Friday, December 27, 2013

Tutorial: How to make a fabric rosette

How to make a fabric rosette

If you want to make an elegant-looking fabric rosette, with no raw edges showing, first sew a long tube (maybe 30" or so) of fabric, about 3/4" to 1" wide. (The length of your tube will determine the size of the finished rosette -- err on the long side if you are unsure.) Press the seam allowance open, the turn the tube right side out and press it flat, with the seam along one edge.

1. Tie a single knot near one end. With needle and thread, stitch the knot, from beneath, to a scrap of buckram or heavy-duty interfacing (not the iron-on kind), at least as wide and tall as you want the final rosette to be.
2. Take the long tail and pull it upwards, then take two securing stitches through the inside edge of the tail, near the knot.
3. Working around the knot, pull the tail around again and take two more securing stitches, near the knot.
4. Twist the tail -- or don't, this is an organic process and really just based on how it looks as you go. Take more securing stitches.
5-7. Work your way around, twisting or flipping the fabric as you wish, taking more stitches through the buckram or interfacing, to secure the rosette. Keep going around in a spiral, trying to keep the shape roughly circular, until you are satisfied with the size of the rosette.
8. Flip the rosette over and trim the buckram as close as possible to the stitches you've made.
9. Tuck the end of the fabric tail underneath the rose, secure with stitches, and trim.
10. A lovely finished rosette!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Lavinia's Christmas dress

Christmas dress 2013

Lavinia wore her Christmas dress to church today so I was able to snap a few photos. She is proving to be a difficult age to photograph (19 months) so here's a shot of the dress on a hanger, below.


The dress is my own design and pattern, so it was challenging at times but I'm pleased with how it turned out. I love ballet-inspired Christmas dresses (all those years of attending performances of "The Nutcracker"), so I was aiming for that sort of look. I liked the raglan-sleeve party dresses for girls being sold at Boden this season, so that was my model for the bodice. The skirt is a circle skirt, with four layers of tulle over that.

Christmas dress 2013

My goal was to spend as little as possible on this dress. The bodice is made from a polyester peau de soie I bought years ago at Denver Fabrics. It is just the color of ballet shoes! It is self-lined, which makes it a little bulkier than I would have liked, but like I said, I didn't want to have to buy matching lining. The underskirt is cut from silk ivory duchess satin left over from my wedding gown. I made the rosettes from the peau de soie and the little ivory leaves are made from silk charmeuse scraps from another project, and the pearl beads in the centers of the roses are also left over from my wedding gown. The only thing I purchased new for this project was the sparkly ivory tulle, which was $1.37/yard at Walmart! So all in all, not too bad.


My mom had some perfect vintage buttons in her stash. They probably belonged to my great-grandmother, who was a minister's wife and did a great deal of sewing, for her own family and for others.

Christmas dress 2013

I'm trying to cherish these last few weeks of Lavinia being the baby of the family. I'm so proud of my beautiful little daughter!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Christmas vignettes

Christmas vignette

This is our first year having a real, live Christmas tree. It's an absolutely gorgeous Frasier fir tree that is so tall and full and smells wonderful!

Christmas vignette

Douglas had to snip a few of the lowest branches off, so I have been using the extra greenery for decorating around the house. I bought an advent wreath frame on clearance last year after Christmas, and this year I've been able to fill it in with fir branches, dried orange slices, and pinecones.

Christmas vignette

A little Nutcracker vignette. It's the only use my poor pointe shoes are getting these days!

Christmas vignette

A Jesse tree in our dining room, decorated by little hands.

Christmas vignette

Winter-y/Christmas books for reading. I love the vintage Little Golden book I found at a used bookstore for a dollar!

Christmas vignette

Douglas, the resident gardener, is forcing some narcissus bulbs. I don't think they'll be quite ready by Christmas Day, but they'll be a welcome whiff of spring come January. (EDIT: I was totally wrong. They were blooming by Christmas! Those flowers grow fast!)

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Toddler totes

toddler totes

I recently finished up these simple toddler-sized tote bags for two handsome little men I know. The chevron fabric comes from Hobby Lobby and I used plain muslin from my stash for lining. I personalized the totes with the fancy-shmancy embroidery function on my mom's sewing machine, then used matching thread for the topstitching on the handles and around the tops of the bags. These are very quick to make (assuming your embroidery attempts don't give you conniption fits, ahem) and would make a lovely Christmas gift for any small children in your life! I made one for Edmund earlier in the year and it's his "church bag" that we fill with items to keep him occupied during church.

Just follow this tutorial but modify your measurements a little bit. I cut out my main bag pieces to be 13" x 11.75" (I didn't have a fold at the bottom as in the tutorial, but a seam), and the straps were 2" by 19" (they end up being 1" wide by 17" long). I used 1/2" seam allowances.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving menu

  • Vegetable tray (carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, radishes, olives, cherry tomatoes, celery, etc.) with dip
  • Baked brie with apples and cranberries
  • Pistachio cheese log
  • Carmelized onion and goat cheese dip
  • Assorted crackers
  • Chilled sparkling juice
Main Meal
  • Turkey
  • Gravy
  • Stuffing
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Corn casserole
  • Sweet potato casserole
  • Cranberry jelly
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Sauteed green beans and mushrooms with toasted almonds
  • Dilly bread rolls with butter
  • Pumpkin pie (x2)
  • Apple pie
  • Pecan pie
  • Boston cream pie
  • Whipped cream
(You may be wondering how I'm pulling this off while 30 weeks pregnant, with a 4-year-old and 18-month-old underfoot. My secret is this: a LOT of help! My mom, grandma, and mother-in-law are all contributing generously to the meal preparations and my mom has helped me with cleaning my house this week. So I'm not stressed, just excited!)

Friday, November 22, 2013

Cranberry Orange Scones

Cranberry Orange Scones

Adapted from Martha Stewart.
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 c. sugar
  • 5 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 10 T. cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tsp. finely grated orange zest (about one large naval orange)
  • 1 c. dried cranberries
  • 1-1/3 c. buttermilk
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • generous pinch of ground cloves
  • generous pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 2 T. milk
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or waxed paper. In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and orange zest.

With a pastry blender or two knives, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Stir in dried cranberries.

Make a well in the center of the mixture. Add buttermilk, and stir until just combined; do not overmix. Use a little more buttermilk if dough is too dry to work with.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface; divide in half and shape into two 8-inch rounds. Transfer to baking sheet. Cut each circle into 8 wedges; space them 1/2 inch apart (to prevent sticking, dust knife with flour). Bake until golden, 18 to 20 minutes. Let cool.

To make the frosting glaze, mix powdered sugar, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Add 1 T. of milk and whisk; add additional milk until the desired consistancy is reached. Using a spoon, drizzle the frosting over the scones and let set.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Fauré's "Requiem"

I've mentioned before that we like to listen to Fauré in the fall, thanks to Douglas' influence. This year I've had his "Requiem" going in the car CD player. Love the organ!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A hat for "Sunday Best"

A hat for "Sunday Best"

The other day, I had a little time so I made up a fancy cloche hat for Lavinia, once again using the toddler cloche pattern from the Etsy shop eVINTAGE Patterns. This time, I used view C with the scalloped brim (you can see my first version from last Easter here). I cut the hat from cream-colored wool from my stash and lined it with some leftover duchess satin from my wedding gown. The ribbon flowers and leaves are also leftover from my wedding gown -- ones I made but didn't use in the final design -- and I thought they added a pretty touch. These hats are so easy to make (cut out two pieces, sew seven short seams and do a little hand-stitching, and you're done!).

A hat for "Sunday Best"

Thursday, October 31, 2013

"Mama's favorite maxi dress" tutorial


Here's the tutorial for the dress I designed to be useful for maternity, postpartum, and nursing -- but it's easily customizable! If, for example, you want a nursing dress but not maternity, just lessen the width of the skirt pieces for less ease. If you want a maternity dress but don't plan to nurse in it, you can make the top however you want. The shirring under the bust helps give your waist some shape if you are postpartum, but easily stretches to accommodate a baby bump, too. And, I really think this dress works year-round -- just throw on leggings and a cardigan in cold weather! I could not ask for a more versatile piece of clothing in my wardrobe for this season of mothering. I hope it's a blessing to some other moms out there.

For the sake of brevity, I'm going to assume that you are familiar with the basics of sewing knits and the extra sewing techniques I outline in this tutorial. I wish I had the time and space to explain everything in detail, but if you have questions about anything, please don't be afraid to ask for clarification or help! Just leave a comment or send me an e-mail (address is in my Blogger profile). Also, although I proofread this tutorial thoroughly, if you come across any mistakes, I would be deeply grateful if you would let me know!

Supplies Needed:
  • sewing machine
  • 3 yards of light- to medium-weight knit fabric (For your reference, I am 5'10" and normally a US size 8 or Medium, and I made this dress out of 3 yards of 66" wide (though badly off-grain) fabric with barely any leftover. If you are much smaller or larger, you'll need to adjust yardage accordingly.)
  • 1/2 to 1 yard of lightweight knit for underlining the bodice front, if your fashion fabric is lightweight
  • matching thread
  • pins
  • sewing scissors
  • chalk or other marking tool
  • tissue paper or pattern-making paper
  • clear elastic (optional)
  • 1/8" wide elastic
  • elastic thread
  • jersey needle
  • twin needle(s) (I used both 2,0 and 4,0 sizes)
  • dress form or someone to help you with fitting
Also, all seam allowances are 1/2", unless otherwise noted.

OK, let's get started!

First, you need to take five measurements. Measure yourself around your underbust (A), measure from underbust to desired hem length (B), measure from the middle of your shoulder seam, passing over the apex of the bust, to the underbust (C), measure from the base of your neck, across your shoulder seam, to approximately where you'd like your cap sleeve to end (D), and measure across your bust front, from apex to apex (E).

Cutting out the skirt

(When I have made this dress, I drafted half the skirt straight onto the fabric using chalk and pins, cut out half, folded the fabric over at the midline, then cut out the other half of the skirt. I then used this first skirt piece as a pattern to cut out the second. If you prefer to make a paper pattern, you can draft onto paper first.)


Take measurement A and divide by 2. Now, multiply that figure by 1.5. Add 1" for seam allowance. We'll call this measurement F. This is how wide your front and back skirt pieces will be at the top (dashed line between the dots).

Lay your fabric out flat. Mark measurement F out on your fabric with pins or chalk, and also mark the center (star). Next, take your measurement B and add around 2" seam allowance (more if you are unsure about how long you want it -- better safe than sorry, and we'll be marking the hem later). From the left side of the top of the skirt, measure down the length of B + 2" in a gentle A-line shape (wider if you want more fullness at the hem, narrower if you want less). Go back to your top F measurement and gently curve from side to center, dropping below the line maybe an inch and a half or so (there's a more scientific way to do this, but I eyeball it and it turns out fine). ;-) From the center, measure down the length of B + 2" in a straight line. Connect the edge and center of the bottom of the skirt with a gentle curve. Cut the half skirt out (solid lines), then fold the fabric over along the center midline (dotted line), and cut the remaining half using the first half as a guide, being sure to match the print if your fabric has one. Using this skirt piece that you just cut as a pattern, cut out one more identical skirt piece. These are your front and back skirt pieces.

Cutting out the bodice


There are four pieces to the bodice: the left and right side of the bodice front, the faux camisole, and the bodice back. To draft the bodice front piece (I do this on tissue paper, since the pattern pieces are smaller), draw a straight line the length of D + 1" seam allowance. At a right angle to the first line, draw another line the length of C + 3" or so (you'll be trimming this later, just make sure it's plenty long to cover your bust and meet in the middle). Along the bottom, draw a line the length of F divided by 2 + 1/2" seam allowance. Then connect the third line back to the first line to form a trapezoid shape.


For the back bodice, draw a rectangle. The long sides will be the length of F. The short sides will be the length of C + 3" (or whatever you added). At the top of the bodice back, mark the center (star) and cut out a slight curve for the back neckline, around four inches across (it will be turned under 1/2" for a total of a 5" wide neck opening -- measure a knit top you already own if you want to double check how wide to make it for you personally).

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

For the faux camisole, simply copy the neckline curve of a tank top you already own and like. Add a bit of length to the straps and draw straight lines down to the bottom edge (make it about as long as C + 5" -- we'll be trimming and fitting all this later). The width of the faux camisole should be slightly wider (maybe 1" to 1-1/2") than the apexes of the bust (measurement E). This is to minimize the visibility of any lines -- if they ran straight over the fullest part of your bust, where the bodice fabric is pulled tighter, the edges of the faux camisole might be more obvious.

NOTE: The second version of my dress was made of a more lightweight knit and so I decided to underline the bodice front pieces and the faux camisole for modesty's sake. My fear was that the edges of the faux camisole would show through the bodice pieces, and I don't want it to be obvious to everyone that I'm wearing a nursing dress! If your fabric is also on the lightweight side, I would recommend underlining as well.

Sewing the bodice

Bind the neckline of the faux camisole. To finish the long edges of the faux camisole, I used my serger but didn't turn under and stitch or anything -- you want this part to be as unobtrusive as possible. Drape the faux camisole on yourself (or your dressform) where you want it to be positioned (fig. 1), and then carefully place the bodice front pieces over it (fig. 2), lining up the top of the bodice front with approximately where your shoulder seam will go (don't forget to allow for seam allowance) and aligning the bottom edges at the middle of your underbust, forming a deep V with the neckline. Pin the straps of the faux camisole in place, then baste in place and trim excess fabric off the straps as needed.

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial
[Sooooo sorry about the horrible iPhone photos! Hopefully you get the idea!]

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial
[Straps of the faux camisole pinned in place after fitting on myself; ready to baste in place.]

Lay out the bodice back piece right side up. On top of this, lay the bodice front (from now on including the faux camisole which has been basted to the right and left pieces) right side down, matching up the shoulders at the neckline. Trim the bodice back as shown below, to line up with the bodice front (it's trimmed on the right side, not yet trimmed on the left). With right sides together, stitch shoulder seams (I would recommend reinforcing these seams with clear elastic or self-fabric strips). Try this on and make sure everything is laying OK, then pinching under your arm, decide how much of an opening to leave for your armhole (my armholes were a total of 16", or 8" down from the shoulder seam).

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

Next you need to hem the sleeves, and lucky for you I messed up this part so no photos! Just my hastily drawn diagrams, which are probably clearer anyway. :) Laying the bodice flat with the shoulder seam at the top, measure down the desired length of your armhole opening + 1/2". From there, baste (1/2" away from edge of fabric) the side seams together to the bottom of the bodice. Go back to the top of the basting and make a 1/2" snip to the basting stitches (fig. 3).

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

Then turn the sleeve holes under 1/2" and stitch with your double needle (I used the 2,0 size for arms and neck; 4,0 for skirt hem). Go back to the bottom of your armhole and stitch from the edge of the hemmed sleeve to the bottom of the bodice, curving in about 1-1/2" under the arm and then angling back out to meet edge at the bottom of the bodice (represented by the red stitching line in fig. 4). Trim excess fabric.

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

Almost done with the bodice, which is definitely the most complex and time-consuming part of the dress! Just turn under the neckline 1/2" and stitch with a twin needle. (It will be a little tricky to turn under the curved back neckline, but just stretch the fabric as needed when you pin in place. I do recommend reinforcing the back neckline with a self-fabric strip or clear elastic as you're stitching it in place.)

Try on the bodice and align the front bodice pieces to meet in the center of the faux camisole under your bust where you want the underbust seam to be. Pin in place, remove bodice, and then baste front bodice pieces to the faux camisole at the underbust line.

Try on the bodice again and wrap a measuring tape or ribbon under your bust, distributing the fullness of the fabric evenly and making sure the side seams run down straight under your arms. Have a helper pin or mark the underbust line for you. Remove bodice, straighten up the markings, add 1/2" seam allowance, and trim excess fabric, making sure your trimming is symmetrical (do this by laying the bodice out flat and matching the side seams, then cutting through both layers of fabric starting from the middle of the bodice front and ending at the middle of the bodice back).

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" tutorial
[Back to my awesome iPhone photos! You can see here how I matched the side seams, folding the bodice at the center front and center back, and trimmed about 1/2" below the yellow chalk line.]

Attaching bodice to skirt

With right sides together, pin bodice to skirt top, matching side seams and center front and center back. (If the openings don't quite match perfectly, just stretch the knit slightly until they do -- no big deal.) Baste.

Take a length of 1/8" elastic and run it around your underbust, pulling enough to give some stretch but not uncomfortably so. Cut the elastic with no overlap. Mark the middle of the elastic, then mark the middle of each half. Starting at one of the side seams, pin the elastic over the basting stitches that join the bodice and skirt. Stitch over the elastic and basting stitches as you stretch the elastic so that the three marks align with the center front, opposite side seam, and center back of the bodice (see below). Finish up by stretching the end of the elastic back to the side seam where you started.

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

Finishing details

Soooo close to being done! Next, with your elastic thread in the bobbin, stitch about 2" of shirring below the underbust seam (you can do more or less depending on whether you are high- or low-waisted). I did eight rows of shirring, each 1/4" apart (see below).

"Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" Tutorial

Try on your dress and have your helper mark the hem for you. Trim as needed, then turn up the hem 1" and stitch with a double needle. ALL DONE!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Mama's favorite maxi dress #2 -- stripes!

Striped maxi dress

This is not only my second version of my "Mama's Favorite Maxi Dress" design, it's also a pregnancy update! I was 13 weeks when I posted the first version, and now I'm 26 weeks. How the time has flown and how I've grown! But this gives you a chance to see how the design works for both maternity and non-maternity, since I barely had a bump the first time.

I wanted to choose a very different fabric from the first dress, so I made this second version out of a blue striped knit from Girl Charlee. When the fabric arrived, I hemmed and hawed about whether to use it for this dress because it ended up being much more lightweight than I thought it would be. I waited on the project for a couple of weeks, then decided to go ahead and try to use it. When I laid the fabric out however, I found that it was really badly off-grain. I've worked with a fair amount of knits over the past several years and I've never seen one so warped. I did some online searching to see if there was anything to be done to fix it, but what I found said that 1) off-grain knits really can't be corrected and 2) it's just a sign of poor-quality fabric. I did write to Girl Charlee to politely tell them of my "fabric issues," but never heard anything back. So I probably won't take a chance with ordering from them again -- bummer! Has anyone else had this problem or have you been happy with your purchases and the customer service from their website?

So needless to say, this version was a little more challenging because of the lightweight fabric and the skewed grain, but I once I found the time to work on it, I did manage to produce another dress! I decided to underline the front bodice pieces so that the lines of the faux camisole wouldn't show through, and I'm glad I did. I used some ivory modal knit I had in my stash -- another online shopping bust, in which the fabric turned out to be much too lightweight for the project I had in mind. Oh well, it actually works really well as a knit lining!

Striped maxi dress

I also left the length a bit longer on this version, although I have a feeling I'm going to have to re-hem it... I like the elegance of a nearly-floor-length dress, but not so practical for going up and down stairs while carrying a little one (and usually carrying something else in the other hand!). I'm a little too apt to step on the hem and go flying!

As far as my pregnancy goes, everything is going well and I've been feeling fine this second trimester. I nursed Edmund until he was two years old, but Lavinia ended up self-weaning when she was around 16 months (when I was 17 weeks pregnant), so I'm no longer nursing, although the nursing access on my dress will become extremely handy once again when the baby is born. I'm almost into the third trimester (home stretch!) and am starting to get those physical quirks that make carrying a larger baby uncomfortable. Oh well, I'm grateful even for the discomfort because by the time the end comes, I'm really ready to get that baby out, even if it means going through the challenge of labor and delivery. ;-)

We don't know this baby's sex and we don't plan to find out. And we don't have a name picked out yet -- or should I say, Douglas and I haven't been able to come to a satisfactory agreement yet. Actually, if it's a girl, Douglas gets to name her his choice, but if it's a boy I'm a little more opinionated. We had a bunch of boy names picked out when we were first married, but Douglas has lost his enthusiasm for our secondborn son name over the years. So we're still mulling over choices!

It has been really fun to carry a baby now that Edmund is old enough to understand what's going on. When we first told him we were having another baby, he was so happy and surprised! It's a precious memory. He is excited and even felt the baby kick the other day, when I was sitting on the couch reading to the kids. I'm not sure Lavinia understands the reality of "baby inside mommy" but she is so interested in babies, I know she'll be thrilled when the baby is born. It won't be long now!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Simone's Banbury Cross Cardigan

I was thrilled recently to receive the first photos of a cardigan created (by someone other than me, haha) with my Banbury Cross Cardigan pattern! Simone was one of the winners of the Deep Roots at Home giveaway and lost no time in creating an adorable and thrifty cardigan of her own. She's put her own creative stamp on it by using contrasting colors, which I love. She also took advantage of the existing button placket on the adult-sized cardigan to save herself a bit of work. Hop on over to her new blog, Sew Simi, and see for yourself!

If you have made a cardigan from the pattern, I would love to see pictures! Send me an e-mail (my contact info is in my Blogger profile) or leave a comment with a link to your blog, if you've posted about it.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Kids' clothes on a budget

My kids looked so cute in their "new" fall clothes I couldn't help but snap some pictures!

Fall kids

Fall kids

Fall kids
[Curls at the nape of the neck. The. Cutest.]

Fall kids

Fall kids

Fall kids

Fall kids

Fall kids
[Who's that coming down the sidewalk? It's Grandpa!!]

shirt: Old Navy via garage sale
corduroy pants: BabyGap via Goodwill
shoes: (last year, purchased with my mom's Kohl's Cash)

sweater: Circo via Once Upon a Child (resale shop)
cupcake T-shirt (under sweater): Sonoma via Salvation Army
jeans: Old Navy via garage sale
shoes: Wal-Mart

Here are my tips for shopping for kids' clothes on a budget. If you have any more, please share them in the comments!
  • Try garage sales, thrift stores, and resale shops. Garage sales often have the best prices. I always scope out the newspaper ads beforehand and only hit up the sales that advertise clothing in my kids' sizes. This sounds horrible but I make an effort to show up right when the sale starts if the garage sale is in a "rich" part of town -- sometimes means nicer brands and newer clothes! Visit a variety of thrift stores every so often to browse their offerings. Also, I was pleasantly surprised to visit a resale shop in a larger city recently and find that their prices were nearly as good as (and in some cases, better than) a thrift store. The fact that everything was organized by size and color was also a huge bonus (less time wasted browsing). I will go back when I can!
  • Know what you like. I stay away from silly slogans and pop characters on T-shirts. Just not my thing. Neither is sportswear (for wearing when not actually playing sports), so I don't waste my time sorting through a pile of track pants when there are corduroys and jeans nearby.
  • Only buy clothes you like and that are in good condition. I don't just buy whatever is in my kids' sizes. I only buy it if I actually like it and will enjoy seeing them wear it. I examine each item carefully for wear, fading, stains, holes, etc. Only buy an item that needs mending if you know you can and will mend it (like a missing button). I don't gamble on stains coming out.
  • Buy a few sizes ahead. If you see something you like that is a size or two larger than what your child is wearing, snap it up! A lot of Edmund's 4T fall clothes this year were purchased last year when I was looking for 3T sizes at the thrift stores. I usually only buy ahead two sizes, just because I don't want to store things for too long and lose track of what I have.
  • Know what you can spend on. I have had a hit-and-miss experience finding second-hand shoes for my kids. If I can't find what they need secondhand, I just buy them new shoes. I have a hard time finding jeans for Edmund, so several times I've bought him a new pair (looking for a good deal at the same time).
  • Hit clearance racks and end-of-season sales. I can often find new clothing in stores that's on clearance for thrift store prices at the end of the season. Buy a size up for next year and your kids will grow into it.
  • Modify your expectations. I'm not a fan of the Pepto-Bismol shade of pink that is all over just about every item of girls' clothing. But, since I'm buying a lot secondhand I just can't be that choosy about completely excluding it from Lavinia's wardrobe. I do try to buy items in a variety of colors for her, but I don't sweat it if her coat is pink. At least it's BabyGap and in good condition!
  • Have fun. You know what, if you see some item of clothing in a store that you absolutely love and think your child would look adorable in it, BUY IT! It's OK to splurge once in a while. I've looked forward to having children for a long time and it's fun to dress them. I enjoy seeing them in cute clothes. God has been good to me and I want to celebrate that! So I'm not going to spend $30 on a dress for Lavinia every time, but once a year? I can make it work.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Autumn colors

Autumn colors

Our house is coming together slowly but surely, by which I mean we are getting things unpacked, organized, and cleaned. It doesn't look very decorated at the moment and I know that will take time, but there are a few spots here and there that look cozy. Here's one in the dining room, where my husband hung our antique 1807 map of the British Isles (our first anniversary "paper" gift to ourselves -- Douglas likes maps and I like Great Britain, so there you go). The vintage table below it was left in the house -- I'm not sure how old it is, but with one leaf dropped, it makes a pretty sideboard. It was tucked out of the way and incredibly filthy. I gave it a cursory wipe-down but I still need to go back over with a bucket of soapy water and then some wood polish. It's pretty dinged up but I like the old patina.

Autumn colors
[The ceramic leaves are a good place to store the treasures the kids pick up on our walks, although the polka-dotted chicken feather was not found in our neighborhood!]

Douglas likes a bit of color around the house, so we painted the dining room Benjamin Moore's "Palladian Blue" before our move (it was previously taupe and brown -- very dark). I had no idea until afterwards that "Palladian Blue" is a popular color but I can see why. It's a lovely duck egg blue that will look nice throughout all four seasons.

My goal is to get the dining room in shape before Thanksgiving (November 28), as we're hosting this year! One room at a time, one day at a time.

Monday, September 30, 2013

We're in!

Thanks so much for all your well-wishes and kind comments on my last post! It's been over a week since moving to our new house, and what a week! I came down with a doozy of a cold (the last of our little family to succumb) the day before Moving Day, so unpacking and organizing has definitely been slower than expected. I'm finally on the mend although still coughing and a little congested. Thankfully we've had so much help from family and friends, otherwise I can just imagine how chaotic our lives would be right now! And I'm so thankful for the new house, too.

We won't be getting Internet at our house until October 10, so I'm going to excuse myself from posting until then, as I have plenty to keep me busy in the meantime. Our 5th wedding anniversary is coming up this Friday, so there's that to plan for, plus continuing unpacking, organizing, running a household, and mothering two little ones, not to mention taking care of my 22-week pregnant self! :) Be back soon, friends!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

We're moving!

Wood door
[From Instagram: our first home improvement project -- putting this beautiful wood door back on its hinges!]

So I previously alluded to our exciting past weekend... exciting because we got possession of our new house!! I haven't written about our living situation over the past year, since I spoke of our plans to move in June 2012. To make a very long and complicated story short, the house that we had originally planned to move to did not work out, which was a real blow. So we've been living with my parents since our move from Indiana, with the exception of two months spent house-sitting for a friend this summer.

My parents are wonderful, godly people and they are blessed to live in a spacious house, so there was plenty of room for all of us and not once did they ever make us feel unwelcome. However, it's still been an extremely difficult trial to not have a home of our own for our little family, and my emotions have run the gamut from anger, depression, helplessness, and impatience. God has been teaching me many things through this time, not the least of which is opening my eyes to my own sin. I realized that so much of my desire to have my own home is based on pride and wanting others to think well of me. But I should not be ashamed of our home (or lack thereof), because this is what my Father in heaven has given to us. I hope that this experience has made me more content and more humble.

Still, I'd be lying if I said I'm not thrilled to be moving to our own home soon! And I am very thankful that God has given us so many good things in this new house. For one thing, there is much more space than I ever thought we would get in a home. Edmund and Lavinia will each have their own bedroom, and the new baby will eventually end up sharing with one of them, depending on if it's a "he" or "she." :) We'll even be able to have a guest bedroom! (I have longed to offer more hospitality to people than just a couch to sleep on, or a blow-up air mattress on the living room floor.) We'll have room for a nice, big dining room table to have lots of company over (we previously made do by adding on to our two-person dining table by bringing out extra card tables). There is nothing wrong with sleeping on a couch or dining on a card table... I do believe hospitality is about the generosity of your heart rather than the grandeur of what you can offer. But I'm still glad to have more space. :) Oh, and did I mention how HUGE the bedroom closets are?

Another blessing to me is that it is an older home, built in 1910, with lots of beautiful Arts and Crafts wood trim and built-in furniture. Most of the woodwork is in its original state and has only been painted in two of the bedrooms, the main floor bathroom, and the kitchen. The house has suffered some odd decorating choices over the years, but I could tell it had "good bones" underneath. We've been scraping off some painted-over wallpaper, re-painting rooms to colors that suit our tastes, and will be removing the vivid shag carpet in the bedrooms (thankfully, there are beautiful hardwood floors underneath!). One thing I really get a lot of pleasure from is taking something old, ugly, and worn-out, and then cleaning, polishing, and freshening until it looks beautiful again. I'm looking forward to slowly getting the house in shape and making a pleasant home for my family.

Can't wait to share some "homemaking" projects and updates with you!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Giveaway winner!

The "Banbury Cross Cardigan" e-pattern giveaway ended last night, so this morning I tallied up your entries and drew a name out of a hat! Congratulations to the winner, Nancy! Nancy, please send me an e-mail at kcimedl (at) hotmail (dot) com so I can send you your pattern. :) As a reminder, the 20% off code "WELCOMEFALL" is good through the end of tomorrow (Wednesday) in my Etsy shop, and Deep Roots at Home's giveaway of two patterns is open through Saturday.

Again, thank you so much, everyone, for all the positive comments and support! I'm really blown away by your enthusiasm. It has been so encouraging!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Another chance to win at "Deep Roots at Home"

Just wanted to let you know that my lovely friend Jacqueline at Deep Roots at Home is also hosting a giveaway of my new pattern, with two winners. So if you'd like another chance to win your own copy, head on over to her blog and enter the giveaway!

Thanks so much for all the support and wonderful comments; I appreciate your kindness more than I can express! Have a splendid weekend -- we are having a really exciting one, which I will share more about soon! :)

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Introducing the "Banbury Cross Cardigan" e-pattern + giveaway!

Well, it's September now and you may be getting signs of cooler days to come. If you're feeling the lure of more autumnal sewing projects, I'm excited to be offering a PDF e-pattern of my Banbury Cross Cardigan design!

Banbury Cross Cardigan

Banbury Cross Cardigan

This is a sewing pattern in four sizes (six months, 12 months, two years, and three years) designed to be cut from a recycled adult sweater. Yes, you can sew the sweater fabric just like any other knit! The green cardigan that Edmund is modeling in the photos began its life as an Abercrombie & Fitch 100% shetland wool sweater that I found at the thrift store. It had a few moth holes, but with some strategic cutting I was able to give it a new look! Lavinia's cardigan was a creamy acrylic ladies' sweater with a sewn-in ivory charmeuse collar. You'd never be able to tell, would you? It's really a unisex pattern that can work for both boys and girls. You can play up the "English gent" look by choosing muted colors, leather or horn buttons, and tweedy elbow patches. Or, I think the cardigan would look really feminine and cute sewn up in a brighter color, with coordinating floral cotton elbow patches and quirkily mis-matched buttons! There's lots of room for creativity.

Banbury Cross Cardigan

You may remember my first design here, and my redesign the following year. Last year I began working on grading the pattern into different sizes, creating an e-pattern, and writing instructions. The entire process has been the biggest learning challenge for me, and I must thank my husband Douglas for all his help, as this project never would have gotten off the ground if he wasn't around to be my patient instructor! I've worked hard to make sure the pattern is easy to use and well-designed. I think beginner sewists could tackle this, provided you are comfortable sewing knits and buttonholes (although, if the buttonholes are holding you back, you could easily replace them with hand-sewn snaps instead!).

Banbury Cross Cardigan

So, without further ado, here is the link to my newly-opened Etsy shop where you may purchase your very own copy! This first opening week, I am offering the pattern at a special introductory price of 20% off. Use the coupon code WELCOMEFALL to receive your discount at checkout, good through Wednesday, September 11.

Banbury Cross Cardigan

Also, I would like your help to spread the word about this pattern, so I'm offering a giveaway of a copy of the Banbury Cross Cardigan e-pattern to one reader! :) Just leave a comment below and you'll be automatically entered in the random drawing. For extra entries, you can: Just let me know which things you did in a comment and I'll add your extra entries! Please be sure to leave a correct e-mail address, either in your comment or in your blogger profile, so that I can send you the pattern if you're the winner. The giveaway is open until 11:59PM (CST) on Monday, September 9. Thanks, everyone, and happy September!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Brazilian lemonade

Brazilian lemonade

This is one of our favorite summertime drinks! It's a perfect mix of tart citrus, with a hint of bitterness, but deliciously balanced by the creamy sweetness. Douglas and I first tasted Brazilian lemonade at La Parilla restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas. We were driving through on our way to Colorado and stopped there for lunch, since I lived in Lawrence for six months when I was in college. A former housemate that I'd lost touch with happened to be working there when we stopped by, and she kindly brought us some Brazilian lemonade as a treat. Douglas and I were both raving about it and so I looked up a recipe online as soon as we got home. I like this one from Our Best Bites (condensed here, but step-by-step instructions at the link):

Brazilian Lemonade
  • 4 juicy limes with thin, smooth skins
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • 6 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk
Boil 1 cup water and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Remove from heat and add remaining 5 cups of cold water. Chill if desired.

Wash limes thoroughly. Cut the ends off, then cut into eighths. Place 1/2 of the limes in the blender and add 1/2 of the sugar water. Pulse 5 times. Strain into a pitcher, squeezing extra liquid in with a spoon. Discard pulp and rind. Repeat with remaining limes and water. Add sweetened condensed milk. Serve immediately over ice. Serves 4. (Does not keep well; do not prepare in advance although you can prep all ingredients beforehand.)

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Quietude on social media

Just a quick note to let you know that I've created a "Follow" section in the sidebar, over there on the right, where I've posted my social media links. I've finally created a Facebook page for Quietude which you can find at! It will be an easy way to keep up with the blog if you don't use a feed reader and prefer to keep track of your blogs through Facebook. (Even if you do use a feed reader or subscribe by e-mail, come on over -- I'm thinking about adding some fun stuff like sneak previews of projects I'm working on, quick links to recipes I'm enjoying, etc.) I also added links to my Pinterest account (mrssinger) and my Instagram account (mrs_singer), so check them out and follow along if you like! :)

Burda Style 7136: chambray shirt

Do any of you seamstresses read Sunni Standing's blog, A Fashionable Stitch? I do and I have been really inspired by her "Everyday Wardrobe" series. I first started sewing because I loved vintage-style clothing, but couldn't find the styles I liked (or I couldn't afford them if I did). I've sewn up a nice variety of vintage-style dresses since 2005, but sadly, they're getting very little use nowadays. This is partially because of the changing needs of motherhood (different figure, weight fluctuations, needed nursing access) and partially because I really do have fewer appropriate times to wear these dresses. We're part of a church where the "dress code" is decidedly casual, and besides, it's hard to walk in high heels with a baby on your hip. Douglas and I haven't had too many fancy dates (there's a dearth of "classy" restaurants in our town). My wardrobe needs have really shifted. So even though I'm drawn to beautiful fabrics and interesting vintage patterns, I want to spend my time on projects that are actually going to get worn!

This past spring, I poked around for a few patterns that would work for an everyday wardrobe and I decided to try out a classic button-down shirt. Burda Style 7136 fit the bill because it looked like it was pretty customizable and similar to some shirts I already own and like. I used a gift card to get some cotton chambray from Jo-Ann Fabrics and went to work!

chambray shirt

I made a few changes -- I omitted the back darts for a more casual fit, lengthened the shirt and sleeves slightly, drafted some pockets with a box pleat, and drafted a front button placket. I did a lot of topstitching with white topstitching thread, which slowed down the construction a bit when I had to switch back and forth between threads. Everything was pretty smooth sailing until I got to the sleeves. I followed the Burda Style directions for making the sleeve plackets (something new to me) and they didn't turn out very well. I could have lived with that, but somehow I mis-measured the length of the sleeves when cutting out and they ended up too short -- like two inches too short. It's the first time I've had to go back to the store to buy more fabric in order to finish a project!! Before I tackled the sleeve plackets again, I watched this YouTube video and cut a separate piece for the button placket, rather than just folding it under and stitching as the BurdaStyle instructions suggest. They looked much better the second go-around. The only other problem with the pattern I noticed is that the sleeve cuff seems to be too narrow, width-wise -- I barely had 1/4" seam allowance when sewing the ends.

chambray shirt

(I also have to mention, I recycled all the buttons I used on this shirt from an old J. Crew button-down shirt of my husband's that had been ripped beyond repair! Ladies, if your husband wears out his dress shirts, snip the buttons off and save them for future projects!))

Aside from the problems I spoke of, I do recommend this pattern! I'm pleased with the end result and I've already worn this shirt a lot. Now that I've got the fitting kinks out I'm dreaming of a second version in Liberty of London lawn -- I guess I still can't get away from my love of beautiful fabrics!