Back to School Sewing, Part II: Pattern Drafting FAIL!

When I saw this tutorial for a tunic dress on Sew Mama Sew back in August, I knew I had to make one.  It looked simple enough, right?  WRONG!!!  I followed the directions, found a shirt to base the pattern on and set to work.  However, somehow the neck and bust were too wide AND the sleeves were so narrow that my little girl couldn’t even get her wrists inside them:

Failed Tunic Dress

I am not blaming my lack of results on this tutorial.  It seems very well organized and thought out.  Rather, I am chalking it up to the fact that I have zero experience in drafting a pattern.  I am going to stick to pre-printed patterns from this point on, and maybe invest in a dress-form and some sewing classes before I try to do it on my own again.  Sheesh!

Anyway, I needed to salvage my hard work and that fabulous retro fabric, so I turned it into a skirt.  A much beloved skirt, to my relief.  Check out that fabulous belly:

Belly Shot
Now It's a Skirt!
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Back to School Sewing

Someone I know and love is starting Kindergarten tomorrow!  I’m mostly excited, but I have to admit I’m a little sad that he’s getting so big so fast.  He, on the other hand, is ALL excitement and was totally thrilled to get a homemade snack bag AND to pick out the fabrics himself.  It’s the little things.

Snack Bag
Snack Bag - Inside

At the open house last week, I was informed that I have to pack a snack separate from lunch every day.  I did not think this was too much to ask, but I did think it was too much to ask my five-year-old to open his lunch box and only eat one little snack while saving the rest for later.  So, I decided a separate bag for snacks was in order.

I made the snack bag using this lunch sack tutorial from A Lemon Squeezy Home, but I modified the original pattern by making it four inches shorter.  After all, I only have to fir in one little snack – not a whole lunch.  The tutorial was super easy to follow and I was able to make it in one evening and out of things I already had in my stash!  Instead of using a stabilizer for the inside, I used the last of my Insul-Bright quilt batting to insulate the bag.

I am also working on a back-to-school dress for a certain little lady I know who will be starting preschool soon.  For this project, I am making my own bias binding.  And, do you know what is super tedious and annoying??  Making your own double-fold bias tape when you don’t have a bias tape maker!!  I am definitely getting myself one of those things for the next time I decide to do this:

Bias Tape
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Blocks # 18 and 19: Hand Applique

I have tried to applique by machine just about every conceivable way there is.  I have even taken a class at my local sewing shop called “Invisible Machine Applique”.  I can do it and it doesn’t look half bad, but the truth is that nothing comes even close to looking as nice as applique by hand.  So, in my opinion, it is totally worth the extra time it takes to get results like this:

Numbers Applique
Letters Applique

I made the patterns for the numbers and letters totally free-hand, which was scary for me, but I like their wonky look. At this late stage of making these blocks I am running out of large pieces of fabric, so I didn’t have many choices for what to use as the backgrounds. I think it works though.

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Block # 17: Spiderweb

This is my final string-pieced  block.  I love the look of the spiderweb and was easily able to figure it out.

Rainbow Spiderweb

I had a hard time with the color selection.  This block was actually my second attempt at the spiderweb.  The first was not as bright and cheery – it had a kind of faded rainbow look to it.  So, I ended up with a leftover quilt block.  Not knowing what else to do with it, I quilted it up with some Insul-Bright and made it into a hot pad.   It looks good on my table, but my husband is afraid to use it.  He claims that white was not a good color choice and is afraid it will get stained.  Sheesh!

Spiderweb Hotpad
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Blocks #14, #15 & #16: String Theory

I have long admired string quilts for their look and for their clever way at using up scraps.  I have long intended to make one, but have yet to get around to it.  So, I figured that this sampler quilt was a good opportunity for me to give string piecing a try.  Who knows – maybe it will lead to an actual string quilt in the future.

I started out simple, with some squares:

String Diamonds

Then, I wanted a hexagon, but I had to make it wonky to get it to fit into the square the way I wanted.  I had to make templates for this and do math.  I’m sure there is an easier way, but I haven’t found it.  Anyway, I like the way this one turned out.

Hexagon String

Last, I decided to go back to the curved piecing.  Trying to get the pieces to lay flat with all of those little strips in play was definitely tricky, but it worked.

Curved Piecing Strings
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Blocks #12 and #13

Dear Blog,

I apologize for neglecting you for so long.  You see I found out this past spring that I was pregnant, which was happy news indeed.  However, I felt so wretched and exhausted that I not only stopped blogging – I stopped sewing altogether.  I started feeling a little better about a month ago, but inertia kept me away from you.  Now, I am doing my best to get back on the bandwagon here.

Here are some rather geometric blocks for you to enjoy:




This last block is my least favorite of the whole set.  I think it is because it is the only block that doesn’t actually have all of the colors of the rainbow.  See – no purple!  I’m actually thinking about making a new block to replace it.  But, darn that inertia again!  We’ll have to see.

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Block #11: Ziggy Zag

There are just not enough hours in the day. I have had to take a break from these rainbow blocks because Easter is coming up and I need to make Easter gifts – not to mention the various birthdays that have been popping up. And then June is my daughter’s birthday and I have so many things I want to make for that! I don’t know how so many other quilters produce such a large amount of quilts in the same time it takes me to make one. They must not sleep. Or have children. Or, at least, have my children.

Rainbow Ziggy Zag

I have made zig zag quilts before, but I used shortcuts to make them. That means that the various zig zags were broken up into triangles. That’s a fine look when your fabrics are mostly sold and the same for each “line” of zig zags. But, I could not conceive of a short cut for this block, since I wanted each piece of fabric to remain whole. That meant that I had to make a template of a parallelogram, cut one out of each fabric, and sew them together without skewing the seams. The sewing them together was the hardest part. The perfectionist in me wanted to outline the quarter-inch seams on the back so I could perfectly match up corners with pins. But the practical side of me nixed that idea and just winged it. It came out pretty well. My only qualm is that the value of each color is not uniform, but I didn’t have enough variety of fabrics to make that happen. So, the light purple is mixing with the dark and the lime green is mixing with forest green. We can all get along, right?

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Another Birthday Party Gift

This time the party was for a little girl who is newly two. Her Mommy told me that she could use some summery dresses in her wardrobe, so I obliged:

Dress Front

Dress Back

The pattern is Butterick See&Sew B4701. I love it because it is fast, easy and looks super cute. This is my third time using this pattern and I’m not tired of it yet. In fact, I have fabric all picked out for another one for my own girl.

The orange fabric is an awesome seersucker that I found at a thrift store. I have a skirt in this same fabric and have made two little-girl skirts out of it as well. I have very little of it left now. Maybe just enough for some trim at the bottom of a skirt? We’ll see…

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Blocks #9 and #10: Wonkification

Wonky Squares

Wonky Bento

I had a lot of fun with these blocks. The first one was totally inspired by this picture on Flickr. The second is just an improvised and skewed version of a Bento Box Block.  What I love best about these blocks is that I did not plan them out at all – no graph paper, no measuring, no pencils.  It was just me and my rotary cutter and it was so much fun.  I highly recommend.

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Birthday Presents

This weekend I went to a three-year-old’s birthday party, and it was the perfect opportunity to bust out Wee Wonderfuls: 24 Dolls to Sew and Love.  I was super excited to get this book ever since before it came out.  I finally got it as a gift this past Christmas, but this was the first project I have attempted from it.


Mermaiden Close-up

My kids love looking through that pages in the book, so I let them pick out the doll they thought their friend would like best. Thankfully, they picked what looks like one of the easiest projects in the book!If you have never made a doll before, I recommend this one as a good place to start.  And it’s quick, too.  I did enlarge the pattern a little, since the original seemed a little mini to me.

I wasn’t planning on making any more gifts for this particular party, but I was shopping at a local thrift store and found a flannel Care Bears receiving blanket.  Since this was a Care Bears themed party (when did they come back!!??), I just had to buy it and make it into something.  Here is the result:

Care Bear Bag and Bean Bags

I used this tutorial from Made to make  Hobo Sack – super cute.  Then I used the leftover fabric to make some bean bags, which I stuffed with lentils.  The lentils were the most expensive part of this project.  I love thrift.

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