Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

“I will re-calculate. Your deaths will be indescribable.”

So why it’s taken me so long to sew up Ro-Man from 1953’s B-movie Robot Monster, I do not know. Clearly a failing on my part. A failing I remedied this week.

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

 You can basically see that this 6-month sized piece is identical to the monster in the film. Maybe it’s even a bit scarier.

Robot Monster (1953) - still

Below you see that Ro-Man the Robot Monster, aka baby V., was pretty much over cute bearded dad. I mean she was into him. She’d hold his hand. She’d let him carry her around all day. But she wasn’t gonna pretend she liked it!

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

OK, but seriously – it was fun trying to make a “helmet” that was smart for a small baby. No globe-and-bucket (which is perfect for an adult version!) here.

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

HUGE BRAWNY MONSTER ARMS. Tiny little baby hands! By the way, a good quality faux fur is machine-washable, very warm, and you can clean baby puke out of it pretty easy. I’m just sayin’.

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

Of course, we need a powerful ape chest. And our pacifier:

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

 Baby V. might look like a hungover owl in this photo below but I like it anyway – because Ralph is so sweet – and hirsute!

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

 “I may be a hideous monster but I have adorable, delicious feet.”

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

And of course: a secret little monster underlap at the back, where the ensemble fastens:

Ro-Man (aka Robot Monster), 1953

Of course, you can read more about how I made the piece, and the troubles and successes I had, via the Flickr tagset. And of course, if you’re digging this exact monster, I’ve listed it on Etsy!Robot Monster (1953) - poster


flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

flannel shirt sew-a-long: Introduction, Flickr Group, & Schedule

flannel shirt sew-a-long icon

Hello my awesomesauce stitching fiends! Today I am posting the schedule, the Flickr Group, and the Introduction post for my Flannel Shirt Sew-A-Long! Last week, I posted the supply list. Due to some supply issues for those who got on board the sew-a-long a little later, I am going to be having two rounds of sew-a-long. As you can see above, the first starts on Sunday, November 17th and ends Wednesday, November 27th. The second round starts Sunday, December 1st and ends Wednesday, December 9th. Remember, whenever you get started, I will be available to help with much alacrity all through November and December. Never fear, you will get that shirt made! Here is the sew-along overview:

1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9

And now, a few notes about making a high-end plaid, flannel menswear-styled shirt:


follows like a shadow that never leaves

My son sustained a rather large, nasty-looking splinter at a playdate this AM, out in the country (as we say). He was a happy little camper all day but in the evening the small injury was troubling him. He wanted the problem gone but he wasn’t too trusting of any adult wielding a pair of tweezers. Finally I got him to give me his foot, post-bath and after most of our friends had left for the evening. I swiftly and surely placed the grasping implement on the end of the splinter and firmly but smoothly pulled. Nels shouted in alarm (not pain; later he told me it hurt “only a little”) and sat up and grasped his foot; in disbelieving shock and total relief he cried out loudly, “Mama I’m so proud of you! You SAVED my LIFE! I love you SO MUCH!” His cries were astonishing, but I put some of it down to less sleep last night than usual.

Today was beautiful. Friends helped me out. My children were wonderful to spend time with. Whatever difficulties I’d had the last few days – not all of which I diagnosed – dissipated, and I could feel the moment things finally broke free. It was a tremendous relief. A little after this episode I knew I owed my husband an apology and made good on that. I had bodywork done by an occupational therapist who told me I need to “give myself a break”. You know what, I hear that a lot. I am seriously starting to consider how to do that because so far I haven’t let go completely.

Two friends joined Nels and I for lunch out at Clarks in Artic; I hadn’t been there since age eighteen. I ate a cheeseburger and fries, fried zucchini, hot coffee, and a homemade chocolate ice cream cone. I ate with much relish. My appetite has been returning. It’s rather amazing. Holy cow. I never realized how stunted my appetite for food had been. It’s like tasting all over again.

I bottle-fed a baby today. I realized it was the first time I’d ever bottle-fed. You know what, it isn’t as easy as all that, I mean this was a little baby who had a positional preference and there wasn’t much formula in the bottle but I knew air-bubbles might make her uncomfortable. I could have whipped my breast out and done it just like years before, but everyone would have been dismayed by that, with the possible exception of myself, getting to re-live such a wonderful time. When I realized I’d never bottle-fed I felt this deep honor and enjoyed the simplicity and said a little prayer. It felt wonderful to hold a baby in my arms. Very natural. But I gave her back to her mother with no qualms.

We had a few friends as well as my mother over tonight and we ate a lovely dinner Ralph made.

J. posted a pic of the scarf I made her for Christmas. That made me smile.


Tonight I am tired but grateful to know I can sleep tomorrow morning. I hope I feel well-rested when I wake, but I am committed to being patient if possible:

One never knows what the day will bring.

nocturnal goings-on

Nels’ current trend this week is to stay up all night – literally – and sleep all day. I just took this video at about 5 PM. Since sleeping solo is generally not practiced in this house, Hammy took one for the team and joined him. Warning, very low-light crap vid:

[flickr video=5247434161]

In other news:

I’ve joined Gertie’s Crepe Sew-along to upgraydd my wardrobe’s dress count. From zero to one. I’m thinking I’ll document the process, provided I can take pictures in the natural light of which there is little. Posting my process here on the blog is scary for me because I’m afraid of public failure. In the past I’ve had a hard time sewing for myself; I often end up unhappy with the results. Given that, so far my community participation with Gertie’s group has been to chickenshittily comment on the Flickr pool photos. It really is a fun and no-risk endeavor to watch other people select fabrics and sew!

I also want this baby wrap pattern pretty bad so I can punch myself in the eye when I sew it up and observe its cuteness.

And the news really putting a spring in my step, this morning Wendy Priesnitz from Life Learning Magazine contacted me to ask if she could publish a piece of mine. I have a tremendous amount of respect for her work and her publication and I’m very pleased she wants to use my wook. Can I get a w00t?

angel in blue

My daughter loves this ensemble but personally I think it’s a tiny bit too matchy-matchy. For my taste, anyway. One won’t deny the teal is a lovely color for this time of year.


Funny: as soon as I finished it (handsewing at the soccer practice last night) I knew my daughter would love the dress but be less enamored of the pinafore: and I was right!


Both she and I love the hood more than anything (the pattern for both pieces is Olivia from Farbenmix).

Grimms' Fairy Tales

The dress is a 100% cotton Michael Miller; the pinafore is made from one of my favorite current fabrics to work with, a linen/rayon blend.


The linen/rayon looks better and better with age, too.

“It’s the pleats.”

Button, Flowers

Handsewn flowers via a tutorial by my lady Karen.


Phoenix laughs, watching her dad play hackysack.

I’m offering either/or/both pieces in my little shop; you can also view more detail photos in the Flickr tagset or read my pattern review.

Insa skirt: size matters!

Sometimes these things happen. You sew something up and it doesn’t fit. Guess what, this rarely ever happens to me, but it’s happened three times in the last couple weeks. One item was the Insa skirt from the Farbenmix book which I’d intended for my daughter Sophie.

No matter. I not only know scores of little girls who’d likely enjoy a frilly skirt, I also have a smaller-scale model in-house who’s happy to pose so I can get pictures before I send it to its new home:

As I took pictures Nels reached for my scissors and began to snip at a stray thread on the skirt. This is something he’s seen me fuss over a million times. I’m touched he knows it’s part of the sewing process.

On to the pattern. As I discovered, it does run small; this is easy enough to forstall, but I was lazy and just sewed the same size I’d been sewing from the book. If you’d like to make sure you don’t make my mistake, simply measure the waistband and yoke circumference, take your sewing tape, and put it around your child’s hips at that same measurement. This circumference should have enough room from waist to mid-thigh your child can move comfortably. Remember, as it’s an elastic waist it’s easy to make a slightly large skirt fit just fine at the waist. Anyway, a too-large skirt is obviously a more desirable result than a too-small one as your child will grow into it in about five minutes.

The skirt’s lines are lovely. There is an easy and fabric showy feature on the underskirt that allows you to add volume to the skirt and show off more of the underlayer. This is accomplished by vertical lengths of 1/4″ elastic on the underside of the underskirt, midway through each gore. The elastic is cut to length and triple-stitched: a more “bubbly” effect is obtained the shorter the elastic strips you use, as I did:
Elastic For Fullness

The skirt is, like all the patterns in the book, made for using many different fabrics, scraps, and embellishments. You can add a contrast waistband (as I did) or use the upper edge of the yoke for the elastic facing. It’s the perfect skirt for twirling and lots of movement, and also to show off trims and topstitching:
Topstitched, Twin Needle

And finally, I added my own label at the center back yoke, on the inside of the skirt. Who knows where it may end up and maybe they’ll come look me up and find my sewing and be inspired.
Tag, Right Side

oh good lord have i told you how much i love to sew?

(Quilt-age, being pressed)

Today as I made the bed I wondered why the heck I beat myself up that I don’t always catalog and take pictures of my many, many homemade creations. For instance since I last blogged about sewing I’ve made a ten-yard skirt and choli for bellydancing, a hairband, three pair of boxers, sewed up the Patterns By Figgy’s Beach Bum hoodie, finished a quilt top, and knit a hat.  And I’ve taken a picture or two, that’s it.

Taking photographs of my craft is another part of “after project clean-up” that I’m not always too thrilled with.  It isn’t just that I’ve got food to cook and people and pets to care for and laundry and scrubbing the toilet, etc, etc.  It’s that creations are springing out of my fingertips and I don’t want to slow down.  In fact my mind is like a runaway train and my body follows: I sew, sew, sew almost maniacally at times, threading and rethreading machines and slicing through the virgin beauty of smooth yardage.  It’s pure joy and industry.  There is no rhyme or reason to my methods: some projects are rather slap-dash and some are painstaking and detailed.  I unceremoniously pull shirts over the top of my kids’ heads, I give some of the work away to those who need or want.  I sew in a label with my name.  I re-fold and store yardage; smaller scraps I painstakingly cut into 3″ squares (I’m saving up these squares to make my kids a couple quilts, maybe upon their emancipation from my home) and the miniscule bits of fabric remaining are given to a local shop who sells them in wee bags to scrap quilters; the profits go to the local senior center.

Today I finished the Farbenmix Brooklyn shrug from a $1 100% cotton shirt I found at Thrift World.  It took about a half hour.
Brooklyn Shrug

I also used the same shirt for a hairband for myself.  And I still have quite a bit of the stripe left!

One of the three pair of boxers I made Nels, all made from scrap and donated yardage:
Nels Poses

And finally: a visit to Olympia last night allowed me to buy some Fabric Porn (click on picture to know more):
Fabric Porn

The two fabrics that held a special place in my heart were the lemon and the Japanese-inspired waterscape. Today I look at the selvedge and sure enough: both of them are from Alexander Henry. I’d love to work for them. As in: they just give me a bunch of fabric and I say, “Thanks!” and sew with it. That kind of work. I won’t hold my breath.

Brooklyn, a tank top: repurposing

Killa Zilla

My daughter seems to love the little knit camisoles and tanks I’ve made her.  The Brooklyn tank top was the next project as listed in my Farbenmix sew-up project, and yet the weather is not really tank-top weather. I chose to make a double-layer tank, providing more warmth than it might first appear.  Yesterday Sophie layered it under a close-fitting jean jacket. She survived outdoor walks in the wind and indoor frolics in the dance studio equally well.

Sophie / Dance Studio Mirror

Good quality knits hold up well during their usage, do not pill, and have intelligible grainlines to work with.  Purchasing good-quality knits isn’t exactly easy unless you live in a city and know where to find them.  You can order online but then, since you are not able to feel and see the fabric, you are at a slight disadvantage.  I do order fabrics online, but when I am matching something I prefer to see them in the flesh.  Case in point: nine yards of silk velvet burnout are on their way to my house for a bellydancing skirt.  I won’t purchase fabric to make a coordinating top until I can carry a swatch of the skirt fabric around in my hand.

Back to this tank top: fortunately, finding very nice-quality t-shirts is an option where I live because we have a few wonderful thrift stores.  These shirts are from Thrift City here in Aberdeen and are high-end brands in Pima cotton.

At first I’d thought to dress this top up a bit.  I’ve been sewing a bit of Alabama Chanin projects – making an armchair pincushion for a practice run – and I thought to decorate the bodice with reverse applique.  After experimenting with both hand- and machine-sewn versions, I decided to just keep the shirt simple.  It wasn’t working out for me.  To put it politely.

Instead I added a couple subtle tucks at the hem of the outer jersey fabric to expose the dusty rose of the underlayer. The double-layer makes for a sturdy garment; the soft hand makes for a very cozy shirt for my girl.

Pink / Pink / Pink

This top was very easy to sew.  If you are a beginner sewing with jerseys, I might suggest using strips of stabilizer or a stabilizing spray when you are sewing directly on the jersey (my mother-in-law tells me you can dissolve scraps of stabilizer in water and use it as a DIY spray or paint to stabilize. I am sure this works, and it is cheaper than buying a stabilizing spray). Your aim in using these products will be to stabilize the edges of the jersey.  Such persnickety handling is not needed for the entire project; for instance, after you’ve attached the trim and are topstitching it things go easily without stabilizing (the woven fabrics are against the feed dogs).

This brings me to my favorite aspect of this project.  The notable thing about this top was the construction of the trim.  I chose to use a woven fabric on the bias, as opposed to a knit.  For any novice stitchers reading here, bias trim is made from long strips cut on the bias of the fabric and used at hemlines and seamlines or as detail. These bias strips serve as ties and trim both.  Using the bias is important, as only then will a woven perform a bit of stretch and can easily go around a curve; a strip cut on the straight-of-grain would not work well at all.

In this version, you attach the 1 1/4″ strip’s long edge to the right-side of the garment edge, flip the trim to the backside, and triple zig-zag topstitch all layers:

New Bias Trick For Knits
A triple zig-zag is a thready stitch, but such a great one with knits. You can pretty much use it with impunity. The results are a firm, slightly stretchy, and very sturdy trim application.  Given I have a very small stash of fabric, a project like this is perfect for using scraps to trim the top.

Tie Close-Up, Brooklyn Tank Top
¡Que bonita!

You can read a few more details in my Flickr tagset.

Riviera, leggings: construction and fit in simple knit garments


Leggings are, to quote Mugatu, “so hot right now”!  Even if they go out of vogue for the adult fashion set, they’ll always be practical for children.  You can use them for play wear, costumes, or pajamas, and they’re smart in the Northwest where layering clothes is de rigueur for our capricious weather swings.

Leggings come in about three fits (your terminology may vary): loose, fitted, and footless tight (or negative fit).  The Riviera leggings in the Farbenmix book are pretty much just what you might understand by the book’s photos – that is, a legging in between loose and fitted.  This makes perfect sense for children’s garments when you want them to last more than one season.  If you were sewing these leggings for an adult, he/she might not like such a relaxed silhouette.

Knit fabrics that work well for fitted or footless tight style will have a sufficient bit of “spring” to them.  This isn’t rocket science, and you can test it in the fabric store.  Simply pull aross the stretchy grain and release: you want to see a bit of “snap”.  You can certainly sew leggings up in something with less elasticity but they may bag slightly during wear – and if sufficiently un-springy (like a 100% cotton), they may retain a knee-shape (this reason is why I hate stretch jeans – even with a tiny bit of spandex in them, they are significantly looser at stress points by the end of one wearing).

Leggings are usually made with one pattern piece, roughly a six-sided kite-shape.  The top and bottom represent half the waist and the full leg hem, resp.  There is a front and back crotch curve at the top of each piece, and the long “kite” leg sides of the piece represent the inseam.

Here is my general methodology for leggings: reinforcing all construction seams, I finish each leg first (hems and all), then turn one leg inside out, slip a right-side out legging into it, and sew them together at the crotch.  I then construct the waistband, which is the trickiest part.  I will detail in the following paragraph but – don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed, as a method will likely be detailed (with pictures) in any pattern worth its salt.

Reinforcing seams:

Reinforce Seams

To construct the waistband.  I first make a tag in the back of the leggings (otherwise simple pants, without a fly or pockets to guide you, can be tricky to tell front from back).  I cut elastic to the comfortable waist measurement (either using my intended, or taking a waist measurement minus an inch or two), stitch the elastic together at the short ends, and mark both the elastic and the pants hems in quarters.  I slip the elastic “loop” into the pants and pin at the quarter marks, pinning the stitched-together elastic at the back seam of the leggings (below photo, tag included).  Then I stitch the top of the elastic to the raw edge of the leggings with the legging fabric against the feed dogs, stretching the elastic as I go (I first take a few stitches before stretching to secure the seam).  You can use a simple zig zag or a three-step zig zag for the waistband stitches.  After the elastic is secured at the top edge I simply fold the whole business down to the inside of the pants, then stitch again, stretching the legging fabric again.  Easy – especially after you’ve practiced a bit.

Preparing To Attach Waistband

My methodology is more or less the methodology outlined in the Farbenmix book.  The waistband recommended for the Riviera leggings is sport elastic.  I used the 1 1/4″ channeled sport elastic I use for sewing the kids’ boxer shorts.  It’s very soft and supple and easy to work with.

Sewing elastic to knits is easy and, once you get the hang of it, very fun.  For instance, the dress Sophie is wearing in the finished-garment photos is a GAP size 0 rayon number we purchased for $5 at Pure Clothing in Hoquiam.  The dress, being an adult size, was too large in the chest and strap length.  I sewed the straps shorter, cut off the excess, and added some 1/4″ elastic to the top of the dress.  These alterations took about fifteen minutes together and now Sophie has a stylish playdress (if you want to watch a tutorial on sewing elastic to stretchy knits, Brian Remlinger, my favorite sewist to stalk, has an excellent tutorial of a fast, effective method).

I made only one ruche (pronounced “roosh”) on the leggings.  This is because I still do not have a rolled hem plate for my serger (my local vendor keeps forgetting to order me one) so it’s not all that fun to finish edges of fabrics that require slender hems.  I simply did a zig-zag; the fabric isn’t going to ravel or anything.  The busy pattern of the fabric also hides any less-than-professional stitch-business:


My daughter loved the leggings – once she saw they were ready she changed into them.  They fit her perfectly both in size and in attitude.

You can read more details of construction at my Riviera Flickr tagset.


Imke, a hoodie: finishing notes

Keep It Like A Secret
The Imke hoodie was done yesterday and Nels has scarcely removed it since.

He loves the snuggly garment so much and so do others. Anecdotal: yesterday only a half hour after I’d finished the project we arrived late to our weekly Homeschool Sports session. I sat down on the bleachers next to my buddy-mama K. and after exchanging greetings I explained our tardiness.  “Something’s wrong with my car,” I told her. “We had to take a cab to make it here at all!” K. stared at my kids as they gambolled about on gym equipment. Looking straight at my son she said vaguely, “Oh? What’s wrong with your shirt?”, having substituted the distracting and awesome hoodie for the noun “car”. We had a laugh.  The diversion of my son’s garment was the sincerest form of compliment.*

At any rate, there’s surely not been a hoodie like this anywhere else.

Back Appliques

I was pretty quick-and-dirty with the appliques. Most of the Farbenmix enthusiasts’ treatment of trims and embellishments are different than those I used for this hoodie – from what I can tell, there garments are favored by the use of embroidery machines, sergers, coverstitch machines, and bright, professional-looking patches. I was pretty low-tech on this project, using a sewing machine rather than serger and cutting from quilting cottons for patches.  My methods are cheaper and look more “homemade”.

Using a true “patch” or taking a little more care in constructing applique makes for a more professional look.  The next time I construct such a garment I will take time with a method to insulate the thin cotton wovens from showing the garment detail underneath (methinks a form of light and thin batting would do the trick).

Quick Applique

For topstitching I merely performed a quick turquoise zig-zag around the applique, then re-threaded with red and performed a triple-stitch (which is how I got the thread bar so thick).

The hood shape is wonderful. It not only fits wonderfully and looks great, there are details in the book as to inserting elastic in the hood facing seamline. Very easy to do, and forms a subtle gather that keeps the hood on the head without use of a drawstring:

This Hood is FTW

Finally, a Kelly Hogaboom coup: the hood and lining construction. It’s hard to make a hood and lining without some kind of icky seam showing either in the inner or outer neckline. I did something rather goofy: constructed the hood and lining, leaving an opening in the straight lining seam. I sewed the face of the hood and lining together, then applied the raw edge neckline, one at a time, to the garment neckline (using the hole in the lining to pull the entire garment through when sewing the lining seam.)  I then turned the whole thing right-side out and stitched the lining gap closed. This had the advantage of a lovely, smooth segue from garment to hood – no topstitching required.

No one understood or cared about the above paragraph except perhaps Brian Remlinger, if he’s reading.

Hood-applying brilliance notwithstanding, I did make one mistake in the construction of it. Below you see the back of the garment, right at the inner edge of center-back hood and garment body (and handmade tag). Can you see what I did wrong? (Hint: only a sewing-nrrd could spy it!)

Hood Lining, Perfect. (Ish)

Nels is pleased with the result; as am I.


For more details, the photos in my Imke Flickr tagset list a few specifics. If you have any questions, do consider posting here on the blog to help any readers who may come along at a later date.

On to the next project: the Riviera leggings. Sophie choose a wonderful stretch knit for the project, and they should whip up in no time.

* What’s wrong with my car? According to our car-monkey friend – and his explanation seemed savvy to me, peering into the workings of our 25-year old engine – the crankshaft pulley is loose and therefore not driving the waterpump. So no driving the car. For now. Public transit, bikes, and my mother’s pick-up truck FTW.