IMG_1286I calculated that we are buying the girls about three swimsuits per summer at $20 a pop so I thought I’d try my hand at sewing swimsuits and see if it’s a viable option.  It’s fun to sew things that get used all the time.
IMG_1287Raglan sleeves and simple shorts with snazzy silver polka dots.  It was a cinch.   Fun and easy.  (No elastic!)


Except that my sewing machine doesn’t work.  It tries to but it’s just pretending, mocking me with its illusion of competency.  Skipped stitches, tangled bobbin threads.  Much veggie swearing.  Also, much seam ripping.  (When I said it was easy and fun, I’m kind of talking about how I envision it would be without mechanical errors).
IMG_1173I have my eye on a new machine.  A real machine.  The Bernina 1008 that a surprising number of my favorite sewing bloggers use comes well recommended.  It’s pretty pricey.  Pretty and pricey.  My birthday is not until February–it’ll take at least that long to save up.


But I just got the Cambie dress pattern in the mail and I’m dying to make it.  I’ve had a vintage sheet (white with yellow flowers, so pretty!) squirreled away for just such a dress as this.  But am I going to make it with a machine that sews a faulty seam?  Am I?


Of course, I need to buy a new bra before fitting the Cambie.  Bra shopping could very well  take me four months.  IMG_0475HA! Look at Kiri!  Diving in head first when no one’s watching!

IMG_0620She does it when people are watching, too.  Pretty much any chance she gets, she’s jumping into the water.


I’m pretty sure she was just trying out one of Levi’s tricks.  She can keep up with this guy.  She’s gutsy and adventurous.  All in an understated way (see above photo of unobserved dive).


King of Tricks.
IMG_0458He wants a swimsuit, too.



daffodil skirt

I’ve been an armchair sewist for about a year. Reading, scoping out blogs, finding a few favorite and easy things to make.  It all bumped up a serious notch when I got Gertie’s New Book for Better Sewing: A Modern Guide to Couture-Style Sewing Using Basic Vintage Techniques.

It was my bedside reading for weeks.  Tailor’s tacks, fabric guides, pattern drafting, bound buttonholes.  Sometimes I’d have to not read it before bed, because I wouldn’t be able to sleep after reading such interesting and exciting things.


From the introduction:

“While shortcuts and quick projects seemed to be the trend in the sewing world, I was spending hours overcasting seam allowances by hand.  I started to appreciate slow sewing and the beautiful garments it produced.”

I was always a part of the “shortcut and quick projects” crowd.  (I was trending!  How unusual.) I have a notoriously short attention span for long projects, I like variety and change.

(Scuba diving is one such evidence of my attention span.  By the time I’ve geared up and gotten in the water, I’m ready to be finished and go home.  Ditto with projects.  Give me results or give me…something else to do.)

This whole idea of slow sewing was a revelation to me.

Slow sewing produces beautiful garments (that don’t look “homemade” – hello unfinished seam allowances and poor fit).  Clothes that are designed, altered, and sewn to fit me.  (Anyone else despise clothes shopping as a futile effort in finding what doesn’t exist?)

I am also really drawn to the idea of slow sewing as a meditative act.  Being in the moment instead of rushing towards the end of the seam, the end of the project, on to the next thing.

And then I’ve been watching the Great British Sewing Bee.  It’s a reality show/competition to find Britain’s best home sewist.  I just loved it.  Especially Ann, the elderly lady who does yoga twice a week and has been sewing every day for something like 75 years.  She’s so classy.

The Great British Sewing Bee really fired me up.

I’ve been waiting to lose the baby weight, and then to lose the nursing fullness before sewing my own clothes.  Which I finally did – only to gain some back.  (Whaaa?  Am I experiencing the beginnings of middle age spread?  So many things about my body have changed recently and I don’t think I can chalk it all up to having four children.)

But what the hay, I think the extra random body mass won’t make too much of a difference in clothing.

I chose Colette’s Peony as my first project and ordered the pattern last week.  But in the meantime I decided to do a little project while I waited on the US postal service.

A while back I had bought some yellow fabric to make curtains for my kitchen window.  I’ve wanted corn-colored curtains ever since Pat and Rae had them at their bedroom window in Mistress Pat.  Unfortunately, the yellow just isn’t right for the kitchen (it needs something more mellow and with a small print, I think).  So channelled my inner Maria again and turned the curtains into a dirndl.

I followed Gertie’s instructions for a full, gathered skirt (which are also in the book, slightly modified).  I ended up lining it for modesty’s sake and putting in my very first zipper!  (Yes! First zippers are worthy of exclamation marks!)

Introducing, my daffodil skirt.  Poofy happiness.

daffodil skirt


photo by Levi

baby years and Amelie’s 6th birthday


Where have I been all these days?  Crying my eyes out, that’s where.

Kiri and I came to the end of our breastfeeding journey last week.  We had moved from on demand (demand being the key word here) to three times a day, Daniel style (morning noon and night).  Noon dropped out.  Then Devo started taking her out and distracting her in the mornings.  Then one evening I came home from yoga and they had read Goodnight Gorilla together and he’d tucked her into bed with her baby and her giraffe and she’d gone to sleep.

I was ready, she was ready, it was time.  I was ready to end breastfeeding a 20 month old.

But I wasn’t ready to end the baby years.  And that is what apparently just came to an end.  My inner self knew it before my outer self did.  I’ve gone into mourning, grieving hard over the end of something very beautiful and precious.

I have been creating and nurturing life with my body, in my body, for a little over nine years.  That’s over a quarter of my entire life.  And while, yes, I’m glad to be returning to a place of sanity and productivity and the joys of middle childhood, I am heart broken to leave the baby years.

Pregnancy, baby kicks and squirms, labor and birth, the miraculous first days and weeks, the sweetnesses of babies, plump cheeks, fat legs, cuddles under the blanket, nursing, kisses, every day something new, nurturing, our very own baby.

In many ways I feel very alone in this grief.  I think that is because, while others can empathize and support and understand, these experiences are uniquely mine.  They are physical memories.  These years have rent open my heart, my soul, my mind, and my body.  Oh, there’s nothing like it.


In other news, we have been celebrating Amelie’s sixth birthday this last week with a small party on Friday.  The theme was an old-fashioned garden party (of sorts).  We ordered umbrellas and fans for the girls.  The boys got plastic top hats and handmade bow ties.  I was hoping to make some new dresses for the girls, but contented myself with dressing up their old ones with bright new sashes.  Levi forsook his bow tie and came as Robin Hood.  Kiri wore one of Amelie’s baby dresses, like a little fairy child.

We had set up a stage curtain (which kept blowing over in the afternoon wind), and the littlest girls performed the most darling plays for us.  I always love being reminded how little Amelie still is, sometimes I forget.

Today was her birth day.  It’s kind of nice, because the kids talk about their birthdays so much and for so long before the actual day, that I become accustomed to thinking of them as the next year older before it actually happens.

So now she is officially six and outfitted with a new ballet ensemble, a selection of books, a big butterfly balloon, and a dozen cream colored roses.

According to family tradition, we watched the video of her birth.  The wild, noisy, fast, intense, hard two hours of labor.  The beauty of a home water birth.  The instant recognition and love.  Her first cry.  (I cried.)

We made spring-themed chocolate lollipops for Easter. (Molds in the shape of the desired traditional bunny are apparently impossible to find in-store during the Easter season.  Next year, order online.)

We also went to buy another butterfly balloon when the first butterfly flew away.  (It’s so nice to be able to easily mend a broken heart.)

We fed ducks with the left-over tea sandwich crusts from the party.

The birthday “cake” was a pumpkin pie.  Amelie whipped the cream all by herself.

This week the kids have started sewing their own designs, using the machine, and we had another sewing session today.  Lia can reach the pedal on her own, but all three are having a blast doing the sewing on their own.  I made a few fabric eggs when the machine was free, stuffed with rice they make enchanting hacky sacks.

We laughed through this “duck-umentary” over supper.  Highly recommend.

Edited to add the link for the duck-umentary, sorry!

Long Days

Tuesdays are the Long Day of the week around here.  Devo is teaching a college class this quarter on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  We had thought to give teaching a go, partly for a change, partly to see how he likes it (he’s a born teacher), and partly for the extra dollars (what with the new house and all).  And it’s very good.  But it makes our Tuesdays very very long.

I get to the end of a Long Day and I have so many things to say, but so little brain with which to say them.  (Cue Winnie the Pooh: think, think, think.)

Today’s Long Day included an unusual respite.  Devo cleaned up lunch and gave me a chance to retreat to the (comparative) quiet of the bedroom with my election booklet.  I consider myself educated and intelligent, but wading through those California propositions really taxed me.  A short jaunt to the polling site (our church, as it were) and my civic duty and moral obligation is fulfilled.  Oooh, I’m on pins and needles for the results, but have absolutely no desire to watch the play-by-play.

These have been very full days this quarter.  Not only because of the class, but there are three or four other areas of Devo’s work that have big projects and/or extra meetings right now, too.  It all adds up, and currently the days are very full.

Early on into our chosen parenting journey we found that the more he does, the less I do.  It’s like a mathematical equation.  It is part of being full partners in the endeavor that is our family.  In some obvious ways, of course, it can seem like I’m on the short end of the stick.

But on the other hand, it really makes me hone in on what is most important, most necessary.  Everything else must, perforce, fall to the side.  It’s a great way to (re)discover what I really want out of this life, these days.  It helps me to live more intentionally.

What does this all mean?  A firming of our family resolution to not succumb to the allure of many regularly scheduled activities.  That it’s more important to be kind and gentle with my children than to accomplish many things, even things like cleaning the toilet.  That a number of balls can be dropped, and most of them bounce.  Among other things.

In other news:

:: Kiri’s been running a fever since Sunday.  Teething, I presume.

:: We took the kids to ride bikes at the beach.  Me pulling Amelie.  Devo pulling Levi with Kiri in her new, snazzy seat.  Lia on her own.  And we came to the conclusion that we don’t like riding at the beach.  At least for another couple of years.  Too much traffic, the lanes are too narrow, general claustrophobia mixed with suppressed alarm. We will go back to our regular bike paths and leave the beach for the future.

:: We made our own homemade envelopes until we ran out of tape.  Even Levi, surprisingly, loves to make these.

:: This weekend’s after church potluck was Pinterest-themed.  I confess that the food I took wasn’t even from Pinterest until I pinned them on the morning of.  I had an inexplicably wild desire for homemade focaccia.  And, of course, my current love, roasted broccoli.  Is that completely lame of me?  It goes with the spirit of the thing, doesn’t it?

:: I love the home and office selection at Ruche – so many pretty things!






The sewing machine comes back to life

I fixed my sewing machine.  I took it apart, oiled it, changed the needle, and read the manual.  Turns out I’ve been threading the bobbin backwards and bypassing a thread guide for the last seven years.   Ah.

But really, it was the oil that made the difference.

The first project to come off is a costume for Levi.  Robin Hood.  Or, archer.  It can also double as Peter Pan.  Or, boy that can fly.  The tunic is wearable, it just needs some finishing touches and a belt.

As soon as the sewing machine came out and was brought back from the brink of death, the girls lined up with their requests for costumes.  I had spent some time in angry chicken’s archives recently, and had been re-inspired by her mad costume-making skills.  I’m looking around for just the right combination of swirly, fancy, and ruffly.  (The ruffles are for me).

Of course, I also recently discovered Gertie and her passion for sewing her own retro clothing.  Try browsing through her archives, ooh la la.

The time has finally come to start building my post-babies wardrobe, and I’m thinking seriously of sewing my own clothes.  Maybe like Gertie (oh, those dresses) or some of these patterns from Colette.  Over time.

I’m slowly getting my sewing area set up in the former breakfast nook-turned-office/sewing space.  Slowly being the operative word – one small task per week seems to be just the right speed.

heart garland, epicness, a recipe, and a surprise

:: heart garland

Today I did something entirely frivolous.  I put something pretty on the wall!

Our walls are still mostly (almost completely) bare.  Part of that is indecision on my part, part of it is because I couldn’t find the box with the things I knew where I wanted them to go.  Found the box a week ago, and today I made our lives a little bitty bit prettier.

This is the girls room, by the way.  The beautiful, long desired headboard, the deal-of-the-year comforter.  I love the blue on the wall.  The chair doesn’t actually belong there.  I have my eye on IKEA Hemnes nightstands (but in what color?).  And I’m on an eternal craigslist quest for a wood chest to put all of our dress up clothes in.

The garland is, of course, a pinterest find.

:: epic happenings

On our way to the UCR botanical gardens, we experienced silence in the van for approximately four minutes.  It was epic.

Also epic were the butterflies.  Monarchs, gulf fritillaries, painted ladies, we saw them all.  Up close.  I’ve never been so close to so many butterflies.  A white-haired volunteer came over to the butterfly garden and taught the girls how to pick up monarch caterpillars and why milkweed is called milkweed.  She couldn’t hear much of the knowledge the girls were showering on her, but she whipped out her iphone and showed them photo after photo of butterflies she has seen.

I have now added milkweed and butterfly bush to my list of desired plants for the back garden.  Imagine,  your own butterfly garden!


:: homemade grapefruit soda syrup

We have made our own Grapefruit Soda several times recently.  It’s like homemade Fresca.  Even the skeptics in the family love it.


:: p.s.

I almost forgot.  Kiri fell prey to an aspiring hair stylist today.  (And we all know that this is just the beginning of the mischief Kiri and Levi are going to get into together).

It’s not tooooo terrible.  She just looks a little shorn, a little bit like something nibbled on her.  I’ll trim it up a tad tomorrow.

Well, now I don’t have to decide whether or not to trim her bangs, Levi did it for me.




Grandma’s Sewing Machine

I went to indulge a sewing craving and make a Juggling Kit for a boy birthday gift this weekend (three bean bags, isn’t that an awesome idea?).  Unfortunately, my sewing machine, never very trustworthy, was up to its old tricks.  As in, 20 minute joy project turned into 40 minutes of stress due to irregular bobbin tension.  Or something.  Poor boy got cash (awesomely folded into an origami fish by my sister) instead of a Juggling Kit.

Last night while Devo was reading Blink and I after I discarded the idea of painting my toenails, I got out my Great-Grandma’s sewing machine and took my first good look at it.

I was over the moon this summer to receive Grandma Bobo’s sewing machine from my great-aunt but haven’t had a chance to explore its possibilities.  It is one of those old fashioned ones that comes hidden in a desk.  Remove the wood inserts on the desk top and up comes the machine.  It’s a pretty little thing, a nice piece of furniture in its own right.

I opened it up and dusted it off and out from that piece of metal came Grandma Bobo’s smell.  Very dusty and kind of dirty, but very definitely Grandma’s smell.  Am I really 31?  I was instantly three again, sitting on Grandma’s soft lap.

I found the bobbin, still with thread from whatever she last sewed on this machine.  And the last fancy stitch she did was of ducks…the cartridge is still in the top of the machine.

The manual has the notes she wrote.  Which stitch was especially good for the crease in capris.  The date it was oiled in 1975.  Harlan (Grandpa) oiled it with WD40 in “12/  /81”.  (That unknown day of the month brought a smile…that’s exactly what most of my journal entries look like.)

My grandma emailed this morning that Grandpa Harlan used to take it in to Sacramento every year to beserviced.  Then one year, they told him to just spray the thing well with WD40.  Ah, the good old days of metal machines.

There are a bunch of sewing machine feet that don’t match what are in the manual.  I wonder what they are for.

I plugged it in and after several tries, the machine was running faster and more regular.  I am hoping that with a good oil I can get it to run and use it.

Pioneer bonnets



I started these bonnets during the last hurrah of pregnancy.  I thought they’d be a fun thing to help the girls while away some of the slow hours in those first few weeks.

It was a great idea.

I finally finished them today.  Seven months for two bonnets.  Not bad, my girl, not bad at all.

{McCalls 9424, sewn exactly as suggested.} 

Now that I’ve got my fabric stash back at my fingertips (note to self: when fabric is in boxes, no sewing happens), I can hardly decide what to do next.

A few ideas have been swirling around.

:: I have a set of red velvet curtains that have been retired from curtain-dom.  Little Red Riding Hood capes lined with satin?

:: Dresses and aprons to go with the pioneer bonnets for Laura and Mary?

:: Greek togas? (I believe I have been remiss in mentioning here that we are currently enamored with Greek gods and goddesses, and the mythology in general.  Aphrodite and Helen flit around gorgeously bedecked in play silks and vintage table cloths.)

:: A dress for me from a vintage (50s?) pattern I picked up thrifting?  (But do I really want to go through all that effort only to have it not fit next year?)

:: A skirt for me?  (Not so much effort).

:: Something pretty for Kiri?  This is my last chance to sew for my babies…believe it or not, I never sewed one single thing for one of my babies.  …I take that back, I made Amelie a rag quilt.  I never sewed a single item of clothing for one of my babies.

:: Something very ruffly and swishy and delightful?

Maternity Dress #1

I say “Maternity Dress #1” because I’m hopeful that there will be more.

And there probably will be.

Once I get over how many ways an “easy” project can go awry.

Such as getting the skirt fabric caught in the serger…I only had 12 inches to go…and cutting a hole above the ruffle.  Half hour detour to detach ruffle and set it in place…this time three inches higher.


Other than the general misalignment of the stars today, it really was a pretty easy project.

I used this great tutorial from tiny happy, and shirred my way to summer happiness.  Shirring really is easy.  I added a ruffle for pizzaz and thick straps so that I can wear my <ahem> regular undergarments and be well prepared for the usual (and often dangerous) skirt tugging that comes with my position in life.

photo credit :: Amelie    editing credit :: yours truly, who didn’t want to scare the online world with the face I happened to be making at the moment the photo was taken…besides, it was blurry.

Wee Wonderfuls – Margot

Finally FINALLY finished the other half of Lia’s Christmas present.  Four and a half months later.  She’s been playing with Dressed Down Margot (from Wee Wonderfuls), but finally Margot is as she was designed to be…flip her skirt over her head and voila! Dressed Up Margot is on the other side!

OK, so he has nothing to do with this post.  But he did help me pin on Margot’s buns.  And he’s awfully cute.

Looking at…maternity sewing edition

I’ve been desperately trying to finish up my pile of half-completed sewing/mending projects.  Amelie and I completed three out of four of them this afternoon (it’s that fourth one I’ve been dreading), so I’m almost ready to take on new projects.

Being that I have one short sleeve shirt and three pairs of maternity shorts (from Lia’s pregnancy, seven summers ago), I think it wouldn’t be amiss to sew a few clothes for myself.  Easy clothes.

And not the ugly things that butterick, etc., call maternity clothes.  Yuck.  (Did any of you find a pattern that you liked?  I haven’t spotted one yet…)

A dress for hot weather :: tiny happy makes shirring look super easy.  Except that I don’t have the shirring elastic.  Yet.  And what kind of underclothing (<cough> undergirding) would I wear with this?

The easy maternity skirt from DIY maternity ::  With a ruffle, perhaps?

Devo has already donated his castoff shirts for this Men’s button shirt to maternity shirt (also with peasant edition).


But the real question is :: am I going to hide the varicose veins that are spreading like the black (and blue) plague over my right leg?  Or do I wear them like a pregnancy badge of honor?  (Skirts shorter or longer?)

Baby Bonnet

McCall’s 6214…from 1961. Vintage! That little blue jacket at the top is darling. And those booties are tempting…they look sooo easy.

I see on the pattern that it originally (in 1961) cost 50 cents…I paid 25 cents at our church’s thrift shop. Love that place.

This weekend, I made a baby bonnet for Trisha’s new baby girl, due to arrive at the beginning of the summer.  Because every baby girl needs a fresh, crisp white bonnet to shade round cheeks from the sun.

I made a change on the embellishments (my lace collection is sadly lacking), and instead affixed a very large fabric flower to the side. Because every baby girl needs absurdly big flowers. It turned out quite charming.  I can’t wait to see it on their new baby girl.  (I did try it on the only baby available…a boy…but out of consideration for said baby’s father, didn’t take a picture.  But it was pretty darling.)

I’m tempted to make one for our baby…and if Baby is a boy, then it will either become a gift or a doll bonnet.