Made It: Upton Dress by Blaverry

I celebrated surviving my first 6 months at the university by taking my first vacation day since November. After nearly 13 years at the hospital, I was accustomed to having a sizable bank of days off at my disposal, and would frequently give myself a random Thursday free from work AND kids to just catch up on life. Housework, dental work, peace and quiet – mental health days. But my first months at the university were considered probationary, during which I could not take discretionary time off. May 16 was a little victory for me, six months in – I was ready for a day to myself.

But it didn’t involve housework (needed) or dental work (also needed). Instead, I made my first Blaverry dress.

Blaverry is a higher-end kids and tween pattern company that designs on-trend, boutiquey looks designed to raise the home sewist from “awww, you made that!” to “where did you get that?” It’s priced a little higher than the competition, but the owner’s slick website and gorgeous photos intrigued me. I downloaded her free pattern, the Zozo dress, a few weeks ago. In an unexpected Mother’s Day sale, I impulsively bought three more – Upton, Finn and Clara.

With a friend’s daughter in mind, I chose Upton for my first Blaverry project. Would it have been worth the full ($12) price?

I was a little confused when I printed the pattern pieces and noticed they were not of the no-trim variety that many designers brag about. Would I be sitting around snipping paper instead of fabric the first hour?

No. Because the clever designer made this happen:

upton-pattern-layout
The size 8 for my friend’s girl felt HUGE compared to the 2t-3t I am used to making!

Everything came together in delightful, tidy columns. I trimmed the bottom of each sheet only. And even with the trimming, it felt like it came together very quickly, as quickly as the no-trim kind. Maybe even faster, because there was only one edge to align in each join. That’s often the really tricky and time-consuming part, is getting all four sides matched perfectly. Thanks to the Blaverry designer’s foresight, that’s not an issue with this pattern. Just columns. I loved it.

tula-pink-shears
So pretty.

Everything was cut from 95/5/ cotton lycra from Diaper Sewing Supplies, a company I love for being local to me and for reasonably-priced, high quality knits and absorbent materials. This pretty feathers fabric looked lovely with my new Tula Pink shears.

Upton features a kicky back pleat and rounded front yoke, providing ample opportunity to jazz up the clean lines with a little punch – or a lot. I liked the look of more feathers, not less, so I used them on the sleeves, yoke, and pleat. The on-seam pockets are nice and roomy. Although the instructions don’t call for it, I think I will understitch mine the next time. They lay fine as they are but I wonder how they will do in the wash. This dress is a gift so I’ll have to follow up with the recipient’s mom.

The neck binding was where my sweet Poppy really shone. Damn, do I love that IDT feature. I clipped the binding to the neckline in just two places and was able to stretch it evenly around the circumference with no issues. The stretch was perfectly even all the way around, with just my halfway marker clips to guide me. Then I rolled the fabric forward, per the instructions, and topstitched with a double needle to finish the binding. The finished result is probably as close to RTW as I’ve ever gotten. I love this method and will be practicing it a LOT. It looks so much more professional than a band with topstitching.

I did diverge from the pattern instructions a bit on the sleeve finishing. Upton calls for a 1-inch pressed hem to be stitched up BEFORE the side seams. I prefer to hem in the round for a more finished look at the end of the sleeve, so I did this:

  • Serged sleeve ends
  • Pressed serged edge of sleeve in about 3/4″
  • Opened sleeves flat and serged side seams
  • Turned the pressed sleeve ends back in
  • Topstitched with double needle, catching the serged edge

I know you don’t HAVE to serge the raw edges of knit, especially good knit like I was working with, but it looks so much more finished on the inside. I followed the pattern exactly on the dress hem and did NOT serge, just did the twin needle topstitch. And it’s fine, but it alerted me to how much easier it is to have a nice, tidy topstitch when you have the serged edge to guide you underneath. It’s a lot easier to feel and keep your needle centered, since you’re basically sewing by touch. But hey, next dress, right?

I am extremely pleased with how Upton turned out and am excited to make more of these! It’s such a fast sew, from pattern layout to final stitch, and the yoke and pleat details give you lots of ways to customize your fabric choices. While the $12 price was a little off-putting at first, in hindsight I’d say it would have been worth the full price. Other girls’ dress patterns are $9 or $10, so the difference is actually pretty small. So many girls’ pattern choices are full of things I dislike – lots of ruffles, lots of closures, a peasant look. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with the Blaverry designer on Facebook, and I like her general style and they way she dresses her own girl. There’s not a Blaverry pattern I wouldn’t put on my kid, and the lines are great so I can keep these as they get older and might not be so down with mom wanting to make all their stuff.

I call it an investment.

The Very Perfect Quilt Binding

Posting the photo of my friend’s baby on the quilt I made reminded me – something happened during the making of that quilt that I need to capture and never forget.

In February, I was working on the quilt and anxious to have it ready in time for my friend’s baby shower. While it had been a long time since I’d made a quilt, I cut my teeth on quilting at a very young age thanks to my mom, and I was confident it would turn out great.

But you know, life. Kids. Needs.

I was getting down to the wire and the quilt still needed finishwork the day before the party. I had decided to pass on the self-binding in the interest of time, and grabbed a few yards of premade bias binding from JoAnn. I snipped the last of the quilting threads, squared my edges, and got to work pinning.

Something looked a little off, but I couldn’t put my finger on it and I was already behind, so against by better judgment I started to sew anyway.* About a foot and a half down the side of the quilt I looked back… my decorative stitches weren’t catching the edge of the binding, and the loose part was flipping upward.

Seam ripper.

I re-pinned and started over, positioning my fabric better and watching the needle draw neat lines along the bias edge. Pegged the corner to turn, rotated my fabric and whoops – I hadn’t caught the bottom edge.

Seam ripper, the whole side. And over the monitor, one of the girls started to cry.

I walked down the hall, sighing deeply, incredibly frustrated with myself and my total inability to do something as basic as bind a freaking quilt. In the girls’ room, Marigold was crying because she’d lost her binky. I found the stupid thing and gave it back; she held up her arms.

“Mama rock.”

I picked her up.

“My cat-pillar,” she said, pointing to her blanket. My mom made the girls these lovely blankets with fabric from the Very Hungry Caterpillar collection, and they are adorable. It’s one of the girls’ favorite stories before bed, and they like to point out all the foods on their blankets to match the telling of the story.

I picked up the blanket and laid it over both of us as we settled in the chair.

On Monday, he ate through one apple…

A few minutes, I thought, a few minutes of rocking and she’ll go back down and I can finish picking out the stitches and then I need to just look up a stupid quilt binding tutorial and get this done without fancy decorative stitches, just plain straight lines. In the blue glow of the nightlight, I fingered the binding on the quilt my mom made for Marigold.

On Tuesday, he ate through two pears…

The binding was made from the same fabrics she used for the piecing. The stitches were invisible, handpicked, perfect. My mom is such an artist. My heart sank a little bit.

With Marigold back in bed, I resumed my work. I found a tutorial that was a nice refresher on binding basics and knuckled down.

On Wednesday, he ate through three plums…

Finally, I had the storebought bias applied neatly with straight lines and tidy mitered corners. The quilt was done, ready to be washed in the morning for the baby shower in the afternoon. I got into bed.

On Thursday, he ate through four strawberries…

The quilt was done, and it was fine, but it wasn’t what I’d wanted to do. I felt like I’d failed, trying to do the decorative stitch binding and making such a tangle of it. Of course the baby would never know the difference, but baby blankets are special. They should be just right. You never know what a child will form an attachment to and carry around and love so hard it falls apart – like my own baby blanket, still in my bed at nearly thirty-five years of age, that I reached for at that moment.

On Friday, he ate through five oranges…

My own blanket – my Blankie – was made by my great grandmother. It was originally white cotton with farm animals done in redwork embroidery. Now it’s a terribly dingy gray and most of the original stitching and fabric have disintegrated into unidentifiable blobs. When I was about eight years old, my mom performed major reconstructive surgery on Blankie, applying an entirely new back and binding and darning over all the places when my snuggles had worn the fabric thin. The result was fantastic at the time, but even those pieces have been battered and worn as Blankie moved from home to college, a series of apartments, and finally to this home.

One piece of chocolate cake, one ice cream cone, one pickle, one slice of Swiss cheese, one slice of salami, one lollipop, one piece of cherry pie…

I sat up in bed and flicked on the light to look at the binding.

The Blankie-saving binding she did when I was eight, when she was about the same age as I am now, was done with the exact same method I’d used to apply the binding to the baby quilt just an hour before. It was simple, straight stitches visible on both sides of the fabric. I scanned the length of it and there were even a few places where the seam wobbled a little, an uneven distance from the edge of what I now saw was just a plain storebought binding like mine.

It had done everything I needed – that binding saved and preserved my treasured Blankie. It was perfect. It had been perfect all along.

There’s a reminder in there, stitched in by my mother, who was herself still figuring out so much as a mom and as a sewist:

Be gentle with yourself. You’re still learning.

very-hungry-quilt

 


* Yeah, don’t do that. It never ends well.

 

NO ICE FOR YOU

“Do you want water or milk with dinner?”

“Water!” “I want water!”

I pour two waters.

“I want ice in water.”

I add two ice cubes. “Do you want ice?” I ask Marigold.

“No like-a ice.”

Juniper gets ice water, Marigold gets plain, exactly as they specified.

Wails.

“Want-a ice Mommy! One-two!”

I pry two more cubes from the reticent tray – the machine has been broken forever – plop them in and return the cup to Marigold. “One-two ice cubes,” I say. Mental note: the freezer door isn’t shutting securely without a shove, must fix or risk defrosting.

We go to the table for dinner.

“No like-a ice,” says Marigold after a few sips.

“I am going to put your ice down the sink and you will not get it back,” I say to her. “Look at me. Do you understand? I am throwing away the ice and I will bring back your water.”

She nods. I take her cup, dump it, refill with tap water and return it to her. She chugs it gladly.

“No take-a my ice, Mommy,” Juniper frowns at me.

“Didn’t plan on it,” I say, and attempt to eat the food I cooked while it’s still lukewarm.

Juniper pushes her cup away and starts to whine.

“Words, Juniper. Use them.”

Whiiiiiiine.

“Juniper, how can I help you?”

“No…. no ice!”

“I hear you saying you don’t want ice in your cup. Is that right?”

She nods. “I am going to take your cup to the sink and throw away the ice and bring back your water, okay?”

Nod.

I dump it, splash in some more water, and plop it unceremoniously in front of her. Now, for a bite of –

“WAAAAAAHHHH! Mommy take-a my ice!”

“Oh for pete’s sake.” I repair to the kitchen, pluck one of the ice cubes still clinging to the sink, and drop it back in Juniper’s cup. “There’s your ice.”

“No mommy! One-two ice!”

Look, kid. I do my very best to respect you as a human with preferences and nuances and particular pain tolerances. I know you don’t like when your sock sits wrong on your toes or when the leg of your pants gets caught on the arch of your foot when you’re getting dressed. I work to fix these things rapidly because I know they make you physically uncomfortable. I know you like to choose your own clothing, so I let you wear anything weather-appropriate to empower you to make choices. I love you and I will make many accommodations for your wants and comforts.

But words have meaning, and though you are small, I know you understand them. At some point we draw the line and say it:

“You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit.”

She threw a fit.

I took the cup and dumped the whole thing.

 

Marigold and the Roid Rage

On Saturday afternoon, I visited an old friend from college who just had her first baby a few weeks ago. We’re the later bloomers of our class – most of our former classmates have kids in grade school or older now – so it was such a joy to spend time with her and chit-chat about poop and spitty messes, the particular nuances of working motherhood when one is well-established in one’s career, and so on. We took baby for a little ride to a row of secondhand shops and did some thrifting. She’s such a tiny, tidy little package I just held her in one arm, cuddled up to my chest, so her mama could shop hands free.

baby-on-quilt
MADE IT: The fabric is Riley Blake Woodland, and I just got a fat quarter pack that I cut into strips and pieced.

Isn’t she delightfully teeny? I normally don’t get all gushy over babies – even my own, really – but she was so very sweet and belongs to one of the sweetest couples I know who waited so long for her. It made me very happy.

That’s the first quilt I made in a long time (quilting is not my forte, as my mom is uniquely gifted and keeps us all in quilts anyway) and I was so tickled at how it turned out. Nothing fancy, but it did inspire me to try more quilting again in the future – making a quilt is like making a lovely, giant puzzle. Poppy has all these fun features for free-motion embroidery and decorative stitching, so we’ll have to set aside some time to try that out.

When I headed home from my visit, I was suffering from a curious case of baby fever – very unusual for me, as we long ago decided that the twins were our complete family and we would not have any more. But shopping with the other baby just filled me with these peculiar thoughts, about how EASY it would be if we had just one more, how SIMPLE it would be to wear just one baby and get things done, how CHEAP it would be since we have all the stuff already, how PEACEFUL with only one newborn to cuddle…

I was on the verge of asking Dan to reconsider when I got home. There was noise in the nursery – naptime was over and I was there just in time to get the girls up.

OH MY GOD.

A few weeks ago, we took the crib rails off and gave the girls a little freedom, expecting we’d have to do some work to get them to stay in their beds. It was something of a necessity, as they are now big enough to fling themselves ungracefully (and dangerously) over the rails. They had been doing okay with the new situation – Juniper especially, the girl loves her sleep – but Marigold was struggling to keep herself reined in. We’ve pretty much emptied the nursery in preparation to move their room to another part of the house, so we figured she could just bounce off the walls of the empty room and not wreak too much havoc.

Let me repeat. OH MY GOD.

“Mommy, I lotion!” said Marigold proudly, showing me her arms and legs. But it wasn’t lotion, it was caked on her like a paste, gunky like a diaper cream, which would be hell to get off but…

Juniper just shook her head and pointed at her sister. “No no.”

I yanked the tube out of her hands and shrieked. I grabbed her and hauled her to the bathroom, stripped her to her diaper and began scrubbing with a washcloth and hand soap.

When Marigold was a newborn, she was diagnosed with a small labial adhesion. It’s a not-uncommon condition for little girls, especially preemies, and doesn’t require much work to fix. Some people opt to leave it to potentially resolve on its own, but the untreated condition can lead to issues with cleaning, UTIs and other bacterial infections, which are no joke in an infant who can’t tell you what hurts. So we decided to do the treatment – a teeny-tiny dab of a certain cream on the spot every day for a few weeks till the adhesion dissolved.

Marigold was covering herself in concentrated estrogen.

As soon as I got her sufficiently cleaned, I hit Google – could one overdose on this stuff? Should I call poison control? Would she turn into a werewolf? Mostly satisfied that there was no evidence of any bizarre or scary side effects, I began peppering Dan with rhetorical questions.

“How did she get this?”

“Dunno.”

“Do you know how long it’s been since we even used this?”

“Dunno.”

“Two and a half years, it’s been YEARS. It was a house ago, why did we even move this?”

“Dunno.”

“Where was it in the closet? How could she reach anything but the books and toys?”

I wasn’t even really asking him, he just happened to be there – lucky guy.

Marigold had a crazy evening. It might have just been normal toddler crazy, but she was a full-on drama queen: up and down, rage and snuggles, pouts and tears, all-around LOUD. Good lord, I thought, how much of that stuff did she absorb? Should I have used a different soap? A loofah?

“How long was she up before I went in there?” I asked in Dan’s direction, trying to calculate the length of exposure and the approximate area of skin covered, wondering for the dozenth time if I should call the doctor.

He grunted.

Anyway, she’s fine. But it just goes to show you, you can THINK you’ve got things all put away, or thrown away, or locked up, safe and sound – but there can always be something. Be gentle with one another’s mistakes.

 

Made It: Amsterdam All-Weather Coat

Last week I had the opportunity to be a pattern tester for Rebecca Page of “Mummykins & Me” as she prepared a new ladies’ coat pattern for release. The Amsterdam All-Weather Coat features princess seams for a smooth, tailored silhouette, and a bunch of accent options to dress it up or keep it simple. With the button loops and shoulder accents in place it has an almost militaristic vibe (in an old-school marching band kind of way, not like you’re going to go blow people up with big bombs). But, since I chose a pretty busy fabric for my outer, I decided to keep it simple and focus on the construction.

There’s a matching kids version available too, more unisex in style (no princess seams) and with patch pockets instead of on-seam pockets like mine. The website has lots of pics of the amazing work the kids’ pattern testers did, along with photos of the ladies version with other options and a range of sizes.

Options I used: Shoulder contrast, elastic button loops

Options I skipped: Back belt, sleeve loops, fabric button loops

Size tested: Ladies XS, no alterations

amsterdam-coat-front3I signed up for pattern testing noting my skills as “advanced beginner” because I’ve been sewing for nearly thirty years and I can handle my shiz, but I’m not super-fast and a lot of garment construction techniques are new to me. Plus, it was my first big project with Poppy, and in our honeymoon phase I thought we still might be working out the kinks.

This is not a pattern for someone who wants to whip up a quick jacket for unexpected cool weather. But it IS a pattern for the advanced beginner who’s ready to level up skills and techniques in garment construction. Grab it while it’s on sale now and take your time. Make a muslin first (I did!) to check the fit and to practice setting in the sleeves and getting tidy princess seams. This is especially important on a tailored coat like this – a bustier lady than I, with my same waist and hip measurements, would be happier with a size up. Your muslin WILL feel big because there’s an allowance around the whole thing to accommodate the turning you’ll do with the lining. Focus on getting the shoulder seam placed correctly and the sleeves the correct length, and line up the button markings on the front pieces to feel what it will be like when buttoned.

With any fully-lined piece, it looks like more and more of a hot mess the further you get because so many ugly seams are showing. Seam allowances fraying all over the place. Press, fold, press again – ARGH. When you’re used to working on a serger with tidy overlocked edges, it feels so yucky to have all those pieces just hanging out there. I confess, although the pattern didn’t call for it, I overlocked the seams where I set in the sleeves. With the shoulder pieces and the linings and all that coming together it just felt so bulky.

But fraying seam allowances aside, when you turn the whole thing right side out, it just gets awesome. You made a coat! A whole coat! Topstitching with Poppy’s IDT and blind hem foot was an absolute joy, so tidy and perfectly spaced. We are going to be the best of friends.

I’m probably going to switch out the buttons I chose – busy, detailed buttons on busy prints just get lost. I’ll find another project to show off the compass buttons and replace these with plain navy to go with the solid navy shoulder contrast. Then I’ll call it done.

Go to Rebecca-Page.com and grab the ladies and kids patterns on sale for a limited time.