Sewing for the Train Gang


This t-shirt project is an experiment in 3 ways:

First, it is impossible to find decent t-shirt fabric at local fabric stores so I bought a Men’s XXL T-shirt at Target, washed it, ironed it and cut out these 2 t-shirts, happily using the hems where possible. The only hem I had to sew today was the bottom of the smaller shirt. Plus I re-used the ribbing at the neck on the smaller shirt. So, an experimental fabric source.

The patterns were traced from the Kwik Sew book, Sewing for Toddlers. Yes, this book is wildly outdated, but the patterns are basics and toddlers generally don’t care if their clothes are up-to-the-minute stylish, they want simplicity and comfort. And trains. I traced the T1 size for DGS2 and the T3 size for Big Brother but used the T4 length. My experience with these patterns is that they run a little wide, but nothing like the usual Big 4 patterns for kids and babies. The shirts look about right, but they haven’t been tried on yet. So, experimental patterns.

About the trains. We were wandering through Beverly’s Fabrics a while back after an unsuccessful hunt for zippers for the fleece jackets that are all finished except the closures and suddenly this rack of embroidered appliqués appeared many aisles removed from the sewing area. Full stop, back the train up and choose one for the upcoming t-shirt project…ooh, they have TRAINS. I wasn’t looking forward to sewing these appliqués on so imagine my delight when I took a closer look today and realized they were IRON-ON. Sweet. They seem well adhered, but who knows how they will wash. I suspect they will curl and pull away and eventually fall off. But babies and toddlers do not wear their clothes for long. So, experimental appliqués.

Tomorrow I deliver them and we see how they fit and find out if there will be more in the pipeline. I am considering using Men’s XXL t-shirts for fabric to make my own tees.


2016 Sewing for Children Contest
And I downloaded a Brindille and Twig Romper pattern, have got snaps and a snap setter on the way and have had the Mickey Mouse fabric on hand for some time, should be enough to make the romper for Ryan and a Tee for Logan. In order to comply with the rules of the contest I can’t start actually sewing on this project until August 1st which is still a week away, but I’ve got plenty to keep me busy until then. My current goal is to finish the white jacket my wardrobe so desperately needs and which has been in progress for 2 months before I begin sewing for the boys.

What have I been doing for 2 months when I should be able to finish this in under a week you ask? Finishing up another project with an actual deadline, that drawing of Lemon Boy Cucumbers.

Serger Thread Storage

You can buy these Closet Maid over-the-door organizers at Target as of 7-2016. Aisle C-41 in my Tarhet. Are the aisle numbers consistent from one Target to the next? 

Serger cones fit perfectly in this pitifully easy to assemble and install rack. Lots of them. And who has a serger and doesn’t have lots of cones of thread? This is not my original idea. I found it on the forums of while desperately searching for ways to organize my sewing room. I am merely passing it on. Paying it forward if you will. It’s a great idea, so thanks to the original poster, whoever you are.

Easy Orchid Centerpiece

  • Just buy Orchids in small pots. 
  • Buy some cloth napkins that coordinate with your event theme or color scheme or make your own out of quilting cotton. You want napkins with a little body. Batiks are a nice complement to orchids.
  •  These I made with a rolled hem using bulky nylon on my serger. They are small for napkins, only 14″ square. I think I was trying to get 3 napkins across the selvedge-to-selvedge width of my fabric. For these small pots they are perfect. 
  • Use rubber bands like they use on broccoli bunches at the grocery store. Start saving now if you’re having a big event. Hope you like broccoli!
  • Place a pot on the center of a napkin, gather the fabric up and around the base of the orchid, stretch the rubber band up and over the pot until it settles around the base of the orchid.
  • Find the corners of the napkin and gently pull and shape them to your satisfaction.

So quick and easy yet festive and fun!

Artist’s Bridge DIY Hack

You can buy a manufactured artist’s bridge from Blick, or you can stop by your nearest hardware or home improvement store and get a paint stirring stick. Attach some erasers with rubber bands. Please use new rubber bands and unused erasers. Alternately, get 2 sticks and cut one down to make 2″ long risers to glue in place on the underside of your stick. Stick felts or other surface protectors on the bottom.

Lemon Boy Cucumber

Here is a photo essay showing the progress of my latest Botanical Illustration:

Things I learned on this drawing:

  • Polychromos pencils smear like mad, leaving a green haze over the white areas of the drawing. This necessitates new strategies to protect the paper, including wiping newly sharpened pencils with a cloth, using an artist bridge and blowing fine particles off the drawing rather than brushing.
  • It’s probably best to do a few small studies after a long dry spell before jumping in to a complex composition with a deadline.
  • Using Prismacolor Black Grape in shadows on botanicals is not for the faint of heart. Best to stay with the Polychromos Indigo.  Changing mid-drawing is a really bad idea.
  • Irojiten Mulberry has potential as a replacement for Black Grape, needs further investigation and sampling. Save this for a few of the deepest darks. Nasco sells Irojitens open stock.
  • The adult coloring book craze has decimated the colored pencil market and replacements from open stock are going to be hard to get until the fad runs its course.

    Mind games I play with myself…

    So I went shopping for fabric recently in the L.A. Garment District and bought several promising new pieces of fabric for summer sewing. But I promised myself I would sew up ALL of the fabric I had purchased last year at this time in L.A. before I embarked upon the exciting new fabric. The last 2 pieces were a swimsuit fabric I bought to make a tennis skirt (easily and quickly done) and this double sided plaid cotton stuff that looked for all the world like it would make a lovely shirt when I bought it, but I was having doubts. Then I washed the fabric and it turned into crinkle gauze. My recent default position for using up difficult fabric is to make sleep/lounge wear out of it if at all possible. Robes, nightgowns, pajamas, etc. This has worked for me several times and once again voilá, I have some VERY comfortable and versatile pajamas. I can wear the bottoms with an athletic top that I rarely wear to the gym anymore but still has plenty of life. I can wear the top with some plain shorts if I find/buy/make some one day. I can wear the set together. I’m so glad I made these happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care jammies with sort-of almost mostly matching plaids in the important places rather than sweating bullets trying to really match this impossible shifting plaid for a serious garment like a shirt! Besides which, who is wearing hot pink plaid shirts these days anyway? Here they are:

    Would have matched that plaid had I known it was going to show through the reverse side of this fabric.

    Would have matched that plaid had I known it was going to show through the reverse side of this fabric.

    Simplicity 3696 pants

    Jalie 2787


    Here we are stash-busting with fabric AND pattern today. I’ve had this fabric and pattern in their respective stashes for a long time. The fabric is a tissue thin knit but surprisingly firm given how sheer it is. The only thing preventing this from being a see-through shirt is the ink of the print and the overlay design on the front. Definitely a cami is in order when wearing this top since there are no overlays on the back. I made my usual size T in Jalie knit tops and it is snug, but not unwearable. If I made it again I would size up if the knit was similar. For a stretchier knit, I would sew the size T again.

    One comment on the design: the layer under the crossover portion is not stitched to anything at the top, this makes the design suitable for nursing, but I felt that the elastic that is stretched across the top of the piece before stitching it to the side seams could be a bit shorter to prevent possible sagging. I’m not convinced it’s going to hold up, but don’t want to risk tacking it to the under layer because I fear that would be unsightly.

    Another comment on the instructions: they are not clear on step 6, figure 8, pre-sewing the partial side seams. Here is where you create the over/underlap and they make no mention of how it’s accomplished. It’s not hard, but neither is it obvious until you think about it. I had to pick out my first side seam attempt because I left a layer out. There are 3 layers going in to this partial side seam, the back, the underarm portion of one top front and the side (lower) portion of the OTHER top front. It’s not until the next step you finally add the bottom front, which is attached only at the side seams and then you can serge everything for a clean finish. They don’t say it, but you are basically basting the upper tops and then the front to the back with zig-zag stitching before making a final (optional, really) pass with the serger to clean finish everything. Here’s a picture of the front from the inside prior to the final pass with the serger, note that you can see more layers on the right side:


    This is a first for me: I am going to leave this top un-hemmed. I can see why RTW is doing this more these days with the very lightweight knits. The fabric resists hemming, wanting to curl and puckering when stitched. I could fuss with the settings on my coverstitch machine in the hope of getting a more successful hem, but I really want to move on and am not sure how much I’m really going to wear this top, so I think I’ll just roll with it. Literally.

    Gone fishing 

    On a recent Monday, Logan and I strolled down to the water hazard on the golf course to catch fish. Reputedly, there are trophy size bass to be had but all we possessed for catching fish was a repurposed butterfly net. Happily, it was more than adequate for scooping up the teeming gambusia affinis which inhabit the shallows.

    Incidentally, we also encountered a Great Blue Heron. 

    So on any given Monday, if you can’t reach us, we may just be gone fishing!

    Bocce beautification project

    This is the view from my kitchen window. It’s a lot of unrelieved green and gravel and the roots of the shrubbery are so thick there is no planting anything under it, so I decided to add a little interest with pots. This project started last spring with bulbs. Ranunculus foliage is irresistible to whatever pests are lurking in those Cherry Laurels and the bulbs were mowed down as soon as they popped up. Next up: bacopa plants. They were not eaten alive, but neither did they thrive. Round 3: our one remaining helpful local nursery man says “I know just what you need.” And he may be right! Poppies, violas and Carex grass. That sparkle of white is just what I wanted. It makes me happy to look out and see this view.