Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sewing: Beach Dresses for Three

A few weeks ago we snuck in one last summer trip: San Diego. It's turned into a bit of a tradition for us, if that's fair to say after four years. It was fun to take Tess to the beach for the first time and let Audrey play a bit before she headed to the serious commitment that is kindergarten.

We planned it a bit last-minute but with enough notice for me to set aside the more sensible projects I ad in the works (and a few hours of sleep time) and make three Apron Wrap Dresses instead. But what could be more fun?

I'd had this pink and green paisley fabric in my stash for about a year so this impulse sewing didn't even require a trip to the store. I think the fabric is a bit Lily Pulitzer, but it was actually a surprise find in the clearance section at Hancock Fabrics. (No info on the selvedge, sorry.) I remember the woman at the cutting table saying, "hmmm, what are you going to do with this?" I wasn't sure, but I think these dresses are perfect.

I first made this apron wrap dress for Scarlett in patchwork madras and loved it. It's so versatile and simple. When it comes to little girls I think simpler is better most of the time.

I wasn't sure about Tess-sized but I think it works! And I think it's equally adorable on Audrey and Scarlett.

Although, Tess didn't pay any attention to her new dress. She was more interested in eating sand!

I don't often dress my three girls identically (as opposed to similarly, or in coordinating fashion) but I liked the idea of doing these dresses matching. It's fun every once in a while.

Don't they look like they're having fun?

I'm working on the pattern for this and hope to share it soon in a range of sizes (UPDATE: it's here and in my Etsy Shop). It's easy enough to make in an afternoon, and reversible too, though I didn't have time to get a coordinating fabric to back these beach dresses. I was just happy to get them to the beach!

They were perfect for running and splashing around, but with suits underneath, Audrey and Scarlett were happier to ditch them...

...and head off to build sand castles.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cooking: Tarragon Grilled Chicken and Chopped Spinach Salad with Orzo and Pinenuts

While I'm working on the summary post of Tess's first birthday party I thought I'd share some of the food we served and buy myself a bit of time (it's been a very busy couple weeks on the kindergarten front!). The menu for the party included tarragon grilled chicken and a chopped spinach salad with orzo and pinenuts. Both are fairly simple to prepare and much of it can be prepared ahead of time, but more importantly, these are go-to recipes for sharing and serving.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Craft: Fabric-Covered Composition Books (Tutorial)

I had so much fun with the paper-covered composition books that I went back for more. In a variety of sizes. I got the standard (such a deal these days for back-to-school) at the grocery store, and this cute mid-sized (which I also used for Tess's party) at Target, and the mini at Office Depot. And, this time I covered them in fabric! It works! Beautifully. With adhesive spray. Seriously, it's so easy!

I lined the inside cover with paper (leftover from these) so there are no raw edges showing. I used some plain paper too, which I also like, but it's fun to mix patterns.

How can you not help smiling when you look at these? This blue fabric is "Toy Box II" by Sara Morgan for Bluehill and the pink is from Windham, and that's all the info I have on it!

I think I'll use the pink mini for shopping lists instead of scribbling on the back of random junk mail, and perhaps a mid-sized blue for a "blog-to-do" list (which goes on and on and on, by the way!). I'll cover some other mini-sized to make books for Audrey and Scarlett to doodle in when they need to be occupied. Different fabrics will make it much easier to keep track of which comp book is for which purpose. I used to shuffle the plain black ones a bit in my work life--if only I'd come up with this then! Perhaps in a more "serious" print!

Click for a brief tutorial (building on this one).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Party: Vintage Polka Dot Zoo Birthday for Audrey (Printables)

Isn't it interesting how all young children are fascinated with animals? All three of my girls love them--domesticated and wild. The zoo is one of their favorite field trips. I guess the cotton candy, train and carousel help too! So, we invited some friends to the zoo for Audrey's fifth birthday earlier this summer.

I really appreciate the ability to take my girls and show them a tiger or a penguin or a bear without having to journey and see them in the wild. And I love thinking about zoos a century or so ago--so exotic! Such an outing. I love their park-like settings and wrought iron and imagine the excitement of the visitors when they saw wild animals.

I suppose the proliferation of media today lessens the thrill of seeing a wild animal at the city zoo, "oh yeah, I saw a show about those on...," but not yet for my girls!

So this birthday party was all about the zoo of yesteryear with happy children and happy, nearly domesticated wild animals. I incorporated polka dots and rick rack to add more of the lighthearted, vintage feel and there are printables a'plenty, with a promotion too. (Click to read more about the party and printables...)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Invites: Tess's Vintage Book Birthday Invitation (Accordion Book Tutorial)

Cute little Tess is one! It's hard to believe. Seems we just sent out her birth announcement. Perhaps that is because we sent it out a bit late!

I think first birthdays are extra special. I love birthdays in general, and believe they should be celebrated, but the first birthday is well, the first! I wish I could say sweet Tess's feet never touched ground until she turned one (I love that custom) but as the third child she's been all over the ground!

In any event, I am doing my best to make her birthday party special. Starting with the invitation. I love to do them the old fashioned way. This one was so much fun! It reminded me of the semester I took Book Arts in college. It was my favorite class (too bad it was non-credit). We used moveable type on letterpresses and learned how to make all sorts of bindings. If I could have remembered what sort of paste we used to cover boards with cloth for binding I might have gone that way for the book favors I did.

But, back to Tess's invitation. I created a little accordion fold book with an outer cover. There is probably an official name for this type of book binding, but it escapes me.  This is such a great way to make a little book because you can design the spreads one by one and add as many as you would like (no worry about gatefolds or laying out for a center-bound brochure). Despite that, I made a little model first, which I'd recommend, before designing this on my PC. I've got a tutorial below to show you how I put it together using my own custom paper tape. But first, here's the invitation:

I created the little sketches. I wanted them to look like vintage embroidery (similar to those on these embroidered shirts for the birthday party) or vintage book illustrations. I also made the Liberty of London inspired print for the "end papers" and paper tape.

It took a bit more postage but these went off in the mail snuggly fit into little red envelopes.

For the complete how-to, click to read more. The printable invitation is available in a customizable (editable text) version in my Etsy store here.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Craft: Pretty Paper-Covered Composition Books (Tutorial)

Tess's first birthday party is coming together. I am not quite sure what to call it. It has to do with vintage children's books  (sound familiar?) but also other vintage motifs such as calico fabrics, embroidery, pom-poms, and even the timeless Liberty of London floral prints. If you have a good way of summing that up, let me know!

One thing I have planned is to give all our guests books to take home with them. I was thinking of covering hardbound books in fabric but after some searching (difficult to find affordable, hardbound blank books!) and experimenting I ended up covering traditional composition books in paper. This has mostly to do with the dimensions of the books, and ease (I'm trying!), as they may serve as decor too. (UPDATE: I did end up figuring this out with fabric too! See here.)

This is a very simple DIY project--no special skills required--and the customization options are endless of course. I made an extra for Audrey's kindergarten teacher (great teacher gift!) and then bought a bunch more composition books to make some to keep on hand. Christmas gifts perhaps? I can always use a notebook and the cuter the better.

I hope all the recipients will enjoy these books as much as Audrey has. She and Scarlett have been helping themselves to some of the party prep!

I will show you two ways to cover a book. The first is "old school," using Elmer's Rubber Cement. (Remember that stuff? I really liked it and still do, plus it's acid-free.) The second is new school, using Krylon Spray Adhesive (I love this stuff too--super easy, and yes, also acid-free). They both have their pros and cons and each has it's own smell so you'll have to decide which you favor!

Click for the scoop!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Craft: DIY Printed Paper Tape (Washi Tape Tutorial)

It's all the rage, but I haven't yet indulged in the purchase of Washi paper tape. Probably because I haven't come across it to impulse buy in my brick-and-mortar retail browsing. And, probably because I haven't taken the time to think about coordinating gift wraps and tape.

But, having just made my own, I can see what all the fuss is about! So fabulous! So fun. I can imagine using it in all sorts of ways. And the DIY variety is easy as pie!

The catalyst for this little project is Tess's birthday invitation. I have an idea and I think printed paper tape will be the perfect adhesive solution. I can't wait to play with it! Opens so many possibilities to think of this binding tool as part of the design rather than something to be hidden or seen through...

If you are interested in the tutorial for making your own click to read more.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Sewing: Madras Patchwork Ruffle Dress and Apron Dress

Audrey loves the idea of dressing like her father. They have similar baseball caps, similar pique shirts, similar she was excited when I told her she would have a dress to match her daddy's tie. Phew! Because I was crazy about this madras patchwork fabric and would have been sorely disappointed if she didn't like it for some reason. Their Daddy may have gotten a bit more than he bargained for when he asked for the tie, because Scarlett got a matching dress too. Truth be told, I had the dresses planned already, so I warned him, he was signing up for some photos... What a sport.

First, Audrey's dress. I loved the idea of doing something generous with this blur of plaid.  Typically I guess one would go for a more simple fabric when thinking about ruffles, but I loved the idea with this patchwork. As often happens, I had this dress in my head and then went to look for patterns.

I ended up using Simplicity 3512 as a starting point. It has a mock wrap bodice but I made this one functional. I also cut down the neckline so the wrap closes at the waist.

The pattern has a cute godet skirt but I wanted more fullness so I added a full skirt based on a vintage pattern in my collection. It's probably about four times the fullness of the waist. So cute!

I made the ruffle a bit taller. I wish I hadn't run out of fabric or I might have added a bit more.

To make the wrap function I added buttons down the diagonal. I chose a light tortoise shell button. I think this madras plaid would look fantastic with khaki, such as a khaki poplin suit (hint to my husband). I was thinking about pairing the dresses with the girls' gold Saltwater sandals from the wedding, but went with white instead to coordinate with their daddy's seersucker. Pretty preppy. I have always had a soft spot for preppy. What do you expect from a product of the eighties?

The dress doesn't have a wrap skirt, but instead I created a placket opening at the top of the skirt.

The other half of the bodice buttons closed at the waist. Because I fully lined the dress it was a bit tricky figuring out the construction but I only had to rip out one little seam. I felt lucky there wasn't more trial and error! And I was worried about the fit--Audrey's clothes are looking so large to me now! But thankfully it fits, with some room, so hopefully it will work next year too. I really need to get a dress form to eliminate some of the guesswork!

And for Scarlett, I went a completely different direction: a simple apron wrap dress. I love these lines on her. I love the apron tie in front! (That's two fingers for "two years old.")

I remember my mother wearing something like this. I can picture it: a light denim apron dress with a faded red t-shirt underneath. It was so effortles and still chic. She wore it when she might have otherwise worn jeans. She had good legs.

It looks pretty cute on Scarlett too. I had seen a pattern in my vintage collection for a dress like this but when I went to look at it I realized the envelope was empty! Such a bummer. But then I made my own pattern and it was even more fun!

The vintage pattern tied around the neck. I made mine with a criss-cross. A little easier to wear I think, though this dress could easily be worn that way too, especially by a child who could tie it herself.

I'm working on the pattern for this to share soon. (UPDATE: the Apron Wrap Dress Pattern is here.)

Would have been nice if I'd made these dresses earlier in the summer. Oh well. Hopefully they won't be too short next summer and I'll feel a bit ahead of the seaon for once!

Here's to the ritual end of summer.  Hard to believe! I guess I better start thinking about Fall...

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