Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The baby knitting spree continues! (36 weeks along)

Orange baby knit set

Well partial bedrest may not be conducive to totally decluttering the apartment or decorating the "nursery" (otherwise known as the cosleeper attached to my side of the bed, since baby will be rooming with us for at least a year), but it definitely helps with the knitting mojo.

Most evenings of late have been spent lying on my left side feeling super-uncomfortably pregnant, watching Marvel: Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. on Netflix with the husband and knitting some last-minute baby things.

After finishing the orange wool Beyond Puerperium cardigan sweater I blogged about recently, I decided to make a matching hat and booties with the leftover yarn.

The hat is the free Aviatrix pattern by Justine Turner — my version Raveled here with all construction details. It was super quick to knit, has a fun construction method, and should keep baby's ears nice and warm. Again, the yarn is soft, squishy washable merino wool — Malabrigo Rios in Glazed Carrot.

Aviatrix hat

The booties are the free Gansey Booties pattern (my version Raveled here) and while they are cute and a quick knit, they inspired a lot of reknitting and swearing. The directions for the short-rows were not very clear, and I ended up knitting each bootie differently to compensate, so they don't really match. The instructions are to turn at the end of each short row--but not to wrap--and I wasn't sure if I was then supposed to start knitting again with the last stitch knitted, or with the one after the turn, or... am I just reading this wrong?

If I attempt them again, I'll also make the cuff a lot longer to give them a better chance of staying on.

Gansey booties\

Finally, I am almost done knitting the Gift Wrap Baby Sweater by Carina Spencer (Raveled here), a kimono-type raglan sweater with a cool contrast border. I originally had a grand scheme to come up with some kind of TARDIS pattern to take advantage of my blue, black and light grey yarn, but got lazy and just decided to stripe the darn thing. Here it is from a week ago, but I've now finished the border and started the sleeves:

Gift Wrap Baby Cardigan progress

The yarn is Debbie Bliss Cashmerino Aran, a super-soft and washable merino/acrylic blend with a bit of cashmere thrown in for good measure (or good marketing, anyway).

And the panic (and excitement) is really setting in here. I feel really ready, but also not ready at all. And Baby Wood has now suddenly flipped from a nice head-down position to a terrible and uncomfortable sideways/transverse position and refuses to budge, despite all the crawling around on the rug and weird off-the-couch headstands I've been doing as per the Spinning Babies website for "optimal fetal positioning." There's still a few weeks for baby to turn back (and there's always external version) but it's freaking me out a little. Turn baby, turn!

Monday, December 22, 2014

How old were you when you first used a sewing machine? (with poll)

First time operating the sewing machine all by herself (with very close supervision from Mommy) to make a gift for her one-year-old cousin. Age 4 1/2. She was extremely careful.#sewing #sewingwithkids (tagging @fireapplefarm )

After months of pleading from the four-year-old, last week I finally let her operate the sewing machine by herself —with extremely close and cautious supervision from me — to make a Christmas present for her baby cousin R. And it went great, actually! She was incredibly careful, sewed slowly and cautiously along a chalked seamline with a fairly even seam allowance, and didn't get her hands or fingers anywhere near the needle.

I think her favorite part was pressing the foot pedal, which I put up on a stool for her. (Or maybe it was using the different buttons on my computerized machine to select the stitch length and pattern—after sewing the plain seams, she went a little crazy with the built-in flowers and leaves and diamond embroidery stitches on my Viking).

The present she was making is a pattern for smiling stuffed coffee mug dolls and saucers. She picked it out of the adorable Japanese doll-making book Fun Dolls by Aranzi Aranzo (last used when Z and her older cousin T made "Eyelash Bunny" dolls together). Here's a shot right before she sewed the pieces together—we just cut the pieces out of an extra soft cotton flannel baby blanket, and I appliquéd on eyes cut from an old black T-shirt:

While Daddy was off protesting, Z decided stuffed coffee mug dolls would make ideal holiday presents. She scanned the pattern into the computer, printed it (with my help) & cut out the pieces & I let her press the foot pedal too. (from the book Fun Dolls

She has been hand-sewing, embroidering and helping cut out patterns since she was three (which I wrote about last year in the post "I want my kid to be able to make or fix anything!") and slowly working her way up to using the machine over the past year. I started by letting her press the buttons to select stitches for me, and then eventually let her use the foot pedal while I steered the fabric, or sit in my lap and help me seal the fabric.

She knows how to attach a button (by hand) or a snap (with a hammer), the basic parts of the sewing machine, the difference between knit and woven fabric (she likes to play a game of guessing which clothes she has are woven, and which are knit), and what stabilizers and appliqués are.

I think teaching her to sew and watching her have so much fun with it might be even more fun than sewing myself. It's hard to believe I'm about to have a new little baby who will have no sense of danger and responsibility and whom I will have to keep far, far away from all sewing supplies! It also brought back fun memories of when my mom taught ME to sew on her machine when I was a kid. Here's the first skirt I made (with Mom's help), at age five:

My first skirt!

Of course all that sewing is hard work... she passed out on the couch halfway through stuffing the first doll:

Sewing is hard work! Napping on the couch with her coffee cup doll in progress. #sewing #sewingwithkids

Finished object pictures soon. They really turned out cute, and she's been running around pretending to drink tea or coffee out of them.

So: how old were you when you used a sewing machine for the first time? Did you learn as a kid or come to it as a teen or adult?

Meanwhile... we somehow managed to corral her and get a semi-serious Chanukah/Christmas/New Year's holiday photo out of her! (After about 40 tries with the self-timer):

Holiday Family Photo 2014

Most of the pictures were more like this:

Holiday Family Photo 2014--goofy

Boy is that baby belly huge! 35 weeks and counting... Happy holidays everyone!

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Last-Minute Baby Sewing Binge (Before Being Stuck in Bed) — With Tools and Robots!

Last-Minute Baby Sewing & Knitting Binge

Up until last week, the only item I had actually finished for Baby Wood was a single pair of Better Than Booties baby socks (the green ones shown above, Raveled here). Then I looked through my stash of newborn and tiny baby items and completely panicked, because I have almost NO gender-neutral clothes for tiny babies (what if we have a boy?!), and very few warm winter clothes (Z was a summer baby).

I made a thrifting expedition and scored 15 cute little second-hand gender-neutral baby things for $26, but dressing baby in store-bought clothes isn't as SPECIAL or FUN as putting him/her in something me-made, now is it?

So I ramped up my baby knitting queue... and last Sunday, while the four-year-old was visiting her grandparents, I went on a bit of a mad sewing binge, tracing, cutting and sewing seven little itty bitty baby garments in one day--more than I've sewn in one day ever, and more than I've sewn for months total. AND all the fabric and patterns had been in my stash at least four years, or were secondhand, so—SCORE FOR STASHBUSTING and CUTTING UP OLD CLOTHES TO MAKE NEW ONES.

Mainly, I wanted to make some cute, snuggly, special baby outfits for the new one to wear home from the birthing center.

Orange & Blue Baby Set in Progress

Set #1: Orange overload: A little cotton kimono knit top with contrast ribbed bands and cuffs in an orange tool-themed print with matching pants and hat, plus an orange merino wool side-buttoning cardigan and little wool booties (in progress).
  • The kimono top and pants are from the wonderful New Conceptions Baby Essentials layette sewing pattern set. Kimono tops are great for pulling over big wobbly newborn heads, and I love that the sleeves and pants are finished with cuffs instead of hems—I highly recommend this easy and versatile pattern. The main fabric is a soft cotton interlock with a tool pattern I bought ages ago from the Fabric Fairy, and the navy and orange ribbing were from a Sew Baby ribbing color assortment. I made the newborn size, and sewed everything but the top hem and the pants waistband on the serger.
  • The super-simple hat pattern is part of Kwik Sew 2433, another great knit baby clothes layette pattern for rompers, jumpsuits, hats and booties.
  • The side-buttoning cardigan is the Beyond Puerperium cardigan pattern, a fun and simple raglan sweater (the newborn-size Puerperium is free, but I bought the version with more size and yarn weight options). The yarn is Malabrigo Rios in the color "Glazed Carrot", a soft, washable, squishy worsted-weight merino yarn. (Cardigan raveled here with full details).
  • The in-progress booties are knit from the free Gansey Booties pattern in the same yarn, and I have an earflap hat in progress (the free Aviatrix hat pattern) as well to finish off the ball.

I just love the tool pattern on this fabric—perfect for a little girl or boy from a family of makers, crafters and builders!

Tool fabric closeup

And aren't these buttons pretty? I do not want to talk about how much they cost, but I got them at La Casita Yarn Shop Café, an awesome local Brooklyn yarn store:

Pumpkin Beyond Puerperium Baby Cardigan

Next up:

Baby kimono top set with blue robot appliqué and red cashmere baby hoodie

Set #2: Gray and red and blue with a robot: Another knit baby set, plus a red cabled cashmere cardigan hoodie.
  • The kimono top and pants and hat are from the same patterns as set #1. The main fabric is a super-soft cotton/rayon rib knit I cut out of a top from a giant bag of second-hand maternity clothes I bought for a song from a local mom (I have plenty of things to wear for the next 6-8 weeks, don't worry). Immediately after it was done I decided it was too boring and needed an appliqué—my husband suggested a robot would be just the thing, and I think he was right.
  • The red cashmere cardigan hoodie is my TNT baby hoodie from Kwik Sew's Sewing For Baby—this is my fourth version. I cut it from a super-soft designer thrift-store sweater that had some stains and snags. The best part was I didn't have to attach any sleeve cuffs or bottom waistband—I just cut the pattern to include the original ribbing. I stabilized the front facings with bright turquoise petersham ribbon from Pacific Trimming and applied blue snaps from Sew Baby. I was going to put an appliqué on this piece too, but decided it didn't really need one.

Don't you love a pretty piece of petersham or grosgrain in a sweater? (And no, I haven't finished applying the inside snaps yet).

Red baby cashmere hoodie cardigan closeup

Here was the original sweater... there is something SO satisfying about cutting up ruined garments to make pretty new ones, isn't there? Not to mention that cashmere knits can cost $60-$175 a yard if you can even FIND them or that new cashmere baby sweaters run $100-$300... whereas this one came to less than $5 in materials:

Old sweater I cut up to make a new cashmere baby hoodie

Here's the robot appliqué in progress—it's just a scrap of bright turqoise ponté, applied with fusible webbing, then stitched down around the edges by machine:

Sewed a newborn kimono top set, then decided it was too boring and needed an appliqué robot with embroidered face. I kind of want to appliqué everything at the moment. #sewingforbabies #sewing

The eyes and heart I embroidered by hand. Which is something I'm really into lately:

Blue robot knit appliqué closeup

And that's good, because yesterday my midwife ordered me onto scheduling resting (basically part-time bedrest) due to some severe swelling in my legs and feet and other assorted reasons. I need to spend half my days in bed lying on my left side, and minimize time standing/sitting. So... I sense a lot of embroidery and knitting in the next weeks, and not so much the sewing machine.

Anyone else been through this? The thought of lying down so much is driving me crazy... I'm a doer and a maker and I've got a demanding full-time job to do and a four-year-old to chase around! And my apartment is so NOT baby-ready, and I know I'll be too exhausted once baby actually arrives to do much of anything but nurse and sleep (when I can).

Bonus photo: my four-year-old came with me to the yarn store to buy the buttons for the orange cardigan, and she insisted we had to make a list first to remember we needed 6 buttons:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

The Story of Luna, the Black Mermaid Fairy Superhero Doll with Purple Dreadlocks! (Pt. 1)

Z's Mermaid Fairy Superhero doll is done!

Meet Luna, the Mermaid Fairy Superhero. Like any proper superhero, she has an origin story:

Once upon a time there was a four-year-old girl named Z who loved all things fantastical and science fictional: mermaids, fairies, superheroes, robots, witches, unicorns, vampires and rocketships. Z would sit for hours and draw pictures of everything from time machines and flying ponies to Harry Potter:

Last night Z and I watched Harry Potter & today she surprises me w/ this drawing of Harry catching the Snitch and Hermione and Ron brewing potions. #kidart

One fine summer day, Ms. Z and her mommy and daddy visited the Brooklyn Aquarium. Z was excited to see the many soft little snuggly mermaid cloth dolls for sale at the gift shop ... but sad that not ONE of them had brown skin or curly hair like her. She settled for a pale mermaid dolly with straight brown hair but asked her mommy -- where can I find one that looks more like me?

And so little Z and her mommy set out on a quest. They searched far and wide across the land and internet, but nothing was quite right. There was a brown-skinned mermaid Barbie, but she had straight hair and was made of plastic. There were soft snuggly brown-skinned cloth dolls, but they had no magic powers or mermaid tails. One day they journeyed to all four toy stores in their neighborhood: the first three had no black dolls at all; the fourth had beautiful handmade Waldorf cloth dolls with many skin colors and hair styles, but they were $100-$200 each and had no magical qualities.

By now little Z and her mommy were feeling quite cranky, but luckily they had a magic power of their own: sewing.

So they sketched their ideas:

doll ideas

Made a simple pattern...

Z's design (with help from mommy): Mermaid Superhero Fairy doll with Afro in progress...

Gathered up some fabric scraps and curly bouclé yarn, and got to work... Cutting:

Cutting her pattern


Pinning her fabric

Pinning together...

Sewing, embroidering and stuffing...

Dollmaking adventures: Mermaid Superhero Fairy doll with Afro in progress...

At first the mommy sewed most of the doll by hand because her machine was in the shop, but then a friend lent her a vintage Featherweight and things sped up:

Snuggling with the almost-finished doll

Finally, Luna was done!

Z's Mermaid Fairy Superhero doll is done!

She was just what the little girl wanted: a mermaid fairy superhero with brown skin, curly (purple) dreadlocked hair, sparkly fairy wings, plus a crown and magic wand.

Z's Mermaid Fairy Superhero doll is done!

Z's Mermaid Fairy Superhero doll is done!

And the little girl and her mommy were very, very happy. THE END.

Z's Mermaid Fairy Superhero doll is done!

... or is it?

P.S. I am going to also (if I can find time) do a little post this week with the (free) PDF for the pattern plus some basic construction details and a list of all the supplies required and doll-making resources, etc. Just in case you want one of your own...


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