this point, I was so committed to this costume and thrilled to have a fur of the right color that I just went with it. I guess I'll just have to make a fur trimmed coat in the future, such a sacrifice!

As for the Simplicity 1767, it worked well enough, with some degree of fussing. Having sewn a simplicity kids animal costume pattern previously (For Little Bug's Max/Wolf suit costume, Simplicity 2506), I suspected that the torso length might be short. I measured the pattern pieces before cutting, it seemed that this was the case, so I cut the Large, even though little Lion's measurements put him in the Medium. I sewed the micro fleece lining first, in lieu of a toile, and the torso length was perfect. The arms and the legs had to be dramatically shortened... I took about 4 inches off each leg, and about 3 inches off each arm, but this was pretty easy to do since it is a very simple pattern. The hood was also huge, I probably should have cut the Medium, but I ended up just pinching out the ease and thereby shaping it to his head.

I nearly had a disaster on my hands with the zipper-- the only thing that saved me was the fact that I added the bib in front in a scrap of white sherpa fleece left over from the Max costume. You see, the pattern called for fleece, and it totally didn't occur to me that putting a zipper in a costume made of fake fur was just asking for disaster! Not to mention the fact that I had gone with an invisible zipper... even worse. I would suppose that you would have to have some sort of baffle to keep the fur away from the zipper in a fur costume... but I haven't really researched this issue. You could probably also bypass this by putting the closure in the back and just using hooks or something-- but in a pattern designed for fake fur, I doubt that a center front zipper would be called for. I did manage to get it unzipped and zipped a couple of times down past the fake fur, but it was an effort to keep the fur out of the way of the zipper, and it was not really feasible when trying to put the costume on a squirming 7 month old. My solution was to stop the zipper at the end of the bib part of the front of the costume... I just sewed a couple of bars over the zipper to prevent accidental zipping into the fur. It turned out that this was plenty of room to get the costume on and off.

Before shearing...

After shearing...!
 The other big hurdle was the length of the fur. I got the suit sewn, and it looked more like a Yeti than a lion! In perusing lion pictures, they actually have pretty short fur, except for their manes. I tried cutting the fur with scissors to a better length and not only did it look terrible, but it took forever to do a tiny patch. Once again, I turned to the internet, and it turns out there is a whole industry of people who work with fake fur... making those Furries costumes. I'd seen those, but hadn't really considered the people who make them... anyhow, people were using hair clippers. I didn't own a hair clipper... but I had thought about it, since I'm pretty darn sure I'm going to get good at giving haircuts with two kids. So, I purchased a Wahl clipper on Amazon. It worked beautifully! So easy. I used the number 1 guard to do a first cut, then used the blade unguarded to get a bit closer. The change doesn't look so dramatic, but it totally changes the feel of the fur-- it is less shaggy, and more furry. It looked much more lion-like after I was done.

The mane was pure improvisation. I really wanted someone to tell me how to do it, and looked all over the internet and found lots of yarn manes and felt manes. The closest I found was an Instructable for making a lion costume for a dog, which wasn't quite the same thing, but did give me the idea of pleating the fur to get a bit more volume from it. I ended up cutting 4 inch strips of fur and hand sewing them to the hood with 1 inch pleats about every 8 inches. Initially I had three layers of overlapping fur, coming right to the edge of the hood, but when I tried it on Little Lion, he was lost in all that fur! So then I went with two layers, slightly overlapping, with some of the golden fur of the hood showing in front around his face, trimmed with the Wahl clipper so that it was pretty short. The fur is hand sewed on, there was pretty much no way that I was going to get all that thickness through my machine.

For the ears, I cut out the rounded ear from the pattern, then made it about 50% larger. I wanted it to be large enough that it wouldn't get lost in the mane, but not so large that it looked like a mouse ear! I made the center out of sherpa fleece, and the back out of the golden fur. I just a hole in the mane, then pushed the ear through and hand sewed it to the hood.

The paws are made to be little fold down mittens, with velcro to keep them out of the way. I made the pretty large, because I thought it would be cute... oversized paws seem kitten-ish to me. The pads on the paws are a brown fake-suede fabric (from at Joanne's). It is hand sewn onto the white sherpa-fleece, with a bit of poly-fill padding stuffed in to give dimension. The backs are golden fur, left long.

The tail is a strip of the lining, sewed into a tube and stuffed with poly-fill. The tip of the tail is a scrap of fur from the mane, hand sewed on.

Mom the Lion-tamer with my Little Lion! I made my costume too, but that's another story!
There isn't a lining in the Simplicity pattern, but it was pretty easy to do. I didn't want the scratchy fake fur backing against Little Lion's skin. I made the lining out of the thinnest fleece I could find. I used the same pattern pieces, then machine sewed around the hood and down both sides of the zipper. I left enough of a hole at the bottom of the zipper to turn the costume, then hand sewed the remainder. On the sleeves, I hand sewed the lining to the fur, and skipped the elastic and mitts that the pattern called for.  I tacked the lining to the seam allowances of the fur at the feet with a couple of hand stitches to keep the lining in place when taking the costume on and off.

This is definitely a costume for a pretty immobile baby. Little Lion is crawling, but is pretty new at it, so he's fairly content to sit around all cozy and watch the action. Halloween for a 7 month old is pretty much just that-- observing the action from a stroller or a lap, and he was totally happy doing that all covered in fur. It wasn't super cold this year in NY, but it was on the verge, especially when sitting outside on the porch for hours, admiring the costumes of the trick-or-treaters and handing out candy, which how we spent most of the evening. We counted about 550 trick-or-treaters! Little Lion got lots of compliments... mostly people got that he was a very cuddly lion, but there was one visitor who asked if she could pet the dog!

My Lion, big sister the Leopard, and mom the Lion Tamer.

Leopard in a Dress Costume

Little Bug wanted to be a kitty this Halloween, and when I showed her pictures, she immediately jumped on the leopard tutu costume, of which there are many variations out there in internet-land.

I decided to approach it by making several matching pieces that together would work as a costume, but separately could work for daily wear or imaginative play.

The facepaint sort of makes the costume... and fortunately, she was totally into it this year. I ended up using Natural Earth Paint, purchased locally but you can also get it here. I was skeptical at first, but it worked rather well, and I love the earthy tones-- they are perfect for a leopard-face.

The dress pattern is the MADE First Day Dress. I've raved about this pattern here. This time I sewed it up in leopard print dancewear fabric that I picked up at Joanne's. Since I was sewing in a very stretchy knit, I took 1/2 inch off of each of the side seams, skipped the back closure, and bound the edges with a strip of knit. Actually, I got only partway through binding the edge of the sleeve and ended up liking the way the strip acted like a little cap sleeve. I also left the skirt un-hemmed. I made matching tights in the same fabric, just traced off of a current pair of her leggings.


To keep my little Leopard warm, I made a little leopard shrug out of a furry leopard fleece. I traced one of her sweaters as a pattern, leaving it at a cropped length with no front closure. I did a simple hem on the fleece, turning it up once and topstitching it down.

For the ears, I made a fleece hat with ears. I thought it would be a fun hat to wear this winter, and would keep the ears more secure than a headband or clips, while also providing warmth. The pattern was traced from one of her favorite hats, and the ears were improvised. The hat is fully lined with micro-fleece.

Of course, there is also a matching tail. This one is made of the furry fleece, just a tube, closed on one end and turned out so the seaming is inside, stuffed with poly-fill and attached to elastic.

And then there is the tutu. I went with one of the no-sew tutu patterns floating around the internet. My local Joanne's had beige sparkle 6" tulle rolls, but no black or white, so I had to order those colors off of Amazon. The waistband is just 1 inch elastic. I thought it would be a fun project for us to make together, but it turns out it was a bit advanced for her, so I ended up doing it all myself, which was fine.  I'm not sure I'm sold on this kind of was simple, but seems to not be very durable, the tulle strips get all tangled up and seem to be pulling down out of shape. But it certainly was easy, so there's that.

I think her girl-sense finds the hat to be a little un-cool-- sometimes she won't wear it. And on this particular day, she wanted to wear the tutu under the dress, like a petticoat. She is an interesting kid!

My Leopard and Lion!

After Trick-or-Treating!
Mom the Lion Tamer/Ringmaster with her two wild animals!