January 26, 2012

I beat it!

That Sew Weekly challenge almost got the best of me, but I persevered and ended up with a cute dress that I can wear for at least another couple of weeks. Of course, I'll have to wear it every day to make it worth the time and frustration it caused me, but that's cool. Or maybe if I just wear it to actually give birth in, that will be enough to really up the ante on its value?

Here's the original Make This Look post that inspired my creation: The Garden Tour Dress. As I mentioned before, I had the fabric on hand and I even had the pattern, but I got derailed by the alterations that were needed to make that look fit my big ol' belly. I found a different pattern and pushed through it though, and I'm quite pleased with the final result.

So hooray! It's finished, and imagine my surprise when I opened up The Sew Weekly this morning and saw myself looking back:

Well, I mean if you want to get technical, I guess I'm gazing off into the distance more than I'm really "looking back", but you get my drift. And on the left? My fellow contributor Najah, who was inspired by the same Modcloth dress to make her own "Birdless Garden Tour" dress. Mena made it too, and of course hers actually looks just like the dress from Modcloth, down to the exact fabric! She takes her Make This Look seriously.

But anyway- back to my dress. Like I said, I ended up going with a different pattern than the one that Mena originally recommended, but only after going through A LOT of swedish tracing paper making bodice muslins trying to get Butterick 5030 to work. I even tried drafting a completely new pattern from scratch, using the general shape of 5030 and some half-assed attempts at draping on Millie, but it was no use. Between my fuller-than-usual pregnant bustline, the darts in the bodice, and my own ineptitude at fitting, I just ended up with a hot mess. Over and over. I ordered Fit For Real People, but for some crazy reason it's like the only book on Amazon that's not available for immediate shipping. And since I didn't have 7-10 days to wait and I wasn't about to give up, I decided to try a different approach.

Enter Simplicity 2145. It's a Project Runway pattern with a bodice shape that's close enough to the pleated look of the inspiration dress, and it's empire waisted. Perfect for fitting the only indentation left on my pregnant figure- the valley between the bust and the belly. Once I confirmed the size with one last quick muslin, things went smoothly from that point on and my dress really started to come together.

I even got all crazy ambitious and decided to skip the bodice facings and make a full lining for my dress instead. That meant making up the whole thing again in my lining fabric, but since the fabric I found was the perfect color (and with polka dots!) I just couldn't resist.

Isn't it pretty? There's just something so finished feeling about a lined garment. No icky raw edges peeking out, and it's silky smooth against the skin. Love it! As a couple of Sew Weekly commenters suggested, it might even be possible to wear this dress inside out and get two looks in one. I think I'll wait until after baby comes to attempt that look though, so I don't look quite so large and glistening with my body wrapped in all that shiny material at this size.

It's going to take a bit of work, but after baby arrives (maybe WAY after baby arrives), I do plan to open a couple of seams and take this dress back down to a regular non-maternity size. It should be easy enough, as the only thing I did was cut the front skirt section in a larger size than the rest of the dress and gather in the excess. The pattern actually calls for darts across the skirt front, which is super cute and a look that I like, but the darts pulled really funny over my belly so the gathers work better right now. Post-partum, I think I'll just have to open the side seams and remove the excess width from the skirt front, then add those darts back in and stitch the skirt panel back in. I think it should be a fairly simple process that will extend the life of this dress beyond this moment of pregnancy madness.

Of course, I could save it for a future pregnancy, but if hubby gets his way, Thing 2 will be the final addition to our little clan anyway. Plus, I think I would rather get some use out of it sooner than later, given the blood, sweat and tears that I poured into making it work.

As usual, official Pattern Review review to follow, in case anyone is interested in more detailed information about how I did what I did and what I think about the pattern. Spoiler alert: I like it. And also strayed from the original quite heavily, so my review may or may not be worth anything to someone who wants to recreate the pattern as intended. But whatever. I'll share my two cents anyway because I just can't help myself. The review will show up in the nifty little Pattern Review widget thingy that I've added to my sidebar when it's all done. Stay posted!

January 20, 2012

Cabin fever

Ugh. I can't even write right now. My brain is a pile of mush after spending the last three days cooped up inside the house watching Shrek on repeat and begging the snow to JUST STOP FALLING! Please! Preschool has been cancelled all week, our roads are a mess, and hubby's been away on business so my adult interactions have been limited to a nice chat with the mailman on Wednesday and a few phone conversations. To say that I feel like I'm losing my shit a little bit is putting it rather mildly. 

When the snow first came, sure it was fun. Lincoln even made his first snowman, or rather he posed dutifully by the snowman that David made for him, and he had a great time running around and throwing snowballs and whacking the snow out of the bushes. But then- ice ages passed, literally. The snow developed a mean and hurtful crust that makes walking (and especially falling down in it) no fun at all, and it just wouldn't melt.

Today, finally it rains. There's hope that I will be able to escape my little domestic prison for a least a little while this evening once David gets home from work. Can I get a hallelujah?? If you're anywhere nearby, there's a chance you may hear one echoing from my house at around 6 pm.

Fortunately, all this time at home has not been entirely ill-spent. I managed to finally put together a new set of curtains for Lincoln's bedroom that have been languishing in my to-do pile for weeks. I still need to make a matching curtain for the closet, but my machine has decided that now is a great time to start chewing up every piece of fabric that passes beneath its presser foot and I just had to walk away before things got ugly in there. 

I'm sure when I get back to it everything will have magically fixed itself and I can continue on my merry way. And then I can also get back to the Sew Weekly project that I've been working on all week that is also not cooperating with me in the least. Wait- are we sensing a trend here? Maybe Eeyore has taken up residence under my sewing table? Or perhaps I've accidentally had a swig of grumpy juice?

Oh wait- NOPE, it's just the snow! PLEASE LEAVE NOW! K, THX. BYE!

But anyway- I do love the theme for next week- Make This Look, which is based on the regular features that Mena posts with a dress or outfit from somewhere on the web and a pattern that would be a suitable base to recreate the look with. There's a dress that I love that came up recently, and the suggested pattern was one that I already owned. I even had a fabric in my stash that was a reasonable facsimile, so the only hurdle is one that is firmly planted between my waist and bustlines at the moment. Naturally, neither the original dress nor the pattern are intended to be maternity wear, so some serious craftiness and redrafting are in order. I wasn't afraid of the challenge, so Millie and I dove right in, but things are not going as easily as planned. I hope that I can figure out a way to make it work, because it really is a super cute dress. Fingers crossed!

January 13, 2012

Meet Millicent!

Today, I would like to introduce you to a special new member of my family. And before you get all panicky- no, it's not our daughter. That one's (dear god, I hope) still got a little cooking to do before she joins us sometime next month. No, this particular family member was delivered by sleigh via the elves at Amazon.com, and her name is Millicent.

Millie's a Dritz My Double Deluxe, and after doing lots of research online about what type of dress form I wanted to ask Santa for this year, I decided that she was the one. I did read lots of reviews that didn't look too favorably on these adjustable forms and claimed that the professional (read: WAY more expensive) models were the way to go, but those are just simply out of my league. I figured that this would be good enough to suit my needs for the foreseeable future, especially once I customize her a little bit further with a Fabulous Fit System as inspired by Lladybird (and others around the web).

I actually contemplated picking up the Fabulous Fit system the other day, but it's going to be a couple of months before my body bears any resemblance to something that the kit can help me emulate on Millie. In the meantime, I decided to just take matters into my own hands and I gave my gal a little makeover.

Armed with a nearly full bag of bamboo fiberfill, some bamboo quilt batting, a nursing bra, and a belly band, I set to work matching Millie's shape to mine as closely as possible. I started by adjusting the dials to my pre-pregnancy measurements, then put the bra and belly band on her and started fluffing away.

A few minutes and a whole lot of fiberfill later, I had a reasonable approximation going on. I wrapped some strips of batting around her rather lumpy belly to smooth things out a little bit, and then added the tank top to keep things in place. It's certainly not a perfect match, but I can see this being very helpful as I attempt to participate in a Sew Weekly challenge or two as this pregnancy draws to a close.

And about The Sew Weekly- it's been so much fun to see all the contributions pouring in! Week one's theme had us drawing inspiration from an accessory and building a creation around that. That didn't particularly speak to me, and I didn't have time to pull anything together, but I do have plans shaping up for another challenge before the month is out. Fingers crossed that with Millie's help I can get something made that fits!

January 10, 2012

Basement office/play area improvements

As promised, I finally cleaned up moved a few piles of things out of frame temporarily so I could take some photos of the new and improved basement office and play space that we created over David's winter vacation. It's such an improvement over the space that was here before, it's amazing. I looked for some before photos to give you an idea of the previous space, but I don't even have any. Suffice to say it was cramped and not super functional, and now it's so open and useable that I can't even believe it's the same room!

We used a few kitchen cabinets from Ikea as the bones for our work space. A tall cabinet with pull-out drawers flanks each side of the desk area to provide much-needed storage for toys and office supplies.  The desk surface is a kitchen countertop with a small drawer unit (from the Ikea office area) in the middle for extra storage and also to provide support. We originally planned to add doors to the wall cabinets all the way across, but they were sold out of the size we needed for the middle one. Now that they're up, I think the open storage is kind of nice to break up all those doors and give us a little bit of a display area.

The tall cabinet on the right (my side) is home to the printer, the scanner, the Silhouette, and some assorted office supplies. The pull-out drawers make it easy to access things when you need them, and then close the drawer and hide it all out of sight when you don't. LOVE!

David's side is home to his new beast of a Mac that was a Christmas gift from my very generous in-laws. That computer is actually what started this whole thing, as our previous desk space was hardly large enough to support this new mega-monitor, and since I requested the hand-me-down Mac for my very own, that meant that we would need space for two work stations anyway.

The tall cabinet on David's side is storage for the play area that lies beyond. The drawers make it easy for Lincoln to select something to play with and makes it clear where to return it when he's done. So far, he's done a great job of keeping things tidy and is actually remarkably helpful when it's time to clean up.

This corner is now home to the train table and easel, and also has plenty of open floor space for other activities. We would still like to add some book storage for kid's books, and hang that magnetic board that's currently just leaning up against the wall by the cabinet. I also think we'll need to get a fireplace door like the one we have upstairs to replace the screen that's currently there. Lincoln doesn't mess with it at all, but I'm sure Thing 2 will find a way to hurt herself once she's mobile. Obviously, we have plenty of time to figure that out!

We still have some things to do to make it a little more homey- like re-hang the art that used to live on the walls where the cabinets now are. A little painting might also be in order, as most of the walls are the color you see above, except for two that are white. It's a little weird and disjointed, so we're thinking of finishing it off all in the same color, or adding an accent wall. Perhaps a full 360 degree tour will be in order once we've gotten those things straightened out.

Now that it's all done, I couldn't be happier with the new space. We have a nice family room down here now instead of a chopped-up bunch of not terribly useful areas. And I'm amazed at how easily it all came together. We were fully anticipating lots of swearing and problems as we took on such a big project, but the DIY gods must have been smiling on us that night as we had no trouble and everything came together beautifully. And it was certainly helpful that Lincoln was staying overnight with Grandma and Papa the evening that we did the major installation, so we could make as much noise as we needed and work into the wee hours. Thank you!

There are a couple more pics of the space in a flickr set here. I'll add notes and links to sources if anyone is curious.

January 5, 2012

What's one more thing?

So since 2012 promises to be very boring indeed- with only that one extra newborn plus the one growing-up-so-quickly preschooler (he starts tomorrow! yay!), and my shop, plus my part-time job, and David's job, and housework, and our nonexistent social life and all that TV we have to keep up with- I've gone ahead and decided to add just one more little commitment to the mix by signing up to be a contributor to The Sew Weekly. Luckily, Mena has changed things up a bit this year by opening the contributor pool up to a whole slew of ladies and making it a participate-at-will kind of a thing, rather than necessarily an every week obligation.

My first post is up here. This week's theme was meant to ease us into the idea- just pick your favorite thing you made in 2011 and introduce yourself to the group. No new makes required! I picked my Bamboo Burnout Tank, (Simplicity 2587 by Cynthia Rowley) which I stitched up for Spring Top Week before I got all disproportionately round in the midsection.

And yes, I recognize that I might be crazy, but I'm really hoping that once baby comes, I'll actually have a minute or two to participate in at least one challenge a month. It would be nice to be able to build my wardrobe up with some me-made goodies and try out some of the patterns and fabric that I've been stashing away the last few months. I figured that signing up to be part of this amazing community of talented ladies and having great ideas come at me every week might inspire me to carve out some time for myself and keep on sewing. Time will tell how that works out in real life.

January 3, 2012

Growing, changing, rearranging.

Whew! December was a crazy month. I visited this site today for the first time in ages, and realized that it was December 1 when I last posted! In the last month, I've been sewing like a mad woman and am happy to report that 2011 ended on a very positive note as far as my little shop goes. I've yet to settle on a firm direction for 2012, but I'm excited to see how things shape up!

I managed to squeeze in a little bit of sewing for myself this month too, and tried two patterns by Megan Nielson: the Pina Dress & Top, and the Perfect Nursing & Maternity Top. Official pattern reviews to follow on patternreview.com, but for now I will just say that I heartily recommend both patterns!

Pina top with long sleeves
Perfect nursing top with 3/4 sleeve
You might notice that there's a LOT more belly there than there was previously. That's a natural side-effect of being (holy crap) just SIX short weeks from Thing 2's arrival. And actually, these pics are a couple of weeks old, so add a centimeter or two to that girth and you're all caught up.

Other than that, we've been keeping busy rearranging our living space to accomodate the new arrival, and making some modifications to make our rooms more usable. In fact, as I type this, I'm seated at my half of our new built-in his & hers desk set-up that hubby and I completed over the course of a few days over his winter vaca. Pics to come soon, once I finish putting all my crap away in its new (much more organized) home.

I'll be back to share more in the next few days. Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas and a happy New Year! And apologies for the lack of Christmas card if you're someone that would normally have received one. I had hope up until the eleventh hour that I would get my act together enough to get one in the mail, but it just never happened. Then, I even renewed my plan and decided that maybe a New Year's card was a more realistic goal and failed on that one too. Better luck next year! You know we love you, right? You don't need a card for that.