Happy New Year!

And Happy Anniversary to my husband and I!

I hope that you go into the new year full of hope and optimism, and that this fresh start gives you the chance to laugh more, love more, and sew more in the coming year!

Moving On: The Sewing World in 2010 and My Hopes for 2011

One of my favorite-est sewing websites, Sew, Mama, Sew, is inviting readers to reflect on the sewing world in 2010 and to predict where it’s going in 2011. And because, of course, I love to state my opinion, I’m joining in. Read on and share your thoughts on your own blog if you’re an outspoken, opinionated sewist, too!

Looking back on the sewing scene of 2010, what trends stand out in your mind?
I believe that the biggest trend in sewing in 2010 wasn’t confined to sewing; it’s been sweeping every part of life in the United States. Throughout this past year, there’s been an incredible emphasis on and appreciation of things “handmade.” We are learning to cast aside consumerism and value that which is personal and sustainable. People who have never sewn before are picking up needle and thread and crafting items for themselves, for their family, and for their friends, and the result has been beautiful and heartwarming.

What were some of your favorite things? (Trends, fabric collections, patterns, blogs? Whatever you really loved.)
My favorite things have been, of course, “Sew, Mama, Sew” and using knits. Knits, knits knits. I’m obsessed. My favorite source for children’s knits is Chez Ami, especially the clearance section!. Two other sewing websites that I adore are Pattern Review and Burdastyle. And then there is, of course, my blogroll, which I know you’ll want to peruse at your convenience.

What was your very favorite fabric collection or print? (If not listed above.)
Oh, Tufted Tweets, of course! I adore this fabric collection. I want to wallpaper the backs of my eyes with it. I don’t know why, but I love the graphic nature of it, the colors, and the little bit of whimsy and humor in it. It’s fantastic!

What was the best thing you made in 2010? (Be sure to share a photo!)
Well, I don’t know about my best thing, but my favorite thing was my daughter’s birthday quilt. I gave it to her the day she turned one, and it’s made up of scraps of fabric from projects I worked on from when I became pregnant with her up to that day. Oh, and it’s all polka dots, of course. Here’s a picture of the top:

And here’s a link to the final product: Birthday Blankie Complete

Although the Birthday Quilt is my favorite thing I’ve made this year, the most popular items by far on my blog have been my Summer Necessity Swimsuit Tutorial and my post, Four Kids, Four Quilts, on the meaning of quilting and its uniqueness as an art form.

What is one of the best things you saw that was made by someone else?
Oh my goodness, there are so many. I love everything that has been featured on Burdastyle. For a bunch of inspiration, visit their Albums. Some specific pieces I adores are This, This, This, and can you believe These? There is really so much that I loved. I’m awed by the amount of amazing talent that is out there!

What do you think 2011 has in store? (Again, trends, fabric, patterns, etc.)
I think 2011 will continue the anti-consumerism trend. However, I think, as far as sewing goes, we might see a return to more complicated garments; we’ve been focused on linen and cotton and clean lines and simplicity that it’s time for a bounce back to a little bit of opulence. I think we’ll see more retro sewing; the 60’s are so very hot right now! Maybe we’ll even revisit the polyester of the past. I think we’ll see much more retro/modern fabric released; we sewists are tired of endless florals. We want graphics, we want bold, interesting designs! For patterns, I hope we’ll end the glut of bag patterns that are out there and that the designers that we love will take chances and come out with more clothes. That’s just my hope, though; bags are easy, and obviously they work. I would love to see more patterns for knits out there; I think the Big 4 pattern companies are realizing that finally, even though Burda has been publishing good knit patterns for ages.

Anything you’re ready for the sewing world to get over?
Whoops, I guess I already mentioned that. Please, Amy Butler and everyone else like you, will you stop coming out with more bags? You know we love them, but once you have one pattern you like, you really don’t need another one whose only difference is a few pleats. Also, end it with the florals! Give us straight lines and angles and eye-popping, soul-stirring beauty. And all you sewists out there — simple linen is beautiful, but let’s get a little fancy! We need some details, some sparkles and ruffles and grommets and buttons and contrasting thread. We’ve been holding it in too long, and it’s time to let our creativity run wild!

What’s on your sewing agenda for 2011? What are you excited about? What would you like to learn more about?
I received a dress form for Christmas, so I’ll be working hard to learn how to really fit a garment and hopefully, to create my own. I’d love to see more focus in the internet world on making clothes. Real, usable, everyday clothes that we love and our kids love and that bring out our beauty. Fewer crayon rolls, more t-shirts and pants and dresses. Oh, and let’s focus on FABRIC, people! I hope the blogging world will leave the cotton cage it’s in right now and teach people how to work with ALL kinds of fabric. I mean, right now, working with thin knits and leather and satin increases our “tension,” if you know what I mean (ba-dum-pshhhh!). We as sewists need to know how to tackle everything that’s out there; show us a project in leather and one in canvas, etc., etc., and watch us grow.

Thanks for reading everyone! Now bring on 2011 in the sewing world!

Love by the Numbers

Years ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office reading a magazine, when I came across THIS article. And although I don’t consider myself an overly sentimental person, I had tears in my eyes by the time I finished it and I immediately “saved” it for future use by spiriting the page away in my purse. It’s such a lovely essay on the joys of having any number of children that I wanted to share it with all my mommy (and daddy) friends. I’ve tried, but I can’t find a way to contact the author for permission to reprint the text of the article, so until I find a way or someone reports me or otherwise gets me in trouble (hey, I’ve already stolen a magazine page from a doctor’s office, so what do I have to lose?), I’ll settle for giving Marc Parent and Family Circle Magazine full credit. For a PDF scan of the article, click the above link.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

“Love by the Numbers”

I’m driving over rolling country roads on a last-minute trip to an all-night gas station and deli. I don’t want gas. It’s milk I’m after. Inside, I pass magazine and snack food racks on my way to the cooler in the back, swing the door wide, hook my fists around four gallon-size jugs and walk back up the aisle. Men loitering around the checkout counter step back as I hoist the milk above my waist and drop it like a barbell on the glass top, shaking lottery tickets in their holders and nearly toppling a neat stack of chewing tobacco tins. Under the oil-stained brim of his ball cap, the man behind the register cuts his eyes at mine. “What are you gonna do with this stuff?” he says.

“The milk?” I ask him. He nods. “For my kids,” I say. The guys by the cigar rack look at me with their mouths open. The picture I have put into their minds frightens them. The man behind the register stares at the milk.

“How many kids you got?” he says. It’s not a question so much as a statement along the lines of, Whatever the number, buddy, it’s way too many. I don’t need to ask how many kids he has; I already know. The look on his face is that of a one-child perspective, a familiar look because I wore it myself a few years back. Unless he’s had triplets, every parent of three rollicking children began, quietly, reasonably, peacefully, with one.

According to the latest census figures, nearly half of all American households have between one and three children. The idea of my three milk-crazy kids should be startling to no one. But the fact that my family falls within the norm in this regard doesn’t change the secret bias held by men at all-night gas stops as well as nearly every other parent: Whatever the number of children they have, no matter how that number was settled on – by fate, planning, luck, or accident – all parents secretly believe that the size of their family is best.

Back in my half-gallon days, when my wife and I had one child, everyone with more than that was simply out of his mind. We would sit on park benches surrounding the local playground with other one-child couples, taking turns between reading The New York Times and watching our toddlers navigate the latest climbing apparatus. We all spoke to each other in full sentences. We drank coffee. The “kid thing,” “mommy-daddy thing,” as we nonchalantly called it, was no sweat. One child is a delight. One child doesn’t eat you out of house and home. Raised around adults, single children are little conversationalists with keen imaginations, having had the quiet alone time to let it develop. You never have to divide your time with one child. You never have to worry you will be accused of playing favorites. You can keep the sports car with the tiny backseat when you have one child. One child sleeps like royalty on a queen-size bed in his own room. One child is better.

That is, until you have two.

Two children keep each other company. They teach each other how to share, how to fight fair, and how to forgive when the day is done. Two children sleep in bunk beds, talking long into the night, hooting and laughing until driving each other halfway to crazy. Two children safely cross the street, holding each of their mother’s hands. They ride on the hip of each parent running late to catch a plane. They split the double Popsicle and the two peanut butter cups. Two children ride seesaw and play tennis and shoot pool. Two children are better.

Our third child was planned, and three children are best, you know. Ask anyone with three children and they’ll tell you. Three children make the best composition for a group picture – two on the sides with the little one in the middle. The third child teaches the first two all there is to know about love. The first two teach the third all there is to know about everything else. Three children are three-part harmony, a trifecta, a triangle of strength, the sun and the moon and the stars. Three children go ring-around-the-rosie and make a more interesting game of tag and drain you dry and fill you back up to the brim. Three are best. Unless, of course, you happen to have four. Or five. Or six. Or I’m sure that if by some catastrophic miracle my wife became pregnant with quadruplets, after picking myself off the floor, I would promptly find a reason to believe that seven is the golden number.

My father-in-law believed 10 children were best. He told me he liked the way they took up a whole row in church. Ten children. Can you imagine the milk? But I can’t tell you how grateful I am that the pews in that church weren’t shorter. My wife was number nine. — Marc Parent

– – – – – – – – – – – –

Happy Parenting, everyone, whatever number of children you have.

Date Night: 2010

Okay, you all know I have four kids right? And that they’re all five and under, right? So I think you’ll understand that it’s been YEARS since my husband and I went on a date. Just try finding a babysitter that’s WILLING to sit for so many little kids and, once you do, ask them just how much they’re going to charge!

BUT, a few weeks ago a friend of ours (thanks Athena!) volunteered to watch our monsters one evening while we went to a nice dinner and then to see the Nutcracker at our local performing-arts center. It would be a sort of early Anniversary celebration (my dear hubby and I tied the knot on New Year’s Eve almost eight years ago).

Whoa. This was huge. Massive. This . . . warranted a new dress. I tried Dillard’s first, which, surprisingly enough, has a decent selection of Made-in-the-USA garments. Nothing. I wanted black, and I just couldn’t find anything that worked. Then, on a chance visit to Hobby Lobby, I discovered some ruffled black knit that was probably left over from last season (remember those big pink ruffles from last Spring?). I went home and printed out a coupon (who goes to Hobby Lobby or Jo-Ann’s without a coupon? Seriously, who???), and got two yards for $10.00. Then I went to Jo-Ann’s and picked up several yards of the $3.99 pointe roma for a lining. The next day I simply laid down a well-fitting sheath dress over the fabric and hacked out the front and back (only two pattern pieces) and, using THIS tutorial on lining a sleeveless dress, I was finished with my “date” dress in just a few hours.

I added a belt, necklace, and shoes that I had and WAH-LAH!

Please look only at the dress. I have, after all, had four children. And I have a giant head. But anyway . . .

My daughter told me, “Mommy! You look BEAUTIFUL!” (seriously, doesn’t that kind of thing make you feel GREAT?). And then she took this picture of my husband and I:

I love this picture. And I love my husband. It’s been eight years, and I still think we go so well together. And every time I wear this dress I’m going to think about what a lovely time we had on Date Night: 2010 and what a crazy, fantastic time we’ve been having together since the day we met.

Happy Holidays!

Don’t you think?

Happy Holidays to one and all! I hope you are enjoying the warmth of loved ones this season!


Yesterday my husband told me he was ashamed of me because I haven’t posted since August.  I’m assuming for the sake of our relationship that he was at least sort of kidding, but he’s right.  I’ve been remiss.  I simply wasn’t expecting how hard it would be to have two children in two different schools at two different times as well as two younger children at home.  Add that to running a playgroup and attempting to sew, and there hasn’t been any time for blogging.

But, if you’re still interested, here’s an update . . .

I still have not bought anything that wasn’t proven fair-labor.  That means, mostly, that in the past six months I haven’t bought any clothing that wasn’t manufactured in the United States.  In some ways, it’s been easy.  I’ve been hitting consignment stores and websites, and that aspect has certainly been good to my pocketbook.  But, in other ways, it’s been hard.  I didn’t really go “back to school” shopping with my five-year-old other than to Once Upon a Child and a few other used clothing stores.  And sometimes, when I’m feeling my age and the fact that I’ve had four children, I haven’t been able to go out and buy something pretty to make myself feel better.  It’s shallow, I know, but sometimes shopping makes it all better, am I right?  Plus, about two weeks into school, I experienced a worst-case laundry scenario; brown crayon.  Washed with an entire load of school clothes and then dried with them.  Twice.  Pretty much everything the kids wear to school was in that load, and about half of the items were homemade by yours truly.  I was heartbroken.  I searched all over the internet for some solution and found one with the following ingredients: 1/2 cup each of borax, white vinegar, Shout, high-efficiency laundry detergent, and baking soda all stirred into a scalding hot bathtub.  The mixture actually fizzed, which made me a bit nervous, but hey, the clothes were already ruined so there wasn’t any point in holding back.   Miraculously, after stirring the clothes in the tub all night and then washing them three times on hot the next day, the stains came out of all but three garments.  Unfortunately, all three of those garments were dresses I had made for my little girl.  And at that moment, all I wanted to do was go out and by her a fantastic new outfit.  But I realized that it wouldn’t be the same.  The thrill of shopping at the mall for items made by women and children for pennies in horrible working conditions is a hollow thrill.  And the pleasure of dressing a child in something homemade is unbelievably fulfilling.  So, I resisted the urge.  But I still get sad every time I think of those little dresses.  *sniff*  But, that is the way of children’s clothes.  In only it hadn’t been BROWN crayon I might have been able to pass it off.  😉

Well, anyway, I haven’t been blogging.  But I HAVE been sewing.  Here’s a quick recap of my sewing escapades over the last few months:

"Popover" Bibs

OSU baby set for a friend

Minky Baby Set

"Sunburst" Tunic -- later ruined in the great crayon incident of 2010.

"Insa" skirt from "Sewing Clothes Kids Love"

"Imke" shirt from "Sewing Clothes Kids Love"

More Girl Apron Sets (Available in my etsy store, http://www.sewdarla.etsy.com)

More Boy Apron Sets (Available in my etsy store, http://www.sewdarla.etsy.com)

There’s been more, but it’s mostly Halloween, and that’s a post for another day.


Back to School(ish) Sewing

Whew!  I don’t think I’ve ever gone this long without a post!  I’ve missed blogging, but other more important things were calling; namely, back-to-school chores.  School supplies, paperwork, meeting teachers, stressing out, basically all the things moms usually do in August.  Except this is my first time at it, so it’s taking me a while to learn the ropes.  And I have, of course, been sewing.  I’m finding that back-to-school is an excellent time to create.  And, because we only buy fair-labor clothing — and, increasingly, fair labor supplies — it’s a necessary time to create.

First off, my daughter, who is entering kindergarten this year, needed a lunch bag.  Inspired by the round-up of tutorials on Sew, Mama, Sew, I came up with this:

I would say that it’s closest to the lunch bag from The Long Thread, except I added a top flap and zipper.

I lined the inside with Insul-Bright in my first attempt at sewing with insulated batting.  Honestly, it wasn’t any different than sewing with conventional batting in any way that I could tell.  I simply quilted it onto wrong side of the lining material and then went about sewing the bag.  It’s good stuff, and I’ll definitely use it again. I love that it’s machine-washable, making my daughter’s sack laundry-safe.  The bag itself, however, is not my best work.  But, on a recent trip to the bookstore with my daughter, I read the book Ish by Peter Reynolds.  I can now say that while the above bag isn’t a perfect lunch sack, it is lunch sack-ish, and that’s good enough for me. I’d highly, highly recommend the book, by the way, especially if you or your children needs to learn that the creative process is a freeing process, not a confining, perfectionistic one.

Anyway, next I focused on re-usable baggies.

I used the bag full of zippers I found for twenty-five cents at a garage sale and went to town. They won’t work for wet stuff, but I think they’ll be stellar for dry foods. And they’re machine-washable and a fairly quick sew. Most importantly, they’re pretty.  If I know kindergartners, I know they appreciate pretty. I’m working on a tutorial for these right now, since they’re so fast and simple, so stay tuned if you think you might like to make some zippered re-usable baggies yourself.

Next up, a white t-shirt for my son’s first day of Pre-K.  I have no idea what they’re going to do with it, but it was on the supply list, so here it is, decent enough on the second attempt (the first one was way too big).  It’s not a perfect t-shirt, but It’s t-shirtish.  And white t-shirts are something you simply have to learn to make yourself or resign to paying more to get them from a fair-labor retailer since it’s impossible to find good white t-shirts at thrift stores or garage sales.  It makes sense, after all.  White tees are the first to gather irreversible stains.  They just don’t last long enough to become hand-me-downs.

And lastly, of course . . .

I had to make my sweet little daughter an outfit to wear on the first day of school.  I used the Miss Madeline dress pattern from The Handmade Dress, omitting the waistband and raising the hem about eight inches to give it a tunic length. I love The Handmade Dress; their patterns are simple and easy, perfect starting points for everyday dresses.  Their creator is a homeschooling mother of three, so you know that when you’re buying the patterns, you’re supporting a worthwhile enterprise.  The fabric that I used for the shirt is from a “Made Exclusively for JoAnn Fabrics” print that I got for $3.99 per yard, and the interlock for the leggings was part of an armful of knits I took home from a garage sale for $5.

My daughter loved her outfit, and she did wonderfully on her first day.  She was so excited to go to school, and she’s such a social little girl, that she went into her classroom, sat down, and watched me leave without a tear.  The same can’t be said for me, I’m afraid.  I bawled on and off throughout the day.

And after that experience, while I’m sitting here decompressing from the whirlwind of getting children ready to go to school, I want to say good luck and brightest blessings to all the moms and kids preparing for school to begin in the coming weeks.  Moms, you’re doing a good job.  Your significant others and your children probably don’t appreciate you or your work enough, but the peace and comfort you give your family with all that you do makes it possible for them to focus on learning.  And kids, how brave and wonderful you are, facing the challenges of a new school year armed with optimism, excitement, and new (or new to you) shoes.  I hope you all have a wonderful year!

No matter how one may think himself accomplished, when he sets out to learn a new language, science, or the bicycle, he has entered a new realm as truly as if he were a child newly born into the world.”  ~Frances Willard, How I Learned to Ride the Bicycle

Chaos. Everyday.

Four kids. Two parents. Everyday life. Stop in often for new updates, crafts we've been working on, and a journal of life with four kids age five and under.

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