My copy of Little Things to Sew arrived last January when my brother and sister in law were visiting for Orthodox Christmas. I was so excited about it that I forced my sister in law to look through every page and admire its awesomeness. She doesn’t sew but she appreciates a well executed handmade item so she indulged me. Actually after looking through it she said she wanted one of everything in the book for my nephew, Liam. Well, maybe not the tutu or the doll dress, but everything else. So this December I wanted to make a couple little things for his birthday. (He turned 3)!
My sister in law said that one of my nephew’s friends has a little lunch box and she really liked bento box carrier so I decided to give it a go. Well let me tell you this post should probably be called “Listen to Liesel”, who is the author of the book and the creative genius behind Oliver and S patterns. I did not listen when it came to choosing fabrics and I almost quit on the project at least three times. Needles broke, seam rippers were out, it was a mess all around. But I just couldn’t quit because the bento box to go inside had already arrived and it just wouldn’t have been as cute or practical without the carrier.
I wanted the whole thing to be wipeable because three year olds don’t contain messes to just the placemat area so I laminated all of the cotton pieces with iron on vinyl. However, iron on vinyl is not food safe, so I still needed to use a clear vinyl over the placemat area. The weight and stickiness of those two fabrics plus seam binding were almost too much for my machine even with a heavy duty needle. Speaking of needles I broke a heavy duty needle sewing through the template plastic for the handle because I couldn’t find the proper weight template plastic. Troubles aside, I can’t even believe how professional the finished product turned out. I told my sister in law that my nephew almost didn’t get the gift because I struggled sewing it and she said she didn’t even realize it was handmade. To me, that’s a compliment. .
I had a little time left before mailing the gifts so I also made two pair of mittens (also from Little things to Sew). This time I listened to Liesel so the project was effortless. I used fleece for the mittens and quilting cotton for the bands that encase the elastic.
Every time I sew an Oliver and S patten, I am always so pleased at how clear they are. And I am equally as pleased at the professionally finished products that result from following the directions. These two patterns didn’t disappoint. Even when my machine struggled to sew through the fabrics for the bento box carrier I knew that it wasn’t the patten, but that fact that I was not following the pattern to blame. Struggles and all, I couldn’t give up. When I was growing up my mother used to say, “quitters never win”. She is my sewing idol and I couldn’t quit because I know the thought would never enter her mind.
This year I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew when it comes to holiday crafting and sewing. I always hand make a couple of things, but this year the list just seems to go on and on. There are teacher gifts, gifts for the girls’ friends and then gifts for the girls themselves.
The ballet teacher will be getting some headbands like the ones I made here. She wears a headband for class so I think this will be a useful teacher gift. The Spanish teacher and the preschool coop moms will likely be getting felt ornaments and fudge. I’ve never made fudge before, but I tried making some with the girls today. If it comes out okay then it will definitely be part of the gift. As for the girls’ friends, Ella and Delilah have come up with this idea to put their favorite songs on CD so that they can share with their friends. It harkens back to the mix tape of my high school days. I actually like a lot of the songs that they have chosen because they aren’t the songs you would think of as traditional kids’ music. I’m hoping my mom friends don’t hate me for this gift.
And then there are all those baby doll clothes. I tried to get out of this one by buying baby doll clothes. But when I went to the toy store and Target I just couldn’t bring myself to hand over money for what they had. There where no sweet baby doll clothes to be had. All the shirts has some cutesy phrase on them. Add to that the garish fabrics and there was just no way I was buying them. Thankfully my mom is making the clothes for the American Girl Doll so I just have to outfit two baby dolls.
I know there is more that I am forgetting. It will come to me in the middle of the night when I am up with my four month old. He also happens to be my sewing buddy because he often won’t let me put him down. I wear him most of the day in a baby carrier so I can get things done. Here’s a horrible picture but you get the idea of what sewing with a baby on you looks like.
I can’t even believe Ella is five. I feel like that is the age where children are definitively not babies anymore. I can see everyday how grown up she is. She helps with anything I ask, especially taking care of her little brother. She has become self sufficient and thoughtful. And best if all she’s developed a sense of humor. I know there will be some fine tuning over the years, but I can seen now so many of the qualities she will have as an adult. For example, she is playful and loves a party. She is so proud of turning five, I decided to make her a special outfit to wear.
I wanted an outfit that Ella could wear again, or at least wear part of again and I wanted it to be comfortable. I opted to appliqué a shirt that I picked up at a consignment sale and make a dirndl skirt. I cut out a number five and fused it to the shirt. Then I added five pennants at the top. I zigzagged all of these down so they would survive washings. The fabric for the number five and some of the pennants is more of the vintage fabric that I found at my mom’s house. (She doesn’t remember buying it. I’m sure I will say the same thing thirty years from now about my fabric stash). For the skirt I used the Oliver and S Lazy Days Skirt free pattern. Once I sewed the back center seam, I decided the fabric was a bit thin for December in Massachusetts so I decided to line the skirt with the pink shirting cotton that I used for the contrast pennants on the shirt. Rather than using ribbon on the bottom to encase the hem, I used bias tape. By doing this I ended up with a reversible skirt. I doubt Ella will ever wear the skirt with the shirting cotton side facing out because it isn’t colorful enough to suit her taste. But maybe when she hands it down to her sister we’ll see that side.
It turned out cute, although she was reluctant to model it.
I love the name of the after school shirt. I went to a school where we wore uniforms. So if you wanted to play after school you had to change clothes when you got home lest you get the uniform dirty or worse yet torn. However my play clothes were no where near as nice as the finished result from this pattern.
This is the second time I’ve made this pattern. The first time I made Delilah this combo. In fact the fabric for the second shirt was also Delilah’s pick, but Ella is in desperate of clothes so we asked Delilah if Ella could have it and Delilah agreed. I try for the most part to let the girls have some say when it comes to choosing fabric so that they will actually wear the finished product. Usually this works.
I cut out the pieces at least a month ago but then I lost all motivation to sew it up. But I decided that I had to finish up all incomplete projects before I could move on to holiday sewing. (Instant motivation). The shirt comes together so easily and the directions are so clear as in all Oliver and S patterns. I learned to do a set-in sleeve last year from an Oliver and S patten and it has made me feel like an amazingly accomplished sewist ever since.
For the Afterschool shirt you need four buttons, two for the front yoke and two for the back yoke. The pattern directs you to make the button holes before sewing on the front and back panels of the shirt. I didn’t have any buttons on hand when I started the project so I decided I would add snaps on the yokes later. But once the shirt was done I knew that the tiny demure print needed a splash of bright color to suit Ella’s style. So I took the shirt to Joann’s to find some buttons. I chose big flashy buttons to make the shirt more her style. I had to add the button hole after the shirt was complete. It wasn’t terrible but I don’t recommend you do it. Like all things in life, patterns usually work better if you follow the directions. I decided that putting a large button on the back was probably a bad idea since it would push on Ella’s back when she is buckled in her car seat. So I edge stitched the back yoke closed (after checking that her head would fit through the neck opening if only one yoke opened). The button that I omitted from the back I sewed next to the one on the front.
It wasn’t exactly how I had planned for the shirt to look, but the buttons are growing on me and no complaints from Ella. So I must have made the right choice.