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The New Baby

Not my new baby, maybe I need to clarify.  My bestest friend Jen just had a new baby.  A little baby girl, to join the long list of little girls born into our family of friends.  How is it that me, my sister and my closest female friends have each given birth to two girls.  Wow.   This just means more dresses to sew, cute little baby gowns, blankets and the most adorable baby snugglers!  I really wish I had the sewing experience I have now when my girls were born, I have gotten so much better over the last 6 years.  Had I known about this pattern, or had the talent to sew it back then I am sure my little Isabel would have been snuggled up in about a dozen of these.  For now however I am happy to sew them up for the new baby (who I can’t wait to meet!).  Hopefully I will get up to Toronto before she outgrows the swaddling phase…or as you can see in these pictures these might become baby doll snugglers for her big sister. 

Since I don’t have access to a little baby for the purpose of this post; please let me introduce you to Elise. 

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Elise is Isabel’s “baby”, an all too realistic human baby sized doll she “adopted” from the nursery at FAO Schwartz two years ago when we visited NYC.    Although I find it a bit creepy to pose a doll and photograph it, I wanted to make sure this pattern would work, and she is closest thing I’ve got!  The pattern I used is Lotta Jansdotter’s Snuggler pattern, available in print in her book “Simple Sewing for Baby“, or for free online through Make: Craft for a Craft pattern podcast here.

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I would totally recommend her book, if you have a little one at home you are sure to make several patterns in the book.  I actually wish I owned it, but my girls are now too old for most of the patterns.  When I was a public Librarian I checked it out of the library several times! 

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There are some problems with the downloadable pattern linked to above, or just how it was printed- but I did have to scale it up to match the dimensions given.  Reading the comments on the Make:Craft post it seems I wasn’t the only one, so be aware. 

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I decided to line both of mine with a soft flannel fabric rather than something heavier given the baby was born in the summer, and I used a cotton Paul Frank pattern for the outer of one, and a sweet hot air balloon flannel for the other.  Love how they both turned out! 

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Now that I see the baby doll all snuggled up I think I will size this down for a few special baby dolls in this house.   I love what Probably Actually has done, and will have to give it a go- so sweet!  

I also have a new tutorial coming up on sewing for baby dolls, now that my baby is turning 4 next week (and there are no more babies in my future) I will be breathing some new life into old baby/toddler clothes by turning them into outfits for Eleanor’s babies.  Super cute, super fast and free!

To round out the baby gift I picked up a copy of Mercer Mayer’s The New Baby, being a child of the 80’s (and late seventies-ugh) you’ve gotta love Little Critter!  mercer_mayer

 

*hoping Jen is still in the fog of having a newborn at home, and not actually reading this blog or the cat’s out of the bag!

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Summer is Here!

Summer is here!  I have been out of my normal routine with school coming to an end, hosting an awesome end of the year Kindergarten party and general outdoor summer fun.  Doesn’t quite match up with staying inside at the sewing machine or computer to post on a blog.  I need a good rainy day to get back to my sewing stash, I have a stack of cut fabric just waiting to become baby swaddlers, little dresses and more that I hope to blog about soon.  In the meantime I will just share a few pics of what I have spent the majority of time on this past week…preparing for a blast of a party with about 25 little 5-6 year olds and their families.  Crazy.

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snow cone machine, goya style
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Photo project I did for the class, I printed small 4×6 prints for decoration after handing out the enlargements to the parents at school.
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Decorations before the destruction, punch balloons- so fun!
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Stuffed balloons with candy and raffle tickets that the kids traded in for prizes, my favorite part of the party!

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I have some awesome photos of the actual party, but don’t feel comfortable posting pictures of other people’s children online, so I only shared my proud little Kindergarten grad.  Of course she is wearing a handmade dress, and matched her sister (not pictured) in the cutest Oliver & S popover dress, using Little Lisette fabric in pink with ice cream and popsicles- perfect for the first day of Summer!

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Home Depot+$15+a few hours sewing=endless fun

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Teepee, tent, reading nook, hiding place, girl zone, clubhouse.  Whatever you call it, I am in love.  Every kid needs a spot to unwind and have time to themselves, there is something about crawling inside a cozy little nook to play or relax that is so charming.  I wanted to create a  little tent for the girls that we could set up in the living room (instead of trying to find spots for blanket forts that always fall down!) or can be taken outside to the garden for a bit of shady outdoor play.  Also, we attended a super cute camping party at a friends house and I was challenged to recreate one of the tents- challenge accepted!  My interpretation was a canvas teepee tent.

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According to the internet- this is so 2012, or 2011.  What can I say I am a little late on trends.  Anyways, there is certainly alot of online inspiration out there, but the directions I found online and in one of my favorite sewing books “Growing up Sew Liberated” were a bit too complicated for me so I decided to wing it and just try coming up with it myself.  Doesn’t make sense right- but to me somehow it seemed easier than reading through twenty odd steps of coming up with my own pattern anyway.  I decided to use the cheapest form of canvas out there- a drop cloth from Home Depot!  Home Depot was actually the only store I had to go to for this project which is pretty awesome.  Eleanor and I made a trip there this morning and picked up two 1/2 inch pvc pipes (had them cut them in half so I had four 5 foot sections) and a 6×9 ft. canvas drop cloth.

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When we got home I roughly set up the poles, tied them together up top, while winding yarn in and around the poles to hold them together in a teepee shape.

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I pulled out the tape measure and roughly measured the distance between the poles, height etc.  I drew up this sketch.

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I then laid out my drop cloth, folded in half and drew up the measurements- the ends became the doors, the folded triangle is the back triangle of the teepee and the triangle cut in the center became the two sides.  I then folded each triangle down at the top around 8 inches and pinned what would later be finished with bias tape to look like bunting flags.

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For the doors I cut off 15 inches off of each top and traced them (complete triangle shape) and cut out chalk cloth to sew to the remaining door fabric.  This is by far my favorite part of the tent, and ideal spot for the girls to doodle, draw or make signs.

Now for the tough part!  The sewing.  I sewed up each side wrong sides together first- not an easy task when you are using a heavy drop cloth and this much fabric!  I added the bias tape to the triangle top flags.  I used pink, yellow and red to add color and also finished the edges of the doors with yellow bias.  Once all of the sides were sewed together I turned it inside out and encased those raw edge seams and sewed the pockets for the poles.  Then had to undo half of those seams to make them larger- ugh.  So much work.

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Finally, after a few long hours of sewing this up I slipped the poles in their slots, added pvc pipe caps to the bottom of the pipes to keep out dirt/grass when we bring it outside and set it up.  Given that it was a self drafted pattern I think it turned out pretty awesome!  Seeing the girls playing inside it with their “Girls Rule” sign posted on top makes it all worth it.

*although I don’t really give enough direction for this to be a true tutorial it might serve as some inspiration for anyone trying to tackle this project..saves so much money!  I was so excited to post about this I couldn’t wait to finish it- I plan to get longer poles since I made the fabric a big large, and I need to replace the yarn I held the tops together with some twine or leather shoelace.  But for now it is done, and the girls love it.

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I was born in 1976, and so was this pattern.

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I get a kick out of thinking this vintage pattern is as old as I am.  I guess this  makes me pretty old.  Yikes.  Quite simply-Simplicity 7407, my favorite vintage pattern ever!

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So easy to sew, so fast I completed it all within an hour or so this afternoon.  I confess I have sewn this a few times already, the pattern for size 4 even worked for Eleanor last summer.  This time I left out the elastic on the “bloomers” to make them into simple shorts instead and she loves them.  I think they will get worn all summer with or without the wrap top.  The fabric is by Richloom, a cotton print I bought ages ago on clearance.  I don’t normally like dressing little girls in black but the simple bold dot pattern looks so modern to me.  This style crossover top is ridiculously cute and I am going to be so sad when my girls have both outgrown this type of top.  How do they get so big so fast, I am not ready for the bedazzled, sequined, graphic tee and skinny jeans styles.  Girls fashion seems to go from baby to teenager way too fast…ever try shopping for a 6 or 7 year old?  I almost cried when Isabel grew out of 5T, anything above that is a whole new world.  There are classics though, like Lands End, that still appeal to me- but try getting a size 7 at Marshalls that doesn’t have “bling”.  Ridiculous.  Let them be little for longer Ok?

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Playing hide and seek, trying to climb the tree?  Hard to get the girls to stay still for photos, but I can’t get mad she looks so darn cute.  I just love this little monkey, she is so sweet.

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Have you ever sewn a wrap top like this?  For a few years I tried to adapt/draw up my own for Isabel and had different varies of success… but this pattern is spot on.  Smashed Peas and Carrots has a great tutorial and pattern for a baby size crossover pinafore like this as well, I would totally recommend it if you have a little baby girl.  I also found an easy tutorial of how to draft your own pattern using a dress you already have.   Wish I had thought of this years ago when i was trying to draw my own!  My sewing has sure come a long way, with alot of trial and error.  I guess that is how you learn right?  I have never used either link, but thought they might be helpful if you wanted to give it a shot.  Another option is to search for this pattern online, I was able to find a few on etsy.  Lucky me I think I scored mine for pocket change from the thrift shop last summer- even cheaper than the 1.00 price from 1976 listed on the envelope.  All together, since this fabric was on clearance last year as well, this entire outfit probably came in under $5.00…pretty amazing.

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The Simplicity pattern I used is put together a bit differently than the tutorials I listed above, the front and crossover straps are one piece, not separate as in her tutorial.  Very simple, just cut two fabrics (contrasting or the same as I used here) on the fold, sew them right sides together, turn them inside out and topstitch.  Add your button holes and buttons and you are done.  Easy peasy.  Much easier than trying to get her to stand still, or wear shoes to match the outfit- I know, I ask too much.

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Chalk Mat Tutorial

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I have yet to meet a little person who didn’t love to draw.  Crayons, markers, paint and CHALK!  I have been making crayon rolls and bags for a few years now, and they have been great at restaurants and car trips.  Awesome as a birthday party gift for classmates, filled with crayons and a few doodle books or coloring books and they are sure to please even the kid who has every toy imaginable!  Don’t you find it impossible to pick out gifts for school friends- you never know what they already have, are allowed to play with, or will think is “cool”.  Again, every kid likes to draw!

This is where my FIRST tutorial comes in.  I wanted to branch out of the crayon bags and rolls and try a portable chalk board using chalk cloth.  Until now this elusive fabric has only been seen on Pinterest for me, I have never seen it in person.  After a quick google search I found that Joann’s carries it and I was psyched.  Chalk cloth has to be the coolest thing ever.  I ran to Joann’s yesterday looking for it and waited for almost 1/2 hour while two different sales ladies searched high and low to find it for me after I insisted the website said they had it in stock…a bit annoying since I had Eleanor with me and shopping for fabric with a three year old is already pretty tought but they were so sweet and helpful and finally found it- yay!  I guess normally it should be in the Utility fabric section, with the vinyl’s and reusable shopping bag fabrics.  I believe they sell it for 4.99 a yard, but with a coupon on my smartphone I scored 5 yards at 50% off- woo  hoo!  Be very careful once they cut this for you that you do not fold it, roll it instead so that it does not crease.    The fabric is also rolled up with a sheet of printed instructions behind it stating how to care for it.  Basics are priming and cleaning with a damp cloth and priming again.  Priming is just rubbing chalk over the entire cloth and erasing.  Rub the stick of chalk on its side, not on the tip.  I didn’t find all of this “priming” to be necessary…I jumped ahead and drew directly on it before priming because I was so excited to try it out and it still wrote and erased just fine.  Just to be sure though, I would recommend you follow the instructions provided.

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Ok, so for this tutorial I want to show you how to make a small, portable chalk mat.  The perfect size to stick in a little backpack for the school bus ride, take to the doctors office, to restaurants or leave in the car.  The basic idea can be easily sized up and would be great in a larger placemat size as well.

Supplies needed:

Chalk cloth (amount needed for this approx. 1/2 yard but you will have enough to make a few!)

Cotton Fabric of your choice for the back

Double fold bias tape (around 40 inches, again you can make a few with one package)

Coordinating thread

3/4 inch elastic

Optional- colored elastic or pony tail elastic

The dimensions of mine are 10x10inches.  Start by cutting your chalk cloth to this size.  You do not need special scissors for this, I used my normal sewing shears.  Cut your cotton print (for the back) to the same dimensions.

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I chose to round the corners not only because I think they look cute, but it is also easier to bind it with the bias tape- not mitered corners!  To round the corners, simply trace around a glass and cut off the corners.  I went ahead and traced it with my chalk since it was so easy to just wipe it off after.  Repeat this on the cotton print.  To be sure they are the same size you may want to trace the chalk cloth on top of the cotton print.

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Once the two fabrics are cut to size you will need to cut your bias tape.  I used double fold bias tape and cut it to around 40 inches to ensure it would be enough to go around, because you rounded your corners you will have a bit extra.  If you are enlarging this pattern be sure you have enough bias tape by adding up all of your four sides and cutting this amount (add a bit for overlap at the end).  You will also cut your elastic to hold your chalk.

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This mat holds one piece of chalk with 3/4 inch elastic cut to around 1 1/2 inches.  You will also cut elastic to sew at the opposite end to hold your mat together when you roll it up.  You can either cut the same elastic to to 5 inches or use a simple pony tail elastic (in green shown below).  I like the green elastic the best, but didn’t think of it until I was on my second mat…this is why you see it pictured both ways!

Ok, so you have your fabric and supplies ready.  Now, line your fabrics up with wrong sides facing.  You will not be pinning this so take your time and make sure the two fabrics line up.  Fold your elastic and baste them on the chalk cloth as shown.

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One will go on each side.  I placed the chalk elastic facing in on the chalk cloth side, and the other elastic facing out on the printed cotton side.

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Once these are basted, sandwich the bias tape around the two fabrics and sew around the entire perimeter.  If you have never used bias tape before you might want to check out an online tutorial.  I recommend the one at Made.  I have to admit though, that I do the cheater method she mentions…not the easiest with the small tape I used.   If you are a beginner (or  a perfectionist) I would recommend a thicker bias tape and the traditional method.  Take your time!  You want to make sure both layers are sandwiched in the bias tape.  I have found the “cheater” method easier using a zig zag stitch, and it also looks really cute.  You may want to fold over the end of the bias tape when you overlap the edge to where you started.

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Sewing is done!!!  Now,  if you haven’t already you can prime your chalk cloth and erase it and your are DONE!

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Just know that it won’t stay clean for long, I walked away from mine to start dinner and found it looking like this just 5 minutes later.  I guess it means she likes it.  I wouldn’t recommend the sidewalk chalk on it though…man, do those produce some crazy dust!

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Modern Retro Kindergarten Style, Part II

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Done, done, done.   Isabel’s Kindergarten “Graduation” dress using this pattern:

 

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(blogged about here) is done.

Well, to be fair it was done a while ago, but with out of town guests, field trips, cleaning for guests, cleaning again for guests etc. it took a bit to get this posted.  The most exciting part of this project is that it is the first time all of my seams are professionally serged- woo hoo.  The serger class I took at the local fabric shop got me started- even though after over 2 hours of playing around with my machine during class we couldn’t really figure it out all that well.  For some reason I got home, set it up, tried one other knob and it worked- yay!  I am now hooked, it is like sewing on speed….awesome.  Not that I would know what it feels like to be on speed- but you get the idea!

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Knowing I will be too busy to take pictures on her last day of school I forced my little “model” to pose in the dress tonight- not too happy.  She loves the dress, just not standing still for pictures when she’d rather be running around on the swingset.  I think it turned out pretty great, but hoping I am the only one who notices the flaws.  Not going to point them out on here!!

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I followed the directions as written, but instead of using ribbon trim after the dress is completed I used pink piping in place of where the ribbon was to be used- across the back and bodice, and down the front center seam.  I really like how it turned out, already thinking of doing this again with solid colors ala Mondrian color block.  I think I will omit the puffy sleeves next time though, not sure if I like them but I am pretending I do because if I show any doubt she will not wear it…she has already hinted to hating them.  Oh well, live and learn.

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Eleanor was jealous of the picture taking action and jumped in- maybe she can wear it for Kindergarten too!

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Besides sewing, we have all been busy with our yoga as well- kidding.  I couldn’t resist this though.   Who would’ve thought it would take a few new handmade outfits to make them show some interest in their American Girl dolls!

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Modern Retro Kindergarten Style

This weeks Modern Retro is bittersweet for me.  My Isabel is finishing Kindergarten- how did that happen so fast?  She is really growing up-yikes.  I have found having a 6 year old is like having a teenager and a toddler fighting for power- constantly swinging back and forth between independence and emotional breakdowns.  Growing up is hard, that middle ground between being a young child and a big girl is hard to navigate.  It is terrifying to me to think about her growing up with me being unable to control her environment and make sure she is safe.  Not just physically safe, but emotionally safe.  Her feelings are easily hurt, and I can relate all to well to being shy and unsure of yourself.  It breaks my heart to see my insecurities reflected in her.  How I wish she were more aggressive, bold, open to new things and new people.  The school years are rough- I am sure we all have memories of getting our feelings hurt, being fearful, being picked on etc.  So hard to wach.  Boy do I think the baby years are easier! I know her empathy and sensitivity will make her a better woman as she gets older, but as a child she is just an open wound walking around.  Very hard.

Anyways, her school does not have a “graduation” for Kindergarten but they are having a celebration with songs and a reception so I am going to make an extra special dress for the occastion.  This has become a tradition, I made a dress for her Nursery school graduation, and one for her Pre-K celebration last year.  This year for Kindergarten I am ramping it up a bit and tackling a vintage Butterick pattern  3017 for an a-line dress with short puff sleeves and ribbon trim (the one shown in blue).  I am going to replace the ribbon trim with contrasting piping.  For a modern approach I “might” make coordinating leggings so that she feels more comfortable, because again this is awfully short!

 

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The fun part of this is the FABRIC!  I actually found this awesome print at Joann’s.  It is a designer print- Alexander Henry Kaori Floral…and I am in love with its bright and fun print.  Love it!

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Picture this sweet little dress paired with red capri leggings and her saltwater sandals…adorable.  I can’t wait to get started on this and see how it develops…keep you posted!

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Sewing, Friendship and History

Sewing means more to me than the actual garment that is produced.   Clearly, it is less expensive, faster and easier to walk into a store and purchase a t-shirt or skirt than it is to purchase the fabric, prewash it, choose  a pattern, trace it, cut it out, pin it, sew it, finish the seams etc. etc.  The history and legacy of sewing is what gets me.  Spending time finding the perfect fabric and pattern for my little girls, combining special buttons and notions to make a one of a kind dress made with my own hands rather than mass produced in a factory and sold at the mall.  This means something to me.  My favorite thing to do is to comb thrift shops and antique markets for vintage sewing materials.  Bakelite buttons, silver thimbles, wooden spools of thread, delicate and decorative scissors.

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I have amassed quite the collection of these throughout the past few years.  The connection to women in the past through their sewing seems so personal to me.  Going through an old sewing box provides a great picture of it’s owner…the amateur sewer with mending needles, utilitarian buttons, and plain scissors to the sewing pro with fancy scrolled scissors, mother of pearl buttons, thimbles and trims.

scissors, buttons, needle guide and calendar 1948 from Montreal
scissors, buttons, needle guide and calendar 1948 from Montreal

I like to imagine who owned the materials, and what they used them for.  Sewing had a different meaning back then, it was certainly more mainstream and popular than it is today.  The decorative packaging and labels give it such an elegance that is missing today.

I like to think I am carrying on a small piece of history when I use these materials, especially when I share this with my girls.  Luckily they love it as much as I do, nothing holds their interest quite as long as rummaging through a pile of old fancy buttons!

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Unfortunately, I am the only one in my family that sews/knits or crochets.  This interest is not something that was passed on.  I did not grow up watching or learning from my Mom or Nana (grandma).  No handmade clothes for me as a kid!  All of my vintage sewing notions have been purchased, not passed down or inherited.  Growing up my sister and I spent a great deal at Nana’s house.  My mother was diagnosed with MS when I was 5, and for much of my life my Nana lived next door.  My mother being the second oldest of 7 children, many of my aunts and uncles were still living at home when I was a child and the house was always full of family (albeit pretty dysfunctional at best!!).  Anyways, my Nana has to be the most eccentric person I know.  Quite the character for sure.  Growing up I never saw her go anywhere, or have any friends come over.  I did however always hear about “Jackie”…her best friend.  Jackie passed away at some point when I was a child, and although that was quite a while ago her name is still mentioned by Nana.  Many of her belongings are now stashed away at my Nana’s house, along with a great deal of junk/antiques/old toys/crap.  With Nana now in her 80’s, she has been clearing out some of this stuff and while most of it is unusable, there is the occasional gem.

This is where sewing comes in…there is a connection to this post I swear!   When Nana told me she had some fabric and sewing stuff of Jackie’s for me I was a bit apprehensive.  The state of the fabric I will not get into- yikes.  But the sewing box is what I had been looking for.

DSCN3879 The closest thing to an inherited sewing history in my own family, it was a link to my Nana’s best friend.  The only woman she ever spoke of, a bond that must have been so strong it still held on 30 years after she passed.  Thinking of my Nana holding on to this sewing box, with its random buttons, scissors and old rusty pins makes me smile. DSCN3876 Will someone cherish mine after I am gone, or will it be relegated to the thrift shop like so many I have combed over in the past?  For now, I will enjoy going through this with the girls and hope that they find an interest in it as well so that this history lives on.  That crazy crochet doll face, however, is welcome to stay in the past!

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Slacker

I have several projects in the works but haven’t found the time to post.  Yesterday I had the challenge of visiting Isabel’s school to photograph the kids in her class for a really cool photo project I am working on.  I am pretty excited about how it is turning out so far.   The kids were so cute, posing one at a time on stage.  A few of them with “extra” personality even did a few dance moves and poses.  Hilarious.  The best part was the look on Isabel’s face when I came in and spent time in her classroom.  Poor kid has been giving me such a hard time lately.  She just hasn’t been herself.  I think she really needed some one on one time with me, without her crazy little sister!  I think she will really love this project. 

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I spent a few hours last night tracing patterns and cutting fabric for this weeks Modern Retro post- a beautiful little dress for Isabel’s Kindergarten “ceremony”.  Hope to post on that tomorrow.  But first I am off tonight to a class!  I am finally going to learn how to use my serger.  Up until now it has been packed away in the box it came in, having ordered it over a year and a half ago with the profits I made at the Queen City Market…such a splurge considering I never opened the box!  Heading out to Elmwood Village Fabrics in a bit to take a private lesson.  woo hoo.  Is it strange that I am nervous like a kid going to school for the first time.   Crazy.  I am so excited to learn something new, even if it is just how to do more sewing!!  So, I guess I haven’t been a total slacker…