Monday, November 30, 2015

The Caroling Costume!

Not too long ago, my sister was hired onto a professional Christmas caroling company.  She was in need of a specially made Dickensian-style costume and she needed it fast.  For some reason she thought this was something that I could do and for some reason I said yes but with some conditions.  We agreed on trading services (costume for graphic work, coming soon!) and decided that we needed to pull in the big guns - we called Mimi.
Our Mimi is quite the amazing woman, in so many ways.  She's 88 years old but you wouldn't think she's a day over 70.  She raised my father and his two brothers for which she deserves multiple medals!  Her style is enviable and her eye for decorating is on point.  Mimi has sewn for as long as I can remember.  In fact, before I started sewing but wanted things changed up, I'd take them to Mimi and she'd fix them up without blinking an eye.  I once gave her a bag of scarves that I dreamt would make a beautiful skirt and she made it happen.  When I spent time in India, I brought back fabric for her and she made a shirt that I still covet.  For my 18th birthday, she showed up with at least 10 handmade garments to add to my closet.  It was amazing.  She is amazing.

So I gave Mimi a ring and to my elation she was in.  I'm not sure she quite knew what she was getting herself into, though!  For many years of her life, she lived in a smaller Oklahoma town and volunteered with the community playhouse where she would alter costumes for the actors.  I LOVED spending time at the theater with her and seeing the costumes come to life thanks to her work.  I'm filled with sewing memories of Mimi but I had never sewn with her prior to this project.  I was thrilled to finally have that opportunity.
Meanwhile, Afton and I were busy planning what the costume would look like.  She found a pattern on Ebay that she had to have approved by the director and we sourced our fabrics at Joann's.  We needed a LARGE amount of fabric so I knew I could use a combination of coupons and their sales to cut down on the costs and Af was able to see the potential fabrics in person at her local Joann's.  It just made sense.  We settled on a polyester 'suede cloth' that looks satin-y on one side and suede-y on the other, giving us many different texture options.  Thankfully, it was easy to sew with too.  It took a bit to decide upon and gather everything up that we needed.  We were finally as ready as we could be.
We decided to set up shop at Mimi's apartment.  It was great not to have to fully clean up my workspace every evening (no kittens and no toddlers!) and immediately get back to work.  We needed every moment we could to work.  Did I mention that we had a two week deadline to get this shipped to Afton?  That added a bit of a stressful element but we did it!  For twelve days straight, we both used every spare moment we had to complete the costume.  I did my best to keep track of our hours and, if my records are correct, we clocked over 100 hours of work, much of it hand sewing.  The pattern included approximately 50 pieces (including lining and interfacing) so cutting alone took forever.  The end result included one (complex) jacket, two detached sleeves, a dickey collar, a satchel, and an enormous skirt.
We started work right before finals week at school so life was a little crazy for me during that time.  What was nice about that though was that I was able to stitch some in class while my students were taking their tests!  I also did some stitching in a board meeting and constantly at home.  Every little bit of trim you see was meticulously hand-stitched on.  I'm not certain my hands have recovered yet, two weeks later.

If I wasn't in school or in a meeting, I was at Mimi's sewing.  Often I had Rio with me but there were a few days that it was just myself and Mimi.  One evening, Rio and I decided to stay the evening which was quite the experience (hello, cranky kiddo!) but wonderfully memorable.  The conversations we shared, the laughs we produced, the moments we created, and the memories we formed were priceless and I'll forever cherish them.  Definitely the highlight of making this garment for my sister was sharing it all with Mimi and Rio.
In regards to the dress, it was a challenge but one that I welcomed!  This pattern was a bit more complex than anything I'd completed before, to say the least.  Boning?  Check.  Casement pleats?  Check.  A million buttons?  Check.  You get the picture.  Everything was a challenge.  But we did it and we're proud of it!  This project absolutely consumed me.  I literally dreamt about it, it was the only thing I could talk about, and my mind was constantly thinking about how we would get through the next step.  I read that pattern more times than I care to count.  There are only a few things that I would have done differently which all involve the skirt.  Not having Afton nearby for fittings made things a little challenging as well but we managed.  In the end, she had to have the skirt taken in just a bit since she opted to wear a petticoat instead of a hoop skirt underneath.  That sucker was long!  Now she just needs a pin to finish up her collar and she's good to go!  I believe she may scallop the bottom of the skirt just a bit to shorten it just a tad more and to give it more 'embellishments' which the director is allllllll about.  Also, the bonnet?  Afton made that!
So would I do this again?  Oh yes.  This dress gave me the confidence that I can make anything if I at least try!  Seeing it moving and conveying the feeling that we set out to create was amazing.  I am all about costumes, if you couldn't tell already.  Bring them on!

Monday, November 23, 2015

Rio's Kitty Quilt

I've only made Rio one quilt before - the first one I ever made!  It was high time that I made another for her and I finally was able to mark it off the list.
When I finished up my first paper-piecing project, I knew I wanted my next to be a cat pattern, naturally.  After some quality time with Google, I came across this 'Whiskers' pattern which looked like something I could manage and was cute so I printed it off! The pattern for the cats was quite simple once I was able to understand the pattern.  There were a few discrepancies and not enough explanation for a novice like myself but after much head scratching and seam ripping, I figured things out.
The cats are cute, yes, but my favorite part of this quilt is the fabric the cats are made of, without a doubt.  A while back I played around with printing some of my mom's paintings onto fabric through Spoonflower.  A bit after that, I decided to start scanning some of Rio's paintings and had one of them printed up.  (I will be doing that again and again and again in the future!) The center kitty is made from Rio's fabric and the two outer kitties are made from scraps of my mom's fabrics.  LOVE!
The striped purple fabric (it's the backing, too) is an old bed sheet that Brent and I used camping a million times.  It's super soft and I thought it worked purrfectly with everything else that was going on.  Plus, it has history for us which makes it that much more special.  I realize giving a toddler a white quilt is just asking for trouble but I'm ok with that.  I just want it to be used, loved, and cherished for many, many years.

I made the binding from scraps of the painting fabrics and I looooooove the way it turned out.  In the past, I've always machine sewn on all of my bindings but for my last few, I've been hand finishing them and I don't think I'll ever go back to the machine for that step! 
The best part of this quilt though was sharing its process with Rio.  I would often work on it at night while she slept so she'd always ask about the progress each morning.  Then when we hit the quilting stage, she would periodically sit on my lap and help me guide the fabric through the machine which she thought was the coolest thing ever.  It was.

What does she think of it?  I think she approves!


I've been super, crazy busy lately and have so much to share with you, including the most insane thing I think I've ever made!  I'd also love to personally invite you to join us at Alliday this year which is only a few weeks away!  Please join us December 11th or 12th and invite your whole squad!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Halloween Unicorn!

For the past month when asked what she wanted to be for Halloween, Rio had one answer - a unicorn.  I had to figure out a way to make it happen.  It's not the most uncommon of costumes but I had to make it a bit different from the rest of the crowd, because that's how I roll.  A week before the holiday, I started cutting, sewing, and sticking my tongue out just right to finish on time.  It paid off because the kid loved it and it even won a costume contest prize!
During the construction of this costume, I almost scrapped it more times than I care to admit.  In the end though, I ended up loving it and am super proud of it!  If I can toot my own horn for a moment, it's really well made, easy to wear, and should last for quite some time!  All in all though, it's basically just a hoodie without the jacket.  And with a horn.  :)
She wanted to be a pink unicorn so I pulled out some light green poly fabric with a sweet pink design and built it off of that.  I based the hood shape off of a jacket pattern I made for Rio when she was 6 months old.  I cut some gauze-y fabric strips for the hair which have already started to fray wonderfully - it's unicorn hair, ya know!  The only thing I bought for this costume was the felt for the horn.  Rio picked out that color and while I was skeptical at the time, I think it looks perfect with it!  I hand sewed that on and made it super duper secure.  The ears are probably a bit large but really, who knows what unicorn ears really look like anyway?  I positioned some pipe cleaners inside of them to give them a little structure and hand sewed them on.  
It is double interfaced - on the exterior fabric and the lining - to give it good shape and to keep her little head warm!  I finished it up by making a casing for a drawstring and quickly making a little tail to pin to her jacket!
I made it just a smidge too large but that means she'll be able to play with it for quite some time or someone else can use it to transform into a unicorn!  We partnered it with a pair of some pink striped pjs and a cute little jacket she loves to wear that just happened to match everything!  Score!

A few days prior to Halloween, we visited a nearby Community Center for a carnival they host.  We knew nothing about a costume contest but arrived right before it kicked off.  We happened to be right by the stage when they called the kids up so Rio joined them.  Even with her hood halfway off at that point, she won the 'Funnest Costume' award!  Whatever 'funnest' means.  ;)  She won a gigantic cookie which made her night.  
On Halloween night, Rio and I strolled around the block for a short while to do a little trick or treating.  It's amazing what a difference a year makes in kid years!  She totally got Halloween this year which made it that much more spectacular for me.
I missed dressing up last year so I made a point to at least throw something on to take Rio out!  I did the classic 'look in the closet and see what I had' costume and ended up with a three minute Mrs. Roper....when I then realized that I was just myself in the future.  So that's what I went as - myself in 50 years!  Ha!  Wearing those sunglasses at night without my prescription was pretty challenging and entertaining!
Halloween is my all time favorite and once a year always seems so far away!  I'm already scheming for next year....
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