Happy Friday + Power to the Unicorn

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Happy Friday! Hello everyone, K here! Every year there’s a Halloween party at my school. Everyone dresses up in their Halloween costumes and comes for food and games (the fifth graders make a haunted house too). This year my mom made me an awesome unicorn costume with a rainbow mane and horn. I can’t wait for next year!!!

Haiku by K

Rainbow horns and mane!
Power to the unicorn…
Happy halloween!

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Well, that’s a hard act to follow, but I thought you might want a few more details about the costume?

2016-halloween-unicorn2I am dubbing this the world’s most expensive unicorn costume.

Back in late September, I was cruising through Fred Meyer (similar to Target here in the Pacific Northwest) and saw a costume that looked strikingly like the one you see above. For $14.99, I was ready to insert my debit card into the nearest reader and call it a day.

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However. My child was oddly insistent that I make her a costume because it’s a “tradition.”  Not one to pass up a tradition, I rolled up my sleeves and got to work.

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Goodwill was the surprising source for the horn and the wigs that became the mane and tail. They were actually new and were probably slightly less expensive than buying them elsewhere, but one wig alone cost the same as the entire costume at Fred Meyer.

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A hooded onesie was what I needed to make, and I rooted around my existing pattern stash to see what I could hack together. I remembered the puffy jacket I’d made earlier in the year from Puperita’s Tiger Hoodie pattern and knew that would be a good starting point. I decided to frankenstein the hoodie pattern with a self-drafted pant pattern based on one of her pajama bottoms. Here’s the first prototype which we call her Kermit onesie:

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The fit was pretty good though she wanted the inseam to be raised a bit which was an easy fix. Then there was the issue of ears. A few years ago I went on a hat-making bender and what made them an instant hit were the bear ears. I made K a version here. The pattern was from the Oliver + S Little Things to Sew book, and with a little futzing about, I was able to replace the Tiger Hoodie hood with a modified version of the bear hat. Voila, the Miss Piggy vest:

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It’s possible that K loves the Kermit onesie and the Miss Piggy vest more than the unicorn costume, but that’s neither here nor there.

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I felt that bling was important for a unicorn. My mom had brought me an insane gold lamé flouncy dress a while ago, and I kept it in the bin with other fabrics fit for costume-making. It came in handy for the ears and “hooves” though they didn’t hold up well at all. You can already see the gold filaments sproinging in that image above. K wore the costume twice: the first time for the school Monster Mash and the second time on Halloween proper, but by Halloween the hooves were a disgrace.

I bought 4 yards of white fleece just in case I made a mistake and couldn’t believe it when I used up almost the entire yardage just for one version. K must be taking steroids! Thank goodness that I didn’t make any obvious errors. It’s a costume, after all, so I wasn’t too concerned about prettifying the raw edges and such.

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I sandwiched the tail wig between the back center pieces, and hand-stitched the mane onto the hood. I had a momentary loss of composure when I couldn’t find the hot glue gun for the horn, but there it was right where I put it under 19 tons of fabric.

Do I wish I’d gone the store-bought route instead? Hmmmmm…I would have saved a lot of $$ and time, but the look on K’s face when she saw the completed costume was priceless. She got so many compliments that she was positively luminescent and I have to admit, she looked pretty darn magical. Oh well, I better start saving up for next year’s costume…

2016-halloween-unicorn3Have a happy weekend, my friends! See you next week!

Happy Friday + Faux Fur Pillows

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Happy Friday! Earlier this year when I did a little giveaway, I was poo-pooing the whole concept of faux fur pillows. So naturally, I decided to make them 9 months later.

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I’m not sure why. In fact, I rarely have a rational explanation for why I make things. I guess I might be classified as an intuitive sewing enthusiast who is completely guided by my whims. If something stops feeling good or right, I tend to quickly abandon projects these days (unless it’s a shirt for M). Life is too short to be wasted on subpar activities, I say.

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Not that sewing faux fur is a stellar activity, mind you. Especially when I thought I was being all clever and made it a removable cover with an invisible zipper for easy washing. Did you know that the fur gets ceaselessly caught in the zipper teeth, which has the potential of devolving into a sort of push-pull nightmare? Now I know. Strangely, despite the many factors that could have made this an unpleasant project, I really enjoyed it.

The more textured grey-and-black fake fur is from JoAnn’s and it’s incredibly soft — it feels like you’re caressing a bunny, though come to think of it, I’ve never caressed a bunny. Maybe they’re not that snuggly? The lighter grey pillow cover is actually more bristly, and the backing is also much thicker. My mom brought it for K when she visited Seattle in August, and I’m assuming it was thrifted from somewhere in Los Angeles. I found it tucked in one of my fabric baskets after she’d left. Very sneaky, Mama! I had asked her not to bring me any more fabric because…well, if you saw my fabric stash you would see why. It’s been pre-washed a few times, just to be on the safe side. Who knows what creepy crawlies can be in new-to-us fabric, right?

I used 20″ pillow inserts and cut the faux fur to 20.5″ squares. Looks like that worked out well. The key with faux fur, I’ve discovered, is to move at a snail’s pace. Cut slowly but steadily. Carry the pieces like they are made of the finest, most delicate china. Keep your foot light on the sewing machine pedal. Overlocking all the edges before assembling the pieces also helped. I felt richly rewarded because there were virtually no scattered bits of fur after I finished sewing.

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They are, of course, for K. And yes, she loves them. So much so that she sleeps surrounded by them every night and when I see her clutching the pillows while deep in slumber, I realize this is why I sew. To bring joy, to feel joy. It’s awesome. Faux-fur-tastic, even.

Have a delightful weekend, my friends! What are you making these days?

Unicorn costume*
is feeling sort of daunting
But I’m ready now

*I have all the supplies for the costume and will start sewing this weekend!

Sewing for a Fifth Grader!!

5thgrade-bagoutfit1Holy moly, what is going on with time?? I used to crow about my time management skills, but I’ve got nothing to crow about now. So summer is officially over, and K is a fifth grader! In the Seattle public school system, the new year begins the Wednesday after Labor Day (except for kindergartners — they start a few days later). K’s been nervous.

About a month ago, she asked me to make her a school bag. This caused me to do a double-take because she doesn’t ask me to make her stuff anymore. When asked why, she said, “Last year all my friends kept asking me if you made my backpack and I didn’t like saying no. I love your bags, and my friends were so impressed with the ones you’ve made.” Well. I thought the backpack we purchased from Fred Meyer was lovely, but if peer pressure is the key to feeling handmade pride, I suppose I’ll have to take it. So I made her a bag.

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Actually, I made three bags. What you see is the main messenger bag on the left, and a lunch bag on the right.

5thgrade-bagoutfit14I also made a “binder case” as she calls it because…I’m still a little unclear on the reasoning, but she insisted and it wasn’t too difficult, so a binder case materialized. I just made up the pattern as I went along, making sure that it would fit the binder and also still slip into the messenger bag. She’s demonstrating the magnetic snaps of the case up there.

For the main messenger bag, I used A Happy Stitch’s excellent pattern. Melissa, you are a genius! It’s the perfect size and easily accommodates her binder case and a hot pink pencil pouch (not handmade).

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I used a laminated cotton (or an oil cloth? What are these things? Why do I not save the selvage??) for the outer fabric which K chose herself, and the lining is quilting cotton I’ve had for an eternity, which I also used as binding for the lunch bag raw edges.

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And then there is the lunch bag. I added fusible fleece for a little bit of insulation, and again, I made this pattern up based on the height of that purple unicorn water bottle that’s peeking out up there. I referenced the instructions for the travel case in Anna‘s book, Handmade Style, and added the straps. It was tricky using the slippery fabric for the lining as well as the outer fabric, but in the end, it all worked out.

So she can carry her multiple bags like this:

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Or like this:

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There’s a happy bag lady on the premises. Whew, that was well worth the effort. The one off-putting part of the process was when I discovered this:

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Can you see it? That curlicue thing? It’s a piece of hair stuck between the laminate and fabric. I thought it was thread at first, but no. It adds a decidedly human element to the textile. Ew, was my first reaction, but then I thought, you know what? Someone worked hard at laminating this. Good try! K said, “I’m glad you didn’t accidentally use that part for the lunch bag.” Just in case that makes it sounds as though I used it for the other bags, I did not use that section of the fabric at all.

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And before you ask, I didn’t make a first day of school outfit. For the first time ever, K picked out an ensemble from a store. Her dream retail destination? Target. In fact, she’s wearing Target from head-to-toe.

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She was over the moon excited. It’s funny, she’s never really asked whether she can get store-bought clothes because I think she assumed I wouldn’t let her. Since I’m in the throes of finishing up book #3, I stopped kidding myself and gave up on trying to make her clothes in time for the first day of school. It was never my intention to make all her clothes for the rest of her life and I don’t have a fervent anti-fast-fashion mission. The goal was to see if I could make all her clothes for a year, and without my realizing it, it had stretched out to four years. Sure, I support the values that come with making things by hand, but I also appreciate a good retail sale. It struck me that by not allowing K to choose her own clothes, I might be causing some weird complex in her.

I found it interesting that when presented with racks and racks of tween clothing, she didn’t go crazy and pick out a zillion options, but was quite decisive and economical. The rule: one outfit, which meant either a top, bottom and outerwear or a dress and outerwear. She knew she most likely wanted skinny jeans, but beelined for a dress just to try (it was a white, lacy number that surprised me). For the top, she selected three options. The white one she ultimately chose, a black sweatshirt with “Girl Power” stenciled on it, and a purple t-shirt. For the jacket, she plucked the knit denim zip-up that you see and a grey one that was similar in style. She also bought the headband with her own money.

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It was a very satisfying shopping trip. Afterwards, she sighed happily, hugged and thanked me about a million times, and then…we moved on. Soon the white shirt will get stained. She’ll outgrow the skinny jeans. But I think it was an eye-opening exercise for her. She had fun perusing the available options, but she didn’t actually like as many of the clothes as she thought she would.

Anyway. Fifth grade!!! I wonder what it will be like? Fingers crossed that her first day of school (today) is a good one.

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Alright, I’m still in the midst of deadlines, but will be back sometime next week. I have more sewing to share from weeks and weeks ago!

The “Unicorn” Pillow

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Remember all the hullabaloo about which top I should make with the pink ponies silk for K’s birthday? Well, when 11pm rolled around the night before her 10th b-day and the fabric hadn’t even been ironed, I knew that I was in trouble.

And then I remembered that Shelley had left a brilliant comment about embroidering a unicorn horn, an idea with which I became obsessed. She also suggested wings, but that was beyond my mental and embroidery capabilities at the literal 11th hour. So I came up with plan B and foraged for some silver embroidery thread because I knew I was out of gold and went to work.

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When I gave her the 14″ x 14″ pillow the next morning, I hinted that a special unicorn was hiding amid the pink ponies and it actually took her a lot longer than I expected to find it. Then again, it was fairly dark in the room. The pillow required all of 15 minutes to sew including embroidering the horn. I broke all manners of sewing rules and didn’t care one whit that the edges weren’t totally straight and didn’t even consider creating French seams. It almost felt sacrilegious to overlock the raw edges of the fine fabric, but I’d say the time saved was well worth the sacrilege. I always make pillow covers with an envelope closure, so K can freely drool on it if she so chooses and freshness is just a washing machine away.

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Can you find the unicorn? The most rewarding part is that she LOVES loves loves the pillow. I actually think that making something that she won’t outgrow was the smarter choice here, and the unicorn horn made all the difference in elevating this simple project into a magical one. Thank you, Shelley!! You’re a genius.

And oh, her birthday was awesome — filled with swimming, her favorite restaurant (the xiao long dumplings are to die for) and a sleepover. Ten-years-old!!!! I can’t believe it. I almost forgot! She also got a curling iron for her birthday with strict instructions of never using it on her own, and she loves it even more than the pillow. We’d been using a makeshift wooden spoon + flat iron Macgyvering maneuver to occasionally curl her hair, but it was…not fun. Behold my curls-bedecked tween:

k-curlsP.S. That’s a garage sale dress that a friend gave her a while ago and is not handmade. She was practically hyperventilating from happiness on her birthday. So so sweet.

It goes too fast

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This is K when she was just a little over 18 months back in 2008. Last night, we had dinner at a friend’s house and I watched K and her two buddies play and eat and argue and reconcile and laugh hysterically. She’s known them since birth and nearly 10 years later, they’re still the best of friends. They used to be so small, they all fit snugly in a basket:

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I had mentioned in a post a while back that I wish I had a photo of the very first top that I sewed for her, and I found it while I was browsing through my forgotten Flickr account this weekend:

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I called it the “Girl, Interrupted” top because it bears a striking resemblance to a hospital gown, of the sort worn in a psychiatric ward. It was, to be quite frank, an eyesore.

I self-drafted the whole thing but couldn’t figure out how to sew the back, so I fudged a sort of tie-back design. The concept of coordinating thread was foreign to me and none of the seam allowances were finished — you probably can’t see them very well, but the stitches are helter-skelter.

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I loved making it, though. I miss that daring sense of adventure I had, that bring-it-on attitude. I even gathered the sleeves! Now that my sewing skills have improved, I repeatedly find that I’m a lot harder on myself or have this self-imposed need to deliver more complicated or higher quality garments. This need stymies me and I’m tempted to avoid sewing altogether.

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And it turns out I’ve been lying about not knitting, because I have evidence of having made K several sweaters. Like this droopy hooded one up there. And this burgundy kimono sweater. How did I forget?

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Clearly, she wasn’t all that excited about that burgundy one.

As I observed the pre-teen kids last night, showing early signs of awkward adolescence, I wanted to grab time by the shoulders and command it to stop. Stop. You’re going too fast. 

I don’t see my 9-year-old guffaw with abandon as much; she’s so much more aware of how others are perceiving her.

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I often bypass capturing hilarious moments of sweetness now that I get so caught up in my to-do lists (or even worse: checking how other people are capturing hilariously sweet moments on social media).

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It’s not just time I need to tell to stop. I want to pause, to pay attention. I want to take in the good, the bad, the ugly, the miraculous. Because 10 years — it’s a blip. I went through hundreds of baby photos in my Flickr account and the memories! Carting her around in every baby carrier known to man all over Seattle, teaching her the alphabet, scrubbing her bottom in that behemoth plastic contraption I fitted into our tub each night. If I’m not careful, I’ll forget to be curious, to be willing to experiment, to savor the fleetingness of it all. Note to self: be careful.

babyk6P.S. The Indigo prints giveaway winners are Manda, Eva and Katharina. Congrats! I ordered quite a few of the teas recommended, and I’m excited the try them out!