Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dress-up Box - Dance Skirts

Ah, it is good to be back home after being away for
Thanksgiving. We all missed our beds. I did not miss cooking,
because food cooked by other people just always tastes
better. Now we miss the family we'd just left to come home.
But we will see them again at Christmas, which, because
Thanksgiving was so late this year, is not all that long off.

Here are some sheer dance skirts that will go into the girls'
Dress-up Box. These chiffony fabrics were on sale after
Halloween, so I bought a yard of each and made full circular
skirts in different colors and lengths.

Circular skirts cut from fabric with square corners leave a
fair bit of remnant, so the scraps became four fairy skirts
with five different-colored panels each. Emily's Halloween
costume also left some sizable remnant pieces so they
became pink-and-sparkle skirts.

Here is a hastily taken picture of the fairy and pink skirts,
carelessly tossed on our deck. I wish the pictures could
have shown them modeled by human wearers but they
are supposed to be a secret afterall. Alas.

Real dance skirts have ties for waist adjustment but these
are for little girls who are learning to dress on their own.
So I used FOE (fold-over elastic) for the waistbands and it
made very quick work of the eleven skirts. The serging of the
edges, though, took a while - I used embroidery thread and
that kept breaking. Thank goodness for sergers, but
how maddening to have to keep rethreading!

Seven of these skirts will go into the Box and the other
four will find new homes with some other little girls.

I didn't have time to make a tutorial on this, but it is really
nothing more than cutting a large donut-shaped piece of
fabric, serging the outer circular edge and sewing FOE on
the inner circular edge. Here's an FOE tutorial that I didn't
actually use (I only watched it after I'd finished the skirts)
but that is very helpful.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Recent Acquisitions

Disclaimer: this post is full of very poorly-lit photos. Sorry.

Stocked up again this week!

First, art materials. An art supply store was closing down and 
having a liquidation sale. So of course I had to go. By the time 
I got there, though, a lot of the really good stuff was gone. 
There was a full rack of art markers all at half price but I had 
the two younger kids with me so I didn't dare browse. I left 
with some entry-level oil pastels to replace the dried up bits 
I'd had since childhood.
When Christmas is over and we hunker down for that long 
frigid stretch before Spring, I should probably put aside 
sewing for a while to work on more art (and I use that term 
very loosely) for our very bare walls.

Next, fabric - but of course.

My first online purchase.

I much prefer the physical store experience but oilcloth 
was hard to find in stores. Plus, I didn't even know what 
oil cloth looked like. So many blogger folks are in love 
with it so I thought I'd buy some just to see what 
it was all about.

Hmmm. Plasticky. But soft. 

What in the world am I going to make from it? Still, that 
question has never stopped me hoarding fabric, so I'm 
not worried.

Some wool felt, in doll-skin colors. 

Again another miracle fabric that had captured the hearts 
of crafty folk everywhere. So I went and procured some on sale
Nice. And an extremely familiar texture. 
Came home and discovered that I had a large bag of 
remnants of this, in multiple colors, from when my 
grandmother used to make softies. Fun! So that's what it 
was called! Some of those remnants still retain the shapes 
where she'd cut animal heads and bodies years ago. 
Got a bit sentimental.

And some miscellaneous ribbon.
The Measuring Lady at the fabric store recognized me, 
unfortunately. She said, "I know you! You come a lot." 
Sigh - she doesn't know the half of it. I used to just 
be obsessed. Now I am also notorious. 

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dress-up Box - Ribbon Rings

Here's another prop that's in the Dress-Up Box - a ribbon ring/
ribbon loop/ring with streamers. I'm sure it has a proper name
but I don't know what it is.

Anyway, it's one of those things that toddlers in music-and-movement
classes hold and wave about as they experience rhythm and motion.
Like Emily at one of the outdoor summer activities organized by the
city's parks and recreation department:

They can be bought but they can be made for less. Plus, they are a
good way to use up the odd remnants in one's ribbon stash.

And because they were so simple and fast to make, here's a tutorial.

What you need:
  • 1 yard of each ribbon, all of the same width, and at least 1" wide. Satin is a nice choice but it's more expensive. I used 1" grosgrain because it was what I had a lot of. They tend to be heavier and less floaty than the thin polyester streamers the commercial ribbon rings come with but they still swish about nicely.
  • 11" of nylon strap - the sort that duffle bags come with. The width of the strap should be twice that of the ribbon. Mine was 2".
  • Candle or other open flame
  • Sewing machine

Step 1
  • Light the candle.
  • Take one ribbon and singe one end to prevent fraying. To do this, hold the end about an inch above the flame as shown. Move it horizontally sideways so that the flame singes the entire width. If nothing happens, lower the ribbon edge slightly and repeat. If the end melts and distorts, you're too close! Snip off the bad bit and start again.
  • Repeat for all the ribbons. Remember, you are going to singe only one end - these will be the exposed ends of the ribbon-streamers. The other end of each ribbon will be tucked into the strap-loop and doesn't need to be singed.

Step 2
  • Repeat this for the nylon strap, but singe both ends.

Step 3
  • Now find all the un-singed (i.e. still fraying) ends of the ribbons and stack them together as shown.

Step 4
  • Sew a line of stitching about half an inch from the end to secure them together.

Step 5
  • Take the nylon strap and fold it in half lengthwise. You may need to hold it down and press hard on the crease to make it stay folded.

Step 6
  • Sew a line of stitches close to the open edge to secure it in folded position permanently.
  • Backstitch on both ends.

You now have a double-thickness, half-width nylon strap.
It doesn't matter if it's slightly curved -
it will straighten itself out in the next step.

Step 7
  • Fold the sewn strap in half to make a loop.

Step 8
  • Take the sewn end of the ribbon stack.
  • Insert it 3/4" deep between the ends of the loop.

Step 9
  • Lay this "sandwich" flat and sew a square of stitching to secure it. In the picture below, the white square shows where to sew. Make the square (or rectangle) long enough so that the fraying edges of the ribbons are enclosed within the square (or rectangle).

A (not as useful as I'd hoped) close-up to show the stitches.

And you're done!

I'm guessing that it is possible to use fabric stiffened with interfacing
to make the strap, in place of the nylon strap. However, I like the
nylon strap because it is malleable and keeps it shape - it can be
pressed out long and flat so that it's like a stick, or opened up
in a loop for little hands to hold.

You could also use a cotton strap - it holds its shape just as well
but you can't singe it to prevent fraying.
You'd have to serge the edges or use bias tape.

The completed ribbon ring/loop.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Christmas Project - Work in Progress

So here we go - the big Christmas Project. It's big because it has
many, many parts. The final product itself probably won't take up
a lot of space - so much of it is just fabric anyway. Still, something
that will take me several months to complete, given my level of
(im)patience counts as big.

But I'd better hurry up already and say what it is and stop
blathering on about size and whatnot.

It's a dress-up box for the girls.

Erm, actually, they already have a dress-up box.

But it's a collection of random dress-up things, stuffed
higgledy-piggledy into a storage tub, including some cracked and
crushed plasticky stuff. They've served Emily well over
the past year or two, but I'd always wanted the girls to have something
open-ended that left lots of room for their imaginations. And I'd hoped
to give them beautiful things with interesting and rich textures that
they would enjoy the feel of.

I also decided it would be fun to have people follow along with this
work in progress as it evolves, rather than do a foolishly massive post
around Christmas if when it is all complete. And perhaps if anyone is
interested in putting one of these together for their own little ones,
they might decide that dress-up things can be made.
Yes, made! Not only bought!

The challenge, of course, is doing it all in secret for several months so
the recipients of said box are successfully left in the dark till Christmas.


Here's the first of what's going into the Dress-Up Box,
and it's a no-sewing project, incidentally.


The 30" x 30" white silk scarves came from here although if I were
still in Singapore, I'd probably head off to Arab Street or Yue Hwa
in Chinatown for some. They were dyed with Kool-Aid and vinegar
in Tropicana OJ cartons in the microwave oven. There are many
tutorials out there but I used the excellent one by Anna at
Three Sneaky Bugs. Stop reading this now, click on the link and go
visit her - you'll immediately feel the urge to make some of your own.

Here are the pouches that will be their home.
They are lurid fleece on the outside and black satin inside,
with ribbon drawstrings.
Sorry - OK, the pouches are sewn. It's just the silks that aren't.

The larger one will stay with us and house the 9 scarves and the
smaller one will go to another pair of girls we love - I had so much fun
dyeing the scarves that I made a few more for them.

These playsilks are going to be good open-ended playthings for the
kids - anything from capes, cloaks, picnic blankets, the sea, the sky,
doll bedlinen, dance props... Or even for just the tactile experience-
who doesn't love the feel of silk? Yum.

More box innards to come. And a tutorial (easy, I promise)!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Christmas Project

After days of grey, cloudy, rainy/snowy gloom, some beautiful
sunshine today. So I took some pictures on the deck. The fading
sunlight was deceptively warm at first, viewed from inside the
house, and I quickly remembered that summer was well and
truly gone as I stood shivering outdoors in stockinged feet with
my camera. Need shoes now, I made a mental note.
And a jacket. And mittens.

But here are some pre-reveal photos of the big Christmas project.
It's made up of many, many parts, and I will try and do a post each
week leading up to Christmas, of the parts I have completed. All I
can say right now is that it is colorful. Very colorful. There's even pink.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Operation Christmas Child Dolls

Earlier this week I finished these two ballerina dolls for our 
Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. We usually buy softies 
or dolls for our boxes but this year, good dolls were hard to find. 
So they had to be made. Didn't have muslin or fleece in a suitable 
color in the house so I used felt. Not my favorite material for 
machine-sewing, especially when there is so much turning-out to 
do but it worked. Didn't have a pattern so the Yellow Damsel is 
the experimental prototype. She had a few glitches, like weird hair 
and wavy arms so the Rainbow Maiden is the slightly improved version.

Their clothes and shoes are removable 
but they don't stand up by themselves very well.

Here they are working out in ballet class together:

First, stretching

Then some barrework


and a fancy finish.  

The dollies leave for better homes in late November when 
we drop off the shoeboxes. Emily and Jenna are sad to say 
goodbye and have asked for dolls for themselves for Christmas. 
I saved the final pattern so I can make more, just in case. 
Would anyone like to adopt a dolly? I am not going to start 
and etsy shop anytime soon, while the girls are still small 
but I'd consider doing the odd request every now and then. 
Email me if you are interested! 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Emily's Halloween Costume

Halloween has come and gone and Emily got to go trick-or-treating 
in costume after all. And now that all the doorbell-ringing and 
pumpkin decorating are over, I am finally sitting down to post 
pictures of that elusive dress Emily asked for. Here's the first 
picture just to prepare you for the color it is. 

We started out with this

and ended up with this.

Drats, I should have ironed the skirt. Mumble..mumble......mumble......
But I must say it turned out better than I'd expected. I was planning to 
sew her a fabric tiara but surrendered at the last minute and braided 
together remnants from the dress to make her that 

In case anyone is wondering - er, what is she supposed to be? 
Tamborine dancer? Crown-less princess? Hippie?

A ballerina. 

But not the tutu kind. People just don't go out in the dark 
in tights and a tulle belt in October in this part of the world. 
That's hypothermia waiting to happen. 

So Emily got fleece. And long sleeves. And a semi-circular skirt. 
The skirt is the main thing- at the very least it had to twirl properly. 
And a fleece skirt, while warm, is not fancy, and therefore not fun
So it had to have floaty shimmery layers. Not organza, which would 
have been easier to work with. Chiffon. With sparkles. And satin in 
the bodice to make it princessy. Thank goodness for a serger.

But I like how it turned out, the skirt especially. It has nice movement 
to it, even for fleece. A full circular skirt would have been spectacular 
but it would have also been too heavy for a little girl. 

The assymetrical layers in the skirt were fun to do, especially 
considering that I carelessly bought too little fabric 
to do it the easy way.  

The best part of this? If last year's princess costume was anything 
to go by, Emily will probably wear this over and over again 
throughout the year. All that mileage is good for a dress 
with that much pink in it.