Miss Gioia

Thursday, December 24, 2009

In the Nick of Time

Two flower girl dresses - finished nine hours before the movers showed up. Phew.

The green fabric is a raw silk that the bride is also using in the bridesmaids outfits. I smocked both bodices a little differently so that they coordinate but are not identical. The bodices are beaded with tiny glass beads and rice pearls. The bodice of the dresses used the Ottobre "China Grass" pattern from issue 03/08.

The bottom skirt is an ivory silk dupioni from my stash. I had another silk that the bride gave me to use, but it turned out not to be enough. With that fabric, the skirt on Gioia's dress was way too short (determined by general consensus), so I ripped it out and used the ivory dupioni instead. If I were really good, I would have made little tulle underskirts, but I could not find the netting fabric in Taiwan.

I made matching ivory silk bloomers for modesty. The bloomers pattern was from Oliver + S' tea party sundress. At first I was irritated that the pattern called for bias leg casings, but it actually was a very easy way to construct the elastic leg openings.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009


The movers come to pack up our house in exactly one week. So what am I doing in the meantime, as I wrap up my last week of work and get ready to move my family halfway across the world? Why, making two flower girl dresses, of course.


I volunteered to make the dresses way before we decided to move home. If I had been smarter, I would have finished them long ago. But life got in the way. So many tasks, like finding a new house in our new city. Things like that.

I made a test dress of the pattern this weekend. Thanks goodness it turned out OK, because I had no plan B. I like the square bodice and the really full skirt. The bodice pattern is from the China Grass dress from Ottobre issue #03/08. I made the test dress in a heavy twill from Chez Ami's fabric section. It has a really nice drape, making this a good winter dress for Baby G to wear in our new town.


Friday, October 23, 2009

Project Linus

I have come to realize lately that I have a serious problem. Hello. My name is Rebecca, and I am addicted to buying fabric.

As I was cleaning out closets this week, I saw that I had yards and yards of fleece that I bought through a co-op when we lived in Beijing (yes, over two years ago) which I am probably never going to use. So I decided to make some blankets for Project Linus. Good for sick kids and good for me, as it helps to use up some of the bulky stash.

This project was super easy. Last night, I cut out four crib sized blankets (40" x 60") from the fleece, rounding the corners using a dinner plate as a guide. I then serged around the edges of each blanket. And that was it. They look nice. I even made some scarves from the scraps.

Now all I need to do is mail them off this weekend. Yay.


Thursday, October 15, 2009

Another One

See. I wasn't done yet. Another skirt for the make-a-long. I didn't make one last night because.. well.. I was too busy sitting on the couch doing nothing. But I pulled it together today for one more.

Chris found this Japanese skull fabric at a Bernina event that I dragged him to this summer. I am very glad we bought it, as it is quite different from my normal picks. It is actually a little heavier than a quilting cotton - more like a twill.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Skirt Make-a-long Day 2

One more skirt for the Lazy Days skirt make-a-long. I used a Japanese linen print for this version. Apples and Alphabets... aawwww. Instead of using the ribbon technique, I just hand hemmed it.

It's probably too late in the year for linen, but maybe the look will work in still humid Taiwan.

(P.S. are you sick of skirts yet? Ha. Just you wait.)


Monday, October 12, 2009

Make-a-long: Lazy Days Skirts

Melissa of One Crafty Mumma is hosting a Lazy Days Skirt make-a-long this week. I had not yet made one of these skirts, so I figured it was a good time to try. I pulled out some fabrics from the stash for this week's sewing.

I made a warm-up skirt yesterday with some Japanese halloween fabric. The pattern is really easy. Each skirt takes about 30 minutes to make if you have all of the materials lined up and the iron hot.

Since this was the first "real" day of the make-a-long, I made another skirt. I asked Gioia what color skirt she wanted, and she said BLUE very definitively. I used this super cute Spoonflower fabric which was designed and printed by Craft Pudding. The trim on this little skirt was found on my trip to Liberty in London last Spring.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Little Bags

So what do you do when you have three days before you leave for the United States? Why, make 32 silk drawstring favor bags to hand out after the baptism luncheon, of course. When you are all kinds of crazy, that is. I made up my own pattern, but this tutorial can be used to make a similar little bag.

We went to the pool this morning in an attempt to wear kiddo out before our flight to LA this afternoon. Hopefully our strategy works. Next stop, Legoland.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009


T minus four days till we board a plane for the US. Nothing like leaving things to the last minute. The baptism dress took about two weeks to complete. It was a bit tricky at times, especially with the french seams on the side.

I fell in love with certain details, though. Like this little sleeve. So pretty.

To recap, this is the Princess Isabella dress from AS&E Issue #86. As I noted before, this dress was made from a kit. Delivery was really delayed (by months). The Country Bumpkin people sent some substitute trims so I could finish in time, but they sent two different types of entredeux. As a result, the hem lacework is in two pieces, not a single piece. Even worse, the front doesn't match the back. Probably I will be the only one who notices, but GRACIOUS! This wasn't a cheap kit. Which makes this even more frustrating.

Small quirks aside, I do really like how it turned out. While she is not perfect, I think this little dress will be lovely for Miss G's baptism day. I have tights and shoes making their way to my in-laws house. Yay!


Saturday, September 5, 2009


I am working on Gioia's baptism dress, which needs to be finished by the time we board a plane on September 20. I bought a Country Bumpkin kit to make the Princess Isabella dress in AS&E Issue 86. If figured the hailspot voile would be nearly impossible to find, so a kit seemed like a practicaly way to get all the materials I needed. I ordered the kit in March, though, and I only got a partial shipment in July. Then they sent me an email two weeks ago saying the final items were still on back order. After I sent a strongly worded email with the words "baptism dress" and "please hurry," they sent some substitute trims to complete the kit.

I finished the beaded smocking today. It was difficult, as half of the beads were too small for the beading needle sent with the kit. I finally dug up a smaller needle in my stash, so it all worked out. What is the point of a kit, though, if the materials do not work together?

Now on to blocking and construction...


Thursday, August 27, 2009

New grocery store bags

We frequent a little grocery store that is a block away from our apartment in Taipei. We walk to the store multiple times a week, buying only what we can carry back. So our grocery store bags are used often, and as a result were getting a bit worn. Time for sewing some new bags....

I received the middle bag from my partner in a tote bag swap recently. It came with a super cute little matching purse. The other two were made from this tutorial.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Little top

Goodness. Has it been over a week?

Besides celebrating my birthday on Wednesday, I have also been doing a little sewing. Last week, I made Gioia a little top from some Japanese eyelet fabric. I used Butterick 4176. Chris was kind enough to take Gioia out for some shopping while I put it together.

I used a sweet little dragonfly button that I got in a recent swap package as decoration on the front.


Thursday, August 6, 2009


You knew it was coming, right? Coordinating outfits for me and Gioia to wear on the plane today. For Gioia, I made a simple little ruffle skirt. There are three tiers, each twice the width or the previous one. I used a rolled hem on the serger to finish each tier.

For me, it is Vogue 1046 view B, with some alterations to make it sleeveless. Because it is HOT where we are going. I like how the dress turned out. It is kinda of sixties swing. I just need some go go boots, and I'll be set.

The fabric is a cotton lawn from Fabric.com, which they don't seem to have anymore.


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Swap Reveal

My swap partner received her package so I can show pictures now. Isn't she the cutest thing!?

I made a reversible top from a vintage Simplicity pattern (#8537). One side had a monogram, and the other side featured appliqued strawberries. I added a rick rack border (for that authentic 70s feel). The bloomers are made of a medium weight denim.

Such a fun swap - thanks L and G!


Thursday, July 30, 2009


A quick little elastic waistband skirt for G. You cannot see it, but there are denim bloomers attached underneath. For modesty and all. The fabric is a quilting cotton, so it is a bit stiff. The colors and pattern are really fresh. Again, no pink.

I used regular elastic because the waistband elastic I ordered has not yet arrived. Easily changed through.

Can I get a Whoop Whoop!? Yea.


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

More Dresses

One would think, perhaps, that I have a serious problem. Addicted to sewing cute little kiddo dresses.

This was my first Oliver + S pattern, and it was a big hit. Chris likes it so much that he picked out the new bubble dress for Gioia on Friday and again this morning. Another bubble dress has been requested, this time with the skull fabric used on this dolly.

These aren't the greatest pictures in the world, but you can get a sense of the shape and lovely color in the garment. I like that this dress is bright and bold, yet not too crazy. No pink too, which is a nice change.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Reuse and Remake - Play Dresses

Inspired by this tutorial, I dug through the bottom of Chris' closet this week, pulling out discarded shirts from the "to donate" pile. I cut them up and made some play dresses for Miss G. The first dress has some strategically placed flowers to cover up a stain or two. The neck is a bit big, which means I have some pattern reworking to do the next time.

This was certainly a great way to practice construction techniques for knits. I seem to have the most trouble with neck and armhole bindings, but I am getting better each time. This is a cheap way to practice.

The second dress was actually a combination of two shirts: a polo and a t-shirt with a funny design. I used reverse applique to attach the picture to the base shirt, effectively covering up/ cutting away an area which had some stains. The bottom of the t-shirt was also reused as a skirt ruffle to lengthen the dress a bit.

A close-up of the reverse applique. It would have been a shame to throw this one away, don'tcha think?


Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Vogue 1027

This dress was tricky to photograph. It is cute and comfortable, though. I am pleased. I think I can even wear it to work (with a shirt underneath).

My favorite part of the new serger is that it does a snazzy coverstitch. Which made hemming and edging super easy. Many people say that it is better to buy two machines: one for serging and one for coverstitching. It does take a long while to reconfigure the machine when you want to do one stitch vs the other, I'll admit. But if I had told my husband that I needed to bring yet another machine in our little apartment, I think he would have fallen over dead on the spot. So my little two-in-one machine was really an investment in our marriage.

As I said before, this was a test dress for the pattern and machine. Since it turned out well, I ordered more knit fabric this weekend...


Saturday, June 27, 2009

New Serger!

I finally was able to play with my new Bernina serger today. It is just fabulous. Such a step up from my horrible Singer serger that ate all my fabric and thread. This one cuts through knit fabric like it is butter. The stitches are so pretty. Sooooo pretty. Again, a world of difference from the Singer.

I am working on a dress from Vogue 1027. This is basically a trial run, for both the pattern and the serger. If the dress turns out nice, I may go buy some fun jersey to make another one.


Monday, June 15, 2009

Punker Dolly

Another doll from the Wee Wonderful "Olive" pattern. This one was for a friend who still is an 80's punk rocker at heart (and with a birthday last week). Chris found the skull fabric for me at a Bernina event we attended recently.

The photo was taken by another friend of mine.

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Friday, June 5, 2009

Sewing Machine Meme

Sew Mama Sew is hosting a sewing machine meme this month. If you don't sew, then you probably want to stop reading now. Come back tomorrow for more kiddo pictures. Today though, it is all about feet and bobbins.

What brand and model do you have?
I have a BabyLock Esante Ese2, which is an embroidery machine. I also have two Singers: a basic sewing machine with 10 stitches or so and a basic serger. We bought the two Singers in China after I realized I was in withdrawal for my Esante (which I had left back home with a friend). The Singers are 220 volts, which means that I have to use an adapter to run them in Taiwan.

The Singer basic machine works perfectly fine, but the Singer serger is CRAP. Crappity crap. It never worked right. Never. And then it actually broke on me a few months back when I was making diapers. Since it is impossible to find a machine repair place here which will work on 220v machines, I decided to just put it aside and buy a new serger. The new one was a splurge (a Bernina), but I figured it would be more costly to lose my mind to keep failing at the serger I have....

I do also have a lovely antique machine that my brother found for me at an antique sale. It is back home in storage, but I think about it often.

Anyway, this meme is about my embroidery machine - the Esante.

How long have you had it?
About six years.

How much does that machine cost (approximately)?
My parents found it in a store in Atlanta that was going out of business, so I was able to buy it for super cheap (relatively). I think I paid US$1,500 or so. Which was a good deal. It came with a whole set of embroidery threads and three cards of designs.

What types of things do you sew (i.e. quilting, clothing, handbags, home dec projects, etc.)?
Clothing (mostly kiddo clothing at the moment) and household items (curtains, bibs). I am not much of a quilter. Never have been.

How much do you sew? How much wear and tear does the machine get?
Once a week, if I am lucky.

Do you like/love/hate your machine? Are you ambivalent? Passionate? Does she have a name?
I like my Esante. I like it much more than the basic 220v Singer, for sure. And it is indeed better than all of the machines I have had in the past. But truth be told, it isn't super duper in all aspects. The buttonholes never come out right on the Esante. Also the straight stitches slant ever so slightly to the right. And the embroidery cards. What a pain. There has got to be a better way to get designs into the machine. There is a system you can buy which will write any design to a BabyLock card, but it costs like 500 bucks, which is just outrageous.

What features does your machine have that work well for you?
I like the embroidery features, even though I don't really use them that often. There are a ton of decorative stitches on the machine, which is nice. Aside from some minor quirks, it is a steady and reliable machine.

Is there anything that drives you nuts about your machine?
See above rant about buttonholes, slanty stitches and stupid embroidery cards. I also am not too jazzed about the fact that you have to buy all accessories through a dealer. I have never met a sewing store clerk who actually knew more than I did about the machine and accessories, one that could answer my questions and order the right parts. As a result of my bad past experiences, I prefer internet shopping over talking with actual people in a strip mall sewing store, so the dealer thing is annoying. Even if I wanted to go to a dealer, there are none in Taiwan.

Do you have a great story to share about your machine (i.e., Found it under the Christmas tree? Dropped it on the kitchen floor? Sewed your fingernail to your zipper?, Got it from your Great Grandma?, etc.!)?
I only have the story where I missed my machine so much that I took it back from the friend I had left it with in Chicago, packed it up with bubble wrap and peanuts at a Mailboxes Etc, and shipped it on a plane to Taiwan.

Would you recommend the machine to others? Why?
At the price I paid, absolutely. At full price... meh. I would probably have bought a Viking or a Bernina for that money.

What factors do you think are important to consider when looking for a new machine?
The most important thing is making sure you buy a machine that you can have reliably serviced if it ever has issues.

Do you have a dream machine?
Yes, the super duper Bernina serger I am getting on Sunday. YAY!


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Dress - View A

Another pattern from the Stylish Dress Book - View A. I am really happy with how this dress came together. It was simple and fast. This will make an excellent beach dress. I just need to find a beach...

This fabric is one of my favorites from the stash. I bought it years ago off of a remnant table at Vogue Fabrics in Chicago (the downtown one). It was some ridiculously cheap price, so I bought loads. I used some of it for an ironing board cover a while back, and I still have enough for something else. A kiddo dress perhaps?

This was my Every Day in May 19 and 20.


Monday, May 18, 2009

Japanese Top

Geez Louise. It is nearly impossible to take pictures of yourself. This is the best I could do since my extra pair of hands are on a business trip to Tokyo tonight....

I finished the Japanese top - View D from Stylish Dress Book. I made the largest size (there are four sizes of patterns), but it wound up being super big. I just assumed I would be size humongous in Japanese world. Turns out, I may be only semi-huge. I had to take it in at the front center and at the sides. It looks much better after the alterations.

I used some precious Liberty lawn from the stash. It was a worthy pattern. I am pleased.


Sunday, May 17, 2009


When I lived in Beijing, I bought a machine for making fabric covered buttons. This week, I have been working on making a simple little top from this Japanese sewing book (view D). It needed some covered buttons, so yesterday I dragged out the button machine from the back of the closet. Except it was missing the button die, the little device where the button magic happens once you pull the big lever. Yikes! No more covered buttons!?

Luckily I found it today, buried deep in a bag in another closet. Which was very good news because my panicked internet research last night showed that these devices are pretty pricey outside of the Beijing fabric market.

The buttons in the upper right corner of the collage are the ones for my Japanese top. The others were made with some fabric squares that I got in a recent swap. I am not sure what I will do with them yet, but I like how they turned out. It is always interesting to see how a particular fabric pattern translates into a button (or bunch of buttons). Did you know there is a whole Flickr group dedicated to fabric covered buttons? Such pretty things....

Hopefully I will be able to show the finished top tomorrow, which has been my Every Day in May project days 13 to 17 (so far).


Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Doll for Hope #2

A boy doll this time - complete with snazzy tie (somewhat askew). This little guy cracks me up. He makes me think of a skater dude who grew up and became a programmer. Hopefully he will make someone at Casa Bernabe laugh too.

There is still time to make a dolly for Craft Hope, y'all! My two kids will be shipping out tomorrow.

This little guy is my Every Day in May 12. For the record, I took a break yesterday. Too pooped to do anything but fall into bed after work. It happens...


Monday, May 11, 2009

Drumstick Bag

A drumstick bag for my hubby. Because he needed one and gave me very explicit instructions for how to make it. It turned out quite nice. The fabric is a special piece I got in Beijing. It is an ethnic fabric, somewhat heavy weight.

If I ever make one of these again, I will add a tab closure to the side, just like a knitting needle roll.

This is my Every Day in May 10.


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Dolly for Hope

Craft Hope is hosting a handmade doll drive for a deserving orphan facility in Nicaragua: Casa Bernabe. If you have time to make a baby doll between now and June 13, head on over to Craft Hope to sign up.

This dolly is made from Wee Wonderful's Olive pattern. She is a bit wonky, but hopefully someone will love her anyway.

I have been working on this little doll for a few days now; she is my Every Day in May 7-9.


Saturday, May 2, 2009

Bib Swap

When I get into a crafting rut, I tend to make bibs. Lots of bibs. They are simple, which in my world means "can be done while mindlessly watching television." But they also can be great canvases for creativity. Lately I used the bib pattern to test out some of the antique piping I bought at the Paris flea market. Pretty nice with a red monogram and checked lining.

I have been playing around with swap-bot lately, and I decided it was time for me to host a swap of my own. Would you like to join? The head on over to sign up before May 15. Once partners are assigned, you will have three weeks to work on your bib and put it in the mail (deadline is June 6). You can sew, knit or crochet - whatever works for you! I hope people have fun with this. See you at swap-bot.

Free bib resources

Sewing patterns:
Chickpea Sewing Studio Pattern
Nested bib pattern
I use version B from this site for most of my bibs. I added seam allowances to the pattern so I could use two fabrics, turn and top stitch.

Knitting patterns:
Simple baby bib
Cable-edged bib
Intarsia Bib pattern

Crochet patterns:
Coats and Clark pattern
Super cute US flag bib

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Friday, April 17, 2009

Flea Market Treasures

How could I have forgotten to share my lovely flea market finds from Paris!? Clockwise from the upper left: an embroidered remnant of a tablecloth or tea towel, several yards of white trim, red piping, an antique child's collar (mended in places with tiny stitches).

A word to the wise - when people tell you to get to the flea market early, they do not mean 8 am. I spent a good hour and a half wandering around empty streets, waiting for people and goodies to emerge from behind locked roller shades. Next time, sleeping in is in order.

I was just so very excited, though. hee. There were so many delicious things to see. Like little stores completely devoted to antique doll clothes. I almost bought a turn of the century composite Asian doll. She was divine. But she was also 300 Euros. And I didn't really need her. But she might now actually now be on my list. You know, the list of things that I convinced myself not to buy and then regretted it for years. Like the golden chicken painting I walked away from in Manila when I was a poor doctoral student. Damn that chicken painting. It still haunts me.

So instead of a doll, I brought home this little eyelet baby tunic (for a much more reasonable 10 Euros). It is completely handmade - a bit stained and well-worn, but so sweet. I may try to replicate it in a bigger size for Miss G.

Such a lovely day.

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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Spring Dress #2

I actually think I like this version a teeny bit better than the Liberty one. The yellow looks so fresh on Baby G. She was mighty funny this morning when we took these pictures. For some reason, she needed to go sit by the wall and then eventually lie down as she posed.

Chris and I had our first parent teacher conference this week at the Montessori school. Most of it was in Chinese, but we did have the English teacher there to help Chris translate for me. We reviewed a great number of pictures they had taken of Miss G at her "work" and discussed her development.

The meeting was really a matter-of-fact report about her progress. There was no praise given at the conference, no statements like "she is SO great at blah blah," for example. Nope. Just comments like, she can pour water into a vase but often it overflows. When she is the bread maker, she remembers the correct order to add the ingredients. Good to know. I guess I didn't come to the meeting to sit around and blabber about how great she was. I think that if it had been a similar conference in the US, though, there would surely have been a little more affirmation. I'm just sayin.

We also learned that she has trouble with her Chinese pronouns, like knowing when to use wo vs ni. We nodded and said that, yes, she has the same problem in English (using me vs you). And then we said, but she is not even two yet! So its all good, really.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Spring Dress #1

The Liberty fabric I bought in London last month has become a swingy little spring dress. I used a vintage Butterick pattern (#7295). The pattern does not have a date, but the original price was 35 cents. Some peeps say that means this pattern dates back to the 1930's. Not sure, though.

Super cute little pattern. I liked it so much that I actually made two dresses. The second one has not had its photo shoot yet, though.


Monday, April 13, 2009

The Dress

Gioia's Easter dress has been waiting a long time for today's service. I made it a long time ago (13 or 14 years ago, actually) during a summer trip to visit good friends of our family who live in Ecuador. They graciously hosted me in Guayaquil for six weeks that summer. Looking back, I am astounded that they opened their home to me so completely, letting me experience every bit of their life and culture.

This dress was made that summer. The mom of the family I stayed with owns a factory that makes little children's clothes, mostly beautiful hand smocked dresses for little girls. Most days that summer, I accompanied her to work and was given my own task to work on - namely this dress. The lady that oversaw my stitching was very experienced and exact. I would show her my seams, and invariably she would say it was not good enough and make me rip it out and do it again. It was such a great learning experience. I had already been sewing and embroidering for many years before this summer, but it was in Guayaquil that I learned how to be so exact, how to do it right.

It was lovely to see Miss G wear the dress that I painstakingly created so long ago. It fit her beautifully. The proportions were just right: the puff in the sleeve, the bodice detail, the crisp sash.

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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More Diapers

The bread and butter of our cloth diapering system is a hemp fleece pre-fold, which we use with various waterproof covers. I originally purchased a bunch of Polar Babies pre-folds. They worked really well. It is a good, basic system. The hemp fleece is super soft (at least for a while) and is naturally anti-bacterial.

However, we have a German washing machine which has a special wash cycle for diapers (super sanitary). We also live in a downtown apartment with no room for clotheslines. The extra hot water combined with the stress from the dryer means that the fleece pre-folds don't last forever. I bought 36 originally, and we are just now coming to the end of the last ones. They lasted a year, which I guess is not too bad. It is time for some more diapers. I think it will be a while before Gioia figures out how to use her new little Japanese potty, so our stock needs to be replenished. Instead of ordering new pre-made ones, I decided to try to sew them myself. Pretty simple, actually. The hardest part was sourcing the fabric.

I ordered 10 meters of fleece, which yielded 19 Super Deluxe size diapers (23" x 15" unwashed). It also generated a ton of leftover scraps, which I am super excited to use for making dry wipes (more baby gifts - so many friends with babies!).

The Polar Babies Super Deluxe diapers are US$10 each (if you buy at least 12). If I estimate US$50 in shipping costs, then the per diaper cost would be US$12.63. My DIY per diaper price was US$6.47 (with shipping), a little over half of the 'store bought' price. Of course, that cost figure does not include sewing machine and serger depreciation costs,* but only a true geek would talk about capital costs on her blog. Oh. Wait...

Total estimated savings for 19 diapers: US$117. Not bad. I will try to post a tutorial later this week.

*Besides, those are sunk costs. A marginal costs analysis is more appropriate, right?

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Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It seems like forever since I made anything 'round here. But friends keep making babies, so sew I must. This is a ribbon blankie for a new baby girl born to our friends in England this past weekend.

The blanket is not really very girly, but since we met her parents in Beijing, I thought red would be appropriate. I also used materials from the stash, which is always good. It is about 18" square, made from two pieces of fleece with little ribbon tags lining the edges. They say that babies like these kinds of blankets a lot. When we first met her, Gioia often loved the tags on her stuffies almost more than the object itself. This little blanket was pretty simple to make. I loosely followed this tutorial.

Poor little Gioia has been quite sick lately. A little fever and a hoarse throat means that she can't go to Montessouri school for a few days. She is a trouper though. Despite being cranky and a little prone to tears, she still seems energetic and talkative. In the past month, she seems to have had a little language explosion - forming more and more short sentences, both in English and Chinese. Crazy.

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Saturday, January 10, 2009

Baby Shower

My sister-in-law's baby shower is today in Atlanta. Unfortunately, we had to miss it because we are on a plane back to Taipei. Even though we couldn't be there in person, Gioia and I put together a little present basket. Two of the handmade items in the basket are pictured here: a little Waldorf baby from this book and a patchwork ball made from Tiny Happy's tutorial.

Both the ball and the dolly jingle a little bit; they have tiny bells embedded inside. Gioia actually helped to make the ball. She pushed the thread cutting button on the machine after every row was sewn. It was challenging for her to wait until the right moment to push the button, but she did well.

Sorry we couldn't be at your shower, Mary Beth! We cannot wait to meet our new nephew/ cousin.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Frankincense - Advent Calendar

This advent calendar is my Frankincense gift for the Backtack swap. I used some heavy silk upholstery fabric that came from the Jim Thompson outlet in Bangkok. It was perfect for this project: stiff , non-wrinkly, and subtly shiny. I bought a couple of bags full of mother of pearl buttons from the fabric market in Beijing. They worked really well with the fabric.

The pockets' buttons correspond to the day: December 4 = 4 buttons, December 19 = 19 buttons, etc. Inside each pocket is a little Christmas trivia and a handful of Asian candy. Chris helped me cut the wood. Isn't he nice?

300 buttons sewn on by hand. Thank goodness for back episodes of Gossip Girl. I'm just sayin'.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I have been wanting to make Gioia a pinafore dress for a while now. In my mind, it needed to be A-line and have a pocket in the very front. Nothing less would have been acceptable.

The base pattern for this dress was a vintage ebay find: the Jiffy play-set from 1964 (#5480). This is a size 1, but I think it is a little bit big for my 14 month-old kiddo. But it should be useful for a while, even perhaps as a top as she grows taller.

I fiddled around a bit with the pattern. I made it reversible, mainly because I strongly dislike facings. I also used buttons in the back instead of a zipper closure. I added the pocket to one side, and an applique heart to the other.

The floral fabric is a Liberty lawn, and the plaid is of unknown origin (but matches the weight and hand of the Liberty).

For the record, MissG was not too keen on posing in her dress. She started by the chair, dropped quickly to her knees, then moved to her crib to kiss bunny. When I moved her back to the chair to see if I could get a good shot, she pitched a big fit (as you can see in the lower right quadrant above). Nice.

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Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bibs (again)

How is it that we have 5,421 bibs in this house, yet I cannot ever find a clean one at lunchtime? Seriously.

I cannot be bothered to figure out this great mystery. Certainly no one would expect me to simply manage the clean bib stock. Tra la LA.

So instead, I just made more bibs. You know, to have on hand. Because if we have 5,428 bibs in the house, surely I will be able to find a clean one when I need it. Right?


Monday, June 16, 2008


My doll quilt from the Lemonade Stand Swap arrived while we were in Beijing last week. I came back home to a mailbox stuffed full of goodies. This sweet little quilt has a snuggly, vintage feel. Such fun fabrics.

It was wonderful, just wonderful, to receive this little gem at the end of such a fun swap process. In addition, my lovely swap partner sent some other goodies, including this great doll she found on Etsy. Gioia approves.

Thanks so much S. I love it. You did a great job!

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Friday, May 30, 2008

Lemonade Doll Quilt Swap

Gioia's birthday got me thinking back to my own childhood birthdays. I don't remember many of them, but two stand out. The first memory isn't really a memory at all, but a mental image of a picture that was taken on my first birthday. We were living in Pasadena, California at the time, and my parents took me to a park to celebrate. The one picture that survives that day is of me on a picnic blanket with some cake and my mom. At least, that is what I remember of the picture. I always thought that was such a great thing to do for a one year old's birthday. Low key, very personalized, and focused on family. Hippie cool.

The second birthday memory that stands out is one when I was in elementary school in Dhaka. I had a Hollie Hobbie themed birthday, and I remember that we had Hollie Hobbie sugar cookies that each guest got to decorate. Knowing what I know now about how hard it is to find certain baking stuff while living overseas, I have NO IDEA how my mom found Hollie Hobbie cookie cutters and made sugar cookies in Bangladesh in the early eighties. No idea. Little miracles aside, that stands out as a good, fun birthday memory for me.

So as I was contemplating the doll quilt design for the swap, I thought it would be fun to do something that incorporated an actual doll. And then I remembered the Hollie Hobbie birthday party, and that led me to Sunbonnet Sue, the original Hollie Hobbie. Sunbonnet Sue images were pretty popular quilt block designs around the turn of the last century.

The fabrics that I had selected from the stash also lent themselves to a folksy-type design. At the end of the day, I decided to make the applique design as a picture portrait of a little doll on a day out. A doll within a doll quilt, if you will.

The Sue pattern came from this site of dedicated Sunbonnet Sue applique patterns. I used Mimi's dryer sheet trick for the applique, and I used free motion quilting to trace around the two main design groups: the girl and the balloons. You cannot see it in the picture, but I also quilted some rolling hills and a sun in the upper left corner. The edges of the picture are framed in buttonhole stitch (aka mattress stitch), and the balloon strings are embroidered chain stitch.

The binding and some of the applique pieces are made from a very precious piece of Liberty fabric that one of my good friends brought back from London for me years ago (hey Liz). I love this fabric so much that I have been afraid to cut into it, but I made myself do it for this project. Now that it is "broken into," maybe I will feel more comfortable using bigger pieces now, maybe even make Gioia a dress or two.

I hope my swap buddy likes her quilt. It sure was fun to make.


Thursday, May 29, 2008


For MissG's birthday party, we needed a game to entertain the littlest guests and some favors for them to take home. We gathered some scrap fabric from the stash and lentils from the cupboard and made bean bag frogs. Chris found the pattern on the web - something similar to this one. The game was simple - toss the froggies into the hole in the lily pond. Harder than it looks, though.

It was a fun idea. Even the adults got into the game. Some of the froggies had to have surgery before the end of the party because they were thrown with extreme vigor and enthusiasm.

At the end of the party, each little guest took home their own bean bag frog. Game and favors in one, all by using materials we had on hand. Very good.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Birthday Welcome

Welcome to my party!

I turn one this week, and everyone is invited to celebrate with me. Come on in. Have a cupcake (or two).

Door hanging made from nursery fabric scraps (yes, I still have some), fabric stamps, and sitchettes made long ago from a WeeWonderfuls pattern.

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Completing the Gift: Mattress

Gioia's birthday gift is nearly done. I made a mattress and little bitty pillow. The mattress is anchored in four points to simulate the indentations of a real one. It would have been cuter to use covered buttons in each of the four points. Perhaps I can add those later when choking is no longer a risk.

The pillow is cute too, but a little too small. Maybe I can make another, bigger one. Maybe not.

So much to do still this month. I have to:

-Make invitations for G's party (this weekend)
-Start on the doll quilt for the swap (this weekend)
-Find a cupcake pan (this weekend)
-Make dolly outfit, perhaps knit a little sweater (on my flight to/from Shanghai next week)
-Finish the swap quilt (next weekend)
-Make trial cupcakes for party (next weekend)
-Prepare for the party: shop, cook, decorate (whenever possible)

If I have extra time, maybe I can also make some party decorations, perhaps some bunting....Hmmmm. Better get started.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Quilt One

The first doll quilt is finished. I am actually pretty happy with the final product. I used my new walking foot to machine quilt around each little rectangle in the Chinese coins pattern. For the binding, I loosely followed Heather Bailey's tutorial. I say loosely because I was all like - oh yeah, I totally get the mitered corner dealios. When I did not get it. At all. So, on the next quilt - the REAL swap quilt - I will pay more attention.

But despite the crazy corners, the binding looks nice overall. I sewed it up quickly the first time and it looked like crap. Then I spent 20 minutes on the internet saying dear Google, show me a better way! Two times is a charm, apparently.

So the birthday quilt is done and draped over the assembled IKEA dolly bed that Chris brought back from Atlanta. Yes, I am desperate enough to import doll accessories for my daughter's birthday. We even have an IKEA in Taipei, but they don't sell doll beds. How stupid is that?

I want to make a little mattress and pillow this week to complete the bedding. Then on to other projects.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008


Now why is it that I haven't quilted in 14 years? Oh yes! Because I suck at it.

Quilting requires a tremendous amount of patience. Those tiny little seams have to be exactly right, or they do not line up. And the result is poor patchwork. The truth is that I am not really a patient sewer. No.

As I mentioned before, I am working on two doll quilts: one for a swap and one for Miss G's birthday. This is the top of the birthday doll quilt. It uses scraps of fabric* from her nursery stash.

I figured I would try a Chinese Coins pattern, which happens to be the April/May feature on Flickr's Doll Quilt Challenge group. Two birds - one stone. Hey! Problems abound, however. I tried to make my strips random, but wound up having some fabric strips look like they continue across the width. A little off of straight, though, not quite right. So instead of a nice and random look, it appears like I planned for the blocks to be straight, but missed. If I blur my eyes and look at it from a distance it looks OK. Probably Miss G will not notice. Not this year anyway. Heh.

Have no fear Doll Quilt Swap peeps. The design for that one is more of an applique design, so you are safe from my wonky patching. Just think of this one as a warm up for the real thing.

*Good gracious - when will this fabric run out!? I loved it in the beginning, but after one more project I will probably be done with Heather Ross forever.


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pile o' scraps

I have been in a creative rut lately. I am missing my normal urge to get off the couch and make something. I contemplate, yes. But the actual "doing" is a problem.

I have, however, birthday gifts for my baby to plan. After seeing all of these fabulous doll quilts, I decided to try my luck with a pile o' scraps.

To make sure I follow through with actually making something, I signed up for a doll quilt swap. By the end of May, I need to make two bitty quilts: one to mail out to my swap partner and one to give to a little girl who is getting bigger everyday.

Speaking of whom, I know that some of you care not one whit for my crafting plans. You only come here for kiddo pics. OK, fine. You twisted my arm.

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Friday, April 11, 2008


Some friends of ours are expecting their first child this summer. Chris is headed back to Atlanta next week (to pick up Frankie - YAY!), so I needed to get on the ball with a baby gift for him to take back. I thought to myself - knowing what I know now, what handmade thing has proven most useful?

Of course, the answer is: bibs and dry wipes. Things we use all the time. Things I wish we had more of so we could do less laundry. Things that keep our messy baby respectable - just barely.

First up, two bibs from the Chickpea pattern, which is available here. I was able to use up the last of my Funky Monkey flannel fabric on these projects. The Hollywood Squares monkeys just KILL me.

Way back BG, I made some cloth wipes for our own use. The idea was to be green and use them as wet wipes. But that was just stupid. Commercial wet wipes are some of the best things ever invented. It turned out, though, that the dry cloth wipes are really handy to have around. Some are in my purse, some are in the diaper bag for meals out, lots are in the high chair basket for messes and spills, and even more are tucked away in the changing table.

So in addition to the bibs, I also made a set of dry wipes for our friends' little kiddo on-the-way. Instead of using the serger for the edges, I did a more traditional turn and top-stitch approach. Here they are next to anther Muji doll, who completes the gift. I like the elephant even better than the bunny Gioia got for Easter, but sadly he has to go on to his new home.


Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Vintage Sundress (finished)

Remember this dress? I finally finished the bloomers (measure kiddo, snip elastic, push through casings, sew crotch). You cannot see the panties in this picture, but believe me, they are cuuuuuute.

I think I need to make some more of these outfits, perhaps in a lighter weight fabric. The Amy Butler fabric is fabulously orangey, but is also a bit stiff. Taipei was dang hot today. I cannot imagine what August will feel like to my already sweaty kiddo here.


Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter in Taipei

This was our first holiday as a family. It was such a lovely day. Gioia had a great time digging through her Easter basket. When you can't give someone candy, putting an Easter basket together is quite challenging. Two items were really for when she is bigger: a jade cross and a bunny charm. We had to watch her like a hawk when she opened those. We we sure she would put the jade bunny straight into her mouth and choke and die. The tiny bunny was a hit, actually. Chris had to wrestle it away from her in the end.

I really liked the recycled fabric bunny from Muji, but she really wasn't that into it. Perhaps she liked the one her Grandma sent better. And see the basket - which isn't really an "Easter basket"? Yeah, that's what happens when you remember at 11:30 the night before that you actually need something to hold all of the goodies. But, really, who needs a long handled basket cluttering up the apartment?

After the basket was opened and breakfast eaten, we headed off to mass with our friends. But we decided to take the subway instead of a cab, and...well...we got a bit lost. Did you know there are at least TWO 51 Zhongshan North Road places in Taipei? Yeah. We made it, though, just in time to light some candles and sing some songs. An usher gave Gioia a real hard boiled egg, which kept her busy and quiet for at least 20 minutes. After church we had fajitas and margaritas. It was excellent. Perhaps Mexican food can be a new Easter brunch tradition?

Sooooo let me tell you about Gioia's dress. I finished it last night at 11:44. Yes, nothing like last minute sewing. The truth is that I started it late. We just got back to Taiwan a month ago, and the materials I ordered took a couple of weeks to arrive from Australia. And wasn't Easter so crazy early this year!? As a result of all of that, I only started the dress a week and a half ago. I told myself that if I didn't finish for Easter, then it could be her birthday dress. But I finished, and it was really cute today.

I used Cherry Williams' Baby Bishops pattern as the base for the dress. The smocking plate and scalloped edge technique came from an article in an old Sew Beautiful magazine.* I made some silly mistakes,** but it came together quite nicely in the end. Here is a closeup of the embroidered chickies with french knot eyes. Precious.

More Easter pictures are here.

*I think this was the Spring 2007 issue. Hard to say, though, because I have been subscribing for so long that I have to sort through every magazine and save the articles I like in binders. The issue date is not printed on each page, so the articles and patterns can get mixed up in my files. The article was called "Chicken Scratch," and the designer was Linda Richards. Oh wait, good old google tells me it was issue #111 after all.

**Like forgetting that it is important to remove the smocking gathering threads AFTER finishing the neck binding, not before. Yargh.

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Zakka Love

I found a cute little Japanese zakka store by my house this weekend. Sadly, it did not have too many tools to be used in making zakka. It was mostly stocked with handmade items imported from Japan's crafting community. After digging through the store, however, I found this cool rubber stamp alphabet set and a fabric ink pad.

I broke out the stamps right away, and quickly whipped up a door pillow out of nursery fabric scraps. You know, as a reminder...just in case we forget when Gioia is sleeping.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Patchwork Cube Updates

Lately, I have been getting such lovely emails with pictures of patchwork cubes made from my tutorial. The picture above was sent by 54mama. I have been meaning to set up a flickr group for all of these creations, and today I finally managed to get it together. If you make a cube, feel free to post a picture here for all to admire.

More importantly, Anabeth sent me an email with the information that this cube is representative of a Menger Sponge. How wonderfully geeky! Here is Anabeth's cube.

Thanks for sharing everyone. You make my inbox so happy. Just like the frogs in Karri's cube.

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Sunday, January 13, 2008

Big Footed Bunny

On the way to mail the care package last week, Chris stopped off for his Mandarin lesson. They used the items in the box as tools for the lesson and discussion, and apparently his teacher was astounded that I had made the little kitty, not just purchased it from a store. They had quite a lively discussion in class about making things, and Chris was able to teach her a thing or two, like how hats are best knit on circular needles (crazy, she thought).

At the end of the day, she asked if we could make her a doll too. So Chris and I pulled out the book of patterns and the stash fabric this weekend, and we made Mr. Bunny here. Just like the kitty, he is made from a weewonderfuls pattern: the "Big Footed Bunny." His body is brown cotton velveteen and white flannel. The pants are made from one of Heather Ross' cotton prints and a few scraps of grosgrain ribbon. And his eyes - we like his eyes the best. We couldn't find a store selling buttons, so we opted for some jade beads that we found at the market down the street.

For the record, Chris did most of the work on this little guy. I did all of the machine work, but he did almost all else.

Snuggly little bunny. Hope you have fun with your new momma.


Monday, December 3, 2007

Ornament Swap

One of my flickr groups organized an ornament swap for the holiday. I made six tree faeries for the swap based on this great tutorial . For this little project, I was able to use supplies from my doll-making stash, including some lovely hand-dyed wool felt from Australia. All six were mailed out to the recipients today.

Unfortunately, I did not make an extra ornament for myself. Maybe one of these days I will make another. Hah. Probably not. But in exchange for these girls, I will get six different ornaments back from my lovely swap group. So excited.

Before they left, we got to enjoy all six hanging on our own tree for a bit. A win-win for all.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Cover that up!

No, this isn't a dirty post. Well, not in the way you think. When we packed up our stuff in Beijing, I finally noticed how very ratty our ironing board looked. It was so dirty and torn that the ayi had been ironing on top of a towel for months. Oops. So, now that we are in Taipei and without an ayi (doing our own ironing - yikes!), I had to do something about that cover.

The fabric is a piece that I bought in a remnant pile at a great fabric store in Chicago. It was ridiculously cheap, and I loved it so. Still do, in fact, and I have loads left.

I still haven't quite gotten the hang of making these covers yet, but this one is functional and not at all ratty - all good things.


Sunday, September 16, 2007

G is for Gioia

I woke up this morning feeling like I just "had" to make a pillow for Miss G's nursery. We are moving soon, you see, so I have to rearrange the nursery plan in my mind. The new one has a big white chair in it (in my brain), and that chair needs a pillow.

Since I have been on this applique kick lately, I decided to try making a pillow with a big ol' G in the center. I am quite tickled that it worked.

The binding did not go on quite as nicely as I had hoped, and the center G needed some interfacing to keep the pink flowers from showing through. Enh. Lessons for next time. Still happy with it, regardless.

Everybody is pleased.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Gifties - Bibs and Matching Onesies

It seems that everyone I know is having a baby these days. And all are boys! Our friends Liz and Adrian's second son arrived on Friday (early). Welcome Cael. We cannot wait to meet you.

After many weeks away from my sewing machine, I was able to dive back in this Sunday and make some baby gifties. My friend Amy made some super cute T-shirts with patches this summer. I followed her lead with some pre-purchased onesies found at Zara in Hong Kong. On sale (hee hee).

To add the patch, all you have to do is cut out the fabric square and then use double-sided, iron-on adhesive to anchor the patch on the onesie. Then use a zig zag stitch to outline the edges and ensure it stays down. You can use a matching thread or a decorative color. Simple and cute. This takes ten minutes, tops.

I also wanted to make the bib in Amy Karol's Bend the Rules Sewing book. But when I opened the book Sunday afternoon, I discovered that the pattern had to be enlarged on a copy machine. Who has a copy machine at home for impulse sewing? Instead I typed in "bib patterns" into good ol' google, and found a simple pattern. I added seam allowances to the pattern I chose so that I could sew, turn and topstitch instead of using binding.

I made four sets, each with a bib and a matching onesie. They turned out pretty cute, especially for an afternoon of TV watching and leisurely sewing. Two sets were made with flannel fabric from the 5 Funky Monkeys collection. I love the faces on the front pannel. It makes me imagine a Hollywood Squares for Monkeys. You cannot see it, but the back of the bib uses a red flannel splayed with yellow bananas. Precious.

The other two sets used some Heather Ross fabric (goldfish in bags) for the front and plain white flannel for the back. I love the Heather Ross fabric. It is incredibly soft and the fish are hilarous. Each one has a name, like Goldie or Swimmy.

Not bad for a Sunday afternoon.


Thursday, August 9, 2007


A few weeks ago, I discovered that there are tons of vintage children's sewing patterns on eBay. Yes, I know. Where have I been? Well, once I figured it out, I went a little crazy and bought a bunch.

I bought some single patterns and one large lot of several unknown patterns. When I sorted through the lot, I realized that I had one pattern which was nearly identical to another one purchased singly. They were different sizes, thank goodness, but the basic pattern was pretty much unchanged in the two versions.

I made one outfit from each pattern on Sunday. Both came with a pattern for bloomers that have elastic at the legs and waistband. The pattern(s) says to measure the child's waist and leg circumference and then add 2 inches to get the appropriate length of elastic. Since I have no child to measure yet, the final bloomer steps will have to be done later. This is a difficult thing. You want to do lots and lots of stuff to prepare for the coming of the kiddo, but certain things just cannot be done ahead of time.

The picture at the top of this post is of a size 1 outfit made from the Simplicity 5052 pattern, which was published in 1972. The bloomers will be much poofier and gathered once the elastic is inserted. For now, however, we must all just use our imagination to see the cute bubble bottom that will be. Look at the fabulous cross-over straps in the back.

This size 2 outfit was made from Simplicity 8537, which was published in 1978. Basically the same pattern, but with an optional scalloped hem.

I guess those peeps at Simplicity knew how to "leverage" well.


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Sweetest Little Dress

This weekend I put together the "Sweetest Little Dress" pattern by Jackie Clark. I am not sure where I bought the pattern, but I was attracted by the simplicity of the design. The pattern came with embroidery instructions for the bodice and the skirt. I really wanted to use my Liberty stash fabric, though, which was busy enough without embroidery.

Sadly, the dress was uninspiring, and I do not recommend the pattern. Easy to make, yes, but I think the fabric is the only thing that rescues it from looking like a sack. Also, it has a very weird shoulder button closure that I didn't quite like. I prefer a traditional back closure. To be fair, I was able to pull out my new covered button press, which was fun.

Sizing was odd too, as it "fits up to 24 lbs." I can handle European sizes and US baby pattern sizes now, but this one is confusing. Once finished, the dress seems to be either a 12-18 or 18-24 month size. Its sack-like nature could make the sizing deceiving, however.

All in all, this dress was a bit disappointing.


Saturday, June 23, 2007

Patchwork Cube!

The fabulous J sent me an email with a picture of the patchwork cube she made with my tutorial. It is precious, so I asked her if I could share it here.

Don't you love the colors? And that is a very cute baby lurking in the corner.

J - Thanks for sharing. You made my day!


Friday, June 8, 2007

Rag Doll Tutorial


Body fabric* - 0.5 yard
Embroidery floss for face – black and red
Needle and thread
Yarn for hair

* For the example doll shown here, I used plain muslin which was dyed overnight in coffee.


1) Cut out all doll pattern pieces from body fabric.

2) Sew two arms and two legs together with right sides facing using 0.25 inch seam allowances.

Clip curves, trim, turn and press.

Stuff arms and legs lightly

and place aside.

3) Sew doll torso piece to head two times, right sides together. Press seam down toward torso.

4) Baste arms and legs to the right side of one of the new body pieces. These pieces should be sewn facing inward. When the doll is turned and stuffed, the arms and legs will stick out from the body.

5) Once the arms and legs are basted into position, place the second body piece on the first, right sides facing. The arms will be enclosed within the two body pieces, but the legs should hang out of the bottom. Sew around the body from the lower left corner (next to the left leg) to the lower right corner (next to the right leg).

6) Clip curves, trim and turn. Stuff body.

7) Sew doll bottom closed either by hand or by machine.

8) Use embroidery thread to make eyes and mouth.

9) Add yarn for hair.

Remember, rag dolls are not supposed to be perfect. They are better if they are a little wonky. Made with love.

That's all for this tutorial. I think I'll do a separate post on hair one of these days.

If you make a baby, please show me! I would be so excited to see her or him.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Doll Dress Tutorial

Let's start with a little tutorial for the dress that is included in the Rag Doll Pattern.


Dress fabric* - 0.25 yard
Needle and thread
Snaps or buttons

*Note that quilting cottons, linen or other light fabrics will be easiest. Heavier fabrics, like denim or corduroy will likely be difficult (or impossible) to turn at the shoulders.


1) Cut out bodice pattern pieces from dress fabric.

2) Cut out an additional piece of fabric measuring 8 by 30 inches.

3) Sew bodice front to back at shoulders.

Press seams flat. You will have two bodice pieces. One piece will be the outer top and the other will be the lining.

4) Placing right sides of the two bodice pieces together, sew around neckline and down the two bodice back edges. I am using a contrasting color thread for illustration.

5) Sew left and right armholes.

6) Clip curves and corners, turn and press. When you turn, you are primarily pulling the bodice structure inside out, which involves pulling a lot of fabric through the narrow shoulder opening. You may want to use some tweezers to gently nudge it through. Again, using a lighter, thinner fabric helps this process.

7) Sew sides together. This is the last step to complete the bodice top. If you have never done this before, then take a moment to look at the remaining edges before you start sewing. You will basically start with the two ends of an armhole (sewn in step
5). Open up both sides, with the seam in the middle, and then bring them together - right sides facing - and sew straight across. Turn and press.

8) Prepare skirt. Fold and press 0.5 inches on one long side of the rectangular piece of fabric. Fold and press the same amount again. Topstitch over fold.

9) Sew the two short sides of the rectangle together, right sides facing, from the hemmed edge (step 8) to approximately 2.5 inches from the top edge (the un-hemmed long side). Press seam open and continue pressing up through the 2.5 inches of the unsewn area. If you like, you can cut a bias strip and sew it to the skirt opening. If you have never done this before or are feeling lazy, you can instead top stitch down over both sides of the skirt opening folds.

10) Run long gathering stitches along the unfinished (top) side of the rectangle. Typically, two gathering lines are run in case the first one breaks while adjusting. Run one 0.5 inches from the side and the second 1 inch from the side. If you have lots of experience, you can get away with one line. Pull gathering threads.

11) Align the bottom of the outer bodice to the gathered skirt, right sides facing. Pin, baste and then sew. This pattern is drafted with a large allowance on the bodice for attaching the skirt. Your final seam should be stitched 1.5 inches from the edge. If you prefer a narrower edge, just trim 1 inch from the bottom of the bodice and the top of the skirt and then use a 0.5 inch seam allowance. Once your skirt is attached, go back and trim the excess fabric.

12) Attach lining to skirt seam by hand. Topstitch if desired.

13) Finish the back of the dress with buttons, snaps or Velcro.

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Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Rag Doll Pattern

This spring, I taught a doll making workshop here in Beijing. At the time, I couldn't find a free pattern to use that was really built for beginners. So, I developed my own. If you are looking for a basic rag doll pattern, feel free to download and use mine. Over the next week, I will put up two tutorials based on this pattern: one for the doll body and one for the dress. All of the instructions are in the pattern, though, so get started right away if you like.

This is Tiddlywinks. My husband made her in the workshop from the pattern. I think she is fabulous, especially with her luscious green hair.

The basic rag doll pattern also comes with a drop-waisted sundress pattern, as modeled by Miss Tiddly below.

When she is not modeling, however, Miss Tiddly likes to change into her overalls and relax.

Sometimes I wonder about Miss Tiddly, though. She keeps trying to snuggle up to my husband. Not sure if I trust her completely.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Patchwork Cube Tutorial

I was wandering in a shop in XinTianDi one day and saw the cutest stuffed patchwork cube. Wow, I thought, what an ingenious idea. I thought Wow! again when I looked at the RMB400 price tag (about US$50). For some perspective, our ayi in Shanghai made RMB1,000 a month, so there was no way I was going to buy this little cube for such an outrageous sum. I traipsed off home to recreate the design, and it actually worked.

Here is a tutorial for the patchwork cube, in case any of you guys would like to try one as well. This project gets a little tricky at the end, but it will come together with a little faith and patience. Basic sewing skills are a must. If you are struggling with the sewing machine in general, then this project may be frustrating. Have heart, though!

Materials needed
Sewing machine
A little less than 1/4 yard each of three types of fabrics (hereafter referred to as fabric A,B,C) NOTE: This yardage estimate is for three inch squares.
Coordinating thread
Hand sewing needle
Iron and ironing board
Sharp scissors
Stuffing (e.g., washable poly-fill)

Step 1: Preparation

Begin by cutting out 24 squares each of fabric A,B and C for a total of 72 squares. You can make your squares any size you like; the bigger the squares, the larger the cube. I used three inch squares and a 1/4 inch seam allowance for the cube displayed above. You can go smaller, but keep in mind you will be doing a lot of turning and seaming from within at the end, so really small squares may be hard. Start big and move to smaller squares as you get comfortable with the technique.

Divide your squares into two groups: one group with 16 squares of A,B,C (total of 48 squares) and a second group with 8 squares of A,B,C (total 24 of squares). Set the second group aside. Further subdivide the first group into six sets of eight squares, with two types of fabric in each set. You will use these blocks to create the foundation blocks, the six outer sides of the cube, so fabric layout becomes important. Here is a sample guide, which I used for my cube. This picture assumes you will make two of each type block for a total of six blocks.

Of course, you can do whatever you like. I did not want any two squares of the same fabric touching on the outside of the cube, and this is the simplest layout that will achieve that goal.

Step 2: Foundation Blocks

Start piecing each of the sets (six of them) together. These are your foundation blocks. Foundation blocks have an empty center and three blocks on each side.

Sew your squares together into foundation blocks, right sides facing. I used 1/4 inch seam allowances, but do whatever makes you comfortable. All things equal, the larger the seam allowance, the smaller the end square.

TIP: Backtack at the beginning and end of each seam segment. This will become crucial as your seams begin to interlock. I also find it helpful to cut of the hanging threads as I go, else they get in the way really fast.

Here is a picture of the underside of a finished foundation block. Seams are pressed open (or to one side as you prefer).

Here are all six finished blocks. In this picture, the blocks are arranged in their finished cube order.

Step 3: Inner Boxes

Now turn to your second group of squares, the 24 that were reserved at the end of Step 1. Further subdivide them into six sets of four, with two types of fabric in each set (e.g., two each of A,B,A,B and B,C,B,C and C,A,C,A). Sew each set of four squares into a box, open on the top and bottom, like this.

These are your inner boxes, which you will next attach one to each of the foundation blocks created in Step 2 above.

Step 4: Attaching the Inner Boxes

The goal of this step is to get all six of the inner boxes attached to the inside area of the foundation blocks. You will wind up with the inner box sticking up out of the center of the foundation block, creating a perpendicular structure.

Start by placing one right side of an inner block to the inside of one inner part of a foundation block. Sew that seam, backtacking at both ends. Turn the work and reposition the adjacent box edge to the next inner foundation block edge. At this stage it becomes important to be aware of your seam allowances as you begin and end each of the inner seams. Leave some space at the start and finish approximately equal to your seam allowance. This will become more intuitive as you start working on it, though.

Here is a shot of the underside of the finished perpendicular structure.

And here are all six blocks, ready for Step 5.

Step 5: Assembling the Sides

Now for the fun part - assembling the cube. Lay out your six blocks in the correct order. Then take the top and bottom pieces and put them aside.

Assemble the four middle pieces into a box by seaming four long lines, one on each edge, right sides facing. After this step, the box looks like this.

Now retrieve the top and bottom pieces and sew them onto the two open ends of the cube. Leave a wide opening on one side of either the top or bottom (which is which anyway?) so that you can turn the cube inside out, finish the inside seaming and then stuff.

This opening should be pretty wide because you will be pulling fabric through to seam it in Step 6 below. I like to leave most of one whole side open for this purpose, sewing only around the corners and a little way in on each side for neatness. Here is what your cube looks like once the top and bottom have been added (still inside out).

Turn your cube right side out. Each side will have the inner box sticking straight out. It looks like this.

Now push each of the six inner boxes inside the cube. Like this.

At this stage, it would be really helpful for you to pick up the structure and feel around inside to get a sense for how the remaining seams need to come together to make the cube. Got the picture in your head? Alright, now let's proceed to Step 6.

Step 6: Inside Seaming

First, put your work down and go pour yourself a glass of wine. It works for me anyway.

Relax and have faith that this step is easier than it appears at first glance. Reach inside the cube and grasp two squares that should be seamed together. How do you know if the squares should be seamed together? Well, this is where having a good visual image of the finished structure is really helpful. If you reach in from the top and from the left, for example, the top square of the inner box on the left (which faces into the cube from the left) will join with the left square of the top box (which faces down into the cube). Put your hands into the cube and you will see that these two squares line up naturally.

Take a look at the fabric patterns of the two squares in your hand to make sure you end up seaming the correct two squares. Grab onto the two squares tightly and pull them out though the turning opening. You may have to drag them through some tunnels of fabric to get them into the open for sewing. The cube will be half inside out, half right side out. Then sew the squares together, right sides facing and backtacking at both ends.

Restore the newly seamed squares back to their rightful place inside the cube and check to make sure you did it correctly. If all is well, then proceed to the next two squares. If you somehow seamed the wrong two squares together and the structure is now all wonky - no worries! Just get out your seam ripper and start again.

Seam all inner squares in this way until the cube is whole with no inside gaps. You are now ready to stuff!

Step 7: Stuffing

For most of my dolls, I prefer using wool stuffing because it adds a really nice weight and feel. However, the cube is probably going to be used most by someone who drools a lot, so it is probably better off full of machine washable polyfill.

I like to stuff my cubes firmly as it gives a nice sturdiness and definition to the structure. Once the object is stuffed, use a whipstitch or similar stitch to close the turning opening.

That's all there is to it. Please be sure to let me know if you make a cube using this tutorial. I would be tickled to see it. Also give me a shout if you run into problems, and I'll try to troubleshoot. Have fun!

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Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sleep Sack

The more I read about babies, the more I realize I have some pretty serious misconceptions. Take sleeping, for example. Apparently babies should be laid down with nothing in the crib - no blankets, no toys, no pillows. If the baby can turn over, then no bumper pads either. All of these things can smother a child during the night, so out of the crib they go. Consumer Reports has pretty much put the kabosh on all of my visions of cute bumpers and quilts.

Enter the sleep sack, which Europeans have been using for years. This is basically a bag that the child wears to keep warm while sleeping. This version was made from an Ottobre pattern - #7 from Issue 5/2006. I used microfleece for the body and interlock knit for the binding.

The applique was made from a scrap of flannel fabric. Funky Monkey indeed.

Now let me say that this was my first experience attaching knit binding with a twin stretch needle. This is hard, people, hard! If you look too closely, you will see that I am definitely learning. I even broke the needle at the very end, so no more twin sewing until I order a replacement from the States. Note to self - buy multiples.

I learned the following in this exercise.

1) Go slowly with the twin needle. On curves, sharp ones especially, turn the wheel by hand.
2) Set the stitch length long and keep the tension loose.
3) Stretch the binding as you sew, more than you think necessary. Else the binding will be loose and ruffly around the curves.
4) Check to see that the binding is feeding properly as you go, or some unsightly seams may peek through on the back side.
5) Go slowly. For reals.

While this particular sleep sack is certainly not gift worthy, it is not a bad first stretch binding project. One of the things I like so much about sewing, and knitting for that matter, is that I am challenged with new skills and techniques all the time. I love that I am constantly learning, constantly getting better. A nice way to contextualize mediocre work, wouldn't you say?


Sunday, January 21, 2007

Getting My Craft On

A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a lovely blog written by a lady named Michele. She and a friend are hosting a monthly craft-a-long, and I decided to jump in. The theme this month is "bag," and I interpreted that a little loosely. My item is more of a fabric container than a true "bag." But really, I desperately needed something to organize my straight knitting needles, so a new needle roll was calling my name.

I used a pattern published by Favorite Things, and it came together easily. The fabric is from Amy Butler's collection. The orange in this makes me feel good. I used to claim that my favorite colors were shades of blue, but I think I have been deluding myself. Bright orange gets me, every time.

To Michele and Amy, thanks for letting me tag along this month.