A coffee date dress for me {sewing projects}

In case you hadn’t noticed, most of the things I sew are either for the kids or for gifts. For some reason I just get more excited about making teeny tiny clothes. Maybe it’s because they get finished so much more quickly. Or maybe it’s because I love taking pictures of the finished products on my tiny models. For whatever reason even when I see a project, pattern or tutorial and think I “simply MUST sew that!” it still takes me weeks or sometimes months to get around to it. Such is the case with the coffee date dress, which I first saw on the Grosgrain blog (have you seen it? It’s FABULOUS!)

I liked the style of the dress immediately and I also liked the fact that the tutorial was broken up into such nice manageable chunks of sewing complete with useful photos. Perfect for me since I’m still a little wary of sewing things for myself. I wanted a bright and cheerful dress so I picked out this blue fabric and I also liked the addition of the sash so I picked a fun yellow to go with it. I considered doing a white top and blue skirt like the tutorial shows but I was worried that the top would be too transparent (necessitating some sort of camisole underneath) and decided not to do it. I really wish I had as I like the color of the dress but I think there might be a bit too much of it. Oops. Live and learn. I also made my first attempt at installing an invisible zipper (following this invisible zipper tutorial) and while I thought I followed it to the letter, the zipper is in, works and is not offensive to look at, but it is definitely NOT invisible (oops again). My only other real stumbling block was with sizing. I measured myself and tried to find my size on the burda chart. I have a weirdly large rib cage (or something like that) because my chest measurement put me at a larger size than the rest of my measurements and I was worried that the bodice was going to be too snug. I was actually debating between two sizes and went with the smaller one (thank goodness) and the dress is still too roomy. I think I am going to take it in right around the waist area. I’m not sure what that’s going to do to the sash which is why I’ve held off for now.

Other than that I’m pretty pleased with the result. I had Ben take a few pictures of me wearing it so that I could show off on the blog. I really need to get lessons in posing for the camera because I’m absolutely terrible at it. Usually it goes something like this – I stand awkwardly looking away from the camera because I don’t know what to do. Ben takes a picture, makes fun of me for not looking at the camera or looking sad, so I look up and make a goofy face that I’m later embarrassed about.

Exhibit A

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and Exhibit B – even goofier face still

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A coffee date dress for me {sewing projects}

Amelia’s giraffe jumper {sewing projects}

I promise Paul’s quilt it coming… I will finish it soon… I just have to keep telling myself that I *will* work on it. The trouble is I have so many OTHER projects that just keep popping into my head that I simply *must do* right away. So I start, finish and move on from those projects and Paul’s poor quilt sits there unfinished. At least I finished the top… I just have to finish the back, bind and quilt it. Hmn, sounds like a lot doesn’t it?

In any case I thought I’d show off the latest sewing creation for Amelia. I made a version of the Vivienne jumper from burdastyle. If you haven’t heard of it before you should definitely check it out. Burdastyle is all about “open source sewing” – the giving and receiving of all things sewing knowledge, tips, advice and patterns. I happen to be a HUGE fan of the concept of open source anything. To me if you know it you might as well share it, even in photography and business. If I can help someone else improve their life and skills I’d love to do so. In any case I have fallen in love with burdastyle and all of the tutorials and patterns. The Vivienne jumper is one of the free ones. Did you catch that?! FREE!! I happen to be a big fan of free patterns.

I read in the reviews that it was possibly a little short on some kids and while Amelia’s not a giant by any means I was worried that if I made it too short it wouldn’t be useful for long since she’s growing so quickly. I also thought in looking at the pattern that it looked a little off in proportion compared to most of her dresses, a little squatter, so I figured it must just be too short. So I opted to just go ahead and plan to add a good 3 inches of length at the bottom as a contrast stripe (I turned the fabric 90 degrees before cutting – is there a more technical term for this?! I really don’t know much sewing lingo). I was also inspired by one of the finished project photos to add an applique giraffe to the dress for added cuteness because come on, who doesn’t love a giraffe?

I decided to add the applique before I finished the dress because since the dress is lined I wanted the stitches to go through only the top layer instead of both the outside and lining layers. As I sat there for somewhere close to two hours hand stitching that little giraffe on with green embroidery floss I began to wonder if maybe this wasn’t the smartest idea… what if the dress was ugly or didn’t fit? I would have wasted ALL that time stitching a giraffe onto a ruined dress. But it was too late and I’d already started.

I planned to finish the dress in one evening but after all the time involved in the applique I put it aside for the next day. The rest of the dress construction was actually fairly quick and straightforward. I finished it up (except for the buttons which I wanted to place after trying it on) and hung it up. It was darn cute. I was so proud of myself.

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And then I tried it on her… only to find out that it was big. Really really big. We’re talking gigantic. Gaping all around the sides and at the armhole. My added length made the dress a nice proportion but apparently it was the proportion of a 3 or 4 year old. Oops. So I threw in the towel on the idea of a reversible dress (as this was supposed to be) and took it in the cheap and dirty easiest way I knew how – I just took a good inch to inch and a half off each side seam, pinned, tried it back on (much better) sewed, chopped and serged the new edges. Finished. Phew. Crisis averted. The dress falls pretty low at her knees but I actually think that’s a good thing. She’ll get more wear out of it that way. Even with all the resizing and smallifying the dress is still very generously sized through the torso and should fit for quite a while. The last step was attaching the buttons (I gave Amelia the choice between star or round buttons, she picked the stars) which I sort of botched (turns out I’m not super skilled at button holes, who knew?) despite the fact that I did several nearly perfect button holes on my scrap fabric. You can’t really tell from standing back but the holes are too big and kind of messy. Oh well. The imperfections make it genuine, unique and handmade right? But enough with the blabbering, here’s the dress. Modeled by my little lady with her pink pajamas and frog boots when I tried on the finished product.

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The dress was sewn expressly with the intention of being worn in the family portraits that we had taken last week and just because I’m crazy and couldn’t find a satisfactory white shirt for her to wear under it I decided to make one of those as well. I used this super easy and quick tutorial from crafterhours for a ringer t-shirt with two modifications – first I used a thinner band for the ribbing and made it the same color and second I made the shirt long sleeved. I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly and easily it came together and I’m pretty sure that I’m now going to be making all (or at least a lot of) the kids’ t-shirts.

I am so excited at how the outfit turned out and even MORE excited about how the pictures turned out!! I haven’t seen all of them yet but we just got a sneak peek this morning from the photographer. The super talented Kristina Young followed us around for an entire afternoon “doing what we do” – playing, reading, laughing and having fun. And the photos are fabulous! Doesn’t the outfit look perfect?! I love it!! More photos on her blog

I also recently finished a dress for myself from a burdastyle pattern… more on that soon 🙂

Amelia’s giraffe jumper {sewing projects}

Our wonderfully yellow new room {decor}

It’s been a while since I’ve updated the blog. And there’s a good reason. I’ve been busy moving cross country. Not just in an “oh I moved pretty far so I’ll call it cross country” sort of a way – no. We actually moved from within a couple miles of the beach on the West coast to within a couple miles (ok, maybe 10? I’ll have to look it up to get an exact distance) on the East coast. A LONG LONG way.

Moving our little family of 4 to the East coast is one of the crazier, more exciting and fun things that we’ve ever done. It was a big endeavor. Definitely not possible without the help of my parents who watched the kids for almost two weeks while Ben and I drove our car, loaded up with our prized possessions (sewing machines and computers!) across the country and set up our new apartment. What makes it extra crazy is that we’re only planning to live here for a little less than a year before moving back to the West coast (I *KNOW* we’re nuts, right?)

Moving such a long distance for such a short period of time presents an interesting dilemma. Moving an entire family’s entire collection of toys, furniture, clothing and household goods all the way out here would have cost an estimated $5,000 or $6,000 minimum each way. EACH WAY!! Having helpful movers come and pack said belongings and put them in storage for us for an entire year? Only around $2000. You can guess which one we picked. Because even if we spent a whopping $10,000 on furnishing our new apartment (easy to do if shopping at high end furniture stores) we would still not be spending more than it would cost to move out here. So we called it a challenge. Go to Ikea (oh wonderland of inexpensive yet stylish Scandinavian wares) and spend as little as possible to make our apartment as lovely as possible. We briefly considered buying the bulk of our furniture off of craigslist, but since we were on such a tight time schedule (just under a week to furnish and decorate the entire apartment before the kids arrived) we vetoed that idea and decided instead that we would sell all of our lovely new Ikea purchases at the end of the year. Making it an even cheaper option. Plus who doesn’t love a trip to Ikea now and then. I certainly do.

So on to the bedroom!

We have always put the rest of the house (the public rooms and kids’ room) at the top of our priority list when it comes to decorating. We have never owned a “real” bed with a headboard and frame. We have never owned a matching bedroom set. We have never really “decorated” our room before. But this time I was dead set on making us a real honest to goodness bedroom. We started out with the furniture. Nothing super exciting. Just some dark black/brown basic shapes for the bed, dresser and nightstands and a knock-off of the poang chair (I believe it’s the pello chair, fine from the front but super ugly from the back – hello chair in a corner). I wish I had a picture of the room with just the furniture in it. It was sad and lonely. We learned at that point that a bedroom set (because the furniture did match) does NOT a bedroom make.

So we moved on to the “decor” phase. First we hung some curtains. We already had the whole set of white curtains that used to hang in our bedroom separating our “faux office” in the last apartment (remember, the ones I made into a shirt?) so we started by hanging those. The bedroom is a not-so-fabulous shade of “builder beige”, not white, not brown, just kind of blah, so we figured white curtains would pop out with some brightness. Plus we already had the curtains so score one for free! We also had a fabulous duvet cover that I wanted to keep in the room, the yellow Marimekko bedding from Crate and Barrel (purchased with some left over from way back in the day wedding gift cards, thank you wedding guests!)

Next it was time to decorate the walls. My motto when it comes to hanging art or photographs on the walls of our home is “there’s no such thing as too big”. As a photographer and former architect I am convinced that people have no concept of the following two things.

1. Your walls are big. No really. BIG! Super big!! Way, way bigger than you think they are. Have someone stand up against one and really take in the scale of it. Yeah. They’re big. I told you so.
2. The prints you get from your average photo printing big box super store are tiny. Yes. Super tiny. Even an 8×10, that ridiculous size of print that really shouldn’t even exist because it means cropping off the sides of your image (but don’t even get me started on that). It’s smaller than a piece of office paper. Have you ever thought about that? And people tend to think of it as a “big” print because it’s larger than the little 4x6s they are used to holding in their hands. Well I have news for you. Tack that baby up on the wall and stand back. It’s tiny. Even a 16×20 print (which most people think is GIANT) when hung alone on a wall is going to look puny.

So I knew that I either wanted one super gigantic print or a collection of smaller prints. Buying lots of frames for smaller prints would have been costly, but buying one large frame and large print would have been costly as well. I had the idea that maybe we could print out a large scale graphic on our home printer by tiling smaller prints (I remembered I had seen something similar on photojojo a while back) but I didn’t like the idea of having lots of overlapped seams in the prints. It just didn’t seem terribly elegant. So Ben and I decided we should space the images out with a 2 inch grid of white between the prints and tack them all up with silver pushpins. All we needed was an image that was worthy of covering our entire wall with.

Enter Ben’s genius idea – yellow wildflowers! These gorgeous (ok, they’re a weed but I still think they’re gorgeous) yellow wild mustard flowers COVER ever freeway embankment and hillside in Southern California from around March to sometime in the late spring. They just scream springtime and happiness and I knew they would be the perfect thing to bring some brightness to a dull beige room. This particular photo I used was one I shot while second shooting a wedding with my friend Crissy a few years ago. Obviously we didn’t want this lovely couple on our bedroom bigger than life size, so we just used the upper left corner of the image.

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We got a few hours into the project (printing it out in little sections on the home computer) when we realized two things. 1. it was going to take FOREVER and use an unbelievable quantity of ink and 2. it would actually be cheaper (we had already been through two full $25 color ink cartridges and were only 1/3 of the way done) and look way better to print it out on a large format plotter

So we scrapped the tiled image idea and instead formatted the image for the plotter. We printed it out in 5 sections of about 90 inches tall by 31 inches wide with a 1/2 inch overlap between the panels. In order to make hanging more manageable we decided to keep our grid of pushpins idea and place a silver pin every 10 inches along the wall, giving it an even and sort of “tufted sofa” look. We marked the location of each pin on our original file with a white dot so that there wouldn’t be any measuring involved in putting up the grid on the wall since they were already on the photograph. Here is what our file looked like ready to be printed.

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When the sheets came out of the plotter they each had a white band along one side and narrow strips of white at the top and bottom that needed to be trimmed off

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And then it was time to hang!

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Once all the pieces were up we took a few pictures

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But I still felt like the room wasn’t quite finished. So we made one last trip to Ikea for a few accessories. A white rug (since the carpet is such a blah shade of grey), some bright fabric to make into pillows to add a few pops of color (I LOVE the yellow I found that matches our bedspread), a couple of vases and a house plant. There’s just something nice about having a living plant in your home. We also decided to hang one print from our wedding on the opposite wall. One of my favorites from our awesome photographers Nate & Jaclyn Kaiser

And here is the finished product.

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Quite wonderful right?! I love it!

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Now instead of having a bedroom that is the leftover room in our house we have a bedroom that is the favorite room. I LOVE our room and I love spending time in it. It’s the perfect place to relax and read a book while the kids nap. We can now proudly keep the door open and we have a reason to keep it neat and tidy. I can’t believe we haven’t ever made ourselves a real bedroom before.

Our wonderfully yellow new room {decor}