Move over Laptop

Sewing slipper jammiesSometimes the writer has to take a backseat to being a Grammy.  My office space allotment has ample room for my laptop and was designed with plenty of surface area for spreading out notes and research materials.  It just does not accommodate a sewing machine and yards of material without a bit of compromise.  So when my inner Grammy takes over, the laptop gets shoved aside.

It’s well known in this space that I have an annual appointment with the sewing machine and piles of fuzzy fleece.  What started as a single pair of slipper jammies, also known as Grammy jammies, has multiplied into four such outfits fitting little bodies from 10 months to 7 years.  And next year already promises to push the total to five.  No matter what the number, I press on and rue the day when the older grandchildren start opting out of such cozy comforts.

It feels a bit like an assembly line.  Cut, cut, cut.  Sew, sew, sew.  A zipper here, a cuff there.  Gripper feet for all.  The outside world hardly exists.  All I see is red fleece, goofy reindeer faces and a needle bouncing up and down in rapid motion.  I cannot rest until the last piece is in place.  The final stitch sewn.  It is a labor of love.  When I am finished, they come to life – four little visitors inhabiting my couch.I am lucky this year.  I found Christmas fleece, which has become a rare commodity.  That means an early delivery so that the kiddos can wear them for the run up to the holiday season.  When I produced the customary cloth gift bags last weekend, the older ones already knew what must be inside.  Kids sure learn fast.Ben, Mya and Isabel in their Grammy Jammies

I had to entrust the final pair to the US Mail.  Through the marvels of FaceTime I was able to watch Maren rip through the packaging to reveal her very own Grammy jammies.  A style show ensued.Maren models Grammy Jammies

My task complete for now, the laptop has been restored to its place of honor.  With this little interlude behind me, my writing resumes.  Bits of fuzz and pins linger in my workspace.  I smile, looking forward to Christmas when all four grandchildren will pile into our house – in their matching togs.

Grammy Jammies times 4

The tradition was reborn six years ago. Just as I made matching pajamas for my own children each year for Christmas, I began sewing slipper jammies for my first grandchild. As each new addition enters the fold, I increase production. The top sizes grow larger each year, and I wonder how long the oldest will still want to wear footie jammies. But I’m tickled that at age 6 1/2, my Grammy jammies are still popular.

Grammy with Kennedy grandkidsAs I commenced sewing for this seventh round, a new grandchild was on the way. Soon a cousin would join the three siblings. It seemed unlikely that the baby would arrive by Christmas, but it would be a shame to exclude her from the tradition merely for making an early entrance. Hence the first Grammy bunting was delivered.
Grammy JammiesAlthough even this newborn size swamps little Maren it feels good to see her initiated into the tradition. And should she grow quickly, I eked out one more set with proper footies for her in a 3 month size.
Grammy and Maren in buntingBy now I know this sewing pattern really well and have it in every possible size. I’ll be making my Grammy jammies as long as the babies keep coming. If the current trend continues, that will keep me busy for quite a while.

Wedding Finery 2.0

Two sons.  Two summers.  Two weddings.  Two entirely different celebrations.  But the same flower girl and ring bearer for both.  And the same seamstress – me.

Each wedding clearly reflected the individual tastes of the respective brides (let’s be honest here, they do set the tone!).  As the plans unfolded this year, it became clear that Katie and Erik’s wedding would be a formal and elegant affair.  Glitter and sparkles also reigned.  It seemed only fitting to dress the little attendants accordingly.  I was up for the challenge, and Katie loved the idea.

Simplicity 1507 Mya dressI started with the flower girl dress. Eager to impress Mya with her finery, I showed her the pattern.  Big mistake.  She was excited all right.  “I want the purple dress!” she exclaimed.  What you have to understand is that 4-year-old Mya is very strong willed.  And doesn’t forget.  That phrase would haunt me up until the day of the wedding.

Materials for Mya's dressThe simple looking dress on the pattern disguised its complexity.  In addition to a silk skirt with an organza overlay, it also entailed a double-layer petticoat and lining underneath.  But it was well designed, and those additional features clearly distinguished it as a special dress.  The extra effort was well worth it.

The defining detail came about fortuitously.  Needing extra fabric to alter one of the bridesmaid dresses, there was enough left over for a sash to trim Mya’s dress.  That not only tied it perfectly into the wedding party, but gave the Sash and buckledress the zip it needed.  Struggling to get it to tie into a nice bow in the back, I turned to glitz and Hobby Lobby.  Using a diamond studded buckle and pin back, I fashioned a fitting anchor for the sash in the back of the dress.

Mya and Isabel's dressesIf one dress is good, two is even better.  Although not part of the wedding party, I saw no reason that baby sister Isabel should not match her big sister.

Next I turned my attention to 6-year-old Ben.  His attire was to be a suit that I carefully matched to the fabric and style of the rented tuxes for the groomsmen.  To be honest, I did briefly inquire as to the viability of renting a suit for Ben.  But the $200 cost quickly sent me back to my sewing machine with renewed determination.

I had made one tailored suit coat before, and relied on knowing that I had once mastered the required techniques.  I soon learned that sewing for little people presents its own challenges, creating the same level of detail on a much reduced scale.  Slacks with a fly front and side pockets was new to me, and went together quite nicely.  However, the trick came in scrunching the waist down to Ben’s skinny measurements.  With multiple try-on sessions and Ben’s patience, I finally got it right.

Ben's suit coatBen's pants

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glittery hair bows, tie, and pocket hankie completed the ensembles.  I finished all my machine sewing with only a few hand details left just over a week before the wedding.  And that night the big storm tore through Duluth and took out the power – for four days!  That was a close call.

Wedding morning, Mya dons her dress under protest at first.  But finally overcomes her objections when Katie whispers that she wants her to “look just like her” in a white dress.  Ben asks Daddy to get him dressed in the room with the groomsmen, and emerges looking just like the rest of the guys.  Isabel, wisely, is outfitted in her dress at the last minute.  And I’m swelling with pride at seeing them in their wedding finery for the second time.  Then I turn my attention to being Mother of the Groom.  It is, after all, Erik’s wedding day.

Molly with Grandkids at Wedding trimmed Ben and Mya before wedding trimmed Katie Erik Wedding Vows

Wedding Finery

For weeks I’ve been working under wraps. I eagerly volunteered to sew the outfits for my grandchildren’s roles as Ring Bearer and Flower Girl for my son Carl’s wedding. And like many wedding plans, it meant staying mum about the details until the big day.

Finding sewing patterns turned out to be a lesson forMya dress front me. While I naturally began with Simplicity, McCalls and Butterick, my daughter took a different route. In short order, she sent me an email with links to dress, vest and tie patterns online – all through Etsy. I’d never gone that route before, using patterns created and shared by creative sewers that I could downloadBen vest and tie and print right at home. I was a little concerned about the quality and fit of the patterns, but soon found that they were well designed and included excellent instructions.

Selecting fabric was also informative. With the bridesmaids wearing yellow sundresses of their own choosing, my daughter, Karen, and I sought coordinating prints in yellow tones. We found a few at a chain fabric store, but before finalizing the selection, I checked out Hannah Johnson Fabrics right in Lakeside. There I feasted my eyes on beautiful prints all displayed in color families. I quickly honed in on a brilliant floral piece and several good options for companion fabrics. Knowing that these fabrics were 100% cotton aimed at quilters, I expressed my concern about sewing a dress for a toddler that might wrinkle easily. The helpful owner of the shop quickly allayed my fears, explaining that quality cotton would wear beautifully without wrinkles. I took her advice, paid the premium for the beautiful fabrics and didn’t regret it for a moment. She was absolutely right, and I know I’ll be a repeat customer.Isabel dress and panties

Half way through the creative process, it was a great joy to finally begin the sewing. Clothes for little people go together quickly and are so darn cute. I couldn’t resist snapping photos of each piece as I completed it, sending it to Karen and bride Chelsea to see. One project led to another, and as soon as baby sister Isabel Flowers for haircame along, I sought out patterns for her wedding outfit as well – all on Etsy, of course. To my delight, I found patterns for a newborn dress and diaper cover for free. It was hard to stop, so I went one step further and created fabric flowers for Mya to wear in her hair, and a matching headband for Isabel. I’m sure given more time I’d have found more details to add.

IMG_3865Flower Girl and Ring Bearer from the back

 

IMG_2298During one of my try-on sessions with Ben and Mya, they took off outside to show their mommy. Running around the yard, romping and chasing each other, they wiggled and rolled in their “fancy clothes.” To my own surprise I was not worried at all, thrilled with their delight in their wedding clothes.

The good news is that the Flower Girl and Ring Bearer performed their roles beautifully and charmingly – an outcome by no means guaranteed. And I think they were as excited as the bride and groom to don their wedding finery that day.IMG_3862

Woman vs. Machine

It’s been lurking in the back of the closet for years.  At least 16 years, as far as I can tell.  That’s how long it’s been since my children were young enough for me to sew matching pajamas, sweatsuits, leggings and Zubaz for them.  Those were the heydays for my serger.  Me and my machine – we spent a lot of time together back then.

Recently I pulledMolly with serger my old pal out from the recesses of its hiding place.  Not only did I dust it off, but given its long retirement, I took it back to the sewing shop where I bought it for a good tune-up.  Soon it was lubed, oiled and ready to go.  I just wasn’t sure I was.

Sergers are finicky machines.  With not one but four gigantic spools of thread and complicated threading schemes involving upper and lower loopers and two needles, just getting it ready to sew is a complex business.  Unlike my regular sewing machine, which I can still operate on autopilot, this one was going to require a hefty re-learning process.  Me and my machine needed to get reacquainted again.  It didn’t help that I couldn’t find my manuals.  But Google solves all, and I soon had an electronic version of my 25 year old booklets.

Serger and scrapsOnce I worked up the nerve to start sewing, the real fun began.  Ugly messy stitches ensued, followed by the hit or miss process of fiddling with the tension knobs for each spool of thread.  It took several days, more Google searches, many scraps of fabric and lots of thread, but finally I mastered it.  I had a good stitch going!

By now I’m sure you’re wondering just what could possibly entice me to resurrect this old relic and re-engage in battling with it?  The obvious answer is grandchildren.  But they’ve been around for almost 5 years now, and despite feeble promises to sew knits for them I’ve yet to deliver on that.  No, it’s napkins.  More accurately, lots and lots of napkins for our son’s wedding reception.  In keeping with some homespun elements of their outdoor celebration, his fiance envisioned vintage looking napkins in various patterns.  And so I volunteered.  Happily.  After all, I have a serger that makes fast work of just that sort of thing.

Wedding napkinsToday was the true test.  I finally set aside my scraps and set to work for real.  My serger hummed and stitched, overcasting each edge with absolute precision.  Just as I knew it would.  I created neat rolled hems on all four sides of 25 napkins with ease with my trusty machine.  So far so good.

Woman vs. machine?  Naw, we’re a team again.  Me and my machine.  And only 200-some napkins to go.

Retirement Speed

“So, what’d you do this morning?”  It’s a new phrase that has cropped up in this recent phase of our lives.  Two retirees at home, putzing around. (Oh man, does that make us sound old!  We’re not.)  We’re pretty independent types, so we can easily go about our own business, each following our individual agendas without being very cognizant of the other’s activities.

I’ve been at this a year already, but Rich is only two weeks into it.  And being home together is definitely different.  I’ve already figured out just how easy it is to fritter time away.  And how I can still pack a lot into a day, if I want to.  It all depends on the mood, the weather, the day, and my plans.  Rich is still in awe of the idea that “there is always tomorrow.”

Being us, we can spend hours on bike rides, running, skiing and other outdoor activities.  But it’s still hard to get over that feeling of needing to be productive.  It doesn’t take much these days to meet that definition – balancing the checkbook, ordering something on Amazon, and baking cookies all qualify.  It’s enough to say we’ve done something.

iPad Laptop case in Denim - closed trimmedThis morning I decided to fulfill my quota by doing some sewing.  By 9:00am I had produced a laptop case – actually a “commission” project for a friend of Karen’s who admired the denim iPad case I made for her.  So in exchange for a Caribou gift card, I made another slightly larger model.  Once on a roll, I moved on to making a case for my iPad photo connectors.  Talk about a frivolous IMG_9917 trimmedproject!  But designing and completing it was rewarding.  And useful.

I’m not sure what Rich achieved this morning.  But I’d say I accomplished a lot!  Now it’s time for that bike ride.

Halloween Costumes Revisited

When we moved out of our family home of 26 years, we had a lot of paraphernalia to sort through and toss.  My voluminous collection of sewing patterns definitely needed pruning.  I had a good laugh at some of the styles I knew I would never revisit.  But some patterns are timeless.  Costumes included.

With Halloween approaching, and my daughter Karen’s desire to dress her kids as Winnie the Pooh and Piglet, I was eager to help.  For Pooh, I was relieved to find that I had indeed saved the costume pattern that I used years ago to fashion a bunny costume for Karen.  What better place to start for Pooh’s costume?  She was three at the time, and her son is nearly two and a half.  It was great fun to pull it out and recreate the suit for a second generation.  With different fabric the bunny became Pooh bear.  And the price on that pattern?  Just $1.75. They don’t make them like that any more!

Piglet was a joint effort.  Karen sought out the pink leggings and shirt, while I adapted a red onesie for Piglet’s body.  All that we lacked was the head and ears.  In step the internet.  With a quick search I was able to find a free downloadable pattern for an adorable cap.  Unfortunately, when finished it turned out to be too small.  No problem, using SnagIt (one of my favorite software tools), I was able to save the pattern as an image, expand it and reprint the larger size.  The second attempt was a perfect fit!  Ears for both Pooh and Piglet were one part sewing experience and two parts imagination.

We had great fun trailing Pooh and Piglet around their neighborhood on Halloween.  No tricks – just seeing them in their costumes was a treat.