summer print shirt long shorts and a straw hatLast year, I realized that Ralphie had a lot of button-down shirts that still fit - he wore his bowling shirt several times and wore the both vintage cross-stitch shirts a lot- but this year, he'll definitely need to move up a size or two. I bought him the seagull print when I was out the other day and it's pretty much what I had in mind. Yes, quilting cotton is probably not the very best fabric to make a shirt out of, but I find that with small kids you can get away with a less luxurious drape. Besides, I have a lot of trouble finding prints that are both interesting and suitable for boys.  I'm in love with those seagulls! Put a bird on it, indeed! There are a couple more prints in my stash that might work as well. I'll have to do some digging.

He has a number of tee shirts that he likes too. I bought him a Where the Wild Things Are tee at the Toronto Reference Library gift shop about a month ago. I can't find an image of it online for some reason, but it's pretty great.

Last year I did make him a couple of pairs of shorts and discovered after I'd made them up that they were actually a bit below knee length. I meant to make them shorter, but I never got around to it and the length actually worked out well - Ralphie's little legs were better protected from the sun, for starters and they seemed to be cool enough to be comfortable. I'll do the same this summer.

I'm probably going to stick with the faux-fly, flat-front, elastic back with side and back patch pockets I've been making over and over again for the last year or more. They're not too fussy to make, the flat front makes them look like he's dressed enough to leave the house, and the ease of getting them on and off means he can dress and undress himself.

I already found a pair of leather fisherman's sandals in the thrift store a couple of weeks ago, but, alas, I'm probably going to have to buy a new straw hat. They never last more than a season!

So that's the summer wardrobe plan. It isn't terribly exciting or innovative. In fact, it looks a lot like last summer's wardrobe. I suspect that barring some special event sewing, that's probably where we're at for the season.

It seems so strange to me now that it was only a couple of years ago that I was asking the internet if making an Eaton suit would be a little too precious. What a difference a year or so makes!  Particularly so if that year is the year in the life of a tiny, fat-cheeked royal baby.

Thanks to Price George, baby boy formality is smokin' hot right now. I don't think I've seen a photo of that kid in long pants, ever. He's also made definite inroads into fashion territory that we've squeamishly reserved for girls for decades now. I love his sweaters over peter pan collars, but I'm especially  stoked about the shoes.

Early Days shoes

I don't know if these are precisely the t-strap leather shoes the young prince wears in nearly every photo, but the British company who makes them - Early Days - does shod George's feet. Though we haven't seen it in a while, it's a classic look for a little boy. Christopher Robin, for example, was often photographed in either the full t-strap or Mary Jane style.

Christopher Robin sits on his father A.A Milne's lap

All this is good news for me! It's really hard to find shoes for little boys that are both comfortable/sturdy and appropriate to wear with both casual and dressier clothes. Ralphie has a little pair of dress shoes - which he loves - but they were clearly made to wear with a rented tux and are neither matte enough or have enough tread to keep him from sliding all over the place. But I'm always running across nice second-hand leather shoes in this style - if a little marred by floral cut-outs.

Tragically, I cannot find a Canadian supplier of actual Early Days shoes. Any Londoners out there willing to ship me a pair? Not only are they styling, but they're not that insanely priced for a pair of shoes made in England by people who are presumably not making the most exploitive of wages. I've certainly spent money on less amazing things. (Parking tickets, I'm looking at you.)


The drawer was full of baby clothes - not plain necessary shirts and nightgowns such as Jill had bought at a shop that sold seconds, factory rejects, in Toronto, but knitted bonnets, sweaters and bootees and soakers, handmade tiny gowns. All possible pastel colours or combinations of colours - no blue or pink prejudice - with crocheted trimming and minute embroidered flowers and birds and lambs. The sort of stuff that Jill had barely known existed. - Alice Munro, "My Mother's Dream" The Love of a Good Woman, 1998

In case you're wondering, there's a sinister stickiness to all of these lovely things, an oppressive and difficult small-town domesticity. I live in Alice Munro country. The old house I live in is made of the typical yellow brick that dominates the architecture of all of the small towns around here. I also grew up close enough to here and in a rural enough area to have a sense of what it might have been like (indeed, was like) to be so far from the centre of things and of different feminine possibilities.

And yet! I certainly have a romantic attachment to this description. I haven't cracked that book in years and I knew exactly where I'd find that passage. The drawer of handmade and trimmed baby clothes has always appealed to me. After a baby is born, time tends to evaporate. The weird wait of pregnancy, however, allows time for elaboration on a theme. The making of the layette is perfect for this.

layette, Oliver + S, baby boyWe're having a boy.

Since we got the word, I've been itching to make some things. (We live in a more gendered world than Munro's post-war Ontario in some ways.) I bought the Oliver + S Lullaby Layette pattern and am extremely delighted with it. The little jacket is a dream to sew up and the pants have two front seams rather than side seams. It's clever and pretty and runs from 0-3 months all the way up to 24 months, so I'll definitely sew a lot from this pattern over the next couple of years. The pattern is designed for wovens, which is bafflingly rare in contemporary layette patterns from the big four. There's also a onesie/shirt pattern included (with long and short-sleeved options). If you're on the fence at all, I really recommend this one.

jacket, baby boy, Oliver +SThe jacket is intended to be reversible and is fully lined. It's also intended to have a few snaps running down the front, but I'm not sure whether I want to include them or not. This is appropriate for a beginner - the bound edges make it very quick.

embroidery, Oliver +S, baby boy sewingI doodled this little deer for the label inside the jacket. I like all of the clothes I make to have labels. Typically, I'd been just embroidering "Ralphie" on all of his things, but it occurs to me I might want to cut that out in favour of images. Can you tell I attached the label with pastel blue thread? Neither can I! There's almost no difference between the white thread I used for the binding and this. Oh, well!

baby boy hat, layette, sewingThis is my fourth time around sewing this little bonnet from This Mama Makes Stuff. It looks very nice on round newborn heads and has been a popular baby gift. If you make it, the very worst part is getting the back to gather evenly with absolutely no tucks. Just go slow!

seam finishing, Oliver +S, lullaby layetteI finished the pants with french seams along the sides and a "clean finish" (seams pressed open, folded under and stitched in place with a straight stitch - but then I also topstitched on the right side of the fabric) on the centre-back and crotch seam. Unfortunately, the curvy construction of the pants makes this less than ideal and there's a bit too much bulk at the crotch for it to press out nicely.

romper, burda, layette, baby boy sewingThis little romper is made from Burda 9462. Yes, it's very, very cute. But no, it is absolutely not worth purchasing or attempting to sew. Oh Burda! You really do have some nicely designed children's clothing so why are you so determined to write the worst instructions in the business? This should have been a breeze to sew (it's all bound edges!), but confusing constructions and lack of illustrations - as well as the general translation issues - made it necessary for my spouse to step in and help me with the snaps at the end. Because I was done. I've got another one of these cut out and it will probably go okay because I've been through it all before. (And made notations all over the pattern instructions. Do you do this? You absolutely should! It will definitely help you the next time through.) But I'm discommending this pattern for everyone who isn't already stuck with it.

french seams, Burda 9462

All of the bound edges make for a nice, comfortable inside though.

So there's the layette so far. More and more in the months to come.








I have a new computer! It's a mac! So far, I am liking it. I was able to upload this photo from the card my old computer refused to recognize. (So it obviously wasn't the card that was the problem.) This is a little fabric bowl or basket I made for a lovely co-worker who knitted Ralphie a little cabled vest last fall. When I knit, I like to grab a bowl out of the cupboard and stash the whole project in it for easy wool unwinding. I thought this soft patchwork creation might be even more practical.

The squares (I fussy cut every last one of them) are teeny - just one and a half inches after being sewn up. It was fun to choose from my giant pile of scraps.


And here's a little bunny clothing tag. I'm starting to make clothes for the new baby and, of course, I'm absolutely convinced that all newborns appreciate a little hand embroidery.


tweed ride

Way back last fall when it was chilly (but not insanely cold like it is now!), Alan and Ralphie and I got dressed up in some hastily thrown together outfits and joined our city's first annual Tweed Ride. We're on the far right, standing above Ralphie in his light-coloured suit at my feet. It was such a fun day!

If you're into cycling, vintage clothing, and community building, this is probably the event you've been waiting for. I mean, I can only speak for myself here, but it was pretty amazing. It was especially great to bike en masse downtown and pass by a little kid who said (literally agape), "what's going on? Is it Bike Day? Why didn't anyone tell me it was BIKE DAY?!"

Fear not, little kid. The organizers promised that the Tweed Ride is going to come around next year too. You need never miss it again. But what are you going to wear? More importantly, what is my kid going to wear? I can tell you I'm not going to be able to squeeze him into that jacket one more time. (I'm letting myself personally off the hook as far as costuming goes. By the time this ride rolls around again, I will probably be wearing a newborn.)

While my sewing machine is off being tuned up, I've been dreaming up insane future projects (as one does). Nothing's too ambitious when no immediate action needs to be taken!

tweed ride dream outfit

Check it out! Belted jacket, knickerbockers, fair isle sweater vest, newsboy cap, crazy socks, and a wool bow tie to class it all up.

After pulling together this collage, it occurred to me that I could have just fired up any episode of Jeeves and Wooster and gawked at the perfect costuming on Hugh Laurie.


I mean, it's perfect costuming on everyone, but Laurie gets to be the brightest of Bright Young Things. Anytime you set a period piece in the 20s and 30s (Downtown Abbey comes leaping to mind), all of the actors, particularly men, look extra good. And I'm sure we've all had the experience of coming across photos of our ancestors in this time period and wondering why, if people are just showing off a new tractor, they still manage to have a collared shirt on. I think you should all just agree with me right now that this era was the high point of men's fashion and manly clothes have gone to hell in a comfortable knitwear hand-basket ever since.


Where was I?

How realistic is it to pull a look like this off? Surprisingly, there are a lot of free tutorials out there to help recreate the sporty between-the-wars boy's look.

Though I might consider knitting up some long socks, I'm happy to cheat my way to a fair isle sweater vest with the help of this tutorial over at MADE. There's a perfectly jaunty news boy cap pattern and tutorial at (the sadly defunct) Clever Girl. And, for the sporting life, one's really looking for a wool bow tie, so why not whip one up with this cute and fast velcro version at Make it and Love it?

burda pattern B9452

I bought this Burda pattern and embarrassingly long while ago and still haven't managed to sew it up (or even trace the pattern! full disclosure procrastination!). Yeah. And my sewing machine wasn't in the shop then. I think the pants, shortened up, might make some admirable knickerbockers. If I can't find anything in a belted version, I might also wind up with the jacket. It has all of the advantages of already existing as a printed pattern right here in the house.

But then I look at images like this from the Sears Catalog from 1917 and I really want that length and incorporated belt.

Sears Catalog 1917

Maybe I could draft an alteration? How amazing is it, by the way, that the depictions here include the same kind of line drawings (of the jacket backs) that I'm only accustomed to seeing on pattern envelopes? I really like the patch pockets (with flaps on the more spendy versions).

Footwear, I realize, is going to be a problem. I have a feeling that velcro isn't going to cut it.


the whole room

While the boys' room is generously proportioned, Beatrice's bedroom is quite tiny. There are no surprises - no closet, even!  The big challenge here is keeping everything clutter-free and tidy. It's especially important because this is also our guest room.

We emptied the whole space out and painted it "pebble" gray and I love how clean and pretty it turned out. Curtains are going to help pull everything together (my sewing machine's in the shop!), but even at this stage the paint colour makes the room look fresh.


Obviously, storage is a huge deal in here. Beatrice owns a fair amount of clothes, but a more than fair amount of art supplies and sketch books. We wanted her to be able to store all of that stuff in something closed up. For months, I hunted and hunted for an armoire and I finally found this one in October or early November. It's incredibly sturdy - which is to say it probably weighs more than three hundred pounds. We paid someone to haul it upstairs and that was money well-spent - they literally had to lift it up over the banister to get it into the room. The storage is amazing though!

inside the armoire

Beatrice can stash and arrange things however she pleases and it all fits.


This picture, more than any other, really brings home how grown-up Beatrice suddenly is. It's so pared down from the last time we worked on a nice space for her.

bedside table

The lamp was such a good pick though! And the "piggy bank" she made herself.


I picked up this collection of framed playing card prints at a church rummage sale a couple of summers ago. The framing job is really well-done, but I'm not sure it works in here. Especially because I had to round it out with the bullfighter. We'll see how it looks when some curtains are up. (Bea likes them though.)


And look! Beatrice made this little framed mirror at school this year. It's so nicely done!

So there you have it - a grown-up room for a grown-up girl.


twin beds

When we moved into this place a year and a half ago, the upstairs bedroom situation was a bit of a jumble. We left Joey in his own room and had Beatrice and Ralphie sharing. The deal was that we'd do that for a year and then switch up which teenager wound up with their own space. That ought to have happened this summer, but things got hectic at the beginning of the school year and we put it off. Finally, during Christmas break, we finished this long-standing project.

No wonder we were reluctant! So many things had to come together at once - some new furniture, a bit of new bedding, new paint. .  . . Days of chaos. But the results were worth it.

This is the room that Joey (18) and Ralphie (4) are now batching it up in. Though there's quite an age spread between them, keeping things simple seems to have worked out. This is the largest bedroom and therefore it can take this brightly-coloured paint* Ralphie picked out.

Buying brand new furniture was a bit of sticker shock after years of thrifted and found pieces, but I'm happy with it. The twin beds are solid and they'll stack to make bunks. Fingers crossed we get at least two decades out of them.

The little chest of drawers between the beds is a thrift find. It was $85.00, which is more than I'd generally pay, but it's solid oak - a lucky last-minute find.


This vintage dresser has enormously deep drawers. It holds all of Joey's and all of Ralphie's clothes. We bought it when Ralphie was a baby and used it without the mirror to store his clothes and use as a change table. Joey had it in his room when we moved here. I really like the mix of wood finishes in this room. It comes off as fairly masculine.

pirate ship

There are obviously not a lot of toys in the room! Most of the toys are downstairs in the main living areas of the house. I do like a special toy or two - like this cool playmobil pirate ship - for quiet distraction in the morning, but a space overrun with playthings tends to look cluttered.


In general, I like bedroom decor to be minimal - I think it makes for a more restful sleeping space. I also think that kids can sometimes pick out great stuff if they get to shop in places other than the plastick-y toy aisle. There's a little antique store in our neighbourhood and Ralphie found this fantastic vintage bank. Money goes in the slot on top and the bank can be opened if the dials are turned to the right combination. It opens with a resounding ring though! (All of his "monies" are inside, as well as a power rangers sicker.)

There's a distinct lack of awesome curtains in here (my sewing machine is in the shop - can you believe it?!), but I didn't want to wait to show off the space. And the super power of the room is that Ralphie's old toddler bed mattress is tucked under one of the beds so that all three kids can sleep in here if we have a guest.

The 'guest' room, of course, is Beatrice's new space, which we'll look at in Part Two.

*A word on paint. If you live in Canada and have a RONA nearby, I highly recommend their premixed paint. There's a limited palette of colours (20 or so) - all nice (this one is 'pacific' - and they're low VOC. The paint itself is really high quality. It goes on great and covers well. Best of all, it's under 20 bucks a gallon. I'm not shilling for RONA, but I do think this is swell paint and worth checking out.


Christmas 2014

So here it is January 2015. Holy crap, you guys!

This site is having some. . . technical difficulties. A number of stupid and annoying things seem to have aligned at once. My computer (fairly new!) is a horrid, clunking machine that I should probably just replace (except for all of the money I threw away on this one which makes me feel slightly queasy).  For example, it refuses to believe that the memory cards that I use in my camera exist. As a consequence, I have to load photos onto another computer, transfer them to a data key, and then drag them over to my much-resented beast of a laptop to edit them.  And then, of course, everything takes forever to load and edit. You can probably guess how often I bother to even use my Nikon.  (Hint: it's slightly more often than I've bothered to update this blog.)

I find that once things start to slide, they tend to keep on slipping off in that direction.

Can these trends be reversed? Maybe.

On a personal, sewist level, I really miss this blog.There's nowhere better to chat about the projects I'm sewing. Even though I haven't updated a lot, 2014 was one of my very best years for completed projects and professional-looking results. I find that I'm no longer spending so much time figuring things out. Yes, I will occasionally still find myself picking out a seam, but not as often. Ralphie wears a lot of handmade clothes (including the Christmas pyjamas up top) and I'm pleased to be able to provide things for him that are not simply as good as ready-to-wear, but often much nicer.

I like the creative outlet aspect of blogging too. I started teaching college in the fall and though I very much like the students and being part of a quirky office culture again, I find that general domestic craftiness is not the hot topic I was led to believe.

Looking into my crystal ball, I predict that 2015 will be a fairly crafty/sewing-heavy year for me. I already have a lot of projects in mind. After a year and a half, I've finally started to work on getting this house in order, there are some older kid and adult projects I want to try out, and Ralphie continues to grow out of his clothes.

And, probably most inspiring of all, we're preparing to welcome a new, tiny human to our household in July.

All the little things!

(Way to bury the lead.)



party time

I like to throw a fair number of social gatherings throughout the year. We do extended family dinners, holiday shindigs, birthday celebrations, friend get-togethers. . . but nothing compares to the annual pancake fest.  Traditionally - for the past eight years - we've done it on Shrove Tuesday itself, but this year we're moving it to the Saturday prior.  It's a little easier for people to travel on the weekend, if they're coming from out of town, and it's a lot easier on us, particularly as Al teaches on Tuesday night.

(The last time that happened was seven years ago, when I widely invited my fellow graduate students, but assumed that few people would show.  I didn't think it would be a big deal to make pancakes for a few friends and the kids and told him not to worry. Al came home to me scrambling in the kitchen while forty or so people mingled around the apartment.)

Since I'm less than two weeks away, I need to get out my list and see where I'm at.  And since it's reasonable to assume that everyone, at some point, has to plan a gathering, I thought I'd share my process with you.

1. Determine the size, scope, theme, etc.

Because I'm basically throwing the same party year after year, I don't really think about this too much.  I know I'll have about 40 people, and it will be food-driven.  But because we changed the date, I can anticipate a few differences. First, I'll plan on more people because the weekend makes it easier for people to show up.  While this generally lasts a few hours, the weekend date may make it more likely that people will stick around. Which means more beer. The configuration of our house this year means that it's possible to have live music, so we'll make room for that. This is also the point where we discuss the budget.  We had a family chat about this around Christmas, so we're set.

2. Send out invitations

This is a casual open house, so I generally invite people through facebook.  The format is helpful for allowing my teenage kids the ability to invite their own friends. I also need to make a few hard copy invites to hand out to people I want to invite but who aren't on facebook. I generally like to carry these around with me for a couple of weeks, so I need to get that done today.

3.  Create the master prep lists

This is especially important this year because we're planning to rent a car to do some of the running around and I need to be as organized as I possibly can.  I keep lists for what we need to acquire (food, drink, decorations, etc.), and what we need to do (everything from inviting people to salting the walk the day of.  This year, because we're in a new place, we'll have to figure out furniture arrangement too.

4. Work out who will do what the day of

The first year we had a pancake thing, it was a small dinner party.  The second year was what I assumed would be a slightly larger thing and turned into a crazy madhouse. Subsequent years have been much smoother because we divided the hosting tasks ahead of time. Kids do all of the door opening, for example, and take away all of the coats. We work shifts to flip pancakes and clean up.  Someone is always in charge of being the host on the floor. This year - with a dishwasher! - the clean up should be easier to manage.

This might seem like a lot to think about, but I find a lot of upfront prep increases the chance that I'll get to talk to people (and eat some pancakes!) on the day of the party itself.




A few years ago, Ontario caved and gave us all another statutory holiday (joining BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan). Manitoba has Lois Riel day today and Prince Edward Island has "Islander Day," but the rest of us have "Family Day". As far as I'm concerned, it should be Riel Day all around, but I appreciate that finally, people were like, "we cannot, as a culture, continue to make people suffer through five day weeks from the first of January until Easter weekend. Have you looked out a window? This is Canada!"

By some generous miracle, Al's school takes its winter break next week, so he gets them both. (When I was doing graduate work, when Family Day finally came in - too late for me to get the day through my corporate gig - the university rolled it into reading week. A stingy move!

"Family Day" though!  Why not "winter day!" or "I can't believe, considering how short it is, that it's still goddamned February day!" or "Let's go for pizza tonight because it's half-off Mondays and nothing is open anyway."

That last one is pretty descriptive of our plan.