Easy sundresses for girls

I think I’m going a little overboard with feeling like I have to make my daughter a new dress or outfit for every single holiday, major or minor.  With so much going on for end of school year activities I decided to scrap making a Father’s Day dress off my list and focus on the 4th of July instead.  I also needed to make something for our little friend Liza who is turning 5 in a couple weeks.

Since I’ve been feeling swamped with other to-dos I looked through my bookmarks for a super easy, fast tutorial and came up with Lil Blue Boo’s Super Simple Summer Dress.  It’s a fun combination of using a tank top for the top (picked up at Old Navy, 2 for $10), going through some scrap material for the skirt part and using fabric paints to spruce up the top.

For the 4th of July dress I decided to paint a large star on the front so I printed up a star from Google Images onto regular paper.  I taped it to my cutting board and then laid a piece of freezer paper (not wax paper, must be freezer paper which I had to order online because none of my local stores carry it) on top and taped that down.  Then I carefully cut out the star using an Exacto knife.  You lay the freezer paper onto the fabric and iron it on and it sticks – that way, if all goes as planned, you don’t get any paint under the edges of the paper.

I used several coats of white and the last coat was a sparkly white.  I repeated the whole process with the number 5 for Liza’s dress.

Then, as per the tutorial instructions, I ruffled up a couple strips of fabric for each skirt (first finishing the edges with a serger, although you could easily just hem them) and sewed those to the bottom of the tank tops.

The dresses lived up to their name: super simple.

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Maternity jeans, salvaged

The most comfortable, flattering, best-fitting jeans I’ve ever owned was when I was pregnant.  I wore those things every single day of both pregnancies.  Well, almost.  I love those jeans so much that I have seriously considered getting pregnant again, JUST so I can wear those jeans again.  Then I learned to sew…

As you can see, I have tried wearing these jeans long past the disappearance of the baby weight by using large safely pins to gather up the sides of the paneling.  Obviously, I wear long shirts of them.

So I decided that rather than add to our family yet again, I would remove the old, stretched-out paneling and add a better fitting ribbed knit band.

I haven’t worked with ribbed knit yet so I had to pull out a skirt I bought with a ribbed knit waistband just to see which direction the ribs should be going (up and down, it turns out).  I cut a band about 3 inches wide and a few inches shorter than my waist, folded it in half and sewed it to the top of the jeans.

They’re not as tight as I would like, especially when going from sitting to standing (I need to do a big yank up), but short of adding a drawstring (which might not have been a terrible idea) they are perfectly wearable and still totally flattering!

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Super Easy Summer Top

If only summer would actually come…

We’ve been getting record low temps and record rainfall here in Northern California for this time of year.  So to try to get my mind off the bad weather and perhaps to will summer to arrive, I decided to try this tutorial for an easy summer top that I’ve had bookmarked for a while now.

I’ve put it off because I’ve only had one experience with shirring and elastic thread and it didn’t turn out very well.  A couple years ago I tried making my niece this Heather Ross Smocked Sundress using shirring but it never really shirred and ended up being a loose tube around her.  I don’t think she wore it very much.

So I thought I’d try it again after reading online how easy it is, figuring I must have made a mistake.  I decided I would add on a couple thin straps to hold it up since I had nightmares of my 3 year-old son humiliating me in the grocery store by getting a hold of my tube top…  I used an Indian material I bought on etsy – a very soft cotton called mulmul which apparently gets softer with each washing.  I really like how it turned out but I have to say that the shirring still isn’t as elastic as what you can buy in the store.  Maybe it’s because I only sewed 5 lines of elastic thread and what you buy from a store probably has a lot more.  It does shirr the top and make it snug, it just feels a little fragile when I pull on it.

What do you think?

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Gretchen’s Granola

I love good, homemade granola.  The kind that comes in a cellophane bag with a pretty ribbon and hand written tag.  The kind that costs more than red meat in the store.  The kind you’d see for sale at a B&B or a winery.  That kind.

I eat it almost every morning one of two ways:  on top of Trader Joe’s Vanana (vanilla/banana) yogurt or by the handful.

I’ve been making this particular granola for a couple years now.  It’s a great way to use up all those almost empty bags of nuts, seeds and dried fruit in your pantry from the time that you needed 1/4 cup of pecans for a recipe but have never needed pecans again.  I have this tattered and stained printout from Martha Stewart that I use as a guide but have never followed exactly.  I searched her website but couldn’t find the exact recipe (although she has a gazillion other granola recipes, all very similar).  So here’s the gist, retitiled:

Gretchen’s Granola

(makes 12-14 cups)

4 cups old-fashioned oats

2 cups sweetened, shredded coconut (I’ve tried omitting this but I think it’s better with it)

3 cups total of whatever nuts and/or seeds you have on hand

3/4 cup vegetable oil (sometimes I substitute some flax oil to make it even more healthy, just don’t use all flax oil or it smells funny)

1/2 cup honey

3-3 1/2 cups total of whatever dried fruit you have (if it’s larger than a raisin, cut them to be about the size of raisins)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Toss the oats, coconut and nuts in a large bowl.  Whisk the oil and honey in a small bowl.  Toss it with the oat/nut mixture.  Spread it on two large baking sheets.  Bake until golden brown (about 20-40 minutes).  Stir frequently and check often so it doesn’t burn.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Mix in the dried fruit.  Store in airtight container.

My kids like it on ice cream, too.


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Stylin’ strap

A good friend who is an extremely talented photographer, asked me to make her a strap cover for her camera.  I’ve seen them for a long time now for sale on etsy for around $20-$30.  This amazes me (especially now that I’ve made a couple) because it literally takes a few scraps of fabric and a half hour to pull one of these together.

I used this tutorial from Little Big Girl Studio, which was very easy to follow.  To save time, I decided to make two at the same time – one for her and one for me.  The problem with sewing two of anything at the same time, especially when it’s your first time making one is that when you make a mistake (as often happens the first time I make something) you make the mistake twice.  And I made several mistakes while making this.  So it took a little longer than normal (there was cursing and a seam ripper involved).  But I still believe you can make one in about a half hour if you know what you’re doing.  OK, maybe an hour if you include cutting time.

The fun part for me was being introduced to a new product: fusible fleece.  It’s not totally necessary for this, but it does add a nice cushion to the strap cover, making it slightly padded and thus more comfortable to carry your camera.  You can buy it in a package or by the yard.  It’s a thin fleece that has adhesive on one side so that you can iron it onto the fabric and it sticks in place.  I could see using this when making a baby blanket so that the filling doesn’t move around when you quilt.

I had intended to put the lens pocket on the contrasting side of the strap (rather than on the same fabric) but only managed to do that for my strap, not for my friend’s.  I hope she doesn’t mind.  Here they are:

My friend’s:


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A Near Miss

I decided to try going on my own for the first time – no pattern.

I don’t often sew clothes for myself.  As a matter of fact, I think I’ve tried one skirt and one shirt and didn’t like either.  I’m much more picky when it comes to the fit and the feel of the fabric than my daughter is.  It’s easy to just stick an elastic waist in anything for her and she loves it.  Doesn’t work for me.  So I thought I’d take a skirt that I love (in this case it happened to be a knit yoga skirt) and try to make my own pattern.

So I folded it in half and put a piece of parchment paper over it and traced.  For the waist I decided to try ribbed knit for the first time.

But as you may be able to see in the above photo, at the last minute I changed my mind and decided that instead of using knit fabric for the skirt that I would use this great Heather Ross Far Far Away II fabric – Sleeping Beauty in cotton canvas.  Now don’t ask me why I would risk using $17/yard fabric on my first time going it with no pattern.  It was impulsive and not very smart as you’ll see.

I went ahead and cut the white ribbed knit fabric for the waistband.  And cut and sewed together the two skirt pieces in the Heather Ross fabric.  And found my first mistake.  As you can see I cut the curve a little too curved on the folded fabric and ended up with this wonky edge:

Not the end of the world.  I figured I could fix it with a wider hem.  Then I got the two pieces together…

And not so bad, right?  Looks like a nice skirt.  But I’m sure many of you out there already see the train wreck that is coming… I luckily had the good sense to try it on before adding the ribbed knit waistband and guess what?  Cotton canvas doesn’t stretch the way knit does.  You can’t use a pattern for a stretchy yoga skirt for something as stiff as cotton canvas.  I couldn’t get the waist over my hips.  And I’m not very hippy.  But there was no way that was budging.  Now had I used a $6/yard fabric I would have likely tossed the mess aside and gone on to a new project.  But since I had just sunk about 20 bucks into this skirt I had to figure out a fix.  A zipper.  I’ve only done one zipper in my life and that was two years ago.  But I had no choice.  So I pulled out the seam on one side (I had surged it already) and added a zipper.  But since I had planned to have a few extra inches in length due to the waistband that I no longer had, the skirt was going to be a lot shorter than I had planned.  So I made the waist and bottom hems as narrow as possible and still ended up with a short skirt, but not quite as short.

(Please ignore the dirty laundry in the background.)  I’m actually glad it worked out this way because I would not have purposely made a skirt this short but I like it.  It’ll be a good summer skirt.

Here’s the zipper:

It could probably use a hook and eye at the top but I almost never tuck in my shirts so I’ll probably just leave it as is.

I’ll definitely try this again, just next time in a more forgiving (and less expensive) fabric.

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Another awesome FREE pattern!

This is my go-to gift for all of the 4 and 5-year-old birthday parties we’ve been going to this year (for girls, that is).  I can whip one of these skirts out in a half hour and the variations are endless.  And my daughter hasn’t outgrown a single one in the two years I’ve been making them for her – they last forever.

You may already be familiar with it – it’s the Oliver + S Lazy Days Skirt.

All you need is about a half yard of fabric (selvedge to selvedge), a few feet of ribbon (the above green ribbon was from a gift I received from Williams Sonoma), and a couple feet of elastic.  I usually have all three on hand at any given time.

This is a Lazy Days Skirt in denim but with fancy appliques for my daughter’s 4th birthday:

And when it’s one of those weekends where you have three birthday parties in a row:

With matching barrettes for my nieces last Easter:

Did I mention that the possibilities are endless??

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Scrumptious Banana Muffins

OK, I left out the ‘whole wheat’ part in the title because I thought I might lose people with that.  But these are scrumptious and healthy!  And I used something called white, unbleached whole wheat flour which makes no sense because how can it be white if it’s unbleached and whole wheat?  And in fact it isn’t as white as bleached flour but it is lighter than straight whole wheat.  Just picked it up from Safeway.

I’ve made these twice now and the second time doubled the recipe so that I could put half in the freezer which has worked well in making them last into a second week now.  The only variation I made from the recipe is to add an additional diced banana to the batter so that you could actually bite into banana, which I think worked nicely.

I no longer remember which blog I originally read about these in (since I don’t follow the blog that they actually appear in) but you should try them the next time you have a few bananas going black.

Enjoy! Whole Wheat Banana Muffins

(Oh, and most importantly, my kids LOVED them)

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Art tote for Pascale

As I mentioned, my good friend’s daughter, Pascale, wouldn’t be caught dead in a dress.  She even goes in the pool wearing boys swim trunks and a t-shirt.  She’s a very talented soccer player and a very talented artist.  She’s a renaissance girl.

So rather than make her the popover sundress that I made her sister, I made her an art tote so she can carry her art supplies with her to the sidelines.

I used the tote bag instructions in Lotta Jansdotter’s Simple Sewing book but I added the seams for Pascale to be able to keep her pens and pencils on the outside.  Before sewing it together I drew lines with a washable marker so I’d know where to sew the seams.

This was the first book I bought when I got my sewing machine a couple years ago and the first sewing projects I did were from here.  My daughter and I were taking a family yoga class at the time so I made these bags for us from her book.

I also attempted some pot holders (in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m in love, love, love with IKEA fabrics):I’ll post some other Lotta attempts another time.  For now, I hope Pascale likes her new art tote.

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Popover Sundress for Noemie

I just whipped up this little dress for my good friend’s daughter, Noemie.  Her mom is a whiz with Photoshop (and I have yet to read my Photoshop for Dummies book…) and recently helped me clean up some photos I’ve wanted to print and frame for a while but haven’t been able to get that nasty stain off my daughter’s dress in them.  Anyway, to thank her wonderful mother I made her daughter one of these super easy dresses for summer.  Her other daughter is quite the tomboy so a sundress just wouldn’t work for her.  She is exceptionally artistic however, so I’m planning to make her an art tote.  More on that in another post.

First, here’s the dress:

The pattern is from Oliver + S.  If you haven’t checked them out yet, you must.  Adorable patterns.  I’ll confess, this is the only one of theirs I’ve made so far (even though I own a couple more).  They feel just a step beyond my skill level.  But I need to push myself so soon I will take the leap and try another.  And you can be sure I’ll blog about it.

The best part about this pattern is it’s absolutely free!  Yes, you can download the pattern and instructions here.

I tried french seams for the first time on this and I can’t believe how much more professional and clean it makes the dress look.  You can’t see any of the frayed/sewn edges of the seams on the inside.  I’m definitely going to be doing more of these on future dresses.

I added a little white piping which I think also makes it look so much more finished and professional.

Here’s another popover sundress I made for my daughter’s first day of preschool a couple years ago.  Unfortunately you can’t quite make it out but the fabric is Olivia the pig (the picture was taken with a very old camera).  I added red piping on this one.  The dress is pretty roomy and this dress still fits her two years later.

Time to whip out several more of these for summer!  I might even try one in knit fabric.

P.S. – I GOT the bias tape maker for Mothers Day!  I guess my husband reads my blog after all.  I used it for the first time making the straps for this dress and it was relatively easy.  I think I still need some practice with it, though.

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