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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Simple Spring Skirt

Well, I thought I had found the ideal beginner skirt pattern online and happily bought some adorable fabric, so adorable that I bought the last yard. Now that I’m home, I’m realizing the instructions had a very important asterisk next to the supply list of one yard telling me to measure myself before buying the fabric. When I was a teacher, I would deduct points on assignments for students who didn’t read the instructions, and as a mother, I constantly get on my boys’ cases when they lose points on assignments for not reading instructions thoroughly. Oops! I bought only the one yard, and well, one yard for that pattern would work for a size 2. After four kids, I’m no longer a size 2, nor will my hips ever be.

In an effort to salvage this adorable fabric that is too grown up for my toddler, I went searching for another easy skirt pattern and found one that really did call for just one yard. However, I’m starting to learn that one yard can be measured in different ways. I’m thinking it’s time to ask one of my sewing friends for a little tutorial. The second skirt pattern seemed a little risky because her fabric was cut differently from mine and her tutorial wasn’t as detailed, so I thought I could combine both sets of instructions and go from there. I want to give credit to both bloggers because both made a terrific skirt, so I recommend you visit their sites to learn from their expert advice. I’m just showing you how and why I modified theirs to create mine.

o     1 yard of light-weight cotton fabric
o     1 ½ inch elastic, approximately the same length as your waist
o     iron
o     measuring tape
o     scissors
o     sewing machine with matching thread
o     possibly a seam ripper
Step 1: I cut two rectangles by cutting my yard in half, so they measured 21 ½ inches long by 35 inches wide each. (I wish my hip measurement was still just 35 inches.) These measurments should work for sizes 2-8.  

Step 2:  I then matched the sides up with the good sides facing each other and sewed the first side seam giving ½ inch allowance and ironed the seem flat. I repeated with the other side. See, this is where these expert tutorials are so helpful. I would have thought to sew the hem next.

Step 3: Back to the iron. I ironed what would become the top of my skirt by first folding the fabric down ½ inch and ironing flat and then folding down another 1 3/4 inches and ironing it flat again. The instructions from the etsy blog suggested two inches, but my elastic was not as thick as hers, and the instructions on the 20-minute tutorial said to make sure the casing wasn’t too large for your elastic.

Okay, have you ever read some totally ridiculous warning on a product and wondered, “What sort of idiot did that to make the company have to print such an obvious statement as a warning?” The first one that comes to mind is the “do not use hair dryer in the bath tub” warning. Well, here’s my warning: Before sewing the casing, be sure to separate the skirt, so you don’t sew the two sides together. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a fat pillow case instead of a skirt. Now I’m sure you didn’t need that warning, but sadly I did. Yup, I admitted I was an extremely novice sewer, and now I’ve proven it to you. Okay, assuming you are smarter than I am, we can move on to step four.

Step 4: Now that the casing is complete, we are ready to move on to the hem, so back to the iron. Fold the fabric over ½ inch and iron flat. Then fold again another ½ inch and iron again. Next, top stitch the hem in place. (No, I didn’t make the same mistake twice. I may be an amateur, but I’m not that dumb.)

Step 5: Let’s tackle the elastic. First, measure it around your waist where you want your skirt to rest and cut that exact length. Next, thread it through the casing. They recommended putting a safety pin on the first end, but that only seemed necessary if you were using a narrow strip of elastic. Since mine was 1 ½ inches, I didn’t need it. Once I got it through, I safety pinned the elastic together, overlapping about ½ inch and tried on the skirt to make sure the width worked. In my case, it was too big (yeah!), so I trimmed it up 2 1/2 inches and tried again. This time, it fit perfectly, so my recommendation is to cut it about 2 inches shorter than your measurement and try it on.
Step 6: Once you sew the elastic together with a ½ inch overlap, you are ready to sew the rest of the casing closed. I found it easier to pull the fabric around to make sure the scrunched up parts weren’t close to where I was sewing.

Step 7: Fidget with the fabric around the elastic so you get an even distribution of fabric. Does that make sense? You just don’t want to have one section more scrunched up than another. Then try on and model in front of your significant other, best friend, favorite pet, or whoever will ooh and ahh the loudest. Twirl and enjoy! You have made a skirt.

I paired mine with a fitted t-shirt and am looking forward to wearing it for all to see tomorrow. The t-shirt was a BOGO free special, the fabric was on sale for $6.50, and the elastic was under $2, so I basically got a brand new spring outfit for less than $10. I’m so excited about it that I plan to buy another yard of fabric to make another. Thank you Bret Bara of and Kathleen Frances of! These ladies really know how to sew, so I urge you to check out their blogs!
My six-year-old son took this picture of me. :)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Is Your House Clean?

Recently, a brave friend of mine posted a question on her Facebook page: Is your house ever clean? I admired all the honest answers. Not a single person said yes. Well, those with maids or cleaning services said their houses were clean… for a couple of hours. I’m thankful I didn’t live during the earlier generation of housewives who were supposed to keep their houses spotless and cook meals from scratch every night, all while wearing a dress, panty hose, and pumps.

I don’t remember my mother dressing like that on a daily basis, but I do remember the home-cooked meals and clean home. So much so that when I got married, I often stressed about cleaning and cooking. I wanted our house to be presentable to guests 24/7, and often my husband would tease me that when I vacuumed, all I was doing was vacuuming over the previous vacuum lines in the carpet. I saw dust when he never did, and I never let laundry sit on the sofa overnight. I remember my mother-in-law telling me that this would all change with children, and though I love her dearly, I was offended and hell-bent that I would never let that happen. Ten years later, I have accepted her wisdom, so if you show up unannounced, you will most likely find piles of clean clothes on our sofa, folded, sorted, waiting to be put away; at least one dirty sock and half a dozen tiny Lego pieces hiding in unusual spots on the floor; and the vacuum or mop sitting out because, after all, I was just about to get to that chore.

I wonder if my children will look back and remember our house as clean. I try to keep the house picked up, and I have a chart I made that lets me check off my chores. Yes, I’m one of those list people. Only those sort of people appreciate the true joy that comes from either crossing an item off a list or placing a satisfactory check in a box to show they’ve finished a task. Right now I’m blogging to avoid that privilege. You see, this is the upstairs week, and while I have the ever-enticing choice between dusting furniture or cleaning bathrooms, I sit here typing to avoid either. Maybe I should start giving myself gold stars for completing my chores on time, or chocolate. Some days I think I’d rather go back to work full time just to hire a cleaning lady again.
However, do my kids even notice the toothpaste smears on the boys’ sink or the fine layer of dust on the shelves in their game room? Heck, they don’t seem to notice all the toys strewn across their playroom, so how could they? I think my standard of clean is much higher than my children’s, thankfully. Besides, an episode of Oprah once taught me that children’s memories won’t be about shiny floors and streak-free windows but of the time we spent playing with them, so until I go back to work to hire help or send my last child off to college, I’ll have to accept the fact that those years of a perfectly clean house will have to wait.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Shirred Sundress

As I mentioned before, my mini-blankie gave me such sewing confidence that I knew I could tackle a sundress from the material I did manage to buy while my daughter drug around her now filthy blanket. Whoever created the five-second rule never tested it on craft store floors.

Have you ever seen that fabric where the top 1/3 portion is already shirred to make it stretchy? It totally reminds me of some sundresses I had as a kid in the 1970s, so I figured it would be ideal for a first dress for my daughter. That fabric tends to be more expensive than regular fabric, so I used my 40% off coupon on that yard, so the dress cost me around $8. (Hopefully, some day I’ll be brave enough to try shirring on my own to make these dresses even more affordable.)

Now, this isn’t so much a tutorial as an explanation of what I did because, like I’ve said, I’m a total beginner who likes to figure things out on her own. I have since learned (I think) that it’s standard to cut both sides, not just one, and stitch together, but I was going for EASY and quick.) First, I measured my daughter around her chest to know how much fabric I would need. Since she’s little, I got away with less than 1 full yard. I added an inch or so to the measurement for seam and mistake allowances. (I would rather it be too big than too small, and it's only March, so I knew she had several months to grow into it while it was plenty hot to wear it.)

 I then sewed the hem. An advantage to this fabric is that if the length works, you don’t need to cut the bottom because it won’t fray. I folded it over a little more than a half inch, ironed it, and pinned it before sewing it. Then I decided this would make the dress a bit too long for her right now and remembered my mom sewing up an extra hem in my dress in kindergarten and later taking it out once I grew taller. I can remember the darnedest things at times. So I decided to do the same here. However, I’m not too happy with how it hangs at times because it sometimes flips up.

 Once I had the hem sewn, I pinned the side and sewed them together with the right sides facing each other. I put the dress on my daughter, and it fit rather well with plenty of growing room. I was pleased so far but knew she couldn’t go strapless, so I figured out where to place the straps and marked the spot carefully with pins, something that can be quite a challenge on an active toddler. I’m so thankful we don’t have to use safety pins and cloth diapers like our mothers and grandmothers did. Yikes!
 I then measured how long the straps needed to be and added an extra 2 inches in case I needed to make some adjustments. I picked up the scrap fabric and picked out which stripes I wanted for her straps, cut them, folded the edges over, and stitched both sides, using the reverse sewing lever at the beginning and end to reinforce them.

Next, I used the machine to sew the straps on, but I probably could have done it just as well by hand. You live, you learn. I love the finished project even though it would never win a sewing award and probably broke some sewing rules, but my family was proud of me. Actually, my hubby thought I had shirred the fabric myself until he went to the store with me so I could get material for my next two projects. My sons pointed out the rack that held all that fabric, and he realized I had sort of cheated.
Well, I’m still proud of myself though I must admit that I really should find some lessons or at least patterns before my next project, and actually, I already have. I’m going to make my own skirt next, and once we can find some dark navy fabric to match my oldest son’s bedspread, I’ll make a table cover for his nightstand table. I love Pinterest, and I can’t wait! I just wish my house would learn to clean itself so I’d have more time to devote to this new hobby.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sewing a Mini-Blankie: My First Sewing Attempt

I’ll admit that I’m an impatient student who likes to learn on her own, so after buying a sewing machine, I decided to teach myself the basics. Well, re-teach is more like it. After all, didn’t we all have to learn to sew during home economics in junior high? After playing around with the machine a while, I felt confident that I could sew a straight line, so off to the fabric store I went with my 40% off coupon in hand and my 19-month-old daughter in tow. I planned on picking out some cute fabric for a no-sew blanket for the boys, a dress for my daughter and a skirt for me along with some craft projects for the family for spring break. My daughter had no intentions of tolerating that long of a shopping trip. Instead, she insisted on bringing in one of her favorite blankets AND dragging it through the store.
I just have no idea who she got her stubbornness from, but she was my muse that evening. I found some satin-like fabric in pink, of course, and some adorably soft fabric, also in pink, and I decided I would sew her some mini blankies. Who’d need a pattern for something like that? Memories of learning to sew a pillow came flooding back, so I knew I could handle this.

Thankfully, all the boys were out of the house that night, either on vacation or at a sleepover, so once I tucked in my ever-so-stubborn yet even more adorable princess muse, I went to work. I found my middle son’s favorite mini blankie from when he was a toddler to use as a guide and decided to watch my how-to-sew DVD that came with my new machine while I laundered the new fabric. I had intended on making two, but one yard of fabric was enough to make three, so I can give one as a gift and will still have one as a spare for when we can’t find the original. The first one took over an hour to sew while the second one took about 20 minutes. I was so proud of my finished product that I gained enough confidence to make my second no-pattern item: a little girl’s sundress, but sharing that adventure will have to wait another day. If you would like to make a similar mini blankie, lovey, snuggly, or whatever cute name you have for these must-have miniature baby blankets, you can read my tutorial, but be kind. I made this up as I went, and I am a complete amateur sewer.


o     1/3 yard of satin-like fabric

o     1/3 yard of soft fabric

o     Measuring tape

o     Pins

o     Scissors

o     Sewing machine with matching thread

o     Needle and same matching thread

Step 1: Wash fabric

Step 2: Measure and cut each fabric into a 19” square

Step 3: Line up both squares with good sides facing each other and pin  

Step 4: Get out your sewing machine and sew together fabric, creating a ½” seam (this is how I did it because I’m not proficient enough with my sewing skills to make 1/4” seems yet) on one side, using the reverse sewing lever reinforce your seams at the beginning. When you get ½ inch from the end of the first side, rotate your fabric 90 degrees, leaving the needle down but raising the presser foot up to turn and continue sewing the next side. Repeat until you get to the fourth side and stop when you have about 4 inches left and use the reverse sewing lever for reinforcement.

Step 5: Carefully reach through the unstitched portion to pull the fabric so it’s no longer inside out.
Step 6: With needle and thread, sew the remaining section closed by hand with a top stitch.

I hope your child loves his or hers as much as my little princess loves her new one!

Sunday, March 18, 2012


When I was in my early 20s, I swore I’d never own a mini-van. Well, I never did own one... in my 20s, but when I became pregnant with our third child, those automatic sliding doors beckoned my name. After all, how else was I going to drive around three children under the age of four? I test drove one, and once I realized that it does have some get-up-and-go, I fell in love.

Seven years later, I swore I’d never be a blogger, not because I didn't love to write or because I didn't like a good blog but because I was intimidated about how my little blog would fit in among the thousands of professionals out there, but I forced myself to take this risk out of my love for writing, photography, crafts, and sharing. I guess yet again, I have realized I should never say never.  

I blame my mother-in-law; no, I blame Pinterest. (I mean I thank them for giving me the push I needed.) Either way, I’m hoping to create a blog with some purpose by combining a mix of how-to’s and my personal experiences. My goal is to blog at least once a week somewhere between working, mothering, volunteering, and toting my children to their seven after-school activities I’ve insanely allowed them to join. Yup, we have a minimum of 12 practices/meetings/games a week in the spring. Fall is worse. I would promise to always have a fresh entry on two specific days of the week, but let’s face it. I’ve learned not to make promises unless I’m way beyond 100% certain I can keep them. Have you ever seen the face of a little boy whose mom had to break a promise… even if it was something she had no control over? With that in mind, I will do my best provide a project-related post every Friday since that’s the one week day I don’t work. I won’t promise to be a professional at any of those crafts, but if you promise to be nice, I will let you learn from my mistakes.
Galatians 6:3... "For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself."
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