Thursday, March 19, 2015

Travel Handmade for Little Girls - Vintage Dottie and Butterick Dufflebag

[sew] tired.

But its a satisfied kind of tired that comes from staying up late to sew.

This is the Swoon Patterns Dottie Vintage Handbag. Except my daughter saw it over my shoulder when I was surfing Pinterest, and knew it was meant to be a dolly suitcase. And she begged a little.

She picked the fabric from the stash and I away I went. The pattern has a lot of prep work but once you start sewing it goes fast. I pre-quilted the exterior quilting cotton and backed it with denim to give the bag extra structure (in addition to the lining. You can't see the denim, its just a backing on the quilting on the inside). The pattern calls for craft foam for stability, but I didn't bother since I used the quilted fabric/denim combo. Much easier I think than fiddling with craft foam/gluing it along the edges, etc.

I love love love the method for zipper installation in this pattern because the end result is so professional. Its a little different than I'm used to, because the bag uses a drop-in lining. To get a feel for what I'm talking about, Swoon patterns has a tutorial for a drop-in lining that also shows their method of zipper installation. Check out the tutorial right here.  

The pattern calls for piping, which I think makes the bag. Swoon Patterns has a tutorial for making piping on their website. I found in my stash, a Nancy Zieman product that is a fusible cording to make piping - you wrap your bias strip around it and just iron in place - instant piping. Normally to make piping, you buy cording and sew the bias strips around the cording to enclose it. I love this fusible option, its speedy. Or buy pre-made piping, even speedier.

Alexa is so happy with the little travel bag. It packs in a lot of doll clothes and seems to be the perfect size. 

In other little girl news, the duffle bag:

A couple years ago, I made a dufflebag for Alexa from a Butterick 5581 pattern. I purchased fabric to make one for each of the little girls. With our trip south coming up fast, Maria was asking for her duffle bag in time to travel. 

As with Alexa's duffle bag, I pre-quilted the canvas exterior with cross-hatching but this time used a cotton drill as a backing (again, this is in addition to a lining).  I did not quilt the side panels, but used interfacing with Pellon to give it some stiffness.  I also loosely quilted the lining fabric but didn't use a backing on it - just the lining fabric and batting underneath. This has given the bag a really nice structure.

This pattern calls for a drop-in lining that is hand sewn to the zipper - but feel free to go ahead and machine-sew it down along the zipper topstitching. The lining also didn't fit very well into both the duffles I made, so I'm not sure if its human error (probably!) or just poor pattern drafting??

Maria is really REALLY thrilled with the duffle bag and its the perfect size for a little girl. 

How about you, what are you sewing? 


Monday, March 09, 2015

The Homeschooling Runner's/ Sewist's/ Crazy Woman's Daybook

outside my window:
The skating rink is tanking. The clocks have sprung forward. Spring is on the way? 

I'm listening to:
My daughter and her best friend downstairs playing the piano and belting out Taylor Swift. My son and his best friend further down the hall playing their guitars and recording their own mash-ups of Ed Sheeran. And a fly. Its buzzing around the window here in the kitchen, so you know what that means. Someone left the door open.

I'm wearing:
Running apparel. How the heck did this happen? I have lost my fashionista mojo.

Giving thanks:
My 17yr-old got accepted into the University program she wanted, a PR degree. 

You know, we started homeschooling when she was in grade 3, and one of the most common questions we got back then was whether a homeschooled kid can get a high school diploma  (yep, they sure can. But we didn't pursue that route, rebels we are). Or whether a homeschooled kid can get into University (yep, happens every day. The path is different. Navigating it is challenging at times. Some universities are more accommodating than others). We wondered about all this ourselves at the time. It actually gave us a small panic attack and we looked to those homeschoolers who had gone before us for reassurance. Mostly, we wanted to make sure homeschooling wouldn't ruin our kids' chance of "success" by the world's standards (which frankly, aren't really very high standards at all and certainly not Godly).  In fact, it always made us feel good to hear about the homeschooled kids who went on to become world-renowned neurophysicists with a back-up degree in medical law or philosophy. You homeschoolers know what I mean, right? When you start homeschooling, you are afraid your kids will be limited by it somehow. That you will bomb and your kids will bomb. So yes, there is fear and trepidation and we hang onto those success stories that we hear. But really, much of the fear just comes down to pride. Anyway, I think God kind of smiles patiently at all of this and waits for us to come around ... 

Nine years ago, among all those panic attacks, what kept us moving forward was knowing that we were called, by God, to this home-educating way of life. So we would just let Him help us deal with that whole high school thing when the time came.  

Our educational philosophy developed and transformed from desiring our kids to be mini-rocket-scientists (also known as cramming content and curriculum and workbooks and information down their spongy throats) to simply desiring to journey alongside and help them form and grow not only in knowledge but in character, virtue and faith. To love learning. To be who you are created to Be. We carried with us two overriding principles when it came to vocation and career and life-plans:

1. Kids need to grow up knowing, without a shadow of a doubt, that they encompass a beautiful genius. That its not contingent on performance in a given area. They were created for a purpose and a plan to make a difference in the world. They were created for a mission-field. That plan makes use of their own unique talents and even their passions. That plan also makes use of their shortcomings and will stretch and challenge them and make them grow often in painful ways. The job of childhood is to instill a sense of self-worth; explore and find and develop those talents, passions, and areas for personal growth. Plant seeds. Nurture. Inspire! From the time they are little, this kind of lingo is part of our family culture, and integral to our educational philosophy.

2. When it comes to "the Plan," give God first dibs. He might be calling you to priesthood or consecrated life. Our kids know they have to give that idea careful consideration before jumping right into exploring career paths. And even if He's not calling you at this time of your life, be open to a vocation.   

It all sounds lovely, doesn't it? Practically though, it was still a great struggle for my daughter, because all through her high school years she just didn't have ANY idea what she wanted to do or be. It was a huge stress for her actually, even though we weren't concerned. Once your kids are taller than you, however, the most common question revolves around their plans for the future. It comes up all. the. time.

Its ok not to know. Its common not to know. 

Except if you're the kid that is stressed out by the not-knowing to the degree that it shuts you down a bit. Or if you're the kid that wonders if maybe God has forgotten about His plan for You. Faith can be fragile in those formative years. And as the years go by of not-really-knowing-what-to-be-when-you-grow-up, the stress level explodes, the pressure increases. Its a struggle.

For Brittany, a direction only really became evident to her in the past few months. It came from her taking a long hard look at her specific talents. She knew she was good at writing and communicating; she knew she had a creative side; she also knew that she liked the technical aspect of science and logic. So, she tried to match her talents with a broad career field. She spent some time on websites that help you do that, and one day a little light bulb went on for her, also known as inspiration of the Holy Spirit. (Aside - when I did this as a kid, my suggested career was a prosthetist-orthotist, in other words, making fake limbs for people. I think the career-skill-talent matching may have made some progress since then.)  She started to think about different types of careers in communications, and finally she felt she had a starting point. She spent some time at Tom's work with their PR department, rotating through the different areas, and after that, she was hooked on public relations. Its really such a flexible degree with a lot of potential. But even if things change up as time goes by, its enough to just simply have a starting point. God works with that, right? 

When she read her letter of acceptance this weekend, one week after her interview, I can tell you there were a few tears all around the family. We are just so, so happy for her. At the end of the night it was agreed: God is good. All the time. In the Struggles. In the Crazies. In the Happy Dances.

in the schoolroom:
Lots going on and yet sometimes feels like not enough. Story of my life. The little girls and I are making our way through the Narnia series. We are just getting into Voyage of the Dawn Treader. All the girlies are captivated. We are reading the series in the order CS Lewis wrote it, which is different from the publication order. I still have a DVD copy of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe that my bigs acted in a couple of years ago ... somewhere. Have to find it.  I also have this audio version by Focus on the Family that is currently playing in our van every time we go out, at their request. The girls are narrating to me after each book for their portfolios. Trying hard to do more narration around here.

School for the bigs. Dawson's scholar class is all about apologetics, using Memorize the Reasons by Kevin Vost. I love this class, mostly because the group of teens are so lively and engaged in the discussions. 

The bigs are also dabbling in a few of the Teaching Company's great courses. Brittany is doing a Shakespeare course.  We are reading through and memorizing various passages from King Lear, as a family, to prepare for seeing the play next week.  We are also doing a course in religious cultural literacy - a survey of world religions and their tenets. This happens in the evening when the littles are in bed. I tell you, the best way to inspire teens seems to be at night for us. That's when all of our big idea discussions occur and it gives our conversations some interesting focus. So far that works.

in the sewing room:

I finished Noodle-head's Caravan Tote, a customized knitting bag. Ohhhh, I'm so excited to use it!! I have yet to make the matching pouch and then knit knit knit. I haven't done nearly enough knitting this winter. Some of my friends came over Friday for a knitting/lenten lunch so now I'm more motivated.

I also need to sew up a duffle bag for Maria before we leave at the end of the month. I promised.

to be a good runner:
Training continues. Toes are healing. I'm at the T-minus-12 weeks till half-marathon day. I ran nine miles this weekend and scored a new PB (personal best) for time. Perhaps the training program I'm following is paying off? I found a new route that I love love love!! Its near me, its a nice flat road for the most part, the shoulder isn't so sloped, its perfect. It goes past a friend's house who has promised to join me running in the fall (she's having some ligament surgery on her leg soon so I'll excuse her for a couple of months).

My new favourite find. They sell the original flavour at Costco, but I prefer the caraway variety, or herb. With hummus? Amazing. Great running fuel.

I also tried my first spin class ever - and loved it. I'll hopefully be heading there once or twice a week for cross-training and I've convinced some friends to brave it with me. Fitness friends - you need them.

living Lent:
I think we have a new family tradition, that is Friday night Stations of the Cross at our church, following Mass. Its so lovely, even with the two little girls sprawling out on the floor or dancing around as we travel around the church's stations. Is it wrong to be concerned that while I'm kneeling, Katie is going to give me a leg injury that will tank all my hard running work, with all her sprawling and dancing?

a few plans for the week:
Music class. Hockey. Gymnastics. Choir. Dentist. School. Running. Spin class. Homemaking. Sewing. Life is living me it seems. Looking forward to vacay.

a picture thought I'm sharing:

Have a great week you guys. Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 02, 2015

Training Notes


My husband broke his toe. 

Not the one he dropped the bottle of wine on. The other one. 

Actually, my daughter stepped on it. It was not a good time. Both toe incidents brought him to his knees. When the wine incident happened, I heard a yell then I came upon my husband on the floor with all this red stuff around him I thought was blood. Brittany also dropped to the floor to prevent an all-out faint. Good times. But back to the toe, the broken one. If I thought you'd enjoy seeing a picture of a swollen toe compared to a non-swollen toe, I would show you. Because I took one. But I think that would pretty much make me vomit somehow, if I had to see that on your blog, so I'm not going to do that to you. Especially on a Monday morning.

You're welcome.

Good morning!!

The sad thing is that it has limited his running somewhat. Mostly that's sad for me, because I really enjoy having his company on the weekend long runs. This weekend, I ran ten miles. He joined me around mile six after already having run five miles in a different location. But by then, his toe was killing him, his IT band was acting up (old running injury), and frankly, he brought me a lot of negative energy. He ran one mile with me before calling home for a ride, and I think he made a wise decision to not push on. 

Not all negative energy though, because somewhere in that mile we ran together he looked at me and told me how well I was doing and how proud he is of me. Sigh ... melted my heart. When you're having a bad run like he was, its not easy to praise someone else, so THAT was the good energy that carried me through those final miles. Love that guy, broken toes and all.

I wanted to take a picture of these cattails so I stopped briefly just after mile 8.5, and I didn't know it at the time but my running app (which notifies me of every 0.5 miles run) got paused somehow. I was running and running and thinking, pwah, this is one long half-mile! I had probably run over ten miles when I finally took the phone out to check. Oi!!!

The other thing that got me through the miles and which I highly recommend, was having a special intention for each mile. For example, there was a mile dedicated to each of my children and my husband. Its related to the redemptive value of suffering, even if your suffering is just little (like a killer workout or the miles of a long run). It brought focus and purpose to each moment.  The concept isn't new among runners, I've seen runners with names written down each side of their arms, a name for each mile of a marathon. I am totally going to do that for my race. And, the concept isn't new among Catholics. We believe in the redemptive value of suffering when you unite it (offer it up) to Christ's own suffering (Coll 1:24, Lk 14:27, Phil 3:8-11, 2 Cor 1:5-7). 

I planned my nutrition much better this week. I am trying to keep a careful record of the fuel especially pre and post-runs. I've been doing a lot of research and tried a couple of new recipes. I think the best thing I came across, well two best things actually, was Sarah's blog and a running nutrition book. First, Sarah is a runner and nutritionist living in Vancouver, her blog is about running, but its linked to her nutrition blog and lots of fabulous recipes! She has introduced me to recovery shakes with really weird ingredients like tart cherry juice and kale and hemp hearts, whatever, and quinoa salad.  Yep, I hadn't yet jumped on the quinoa wagon, but we had it Friday night as a carb-loader the night before the long run, and it was absolutely awesome. Awesome I tell you!!! I am heading out to buy quinoa in bulk. 

OK, so the second best thing I came across and downloaded to my handy dandy kindle was Matt Fitzgerald's book about marathon and half-marathon nutrition. New rules, and lots of food for thought. I'm slowly working my way through this book. 

I fuelled the long run with Honeystinger organic energy chews in the orange blossom flavour, which tastes pretty much exactly like Orange Crush pop. They also have cherry cola flavour. Mmmm!! I think I like them better than the GU chomps, because they are tasty and less chompier.  But, based on what I was reading, I decided to begin fuelling a little later in the run, at the one hour mark instead of beginning at 20 minutes. You wouldn't do this for every long run, only some of them during training. One of these days though, I need to bring myself to seriously try a gel ...

ANYWAY. I leave you with a peek at the latest recipe in progress, this one from the Runners World cookbook, a spinach-bacon-sweet-potato salad. One thing I've learned for meal-planning is to plan your veggies first, ensuring a red and a green, then plan everything else around that. I used to plan the meat component of supper first. So that's a shift, but a good one. We definitely get our veggies now!!

All for now dear friends. Happy 2nd Monday of Lent!!


Monday, February 23, 2015

How Goes the Running?


Running is like the best kind of solitude for me. I work things out on the road. Its funny, because I really believe God put this in my path quite intentionally. There have been several times in my life when I felt like the Holy Spirit just kind of placed something in front of me and said, "Hey, here you go. I think you might like this." And it would be just what I needed, but wasn't actually seeking. Has that ever happened to you?

So its no accident that I identify myself with something really positive right now, like being a runner. Even though I'm pretty new at it. It stretches me, it gives me confidence, it strengthens me - mentally, physically, spiritually. It brings me closer to God in a different way. Even though I feel so strong and alive, I know that God is the One behind it all, the real source of my strength and life. I have no idea why He thinks running should be my thing right now. I know I love it, I'm slightly obsessed, and its wrapping me up as a better person (I think and hope), but really .... running, Lord? Never would have thought. So glad He did.

So I have officially begun my half-marathon training plan for the Calgary Scotiabank race at the end of May. I haven't taken any time off running since the race last month, but I did ease up the week after for a bit of a recovery. My first long run after the race was only 6 miles - but I've been steadily increasing again. This weekend, I ran 9 miles followed by a 1.5 mile cool-down walk. Oh, you guys, it was so gross. The weather here on Saturday took a turn. It was really windy and snowy and felt like -18C with the windchill. Y'all, I really love cold weather running, but I do not dig the wind. I had to push myself to get out there, but what motivated me most was knowing that I didn't want to do my long run on Sunday. I live for Sunday ... especially Sundays during Lent ... my coffee after Mass, a little reading, hanging out with the kids, maybe a little sewing ... Sundays are our glory day. So yeah, I decided to brave the gross weather Saturday for the sake of Sunday. Hey, you pretty much never regret a run.

Every long run is a practice for race-day. I'm experimenting with pre-race meals, hydration and fuel during the race. These are hot topics in the running culture. What to do, what to do??? The GU chomps seem to work well but I don't really have anything to compare it to, yet. I tried a gel once and eeeewwwwwww, yuk, I really could barely lick it without gagging. But I'm thinking I should try it again since the gels are pretty ideal in terms of fuel and you won't choke on them like the chomps. I'll have to keep experimenting. On Saturday I fuelled with a cheese-toast and coffee a couple hours before the run, then a few pretzels about half an hour before I left. I also took some pretzels with me because I get the munchies during the long run. All that seemed to work ok but I think I can improve. Next weekend I'm going to approach it more objectively by fuelling with calories based on body weight and miles to run. We'll see. Any tips?

All for now! 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Pixie Faire Moto Pant


There was a time when I thought sewing doll clothes was just too finicky and not really worth my time and effort. That's probably still true, but since my girlies have become really doll-crazy (better than boy-crazy), I have been dabbling in the miniature sewing world.

So these are just too cute. 

The Moto Pant is a pattern from Pixie Faire, a mega-collection of patterns for dolls that you can purchase for download, and several are free. 

The very best thing about the moto pant are the knee patches. Basically, you sew lines horizontally on a piece of fabric to embellish them, then cut out the patch from your newly-embellished fabric. I also decided to add two little flowers fussy-cut from my favourite Amy Butler fabric, and sewed them directly onto each patch. When I say fussy-cut, I mean that the flower shape is already part of the fabric and you just cut it out. These flowers were the perfect size for the patch. But you could also just cut your own flower shape from any fabric. So fun!

OK, so there are actually two best parts of these pants; the other being the welt pockets at the back. I have never made welt pockets on a garment before, my understanding is that its a fine art, but this dolly welt pocket? Easy-peasy. The instructions are really super clear and trust me, its not difficult to sew. What you really need is a good slashing knife when it comes to cutting the welt. For these pants, I used the same Amy Butler fabric to make a contrast welt. 

The back of the pants are actually two pieces that you sew together and topstitch. I used a triple-topstitch size 3 length and contrasting thread. The pattern also comes with a plain one-piece back pattern so you have some flexibility.  I really really love this pattern.

This is another version made from a lightweight twill. The fit for the American Girl doll is spot-on.

I can see using this pattern to make shorts as well, pretty darn sweet, my sewing partners in crime.

What about you, have you sewn doll clothes? What's currently on your cutting room floor?

Hope you have a great weekend!!