Tag Archive | fabric

Sparkly: expanded

I promised to tell you more about the sparkly fabric in Saturday’s photo, so let’s get to it.

I’ll begin with a little story. On Friday night, I went to a Christmas party — probably a lot of you are attending such functions this month. It’s all fun and games until you realize that your fairy godmother didn’t stop by to transform your shabby duds into a shimmering gown. That’s where I was Friday night, as I stood in my closet and looked at the faded, stained, wrong-sized, wrong season, entirely-too-casual clothes hanging there. What possessed me to eventually don a pilly brown sweater, I don’t know. At least my jeans were clean, which I can’t always say with four kids swirling around me throughout the day. But the moment I arrived at the party, my heart sunk as I saw all the ladies in their finery. Silky, golden blouses, high heels, fancy tights, sparkly fascinators in neatly-styled hair, even glitter mascara. And there I was, all brown sweater and jeans.

It’s not entirely my fault — I do know how to dress up and I actually really like it. Sadly, my life is sorely lacking in glamorous occasions at which to dress up. So that, combined with the leanness of what I dub “the cabin years” resulted in me having a less-than-glamorous wardrobe. Even though we’ve been out of the cabin for a year with Mr. Gren at his new job, we still feel like we’re recovering from that time in our lives. It’s kind of like when a tornado rips through a town — life doesn’t just resume as normal once the storm is gone; there’s a rebuilding phase, and that’s where we’re at right now. I mean, heck, we’re excited when we can replace holey socks these days, so there had been zero thought in any of our minds about fancy occasion clothes.

henry clarke 1959

How I imagine my life

Back to the Christmas party and me looking the wallflower. I thought to myself that, as lousy as I felt sitting there under-dressed for the event, I could fix this. Saturday morning, I went to the fabric store to see what I could find. And what I found was… sparkly. Sparkles and holidays go together! Even better about the sparkly was that it was pre-elasticated and it was on the half-off rack. A little mental calculating and I realized that if I got about a yard and a half of the fabric, I would have enough to make a skirt for myself out of each color and one girl-sized skirt per color.

The fabric has a wide, black elastic waistband attached to an over-layer of tulle spattered with silver stars and a satiny lining. I sewed the tulle layer separately from the lining layer so that they would hang nicely when worn. I think it took me about ten minutes for each skirt. Four skirts in under an hour? I call that a successful sewing day!

The girls were happy to model theirs. You’ll have to wait to see mine until I can sew myself a suitable top to go with them! Old t-shirts just don’t cut it.

Rana chose aqua

Rana chose aqua

Granota in black

Granota in black

Comfort on the road

A couple of weeks ago we returned from our 3000 mile journey down to Colorado and back to see my family. Growing up, my family often made the reverse trek from Colorado to see my dad’s family in Oregon. Even with generous 80 mph speed limits in Idaho and Wyoming (because really, who wants to linger there?) (don’t get offended Idahoans; I lived in Southern Idaho for four years — you and I both know there’s nothing to see) (I’d soothe the egos of Wyomingites, too, except, well, I’m pretty sure there are more cattle than people) (Utah, you get a pass because, even though your scenery isn’t fantastic in that particular corner, it’s better than hundreds of miles of flat scrubland) — what was I saying? Oh yeah, even at 80 mph, 3000 miles round trip is a lot of ground to cover in a car with a seatbelt digging into your shoulder. We needed seatbealt pads and STAT!

This sounds like a job for…


Not that a few seatbelt pads were going to eliminate much of my fabric scraps, but I’m all about cheap as free and saw no need to buy new stuff when I could just as easily make it at home with the stuff I already have. Except for the Velcro. I ran out of Velcro.

I wanted a fabric that was soft yet sturdy (it’s going to be sliding up and down on a seatbelt and needs to not wear through), which is how I landed upon the sizable scrap of corduroy which you may recognize from this dress. It’s all well and good until the day when I wear that dress in the car and get stuck to the seatbelt like some kind of Sunday school flannelgraph. We’ll just cross that bridge when we come to it.

Next order of business was to measure the width of our seatbelts. I used my soft measuring tape to measure across the front, around the back, and then allowed one inch overlap onto the front for attaching the pad to itself around the belt and came up with a measurement of 5.5″. I think most seatbelts are pretty standardized nowadays so you could use that, too, if you want to follow along and make your own.

So the finished cover is going to measure 5.5″ wide, but we need to account for seam allowances (of which I used a skimpy 1/4″, but you can add more if you want, just adjust all the measurements all the way around), giving me a width of 6″. Length of the pads is a little bit subjective, but I went with 7.75″ which seemed to cover the area that the seatbelt would come into contact with.  Got all that? I’m gonna apologize up front for the pitiful lack of in-progress photos. I swear I took more, but I don’t know where they are. Apparently figments of my imagination. However, it’s a pretty simple project and I have faith in your ability to follow step-by-step instructions.

Materials: thick fabric; quilt batting; Velcro
Finished cover: 5.5″ x 7.25″
Cut two rectangles of fabric and one of batting: 6″ x 7.75″
Cut two Velcro strips: 2″ (mine were 1.5″ only because I was trying to eke out as much from my Velcro remnant as I could)

1. Sew the batting onto the wrong side of one of the fabric rectangles.


2. On the right side, sew the two soft Velcro strips 1/2″ away from the top and bottom edges and 3/8″ from the left edge.

seat belt cover diagram

3. On the other fabric rectangle, also on the right side, sew the two scratchy Velcro strips 1/2″ from the top and bottom edges (be sure to line them up with their counterparts on the other piece of fabric) and 1/2″ from the left edge.

4. Place the two fabric rectangles right sides together (the soft and scratchy Velcro will be on opposite sides, NOT hooked together) and sew around three sides. Trim corners. Turn.

5. Press the seat belt pad and fold in the seam allowance on the unfinished edge. Sew closed.

6. Wrap around the seatbelts in your car and travel in style and comfort!


Yay, Wyoming.

Yay, Wyoming.

Back in the saddle

The sewing saddle! No, I’m not sewing saddles. Nor anything else Western-themed. Just sewing. Well, actually, I haven’t even taken the cover off my sewing machine yet. But I did iron fabric, lay it out, and cut three pattern pieces out of it so far. Then I had to go pick up my daughters from VBS and get lunch for the kids and well… now it’s naptime and the sewing machine is just too noisy during naptime. Not like they sleep anyways, but I like to maintain the illusion of providing a quiet, peaceful environment for them to sleep, if they’re so inclined. Which they aren’t. But I always hope. And now it sounds like one of them is out. Pardon me while I go return small children to their beds.

Alright, where was I? Ah, yes. Sewing. Or the illusion of sewing. There are a lot of illusions around here. It’s like a carnival fun house. Or a magician’s show. Speaking of magicians, Rana is in the bathroom soaking play-doh in water for “a magic trick.” The magic trick also involved cutting a sponge into small pieces and getting those wet, too. I’m tired and she’s being quiet, so… she gets to play magician. I’ll probably regret it later when the sink is clogged with play-doh.

Last week I decided I should start sewing again. I cut out all the pattern pieces and laid out my fabric and then realized that because of the print on the fabric, I really needed to turn it around the other way. It sounded like a lot of work to me at the time, so I just left it. Rayon challis is hard to get to lie flat and I had just worked so hard to get it all spread out and even when I noticed the pattern. Feh. So it stayed there all week, getting progressively wrinklier as my children took turns playing merry-go-round in my chair even though I tell them everyday that they are not allowed in Maman’s sewing area. They don’t listen to me. They don’t listen to anybody. They might listen to Duff McKagan because they think he’s awesome, but probably only the first time. After that, he wouldn’t carry any more weight than the rest of us around here.

Someday, this will be a blouse.

As the week went on and I avoided my fabric, the thought dawned on me that my brother is getting married in a few weeks and I have nothing to wear to the ball. I mean, the wedding. Well it’s a darn good thing I know how to sew, isn’t it? I looked through my fabric waiting to become dresses and found a lot of wool. Hm. Even though summer shows up only sporadically here in Washington, I’m not sure I’m down with a wool dress at the end of August. Next option — cottons. One is white with large navy blue polka dots. It’s gonna make a killer dress, but, eh, a little too much white for a wedding. My other option is a purple/green floral. It may even be a Swiss dot. It’s not; I checked. The pattern it is destined for is cute. I’m not convinced it’s really wedding-y enough, though. But I have this underlying guilt that says I shouldn’t buy any more new fabric until I use up at least some of what I already have.

Someday sooner, this will be a dress.

Purple floral it is. I got it ironed, which is no easy task when you’re trying to simultaneously eliminate wrinkles on one end and wad up the other end to keep it from dragging through wood shavings, dirt, and mouse poop on the floor. I managed to get it folded in half again and spread out on my sewing table and even achieved the cutting of three pieces from it! But I already told you that. Now I’m sitting here with a weird nerve pain in my right arm, listening to water running and pouring in the bathroom, and feeling so drowsy that I could just go       to        sleep     righ

What? What was that? Ohhh, right. Drowsy. Why don’t my children sleep? They’re trying to kill me by sleep deprivation. Panama! Panama-ah-ah-ah! There’s none of that, thank goodness. Besides, if they’re going to blare music, it’s usually “Welcome to the Jungle” or “Magic” (by the Cars); it just depends on the night. It’s the waking up at 6:30 every morning that’s killing me. And the waking up in the middle of the night. And the not going to sleep until 9:00. And then they won’t take their naps. Sewing on low sleep is not normally advised. We’ll see what I manage to turn out in the next week or so.

For now, I’d better see what kind of magic they’re cooking up in the bathroom. Yes, “they.” Once Granota discovered that Rana was up, naptime met its demise and instead turned into a little watery pow-wow. Good times.

Haiku progress report

Sorry, peeps, I don’t have much time to stick around and regale you with stories about sewing and yarn and new craft books and whatnot. Mr. Gren is off work today and has promised to run interference with Granota and Konik while I crank out Easter dresses! My sewing machine is ensconced in an impenetrable fortress of large plastic bins to keep out said kidlets. I’ll tell you more about the construction process of these dresses in another post, but I won’t leave you with nothin’ today. Here are a few haiku poems I composed this morning while finishing up Granota’s dress.

I made a blue dress
The pink one is coming
Little girls will smile

Brocade is quite slick
Edges fray like Shredded Wheat
Strings all over me

The iron is hot
You’d think I’d know that by now
Hand moved too slowly

Slippery fabric
The pins don’t stay where they should
That isn’t helpful

Husband took the kids
Oldest daughter is at school
Peace and quiet reign

That seam was too thick
Straight pins are no longer straight
Good thing they are cheap

Bins of possibility

Yesterday, Granota wandered into my sewing room and informed me that she has no autumn dresses and she would like me to make her some. Unfortunately, she’s right. In the course of our conversation, though, I remembered that I had bought some fabric for that very purpose last year and then abandoned that project. I told her I would look for the fabric and the beginnings of the dress I had made for her last year. I looked through a plastic bin, two large bags, a laundry basket, and two boxes full of fabric. I have a little. I got ambitious and decided to measure all of it and pin a little tag to each cut of fabric and then made a list of what I had because I realized that there was fabric I had completely forgotten about. I found lots of pretty stuff!

Polka-dotted cottons

Batik and a thicker woven cotton

Floral pique and houndstooth corduroy

Stars and stripes

Lightweight cottons & denim

Wool & denim

Flannel and corduroy

Aqua wool-silk blend. Mmmm.

And more cottons and corduroy!


To most people, it may look like piles of fabric. But when I look at it, I see a fabulous 1950s circle-skirted sun dress; I see sweet little corduroy jumpers with Scandinavian motifs; I see a classic 1940s style suit; I see a tailored sheath dress; I see blouses and crib sheets and pajamas and more. If I had the time to sew up all of this, what wonderful wardrobes we would have!

Everybody needs a cherry apron

And by “everybody,” I mean, specifically, me, although I do think any kitchen is enhanced by the addition of an apron in a bright cherry print. Cherry = Cheery. See? Ok, those words aren’t related at all. But for some interesting etymology, check this out: The word “apron” is not the original form. Prior to the 14th century, the word was actually “napron,” related to “nappe” and “napkin.” After awhile, people’s ears stopped hearing “a napron” and converted it to “an apron.” Nifty, huh? (If you like this kind of stuff, check out one of my favorite sites, The Word Detective. He’s got all kinds of great stories!)

In the interest of full disclosure, I will admit that I do, in fact, already own a cherry print apron which I received in a craft swap quite some time ago. I like it, it’s just that… it’s a half apron and, well, it’s usually not my lap that needs protecting from rogue tomato sauce. My tally (before today) of full aprons came to a grand total of two. 2. Dos. Two unusually sloppy nights of cooking and those aprons are down for the count. One is a heavy cotton with a toile print that Mr. Gren gave me years ago. The second is another one I received in a swap and has snowmen all over it. Even though our temp today hovered around 55 F, it’s still June and wearing snowmen in June… just makes me feel weird. Spring may never arrive outside this year, but it sure will in my kitchen, by golly.

I bought this cherry fabric over a year ago. It has been languishing in the bottom of a large sack full of fabric, all destined for various projects, all sitting there for over a year. Sometimes I get distracted. For some reason, knowing that we are moving soon (within a few weeks), has lit a fire under me to bust through my fabric and yarn stashes as much as possible. I don’t know why it makes a difference; I’m going to pack it all with me. If anyone wants to psychoanalyze this compulsion, feel free.

The pattern I used is a 1940s reproduction. I liked the halter top design and the pleating. The pattern called for bias tape trim around the edges of the halter, but I didn’t have any in a color that would go, and since Mr. Gren is currently unemployed, I’m trying hard not to spend any extra money on craft supplies. Maybe that’s why I’m concentrating so hard on my stash. Anyway, instead of trimming in bias tape, I just made a narrow hem to finish the edges. Overall, I’m happy with how it came out. Easy on, easy off. And who knows, maybe the lure of wearing a cheery cherry apron will inspire me to cook tomorrow night. My family probably hopes so.

Crocheting Nemo

Before my girls had even seen “Finding Nemo,” they were already in love with him, thanks to seeing his little fishy face on Rana’s sippy cups. When the July/August 2009 issue of “Crochet Today!” came out, I saw the Nemo {ahem} “Flippy Fish” pattern, I knew it would make two little girls extremely happy.

This issue is apparently hard to find nowadays!

These little guys worked up much more quickly than I expected with all the color changes. They made sweet little Christmas presents and the girls still love them! I made the fins different so the girls can tell them apart, and it works really great. I can never remember whose fish is whose, but they sure know!

On my Facebook page, I have a photo album of different things I’ve made and added Nemo x2. This past fall, a friend of mine, who lives in Paris, saw the picture. He, too, could not resist the cuteness and asked if I would make him one in exchange for something from France. Heck yeah! Deal!

We used to live just outside of Paris for three years (more on that to come!) and one thing I’ve always regretted not bringing back with me was some Provençal fabric. It’s outrageously expensive to buy here in the U.S. and I never could bring myself to spend $30/yd on it. So here, I saw my chance! I asked my friend if he would send me one meter of Provençal fabric in blue; I didn’t even care what the print was! He agreed wholeheartedly and pretty soon, we both had packages in the mail. He was delighted with his little fishy friend and I did an exuberant happy dance in my living room when I opened the box he had sent me:

Not one meter of one print, but 2 meters of three different prints! They are gorgeous! The sunflower fabric is a little heavier and will probably be destined for a tablecloth. The other two are lighter cottons and I can see them as fabulous cafe curtains. We are looking at a move soon, so for now, these fabrics are tucked away in my sewing room until we end up in a more permanent place. Every now and then, I get them out to touch and daydream. I would have made a whole school of crocheted fish for these beautiful fabrics! Thinking I definitely got the better end of that deal! (Gio, you rock!)