Friday, July 31, 2009

wherein the seam ripper gets quite a workout

either the pattern is off or it's me, and i'm choosing to believe it's the pattern. i made this cute sundress, butterick # 5181, the first garment i have tried to fit to my new post-baby body. i measured (i have a 39" bust?? how and when did that happen?) and GOOD LORD I AM A SIZE 14 according to the pattern. i've never been a 14 in my life. no offense to anyone who is a 14. it was just a shock to me... up until a few years ago i had always been a 10, and most recently a 12. well, i thought, it must be that little bit of baby weight that's left over and the breastfeeding boobs. did i mention how strangely mondo they are?

i fell in love with that beautiful paisley cotton a couple weeks ago at the fabric store and have been coveting it ever since, and finally treated myself to some to make this dress. the pattern said "easy" and it was, incredibly simplistic, i think i got this done in one morning though it might have been two if the kiddo didn't nap well. the bodice is a bit scandalously low, i will definitely be wearing a cami with this, and i love the raised waistband as i have a very long torso and appreciate anything that gives the impression of a more balanced body and longer legs. HOWEVER i would definitely make some changes if/when i make it again (which i kind of hope to do in that vintage-looking black-and-tan floral):

first off, the skirt is a bit short for my taste. it hits right above my knee. i've been known to wear skirts that short and shorter (see: anything i wore in high school or college) but lately i prefer skirts to hit just below the knee. i think 3-4 inches additional on the skirt panel would do it.

also, the construction was just plain strange, and i still cannot figure out why the directions called for it to be constructed the way it was. the bodice is fully lined, which is always nicer than a facing of course. so you line the bodice, all right, no problem, turn it, press, and then the directions say to understitch as far as possible. say what? true, in the past i have not been a fan of understitching, but it helps keep the lining (or facings) from rolling so i generally always do it. i just could not figure out how to understitch the lining after i had turned it, with those [relatively] narrow shoulders. i tried but it was so much swearing. in the future i would attach the lining at the neck, understitch, and THEN attach the lining at the armscye and turn. it just isn't possible (that i can see) to understitch both, and i'd rather the neckline be done than the armscye.

then there was the attachment of that midriff band. the bodice is lined with batiste, but the midriff band calls for two pieces to be cut - one for the outside and one for the inside/lining. huh? why not just cut one from the batiste lining? that would save money, feel nicer against the skin, and (not always a concern, but i like it) look nicer on the inside. the band was attached by sandwiching the bodice pieces between the two (inner and outer) midriff pieces, instead of the traditional lining method (basically, making a second garment and sewing it into the outer garment). granted, i'm not sure how i would attach it differently, because the right and left bodice pieces were separate, not lapped over each other or stitched together, but it sure made it difficult to insert an invisible zipper, because i like to encase my zipper between the fabric and the lining so the stiff edges of the zipper tape don't rub. and it looks nicer.

the way the midriff band was attached also made the dress difficult to alter. i thought it had properly fit the pattern to my body before i cut it out, but it turns out i'm NOT a 14 after all (!), i'm still a 12. the dress was too big and i had to go back and rip out most of the bodice so i could take in the side seams. usually this isn't too difficult but the way the bodice was encased in the midriff band made it so that i had to rip everything out. but - now it fits, albeit a bit short. i'm thinking i may remedy that with a band of the paisley fabric attached to the brown, what do you think?

(with my alterations, i think the fabric amounts should be: 2 yards fabric (45"), ¾ yard contrast (45"), and ¾ yard batiste or voile [lining].)

Sunday, July 26, 2009

aruba part 1

we did not leave for our honeymoon immediately after our wedding; instead, we left at the end of the week. (we got married on a sunday but did not leave until the following saturday.) brian had to go in to work for two days during that week which kind of sucked, but i was off work and used the time to write thank you notes and just enjoy being a brand-new-newlywed. and then saturday came and we were off to aruba!

we had a week booked at the caribbean palm village resort starting on saturday august 7, so we took the red-eye out of san francisco on friday night. you can't fly directly to aruba from the west coast, so we flew into jfk in new york and from there headed down to aruba. we arrived early saturday afternoon and stepped out of the airport into the balmy, breezy caribbean air. fabulous! we spent that afternoon unpacking and relaxing by the pool before we went to dinner at the resort's italian restaurant, valentino's.

the next day we slathered on the sunscreen (aruba is in the tropics, so the sun is stronger and we didn't want to burn) and headed into downtown oranjestad, the capital city. aruba is a small island of only about 110,000 people, and oranjestad is pretty much the only town of interest. the other "towns" (like noord, where we stayed) are really tiny hamlets, and are scattered around the island's southwest half. the southwest half of the island is pretty, developed, and the beaches are white sand and sheltered from the pounding waves of the sea. the water is warm, turquoise, and calm, like a giant bathtub.

on the pier at king's beach

the next afternoon we took a submarine tour of aruba's coast. we saw a couple shipwrecks, common because the populated southwest shore is so shallow. (the calm, clear water, shipwrecks, and abundant sea life all make for great snorkeling and diving as well.) neither of us had ever been on a real submarine before - the ride at disneyland doesn't count! the captain even settled the submarine down on the ocean floor. it was very neat being under the sea, knowing that it wasn't a theatrical ride tethered to a track along the bottom.

we visited two shipwrecks in the submarine. because the water off aruba's populated coast is so shallow, numerous ships have wrecked there.

the next day we headed back into oranjestad - we were taking a heli-tour of the island! again, neither of us had ever been in a helicopter either, and we didn't know what to expect. i'm not a huge fan of flying and was terrified for the first ten minutes, but i finally relaxed enough to enjoy the ride. our pilot, christian, took us over the barren northeast coast, whetting our appetite to see more of aruba.

with our pilot christian, before i gave myself a heart attack

oranjestad from the air

the natural bridge, on the northest coast

after our heli-tour we explored downtown oranjestad. pretty much every day in aruba is around 85° with a cool ocean breeze - in other words, perfect and perfect for strolling. we had lunch on the marina (and maybe enjoyed some yummy aruban beer) and then went out to see what we could see. downtown aruba is pretty small and quite walkable, and there were a few historic sights for us history lovers.

lg smith boulevard, downtown o'stad

caribbean colors in downtown o'stad

iguanas are a protected species in aruba, so they're everywhere. there are four in this photo. though they are protected, they are also a delicacy, and we were told if we wanted to sample some iguana soup, there was this guy down on the beach...

jan henrik, one of aruba's prime ministers

brian thought queen wilhelmina was pretty hot

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

not a professional

i try to find time most days to get some sewing done or put in some time on a project. i don't think it is a secret that i'm happiest when i have a project and i fervently believe that taking care of me means i can be a better wife and mommy. brian also seems to understand this and often lately handles TK (the kiddo) so i can sew and thereby reset myself back into my happy place.

my latest project has been alice's bridal shower gift. i finished her wedding gift a while back and then had to figure out what to do for her bridal shower. lingerie was (kind of) out as she had requested a recipe/words of wisdom shower and was kind of nervous about being embarrassed in front of some older family members. i still wanted to do lingerie though (she gave me a SCANDALOUS red nothing for my bridal shower, in front of my lutheran grandmother) and i had to find a yummy recipe. this is what i came up with:

it's a play on my dinners-in-a-bag, only this one is a "sexy breakfast." my recipe of choice was these delicious waffles, only i called them "baby give me more" waffles. i also put in a recipe for "mmm i love that" berry syrup to drizzle on top. i found a cute sort of vintage-looking bra and panties set (i love the boyshort-cut of those panties) and some inexpensive but lovely bamboo spoons. and then i made that cute vintage-y apron, hot pads (they are supposed to be heart-shaped, but my sewing turned out a bit wonky there), and matching dishtowels. high heels not included. can you see where i am going with this?

the only problem is, i love it so much. i love that black and tan floral, and i love the giant rickrack. i love half-aprons, and i love the black and tan polka dot fabric that is the tie on the apron. [secret note to kerry: i actually got it for your quilt, but then it matched perfectly with the floral so i used a little for alice. but it was yours first.] it's also the bias binding on the towels and hot pads, which i love. i found insulated cloth for the hot pads and i love that i used it. i love the color of the towels. i do not want to give this up.

incidentally (if you were wondering) this is the reason i generally do not sew for other people. friends often ask why i don't sell the things i sew, and this is why: i'm way too selfish.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

another heart calls

this week i am thankful for:

1. disability insurance.

2. my sewing machine, not that i have the free time anymore to use it as much as i'd like.

3. hannah, who giggles and coos in her sleep sometimes when i am holding her, waiting for her to be asleep enough to put her in her crib so i can sneak away and, i don't know, pee, or eat. (this kid firmly exercises her constitutional right to protest when i put her down. yes, protest. she does not do it peacefully.) those giggles and coos are the cutest. thing. EVER.

Monday, July 6, 2009

not fit to be called woman

my bridesmaid shoes just arrived and i love them. LOVE. THEM. it has been so long since i treated myself to a new pair of shoes that getting these was like a hit of cocaine. or something, i don't know, i've never done a drug in my life. except that one time, in college.

i tried them on and discovered something else: that it has been so long since i've worn any kind of heel (let alone a 3-inch one) that i was wobbly and teetering. i have to re-learn how to walk in heels.

i'm sorry, ladies. i'm an embarrassment to you all.

Friday, July 3, 2009

rockpaperscissors giveaway

rockpaperscissors GUEST GIVEAWAY!!!! over at grosgrain. how cute would the wedding dresses invite be for alice's bridal shower? (invites are my responsibility.) love them.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

sadly, bottle rockets are not permitted.

this week i am thankful for:

1. a husband who came home early tonight!

2. fireworks this weekend! i love fireworks.

3. freedom. america was founded on an idea: that all men (and women) were created equal and are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. i love that. happy birthday, america.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

recent addiction: quilting

i know, i know. i said before that i hate quilting. but then, remember? i said it wasn't so bad. and then i said it was actually kind of fun. so fun, in fact, that i've made a couple more. and i've started to buy quilting supplies and gadgets and tools. it's bad.

here is a picture of my first quilt. hah! just kidding. that's just a blanket made with a cheater cloth. i don't have the patience for those curved seams and tiny squares.

this was my first real foray into quilting. i made this about eight or nine years ago. (brian: why are you taking pictures of that? it's not like it's new or anything.) a bit ambitious, don't you think? yes folks, that's my king-size bed. a cal king. nothing like going for the gold on the very first try. i mean, how hard can it be?

i love the log cabin pattern. it is so easy to cut and piece and it doesn't really matter if the seams come out a bit wonky, like they did on this one. you can't tell once the blocks are set. traditionally the center square is red or yellow, representing either the hearth of the home (red) or a candle left burning to guide one home (yellow), and the values radiate light to dark on either side to represent happiness and sorrow, symbolizing life in a home. at the time i had no idea of the history behind log cabin quilts - just about the light and dark values - so i chose blues for my quilt. the setting is very similar to the popular sunshine and shadow setting though i did not know that at the time either.

i don't know that i would truly call that one a quilt, because i didn't actually quilt it. i toyed with the idea of tying it (now i know that is the traditional manner of anchoring a log cabin quilt) but i didn't want to spend the money on batting. hey, i was a poor college student. and i was insanely frustrated by how slow it was going. i'm kind of an impatient seamstress. so i simply backed the top with two sheets (one to protect the raw edges) to make it into a duvet.

my second "quilt" i did the same thing with. i'm sure this pattern has a name, but i don't know what it is. i like how it looks like geese flying, kind of like that mc escher drawing.

you can tell how frustrated i was by the blue log cabin quilt because the squares are much bigger in this pattern and it went quite a bit faster. i made this one about three years ago. again, it's not a true quilt, because i just backed it twice (once to protect the raw edges) to make another duvet instead of actually quilting it. that one is our "winter" quilt and will go on the bed later in the fall. it's nice to change things up once in a while and the colors make me feel so cozy.

and of course we all know how the baby quilt turned out. that one was a sampler which i like in a small quilt (45" x 54") but i think would be too busy and distracting in a larger "bed" size. it was fun trying out all those different patterns though. there is a log cabin block in there also, the far left in the second row from the top.

i was so inspired by the baby quilt that i decided to make a quilt for a friend as a wedding gift. i think that log cabin pattern is my favorite and it's pretty easy, so i decided to make hers in a log cabin also, only in the colors of her wedding (somewhat). sorry i didn't get the red in there, jess. the colors also made me think of oregon, where she lives, so i thought that was appropriate. it turned out a lot prettier than i thought it would be. at first i was not thrilled with the colors - they were not what i would have chosen, but that didn't matter because it was not for me. i really love how it all came together in the end and i think it is beautiful. i almost didn't want to give it up. it's a nice two-person "snuggle" size, 60" x 60".

after i made that quilt i started doing a little research on the history of log cabin quilts. that's when i found out about the red or yellow center square - jessika's yellow center square was not planned, but a happy accident. i'd like to think it's so she and b can always find their way home to each other. the arrangement is a very simple setting called straight setting, and i love how elegant and rhythmic it is. i actually quilted this one, before i learned that log cabin quilts were traditionally tied and never quilted. i had no idea what pattern to quilt it in, so i tried a technique called stippling. even though it is a bit unorthodox, i love how it turned out, but the stippling was harder than i expected and i don't think i would try it again. i used a cotton/bamboo batting for this quilt and really like how it makes the finished quilt feel. i've used poly batting before in other projects (like quillows) but i don't think i'd use it again now that i have discovered cotton batting.

the most recent quilt i finished is also a wedding gift, for my girlfriend alice who is getting married in august. i arranged the blocks in a broken dishes setting which i find quite intriguing and beautiful but caused much swearing. i could not for the life of me set those blocks together properly. i have never ripped out and resewn so many seams in my life.

this quilt was tied, partly because i don't have a machine with an arm long enough to quilt it easily nor the skill to do so, partly because it is more traditional that way. quite a bit of love and energy went into this project (and money, which brian is complaining about), but she is my best girl and deserves it. i really love the colors and if she weren't getting married i'd keep it for myself. it looks gorgeous in our guest room. maybe i'll get more fabric and make us one.

my latest project is a patchwork scrap quilt for our bed. this is an ambitious project, not only because i have a new baby but also because we have that cal king bed. i have most of the little squares cut out; it's just a matter of piecing together the top, mostly. oy! i'll post pictures when i have something substantial to post pictures of.