Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sewing Cate's Easter Dress

I've mentioned before that my mom sewed many of my clothes when I was little and she sewed every Christmas and Easter dress I wore until I was in high school.  I suspect my Grandma sewed Mom's Easter and Christmas dresses, too.  So, there's a little self-imposed pressure for me to do the same.  So far, I haven't been on the ball with the Christmas dresses, but I sewed last year's Easter dress and right now I'm working on this year's Easter dress.

I'm using Simplicity 2629 which is a vintage reproduction.  I'm using a quilting weight cotton fabric. I'm not sure how to categorize the print, but the pink, green, and orange spots remind of jelly beans, making it a good choice for an Easter dress.  To say that I like this pattern would be an understatement--three out of the four dresses I've made for Cate are from this pattern!  The first was her coming home dress, the second was last year's Easter dress and the third is this year's Easter dress.  The design is fairly simple, but I've managed to make each dress unique.  This time, I am making the shorter version of the dress with the following changes:
  • No lace at the collar or sleeves
  • Self-fabric ruffle at the bottom
  • Extend the tucks to the waistline
  • Sew a ribbon at the waistline
  • Snaps on the back instead of buttons (have done this in the previous versions, too)

So far, I have the dress cut out, the ruffle pieces sewn together, gathering stitches sewn on the ruffle and sleeve caps, the casing for the elastic on the sleeves sewn, and I've started hemming the ruffle by hand.  I'm kinda skipping all over the place in the construction right now because I am avoiding sewing the tucks and I'm doing the hand sewing while watching TV.  Here's my sewing schedule for the week:
  • Wed.:  Extend tuck markings to waistline, sew tucks, sew placket on back of dress, purchase and wash grosgrain ribbon for waistline
  • Thurs.:  Insert elastic into sleeves, sew shoulder seams, insert sleeves, sew side seams, finish seams, make bias tape for neckline, try on Cate to make sure it all fits right!
  • Fri.:  Attach ribbon to waistline, finish ruffle hem, finish neckline
  • Sat.:  Attach ruffle, sew on snaps in back
  • Sun.:  Wear to Easter Mass, take lots of pics!

Monday, March 25, 2013


I finished this cardigan for Cate awhile back (October 2012, according to Ravelry) but neglected to post it on the blog.

Pattern:  Anya Cardigan from Vintage Knits for Modern Babies
YarnKnitpicks Comfy Worsted, Blackberry colorway

The stitch is a simple eyelet pattern that was easy to memorize.  On Ravelry, several people mentioned that it was confusing when doing the decreases and maintaining the stitch pattern, but I just winged it and that worked fine for me.  I had a bit of trouble with the sleeves; despite getting row gauge I couldn't get all of the increases done in the specified length.  I ended up reworking the sleeve pattern to increase more frequently.  I must have been doing something wrong because nobody else on Ravelry mentioned they had problems with the sleeves.  Oh well, it worked out fine in the end!

I started the project in May 2012 and knit a 6-12 month size.  By October, Cate was 10 months old and it was a little big on her, mainly in the sleeves, but she's small for her age.  I just rolled the sleeves up until she grew into it more.  Cate is now 15 months old and it fits her just right.

I really love the yarn.  It's 75% Pima cotton/25% acrylic, feels very soft and snuggly and smooshy, and hasn't pilled at all.  It's a pretty, deep purple color, but I haven't had an issue with the dye bleeding in the wash.  Despite the fact it's mostly cotton, it doesn't seem like a yarn that would be suitable to summer clothing because it seems like it would feel yucky on hot and sticky skin.  I haven't tried it for a summer garment, though, so that's just my impression.

BONUS:  Cate is also wearing a pair of Big Butt Baby Pants (pattern by Made By Rae) in this photo.  I made them out of a lightweight stretch denim remnant that I had laying around after a failed attempt at a maternity skirt.  They have a pretty deep hem so I can let them out when necessary (I've noticed Cate grows more up than out) and I've left a small opening in the waistband to make it easy to adjust the elastic when needed.  I've made two pairs of these pants and I am a huge fan, I really need to make more of them.  They fit Cate's little cloth-diapered self really well--much better than RTW pants.  The knit leggings type of pants are very popular with baby clothing manufacturers right now and they end up looking a little strange because of the bulkiness of the cloth diaper.  With other types of RTW baby pants, if they fit in the butt, the waist is too big and the legs too long.  These days, it's getting more reliably warm in the Bay area, but Cate would still get a lot of use out of pants and/or capris made out of a quilting cotton--especially since it's still in the high 40s in the mornings when we go for a walk.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

St. Patrick's Day Dress for Cate

I have no more than a very small amount of Irish blood (practically miniscule), but my husband is half Irish which makes my daughter a quarter Irish.  Therefore I have deemed it necessary for her to have St. Patrick's Day outfits.

 The pattern I used for this year's St. Pat's Day dress is the Scottie Dress by My Childhood Treasures.   I used kelly green gingham for the dress and white muslin for the lining.  The buttons on the shoulder tabs are orange.  I left off the Scottie dogs and added a green grosgrain ribbon near the hem instead.  My plan had been to add some orange buttons as embellishments around the ribbon (and I may still do that) but I ran out of time.  I tried to get the gingham checks to line up at the side seams with limited success.  Being my first foray into lining up patterns at the seams, I didn't expect it to be perfect. Fortunately, few people would notice such a thing on a toddler's dress, which makes it the perfect venue for practicing that sort of thing.  I got the headband from the dollar bins at Target.  The tops say "Kiss Me" on the front and "I'm Irish" on the back.  She was surprisingly amenable to wearing the headband.  I half expected her to take it off almost immediately after I put it on, but she wore it for a solid 15 minutes--practically an eternity in toddler time.

 This was the first chance I've had to put my money where my mouth is regarding cheap fashion.  Last year, I purchased a very cute outfit from Carter's.  I was very, very tempted to do it again this year.  In the short term, there doesn't seem to be much benefit from having really good quality toddler clothing.  The cost of purchasing the materials for this dress probably equaled that of buying a cute St. Patrick's day t-shirt.  I did purposefully not use St. Patrick's day specific fabric which gives it more longevity than a St. Pat's t-shirt, but Cate will still grow out of this dress by the end of the summer at the very latest.  She's too young to feel warm fuzzies at the thought of wearing clothes that her mommy made just for her.  I get warm fuzzies about making clothes for Cate, but that is counter-balanced by the fact that I stayed up until 1:30AM finishing the thing and I still need to make her Easter dress (strong family tradition for making Christmas and Easter dresses).  So, beyond sentimentality, we aren't going to reap any benefits from this dress 6 months from now, unless we have another little girl (highly doubtful).


Cate has a little cousin who is almost exactly one year younger and we can pass the dress on to her.  And after that little girl wears it, if it's still in good condition, it can get passed to another little girl, and so on.  If we had ample storage, I would even be tempted to save it for a future granddaughter.  I knew of a woman in grad school whose daughter was wearing the same handmade dresses she wore as a little girl.  So, while it's true that this dress cost the same as the t-shirt I might have bought, and Cate's going to grow out of it fairly quickly, it's still worth it to make a durable, good quality dress, because it's going to last much longer than that hypothetical t-shirt and hopefully be worn by many little girls before it heads to the recycle bin.

Now, lest you think I am trying to run for eco-sainthood, I confess that I did buy the white t-shirt she is wearing under the dress, and at Target, no less.  Not exactly a bastion of durable, ethically made clothing.  What can I say, she didn't own any plain white t-shirts and I panicked because I didn't have time to make one or to try to find a good quality, eco-friendly one.  I'm just starting out on this responsible fashion journey and it's going to take awhile to get into the swing of things.

I do feel good about my decision to make Cate's dress and I see her wearing it a lot the next few months.  I want to make a couple more from the same pattern after I get her Easter dress finished and I've got a stash of cute quilting cotton that will be perfect for them.  I definitely want to make one with the Scottie dog appliques, too.  After that, I want to tackle a couple Oliver + S patterns.  I've got the Bubble Dress and the Apple Picking Dress patterns already, so I guess I'll start with those and go from there.

Finally, I leave you with one last picture of Cate:

Couldn't you just die from the cuteness?!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Book: Overdressed

Recently, I jumped on the bandwagon, and read the book Overdressed:  The Shockingly High Cost of Cheap Fashion (My review on Goodreads is here).  Overdressed focuses on the consequences of cheap/fast fashion, namely, that:
  • Cheap/fast fashion clothing is often ill-fitting, poorly made, and constructed from low quality materials.
  • Because it is impossible to make cheap/fast fashion within the US (due to labor laws and health and safety requirements as well as environmental laws) we import the vast majority of our clothing from places like China and Bangladesh where:
    • Workers are not paid a living wage.
    • The environment around the factories is heavily polluted making it difficult to breathe.
    • Workers are sometimes working in unsafe conditions.
  • Importing all of that clothing means that:
    • There are fewer jobs for skilled laborers in the US.
    • We often have no idea if our clothing was made in an ethical manner,
    • The cost in fossil fuels is higher due to transporting the clothing to the US.
  • Poor quality clothing leads to huge amounts of waste--we throw away or donate more clothes than can be recycled or sold secondhand or even sent to third-world countries.
  • People are less inclined to buy clothing that is made in an ethical manner because the cost is double, triple, or quadruple the cost you pay for cheap fashion.
  • People no longer recognize good quality clothing, that is, even if they wanted to buy better quality clothing, they no longer know what to look for.
The book has been much discussed on the sewing blogosphere, as you might imagine.  Many people sew their own clothing in order to address some of the problems listed above, particularly the issues related to construction and fit.  Certainly, having better-fitting, better quality clothing was the reason I got into garment sewing.  I think the real statement the book makes is about the ethics of disposable clothing.  I admit I pretty much chose to ignore the idea that anything bought from H&M or Old Navy was likely made by someone who didn't make a living wage in a factory that was polluting the environment.  It's really impossible to ignore those issues after having read the book.  Truly, it's now difficult for me to imagine going out and buying t-shirts at $7 a piece from Target.  On the other hand, it's still difficult for me to contemplate spending, say, $40 on a t-shirt.

Despite the sticker shock, it's my intention to buy more high quality clothing.  I'm also going to work on controlling impulse purchases, which is apparently the real take-home message from Overdressed.  From a Fashionista piece about Overdressed,
Overdressed is about reigning in out-of-control consumption,” Cline said. “It’s not trying to make people feel bad for buying clothes that they can afford.” In other words, the book is really about finding solutions to our shopping addictions. “And luckily,” Cline said. “There’s not just one solution.”
The Fashionista article goes on to give Cline's tips on how to afford ethical fashion.  It's no surprise that one of the tips is learning to sew, not just so that you can make your own clothing but also so that you can upcycle and refashion things from your wardrobe to give them longer life or tweak and refashion things bought secondhand.

I was so inspired by the book that, when contemplating buying a dress for Easter, I went to my local Goodwill store instead of the mall and tried on a bunch of dresses.  I looked for clothes that said they were made in the US (because they were more likely to be of better quality), that I thought would be great with a few tweaks (most common issue, the skirt would be too long, but that can be easily fixed).  Ultimately, I decided to either wear the dress I wore for Christmas (what?  wear the same dress to two holidays in a row?  craziness!) or make myself a new skirt, but going to Goodwill was a good experience in looking at clothing with an eye toward tweaking and refashioning.  I already have some ideas for things in my wardrobe that I rarely wear.

Ultimately, I think the greatest personal benefit in reading Overdressed was making me think before I buy clothes and aligning my clothing choices with my personal ethics.  I cloth diaper my baby in part because of the huge environmental cost in using non-compostable disposable diapers.  Therefore, it make no sense to buy clothes that, because they are likely to fall apart, are destined for a landfill.   Being more thoughtful about my clothing purchases will also likely lead to owning more clothes that I love which will solve my current problem of having a closet full of clothes and "nothing to wear."