Thursday, April 30, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Convertible Mitten Cuff Tutorial (Caveat emptor!)

If you've been following my blog for any amount of time, you probably know that I consider myself a learner and thoroughly unqualified to write tutorials. You probably don't know that I studied Latin in high school. It's true. So, when I say "Caveat emptor!" which is how the Romans said "buyer beware!", what I mean is that I'm really happy with how my little convertible mitten cuffs came out on Taco's new pj's and happy to share, but you should use this method at your own peril. I am not an expert and I'm a sleep starved new parent; there may be a better way and my method may sound like I'm speaking a dead language...

Disclaimer over. Here we go...

SHB Mitten Cuff Tutorial (shudder)

The neat thing about this little cuff is that you don't have to convert the single-piece sleeve into a two-piece sleeve. Instead, we are going to add a dart that will encase one side of the mitten. The other side will be encased in the seam allowance.

First, trace your long sleeve pattern piece, adding a little length (1" or so) so that it is long enough to cover baby's cute little hand. We're going to alter this piece in a minute, so don't cut it out yet.

My pattern pieces

Next, figure out how big you want your cuff/mitten to be.  I wanted mine to be about 2 1/2" tall (unhemmed) and half the width of the sleeve plus seam allowance that would be encased in the dart. I figured this out by measuring the cuffs of the RTW gowns that Taco is currently wearing.

Now let's think about the dart we are going to create.  I decided that a dart that was 1 1/2" wide at the base and 3 1/2" tall (1" taller than the cuff) would nicely enclose the cuff's raw edge. So, I drew that dart into the middle of the sleeve. 

What the altered sleeve should look like
Since I didn't want to make the sleeve any narrower than it was meant to be, I then added 3/4" (half the dart width) to each seam allowance, tapering it to nothing at 3 1/2", replacing the fabric that would be taken up by the dart. See the above picture if that makes no sense. 

Next, create the mitten/cuff pattern piece. This is easy: it's just a rectangle.  Make your mitten piece half the width of the altered sleeve at the hem x twice the length that you want the cuff to be.  I made mine 3.75" wide x 5" tall.  You will be folding this piece in half.

Ok. Your pattern is complete. Go cut your fabric, mark the darts, and get ready to sew! 

First, fold your cuff in half along the fold line with the wrong sides together and press it. 

Next, line it up on your sleeve, like so:

The cuff should be placed with one raw edge lined up with the seam allowance and the opposite one bisecting the dart. You want the cuff to be on the front of the sleeve. Baste if you wish, so the cuff doesn't move around.

Now, sew your dart, making sure to catch the raw edges of the folded cuff piece inside the dart.

Sew that dart!

Give the dart a good press. I pressed the dart away from the cuff piece so there would be less bulk. The right side of your sleeve should look like this...

Yours will probably be better pressed than mine!

See the dart in the center of the sleeve? It fully encases the raw edge of the cuff piece and extends about an inch longer than it.

That's all the extra work you need to do. Just sew the sleeve into the gown, or whatever cute baby item you are sewing, catching the remaining raw edge of the cuff in the seam of the sleeve.

Finished gown with mitten cuff!

You can finish the sleeve hem however you like - with a twin needle, simply turned and stitched or with bias. I made mine match the neck finish.

Flipped over mitten for those little fingers

Voila! You are a convertible cuff genius!

So we are down to the end of the SHB Sew-Along!  If you've sewn something for the baby or parent in your life, be sure to leave a comment here or on Cindy's or Mikhaela's blogs. You can post photos of your makes on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #SHBsewalong, or post to our Flickr group. We've got some great prizes for some of our sew-alongers!

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Fuschia Ring Sling (SHB Sew Along!)

I am thrilled - THRILLED - with my new ring sling!

Taco seems to be liking it, too.

I've worn Taco in a different style of carrier before now, but he seems much happier, or at least willing, to be carried around in the ring sling for longer stretches and doesn't get fussy the second I stop moving.

Sewing a sling is a quick and easy project. It took less than an hour start to finish. I used the tutorial on the Maya Wrap website. They have both written instructions and a video tutorial. One thing I liked is that they also have detailed information about choosing your fabric and your rings - for comfort and for safety.

One of the great things about the SHB Sew-Along from my point of view is all the information sharing. As the veteran mom of the group, Mikhaela was the voice of experience when it came to baby wearing.

We decided to split a Mahogany brand cotton jacquard table cloth to make our matching ring slings (here's hers!)  This brand has a bit of a cult following among DIY baby wearers because it is the perfect weight, comes in great colors, and makes for a comfy and sturdy sling.  

Mikhaela used the tutorial on Sleeping Baby and also had great results.

Since I'm new to baby wearing, I've watched several videos, including the ones on the Maya Wrap website (here) about safe baby wearing. You can see that I have Taco in the "hip carry" position in these photos. He's a little young for it, but because he is already sitting on his own very well (says his proud mama), it's appropriate. Anyway, if you are going to use a ring sling, please do your homework so that your baby is as safe as can be in your sling!

I've been enjoying toting Taco around on my hip. I've actually been able to get more things done with him as my sidekick rather than trying to manage him and whatever I'm trying to do. Plus, babywearing is good for babies' development.

Anyway, this is my second SHB Sew-Along project. I may fit one more in, depending on how naps go this week. I hope you will post your photos to our flickr group and other social media!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Dream of the Orange Elephants (SHB Sew-Along)

My first little project for the SHB Sew-Along is a sleep gown for Taco. I really loved dressing Taco in sleep gowns as a newborn. The gown bottom makes nighttime changing easy and the convertible mitten cuffs protected Taco from scratching his face in his sleep. When he outgrew the newborn size, I was surprised to find very few in the next size (3mos), which he wears now, and none in the 6mos size.

I loved these Carter's sleep gowns for Taco when he was newborn

The only solution will be to sew them myself. However, I couldn't find any gown patterns in larger than newborn sizes (there's a free newborn one on our SHB Sew-Along Pinterest board). So I ended up using Butterick 5585 view E and altering the bottom to make it a gown instead of little pants. 

View E is the bottom right romper thingy.

This was a really simple alteration.  I traced the front and back pattern pieces, which were designed to be cut on the fold, and then I drew from the bottom of the pant leg to the center fold to make the bottom half a gown instead of pants.  I also added an inch or two of length since I want the gown to cover Taco's little toes.

Front and back pieces.

I also altered the sleeves so that they would have convertible mitten cuffs. But I'll cover that in another post.

Once my pieces were altered and fabric cut, the gown was a cinch to sew. I used strips of bright orange jersey to finish the neck and chose to have it show rather than sew it to the inside, as instructed.  For the bottom hem, I sewed a channel for some 3/8" elastic, which I cut to 14".


I used my serger for just about all of the construction. I hope that that isn't the decision that undoes this project; I think the seams are nice and soft, but baby skin is sensitive. So, it may have been smarter in the long run to take the time to finish the neck in the more time consuming bias tape way - sew one side, flip to inside and stitch again, encasing the seam allowance. We'll see.

The fabric is a cotton jersey print from Riley Blake that I bought at It's nice and soft.

Right now, this is a bit large on Taco, so I decided not to torture him by making him try it on for photos. I suspect that the pattern runs a bit large, but I can't really be sure. Taco is a long but skinny baby.  Overall, I'm happy with how it came out, but we'll see how it does when Taco grows into it.

Next posts: Convertible Mitten Cuffs and a Ring Sling for me!

Monday, April 13, 2015

SHB Sew-Along Inspiration: Sewing for Moms and Dads

I hope you checked out Mikhaela and Cindy's Small Human Being Inspiration posts. Since I'm an incredibly selfish sewist, it's fallen to me to do the inspiration post for sewing for the parents. Goody, goody! This is actually where most of my sewing efforts have gone for the last six months.

Babies outgrow things quickly, so if you want to sew things that you will use every day, best sew things for yourself is my motto. Here are a few ideas:

Diaper Bags (for yourself or a very very good friend)
If you have the time and energy for a big project, a diaper bag is a fantastic gift for yourself or the parent in your life (mom or dad).  I've actually sewn eight - yes, eight! - diaper bags over the years.

Seven of the eight I've sewn.

You can use a pattern that is specifically meant for a diaper bag , or just a pattern for a messenger or tote bag, like the one I used for Phin's diaper bag (Vogue 8990) and customize the pockets and extras. One of the great things about sewing a diaper bag is that you can really customize it for the recipient - the sky is the limit with fabric and hardware as long as they will withstand heavy use and be fairly easy to keep clean.

Diaper Clutch

If a bag is too much, how about sewing a fun and easy diaper clutch or a simple changing pad?

Phin's Diaper Bag and Changing Pad

There are plenty of free or low cost tutorials for diaper clutches, or you can just wing it, like I did.

For the Nursing Mom
Once baby arrives, most new moms have a big need for nursing-friendly clothing if they are breastfeeding. To do over, I would have spent more time sewing nursing friendly clothing before Taco's birth than I did.  I get a huge amount of use out of the two cardi-shrugs that I sewed in the last weeks of pregnancy.

Simplicity 2603

In addition, I've found that any lower cut top pattern can be appropriate for nursing when worn with a plain cami underneath. Knits have a more forgiving fit and, in general, are fairly easy to sew.

V1282 DKNY top; M6552 caftan

One project I want to tackle is a Watson Bra for sleep. I'm more comfortable with a light layer of support even at night. You can get nursing bra clips at Sew Sassy Fabrics, which you could also use to alter a regular bra for nursing. 

You'll notice that I haven't suggested a nursing cover. I've pinned several tutorials to our SHB Sew-Along Pinterest board. However, I believe that nursing is normal, natural and, quite frankly, a birthright. While I don't feel like I need to publicly expose myself to make a point, I also don't feel the need to hide under a tent, which ironically draws more attention to the act of breastfeeding. But that's just me; everyone is different. Anyway, if the nursing mom in your life doesn't know what her legal rights are with regard to public nursing, here is a website you can email to her.

For the Baby Wearers
Sometimes as a new mom you need your hands free and you need to hold your baby at the same time. Thank goodness there are so many options for wearing your baby, most of which you can sew yourself. The most comprehensive set of tutorials for making all sorts of carriers - ring slings, mei tais, wraps and more - is on Sleeping Baby. It's truly a treasure trove for the DIY parenting set! 

Maya Wrap (from the Maya Wrap website)

But there are also other tutorials out there, like the one Maya Wrap did, showing how to sew their ring sling (which retails for $80-$100). Both of these sources have ample guidance on choosing appropriate fabrics for safety and comfort. 

Mikhaela and I are going to be ring sling twinsies
I'm going to sew a ring sling for myself and have already received a request for one in a "manly" fabric for my brother-in-law. Oh, yeah, my younger sister is expecting her first baby in mid-August! So, Taco will have a cousin who is close in age. Hooray! Naturally, I will be sewing a diaper bag for her.

Anyway, at the end of 40 weeks, so much emphasis and so much shopping is for baby that it's nice to have something special for the parents every now and again. Plus mom and dad are less likely to outgrow whatever you sew than baby!

Reminder: If you are sewing along, post to our Flickr group and use our hashtag (#SHBsewalong) for other social media!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

So, You're Having a Gender Neutral Baby: Inspiration for theSHBSew-Along

Ha ha! Ok, so you've decided not to find out the gender of your baby-to-be or are sewing for a baby whose gender you don't know or you just want some alternatives to the steady diet of blue or pink that you may be in store for. Where to begin?

Phin and I decided not to find out Taco's gender. So, while I didn't do so much sewing for him, I did a lot of thinking about and shopping for gender neutral baby clothing. The nice thing about baby clothing is that, aside from dresses, baby boys and baby girls wear the same basic garments. In RTW gender is differentiated by colors (blue vs pink), motifs (trucks vs tiaras), messaging (little man vs little princess), and embellishment (lots of bows and ruffles for girls, none for boys.)

My real complaint with gender neutral RTW is that it's pretty plain and there's an overabundance of yellow, green and ducklings. There are loads of ducklings. By sewing, you can easily create fun and special garments appropriate for all babies.

McCall (M4236, M6223),  Butterick (B5583, B5584 and B5585) and Simplicity (S1330 and S2291) all have basic baby layette patterns that include various assortments of basics - onesies, kimono tops, rompers, pants, sleepwear, hats and bunting. Most are very easy to sew.

Butterick 5585
If you prefer, a quick search of the internet will lead to lots of free and indie baby patterns, like this baby gown from Stitched Together.

I'm going to be making a sleep gown like this free newborn one, but in a larger size now that Taco has outgrown the newborn ones.

Cindy, Mikhaela and I have linked to a lot of great free and indie patterns in our SHB Sew-Along Pinterest Board.  Most are really quite easy.

Why stick with green and yellow as the only "neutrals"?  Red, orange, purple, grey, brown, black and white are all at your disposal as far as colors go. Plus there are loads of fabrics with fun prints that would be perfect for either gender. 

Gender Neutral baby

It's always seemed counter-intuitive to me to dress babies in pastels when what attracts them most is high contrast, like black and white, and bright colors. Yet, it's hard to find black and white baby clothing.

If you specifically want baby patterned fabrics, I had lots of luck at - both the multicolored monkeys and the orange elephants are gender neutral.

My haul
However, even basic patterns like stripes or geometric prints that you already have in your stash can make an outfit fun. One of my favorite oneises on Taco is red and grey striped.

This is where, if you have some extra energy, you can really make a garment special. Adding a little embroidery or trim is fun and easy.

Taco's Trample Herd bibs and onesies

Urban Threads has any number of great gender neutral machine and hand embroidery patterns. Just browsing their kids & babies section is excellent inspiration.

Urban Threads Dinos

Sublime Stitching is another source for fun hand embroidery patterns. Ottobre also has some great free ideas on their website. When it comes to motifs, you really are limited only where you, yourself  decide to draw a gender line. I think that gender neutral is more a frame of mind than an aesthetic.

Anyway, whether you are sewing gender neutral clothing or not, I hope you will share your plans if you are sewing along on our SHB Sew-Along Flickr group.  Most of all, I hope this gets you excited and not stressed about all the easy and fun projects available, even if you don't have more than 10 minutes a few times a week. Speaking of which, Phin and Taco have gone for a walk on this beautiful day, so I am heading to the Craft Lounge right now. Happy sewing!