Archive for the 'American-made clothing' Category

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!

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

Freezer-Paper Stenciling

I’ve been doing some freezer-paper stenciling. Have you? If you haven’t given it a go yet, you should!

I’ve been focusing on “boy” designs since, let’s face it, there really isn’t much to do for boys except dress them in clothes that they love. Which is kind of a welcome change from dressing my girls in clothes that I love.

I made these shirts on my vacation; my mother-in-law and I had so much fun with them! The process is unbelievably simple. If you’d like to try it, check out the Freezer-Paper Stenciling Tutorial over at Made.

The first shirt was for my 2-year-old, who, as you all know, is completely, utterly, wholeheartedly obsessed with Monster trucks.

The second shirt was made from a picture of a ’72 Ford pickup, the vehicle my husband drove as a youngster. I was hoping to save this shirt for a little longer so it’d still be nice for school, but I caught my son in the coat closet one day with his head and one arm inside and a guilty look on his face. I supposed then that if he wanted to wear it bad enough to smuggle it into the coat closet, he could go ahead and wear it.

This final shirt was made especially for my four-year-old. Can you tell what it is? Here’s a close-up . . .

I love this shirt. Not only because my son adores it, but also because it reminds me that sewing/stenciling/crafting doesn’t have to be about embroidered fawns and shirring, and that blogging doesn’t have to be about pictures of homemade cookies and curly-haired blond children in vintage-y clothes and on retro furniture. Sometimes it’s about making something that someone else is going to absolutely love, something that’s just a little bit playful and tongue-in-cheek, and then sharing it with everyone else. Speaking of sharing, does anyone in the Texas Panhandle have a working scanner? I’d love to scan in the stencils so that they’re available to anyone who wants them, but alas, unless I break down and head to Fedex (remember when they were Kinko’s?), I’m stuck without a way to get the finished designs into the computer.

SWAP — Trees and Birdies Tunic

It’s been a super busy week for me — anyone else getting ready to send their kids to school? I’ve been getting back to my “SWAP” — sewing with a purpose — focusing mainly on school clothes. I know that it isn’t entirely a necessity like pants and t-shirts are, but this “Emma” tunic from Ottobre 04/2010 just called to me:

I found the fabric at Joann’s in the juvenile apparel section. It’s 100% cotton, but it’s very thick, almost a bottom-weight or a light canvas (you know, like stuff you could use to make pants?). I thought it would be perfect to pull over a t-shirt on the cooler fall mornings.

I love the print. Oh, how I love the print. It’s not designer or anything; just one of those made-exclusively-for-JoAnn’s-Fabrics designs.

The binding is designer — although I can’t remember which one, since the selvedge edge of my 1/4 yard piece didn’t have any writing. I saw it on the quilting fabrics wall and stopped looking for anything else; I thought it was perfect. It’s applied just like bias binding; I just cut the pieces so that the squares would fall in line at just the right spot.

I adore these pockets; they’re such classic Ottobre. Trust me, once you go Finnish, you’ll never go back. 😉 Their designs are really all about the details, so that when your garment is done, it doesn’t look homemade, but it does look stylish and modern.

So there you have it. More school clothes for my little one. Now on to some amazing corduroy that’s calling my — er, my daughter’s — name. Don’t you just love sewing for fall?

“Hope” Dress for Me

I know, with all the companies and website I’ve been talking about lately, you’re wondering when I’m going to get back to the crafty stuff. I’ve been wondering that some myself. But last night, after putting together the book summary (which somehow I AM going to get up on here today), I sat back down at the sewing machines, and it felt great.

I’ve been wanting to make the the Hope Wrap Dress, a free pattern over at Burdastyle, but I haven’t been willing to shell out the money for some good-quality stretch knit. But then I found some wine-colored spandex knit for $4 a yard on the clearance aisle at JoAnn’s last week.

The dress took only four hours . . .

. . . although it would’ve taken less if I had chosen regular jersey.

I love the way it turned out, though. I like the thin ties and the 3/4 length sleeves. And I love that it cost me only $8. I think it will be perfect for this fall.

The dress pattern is only available from Burdastyle in size 34, but I think you could alter it without too much trouble. If you don’t want to worry about grading the free pattern, Butterick 5030 has a style option that is almost exactly like the “Hope” dress.

Happy sewing, everyone!

We care.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot, especially since I started reading Threads (book update to come tomorrow). The global manufacturing industry is a massive entity, with massive problems. How have its transgressions gone this far? Why do we let sweatshops flourish? Why do we accept child labor — even child slavery — under any circumstances? How can our government just stand by as our country hemorrhages manufacturing jobs? In the past, I believed that most consumers just don’t know that so much of what they’re buying was produced in sweatshops that degrade their workers as well as the environment. Other shoppers, I thought, know what they’re buying, but ignore it because fair labor is such a huge, unsettling issue and sweatshops seem far removed from our daily lives. Some know and just can’t afford to make fair-labor commodities a priority. After all, clothing from Walmart isn’t ethical — but it sure is cheap. In short I thought that most consumers, for one reason or another, choose inexpensive products over anything else.

But then I read the following comment on a website that rates companies according to their labor practices: “If you think the American and British consumers do not care about this issue, you are wrong.”

And I know it’s strange, but after reading that comment it occurred to me that I myself was wrong. Up until now, I’ve thought that we can’t do much more than choose not to support sweatshop labor on an individual basis, so that at best we could satisfy our own consciences. I thought that this was a small movement, a shot in the dark, a kind of financial boxing at windmills. But that’s not true. Consumers as a whole do care. We care a lot. And we’re going to make a difference against the giant manufacturing corporations. Boycotting companies that use sweatshops is a growing movement. Political candidates are realizing that labor and product standards in manufacturing and preserving domestic manufacturing jobs are important issues and that we, the voters, are paying close attention to them. As a nation, as consumers, and as humans, we care and want to make a difference. I really believe that, given the chance, most people would choose to buy a product from a company that treats its employees with respect. Who wouldn’t? Everyone who makes that kind of choice, everyone who avoids Walmart and chooses instead to make a garment, or buy from a fair-labor company, or visit a local thrift store, even for only one or two items, is an instrument of change. Unfair labor practices are the norm right now. But it’s not going to stay that way, because our dollars, and our choices, carry a massive amount of power. For a long time I thought that our largest corporations are built on sweatshop labor, but I see now how untrue that is; our biggest companies are built on money. Our money. They produce for us, and they listen to us.

So start talking. Remember that, when you shop, you’re not just making a purchase, you’re making a statement. Tell Walmart and Gap and Hanes that you’re not willing to accept sweatshop labor. They’ll hear you. Vote for representatives who support overhauling manufacturing in the United States as well as the developing world. Talk to everyone who will listen about what they’re buying and how it was made. Ask the store associates where their products come from; most of the time, they don’t know what that “made in China” label really means. Tell your friends about fair-labor companies. Start conversations. Make a difference. Care.

Oh, and that website? Free2work.org. They rate all our favorite companies according to their labor practices. Their “Score Cards” are detailed and dismaying, but incredibly useful. Check it out, and join in the fight, as Free2Work says, to “End Global Slavery.”

Maggie’s Functional Organics

Oh, the search for fair-labor socks. It’s a long and arduous one, I assure you. I suppose I could get around it by simply making my own socks — except I know nothing about knitting. I wouldn’t even know where to start. And from the research I’ve done on the subject, knitting socks looks really, really hard.

Enter my husband, my knight in shining armor, who found

Maggie’s Functional Organics one day while I was at the mall desperately trying to find some children’s socks that weren’t made in China.

Now, after spending several hours perusing their website and ordering socks for my children for school next year, I’m in love with Maggie’s. When it comes to organic, hyper-allergenic, and ethical clothing, these people are meticulous. Take a look at the multi-page pdf of their Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about what’s in their clothing. And take some time to read all about their Fair-Labor practices. Scroll down to the bottom of the page to find links to picture of the people and facilities that their company employs, including their growers, spinners, knitters, sewers, and screen-printers.

Now the big question; this company is unmistakeably Organic and fair labor. So how are their prices? Well, they’re decent. Yes, they’re more expensive than Walmart. An adult pair of socks is $8 and a single pair of youth socks is $6. However, they do sell tri-packs and six-packs for slightly less, and they also offer irregular packs, which are around half of regular price. They also offer clothing, which I found to be extremely reasonable. Here’s what I picked out . . .

Youth socks for my kids . . .

I actually love that they’re unisex since my three older children all share the same size socks.

A Criss-Cross 3/4 sleeve tee for yours truly (only $22 from the outlet section of the website) . . .

And, for my littlest one, because tie-dye socks look fabulous on tiny baby feet (trust me, I speak from experience) . . .

These are available for $10, in case you’re keeping track.

Maggie’s has a number of items I think I might be coming back to order as time passes; white t-shirts for my husband, tights for my 5-year-old, and, maybe closer to Christmas, a few of these . . .


Sock monkeys! It’s extremely difficult to find fair-labor toys, and these are organic, too. What really caught my eye, though, is that they’re machine washable. Have you ever tried to clean four children’s stuffed toys after a stomach flu has made it through the house? Yeah, it’s gross, I know, but machine wash-ability is absolutely vital in our household.

Speaking of fair-labor toys, that’s my next big quest. For the last few years, Etsy has made it easier to find fair-labor toys and children’s products, but the recent Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act is making it harder for small-scale toy-makers to stay in business. If you have any information or have found a source for fair-labor toys, please let me know. My addiction to toys is second only to my addiction to fabric, and, as of this post, there’s only five months of Christmas shopping left. 🙂

Letter Tee Tutorial (Finally!)

It’s about time! I’ve been promising to do this tutorial for awhile, and I know you’ve been waiting with baited breath, right?!? All this talk of coordinated family-members lit a fire under me, so here it is, the Letter Tee Tutorial. I know this might look intimidating, but it’s not hard. Do NOT be afraid of knits. When it comes to making a simple tee-shirt — which this is, essentially, along with some applique thrown in — knits are really very easy to work with. It does take a little practice, and a little nerve, but you can do it. I wrote this tutorial with the beginner in mind; if you don’t know how to make a ribbed collar, you will. If you don’t know how to put together a basic tee shirt, you will. And if you don’t know how to use paper-backed fusible webbing, you will. So take a breath, take your time, and enjoy.

Click here for the Letter Tee Tutorial

Independence Day!

I know I’m a little late in posting this, but since we did just get home from vacation, I hope you’ll forgive me.

Here are my babies, dressed up for church on the Fourth. I found all of the “fireworks” fabric — actually, two versions of Robert Kaufman’s “Origami,” at a garage sale along with several yards of other fabrics for $3 a week before the Fourth. I don’t know what it’s like everywhere else, but around here a lot of garage sales have fabric, and I LOVE it.

I believe I’ve previously posted that the boys’ shirts were made from Simplicity 5581, which I DON’T recommend (try Simplicity 3856 instead if you are sewing for a small child) because of problems with both the collar patterns and instructions. I feel like I’ve made enough little button-down shirts at this point to know when a pattern is just flat-out printed wrong and when instructions are far more confusing than they need to be. Anyway, moving on . . .

The girls’ skirts are just your basic skirts with elastic casings and some rickrack on the bottom to liven them up. I did make them reversible — my oldest’s has a floral JoAnn print on the other side and my youngest’s has a retro dot pattern from Michael Miller — so that they could wear them year-round rather than only on the Fourth.

So, that’s that. The fourth of July has come and gone (is it just me, or is this Summer going by FAST?) and I hope you had a good one!


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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