Archive Page 2

“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? 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


One of my very favorite blogs and websites is Sew, Mama, Sew, a sort of collective of tutorials, pattern reviews, and information on all things sewing-related as well as an online fabric store. If you haven’t been there, definitely check it out.

That said, I’m pretty disappointed in a discussion that’s going on there right now on the subject of matching clothes for family members. You can read the comments here. The vast — and I do mean VAST — majority of the commenters say they would never dress their children in matching outfits (some words that crop up repeatedly are “creepy” and “tragic”) and that they themselves would never dress in clothes that match their children’s.

Well, I suppose you can tell from this . . .

this . . .

and awhile back, even before #4 was born (I was heavily pregnant in the picture), this . . .

. . . that I LIKE matchy-matchy. It’s one way that we celebrate holidays, and it’s one way that we spot each other in a crowd. There are, after all, a lot of us to keep an eye on.

But more than being offended by the opinions of strangers on the internet, I’m offended by people who think they can speak for other mothers, other parents, and other families. I really feel like ANY decision that a parent makes is between them and their children. Sure, I can say that matchy-matchy is okay for me, but I can’t say it works for you. And, likewise, no one can say that it’s wrong for me to dress my children in matching or coordinating outfits. A few commenters on Sew, Mama, Sew even go so far as to say that dressing children alike ignores their individuality. I personally have found that my children and I have PLENTY of individuality, and that nothing we wear will hide that fact. You know how a larger family tends to be louder than a small family, simply because its members speak up to be heard over the din? Well, personalities work the same way. My little munchkins, as small as they are, know who they are, are proud of who they are, and are open with who they are regardless of what they’re wearing.

And I like to think they’re a little proud of their clothes, too. I make a lot of them, and the rest of them are mostly used. But my children feel beautiful — or handsome, as the case may be, in what they wear. Yes, sometimes they match. And sometimes they don’t. But they are always comfortable, confident, and happy. And that’s really all that matters to me.

All those matching nay-sayers are also forgetting something very important — the individuality that is inherent in making your own and your children’s clothes and the uniqueness of the motivations behind doing so. My children might match, but at least my older kids know why we don’t buy from Walmart, Gymboree, Target, The Gap, etc., etc., etc. And they believe in making and making do as much as I do. My girls do have matching ruffle dresses, but they’re the only two ruffle dresses that look just like that on this earth; they’re not just two girls out of how many thousands wearing the same commercially-produced, non-union-labor clothes from The Children’s Place (no offense if your child is wearing said clothing, you know I’m just making a point). How’s that for individuality?

Well, moving on . . . do you have any opinion on the subject? Any pictures to share? Honestly, and I feel a bit embarrassed by this, it’s never occurred to me that someone might not like my kids’ matching outfits. Now I wonder exactly what people think of when they see us. It’s funny. Sometimes sewing is hard. And sometimes parenting is hard. But sewing AND parenting? It’s a double-whammy. 😉

PS — I put together a flickr set with more pics of my matchy-matchy family-wear, which you can view HERE if you’d like. Thanks for visiting!

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!

Home Again, Home Again

Well, I’m home from vacation, and I can’t say I’m overjoyed. We had such a wonderful time visiting the Texas State Aquarium, the Corpus Christi Museum of Science and History, the mall, the beach, and just spending time with family that I’m having trouble adjusting to normal life again.

Everyone’s favorite part, of course, was the beach. It was the first time my two- and one-year-olds had ever seen or stepped foot in the ocean, and they loved it. Here are a few gratuitous vacation photos for your viewing pleasure:

I was born on the gulf and grew up on the beach, and it was wonderful to see my children enjoying the same things I loved as a child. And that I still love today, for that matter. But now it’s back to everyday life on the high plains; as I said before, I’m feeling a little down after such a lovely trip. The dunes along the beach and the warm salty water have been replaced by mountains of laundry and soapy dishwater once again. But it IS nice to get back to my sewing machines. In case you’re wondering, I did get to indulge in a bit of crafting while on our trip. I’ll post more about that soon. 🙂

Giveaway Winner!

Thanks so much, everyone, for entering the giveaway and for doing those closet checks! It was amazing to see what everyone came up with. In case you’re wondering (and I know you are, right???), I did a closet check myself, and I found zero — yup, that’s right, “0,” zip, nada — items of commercially-made clothing that were produced in the United States. I do have maybe thirty items that were made lovingly in the U.S. by me. 🙂 I hope that, in the coming months, I can support more companies that do business in the U.S. or Canada or that employ unionized workers. It’s not easy, but it’s important for my family, for our economy, and for all of our safety, as some of you pointed out.

I was surprised by several of the things you all came up with out of your closets; first, many of you had a lot of U.S.-made clothing! That’s fantastic! Do you mind if I ask when you purchased most of it? It’s interesting for me to see the change in the clothing industry in the late 1990’s; before that, the vast majority of our clothes were made in America. Following NAFTA, however, garment producers moved overseas in droves, and I wonder now if we might actually be able to see that migration reflected in our very own closets. It’s really a reminder of how sweeping changes in industry affect everyone, and how changes at the most basic levels of production show up inside our own homes.

I was also reminded by several of you that buying items made in China or other developing countries can actually be unsafe. Dog food, children’s toys, McDonald’s cups; we’ve all seen the recalls on the news. Buying American (or Canadian) is, if nothing else, certainly safer, something we all need to keep in mind.

Finally, I got some serious warm fuzzies when I saw how many of you are making your own clothes. Way to go! I think that, for whatever reason you are doing it, that making your own stuff is so great. I hope your children, families, and friends appreciate how amazing you are for doing it.

Oh, and speaking of making your own stuff, the winner of the gift card is, according to . . .

Sarah C.!!!!

Sarah makes beautiful quilts, so check out her blog if you get a chance!

Sarah, expect an email from me today.

I hope you all will continue to think about your garment purchases even though there isn’t $25 in fabric on the line. One organization that will help you is the Alliance for American Manufacturing. Their Facebook page is a wealth of information and has links to their various blogs on items made in the U.S. Their feed will contain snippets from their blog posts as well as information on current economic and legislative policy. One of my favorite features is “Fashion Fridays,” a weekly update in which the AAM highlights a garment producer that manufactures in the United States. It’s great info. For example, did you know that Spanx are made in the USA? Whew, now I don’t have to give up on or try make my own shapewear. Life is good. 😉

I hope you all had a fantastic Fourth of July! We are currently visiting family that happen to live oh-so-close to the beach, so unless I get motivated to post some boring old vacation photos (well, boring to you, not so much to me), I’ll be scarce this week. Stay cool and buy American!

Get Thee to a Hobby Lobby!

Don’t walk, RUN to your nearest Hobby Lobby and pick up some of this . . .

. . . pre-ruffled knit fabric, now 50% off (was $13.99 US, now $7.00 US). The ruffle is built into the production of the fabric so that no one had to sew it themselves, in keeping with my anti-sweatshop stance, and it’s a lovely, casual fabric with a lot of stretch. AND they have it in pink, white, and black. The first thing I thought of when I saw it was this . . .

this . . .

and of course this . . .

I really couldn’t even wait twenty-four hours to make something from it. I used the technique for making a basic pillowcase dress, adding a jersey lining (since the ruffles are almost-just-might-be-but-not-quite see-through) and changing it up a little to accomodate the knit fabric. Freshly Picked has a good tutorial for pillowcase dresses. When you’re making one with your own fabric, rather than a pillowcase, you’ll need to sew the side seams and hem it yourself. If you’re using a knit, or that fabulous ruffle fabric, simply replace the bias tape with 2-inch strips of knit cut perpendicular to the grain, selvedge to selvedge (not on the bias as with woven fabrics); this makes a sort of thin ribbing. Iron it like you would bias tape, sew one side onto the front of your dress, right sides together and with raw edges even, stretching a little tiny bit as you go. Then, fold it over, pin, and topstitch through all layers, being careful to catch both the front and the back ribbing as you go. Voila!

I grabbed enough of the ruffle fabric to make my youngest a little dress as well. How cute will they be wearing their ruffles on vacation next week? Vacation?! Yikes! I’ve got WAY more sewing to do!


PS — If you haven’t entered my Fourth of July Giveaway (a $25 gift card to Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts), what are you waiting for?! You can still enter HERE.

Tuesday Treasures!

Time to show of some treasures! Did you find, make, or buy anything this week that came from a thrift store/garage sale, your own two hands, or a Made-in-the-USA vendor?

I made the garage sale circuit this weekend in search of a Christmas tree pole/stand to use to make a dress form, a la Threadbanger. I didn’t find one, but I did score some nice treasures. My friends will tell you that I’ve sworn off buying more fabric until I’ve used up more of what I have. However, I don’t think garage sale fabric counts. This week I found two yards of a yellow Robert Kaufman print called “Origami.” To me it looks like fireworks, so I used Simplicity 5581 to make some Fourth of July shirts for my boys.

It looks a little wonky in the pictures, since my son is holding it shut. I haven’t put the buttonholes or buttons on yet; I’m actually about to take all four of my kids to Jo-Ann’s to get some, God help me. 🙂

Apart from enough of that material to make two boys’ shirts, I found this at the same sale:

That print on the bottom is “Origami” in blue, and will hopefully become skirts for the girls if I can get it done before this weekend.

I discovered my final treasure at a “hoarder” garage sale on the way to church. You know those sales where you just can’t believe how much STUFF they have? I call those “hoarder” garage sales, and I love them. My oldest daughter picked out a Bratz sewing machine there, complete with a foot pedal and tiny little sewing kit. I know, I’m not terribly excited about the Bratz part, but I can always peel off the stickers if I decide I just can’t take it anymore.

So now you know what child labor looks like in my house. My daughter adores the little machine, and the little thing works decently. For her first project she made a little bag; she even picked out the fabric herself:

Well, that was my haul this week. Do you have anything to share? Last week I tried to use a linking widget for this feature, but I’ve found out since that wordpress does not allow/support/use/whatever certain link widgets. So, until I figure out how to get around that, feel free to show me any of your thrift/garage sale, homemade, or Made in the USA finds in the comments.

Thanks for visiting!

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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