Monday, August 1, 2011

baby sheets! A how to.

So this weekend we (finally) got the matress for my son's cradle out of the storage unit. Today I made up the sheets for it so he can sleep on the mattress that was intended for the cradle in the first place, instead of folded up blankets and towels covered with a flannel receiving blanket. Making fitting sheets for a cradle or basinette is super easy, in fact, you can pick up a fairly good quality twin sheet set from goodwill for five dollars or so, and get two fitted sheets, a changing table cover (which uses the same method as the fitted sheet) and a set of nice matching curtains out of it, all for something like $10 (with elastic and such. Less if you recycle the elastic from the fitted sheet) and an afternoon's sewing. I had bought some fabric especially for this at the Quiltbug while I was pregnant, and it's been sitting around pretty much for ever on the top of my to do pile....

So start off measuring your mattress. Mine is 36 by 15. then add a quarter inch to all sides for ease. So 36 1/2 x 15 1/2. Measure how deep the mattress is: 2 inches, and add enough extra to fold under, at least another 2 inches, plus 1/4 inch seam allowance. so that adds up to 4 1/4 inches to for the sides. Add that to all sides of your top measurement so your final total is 45 x  24. Cut a square of this size out of your  fabric. with the yardage I had, I was forced to add a small strip to the long end to make 45 inches. Try to avoid it, but if you must piece your fabric, either serge, zig zag, or french seam to avoid fraying during frequent laundering. Also, if you must seam, try to either hide it, or put it somewhere where it won't look so bad. Mine is hidden down the side of the mattress, but what about adding a 1" stripe of contrast fabric a quarter or a third from the end of the mattress? Or put a flat felled seam with contrast stitching a quarter or a third of the way down the mattress. That would allow you to cut in two pieces, and in some cases, save fabric.

 Add up all 4 sides of the top measurement of your mattress (36 1/2 x2 + 15 1/2 x 2 = 104) add two inches, and cut enough strips 2 inches wide from your fabric to meet this measurement. (my fabric is 42 inches, so I need three strips.)

Take your large rectangle, and in each corner, mark a small square the depth of the side (4 1/4) less 3/8, so for mine, 3 7/8, and cut it out.

then pin the corners together wrong sides together:

 Sew at 1/8, and press flat:

 then turn so that the right sides are together, and sew at 1/4. This makes french seamed corners that will survive many washings.

Now take your 2 inch strips, and sew them together to make one long strip. Press that strip in half. starting about in the middle of one of the long sides of your sheet, line the raw edges of the strip up with the edge of the sheet, with the strip along the right side of the fabric. Sew it on folding the edges under at the beginning and end, and trimming off any excess.

Then iron the strip to the wrong side, enclosing all the raw edges, and topstitch it down, finishing your casing. Add elastic, and you're finished!

The cradle looks pretty spiffy with the new sheets!

I've used the same method for making a changing table cover, using a pieced and quilted top, and a drawstring instead of elastic. You could also make basket liners using this method.

If you have leftover fabric, check your library for books on sewing curtains. It's dead easy, although not entirely intuitive. I have an excellent book from better homes and gardens called "sewing for your home" it's older, so the pictures might give you a giggle (think avacado, burnt orange, and shag carpets) but it's a great overview of the subject.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Mish Mash

This has been a crazy week. We just moved our daughter into her first real bed. Which meant that first we spent the weekend sanding, painting, and making a mattress base for the antique bed we found free on the side of the road, then spent part of the week scratching our heads trying to figure out where to wedge the bed into our teeny one bedroom apartment, then moved all the furniture in the house (or so it seemed). Finally we moved both the bed, and the crib into our bedroom, and squeezed our bed into Jade's cubbyhole bedroom. Then I spent several DAYS trying to make sense of the mish mash of things that were discovered behind furniture, under beds, and generally shoved into corners (hey, out of sight out of mind, right?). Then I spent another day catching up with the dishes and housework I had not done while trying to sort out the aforementioned mish mash...

Today I've finally gotten around to sewing, except, unfortunately, what's on the top of the to do list has been the mending. I loathe mending. Even though as a result of a misspent youth that involved making period costumes for all my dolls by hand I'm really quick at hand work, it's just dead boring, and not terribly rewarding. But I have several skirts with torn out hems, or run to holes, and my poor husband has been down to one pair of jeans for weeks because he's torn the belt loops off all his other pairs (how does he DO that?). So today, during naptime, I have dutifully sat down and mended... until I decided to blog....

But, as a ray of proverbial sunshine, my mom delivered a box to me containing the attachments my Great Aunt sent me for my featherweight:

L to R, that's a zig zag attachment, a buttonholer, and a ruffler. I also have a rolled hem foot (one of the only ones I've ever met that actually works) an edge stitcher, and a couple as yet unidentified gizmos that look like they were designed by Rube Goldberg. Of course I discovered what the ruffler did immediately after I finished this dress for my daughter.... 

Oh well, I'm planning on making another, with even MORE ruffles out of this fabric very soon:

Sadly the camera doesn't do the green justice. I think I have enough to make a matching hat, and I might also knit up teensy lace mitts to match... although that might be overkill. And because my daughter has enough church dresses and I'm just doing this for fun anyway, I'll probably put it up on Etsy. 

The attachments for the Featherweight are phenomenal. It makes the jump from just a great machine that only does straight stitch, to wondering why I'm bothering to keep my viking (Oh, right, free motion quilting... but other than that it's an expensive doorstop). If you're so lucky as to have a featherweight, I really suggest you take the time to figure out what all the little rube goldberg gizmos do. If you didn't get any rube goldberg gizmos, you might look around at purchasing some. Especially the buttonholer. I can't say enough good things about how nice the buttonholes it makes are, and how little fuss is required to produce them. 

With that I'm off to use my spandy new attachments to finish up a stack of commission work that's been waiting on my getting out the Viking to do buttonholes and zig zag. 

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Adding to the diaper stack

Cloth diapering has been a huge part of our lives with both of our kids. Partially because of environmental reasons (Did you know that paper diapers take 40 years to biodegrade in a landfill?) and partially because of economic factors (Did you know the average family with one child in diapers goes through 1,300 to 1,500 dollars in diapers annually?). When we had #2 we went to cloth wipes as well because I though it was a bit ridiculous to blow through two packages of wipes in a week.

Obviously you use different diapering solutions for different sizes of child. We've used flat prefold diapers and waterproof covers with great success, except for that awkward stage when you can no longer get the small size prefold around them, but the large size is so bulky it makes their bottom half look like a miniature bowling ball. My daughter reached that stage around 7 months, and we found a fantastic free pattern for a pocket diaper that you stuff with the outgrown prefolds. Now baby #2 is out of his prefolds at 4 months. Because he is Godzilla baby. And I don't have enough for more than a day and a half. So I've been very busy the last couple of days trying to get more made up so I can go back to every other day diaper wash! 

Jade helps me pin the pattern onto the flannel. 

You can check out this pattern and Rita's fantastic instructions here: I can't recommend them highly enough. It's a simple pattern, uses inexpensive materials, and seriously elongates the life of your prefold diapers! Besides, they're really really cute. 

Here's my little buddy modeling the finished product! I normally try to use neutral prints/colors for things like diapers, so that they can be used for either a girl or boy, but I couldn't resist the plaid!

The green are lined with Jersey, the plaid with more flannel. Both solutions work really well, I just happened to have part of a yellow jersey sheet set that got a huge stain on it sitting around. This was a good use for part of it!

Since we're talking about cloth diapers, I thought I'd share my favorite recipe for cloth wipe solution: 

3 cammomile tea bags
1 Tbsp Weleda baby oil with calendula
1 Tbsp Aveno baby body wash

Put the tea bags in a quart jar, and fill with boiling water, allow to steep until cooled. Add the baby oil and body wash, put on the lid and shake it well. Pour over all of your cloth wipes in a big bowl, wring out the wipes so they're just damp, and fold them in a leftover disposable wipe box. Surprisingly enough, they stay perfectly fresh for four or five days, even in the summer heat. You could add a couple drops of tea tree oil for it's disinfecting properties, or a bit of your favorite essential oil for scent if you liked. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The T-shirt Pajama Project

The project of the day is Pajamas. My two year old daughter has no seasonably suitable/appropriately sized pajamas. As usual I had put off doing this (I'll do it right after I finish putting the binding on that quilt, I swear!) until my husband somewhat apologetically came out of her room, where he was attempting to put her to bed, and asked "does our daughter have any PJ's? Because I can't find any." At which point I was forced to admit that no, indeed, she does not have any, so just put something like a t-shirt on her and I'll figure out the pajama problem immediately and at once.

So this morning I looked around at my fabric and said "Pajamas. For summer." Then I looked at our closet. Where I noticed that my husband has a number of t-shirts the armpits of which have completely disintegrated. I thought, ah hah! a source of fabric! It's lightweight, I already have it, and it's a much better use for the t-shirts than throwing them out. Besides, not much is more comfy than a worn in t-shirt.

I started out using a t-shirt that fits her as a template. As you can see there's plenty of fabric to work with. (Sometimes having a husband roughly the size of a woolly mammoth comes in really handy) 

Using the T-shirt as I guide, I cut out the body pieces. I kept the neck edge intact, because I want to use that! 

 Leaving some extra for seam allowance, I cut (only the top layer!) for the shoulders. That finished the front. For the back, I flipped it over, stretched out the shoulders, and used the back of template as a guide.
 I cut the sleeve off one side, the strip leftover will be the underarm gusset. 

Then I stacked the two sleeves together, carefully lining up the hemmed edges, and cut out the sleeves of the Pajamas. This length gives me a sort of 3/4 sleeve look. 

The shorts were the easiest part. I used my handy dandy sense and sensibility pantaloons pattern, shortened the legs and made them a little more narrow in the body (I used the t-shirt's bottom hem for the cuffs). Probably what took me the longest was putting the elastic in, then getting Jade to hold still long enough for me to pin it to the right length without  stabbing her. 

To make the top, I sewed up the shoulders first, then centered the sleeves. Just cutting the sleeve at the same angle as the original T-shirt gives you a lightly shaped shoulder. 

Then I sewed one gusset to each side of the assembled piece, working from the hem to the sleeve cuff. This next bit is the only tricky bit of the whole assembly process. You fold the whole thing in half along the shoulder line, and working from the hem to the sleeve cuff, sew up the second side seam, and the under arm gusset, and the sleeve.  It gets tricky where the sleeve joins the body:

You have to sew past the edge of the sleeve and in the sleeve seam for the amount of your seam allowance (3/8 here). 

Then put the needle down, the presser foot up, turn the work 90 degrees, so you're sewing down the edge of the sleeve, and line everything up. 

the other little tricky bit is right at the end of the sleeve, where the tip of the gusset is. You have to line the top edge of the sleeve up with the gusset, not the other edge of the sleeve, and sew past the tip of the gusset. 

Then you put down the needle, pick up the presser foot, line up the sleeve edges and sew down to the end of the sleeve. Easy! 

Voila! the finished gusset! This gusset design is a bit fussy, but it makes efficient use of the fabric, and it makes a really roomy easy on/off shirt without a lot of fussing with the the sleeve cap, or any armhole shaping. 

The finished Pajama Top! The underarm gusset looks all wodgy when it's lying flat, but it really makes for a nice fit once the shirt is on. It's especially nice for toddlers who want to dress themselves, because it makes a wider sleeve opening, without making a huge baggy sleeve that they're going to drag in absolutely everything. 

Jade Models one of her new pairs of PJ's :) Two naptimes of sewing, and she has three new pairs. 

This is one of those projects that really makes me wish I had a serger. Sure, the raw edges on the seams won't fray since it's a knit, but all those flappy seam allowances bother me. I do, however, draw the line at making french or flat felled seams on knit boxer and tee pajamas like I do on all her other clothes. That's overkill even for me. But I can't help but look at them and think how tidy the insides would look all serged neatly......