Sunday, October 1, 2017

Sewing for Baby: Pack'n'Play Sheets, Changing Pad Covers, Boppy Cover, Highchair Pad, and Sleeved Bib

Babies. They bring such joy to our lives, and so many sewing projects!

(Plus they taste delicious. Don't you just want to eat them up? Nom nom nom...)

Prior to my progeny's arrival a few years back, I did what most pregnant women did and drove myself mad trying to mentally prepare for something that is basically impossible to prepare for. I nested like crazy, and in doing so perused every commercially available baby good that existed.

Look, I get it: when you're designing for the masses you have to go for mass appeal. This explains why most baby stuff is basic as duck. And by that I mean everything is covered in ducks. 

And to be fair there is some cute, unique baby stuff out there, just be prepared to spend all that money you were hoping to set aside to pay for college. I mean, daycare. 

To set the scene, this was in the Before time, back when my sewing skills were even more not great than they are now. The only sewing I'd been doing in the previous years was hemming curtains. 

There was definitely some cute stuff on Etsy, but even as a novice sewist I realized I these were projects I was capable of. I wasn't yet able to drive off-road and fashion patterns without guidance though, so The Google was indispensable.

Pack'n'Play Sheet

I started with the basics: bedding. We tried to keep our baby gear minimal, and one of the items we decided to go without was a crib. Our plan was to use the Pack'N'Play bassinet and then transition to a floor bed. 

Cute bedding was a must, especially since this P'n'P was going to be residing in the master bedroom for months.

I found some super adorable fabric by Michael Miller on (the white colorway doesn't appear to be available anymore, but there are melon and seafoam versions). I also recently used what was left from this project in the heart quilt I just finished quilting and blogged about here.

Michael Miller - Wee Wander Summer Ride

This project was pretty easy. I measured the "mattress" pad then added 4" on each side to determine what size rectangle to cut. Then I cut a 4"x4" square out of each corner and sewed a vertical seam to rejoin the edges.

Next I created a casing for thin elastic all along the edges, threaded the elastic through, and sewed the elastic several inches smaller than the size of the opening so it would draw tight under the mattress.

I could have done it without elastic but I envisioned late nights, soiled sheets, and sleep deprivation, so I wanted these to be as user friendly and secure as possible.

Sheets in play. This was when Babu started breaking out of her swaddle.

I also made a second one in another Michael Miller fabric that's no longer available

Project Success:     

Changing Pad Cover

I actually do remember the tutorial I used for this one and here it is. I had a contoured changing pad that one of our neighbors kindly gave us and so I wanted to make a cover that would fit snugly around the non-boxy shape.

Other than accounting for the contoured sides, the process was pretty similar to the crib sheet. 

This particular contoured changing pad cover was made as a gift for a family member who had a baby. I got smart and started taking pictures of the things I made. It uses another Michael Miller fabric (still available).

Here you can see what the back looks like with the elastic. This is what the back of the crib sheet looks like too. I think this was made out of a nice even yard with very little scraps left over. 

Project Success:     

Highchair Pad 

Another item we went a bit non-traditional with was a wooden highchair that transitions into a kids chair. The Hauck Alpha Chair came with these really, really unfortunate pads for the back and seat. Not only was the fabric tragic, it was inexplicably stained upon arrival. 

I used more of the Michael Miller zebra fabric on this. I cut off the old fabric and used it as a pattern to cut the new fabric. I added a zipper to one end so I could wash it without washing the batting inside, and I also reattached the plastic things on the straps.

For a while, I couldn't work up the energy to do the seat cover too because it was a weird shape. Eventually, once the babu started actually eating food, it proved impractical anyways and I ended up just throwing it out. It was much easier to just clean the wooden seat!

BONUS: I used the same fabric to make a little lumbar pillow for my nursing chair. Matchy matchy!

Project Success: 

Boppy Cover

I feel like I spent a lot of time thinking about this Boppy cover and then it was used for like a month. The Bop is definitely one of those things that captivated me during pregnancy and then ended up being only marginally useful.

We used the infant Boppy pillow really consistently for the first 3-4 months and then when little Babu started being more mobile and wanting to look around more and sit up we transitioned to the regular Boppy.

I used this tutorial from Vanilla Joy and found it really easy to follow. Where I misstepped was in the fabric choice. I chose a really pretty print from Spoonflower by Ivie Cloth Co. but I chose the silky faille. 

I wish I could remember why I chose it over the minky fabric, which would have been a better choice. I think it was something I agonized over and ultimately made the wrong choice on. It's a nice fabric except for 2 things:
  • It's really slippery, which makes it not ideal for something that you're propping your baby up on.
  • Apparently you can't iron it.
Ask me how I know you can't iron it...

The Spoonflower fabric is pretty dear, so I ordered a yard exactly and needed the entire thing for the cover. I go to iron one of the big pieces after cutting it out and it MELTED.

I didn't have enough fabric to cut another one, so I ended up taking a scrap and making a patch to cover the melted area. No pictures of that -- I guess I felt too much shame at the time. Now I'd gleefully photograph the crap out of it to share.

So here's Babu enjoying the silky Boppy during the blip in time she used it. The day after this I'm pretty sure she was pushing it around the floor when she straightened her legs or slipping down it because there was no friction to hold her up on it. This isn't the Boppy's fault.

(Another note about the Boppy: some people also use it for nursing. I always used the My Brest Friend [why isn't is BREAST!?] because it felt more secure, but if I had wanted to use this for nursing the fabric would, again, have been terrible given that it would just slip right off my lap and away from my body. That's bad for nursing.)

Project Success: 

Sleeved Bib

My mom saved this sleeved bib and gave it to me when I was pregnant. I think it was used by my older cousins, making this about 40 years old. 

Lest this encourage my mother to keep things because they might be useful someday, this actually proved useful. I do want to say though that I COULD have found a pattern for this online, thus saving someone or several someones from having to hold onto this for 40 years.

I cut this up and used it as a pattern for a newer version that might survive the washing machine without falling to tatters. Also the terry-cloth back of this was a little stained, as it had every right to be.

I ordered a beautiful dark purple pattern with unicorns on it. You know I love unicorns.

I had also ordered this pheasant print to go with it. The idea was I'd do the sleeves in the light purple and the bib part in the unicorns.

This was not to be.

Unfortunately, doesn't know how to track their inventory and informed me that the unicorn print was not available after I ordered it. They received a strongly-worded email that I've yet to receive a response from. (Reminder to self: follow up on email from 2 years ago.)

I was making this in preparation for Babu's big solid food debut at Thanksgiving with all our family so I'll admit, I was definitely making this bib into a much bigger production than was necessary, but that's just me being me.

I made it work, pulling another purple cotton print from my stash. I do still mourn for those unicorns though.

Here's my little cutie pie modeling the bib...

...and here she is showing it in use. Definitely a good choice on the peas, for contrast purposes.

Project Success:     

I have to say, having pretty baby things definitely brings me joy. I truly believe if you have to have something in your house, even temporarily (given the blip of time these things are used), that it should be something that you like to look at.

There are lots more baby projects to go, but that's all for tonight!

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Gimme Gimme More...Quilts

Gimme More Quilts, lyrics
Every time the kiddo goes down
Right into the sewing room I run
It's full of quilting cotton
I cut it up and sew it back together again
I'm sewing all night while there is no daylight
(I'll keep on quiltin')
(just keep on quiltin')
I'm going through thread when I should be abed
(My Brother's rockin')
(The stitches lockin')
But my mind keeps sayin':
Gimme, Gimme more
Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme more
Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme more
Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme more
Gimme, More
Gimme, Gimme, More....

Some people like pole dancing, and others like quilting. What can I say? I'm one of the latter.

Also, nobody enjoys pole dancing. It's degrading and ridiculous, and it wouldn't exist if we didn't live in a disgusting, sexist culture where women are just objects.

So anyways, I've been doing a lot of quilting. Quilting is so satisfying! I've never made a dud quilt. Oh, I may have to unstitch a little bit now and then, but it always works out. And quilting is definitely more of a flow activity because of all the repetitive sewing and cutting, unlike a garment where each step is pretty unique.

Here's a story of my latest quilt, and only my latest quilt, because my quilts each deserve their own post. 

I was putzing around my sewing room one night after work, looking for a project. I have plenty of options, in fact I had created a whole list of projects I should be working on. I created a mental kanban board of my projects and noted which ones were blocked by things like no batting, or waiting for an order of binding fabric to arrive. 

Other projects' blockers were more mental in nature. Like babu's Halloween costume, which I need a weekend for, and the king-size quiltstrosity that I committed myself to and needed a break from.

In looking for a project, I had lots of stash fabric to choose from. A few months ago I had ordered a bunch of Cool Scrap Packs from Hawthorne Threads. They were on sale for $6.99 (still are as of today) and so I indulged in like six....or seven of them.

My pretties, displayed in color groupings.

[I have a problem. OK? On Gretchen Rubin's Overbuyer/Underbuyer spectrum I'm 1050% Overbuyer. I just figured that I wanted enough to mix and match. It's like 2 yards of fabric for $7, which is insane! Insane, I tell you.]

There were definitely a few pieces in there that I wasn't a huge fan of, mostly because they didn't fit in with the rest of the scraps or my personal tastes. But overall I was really digging the selection -- it definitely included a lot of stuff I would never go out of my way to buy but that are really handy for quilting purposes and push me outside of my comfort zone.

I already completed one quilt top using the fabrics (sneak peak below)...

...and on the night in question, I was inspired to try a scrappier quilt than I normally create when I stumbled upon a pin for this gorgeous quilt on Pinterest.

What was really interesting about this quilt is that it didn't really focus on any particular pattern. All those white-background prints that I normally wouldn't know what to do with were actually perfect for this kind of a quilt.

I also pulled in a bunch of actual scraps I had leftover from previous projects since this project called for tiny 3" squares.

Night 1 was basically spent cutting. And cutting. And cutting. Because fo' realz, this quilt calls for 225 - 3" squares.

Just before heading off to bed, I threw some of my squares up on my design wall to get an idea of what it looked like and I was super pleased with how cute it looked. I know the gray and the purple stick out a little, but I liked how it broke things up and made the negative space areas look more pixellated. 

I kept working away on this quilt over the next few nights. Lots more time cutting. Lots. Then I spent a lot of time trying to make my arrangement really random, then I stood back, spent a lot of time looking at it, rearranging, etc.

What I watched: I caught up on "Z Nation" on Netflix throughout, and guys, George R. R. Martin makes a cameo!!

A note about my pictures: I know the colors look like crap. I need to up my photo game. But I do most of my sewing at night so I do most of my photo taking at night, and the overhead light in the room doesn't exactly make things look dewy or light and bright. Life is hard, I'm trying to get over it.

Above is my almost-final arrangement. I divided my sections into quilt blocks just to keep things neat.

And above is my final, sewn together quilt top.

Huzzah! I think it looks really pretty with all my cool blues and greens. I love the little pops of pink from the floral in there -- that one was a scrap from a quilt back on a previous project.

Now, if you'll recall these are 3" squares, so each final square was 2.5". 15 along each side is 37.5" square. That's not a big quilt. Almost as soon as I started cutting, I was like: 

...mostly because I knew this quilt was going to end up being a wall hanging vs. a bed or lap quilt. I briefly entertained the idea of adding a border around it to make it bigger, but it totally detracted from the scrappy look, and I was not into making 28 more blocks to surround the existing square.

Nonetheless, I'm very happy with how it turned out and I can't wait to quilt this and bind it because that's going to be the easy part! I'm thinking this will go in the master suite, over the bed. I need to decorate with my quilts more, because they are definitely going to start piling up as I continue to indulge in my quilt obsession.

Until next quilt,

Monday, August 28, 2017

Epic Halloween Costume Post

Ah Halloween. The time of year when everyone gets to make fun of young women who fall prey to the male gaze by dressing up as sexy-caterpillars, as if we're not all victims of the patriarchy and one cocoon away from The Yellow Wallpaper.

When I first had my beloved offspring, it occurred to me that it's a lot more fun to dress up an adorable, innocent child than my own mangy hide, and thus my appreciation for the holiday of Halloween was born like a phoenix from the ashes.

[HENCEFORTH LET IT BE KNOWN: For the purposes of this blog, I've decided to switch the moniker of my child from AAT/Above Average Toddler to "Babu," which was her nickname pre-birth.]

When Babu was a tiny, squiggly wiggly, pre-mobile infant and her first Halloween rolled around, her costume was obvious.

  • First of all, it was an homage to her super secret name. 
  • Second, it was basically a costume that would never work once she could walk so we had only one chance (unless she never learned to walk, in which case we'd have other problems). 
  • Third, apparently when I was a child and we would play hangman at restaurants on road trips, it was always easy to guess my seven-letter word: MERMAID.

I didn't buy anything to make this costume because I'm a home-decor fabric hoarder. I had recently picked up about 50 yards of upholstery-weight fabric at the Exeter Handkerchief Company during one of their big clearance sales. I had no purpose for most of it but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Most of it is still sitting in the closet of my sewing room, but that's a post for another day.

Long story short, I had some velvet and satin just sitting around, as well as miscellaneous ribbons and (for some reason) a purple netting-type fabric.

I grabbed a vaguely flesh-colored onesie and used some bonding tape to attach the velvet to the front in the style of a seashell bustier. Then I cut out a bunch of scalloped rows of the green-blue satin and sewed them on top of the fish tail front I had cut out. When that was complete I sewed the front and back of the tail together and added a little ribbon tie in the back to secure it on her, and then MacGyver'd on the purple netting to add a little pizzazz.

Here's our little mermaid on Halloween, ready to hit the town at a baby Halloween party:

And here's another because she was so adorbs:

For Halloween Part II, I was fully into sewing and was ready to tackle a more ambitious project.

Off I went to my only local fabric store to peruse the selection in the pattern books.

Along the way I noticed a terrifying trend in adult Halloween costumes. I'm not sure if they think there's a lot of amateur productions of Cats that need costumes or if I've just massively underestimated some adults' passion for Halloween.

Heck, I gotta admire the confidence of anyone who makes and wears one of these.

But on to the children's selection.

I considered the little unicorn in the upper right hand corner of this pic.

This page was just lacking in imagination. 


And then I saw it. A little fox!

So I procured the pattern along with some orange fleece. I originally ordered fleece in a mustard color that was all wrong for my little fox, but thankfully I have another project in mind for it this year so it wasn't a terrible waste.

Last fall we were living in an apartment that didn't even have a dining room table in it, so I made do with the kitchen peninsula. This was counter height so to reach my foot peddle I basically perched my bum on the edge of the stool and just accepted the back ache the next day.

I finished the hood and had to take a moment to get into the holiday spirit:

I had cut all the pieces one night after work, then one Saturday night I sewed the whole thing after Babu was asleep. Here it is complete:

Then, without letting my child try it on, I started freaking out that the legs were too long for my diminutive child, so I cut them shorter, to the length you see above. That was dumb because then it was waaaay too short.

I so silly.

So I added in a few new pieces in the leg area to add the length back in and all was well. ALL WAS WELL, OK?

Here's the back with her super cute little tail that I repositioned so she wouldn't step on it:

And here's the even more adorable front. Can't be a fox without some classic navy blue Converse sneakers either:

With Halloween II down, and III on the horizon, I'm feeling good about another fleecey costume. In fact, I've already picked it out and happen to have some fabric on hand that will work perfectly.

In other news, how did it get to be almost September already? It feels like just yesterday I put away my winter coat and snow boots, and now my Facebook feed is filled with kids doing their first days of school and whatnot. 

Le sigh. Circle of life, yada yada.