Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Old Navy Americana Tank Knockoff

Last summer when we were browsing at Old Navy, I saw this ridiculously adorable little tank top.

I don't recall the exact price, but it was enough that there was no way I would spend that much on a tank top for a baby...especially since we needed two!  I decided I could make it myself.  I had recently been given my serger and I thought it was a good time to learn how to use some of the features!  It turned out a little big, so the girls are just starting to wear it this summer.  Here is my version.

I used some white interlock knit from JoAnn's and jumped right in with trying a rolled hem on my serger.  I made a basic tank body and used the serger to make the rolled hem on some additional strips of knit.  I stitched them down in layers and enclosed the top layer in a rib-knit binding.

I made some simple knit flowers from red interlock and attached them with a safety pin between the ruffled layer and the main tank body.  This way I can remove them for washing.

They were perfect and cool for our blazing hot Memorial Day (the poor brown grass)!

It doesn't matter how hot it is when Grandpa has brought you a big new ball!

I hope everyone enjoyed the weekend!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Thrifty Finds

My best friends and I went thrifting yesterday.  Are you a thrifter?  It's definitely something I'm just getting into, but wow...you can find some awesome things!  For someone who sews, the thrift store can be a treasure trove of amazing fabric.  Just look at this pile of knit shirts that will soon be refashioned into toddler scarves.  The scraps are also great for little fabric flowers!

I love this yellow gingham valance.  With the yellow eyelet trim and a premade casing for elastic you've got the easiest baby skirt ever!  The pink fabric is about 2 yards of solid pink broadcloth.  Thrift stores are filled with gorgeous vintage floral pillowcases like the one in the middle and the little green striped situation on the right is definitely on my list of favorites right now.  So cute!

Like I said, it's a fabric lover's dream around there.  We picked up a solid blue sheet, which is great for pretty much anything and that gorgeous white sheet with the blue floral trim that's just perfect for the bottom of a skirt or dress.  I stocked up on some more white sheets which are the best for dress linings or if you need to cut a muslin.  That's probably 8 yards of white cotton for about $4!  The gorgeous vintage floral sheet on the bottom right might just become something for me!  If not, I can probably get 4 or 5 toddler dresses out of it!

I didn't see any vintage patterns or trims laying about, but these curtains were love at first sight.  That gorgeous vintage crocheted lace on the top curtains will be perfect on the hem of a skirt or even the collar of a dress.  I'm not attached to the blue fabric it's sewn onto, but a little seam ripping will take care of that!  I do like the bright green and pink floral print of the curtain on the bottom...I'm thinking maybe Bermuda shorts or little baby bloomers?  Whatever becomes of that fabric, it's the pom pom trim and I that were destined to be friends.  Hot pink pom poms...it doesn't get any better!

All of that is great, but this beauty was definitely the find of the day.  It's a queen size sheet, softer than any voile I've ever touched and the print and colors are incredible.  I can't wait to make dresses for the girls out of this!

Seriously, that print!  Isn't it the prettiest? 

Whether you'll be spending your weekend thrifting, sewing, traveling, or just soaking up the first heat of summer and having a barbecue, I hope everyone has a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


It's flower planting time here in the midwest.  The windows are open, the breeze is sweet and it's a good day to have some little ruffled bloomers on!

Unfortunately, I don't think I could get away with this look, but they are super cute for little baby and toddler bums.  I made these for a client and I can't wait to see her cutie pie in them.

The first pair is in Alexander Henry's ever popular Kleo fabric.  I used the floral for both the main and the ruffle pieces.  For the body of the diaper cover, I used Dana's tutorial.  I would suggest comparing the size against an existing diaper cover if you use her pattern, as I personally felt it was a bit large.  I cut some off of the 18-24 month size and this is for a 3 year old. 

This adorable gray and pink fabric is some quilting cotton from JoAnn's.  I used it for the girls' birthday skirts (thinking of doing a tutorial on those since I had some requests...stay tuned!).  For the ruffle part of the cover, I pretty much winged it, but it wasn't too difficult.  I cut some 2" strips, did a rolled hem on my serger, and then also used the serger to ruffle them up.  I evenly spaced them out and stitched them down to the back piece.  I did this before assembling the cover, so be careful with your bottom ruffle.  If it hangs too far down, you'll end up getting it caught in the casing for the leg elastic.  Learned that the hard way :)

Love, love, love summer clothes! 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Sweet and Simple Tank Tutorial

The days are getting warmer and it's time to bring out the summer playwear!  That doesn't mean that our little girls can't look as sweet as can be while they play outside, though!  To help them look cute and stay cool, I bring you the Sweet and Simple Tank tutorial!

This is a fairly simple tank style top to make, but it has some nice details that make it a bit more eye-catching than your average summer tank!  The top features a girly little ruffle and it ties over each shoulder in a cute bow.

It gathers in at the waist with elastic for a nice fit, while staying comfy for little ones.

A lovely top for a tea party on the lawn!

Ready to make one?  You will need:

- 1/2 yard main fabric (this should be plenty for most toddler sizes, although you might need a bit more for bigger girls)
- 1/2 yard coordinating fabric (you might get away with less, but you enough to cut on the bias for the straps)
- 1/2" elastic, the measurement of your child's waist plus an inch
- Sewing stuff (thread, scissors, machine)

To get started, take a t-shirt that fits your child well, fold it in half and place the fold on the edge of a sheet of paper.  Trace the outside edge, adding 1/2" seam allowance and trace the armhole about 3/4 of the way up.  I made mine in an A-line shape so the elastic waist would be pronounced later on and added some extra room since cotton won't stretch like a knit t-shirt.

I also drew the armholes in a bit, since the straps of the tank will be placed right on that line.  If your armhole is too far out (where the sleeve seam of a regular t-shirt would be) the straps will probably slip right off your little one's shoulders.  I would recommend bringing the armhole line in at least 1".

Draw a line straight across the top where you want your neckline to be and you should end up with something like this (ignore all my other chicken-scratchings...I also used this pattern for a different project).

Cut two pieces from this pattern on the fold of your main fabric.  These will be your main front and back tank pieces.

Determine where the waistline of your tank will be (you may want to hold it up to your child to get a correct placement) and measure across one of the pieces at this point.

Cut two pieces from your main fabric that are this length and 1 1/4" wide.  This will become the casing for the elastic waist.

Stitch the two ends of your casing together using 1/2" seam allowance.  Press each edge in 1/4" all the way around the loop.

Next measure across the very top of your tank.

Double that measurement and cut a strip of your coordinating fabric that length by 4" wide.  The top of my tank ended up being 6.5" (this was after I decided to cut the armholes in a bit), so I made my strip 13" x 4".  Fold that strip in half, wrong sides together, and press.  Set aside for now.

Next you need to make some bias tape for the straps.  You can find my favorite handmade bias tape tutorial here.  For this project, I just cut a bunch of strips along the bias and sewed them together.  You could also use pre-made bias tape and save yourself the trouble, but I love the look of the coordinating handmade tape!

If you cut the strips of fabric on the bias like I did, simply iron the piece in half lengthwise, then iron each edge into the middle.

Then fold it in half again and press and you have bias tape!

Once you have your bias tape made, you'll need to cut a few pieces.  You will need two pieces the length of the top edge of your tank.  These were 6.5" each for me.  You will also need two pieces for your straps.  The length is up to you, but you'll need at least enough to go around the armhole, over the shoulder and then tie into a bow.  My straps were each 30" long and the bow just sits on the shoulder with no hanging ties.  If you want ties with a bit more drama, you'll want to cut longer strips of bias tape.

Set your bias tape aside and let's make the ruffle for the top.  Take your folded ruffle strip and run a gathering stitch (longest stitch length, highest tension) about 1/4" from the raw edge.  Pull the bobbin threads to gather the ruffle to the same length as the top edge of your tank.  Pin and stitch the ruffle down, sewing over your gathering stitches.

Now grab one of your short bias tape pieces and attach it to the top edge of the tank, making sure it covers the stitches from your ruffle.  If you need a tutorial on attaching bias tape, Dana has a great one here.  Go ahead and attach the bias tape to the front and back top edges of your tank.

Place the front and back tank pieces right sides together and stitch up the sides using 1/2" seam allowance.  Finish the seams by serging, zig zag stitching, or trimming with pinking shears.

Pin and sew your straps into the armholes, making sure the straps are the same length on each side.  The bias tape should encase the raw side edges of your ruffle.  When you get to the end of the strap, tuck in the raw edges before stitching it up for a clean finished look.  I personally pin the heck out of my straps when I'm sewing them so they don't shift around on me!

We're in the home stretch now!  Take the casing you prepared and slip it up over the tank to the waist area you determined earlier.  The tank and casing strip should be wrong sides together.  Pin the casing in place, making sure it is straight and level all the way around!

Stitch all the way around the bottom edge of the casing, as close to the edge as possible.  Then stitch around the top edge of the casing, but leave a 2-3" gap open.  This will be where you insert your elastic.

Your elastic piece should be the measurement of your child's waist plus 1".  Using a safety pin, thread the elastic through the casing.

Make sure your elastic hasn't gotten twisted, then pin and sew the elastic together, overlapping each end by 1/2".  Tuck the elastic ends down into the casing and sew up the opening.

Now hem it up, tie the shoulder ties into a cute bow and you're done!

Have a tea party!

If you make one, I'd love to see it in the flickr group!  If you have any questions, as always, please let me know!  Have fun sewing!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Made: Naptime Crafters' Sweetheart Halter

When I stumbled across this adorable Sweetheart Halter tutorial from Naptime Crafters, it was love at first sight! 

The shape of the little sweetheart bodice is so cute!  It's nice and cool for summer and the girls seem to like it!

Amy's tutorial is for an 18 month size.  If you need a different size, she's taken the measuring and guesswork out of it for you and has it available in her Peek-A-Book Pattern Shop!

The back has an elastic band around the top, keeping it nice and secure, and it ties around the neck with long halter straps.  It seems to be comfy for jumping!

Or hugging your sister :)

Or just running around for the fun of it!

This top sewed up really easily and the fit is great!  The fabric I used is called Invigorate Coral by Richloom and the bodice is some Kona cotton in a pretty goldenrod color.  Grab some shades and let's hang out in the sun!  Summer is almost here!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Homemade Laundry Soap: Recipe & Tutorial

I started making my own laundry soap a couple of years ago, right before the girls were born.  I'd heard friends talk about it what a good deal it was.  With the twins doubling our family size, I knew I couldn't pass up the chance to save a little money!  

No matter what kind of detergent you normally use, making your own laundry soap will save you a lot!  A gallon of my homemade soap costs me about 29 cents.  Compared to over $7 a gallon, even for cheaper brands of store-bought detergent, I'd say it's a significant savings!  It's also easy and doesn't take much time.  Want to make your own?  Here's how I do it!

You will need:

- Borax
- Washing soda (this is NOT baking soda...you'll find it in the laundry aisle)
- Fels-Naptha soap bar (you can use other brands, but I prefer the Fels-Naptha)
- A 5-gallon bucket (it can optionally be awesome and lime green like mine, one with a lid is helpful)
- A box grater or some other way of grating the soap
- A large measuring cup is quite helpful
- A wire whisk (having a small one and a large one is helpful)
- A saucepan and hot tap water (not pictured) 
- A large funnel is also helpful (not pictured)
- (5) 1-gallon sized containers for storing the soap (old clean milk jugs are perfect as are old clean detergent bottles)

Okay, once you've gathered your supplies, you first need to grate the soap.  I make 5 gallons at a time because I just don't have space to store more than that.  For the 5 gallon recipe, you just need half a bar of the Fels-Naptha. 

The basic recipe is:
1/2 bar of Fels-Naptha soap, grated
1/2 cup washing soda
1/4 cup Borax

Mark the center of the soap and grate it with your box grater until you are down to a half bar.  This is not difficult, but it does require a bit of muscle.

This is NOT a big plate of shredded cheddar, so keep the kiddos away!  Dump the grated soap into your saucepan and add 2 cups of hot tap water.  Heat over medium heat until all the soap is dissolved, stirring frequently with a whisk.  It foams up and can be a bit hard to see when it's all dissolved, but do your best.  It should take about 5-10 minutes.

Once the grated soap has dissolved, remove the pan from the heat and add 1/2 cup of washing soda and 1/4 cup of Borax.  Stir until dissolved.  It will resemble a pan of half-whipped cream.

Now fill your 5-gallon bucket halfway with hot tap water.  This is 40 cups of water if you're doing the math :)  Add the soap mixture to the bucket and stir it a bit.  This is when it's helpful to have a larger whisk.

Cover the bucket tightly.  If your bucket does not have a lid, use some plastic wrap or aluminum foil.  I criss-cross two sheets of plastic wrap and secure it with a large rubber band.

Put the bucket up out of the way (you do NOT want this slippery mess to spill!) and let it sit overnight.  The next day, remove the cover and you will see a seriously globby bucket full of goo.  It will be the consistency of half-set Jell-o.

Take your large wire whisk and stir until everything is evenly mixed.  It should be a thick liquid, but you don't want a lot of large globs in there (yum...).  

Once it is mixed, it's time to fill the containers.  I like to put down an old towel to keep my counter clean because this can be a slightly messy process.  Start by filling each of your gallon containers about half full with the soap mixture.  If you're doing the math, this is about 8 cups per jug.  I use my large measuring cup and a funnel to make this easier.

When you have filled all 5 containers, you might have a little soap leftover.  Just evenly distribute it between the containers.  Then fill the jugs the rest of the way with hot tap water (another 8 cups or just a little less).  Be sure to leave some room at the top to shake the soap before you use it.

That's it!  You have 5 gallons of awesome homemade detergent ready for use!  I usually let it sit out for a bit to cool off before putting the caps on.  The hot liquid tends to make hairline cracks in the milk jugs if you seal it up while it's hot.  You will use 3/4 cup for top loading machines and 1/4 cup for front loading machines per load.

A few personal notes/tips about this soap:

- It is safe for HE machines.  It actually suds much less than commercial detergent, which makes it ideal for front loaders.

- You may find yourself using much less fabric softener as this homemade soap seems to leave clothes much softer than commercial detergent.

- You will want to shake the jug well before measuring out your soap.  It tends to separate as it sits.

- I have found this soap to be just as effective as any commercial brand at removing stains/odors from clothing.  For extra whitening power on white loads, try adding a little vinegar to the cycle.

- This detergent is very natural and mild and is safe for baby clothes!

I hope you try making some!  The entire process takes very little time and 5 gallons lasts for quite awhile.  The scent of the Fels-Naptha is strong when you are making the soap, but once it's all diluted, it leaves a very pleasant and mild scent on the clothing.  Happy washing!