Little Miss Cleaver and Miss Maggie Rabbit
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Miss Maggie Rabbit
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When the day starts so early, it’s hard to get non-blurry photos of an increasingly active (and expressive!) little one. She’s just on the cusp of toddler-hood these days – walking more than she crawls and understanding things and almost almost talking. But Easter started around 5:30 AM with opening the basket/bucket and a low-key egg hunt with 6 or so eggs placed in highly visible places filled with cereal puffs.

Having put my clothing-making energies into her birthday dress not that long ago, I turned my maker skills to toys this go around. The rabbit is Alicia Paulson’s Miss Maggie Rabbit kit, which was a joy to put together. I misplaced the yarn that came with the kit, so I made the capelet out of some Berroco Vintage DK I had left over from earlier projects. I also dyed a pair of playsilks with Kool-Aid (Mixed Berry blue and 2 packs of Lemon-Lime green), which was quick and fun. Of course, I got totally upstaged by her Memere who showed up with a tricycle! Not that her feet touch the pedals yet, but I imagine they will before too long.

Little Miss Cleaver has become obsessed with belly buttons of late, whether it’s spotting mine and poking and laughing or displaying her own upon request. Onesies are definitely out. So obviously she had to check her new bunny for a belly button.

After some unwelcome snow on Tuesday, the weather seems to be settling into spring. My daffodils are blooming, with tulips coming not too far behind. It means we can go to the park, try out slides for the first time and play in the yard. Now if only we could convince LMC to wear shoes. Right now it’s like putting booties on a dog, with much awkwardness and whining.

We’ve already had one happy afternoon with a batch of neighbor kids in the driveway. We’ve got sidewalk chalk and digging tools at the ready.  I’m hoping to get together with our neighbor in the next few weeks to have a raised bed building day. It’s been so long since I’ve had a veggie garden  and I want to get out there and grow some things!

Birthday Dress
As Little Miss Cleaver is several weeks into her one-year-old-ness and several friends and family have had welcomed new babies in the past few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about those first few heady days of parenting of how quickly your life shifts to a new norm, and then I thought about how it’s changed what I make and why.

Thanks to Mr. Cleaver’s keen understanding of how making stuff is important to me, I’ve been able to do a fair amount of sewing since LMC’s birth. However, two vital things have changed about my sewing time. One, it’s in shorter spurts now and perhaps less frequent, but all the more welcome and two, the things I make are usually, though not always, for someone with wee clothing needs a bit different from own. Because of these two changes, I’ve experienced a few new things about sewing that I thought I’d share.
Milk coma
1. Trying out new things is easier when the project is small

Before I started sewing baby stuff, I had never completed a project in knit fabric. I’d made a few attempts in the past, but never really finished anything. Then I decided to make some envelope tees. The fabric was fairly stable (interlock) and the seams were all of six inches long. It was a small enough project that even if I screwed it up, I was out of a quarter of a yard of fabric, maybe. I’ve probably made about ten or so since, some in interlock, some in jersey, some hacked together with the Geranium pattern into dresses.

Having worked in this small scale, I’m much more comfortable with knits and am eyeballing some larger-scale knit projects for myself.
Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress
2. There’s frosting, there’s cake, and then there’s bread. And there is nothing wrong with sewing any of them.

Tasia coined the whole frosting vs. cake terminology, but sometimes, even cake is too fancy of a word for some items.

There are a lot of things that I used to think that I’d never bother making, because they were just too dull and/or readily available inexpensively. Like solid-colored t-shirts, non-fancy underwear, leggings, plain socks. But then you figure out that those ready available things are kinda cruddy. The number of onesies we bought that got holes in the fabric is astonishing, especially considering the early ones that were worn for maybe 3 months by something that didn’t move much.

Now I haven’t made any onesies, mostly because I’ve yet to have any luck with inserting snaps, despite several efforts (any suggestions welcomed!), but if I could get over that snap-inserting hump I totally would the next time I needed onesies. Because there’s a certain satisfaction to pulling something out of the drawer and wearing it on a daily basis and having the fabric be nice, and the seams finished well, even if it’s super dull.
My style and sewing has become more utilitarian these days, and as much fun as it is to spend days making a fabulous dress, my current dream sewing project list is full of things those things that I never thought I’d ever bother to sew.

That’s not to say I don’t make the occasional fabulous piece of cake or frosting, like the Oliver + S Birthday Party Dress seen above or the wear-it-once Ewok costume , both of which were totally worth the extra effort in my opinion.
My creation
3. Multiples are your friends.

Not every project has to be a special snowflake. When you make multiples of something you only have to cut/trace the pattern in each size once and depending on your fabric, you can cut out multiple projects at the same, getting to the actual sewing quicker. A huge plus when your sewing time is more limited.

When you do the same thing multiple times, you learn from your mistakes and get better. And generally faster at it too. This can be particularly helpful if you’re making those everyday bread pieces and need a bunch of them.

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4. When in doubt, make the longer version.

It has been my experience that babies grow taller much faster than they grow wider, which means those leggings turn to capris, those pants to shorts, and those dresses to tunics.

Little Miss Cleaver was about 6 weeks old when she first started wearing that green dress. As a one-year old she still has a lovely tunic that she wears. In that case, the knit fabric also helps, but I’ve been able to stretch the life of many a handmade baby item, simply by making the longer version.

 

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5. You’ve probably already got a fabric stash, so stock-up on notions

I’ve got enough adorable novelty prints to last me three years (at least), so if I want to do a project, I’ve probably already got some fabricI can use, but having a good supply of buttons and piping and zippers and thread in a variety of colors means I don’t have to use my sewing time on a trip to the store that inevitably takes longer than I want it to.

Since I am sadly, not someone who ever inherited mason jars full of fabulous vintage buttons, I early on bought a bunch of packs of multicolored buttons in various sizes that have been indispensable. I learned my lesson and also have a good stash of elastic in various widths and plenty of machine needles. Figure out what you use a lot of and get a ton.

Also, when it comes to matching colors, there is such a thing as good enough. When my mother first taught me to sew, we would go to the store, pick out a pattern, pick out the fabric and carefully select a thread color to match exactly. Now I have one thread storage box that holds about 40 spools, and generally there’s something there that is close enough (unless it’s orange, apparently I have no orange thread), or maybe that project will look great with contrasting thread!

I’d also like to work on having a good stash of quality solid fabrics to use for contrasting yokes and linings.

And one bonus comment, that relates to baby clothing in general:
If it’s a practical button (i.e. one that you have to actually use to get an item on and off your child), anything smaller than ½” is just so not worth the trouble. Maybe 3/8.” Maybe.

 

Anything your kids have taught you about sewing? Feel free to share in the comments below.

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Little Miss Cleaver turned one this weekend, and it’s hard to believe it’s been a year already. The days can be long (3:30 wake up calls, anyone?) but the weeks and months, and now year (!), just speed by.  It seems not so long ago she was just this tiny squishy thing and now she’s walking and babling, and has opinions and is just a tiny little person.

To celebrate her first birthday we made a weekend of it. First on Friday, Mr. Cleaver and LMC met me at work and we went out to lunch at the Olive Cafe, picked out some birthday presents at the local toy store, and LMC tasted her first ice cream – Gelato Fiasco of course!

For her actual birthday on Saturday we kept it fairly low key. She wore a new mom-made birthday dress. There was breakfast and cards. Then we went to LMC’s very first swim class, the first half of which involved a wet baby clinging to me like a barnacle, until we got to the picking up and splashing into the pool part and especially the singing part. During the singing she clapped her little hands with joy and looked at me as if to say, you didn’t tell me there’d be singing mom, I’d have been more open to this whole thing if I knew there would be singing! The swim class totally wiped her out and resulted in a nearly two-hour mom lap nap.

In the afternoon Memere joined us for a few balloons, a few presents, and a cake. In honor of her birth on Maine Maple weekend, I made a applesauce cake with maple buttercream frosting. I modified the original recipe to use 3/4 cup of whole wheat flour, less sugar in the cake, and no nuts/raisins. I’d probably cut back on the whole wheat flour next time, as it got a bit dense. I also added a bit of water to the frosting to get it to a spreadable consistency, but it was otherwise delicious.  The frosting tasted almost exaclt like maple sugar candy. The cake decorations I made myself out of some scrapbook paper. The birthday crown was a free pattern on Ravelry that took about an hour to make.

Later in the day our neighbors, who watch LMC two days a week and are like second family to her came over for a while.  Then we ate some pizza, gave LMC a bath, and everyone went to bed about a half an hour early and slept in late.

Today was Maine Maple Sunday itself, and we made our usual jaunt up to Sebago for a pancake breakfast and sugar shack visit. All in all it was a sweet time with a sweet little girl and a very good first birthday/first year of parenting celebration.

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

Introducing the Heartrose Cardigan

A simple seamless cardigan with heart-cabled panels along the button band. Available in sizes newborn to 4T.

Sample shown is in size 12-18 months on tall (then) 11-month-old with sleeves cuffed.

Shortly before the Little Miss was born I picked up two skeins of the Woolen Rabbit’s Pearl in woodrose, which eventually became this little cardigan. The color and heart cables are sweetly subtle and the simple shape, short repeats, and small size make this a quick knit.  You could whip one up before Easter!

The pattern uses 1 (1, 2, 2, 2, 2, 2) skeins Woolen Rabbit Pearl in Woodrose [80% Superwash Merino, 20% Nylon]; 400 yds [266 m] per 100g or approximately 340 (390, 430, 480, 545, 600, 665) yards of lightweight sock yarn.

Available for $6 USD

Or queue it up on Ravelry

HeartRose Cardigan by Leah B. Thibault

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Last week was National Pie Day, so this past Sunday my knitting group gathered for our annual Pie Day celebration, but far more importantly, we invited a few more folks over and held a baby shower for Ms. Maggie.

Maggie’s expecting twins in the early spring, so we took the opportunity to shower her with pie, love, and handmade baby things!

As is now my typical baby gift, I made two sets of envelope tees from Growing Up Sew Liberated,  tag blankies from Simple Sewing for Baby and Made by Rae’s Basic Newborn Pants. All versions of things that we used/use often with Little Miss Cleaver and all of which, I seem to have forgotten to photograph, except for that glimpse of green corduroy above.

We ate pie, played match the baby photo to the party guest (harder than you’d think), opened gifts, ate more pie, and stenciled bibs and onesies.

Can I talk a minute about stenciling clothes? Why have I never done this before?! So fun.

I found a perfect Handmade Charlotte Woodland stencil collection and we used Tulip Soft Fabric Paint at Michaels. I’ll have to get a report back on how they hold up to washing, but having the stencils took the pressure off of a) coming up with ideas and b) having the skills to pull it off, that free-hand drawing would require. I kinda want to stencil everything now.

As per usual, the food was delicious and the versatility of pie continues to impress. There was veggie quiche, apple/cheddar/leek tart, mixed berry pie, cranberry custard, chocolate caramel, chocolate pecan caramel, as well as an array of other lovely snacks and  hors d’oeuvres.

Pie Day may be one of my favorite days of the year (especially in the midst of a cold January), but it’s even more fun when you get to celebrate a dear friend. Now to wait a few months for the little guys’ arrival!

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The weather this winter has been… weird. It was very very cold, then rather warm (high 30s!), then it snowed, and it’s going to be very cold again this week. At least I married a meteorology nut who could warn me before I walk out the door in something inappropriate (temperature-wise, style-wise is still up to me).

Regardless of its day to vagaries, you know a winter in Maine is going to be long (hiya snow in April!) and generally cold (remember when I called high 30s warm?).  So it behooves me to made sure my kid has some good winter gear. Her Memere provided the snowsuit, and obviously we have plenty of sweaters, but a good everyday coat? I found stylish ones that seemed warm enough hard to find.

So armed with the leftover wool from my lady grey, some star-studded minky from JoAnn’s, and some extra time over the holidays, I made up ithinksew’s Mackenzie Jacket into a cozy coat just after Christmas. To ensure it fit (both because of the thicker fabric and long winter season), I made the 12 month size, so it’s a little roomy now (LMC’s ten months now), but I imagine that before the winter’s out it’ll fit just fine. I did however, hem the coat much shorter than suggested, as it seemed almost floor-length.

My other nod to cold-weather practicality was a pair of Elizabeth Zimmerman’s baby leggings, knit out of little less than a skein of Dirty Dyework’s Edna in celery. I finished these back in early December, methinks. I had to modify the gauge a bit for the lighter weight yarn, and I shortened the rise, but otherwise, followed the pattern exactly. I probably should have made two pairs, but it’s unlikely that’ll happen now. Looking at those snowman-making photos from today though, makes me think LMC should probably have some mittens, but considering our success rate with keeping socks on her feet, I can’t imagine keeping mittens on her hands would be any easier.

The little gnome piece is the Maggie Mae Tunic from Shwin Designs. 12 month-size, tunic length. The armholes seemed a bit small, so I made them open up further down the bodice. I also added the piping, which I think adds a lot to the top, but I would add it in a different order than I did here next time (and they’ll most likely be a few next times).  Mr. Cleaver is very good about letting me get some sewing time in on the weekends if I want/need it and sometimes LMC will even provide a nap assist. Simple projects make it easier to get stuff done, which means I’ve been mostly making baby things, but I’m hoping to squeeze and item or two for me in there at some point.

Though the mornings are still largely unpredictable in terms of waking time, our nights have taken on a certain rhythm, which means that I’m getting more time to knit and yes, design again. I’ve got one project in the works right now that’ll be coming out in June and another submission in for a Winter issue (fingers crossed),  so it’ll be a while before there will be anything to see from it all, but it feels good to be getting back on the design wagon.

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We got our live tree at just the perfect time this year. Picked it up Saturday morning without incident, including my first attempt at strapping it to a car (thanks bungee cords!) and set it up just in time to head to the third almost-annual ornament swap with my knitting group. I made the needle-felted winter scene and took home the snowman head, which went perfectly with my non-breakable/no-hooks-needed theme for this year’s tree. Once again, I was super impressed with all the ornament makings (though I still can’t get my brain around how the pom-pom ones work).  Our timing was also perfect since we got about a foot of snow the next day. We did make a first attempt at sledding with Little Miss C, and while the snow was tasty, the cold and snowsuit and the dog in her face was all a little too much and big tears were shed about .05 seconds after that last shot was taken.  Good thing there’s a cozy warm house and pretty lighted tree to return to.

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