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...

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Done: Bicycle appliqué cashmere cardigan with matching hat refashion

Cashmere Baby Cardigan with Bike Appliqué and Matching Hat

Four years ago I picked up two lovely, soft — and totally shapeless — cashmere cardigans at a thrift store for a few dollars each, with the vague dream of refashioning/upcycling them into warm and snuggly baby leggings for my then-tiny daughter.

Those snuggly leggings never came to be... but I thought a cashmere cardigan and matching hat would make a perfect baby gift for a bicycle-loving knitterly (i.e. unafraid of handwashing) friend of mine who had her baby girl last week, and so here we are:

Cashmere Baby Cardigan with Bike Appliqué and Matching Hat

The basics


Fabric: A cut-up thrifted Lord and Taylor two-ply cashmere pullover sweater, plus some scraps of blue bamboo knit and some turquoise wool felt for the appliqué. Much better than buying actual cashmere yardage, since I could repurpose the ribbing as well.

Notions: Embroidery floss, fusible webbing (part of my dwindling Lite Steam-a-Seam 2 packet), colorful snaps from Sew Baby, petersham ribbon from Pacific Trimming.

Size: Medium (3-6 months) for the sweater, and I just eyeballed the hat size to match.

Here's what the adult sweater looked like before I cut into it:

First #sewcation project: appliquéd cashmere baby jackets from repurposed adult-size sweaters. #sewingforbabies #sewing

Inspiration: I knew the gift had to be bicycle-themed, because my friend and her husband are the kind of people who manage to squeeze five bikes into their 1-bedroom Brooklyn apartment. (All of which they ride, frequently). I cut my appliqué design out freehand based on this cute little T-shirt from Mini Boden:

Modifications: No modifications, but I'm embarrassed at how much unpicking was involved in both of these items—somehow I managed to attach the collar wrong twice, and the ribbed hem too.

Construction notes: The cardigan is simple, if you actually pay close attention to the instructions, which I apparently did not. SO. MUCH. UNPICKING. OF. SERGER. THREADS. I did 90 percent of this project on the serger, reasoning that would keep the fine-knit cashmere from unraveling better than the machine.

The embroidery bit was super fun—I fused the little wool felt shapes to the cardigan with fusible webbing, then just played around with some back stitches and running stitches.

Cashmere Baby Cardigan with Bike Appliqué and Matching Hat

I initially put a bike wheel on the hat, but it looked odd and I replaced it with a heart:

Cashmere Baby Cardigan with Bike Appliqué and Matching Hat

Finally, I wrapped the wee soft things in some of my daughter's extra artwork (with her permission), and tied them with a bit of leftover yarn—so much more fun than commercial wrapping paper and ribbon, am I right?

Cashmere Baby Cardigan with Bike Appliqué and Matching Hat

Hmmm... I kinda want to make a matching set for my baby-to-be now with the remaining cardigan, a nice red cabled knit — they could wear them when they play together.

P.S. I am happy to report that my daughter's scheme for a handmade mermaid fairy superhero doll with a big curly purple Afro is well underway—we designed the pattern together and she's mostly sewn and stuffed—all she needs now are a few finishing details. More to come soon!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Ghostbusters family Halloween costumes/cosplay—with all four Ghostbusters represented!

Who ya gonna call? All 4 of us in our #Ghostbusters #Halloween costumes. We had a little #foodallergy friendly party at Z's school and handed out little toys and safe treats.

Oh goodness, it's been quiet over here. I'm 31 weeks pregnant now, and have been in bed for two weeks with a horrid painful sinus infection I can't take any serious medications for (I'm doing Tylenol, hot/cold compresses, saline nasal rinses and the like, but obviously steroids are not an option and I don't want to mess with antibiotics while pregnant either).

BUT I wanted to pop in to belatedly share the fun we had a few weeks ago in our Ghostbusters Halloween costumes:

My 2 favorite #Ghostbusters: @whatmashekadid and Ms. Z.

I actually broke several sewing machine needles on these costumes, even though they aren't of course totally sewn from scratch. But I had to tighten up the size large flight suit for myself as I was swimming in it. I took the arms in by about two inches of width each, and the legs by about four inches each (they were HUGE)... and I accidentally sewed over a zipper in the process.

The elbow pads were also from scratch—a lot of Ghostbusters cosplayers buy volleyball or judo knee pads and spraypaint them gray, but I figured it'd be easier to just take some gray doubleknit I had lying around and make my own little pattern. A few more broken needles ensued:

Last-minute slapdash #Halloween costume #sewing: kid-sized improvised #Ghostbusters elbow pads.

But so worth it, right?

On her way to school in her complete #Ghostbusters Stantz #Halloween costume. I broke 2 needles #sewing those elbow pads last night but so worth it for the joy on her face. Containment unit is a vintage 1980s toy my aunt still had in her basement.

The containment unit she's holding is a vintage toy loaned from my cousin, by the way.

Anyway, these costumes were relatively simple and low on the actual sewing. We just bought:

We did MEAN to make some ghost traps (video tutorial here) and proton packs and PKE meters, but didn't manage to finish them in time... and apparently it didn't matter, as we got tons of compliments at Z's preschool Halloween party and while walking out and about in the neighborhood—a lot of people started signing the song when they saw us! (We didn't actually go up to any houses, since Z is so allergic to nuts, peanuts, eggs, dairy, and everything else found in most Halloween candy, but we had fun ogling all the cool displays.)

In case you're wondering how the heck my four-year-old daughter even decided she wanted to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween, it started when my husband when to a Ghostbusters 30th anniversary art exhibit at Gallery 1988 and came home with this Ghostbusters New York Service Map art print by Anthony Petrie:

She was really intrigued by it, so we let her watch a few episodes of The Real Ghostbusters on YouTube and she became a bit obsessed and decided to be a Ghostbuster for Halloween. (She also loved the movie, but don't think I will let her watch it again—it has some rather risqué scenes and a good bit of swearing).

My sewing machine is in the repair shop now, but when she comes back I have some doll sewing plans (Z wants a curly-haired brown-skinned mermaid fairy superhero doll for Christmas, and no such thing actually exists in any store), and I have an almost-complete baby sweater to show as well!

OK, back to bed for me!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for (quite likely to be spent on yarn or fabric).

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Finished: Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap + Graphic Knits Pattern Picks (25 weeks pregnant)

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Stripes are a close second to polka dots in my pattern happiness book. So when I was invited to join the blog tour/knitalong for Graphic Knits: 20 Designs in Bold Beautiful Color—the new book from Interweave by my favorite knitting designer ever, Alexis Winslow—I immediately gravitated towards the Bowerbird Wrap, a soft, squishy loosely-knitted ribbed, cabled, striped and tassled wrap made from luscious silky merino yarn:

It was the perfect knit for this tired pregnant lady—the cables and stripes and super soft squishyness of the yarn kept me going, but it was simple enough to take on the subway or bus, or work on during my Hypnobabies birthing class or while watching my daughter as she splashed around in the bathtub or built time machines in the living room from chairs and sheets. The staggered cable pattern was fun, but easy to memorize.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

The basics:

Pattern: The Bowerbird Wrap by Alexis Winslow from Graphic Knits (Interweave).

Yarn: 3 colors of Malabrigo Silky Merino, a lovely soft hand-painted DK weight silk/wool-blend yarn. I used slightly over 1 skein of "412 Teal feather" for Color A, 1 1/2 skeins of "406 Narciso" (a chartreuse) for Color B, and slightly over a skein of "196 Mares" (a gorgeous painted deep blue purple) for Color C... about 585 yards in total.

Needles: The pattern recommends size 11 to start (to create a loose squishy double-sided ribbed fabric with the DK weight yarn), but I'm a loose knitter, and got gauge with size 9 needles.

Raveled: Here.

I would definitely recommend this project for a knitter of any level, even an advanced beginner. The only even slightly tricky bits are the cables at the edges, the color changes (I used a back join), and the twisted fringe finish. There's no fitting, no short rows, no stranded colorwork. And the ribbing makes it reversible—essential for a scarf or wrap.

It makes for a versatile garment. Wrap it...

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Drape it...

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Or wear it as a snuggly scarf.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Seriously, this thing is really snuggly. I'm glad I sprung for the actual silk-blend yarn called for in the pattern instead of using plain wool or alpaca.

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap

Anyway. You know I mean it when I say that Brooklyn-based Alexis Winslow is my favorite knitting designer, as I've now made three of her garments, including my beloved chartreuse lace Georgina Cardigan (which actually works great for maternity, since it doesn't touch the belly) and my purple Delancey striped cardigan. Her designs are bold, figure-flattering, colorful, creative AND super fun to knit.

So please do show her some love and check out her first book Graphic Knits. When I am not hugely pregnant, I am most excited to make (suprise), the polka dot Sweetness Pullover (see knitalong here):

My other favorites are the wrap-style Orly Cardigan (love those staggered stripes!):

The Rook Pullover...

And the Danae Mittens:

So yes—please check out the patterns from Graphic Knits (you can see details for all of them on Ravelry), they are truly awesome. (And if you, unlike me, have an area of your middle resembling a waist, I highly recommend knitting along with the Sweetness Pullover!)

Disclaimer P.S.: I did receive a free review copy of Graphic Knits, but was not in any other way compensated or paid to knit the Bowerbird or write this post—I bought the yarn myself and wrote this post because I'm a huge fan of Alexis' work and hope her first book is a big hit so she can keep designing awesome knitting patterns!

P.P.S. So I will now admit that when I took all these photos in the early wee hours I hadn't finished applying the twisted cord fringe to BOTH ends of my wrap (I'll have to do tomorrow), but I think I managed to cleverly conceal that in my photos. Except now you know. Oops!

Mikhaela's Blue Green Bowerbird Wrap