Monday, May 30, 2011

Sleeve for a MacBook

My brother-in-law asked me to make a sleeve for his MacBook a couple of weeks ago. 

It wasn't meant to be a carrying bag, so it's strapless. It was meant to cushion the laptop so it can dropped safely into a briefcase.

I initially considered neoprene, because I want to make everything out of neoprene, but finally decided on something more robust and less sporty.

I used fur-back felt for the lining, some headliner (stuff used for the ceiling of cars) for padding, and upholstery-grade vinyl for the outside. The vinyl is thin and soft like leather, and lovely to work with. 

The sleeve was so easy to make. The only slightly fiddly part was edging the opening. I'd wanted top-stitching, but my machine wouldn't give me what I wanted through all those layers. So I did it by hand. In order to get evenly-spaced stitches, I perforated the edges of the edging strip with a threadless needle on the sewing machine. Then I did running stitches from both sides

so that the backside looked as neat as the front.


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who Will Receive Scraps of Newspaper In The Post?

Congratulations to the three lucky winners of the Winged Skirt Pattern giveaway! I drew the numbers using the random integer generator thingy about 10 minutes ago. I didn't save screenshots because I had to do it a few times to get the names of people who wanted the different sizes. But here they are!

#39: Debra Lynn, who said:
I would love the 6.5 year old one! My daughter is such a lover of anything fairy. We are in MN too. I loved the princess costumes you did out of fleece and totally understood :) So nice of you to think of everyone else before throwing them out!

#38: Whimsy, who said:
I'd love to throw my name into the giveaway for the 3-year-old pattern - LOVE the winged skirts, they are just perfect.

#24: Jess@Peanut to Princess, who said:
These are just gorgeous! I have a little one who would love this! She's about the same size as Jenna so a pattern would be great. Thanks so much for your generosity in sharing this cute idea with us :)

Please check your email inboxes for a message from me! 

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Gifts for Teachers

In between park outings and complaining about the weather, we've been busy preparing gifts for the girls' teachers. This was Jenna's last week of preschool, and Jenna was very clear about what she wanted to give her teachers. 

"Cookies that are vanilla (i.e. no cocoa) with rainbow frosting," she said.

"Bookmarks - summer food for Mrs May,

summer things for Mrs Walquist,

art supplies for Mrs Anderson

and sewing things for Mrs Strain."

"And paper flowers -

in their favorite colors".

We put them all in baskets lined with tissue paper, and Jenna laboriously signed thank you cards.

On Thursday, she solemnly delivered them to her teachers and reported later to her dad, "Mrs Walquist was the surprisedest."

Emily continues with kindergarten till early June. She's giving her teacher one of those crazy morphing wallet totes

She took mental notes all year on her teacher's favorite things and chose to do owls

tucked inside a hand-drawn wallet.

"Those are an easel, a pointer, a whiteboard marker and a glue bottle", she enlightened me.

Having seen Jenna's gift baskets, she's decided her teacher might like cookies and flowers, too.

When I was a teacher, there were strict guidelines for the kinds of gifts we were allowed to accept from students. Flowers and cards were OK, as was anything handmade. However, anything of substantial monetary value was out, for instance. So no gift cards, jewellery, appliances, things like that. There were declaration forms to fill out and submit to the Ministry of Education, who would then decide what we should do with the items. When I was in 6th grade, a group of us saved 10 cents each day for months, and at the end of the year, we all went shopping and presented our teachers with Wedgewood. Wedgewood! Our teachers had to hold a conference to decide how to deal with the situation. In the end, they bought us all small toiletries bags, which reduced us to tears, we were so touched. 

So I'd always been a little hesitant about what sort of things to give teachers, and if they are even allowed to keep the gifts. It took me a while to feel comfortable presenting them with gift cards and not worry that the department of education would confiscate them. Now that I know that teacher gifts are limited only by one's imagination (and one's children's fixations), we are happy to shower them with all kinds of wacky and wonderful things, because we are so thankful for what they have done for our children.

What are your kids giving their teachers?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Wings - Deconstructed

It is no secret that, even though I sew, I prefer to buy clothes for my kids. Lots of reasons: it saves time, they're rarely more expensive than raw fabric (I'm picky about my fabric), sewing in multiple sizes is boring, and I'd rather go to the park or sit with my husband at the end of the day or make cardboard stuff, really.

Costumes, though, I prefer to sew. Lots of reasons: they're very expensive, the workmanship is shoddy, the fabric is scratchy or inappropriate in other ways, sometimes they're immodest, often they're only toddler-sized, and the fit is so poor that I can't even bear to look at the models in the photos, let alone my own children in them. 

A couple of months ago, we were minding our own business in Target, and we saw a very cool costume. It was plasticky and stiff and expensive, but it was clever. And even though it was sized for someone half her age, Emily wanted it. We had dress-up wings at home but they were the nylon-stretched-over-a-wire-frame type that have already disintegrated, not to mention never flapped or actually stayed in place. This one, I reasoned, would therefore be quite a different -and probably longer-lasting - addition to our wing arsenal. So I stared at this clever plasticky winged skirt for a long time, deconstructing it in my head, and then went home and (slowly) made our own. However, by the time I finally got around to drafting them, I'd forgotten how the original ones looked, so I did whatever made sense to me or that I could remember. 

See more photos of the finished wings here.

They're wraparound skirts

that unfold 

into wings

that are hinged to open really wide

The skirt was semi-fitted, meaning that it had a flat front,

and an elasticized back.

Also, the wingspan had to fit the armspan of each child

to spread them as wiiiiiiiiiide as they wanted.

So each pattern had to be custom-drafted. It was not as nasty as it sounds. 

Here, I'll show you - 

First you do a fitted A-Line skirt draft for the front. The yellow arrow is a quarter of the exact waist measurement.

Then you do a gathered-skirt draft for the back i.e. it's a rectangle. The greeny-yellow arrow is one quarter of the hip (including some comfortable ease) measurement.

Then you make sure that the length of the back piece matches the slanty side of the front piece because they're going to join each other at the side seam of the skirt (the yellow arrow).

And that's the pattern for the skirt! Easy. Here's an old tutorial that is very similar, if you need more instruction.

The wing was a bit more fun to do. 

It takes a bit of visualizing:
(i) the wing attaches to the center back of the skirt

(ii) it folds into itself and wraps around the entire skirt. 

So it's wing-shaped while being skirt-shaped. It's also slightly differently-shaped for each wearer, depending on the shape of their skirt draft. 

Here's an annotated photo below:
  • The red section is the part of the wing that wraps around the front of the skirt. You draft it by tracing around the whole front skirt pattern.
  • The yellow section is the part of the wing that wraps around half of the back of the skirt. The other wing wraps around the other half. Note that by "back of the skirt" here, I mean "after the elastic has been inserted, so that it fits the back waist. Another way of drafting this section is to trace the half front skirt pattern, which has this fitted waist.
  • The length of the wing is found by measuring your child's armspan.
  • The purple arrow is the edge that actually gets sewn into the back center seam.
  • The lower lobe of the wing (between the purple and blue arrows) gets folded into itself

like this -

leaving only the upper lobe 

for wrapping around the skirt.

All this wrapping means quite a few layers

so I experimented with different fabrics to get a nice overall unbunchy ensemble - twill for the skirt, muslin/cotton for the lining, satin or 100% polyester lining fabric for the wings, 

and fleece or cotton for the applique.

To make the applique patterns, just sketch directly onto the wing pattern when you're done cutting out the fabric pieces until you get something you like. Then cut the paper pieces out and use those for applique patterns. I made the mistake of inviting suggestions from the kids - I thought they would just pick their own colors for the radial rainbow design but - alas - they wanted swirlies.

To get the lower lobe to fold nicely, you can sew down the pleats, pin-tuck style.

The wing tips have ribbon loops to fit over fingers, and the skirt fastens with little velcro squares.

And that's how these skirts were made - 

regular girls one minute

butterfly fairies the next.

Fly away, little ones!

Incidentally, I drafted these on newspaper because the wings were so big, and also because I like to throw away my patterns when I'm done with them. I dislike saving patterns because they take up so much space. Also, the girls grow and change body proportions so rapidly that the old patterns are practically obsolete anyway. I reckon that they're already in my head and I can always redraft them if I need to (not that I'm planning to make more of these wings). 

I was just about to crush these templates up and throw them in the trash when I wondered if any of you might want them. If so, I can put them in an envelope and post them to you. My only condition is that you use these patterns for your own, non-commercial projects. Leave a comment to let me know which one you want. If there is more than one interested person per pattern, I'll turn this into a giveaway and draw one name at random for each pattern by the time I write my next post. FYI: Emily is a very tall, slender 6.5 year old (i.e. she's more like a 7+ year old with a 6-year old's waist). Jenna is tall 4.5-year-old and Kate is 3. I don't remember their waist measurements which seem to change with each meal anyway. And I'm not providing instructions with the patterns, or seam allowances or symbols or anything like that. You get just three pieces of newspaper, and you can wing it  (Oo, bad pun) from there, OK?