Thursday, January 9, 2020

Going Back to Uganda!

I'm heading back to Uganda today. After 5 years of international mission trips, this is the first time I've actually gotten to return to a place, and I am very much looking forward to spending more time with the people I met and worked with on my short trip back in September.

I'm working with Eleos Ministries, and we've got a team of 8 people flying to Uganda this week. Back in September I went to meet the people we'll be working with there, see the school we support, and lay a little bit of ground work for a program near and dear to my heart.

A goat program! After 8 years of praying and looking into different opportunities when it comes to goats and missions, I finally get to help start a goat program which will benefit women and children in poverty. 

On my short trip in September, I met with local goat producers and asked questions specifically about raising goats in Uganda and learned how animal management there differs from my animal management at home. On this trip, we're actually starting the program!

We're starting small, with only a few goats based at the elementary school we support, but it will grow over time! You can read a bit more on the Eleos Ministries website here.

Eleos got involved in Uganda in 2017 with a letter writing mentorship program. In September I was able to meet many of the children currently enrolled in the program, and many others who will be part of the program once we have more mentors.

On this trip we will be working to improve the program and connect with each child currently in the program and on the waiting list. More information on the mentorship program can be found here.

By working with a local pastor, local church, and local schools, our goal is to support the ministry already happening in this region of Uganda, not to try to come in and "fix" things. I'm very excited about the things already happening here and I can't wait to see how God will grow it in the future!

For further information you can check out the "Love Uganda" page on the Eleos website and the Eleos Facebook page which will be updated while we're in Uganda over the next two weeks.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Hogwarts Christmas Pajamas

I have made an awful lot of pajama pants over the years. An awful lot. PJ pants are relatively quick and easy to make, a very useful garment to own, and they make great gifts. Thus, I have made a ton of PJ pants over the past 10+ years, but I don't think I've ever blogged about them. Why not? Well, for starters, I never bother getting pictures of them, and second, they're just not the most exciting thing to write about. However, there is a first time for everything. At Christmas my siblings and I got PJ pictures, so half the battle gone, I might as well write about these pajama pants I made.

In 2018 I came up with the brilliant idea of making my siblings and I PJ pants according to our Hogwarts houses. My oldest brother, his wife, and I are all Gryffindors, while the youngest two siblings are Slytherins. Thus I picked up several yards of Gryffindor and Slytherin flannel from Joann's, brought it home, and proceeded to cut out PJ pants. I got the PJ pants for my sister and youngest brother sewn up, wrapped, and under the tree before Christmas morning. A month later I finished my sister-in-law's PJ pants so I gave them to her when her birthday came around. As for the other brother and myself, well, our PJ pants remained half cut out, pinned to to pattern pieces, in a pile, in the corner of my sewing room.

This year I dug out that Gryffindor flannel, finished our PJ pants, and gave my brother his for Christmas. Meanwhile, I made his wife a Gryffindor night shirt for her Christmas gift.

After unwrapping gifts, my sister-in-law said we needed Christmas jammie pictures, so the youngest siblings were dispatched to find their Slytherin PJ pants from last year, the rest of us went to put on our new Gryffindor attire, Mom was drafted as photographer, and the pajama pictures were happening!

Last year I made everyone shirts from the Marauder's map knit fabric Joann's had, and my brothers decided to pull out those shirts to wear with their PJ pants for pictures.

The older brother's shirt is made from Simplicity 8613, and the younger brother's shirt is made from McCall's M7486.

My sister and I also have Marauder's map shirts (as does my sister-in-law for that matter), but we decided to just wear tank tops with our PJ pants instead. Our pants are made with my current go-to PJ pattern Simplicity 8803. I don't remember what pattern I used for the boy's pants.

Yes, my sister's pants have two different colored legs. When she originally took the house sorting quiz on Pottermore she was sorted into Sytherin. She wasn't satisfied with this, so she took a second quiz and was sorted into Hufflepuff. She has since decided to claim Slytherin as her house, but to honor her "Slytherpuff" sorting, I made her pants with one leg Slytherin fabric and one leg Hufflepuff fabric.

My sister-in-law's PJ pants from last year are similar, with one leg Gryffindor and one leg Hufflepuff (She's been sorted into Gryffindor and has an affinity for Hufflepuff), but for her night shirt this year I decided to stick with Gryffindor.

I found the gray knit fabric with all the house crests on it at Joann's, the red knit for the body of the shirt was obtained at Walmart several years ago, and the gold for the bottom band was harvested from a T-shirt in my refashion stash. (Somehow I had no yellow or gold knit in my fabric stash.)

I used the Pixie Tee pattern by Chalk and Notch for the night shirt, and am quite pleased with how this garment turned out!

And so, those are our Christmas jammies.

All quite comfortable and rather cute if I do say so myself! (And picture worthy!)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

My Mom's Mother of the Groom Dress

Around the time my brother got engaged, my mom went to spend a couple days with her sister, who has an engaged daughter. While together, my mom went shopping with my aunt to help her find a mother of the bride dress for my cousin's upcoming wedding. After a day or two of shopping my aunt found a couple serious contenders for her mother of the bride dress and my mom found online a picture of the exact dress she wanted for my brother's wedding.

Now, theoretically, my mom could have just ordered this dress and been done, but where would the fun have been in that? I'd already offered to make my mom her mother of the groom dress, so my mom sent this picture to me and asked if I'd be willing to recreate it for her. Of course, I immediately said yes. Just buying the dress would have been fine, but my mom and I were confident that we could make it even better by working together and making it ourselves. 

As we began planning the mother of the groom dress and discussing specifics such as fabric type and color, I recalled the Designin' December challenge hosted every year by Linda of "Nice Dress, Thanks, I Made It" and decided my mom's dress would be just the thing for my challenge entry this year. The Designin' December tagline is "Why buy it when you can make it yourself - better and for less money?" This concept absolutely applies to my mom's dress. We made it for over $100 less than we could have bought it, and we made it better by using better fabric than the store-bought dress had and personalizing little details such as color and hem length to better suit my mom.

Yes, we copied a ready to wear dress from a department store rather than a designer dress off the runway, but according to this description of the challenge from the host, copies of garments found in stores are also allowed: "We have all seen something we LOVE, either in the stores, online or on the runways, but don’t actually want to buy for some reason.  So I propose that we sew that garment that we see/want.  Now if you are lucky and you already have an exact pattern – either an indie pattern, your own self-drafted pattern, or a “Big 4” pattern, that you can use – then go for it!  If you have to alter a pattern that you already have, or draft your own pattern, you can do that too.  Whatever works for you.  Let’s make what we see and want!  (Remember Vintage Designer fashion is allowed too!)  Good luck in your search!  😁👍"

Once the design was picked and it was decided I would absolutely make the dress the search was on for the perfect fabric and pattern. My mom's first request was for the dress to be made of silk rather than polyester. I was totally on board with this idea and recommended a light weight silk taffeta. After an evening looking at all sorts of pretty fabric possibilities my mom found a beautiful green silk taffeta on Etsy and ordered 7 yards. This turned out to be about 2 yards more fabric than we needed, but we really wanted to make sure we'd have enough!

Fabric decided on and ordered, it was time to find a pattern to use as the base for this project. (I'm quite capable when it comes to altering existing patterns to get what I want, but not particularly confident in my ability to draft patterns from scratch.) After searching for a pattern featuring a portrait collar, like that on the dress we were copying, we found Butterick 6022, an out-of-print Retro Butterick pattern from several years ago. Even though the bodice didn't cross over like the original dress it had the right basic fitted shape and the collar looked excellent to me. I was sure I'd be able to alter this pattern to be just what we needed. Thus, we found the pattern for a reasonable price on Etsy, ordered it, and sat back to wait for it to arrive from Canada.

Two weeks later, the pattern arrived in the mail and it was go time! I began by tracing off my mom's size. Usually I just cut right into my pattern tissue, but since this was an out of print pattern and I would need to make quite a few alterations, I decided it would be best to preserve the original pattern and just trace what I needed.

I shortened the bodice so it would end at the natural waist rather than the high hip, extended the front of the bodice so it would be a cross over bodice rather than having a center front seam, and lengthened the collar to match the new cross over bodice pattern. Then I whipped up the first mock-up, and, well, it was a bit of a mess.

My mom tried on the mock-up and the neckline gaped, it was too wide across the shoulders (my mom does not have the same wide shoulders/broad back my siblings, father, and I have) and the bust darts were in the wrong place. So I pinned and marked, and then disassembled that first mock-up.

I made the necessary pattern alterations, then made a second mock-up. And this one actually fit!

A couple of minor adjustments and it was time to get started on the actual dress! 

The blue pattern is what I originally traced off and altered. The green is the final pattern, altered to fit my mom. 
First I cut the bodice out of a lightweight cotton for the flat lining. All pattern markings, such as darts, would be marked on the flat lining rather than the silk. Once the cotton was cut and marked I used it as my pattern to cut the silk.

With everything cut out, sewing commenced. I went slower than usual with this project because I was worried about screwing something up.

I lined the bodice in a super soft robin's egg blue cotton voile and hand sewed in the side seam zipper.

The skirt is simply two widths of fabric pleated onto the the bodice. After some discussion we decided to skip the high-low hem of the inspiration dress. There are, of course, pockets hidden in the side seams of the skirt.

The final piece of the dress was the belt. The inspiration dress had a bejeweled sash, but we decided to skip the big bow in the back and do a fitted belt with a fancy clasp instead.

The belt is buckram covered in silk. We picked out a fancy gold clasp to match the jewelry my mom would be wearing to the wedding. Once that belt was done, the dress was done - the first of the wedding sewing to be completed!

I don't currently have access to most of the wedding pictures, but you'll have to believe me my mom looked stunning that day! Here she is with the bride and her mother:

And here she is dancing with my brother at the reception:

A month later my mom wore the dress again to the Christmas Ball, where I was able to get a few pictures of the dress.

The finished dress is a bit different from the inspiration dress, but I think it suits my mom perfectly!

My mom's dress is more off the shoulder, a look I find very elegant.

A beaded sash vs. a belt with a fancy clasp.

The back of the dresses are where the differences are most obvious, but I personally much prefer the fitted back of my mom's dress to the back of the inspiration dress. This is one area where you can tell my mom's dress was made for her, not just something picked off the rack.

All said and done, there are zero regrets about making my mom's dress rather than her buying one. Are there little things I would adjust on the finished dress if I could? Of course, but that's just the nature of sewing!

Thank you to Linda of "Nice Dress, Thanks I Made it!" for hosting Designin' December yet again! This project definitely used skills I picked up by participating in this challenge the past two years. I really enjoy annual challenges like this!

*If you're interested my 2017 challenge entry can by found here and my 2018 entry can be found here.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Blue-Green Velvet Puffed Sleeves

It was just too pretty to leave at the store, surely I could come up with something to use it for. This was my justification for bringing home 2 yards of blue-green stretch velvet from Joanns.

I did go to Joann's to get stretch velvet actually - 4 yards of it to make my sister's Christmas dress. And when I saw this particular blue-green stretch velvet I was thrilled. It would make a stunning Christmas dress for my sister. I grabbed the bolt from the shelf and took it to the cutting counter. There I discovered the issue. The bolt held only two yards of velvet, not the 4 needed for my sister's dress. That was a disappointment. After a phone call to my sister I picked out a different color stretch velvet for her dress and got 4 yards of it. But I couldn't leave behind the blue-green, it was just too pretty, so it came home with me too.

Now that I had two yards of blue-green stretch velvet to play with, it was time to decide exactly what it would become. I began to brainstorm and eventually came up with the idea of a bishop sleeved top, but I didn't want to it be quite like the other bishop sleeved tops in my closet. I wanted something different.

I came across the Adrienne Blouse, by Friday Pattern Company, on Instagram and decided it was close to what I wanted, but still not quite right.

Somehow, thinking of, and then rejecting, the Adrienne Blouse brought me to the Rita Blouse by Charm patterns. I've admired it ever since it came out several years ago, but never bought it. Now, with two yards of velvet in hand, and a Black Friday sale happening at Charm Patterns, I decided it was time for me to buy this pattern. With a few alterations, it would become the bishop sleeved top pattern of my dreams.

The first alteration I made was to eliminate the front princess seams and cut the back of the blouse as one solid piece. This wouldn't have worked if I'd been making the blouse out of a woven fabric, which is what the pattern is made for, but knit fabric, like stretch velvet, is a bit more forgiving.

Next, I lengthened and expanded the sleeves then cut a nice long cuff to finish them off with.

Unfortunately, I didn't lengthen my sleeves quite enough, and once I had my top sewn together I found them to be a little too short to be properly puffed and comfortable. So I fixed that issue by cutting the sleeves, on my newly finished shirt, in half then sewing in a 6 inch band of leftover velvet.

This extra 6" of material in the sleeves made them properly long enough. We'll just pretend those extra seam lines in the sleeves are a design choice, and not a last minute fix.

The finished top is absolutely splendid!

Gorgeous Color.

Soft Fabric.

And Dramatic Sleeves.

What more could you want?