Sunday, May 17, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Winners and Category 2 Round Up: Baby Accessories

For any sewist/sewasaurus/sewer/someone who sews, there are some items that fall into the mental category of "really difficult to make," e.g. jeans, evening wear, corsets, and tailored coats. When someone successfully manages to make one of those items, invisible choirs start singing and the scent of peaches wafts through the air, and one is instantly transported to a daisy-filled field where one can frolic (ironic, considering that three of the four items I listed are not really field-suitable, frolic-type garments). On the other hand, there are some items that are so mundane, so deceptively simple, so normal, that when one makes such a thing, it's rarely noticed and hardly celebrated. I think baby bibs fall into that category. When I tried making some for SHB, they were hilariously Becky Home-Ecky, to the point that they made SHB cry to wear them.

Okay, so maybe he wasn't crying about my amateur-looking bibs, but I think you get my point: there are some items there's no glory in sewing, but to do them well and have them look professional can be harder than you think. So I'm here to celebrate the meticulously assembled, generally gorgeous baby accessories that you all sewed during the SHB Sew-Along. I first shine the spotlight on the various bibs, of course:

Neenkster's reversible bibs in adorable prints (and props to her for sewing with an SHB and cats).

Dorisaurus' be-owled bib must have taken so much patience to applique!

Mealtimes with SHB have shown me the usefulness of catch-all bibs; ofingleside's ultimate bib has way more personality than my generic silicone one...isn't her print combination great?

'Ultimate' baby bib

You all know what a soft spot I have in my heart for softies, so I'm glad somebody made a toy, and check out what a toy! I think it's great that Helen of Grosgrain Green had such fond memories of a similar doll, and is passing that on to her SHB.

Having made a couple quilts of my own, I know how much work they take, even if it's all just straight-line sewing. This one by Emily has a beautiful selection of fabrics that works well together:

Don't discount the sleek look of a simple, well-made receiving blanket, though, like these two by Alice

Ergo-users with mouthy babes, unite! Love that Lanamfacio's strap covers boast 50% less napkin, but hey, no shame in reusing textiles...I do it often enough myself.

SHB slept swaddled for all of the fourth trimester, so I know how useful these swaddles by the Itinerant Seamstress can be:

Speaking of bundled up babies, this bunting by mollysews makes me want to squee:

And I know this Tolkien-themed quiet book isn't actually an official entry, but the geek in me just has to shine the spotlight on Becky's delightful ongoing project. Check out that hand-stitching! So literary! Much detail! Very wow!

A photo posted by Becky (@sunnyb64) on

It was so fun seeing what everyone else came up with for this category and I was impressed by all the clean, professional-looking sewing! It's been a pleasure sewing along with all of you, and I hope your SHBs get a lot of use out of these accessories.

And now, the moment you've all been waiting for... the winner of the Ottobre Kids' magazine subscription is Jennifer of FernKnits! She made an assortment of accessories, from bibs to crinkle toys, but the one that really got me was this adorable little sleep-sack:

Now, the Category 1 (Baby Clothes) and Category 3 (For Parents) round-ups are over on Mikhaela's and Clio's blogs respectively, but I have the pleasure of announcing those category winners here. It was exceedingly difficult to choose from among all the fantastic sewing you guys did, but in the end we decided on Lee and Hannah! Lee's Category 1 Brindille & Twig hoodies look like they came from some high-end boutique, and Hannah's Category 3 Gondorian Mei-Tai carrier is just delightfully geeky. As for the Oliver&S Lullaby Layette patterns, the lucky drawing winners are Masha and Ofingleside! Winners, please email me (cationdesignsblog [at] gmail [dot] com) so that I can arrange for your prizes to be sent to you.

Once again, thank you to everyone who participated in our sew-along! Sometimes it's just nice to have that camaraderie (and a deadline) in sewing, even if we're all making different items. I hope you all felt as inspired and motivated as I did, and hopefully those feelings will carry along into this month too!

Monday, May 11, 2015

Hammerhead Shark Plushie Pattern and Tutorial

I know, I know, it's not Shark Week for another couple of months...but what can I say, I was still high on the thrill of having done so much cute sewing for the SHB Sew-Along. Speaking of the sew-along, we'll be doing a roundup and announcing the winners by the end of the week. It's been ridiculously difficult choosing because of how good the entries are! We wish we could give prizes to everyone, but alas, we must try to narrow it down to three winners.

Like these three sharks. Each shark represents a category? 

Anyway, I didn't know what to sew next, so I figured I might as well clean up my hammerhead shark plushie pattern. I spent a whole naptime digging through my box of self-drawn patterns, only to realize that I must have recycled the original pattern pieces, because who needs more than one hammerhead shark? This meant I had to redraw and retest a new pattern, which resulted in two more sharks: the red one was a little longer and skinnier than looked proportional, so I had to make the pink one to test my modifications. Yay, a trilogy! I love trilogies. Although, a trilogy of shark sounds like it might be on the menu of a very un-politically correct, not-at-all-environmentally-minded exotic meats restaurant.

The final pattern and brief instructions can be downloaded here, and I ask that if you link to it, you link to this blog post and not the direct download link. As always, any sharks that you make from this pattern should be for personal, non-commercial use only, i.e. please don't go selling these sharks at craft fairs and such.

If you're an experienced sewer/plushie-maker, it should be a relatively quick project; I finished my second shark, from cutting to sewing the side closed, all in an hour,  so when SHB woke up there was a new toy to chew/lick/suck on. I guess in that way, the trilogy of shark is on his menu.

If you've never made a plushie before or just want a step-by-step tutorial, I took the time to photograph the making of the last shark.

1) Sew mouth onto ventral (belly) piece. 
2) Sew fin pieces. Put the mirrored pieces right sides together (RST), sew, trim, and then flip. 
3) Place the dorsal pieces RST and sew A-B, the eyestalk edge.
This is what it should look like after you've sewn the pieces together. 
4) Sew the eyes onto the eyestalk over the A-B seam.
Mine is just a plain black circle, but you can also make a more standard eye with a black pupil on a white eyeball. 
5) Pin and baste the dorsal fin in place... 
...and sew all the way from point C down the back, around the tail, and ending at the dot on the pattern. Backstitch.
6) Pin and baste the side fins onto the ventral piece.
This looks so weird, doesn't it?
There, it looks more normal with the dorsal part flipped down. 
7) Sew the dorsal part to the ventral piece, leaving a gap in the side between the two dots. Backstitch. 
You'll use this gap to turn and stuff the shark. 
8) Turn right side out...
...and stuff! Use a chopstick to poke the filling into the eyestalks and tail first, then plump up the rest of the body. 
9) Ladder stitch the side gap closed.  
10) You're done! Enjoy your new sharkie friend!

All the sharks posing with the shark panel on SHB's quilt. 

Part of me is very tempted to make fifty more sharks from all my fleece scraps (sharks in every color of the rainbow!), and another part of me (the saner, more reasonable part, to my husband's relief) says there are better things I could be doing with my time (and our available storage space). So as much as I enjoy mass producing plushies, I will refrain (at least until SHB is old enough to request more, at which point I will happily acquiesce). But for those of you who don't already have two sharks too many, I hope you enjoy making one (or twenty) so that I can live vicariously through you!

Or maybe the pink and blue shark could get together and make lots of little baby sharks, while the goofy-looking red shark looks on like the most clueless third wheel ever... "Dude, can't you take a hint?"

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Geekiest Baby: Middle Earth Themed Accessories

We last left SHB (Small Hobbit Baby) in the Shire, playing with his One Teething Ring. After his shocking discovery of the Black Speech runes-revealed-by-drool, he realized that the only thing to do was to try to destroy the ring, So he started his long journey to Mordor, passing the Misty Mountains along the way. While taking a rest stop, he came across an old friend.

It's Smaug!!! Cue the screaming like when Lucille Bluth sees Gene Parmesan. 
Hey Chiefest and Greatest of Calamities, remember how I was able to sneak by you before?
Well, it was because of this magic ring of mine. 
See? It's got runes all over it. 
Okay, enough about me and my ring, let's see if your armor is still like tenfold shields, your teeth like swords, your claws spears, the shock of your tail a thunderbolt, your wings a hurricane, and your breath death!
Hmm, this spike is kind of bendy...looks like you've let yourself go!
Ooh, the sun is coming up. Well, it's been nice catching up, but I gotta go destroy the ring. 
Sigh, who knows when we'll see each other again? I kind of miss that little Barrel-Rider. 
Wait a second, I totally forgot I had this palantir! Maybe I'll just give him a call. Does that make me look too needy?
I think someone's calling on the palantir! Who could it be? 
Hello? Who are you and where do you come from, may I ask? 
Oh hey Smaug. Didn't we just hang out? Why are you calling already? Aren't you supposed to wait three days or something?
Dangit, I knew it was too soon. Why didn't I wait? Why do I never wait?
This is why I don't have friends; I always try too hard and scare them away. 

Okay, I know, I've got the story all wrong, but maybe SHB's cuteness will pacify all the upset Tolkien-fans who insist on strict accuracy.

As I mentioned before, I had some necessary items that I had to make for the SHB Sew-Along, and I had some frivolous items. Now that SHB is no longer a floppy newborn, he doesn't need the nursing pillow for nursing, but it's still useful as a lounging/climbing/teething pillow, and it was beginning to accumulate a rather impressive amount of drool. Spot cleaning gets old really fast, so I wanted to make a washable cover. Of course, I can't leave well enough alone, so instead of making a quick and easy utilitarian cover, I took this idea and put my own geeky spin on it. So instead of taking less than an hour, this cover took...significantly more than that. Totally worth it, though!

There's a large patch in the hollow of his left breast as bare as a snail out of its shell...I mean, there's a zipper...for easy removal for laundering purposes. 

As for the toy palantir, well, Mr. Cation wanted SHB to get familiar with handling round objects since I can't play any ball sports to save my life, so maybe early practice will keep SHB from being the pariah of pick-your-teammates P.E. classes. Again, I could've kept it simple, but this was right after the LOTR concert so I was inspired. I actually made the fancy one first, but then realized I liked it too much (and put in too much time hand-stitching) to let SHB go to town on it, so I made him his own, simpler palantir. Unfortunately, because there was less stretch in the black fabric, it ended up being less round. So much for practicing handling spheres!

Patterns: The palantiri were made with this pattern, plus my own added eye bits. This tutorial was the basis for the pillow cover, and then lots of self-drafted pieces for the horns, wings, spikes, and face.
Fabric: One and a third yards of red fleece for the cover, plus various scraps of black fleece; various scraps for the palantiri, all from stash.
Notions: Velcro to attach the wings (because Smaug's a wingaling dragon!) and a 24" zipper for the dragon, polyfil stuffing for the palantiri

I had to make the picture grayscale in order for the details to show up at all, but the wings can detach!

Hours: Five for the cover, half an hour for the simple palantir, 1.5 hours for the fancy one.
Total cost: $5 for the red fleece; everything else was stash.
Final thoughts: I am so pleased with myself, even if both cover + toy turned out unnecessarily complicated! Sometimes you just gotta do things that make you happy, even when it's not efficient or practical. Also, red and black are ridiculously hard to photograph.

In case you're wondering about poor overeager Smaug, he did eventually find happiness. The third palantir belonged to Walnut, who was perfectly happy to answer the call to cuddle in the sunlight with a dragon.

I did not pose Walnut. I added the palantir, of course, but he snuggled up next to Smaug all on his own. 

And SHB did make it to Mt. Doom to dispose of the ring.

And that concludes the epic tale of the SHB Sew-Along over here at Cation Designs!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

SHB Sew-Along: Baby Accessories

Before I had SHB, our house was littered with cat toys. Catnip mice/beavers/squirrels/other rodent-like creatures, dingly balls, crinkly tunnels, small stuffed animals, and feathers-on-a-stick, all for Walnut's enjoyment. If I thought that was bad, though, that was because I didn't know about babies. SHB has so many toys (some gifted, some made by me, some purchased by us because they were too cute to pass up), and while he isn't old enough to make a mess on his own yet, somehow there is a mess on our living room floor at the end of the day.

I wanted to make a containment-type object for Category 2 of the SHB Sew-Along (doesn't that sound like I'm talking about hurricanes instead of sewn items?), and while it would've been nice to have more marine-themed prints to coordinate with his other nursery items, I figured that stash-busting (and saving money) was more important. I pulled out fabric leftover from this dress and this skirt to make into a fabric basket using this tutorial. The only changes I made were to make the basket a couple inches taller and to use a couple layers of acrylic felt from the stash for the interfacing instead the quilted interfacing they recommend. I think the final basket reads nicely gender-neutral, despite their fabrics originating from my wardrobe.

Walnut models with the basket. Doesn't he make it look so attractively basket-like?
SHB checks out the basket contents. "Why are all of my toys in there instead of scattered all over the place for easy access?"

So that was one problem solved, but of course there are always new, unforeseen problems popping up when one is in charge of a small human being. For example, I theoretically knew that babies like chewing and sucking on everything when teething, but to see it in practice is a different story. I'm more or less resigned to SHB drool all over me, but the Ergo carrier straps can't be washed as often as my clothes. Apparently this is a common problem, as there's a thriving Etsy economy just for home-made suck pads. I found this DIY tutorial and figured it would be easy to make my own. Since I'm stingy with printer ink, I decided to wing my own pattern instead of printing out hers, and I used Velcro instead of wrestling with my snap setter, but otherwise they're fairly similar. My fabric was leftover from making SHB's lovey and interfaced with stash fleece. 

I'm pretty pleased with how nicely the colors coordinate with the gray of the carrier!

Fabric: Various scraps and remnants, all stash, probably totaling 1.5 yards
Notions: Twill tape for the handles of the basket, velcro for the suck pads
Hours: Five total, for both projects
Total cost: Free! I love shopping my stash.
Final thoughts: So useful. No more thoughts necessary.

Once again, let me reiterate how glad I am that the SHB Sew-Along gave me the kick in the butt I needed to set aside time for sewing! These were such easy projects, but if I didn't have that motivating factor, I would've kept thinking about how much I needed them but never gotten around to doing anything about it. There were a couple of other accessory items I made for the sew-along as well, but were less necessary; I made a cover for my nursing pillow and a couple of toys for SHB, but more on those in another post...