The Shawl that Will Never be Finished

9 stitches were cast on to begin this shawl.

3 years later, it is only halfway complete. It takes me about a half an hour just to knit one round, since there are now 576 stitches on the needle.

The current band I am knitting is a sea of stockinette stitch. In other words, it is dreadfully boring. On the plus side, it was easy to pick back up after not knitting on it for over a year.

Maybe I’ll finish it before she gets married. (hysterical laughter) 

Sunday Snapshots (of a romantic pathway)

There is nothing more romantic and magical than a pathway lined with trees and shaded by the tree’s canopy. The print that hangs over our mantle is a picture of just such a pathway.

When I first found the print, I cried. It was so beautiful.

Today, I found such a pathway.

It was in a development where our friends live. It was the path we took to reach the playground. While Elly and the other kids raced to the monkey bars, I took pictures of romantic surroundings.

Paint at Last

In July, I posted about scraping the last of the primer and paint off of the oil paint in our dining room. Since then, I hadn’t the energy, enthusiasm, or courage to paint the walls again. Not to mention I didn’t have the time since I spent every free moment sewing in order to finish the dresses. So, for 3 months, our dining room has looked like this.

During the 3 months, we periodically had guests visit, but even that wasn’t enough encouragement to get me to pull the paint and brushes out again. I just couldn’t deal with the possibility of defeat again.

Yesterday, all that changed. It was time. The walls had started to annoy me. The carpet was shredding to pieces in yet another spot. It had to go, but it’s such a useful (albeit ugly) drop cloth.

So while Elly played at a friend’s house, I got to painting on a coat of oil-based primer.

When Dan came home and praised my efforts, I told him to not get too happy. If anything goes wrong, even so much as the stripes not being wide enough, I’m slapping up beadboard. No power on this earth could make me scrape those walls again.

Organizing Christmas Presents

Before Elly, I would just stack all the Christmas presents on the floor in our guest bedroom.
Last year, I had to hide all the toys in the china cabinet and the guest bedroom closet to keep Elly from playing with them.
This year, I needed to hide all the Christmas presents because Elly is remarkably curious and wants to play with anything new whether it’s a toy or not.
With the china cabinet stuffed to the gills with sewing notions and fabric, there was no room to stash presents. The closet was quickly filled and more presents were arriving weekly. Oh how I love to shop for Christmas!
Something had to be done.
Noticing that the oil room was underutilized with just canned produce and mountains of empty boxes, I set about to claim the space for storage.

A little sweeping here plus a few boxes broken down there and I was left with enough room to install metal shelves.

It is out of sight to Elly. Thus, most people should receive their gifts without little tears in the packaging and without any Elly artwork.
Although this shelving unit is helpful to let me see at a glance what gifts I have already purchased, I rely on an app, the Gift List Manager, to keep me on budget and on target. It sure beats the excel spreadsheet system I had before.

The Dresses

Each dress brought its own challenges to the table.

Elly’s dress was the dress of a thousand curves.

To ensure accuracy, I hand basted each curve before zipping it through the machine. Only the straight side seams of the skirt were not hand basted first. Although it took extra time up front, it was worth it because it kept the slippery taffeta fabric from shifting and potentially ruining the gentle curve of each seam. Once sewn, the curves had to be clipped, notched, pressed open, pressed up and then topstitched. It was a lot of work, especially when you realize that this dress is completely reversible so everything had to be done twice. The one shortcut I did take on this dress was to not finish the seams. I am normally a stickler for finishing seams, but I saw no point in doing it on this dress. Nobody is going to see them. The tulle in between the skirts even hides the hem.

My dress was the dress of a few thousand hand stitches.

The purple taffeta fabric was hand basted to the cotton underlining. The bodice lining was hand stitched to the outer shell. The waist stay was hand stitched to the bodice. The hem was hand stitched down. At one point, I had blood on my fingertips from all the needle punctures.

Hands down these were the most complicated dresses I have made to date. Together they took over 4 months to make.

Elly’s dress was completely underlined. It made the taffeta easy to work with and it made it strong enough to withstand the hand sequin work and the oodles of embroidered topstitching. On the other hand, only the bodice of my dress was underlined; the circle skirt was left free.

My dress was a compilation of 2 patterns. The bodice was from Gertie’s Bombshell dress class on Craftys. The circle skirt was from The Party Dress book. Amazingly, the patterns matched perfectly.

Elly’s pattern came from Sewing Clothes that Kids Love book. It’s the Manhattan pattern.

Slight fitting adjustments were made to both patterns. Otherwise, I followed the directions as directed.

To make beautiful dresses, you need beautiful fabric.  I didn’t skimp. The purple fabric was a bridal irridescent taffeta from Denver Fabrics. The overlay on my dress was a sequined tulle purchased on our trip to Mexico last year. The appliques on Elly’s dress were fussy cut out of the tulle and then hand stitched down. As mentioned above, I also used cotton underlining. The dresses were completely lined. Cotton was used in the bodice for its breathability whereas polyester lining fabric was used for the skirt for its silkiness.

The effort was worth it. I loved the results! I loved all the compliments on how pretty Elly looked in her “princess” dress. Is that wrong?


But now that the dresses are done, I plan to take a well deserved break. I just want to sit, drink a glass of port and play a board game with Dan in the evening rather than rush to squeeze in another hour of sewing.

Dress Update, Final Days

A small celebration, by way of a trip to Friendlys, took place this weekend in honor of Elly’s dress being completed.


No sooner had it been completed, I turned my attention to my own dress. Thankfully, it’s a much easier dress to construct.

Or rather, all the fiddly details, like the steel boning, have already been completed. All that is left to be done is add a zipper, install the bodice lining and hem the dress.

Unfortunately, sickness is slowing down my progress. Elly hasn’t been sleeping well and the night is when I usually get most of my sewing work done.

Tomorrow Elly will go play at a friend’s house and I will get 3 hours of uninterrupted time. Here’s hoping it’s all I need.

(Full details of Elly’s dress as well as my own will be published after the wedding).

Sunday Snapshots (of a new haircut)

Elly’s hair was starting to get in her eyes. For the first time since she was born, Dan and I talked about getting her hair cut.

I said I would make an appointment for her. Dan asked why I didn’t cut it myself. I used to cut my sister’s hair all the time. Why not Elly’s?

So, I did. I made the smallest of trims across the front and the back. But I don’t think I’ll ever cut it again.

I cut it too short in the front!

And all the curl is gone from the back.

Yeah, we’re going to let the professionals cut Elly’s hair from now on.

Dress Update, week 2

The lining for Elly’s dress is finished!

The bodice was made with a medium weight cotton. The skirt was made with a lightweight polyester lining fabric.

Despite the fact that nobody outside the few who read this blog will see the inside of the dress, I took the time to hand baste in the skirt sections and to topstitch with the fancy flower motif. One day, she may want to wear the dress inside out.

Now she can.

Update: Dan mentioned that the inside of the dress resembled a Snow White dress. So, you might be looking at Elly’s Halloween outfit. What do you think?

Repair or Replace

3 years ago, I came across a “Free. Works.” sign on a sewing machine.

Despite its heft, I hauled it home humming the whole way. I cleaned and oiled it until it purred like a cat.

Since that day, I’ve sewn quilts, sheer curtains, aprons and bags on it.

It’s a wonderful machine, a Kenmore 158.14100, but it’s been broken since the day I got it.

Despite having settings for zigzag, overlock, and decorative stitches, the only thing it can do is run a straight stitch. Mind you, it does that very well unless you’re trying to sew through 2 or more layers of jeans.

Yet, I’m greedy. I’d like it to work properly. My local sewing store informed me that it would cost me $60 to just look at it. Presumably, it will be much more than that once they start replacing parts. I can buy a new machine for that amount of money. Oh, if only I lived next to Peter. He would know what to do.

So, it begs the question. Do I repair this oldie but goody? Or do I replace it with another machine that actually works?

You might be wondering why I should replace it at all, yes? I do after all have perfectly good machine, a Babylock Decorator’s Choice, which I purchased 2 years ago.

Well, I’m afraid I’ve gotten spoiled by having two machines. It’s nice to have a machine dedicated to each project that I’m working on. It keeps me from having to change the thread in the machine out, change the settings on the machine and change the needle. Plus, the old machines are great to use when Elly wants to help. There aren’t a million buttons for her to press.

Maybe I can convince my neighbor, who was a seamstress in her day, to give me her old Singer.