Tag Archive | sewing

Happy Easter 2015

Yes, I’ve been gone. However, absence here means productivity in real life! And I have most definitely been productive. I’ll write at more length later about the kids’ Easter outfits, but I know that there are plenty of people who wanted to see the outcome after a solid month of sewing (and some crocheting).






IMG_7052Wishing you all a happy Easter!

When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

“Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?”

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.


Je vous présente mes excuses

Mes chers ami, j’avais plein de trucs à faire aujourd’hui, donc, je n’ai pas eu le temps de vous offrir un vrai “Vendredi Français.” La rentrée a été jeudi et je devais vite confectionner des nouveaux vêtements pour ma fille. Dès qu’ici, j’ai cousu un chemisier, une paire de pantalons, et une robe. Ce weekend, encore des pantalons et d’autres chemisiers. Si tout va bien, je vous rejoignerai lundi matin. Bon weekend, tout le monde!


Last year, I bought a book with cute clothes for kids, each with some kind of smocking. I’ve flipped through it several times, admiring the clothes, but had never really paid much attention to the instructions. I figured I’d read all that once I was ready to do some smocking. This past week I finally got around to it (have you noticed a theme here on my projects? It seems like that year buffer in between an interest in a new craft and the actual execution of it is my modus operandi).

Despite all the gorgeous projects included in the book, I had something else in mind. Both of my girls needed new summer nightgowns with certain criteria to fulfill:

  • Very long
  • Roomy enough to pull their legs up underneath
  • Pretty

Smocking seemed to fit the bill to give them that roominess that they wanted, with the added bonus of also being pretty. Awhile back, I had bought a twin-sized gingham sheet in an indeterminate shade of red. Or pink. Salmon? Originally, I was going to make a dress out of it for Rana , but for some reason she deemed it “too boyish.” I debated for a couple weeks whether to buy different fabric for their nightgowns or just use the sheet. In the end, frugality won out. Plus, 1/4 inch gingham is ideal for a smocking project and makes for a minimum of work for me (also a theme here. Apparently I’m a lazy procrastinator). See, for all of you uninitiated in the ways of smocking, the first step requires marking lines of dots onto the fabric. Lots of dots. Teeny tiny dots spaced 1/4 inch apart. They do make iron-on transfer paper with these little dots, but I don’t have any and I hear that stores still prefer money rather than wampum or beaver pelts or cake (running low on the first two, but I can bake a cake! Now I have an interesting image of me on the street corner with a sign, “Will bake for fabric.”) So you can see just how good this sheet was looking to me now, regardless of Rana’s opinion. In lieu of tiny dots, the corners of my gingham checks would serve the same purpose.

I settled down with my pretty book and realized after a few minutes that the authors make the assumption that anyone purchasing their book already has a rudimentary knowledge of smocking. Well… I didn’t. Internet to the rescue! I found this lady’s blog and she very helpfully detailed every step needed to get me started.

The first step is putting in the pleating threads.

Row, row, rows of thread

For some reason, this took me a long time, as in, several days. It’s really not hard; I must have gotten interrupted a lot, which is not unusual with a 5, 3, and 1 year old. I’ve already completed this step on Granota’s nightgown and it only took me a couple of hours last night. Maybe I’m just that much better now.

Once all those threads are in, the next step is to pull them and make the fabric pleat up.

Pleated... or is it?

At first glance, this looks ok. The fabric is all bunched up, right? Except, that it’s not supposed to be bunched up. It’s supposed to be pleated. Nice, even pleats that stick up on the right side. But the right side looks just like the back.

Not the desired effect

It was almost right! I was so close! Close enough not to realize – newbie that I am – that it really wasn’t close enough. I ignorantly carried on with the actual smocking. I used the book for this — one of the patterns seemed simple enough for me to do on this Inaugural Voyage into the Realm of Smocking.

Looks pretty good so far, aside from the fact that the picture quality looks like it was taken twenty years ago. Grainy!

That top line of dark pink stitching is supposed to be the stabilizing line. You’ll see in a minute how well that worked out. It was at about this point in the green stitching that I realized how horrible my “pleating” was. I could never tell which bump to stitch in, so I just guessed. And you’ll see how well that one worked, too.

Once I got in all my decorative stitches, I cut loose the black pleating threads and instantly knew that we had a problem. Instead of staying nicely pleated bunched up, the fabric exploded. Oh, did I mention that when you smock a garment, you have to cut the fabric three times the width of the finished piece? Without proper smocking holding it into place, this nightgown was going to be much, much roomier than any of us had expected. Rana and Granota could have worn it together!


Note the decided lack of pleats or bunching. My nice green zigzag stitches are all distorted and the dark pink may as well not have even been there for all the good it did. Rana tried it on and the front dipped down halfway to her belly. In a horrified stage whisper, she hissed at me, “People are gonna see my boobs!” I did some emergency smocking (with her still in it, much to her annoyance) to pull in some of the slack so that she could wear it to bed last night. We never did get it quite high enough, but we were both tired, so agreed that it was good enough for sleeping and sent her to bed. I think what I’m going to have to do is put in a permanent pleating thread on the inside to hold it all together.

Finished nightgown, still in need of more smocking

This is what crafting fearlessly is all about! I wouldn’t call this a complete failure because, in the end, I did produce a wearable garment with interesting decoration, even if it wasn’t quite what it “should” have been. And besides that, I learned a lot just from the experience. As I mentioned above, I’ve put in the pleating threads on Granota’s nightgown, so I am going to take extra special care in making sure that the pleats turn out right this time. And once those are right, the rest of it should just follow! If not, then I guess we’ll get another installment of Things JenGren Learned While Attempting to Smock.

Sad day in Frogland

My sewing machine croaked. 😦

Mr. Gren took it in to get fixed and came back with a $170 bill and a return date of the 19th. {sigh} Guess I’ll be finding other things to do to keep me busy for awhile. I do have a couple of crochet projects to finish, but it’s not really crochet weather. :p I just started smocking a nightgown for Rana to be followed by one for Granota, so it looks like I’ll have plenty of time to devote to those!

Mama said there’d be days like this

Today was supposed to have been a good day. After Mr. Gren was gone all day yesterday, I was looking forward to having him corral the kids so I could get some sewing done. Last week, a friend said she would pay me to make two baby dresses for her new granddaughter; I showed her my patterns, she chose the views that she liked and I bought the fabric and lace last Saturday. This morning, all I needed to do was attach one sleeve, hem the skirt and do the buttons and buttonholes; then I would be ready to move on to the second dress. Before I had even gotten out of bed, though, plans were already changing: Mr. Gren remembered that he was supposed to help mow the church lawn today at 10. {sigh}

At 11, Mr. Gren was done mowing and I escaped to my sewing room. The sleeve went on fine, the hem and lace looked great. And then it all started going downhill. While attempting to pry The World’s Tiniest Buttons off their little card, I stabbed myself with my seam ripper. Luckily, I didn’t bleed on anything important.

Scene of the tragedy

I ran downstairs to get a band-aid (oh, I mean a Kroger Sterile Adhesive Bandage) and then headed back up to sew on The World’s Tiniest Button. Funny, I had never noticed how much I use my left thumb — threading a needle, knotting the thread, holding on the dang button while I sewed — all this became much more difficult. I did prevail in the end, but that’s the end of my sewing for the day.

One finished dainty baby dress

I put away the pattern I was working from and went to get out the pattern for the second dress, thinking I could at least get the fabric cut before lunch. But I couldn’t find it! I had had it just two days ago, where the heck had it gone? Shuffling through my patterns, I was relieved to finally find it, right where it should have been. I dumped it out and thought to myself that those pattern pieces looked awfully familiar. Upon closer inspection, I realized they were the ones from the first dress. I studied the pattern envelope, thinking I must be losing my mind, and wondering which one of those dresses I had just made. After a minute, I realized that the envelope to match those pieces was stuck neatly on my message board — the place where I always stick the pattern I’m currently working on. I really did think I had gotten enough sleep last night…

The elusive pattern

Now, with the correct pattern pieces in hand, I began to search through them to find the 12 month size. 18 month front, 18 month sleeve, 18 month back… What’s going on here? My friend had asked me to make her dresses in approximately 6 month and 9 month sizes; I didn’t have a 9 month, but I figured the 12 month would be close enough. Why isn’t it here? I flipped over the pattern envelope and saw something I had never noticed before: It was solely an 18 month pattern. No additional sizes, despite the fabric requirement listings on the back. 9 and 12 month are pretty close; 9 and 18 month are nowhere close and I’m not comfortable enough sizing down patterns, especially when someone’s paying me for my work. What to do, what to do…

I flipped through my fabric store flyers to see if anyone had patterns on sale this week and it turns out that Hancock’s does have Simplicity for $1.99. Not a stellar deal, but it’s pretty good. I also found this weird image. Still trying to figure that one out. Before I waste my time heading down there, I decided to check the Simplicity website and see whether they’ve even got anything similar to this pattern anymore. I came downstairs to learn that the kids had had a free-for-all while Mr. Gren was washing the dishes. Konik had crawled up onto the secretary and found some highlighters. The girls were happy to relieve him of them and then proceeded to color all over one of my idea notebooks and Rana autographed her rainboots. After that, Konik dowsed the notebook with water, pulled my crochet hook out of another project I’ve been working on and dragged yarn out of the bag it was in. The notebook is drying out, but I still haven’t found my crochet hook. Simplicity does not carry a style like this, and, my band-aid is already peeling off. Is 4:30 too early to go back to bed?

ETA: Before I could even get this posted, Konik chewed up a mouthful of animal crackers and then spit them out all over the carpet. Nice.

Tissue paper time machines

I grew up in the 80s and, while I did partake of poofy bangs, pegged jeans, and neon colors, I’m not your typical “child of the 80s.” Musically, I grew up in a time warp — from the time I got my first radio, I always listened to the Oldies station. My dad and I used to play a game in the car to see who could name the band first: Buddy Holly, the Beatles, Three Dog Night, CCR. And those are the easy ones! In high school, I even discovered an AM station that played 30s and 40s music and I loved it! I lived blissfully ignorant of the crime that is 80s music until I married Mr. Gren, who has made it his mission to educate me; I would still lose on the “name the band” game.

Like my musical tastes, my sartorial aesthetic definitely veers towards older styles, specifically the 40s and 50s (well, and pretty much everything between 1200 and 1830, too, but it’s harder to get away with that in modern life). I like a lot of the tailored looks and hairstyles from the early 40s and I drool over the full skirts of the late 40s/early 50s, but, up until just a few years ago, it never occurred to me that I could actually make these styles. Somehow, I stumbled upon the great blog A Dress a Day. Not only is it about dresses, it’s about vintage dresses and vintage sewing patterns. I didn’t even know these existed! This was an epiphany, an awakening, the beginning of an addiction (don’t worry; I can stop any time). There are sellers of vintage sewing patterns all over the Innermet! Another revelation! I don’t often buy, but I do love scrolling through listings of all these great patterns. To date, I’ve made 8 dresses from vintage patterns from the 40s and 50s. A lot of times, they make more sense than the modern patterns.

I’ve got two to show you today. The first is the Very First Ever dress I made from a vintage pattern. There was some minor panic when I first opened the envelope to discover that, Hey! The really old ones aren’t printed! Probably other people knew that, but remember, this was all new to me. Well, it turned out that this pattern went together like a dream. Never before nor since have I had a dress come together without a hitch like this one. I had no way of knowing it would work so nicely, so I made my first dress out of a king-size sheet. One day, I will make this one again in a fabric I’m actually excited about, but for now, this does alright.

What the heck am I doing? Hugging an invisible child? Preparing to salute?

Look at those humongous pockets! I need more dresses like that, then I wouldn’t have to carry a purse. This dress has princess seams and a flared skirt. The side pieces of the dress form the cap sleeves, so no setting in sleeves, gathering, easing and all that rigmarole.

My most recent vintage project was actually started last summer. But then our weather turned icky and I had no occasion to wear a sleeveless dress, so I abandoned it, just a zipper and hem shy of completion. This spring, I finally got tired of it laying around my sewing room, so I buckled down one day and finished it. Hurray! Here is the pattern I used:

I liked View 2 with the collar, pleats and narrow keyhole (which is hard to see in the picture). I thought the other style made her shoulders look wide. I used a great black cotton with a big cherry print to make this one. Cherries belong on a 1950s dress. The one thing that disappointed me when I was done is that the collar is too small to fasten at my neck without choking me. I don’t get that cute keyhole effect, but oh well. It looks pretty good and no one’s the wiser. Except you, because now you read this. But you’re going to agree with me that it looks fine. Right? Of course, right.

A friend of mine took some lovely photos of me wearing my awesome black cherry dress this past weekend. See what you think!

I am wearing a crinoline (that I made) under this; it makes a huge difference in the look.

If I can ever satisfy Rana’s appetite for new dresses, I will make something for myself again. I’ve already got lots of fabric paired with some more of my vintage patterns. I’ve got 5 yds of white cotton with big navy polka dots that would make a fantastic dress for summertime. I’d better get on it soon, though, otherwise you’ll be reading about it this time next year.

Three non-winter dresses

We don’t quite know what to call the season we’re currently experiencing out here in the Pacific Northwest. Our calendars claim that Summer begins tomorrow, but I think we’re at least three months behind. In other words, we’re just now getting our Spring. I think we should adjust our calendars accordingly so that we don’t feel so disappointed when we look outside. At any rate, back when our calendars claimed it was Spring, Rana and I checked her closet for Springtime dresses and found that she had outgrown everything from last year. I’ve already shown one dress that I made for her, so now I’ll show the others I’ve finished.

Please excuse the fuzzy baby head zooming through the photo.

This dress began life as a pair of pillowcases that I rescued from the thrift store for 99 cents a piece. Not too shabby, eh? I’m all about saving myself time, so I kept the original pillowcase hem for the skirt. Despite the stripes, the dress looked too plain once I had finished, so I embellished it with a hand-painted daffodil. See? Sometimes I can paint.

Who else wishes they were in Hawaii?

This was the first of my Hawaiian shirt conversions and at first, it went very, very wrong. I had used Rana’s Easter dress as a template, but… I only traced one side and then just folded the shirt in half and cut. Moral of the story: Trace both sides of your template, just to be sure. I happily went sewing along, thinking it would make a good surprise for Rana when she got home from school. And we were all surprised when we found that this dress was too skinny even to fit Konik, my 18 month old son. Obviously, some alterations were in order. I didn’t want to lose the button placket on the back because that would make more work for me. So I whacked off the top half of the front, took my daughter’s measurement (sometimes I do smart things), and scavenged among the scraps of the original shirt. Lucky for me, when I opened up one of the sleeves on the side seam, it was just the width I needed, and I sewed it right on. You can see the hem of the sleeve now marks the dress’ waistline (through the middle of the trees). How’s that for creative sewing? I was going to put little flutter sleeves on the dress, but Rana preferred the wide straps. I wasn’t going to complain — less work! (Notice a theme, here?)

The taste, the taste, the taste is gonna move ya!!

This dress was fun. How can you not be happy looking at fruit fabric? This was just a small, lonely piece of fabric hanging sadly between placemats and sheets at the thrift store. It needed a better life, so I saved it, too. When I got it home, I found that there were strange black smudges in a couple of places, so I had to get creative with how I cut out the pieces. It all worked out ok, though! The skirt fabric was leftover from a hospital gown I made for a friend a couple years ago (she wanted to have her baby in style, not some faded hospital-issue sack). Once again, Rana was at school while I was sewing, so there was no measuring involved. This dress is ankle length on her and, if not for the citrus fruit and bright colors, would look a little “Texas compound,” but she thinks the length is great. I’ll just be sure never to do her hair up in a bun when she wears this.

Current work in progress is the bright pink dress with the patchwork skirt. I admire the people who can sew without the use of patterns, but I think I’m ready to admit that I am not one of those people. The two pillowcases I hacked up didn’t yield enough fabric to make this into, well, a dress. It’s going to have to be something more akin to a tunic. And, much to Rana’s disgruntlement, it’s going to have to be for Granota. There was simultaneous shrieking and cheering at that announcement. Hopefully, the girls don’t try to reenact the Cinderella shredding-of-the-dress scene whenever Granota wears this.

Tomorrow, I’m going to attempt something cool. I’ll post about it if I get it done in time!

I’m on a roll!

I love days like this where everything comes together as it should and I’m able to get so much done. I didn’t sew any pieces on backwards; I didn’t have to rewind my bobbin two inches from the end of a seam; my seam ripper sat docilely in my tackle box; and best of all, I have tangible results (unlike when I’ve spent hours tacking in facings that no one ever sees)!

My good sewing mojo began yesterday when I was able to knock out a dress for Rana. Coming into this spring, we realized that the girl has been growing like a weed and all of her springtime dresses from last year were scandalously short on her this year (good news for Granota whose dress wardrobe doubled). I planned on making her about five dresses and didn’t want to spend the money on that much new fabric, so I hit the thrift store. I love the thrift store for fabric shopping. It’s a little bit more of a challenge to find nice prints sometimes, but you can’t beat the prices. I came away with two men’s Hawaiian shirts, two orange/yellow striped pillowcases, one plain hot pink pillowcase, one hot pink pillowcase with orange and light pink flowers, a scrap of jersey with a bright fruit print all over it, a butterfly sheet, and a red gingham checked sheet — and spent about ten dollars for all of it! Score!

Up to this week, I had made three dresses: one from the white Hawaiian shirt, one from the two orange striped pillowcases, and one from the fruity jersey (using fabric I already had on hand to make the skirt). And I haven’t taken a photo of a single one of those! Yesterday, I finally got the urge to clear all these thrifted fabrics out of my room. They’ve been draped across the back of my chair and slung over my dress form for months. It’s about time. Loosely following cheytown’s Button-down Shirt Recon (four years and still going strong!), I made Rana a dress from the red Hawaiian shirt. Ok, I used cheytown’s tutorial from memory for the white Hawaiian dress/shirt, too, but it’s also a little different from the “original.” Back to the red dress: Rana loved it and wore it to school today. She was in a funky mood when she got home and consented to pictures only if she could hide her face. Unlike the original, this one buttons in the front and I had to do a little pleating along the back neckline to keep it from dipping down too low.

Men's large shirt becomes a dress for a 5 year old

Today, with all my sewing super powers still in full force, I began another dress using the hot pink pillowcases. I completed the bodice (using an old Simplicity pattern). Rana likes twirly dresses especially, so I am making the skirt in patchwork tiers; I’m making it up as I go along. I’m still in the pinning process on that. If everything keeps going smoothly, I’ll finish it in a couple of days! I sure do like progress.

That's a lot of little squares to sew together. This is why I don't quilt.

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.