Sunday, April 12, 2015

The Geekiest Baby: My Little Hobbit

It is the curse of younger siblings that they always get the older sibling's hand-me-downs. Not that I would know what that's like, being an eldest child myself. And not that my sister would know what that's like either, being so much younger than me; in the seven years between my birth and hers, my mom had plenty of time to discard and donate my old things. Although the same number of years separates Walnut and SHB, he has no such luck. When Walnut decided that he wasn't a fan of the cat house that my sister painstakingly crafted for him two Christmases ago, we put it in the garage and saved it for SHB to play with once he got old enough to enjoy it. And by "enjoy", I mean "forced to take pictures in front of it to satisfy mom's geeky fancies."

In the spirit of the SHB Sew-Along, I decided to finally get back behind my sewing machine and make something, anything really. While I know what SHB really needs is more pants and pajamas, I also knew that the thought of such utilitarian sewing wasn't going to be enough to get the sewjo going after a month-long sewing standstill. So I did what I always do to get the creative juices flowing: I made a costume. And because I'm just a huge dork, I went for -- big surprise -- a Middle Earth-related costume. This outfit is based on Bilbo Baggins' first costume, when he has his ridiculous good morning exchange with Gandalf.

I realize, of course, that he should really have a pipe instead of the One Ring, but I don't want to encourage smoking. Also I don't have a wooden pipe.

I'm pretty pleased that I had a fabric in the stash that was vaguely similar to his waistcoat pattern! 

I actually started sewing the vest while I was still on maternity leave, but got stalled by a combination of the four month sleep regression and being undecided on how to finish the vest. The thought of doing bias binding around those tiny little armholes was just too much at the time. Well, the sleep regression never went away, but somewhere in those dark watches of the night my sleep-deprived brain hit upon a solution: if I had to make a long-sleeve onesie to go underneath the vest anyway, why not just combine the two and put the long sleeves on the vest? Then I wouldn't have to worry about an ugly armhole binding showing and it would be one less piece to make (and subsequently wrangle onto my little wannabe-nudist). So it's not really a vest anymore, which is fine. It does show, though, that the costume was conceived and cut when SHB was half his current age, because look at how short it is on his torso!

Good thing you can't really tell when he's sitting.

Confession: the dark green leggings are standard RTW baby clothes, which means there's a dinosaur appliqued onto the butt. Very unhobbit-like. Good thing you can't see it when he's sitting. Moral of the story: make sure your baby hobbit is sitting. Fortunately, he just started being able to sit independently in the last two weeks!

Testing the One Ring's composition by biting it...nope, not gold. 

Pattern: Traced a bodice+sleeve "sloper" from his RTW clothes and heavily modified to get the vest and poofy sleeves.
Fabric: A fat quarter for the vest, and old t-shirts for the sleeves and scarf
Notions: Two gold plastic buttons, velcro, a tiny piece of bias tape
Hours: 2.5-3? Spread out over last November and this past week
Will you make it again? No, but I will definitely keep using his "sloper" for more garments, I'm sure!
Total cost: Everything was stash and/or given to me, so basically free!
Final thoughts: Um, I might love this the best of any costume I've made. Actually no, who am I kidding, that title is reserved for Thranduil. Or Eowyn. Or my pirate coat. But this is a close fourth!

Really, Mommy? Just fourth?

I'm pretty sure I took over a hundred pictures on my phone because SHB is so cute (and so wiggly), so indulge me as I spam you with more.

Hmm, what's this? A ring? 
You say it's a magic ring? Hahahahahaha you're so funny. That's nonsense! Great joke, but April Fool's Day was last week. 
You say mysterious writing appears on it? A secret that only saliva can tell?
Well that's easy enough to disprove. Here, I'll saliva it up right now.
Nothing's happening, right? 
Great Bullroarer Took, there ARE runes appearing on it!!!
My Black Speech is rusty, but it looks like it says "One Ring to rule them all, One Ring to find them..." 
Sigh...I guess it has to be destroyed now, huh? Phooey. 

He has to love Tolkien now, right?

(Also, extra geek points to me for finishing this in time to post on April 12, the actual day that Gandalf arrives in Hobbiton to tell Frodo the truth about the One Ring!)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

SHB Sew-Along: Baby Accessories Inspiration

If you're planning on sewing along with Mikhaela, Clio, and I, hopefully you've had a chance to think about (or even start!) what you're going to make. We've already shared some clothing inspiration posts, so I thought I'd share a little about what I've done for the second category, baby accessories. There are quite a few free tutorials out there for a variety of bibs, burp cloths, mobiles, toys, and such (here's an excellent collection of links), and it can quickly get overwhelming. When I was on summer break last year and in my third trimester, I aimlessly made a whole bunch of stuff without knowing how useful it would be, so I thought now would be a good time to share what I've found to be actually worth making.

In no particular order:
  1. PUL changing pad: unused. I got two changing pads at my baby showers, both of which are lighter weight and fold up smaller. I may eventually take mine apart to reuse the PUL. For the amount of time I spent trying to get everything lined up and keeping the layers from shifting, it was one of the biggest wastes of time.
  2. Bibs: used once. SHB had a super drooly period where he was going through bibs like no other, but of course, as soon as I made him more, the drool stopped. Even now that he's teething, there isn't any drool. Still, they're easy enough to make (and personalize!) that I would do it again.
  3. Pacifier clip: moderately useful, although not for pacifiers. SHB doesn't do pacifiers, but the clips are still useful for keeping his toys off the floor when he's in his stroller or high chair. 
  4. Car seat cover: very useful. I used this tutorial to make a zippered cover and I love being able to open it part-way to keep an eye on him. I made mine out of leftover sheets from this dress and this skirt, but if I were to do it again, I'd make it out of a more light-blocking material, and possibly a more water-resistant one as well. There have been a number of times that we've been caught in the rain and cotton sheets don't do as well as say, fleece. 
  5. Baby toys: taggie, lovey, shark: very useful. SHB loves sucking on the various appendages of the shark, especially. Good thing hammerheads have so many bits that stick out? (dorsal fin, other fins, tail fins, and the two eye stalks) The lovey is actually the least popular, possibly since it's a little large for him to handle right now. 
  6. Crib sheets: very useful. Paying $16 for sheets is silly when it's so easy to make your own. I used donated fabric so mine were free! My only regret is that I used cotton jersey, reasoning that it would be more soft and cozy, but I've observed SHB grabbing them and pulling them up...not enough to be a suffocation hazard, but enough that there are weird bagged out sections. Next time, I'm going to use a cotton woven. 
  7. Quilts: extremely useful. I was actually afraid at first that they wouldn't be useful since we were gifted so many baby blankets...but I quickly learned that baby blankets are quite tiny, and once SHB hit the 3-month mark he was too big for them. Right now, we mostly use the quilts as floor mats since he's not supposed to have blankets in his crib, but I'm holding out hope that he chooses one of them to be his special blankie one day. 
  8. Mobile: only vaguely useful for a very short amount of time. SHB quickly got bored with seeing the same shapes all the time. Granted, he's a very active baby and generally prefers to interact with things/people instead of passively watch, so that might just be a personality thing. 
  9. Reusable wipes: extremely useful. Because babies have a lot of bodily excretions. Mine are just a layer of flannel (my old pajamas) and a layer of jersey (my old sheets) sewn together into squares, but we use them all the time. 
  10. Nursing pads: extremely useful. I was gifted some Bamboobies, which get pretty good reviews, but they just weren't as comfortable or absorbent as my homemade nursing pads. Mine are just three layers of flannel and one layer of fleece circles zigzagged at the edges, no fancy darts or anything, but they get the job done and are fairly invisible under my clothes. Some people have had issues with reusable nursing pads leading to thrush, but *knock on wood* so far that hasn't been a problem for me. 

I've also been able to figure out what things I wish I'd sewn (and am going to try to sew for the sew-along):
  1. Suck pads for my Ergo carrier: I didn't realize they were a thing until SHB started sucking on the Ergo straps all the time. I started googling solutions that didn't involve washing the Ergo all the time and discovered the booming Etsy trade in suck pads. I'm partial to this design since it offers more coverage than the standard rectangular kind. 
  2. Boppy pillow cover: I used it for nursing and tummy time when SHB was still small and floppy, and now I use it to cushion his falls when he practices sitting. It's gotten a lot of use and while I try to spot clean it as best as I can, it really needs a washable cover. Since I don't already have a cover to trace, I'm going to try to improvise by just tracing the outline of my pillow and adding a couple inches like this tutorial.
  3. Fabric basket: There are so many small-ish items that accumulate once you have a baby, and I feel like I need containers to, well, contain them all so they don't just take over my house! This tutorial looks easy enough and would be a good way to use up scrap fabric. 
  4. Small soft toys: Okay, SHB doesn't really need anymore of these, but they're so fun to make!
After all, look how much fun he's having!
Incidentally, is anyone interested in a pattern for my hammerhead shark plushie?

Since I was stashbusting when I made most of my accessories, I didn't end up with a very coordinated look. If you've got the energy and resources, you can always go for a specific color scheme, theme or motif for your collection. For more ideas, check out the links on our Pinterest board, then hop on over to our Flickr group to share your goals!

Friday, April 3, 2015

SHB Sew-Along: Baby Boy Inspiration

When I first found out I was pregnant, I was not-so-secretly hoping for a girl. After all, I'm a female oldest child, so I thought it would be cool to share that with my kid, and I had all sorts of ideas for making adorable geeky (non-pink) clothing. Well, now that I have my little boy, I can't even imagine what it would be like to not have a son! He's such a little personality, and I'll be honest, I'm a sucker for all the dinosaurs and sea-life that's ubiquitous on baby boy clothing (not such a fan of all the dogs and monkeys, but you can't win 'em all). Still, it would be nice to have some diversity in his clothing (more geeky things! more cats!), which is part of the reason why I'm hosting this sew-along with Mikhaela and Clio. They've already shared baby girl and neutral/unknown gender clothing inspiration, so I'm here to wrap up the clothing inspiration series with some fun ideas for boys. Although to be honest, most of these would work for girls too!

There are lots of free patterns out there for onesies, shirts, pants, and rompers out there (check out our Pinterest board for more), and most are pretty quick makes, so that leaves you with more time to think about customization. I'm a fan of these fun fabric combinations:

You can do solids+stripes, different size stripes, different colors, and pockets and plackets in different fabrics.

The nice thing about doing different fabrics for sleeves vs. body is that you can use up even the teeny tiny scraps in your stash. You can also use the small pieces for appliques (elbow patches and knee patches have a soft spot in my heart):

Make formal wear by adding a faux vest front and bow tie, or add an applique in unexpected ways (on the side! not animal-related! a monster face!).

And if you're more into doodling than sewing around lots of tiny curves and corners, you could always make a plain tee or onesie and have at it with fabric markers:

Even if you're not good at drawing, you can always print out some line-art and transfer it to your shirt for tracing. I've had the most success with these Tee Juice markers in terms of holding up to repeated washing (used on multiple projects, like the cat face sweatshirt, my Star Wars tee and (he)art dress). Or you could always go with iron-on transfers, like Mikhaela did.

If you've got a particular fandom, this would be a great way to add some geeky quotes, regardless of your baby's gender:

I'm partial to the LOTR ones, of course...looks like it's time to sew up some plain onesies! And according to our Flickr group discussions, I'm not the only LOTR-obsessed mama/sewist. Join us over there to share what you're planning on making!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Introducing the Small Human Being Sewalong!

(Does that sound like we're sewing small human beings? Oops. Spoiler alert: we're not.)

Adorable badge by Mikhaela!

One of the things that surprised and delighted me the most about sewing blogging is what a lovely community we have here. When it seems that so much of online interaction is negative (cyberbullying! bodyshaming! awful YouTube comments!), it's nice to be able to count on this corner of Teh Interwebs to be kind, encouraging, and constructive. This was especially evident after I had SHB and so many of you reached out to comfort me that yes, this time is hard, but it will pass and I will sleep, eat leisurely with two hands, and sew again. I'm especially glad for Clio and Mikhaela and their new darling boys to celebrate and commiserate with. We've been emailing back and forth and decided that it would be nice to do a little sew-along to give us the push we need to get back to our machines. Then we started thinking about how many other sewists are welcoming new or coming SHBs, and we thought, why not invite everyone to join us?

As new parents (or even veteran parents!), we know just how hard it is to find the time, inspiration, and energy to sew, so consider this an invitation to push through the the fog of sleep deprivation and cluster-feeding to do something creative. Besides, the nice thing about sewing for such small human beings is that we can finally use up those tiny scraps that are too big to throw away, but not small enough to clothe adults or even kids. Or if you're looking for an excuse to buy new fabric, well, most baby sewing patterns don't need more than a yard of fabric, so you can splurge on something nice. There are so many free baby sewing patterns out there, you don't even need to go out and buy a pattern if you don't want to. Plus, taping up those pdfs will be a piece of cake since there's no way a baby pattern will take up 40 pages!

Want in? Here are the guidelines:

  1. Human babies only, not fur babies (sorry fur babies!). 
  2. Items should be for babies ages 0-12 months old (It's OK if the baby isn’t born yet!).
  3. They can be for any baby -- your own, a friend’s, a niece/nephew/grandchild/whatever, or you can make baby items to donate to charity (we will be posting about a few charities that accept baby-related donations if you would like to do this). 
  4. Sewing only (no knitting or needle felting or other crafts). Hand-sewing, serging and sewing machine are all acceptable construction options. 
  5. The sewn item can be as simple or as complex as you like -- if all you sleep-deprived parents have time to do is sew a simple cotton knit baby hat or serge a pair of reusable nursing pads, that’s cool.

Other details:

Timeline: We'll sew during the month of April, and then at the end of the month we'll do a round-up of our favorite pieces and choose winners for some prizes!

Categories: You can sew as many items as you would like to enter into three categories: 1) Baby Clothing, 2) Baby Accessories and Other Items, such as quilts, toys, burp cloths, bibs, etc., and 3) For Parents -- because you can still do somewhat selfish sewing! -- things like maternity clothes, nursing tops/covers/pads, diaper bags, and baby carriers.

Prizes: We will choose a winner for each category to receive a year's subscription to Ottobre kids' sewing pattern magazine, and randomly select a couple of winners to receive a copy of the Oliver & S Lullaby Layette pdf pattern.

How to participate: Grab the badge for your blog if that's your thing, then leave a comment here or on Clio's or Mikhaela's blogs saying you want in (and your plans, if you know already). You can post photos of your makes on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SHBsewalong, or post to our Flickr group. At the end of the month, we'll also post a call for links if you want to link to a blog post with your items.

If you'd like a more warm-weather badge, there's this option as well!

I'm going to try to make some pajamas and pants for SHB, and if I'm really ambitious I might try to make some more toys for him. And if the seas gang dry and the rocks melt wi' the sun and SHB starts sleeping more, I might even go so far as to make a nursing-appropriate garment for myself. Clio and Mikhaela and I will not only be sharing our makes, but also doing inspiration posts to give you an idea of what's out there and what's possible, so stay tuned! In the meantime, what do you think, sewists? Are there small human beings in your lives you can sew for? (I'm looking at you, Becky, Juebejue, and Amity!)

Here's SHB enjoying gnawing on the plush shark I made for him while lying on the nautical-themed quilt I made for him!
And as you can see, his pants are getting way too short.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Solving the Baby Boy + Cat Problem

I've mentioned before that one of the things that frustrates me most about RTW baby stuff is that manufacturers don't seem to think that boys can be into cats. There's no shortage of blue puppy-themed items and pink cat-themed items, but what's mom of a cat and baby boy to do? Obviously, the answer is to sew my own blue cat-themed item. Oh, I guess I could buck the socially accepted gender-color associations, but TBH, I don't feel strongly enough about it. I do feel strongly about cats, though, so decided that SHB needed something cat-themed to wear. Start 'em early with the indoctrination, right?

I used Kwik-Sew 3127 to whip up this fleece outfit for SHB. Of course, the minute I finish, the weather here takes a turn for the better and it's been way too warm for fleece anything! New Englanders and Canadians, please don't stone me for complaining that it's too warm and sunny. *ducks head* I'm kind of hoping it gets cold again, because look how adorable SHB is in his cozy new suit:

Once again, testing the mobility: can I lick my, hand?

Unfortunately, despite sewing up his recommended size, the outfit is HUGE on him! His feet don't even reach the ankles of the pants, and the body of the jacket is way too wide. The sleeves, hood, and waist of the pants are spot on, though, so I'm not sure what's going on with the sizing. Maybe Kwik-Sew is intended for long-legged, babies with muffin tops? I'm not sure, as this is my first time working with an actual baby sewing pattern.

Can you tell that his knee hits right where the crotch is? And that right footie portion is totally empty. I scrunched up the other pant leg to get his foot into the bottom, but then he just looks like a wrinkly Shar-Pei. 

I didn't bother finishing the inside seams, because come on, baby clothes get worn for such a short time anyway, and fleece doesn't need it.

I did try to trim everything neatly though. 

My stitching of the ears was a little messy. I think if I did this again, I'd line the hood to hide some of this. 

My favorite things about this pattern: elastic in the hood to help hold it on a wiggly baby's head, and the ingenious footie design. It looks so real!

I think it would be pretty easy to reproduce this/scale it up for adult pajamas. 

See, when there isn't a baby in the pants, they look so normal! Then once you put them on, it becomes obvious how comically large they are. 
The sleeves are so long and the jacket body is so wide. It looks like his leg is broken, the way the pants are angled, but that's just because the bottom half of the pant leg is basically empty. But hey! The hood is perfect for his 90th percentile head!

Pattern: Kwik-Sew 3127
Fabric: 1 yard of light turquoise anti-pill fleece, a couple scraps of white fleece for the ears.
Notions: a separating zipper, 3/8" and 1" elastic
Techniques used: Instead of following the instructions for the elastic waist on the pants, I used Lladybird's oh-so-easy tutorial.
Hours: I think around 3? I hand-stitched the ears to the hood, so that took a while.
Will you make it again? I don't see why not! Once I make some alterations to the width of the jacket and length of the pants, that is. These could be made in different fabrics for less warmth, and since I traced the pattern, I can still make all the other sizes as need arises.
Total cost: I got the fleece on sale, so the total cost was $6.
Final thoughts: This was my first time ever working with a Kwik-Sew pattern, and it was overall a good experience. I'm sure if I really wanted to, I could've figured out how to draw up the pattern and sew it myself, but it was nice to let somebody else do the work for me. Especially now that mommy brain has set in (it is all too real!), and figuring out order of operations is too much thinking. The footed pants are especially great, since SHB is all about losing his socks. It's just too bad that the 3-6 month size is ridiculously big on him, and with the way the weather's been heating up, it's unlikely he'll get much wear out of this outfit except for when we go to San Francisco.

Speaking of San Francisco, let's talk about the other reason why I was inspired to make this outfit! It wasn't just about the blue cat business; the last time I went back to the city to my parents' house, I was looking back at my own baby pictures and came across these pictures:

Well looky there, I'm wearing a blue hooded fleece suit with elastic footies! My mom's dress is so fabulously vintage-looking, isn't it? And let's not even get started on the couch. 

So of course I had to try to recreate it with SHB!

I don't look nearly as chic as my mom. 

SHB is also two months younger than I was in that picture, so he's a lot more wiggly and unsteady in a standing position. 

It's really obvious here that his foot doesn't even make it into the footie part of the pants. 

He's also not quite sitting up yet, so we have a lot of outtakes where he's about to fall over...

And of course, it's only natural that Walnut, an actual cat, would photobomb a photo shoot of a cat suit.

Oh hello there, I'm just going to walk in front of you like you're not doing anything important. 

As for the winner of the One Teething Ring, congratulations to Ravenna! Email me with your mailing address so that I can get it out to you as soon as possible!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The One (Teething) Ring and More Geekcrafting

I feel like I'm just repeating myself over and over sometimes: no, SHB isn't sleeping any better, no, I'm not really doing much sewing (brain too tired), and yes, I made more geeky wood-burned items.

I went to Daiso again (it's far enough away that SHB will fall asleep on the drive, and that's really the only reliable way to get him to nap. That, and wearing him, but I can't wear him for all four naps or else my torso might collapse in on itself) and got another box identical to my tea box. While I knew I wanted to burn it, I couldn't figure out what other Tolkien-y panels I could do; the dimensions make it difficult to do another map or anything else based on his drawings. I was having a hard time thinking of another geeky theme that would be suitable for the rustic-ness (rusticity?) of wood-burning, when during one of the interminable middle of the night feedings, my delirious brain hit upon it: a Japanese store...Japanese animation is great...Totoro is a great takes place in a forest...trees are made of wood...

As you can see, I decided to experiment with adding color. I used color pencils, which worked astonishingly well. 

The white color pencil didn't work as well as the other colors. I just love these little forest sprites though!
The title, Tonari no Totoro, and some soot sprites.  

The classic large Totoro with his umbrella!

And of course, a little bonus on the inside!

Since I couldn't manage to make the box into a Tolkien piece, I had to look elsewhere to get my LOTR fix. Thanks to Becky for cluing me in as to the existence of The One Ring teething toys! It was fairly easy to order some blank, unfinished wooden teething rings and burn them myself. It's like these rings are made for the One Ring inscription, because the length of the four lines is just right for the smallest Elvish font that my finest wood-burning tip can manage. I added SHB's Elvish name on the back of the ring as well, then polished it up with coconut oil.

In the Black Speech, it reads, "Ash nazg durbatul√Ľk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatul√Ľk, agh burzum-ishi krimpatul."

The top, lighter-colored ring hasn't been oiled yet. I love how the oil gives such a warm honey color to the wood. Also it makes them smell delicious. 

On the back, I put SHB's name in Elvish. The other ring is for Becky's coming Hobbit. 

You may wonder what I'm planning to do with the last, unfinished ring, since SHB doesn't need more than one One Ring (hah!). Well, I'm putting it up for grabs! If you know of a small human being in your life who would appreciate such a mighty gift, leave me a comment and I'll choose a winner on Sunday night. And if the name of your small human being is one that has a Google-able Elvish translation, I'll even add it to the back before oiling it up and mailing it to you.

Of course, if you just want a approximately 3" wooden ring with the One Ring inscription on it for yourself, you can go ahead and throw your name into the running and I won't tell. Do not deny that your heart has greatly desired what I offer! After all,  I offer it to you freely. If you ask it of me, I will give you the One long as your name is the one the random number generator picks.