Tag Archive | applique

Perchance to dream

I’m a bit of a finicky sleeper. It has to be silent and it has to be dark. That doesn’t sound so out of the ordinary, until you realize that I’m talking Princess and the Pea territory. When Mr. Gren and I were newlyweds, he really had to sweet talk me into letting him run a fan in the room at night. Yes, a fan — which most people use to block out noise — was too noisy for me. But he accommodated me by putting up cardboard in the window because the smallest pinpoint of light also keeps me awake. Aren’t I fun? Eleven years into our marriage and I can sleep with the fan on and I’ve adapted to intrusive dots of light by sleeping with a pillow over my head (which helps with the noise, too). But that wasn’t going to work on my recent trip back East, flying red-eyes. I had ear plugs to help with the noise, but I was definitely going to need an eye mask to block out the light. There’s always That Guy who won’t turn out his reading light, no matter what hellish time of night it is. And even if I didn’t get seated next to him, there are plenty of other little lights in an airplane. And that’s just getting there! There’s no telling what the hotel curtain situation is going to be!

Lucky for me, I knew where to find an eye mask pattern. A few years ago, my good friend sent me this book.

Sew Liberated, by Meg McElwee

Sew Liberated, by Meg McElwee

It’s full of lovely patterns, but I hadn’t used it up til now, although I do have a few other patterns mentally bookmarked. This time, I went straight for the eye mask, which had been on my to-do list for awhile. I liked her recommendation of using silk. That sounded nice and luxurious! Being short on time, I crossed my fingers and headed to Joann’s in the hopes of finding actual silk and not some synthetic imposter. They had a small selection of dupioni. Originally, I wanted a midnight blue, but settled for purple instead since the only blue they had was a bright royal blue and I just wasn’t feeling it. When I checked the end of the bolt for price and fabric content, I noticed this little line: “Fabric may crock; dry clean only.” I didn’t know what crock meant, but I do know that wet washing silk — dupioni in particular — can cause it to change texture. Maybe that is crocking? Tra la la. I bought my fabric and skipped out of the store. Or something.

When I got home, I figured I should be responsible and find out what it actually means for a fabric to crock. Guess what? It’s not about the texture. Crocking is when the dye rubs off the fabric, whether wet or dry, onto another surface — another fabric, a tabletop… skin. So imagine this with me: I wear a dark purple eye mask; the silk crocks; I deplane looking like I just got into a bar fight. That’s probably less than optimal. I was going to have to give this stuff a test run before I wasted my time sewing it up. So I rubbed it across my sewing machine. I rubbed it on fabric scraps. I rubbed it on my arms. Then I got it wet and did it all again.

Verdict: No crocking. Phew!

The eye mask pattern consists of the outer, pretty fabric and an inner mask filled with lavender oil-scented flax seed. I didn’t have any flax seed. I do, however, have lavender buds. A few years ago, my sister-in-law sent me a mug and a paper sack of lavender tea. I found it too perfumey to drink as tea, but hey, it was good lavender; there was no need to throw it out! And I’m glad that I’ve hung onto it all this time. I sewed up the little inner pouch and spooned in some lavender. Amount is determined at the crafter’s discretion. I probably went a little overboard because the mask is puffier than I would have preferred. Part of that is because all the lavender settles into the bottom of the mask. Well, of course it does (it’s not my first experience with gravity). What I should have done was quilted the lavender into the inner mask to help it stay more evenly distributed. I think, now that I’ve had the opportunity to sleep in it a few times, that it is annoying enough to merit me opening up the silk mask and fixing up the inner pouch to make it more comfortable.

Mmm, lavender

Mmm, lavender

This is not a challenging project as far as construction goes. What makes it special is the silk and the suggested appliques on the front. The author’s mask shows a little winter forest scene. That seemed a bit weird to me when summer had only just begun. I decided to make something a little more seasonally universal and went with a simple moon and stars theme. Whether it’s nighttime in July or nighttime in December, there will still be a moon and stars. For the appliques, I chose a shiny silver fabric from my scrap stash, which some of you may recognize as being the same as the wings on Granota’s fairy doll. I machine appliqued my moon and stars because: no patience. I had to fiddle with the tension on the machine quite a bit because the silk wanted to pucker underneath. When it was about as loose as it could go, everything worked better.

All done!

All done!

Of course, once I finished the mask, Granota came over to admire it and declared that she wanted one, too. That’s the way it goes around here. Labor over an Axl Rose afghan; the kids want one, too. Crochet a summer poncho; the kids want one, too. Sew up an eye mask; well, it’s just par for the course. I didn’t have time to make the kids’ eye masks before my trip so they had to wait until last week. I pulled out a few suitable fabric scraps (cottons for breathability) from my scrap bag and let her choose. She wanted it to be reversible, so I went ahead and chose two fabrics for Rana, too, since she wasn’t there at the time. I had the perfect fabric for Konik: a car print that I had used many moons ago for his little pillow and the curtains that used to hang in his bedroom once upon a time. He was thrilled to death! He was adamant, however, that he did not want his sleep mask to be lavender-scented. Boys. This time I quilted the lavender pouches like I should have done with mine. To make the masks child-sized, I measured the kids from temple to temple and came up with an average of 7 inches. Then I just scaled down the pattern piece until it fit (with extra for seam allowances).

I made all three masks knowing that Granota was likely the only one who would actually use it and that Rana and Konik merely liked the idea of a sleep mask. At the end of this week, we will be taking a road trip to visit my family in Colorado, so I suggested that even if they don’t like wearing the masks at night, it might help in the car if they want to rest. We’ll see. Granota does wear hers every night, though, which has helped her a lot since there is a skylight almost right over her bed. Even with curtains, it still gets pretty bright in the morning. I should have made these eye masks a year ago!

Sleep masks not advised for sleep walking.

Sleep masks not advised for sleep walking.

Fake snoring and giggles

Fake snoring and giggles

Sweet dreams!

Bag lady

I have returned! My trip back East was wonderful beyond words. We didn’t really “do” anything other than just spend time together. It went by so quickly (well, maybe not for anyone else staying in the same hotel who had to listen to us), but it was worth everything it took to get there.

A couple of days before I left, I assessed my carry-on luggage options and decided that I needed a new bag. I had a small carry-on suitcase for my clothes, but I needed something that I could actually get into on the plane without thunking another passenger on the head, not to mention big enough to hold all my entertainment during hours of layovers. My purse doesn’t cut it. I like to keep my purse as small as possible. This bag needed to be able to hold my purse plus a water bottle, book, and small crochet project all while still looking like a purse so as not to arouse the ire of picky flight attendants.

I needed the body of the bag to be big enough to hold all the aforementioned items without being too big (Please store your personal item under the seat in front of you). Neither did I want it to be just one big cavern where small items would sink to the bottom making me That Person in the security check line. Obviously, multiple pockets were required to hold those smaller things. Also, knowing that I would be schlepping this thing through multiple airports, I wanted to have a long strap that I could wear cross-body to keep my hands free. This is more practical in my daily life, as well, when I’ve got to be ready to guide kids across parking lots and through busy stores. It needed to be a wide strap that could bear the weight of the bag without digging into my shoulder. With those criteria in mind, I spent some time searching online and I found two tutorials for different bags that I liked and created an amalgam of the two. I used the body of the Pleated Tote by Artsy-Craftsy Babe and the strap and pockets from the Olivia Bag by Dixie Mango.

Both of these tutorials are well-written, well-illustrated, and produce great-looking bags. And that’s high praise coming from me, because I’m not normally one to get excited about bags and purses.

Finished bag ready to fly!

Finished bag ready to fly!

So next came the question of fabric. Since it was only two days before I left, I didn’t have time to go to the store and I knew that I had enough in my stash. Sadly, the fabric I had in mind for the interior was actually yardage I had bought to make another blouse like the rose/leopard one of a few weeks ago. Why “sadly”? Because the print was terribly, obviously off-grain. That made it unsuitable for clothing, but for the inside of a bag — who cares if the stripes are a bit askew? I needed something heavier than just a plain cotton for the outside and, lucky for me, I had enough denim leftover from a skirt I made years ago (I think that was pre-blog). Well that was easy!

After cutting out pattern pieces, the first order of business was getting the pockets sewn onto the interior fabric. I made an easy pouch pocket for one side of the bag and sewed it down in little sections to fit my phone, pens, and pack of tissues.


But, the most fun was the zipper pocket that I put on the other side! I have never done anything like this before, but it went together like magic. More scrounging in my stash turned up this bright green zipper that I had bought years ago. It was originally intended for a dress, but… I changed my mind about the fabric and all of a sudden I had a bright green zipper with no immediate use in sight. Ah, but that’s why I save everything. The zipper was a few inches too long for this pocket, but a little zigzag stitching at the right length and *snip* Hello, appropriately sized zipper! The link to the zipper pocket tutorial is included in the Olivia Bag post, but I’ll give it to you here, too, just in case that’s all you’re interested in. Show me the zipper pocket!

Interior of the zipper pocket, in progress

Interior of the zipper pocket, in progress

Zipper inserted and looking all professional!

Zipper inserted and looking all professional!


Two other features that I wanted for my bag that were not included in either tutorial were an elasticized pouch for my water bottle and a flap to keep the bag closed. The flap was easy enough to devise on my own, just taking measurements of the bag and sketching out a pleasing shape on paper to use as a pattern. I sewed it onto the exterior of the bag at the same time that I sewed the ends of the strap on, before attaching the lining.

The pouch for my water bottle wasn’t necessarily difficult, but it did take a little bit of advance planning. I measured around my water bottle, allowing enough for seam allowances and a slight bit of ease, and I also measured how high I wanted the pouch to come up on the bottle. It took a few pinning sessions to figure out the placement of the pouch within the bag. I actually sewed the side edges of the pouch onto the individual interior bag sides before sewing the bag sides and bottom together. The rest of construction was the same as the tutorial.


I found the outside a little plain in just the denim, so before I had sewn the exterior together, I cut out a little flower from the interior fabric and appliqued it the the bottom front. It’s not really “my style” necessarily, but it’s nice enough.


So how did the bag fare on the actual journey? Well, I packed that thing to the gills. And therein lay the only real problem I had with it: When I had sewn on the toggle button, I hadn’t taken into account where the buttonhole on the flap would fall once the bag was packed. I ended up really straining the buttonhole to reach the button. It doesn’t look so hot anymore. I’m going to have to reinforce the buttonhole and move the toggle button up higher on the bag so that it won’t be a problem for next time. Other than that, though, the bag worked beautifully. The strap gave nice support, the pockets held my stuff. The water bottle pouch was a wee bit flimsy so next time, I would interface it first to give it a little more structure. But all in all, I deem it a success! And was surprised to find that I had a lot of fun sewing it. If you’re on my Christmas list, you may end up with a bag.

Talar du svenska?

My horizons were widened last year when I received a Hanna Andersson catalog in the mail. I had never even heard of them and I don’t know how they got my name, but somehow I ended up on their mailing list for at least one season. And I’m so glad I did. Normally I would flip through something like this and then toss it, but this catalog really caught my eye. The clothes were so different from what you normally see in stores. Classic, cute, and still modern children’s clothes are becoming harder to find if you don’t rake in the big bucks. It didn’t take me long to notice that I cannot afford to outfit my children in an entire Hanna Andersson wardrobe, as much as I would like to. But! Fortunately I have this super power known as sewing. <insert heroic music here>

There were several little outfits that I adored, but I especially liked these dresses.

They're just so... Swedish!

Ikea is fine and all but I never really gravitated towards that Scandinavian aesthetic until Hanna entered my life. The color contrasts, the little motifs — ahhh, happy sigh.

You may remember that Granota informed me recently of the lack of warm dresses in her closet. When I was searching for the dress I had begun for her last fall, I found a yard and a half of royal blue pinwale corduroy. I had originally bought it to make her a Madeline costume for Halloween last year, but she never liked that idea and insisted on reprising her role as a Milka bar from the previous year.

I really like the applique on the original Hanna dress, but I didn’t want to do a straight knockoff. I cut out a heart from some white fleece and embroidered a vaguely Scandinavian design.

My embroidery still leaves something to be desired, but it’s ok. I think the stray fuzzies on the fleece will disappear in the wash.

To make the dress itself, I had to resort to some creative Franken-patterning. Yes, it’s a pretty simple dress as far as the cut goes, but I did want to make sure that all pieces turned out as mirror images of each other and in the correct size. So I combined these two patterns to get the effect that I wanted.

4107 + 5118 = Hanna

I didn’t have time to add the white band around the bottom because Granota was desperate to wear the dress to church the next day. I think I will put it on whenever I can sneak the dress out of her room. Here is the final product.

Granota was less than cooperative when I tried to get an action shot of the dress, so just imagine a (normally) sweet 4 year old with lacy bobby socks and Mary Janes skipping around in a blue tunic dress. Framgång! And I’ve been inspired to try and recreate some of the other pretty little dresses from the catalog. I might not be able to afford the real thing, but I can make a fairly decent approximation. Does that make me the Swedish Chef of the clothing world?