A Coat for Corduroy

Well, it’s not really a coat for Corduroy.  It’s for his pal Lisa from Don Freeman’s classic book.

Presentation2So, every year about two months before Halloween, Kiki talks about wanting to dress up as Lisa from the Corduroy story.  I always get really excited, because that means that I could try my hand at making that pink awesome coat.  Then, a couple weeks later, she changes her mind and decides to be a doctor, a witch or Dora (as was the case this year).  I sigh a sigh of relief that I did not make myself crazy trying to make a coat, which I have never done before, just to have the idea abandoned.

This year, after Kiki decided to be Dora instead of Lisa, I thought to myself “Oh well, maybe next year.”  Then, two pretty amazing things happened.

First of all, the theme of this falls’ Kids Clothes Week was announced — Storybook. (During Kids Clothes Week, participants sew for their kids for at least an hour each day and post their creations on the KCW website.  Sometimes there’s a theme.)

Hmmm.  A Lisa coat is just about as Storybook as you can get.  I started snooping around Etsy looking for vintage coat patterns, thinking that I might actually be crazy enough to try this.  I mean, kids need coats even if they don’t wear them as Halloween costumes, right?

And then, Five & Ten Designs released their latest offering  — Jackets!  Fate does not need to whack me over the head more than twice for me to know that this was meant to be!


If you don’t know about Five & Ten Designs, here’s the deal.  Five well known bloggers get together and make one basic pattern block.  This time, it’s a jacket — a basic front, back, collar, sleeves, pockets & hood.  Then, each of the five bloggers come up with two different adaptations of the basic pattern to make a total of five completely different jackets.  It’s pretty darn cool.  Aside from essentially getting ten different patterns in one package, it also shows you how to customize a pattern to make it all yours.  That’s what I tried to do with this jacket.


I took a look at the images of the coat from the book, and figured that I needed a coat that hits above the knee, has a black velveteen collar, pocket welts, buttons and sleeve cuffs, and flares out a bit in the skirt.  I showed Kiki some vintage patterns that flared out quite a bit, and her verdict was that they “look too much like dresses.”  So, her coat would not flare out as much as Lisa’s original.

lisa finds cord2

And of course, there must be a kerchief.  This became the most crucial element to Kiki.  I just think she likes to say the word “kerchief.”  Who doesn’t?

corduroy and lisa

Since none of the Five & Ten jacket designs included in the pattern package were exactly what I was looking for, I combined elements from looks #3 (the length), #5 (the placket), #8 (the flared shape) & #10 (the welt pockets) to make my own.

I ordered wool in magenta from Mood Fabrics.  When it arrived, I felt like the texture of the pile was too clumpy.  It looked too much like an old blanket for my taste.  But, the back side of the fabric looked great, so I sewed the whole thing up backwards!

There was a bit of trial and error involved in this process, I have to admit.  The outer jacket came together pretty easily.  But once I got to the lining and facing pieces, things got messy.

I had originally intended to line the entire thing with slippery purple satiny stuff (the purple at Kiki’s request).  But, that slippery fabric is a total nightmare to cut.  I’m sure there’s some trick to it that I don’t know — but no matter what I tried, I ended up with front and back jacket pieces that were in no way the right shape.  The stuff shifted all over the place while I tried to cut it with both a rotary cutter and regular scissors.  It wasn’t until after I had the facing pieces attached that I realized that I’d have to scrap the whole thing and try again. Grrrr.

But then, I had a idea about how to save this sinking ship.  I looked in my stash to see what kind of fun cotton print I might have on hand, and I found a big piece of Sarah Jane Children at Play leftover from Lulu’s birthday dress last spring.  Yes!

Recutting the front and back pieces out of this quilting cotton was like a dream come true after the previous slippery affair.  I did follow Five & Ten’s advice of keeping the sleeves in the purple nightmare fabric, so that Kiki’s arms can slide in easily while wearing sweaters and such underneath.  Somehow, the sleeve pieces were usable.

Anyway, I think the balloons really kick it up, and Kiki loves them.


By the way, if you are brave enough to sew with the slippery stuff, I highly recommend using a walking foot, especially if you’re sewing it onto fabric of a different texture.  Seriously.  The walking foot!

The welt pockets were tricky, especially since I wanted to use contrast fabric inside the pocket (which is not included in the Five & Ten instructions).  But Kristin’s tutorital on the Oliver & S website was a huuuuuge help!  Thank you, Kristin!


For those cuffs, I ended up loosely following Rae’s sleeve facing instructions from the Charlie Dress.  I sewed the facings inside the sleeves with right sides together, then turned them out to the outside of the sleeves and hand stitched them down.


When it came time for the button holes, I realized that I made a pretty serious miscalculation when measuring for the placket facing pieces.  I followed Five & Ten’s basic jacket facing measurements, and the plackets turned out way to narrow.  (The basic jacket is designed for snaps, so the facings don’t need to be very wide.  Duh.)


The button holes should sit entirely on the facing/placket.  Here, as you can see, they are almost 100% in the lining.  Oops.  I also didn’t put interfacing into the placket, because I thought it would get too thick between the wool.  Turns out that it didn’t matter, since the button holes aren’t on the placket anyway 🙂  I globbed on the Fray Check and will keep my fingers crossed.  Let’s just hope that Kiki isn’t too vigorous with those button holes and that they don’t come apart.

I thought about going back in and fixing it, but that would mean taking the whole darn thing apart and ripping out button holes, and I just couldn’t bear the thought.  I think this is just something you learn by doing, so I’ll know better next time.


Lastly, I covered the buttons with the same black velveteen, sewed them on and called it a day (at about 1am!).  Yes, Lisa’s coat has three buttons, but I only had two in my button drawer, so there you go.

Incidentally, Kiki happened to have a bear wearing green overalls that I made last fall during a major Corduroy jag.  Fate knocks once again.


Hope you had a happy Kids Clothes Week.  Now that it’s over, maybe we can finally get some sleep — if only we didn’t have those darn kids (hahaha).


Dora Redux

I’m sure that I don’t have to tell you that Halloween is upon us, and that means big decisions about costumes.  This year’s choice became an easy one for Kiki, though, with the appearance of everyone’s favorite adventure gal, Dora, all grown up.

If you don’t happen to have your finger on the pulse of the latest innovations in children’s media, let me explain —  Nick Jr. has a new show called “Dora & Friends,” which is geared more toward older kids in a clear attempt to hold onto their audience a little bit longer. The new Dora has ditched the backpack and map in favor of a smart phone with GPS.  No joke.  She no longer hangs around with animal sidekicks — she has lots of tween pals now. Kiki is transfixed.  She MUST be Dora!!!

Presentation1I took a look at Dora’s new dress and was pretty sure I could come up with something faithful enough in detail for Kiki’s unwavering demand for accuracy.

I had a pattern from Jocole on my hard drive that I bought ages ago and never made, called the Crossover Tunic, which comes in both tunic and dress lengths.  It’s perfect!  I made the tunic length and added 3 inches to the hem.  (I probably could have cut the dress length to achieve the same result.)  The skirt is designed to be pretty straight, so I angled it out as far as my 1/2 yard of 58″ fuschia interlock would allow to give it the appropriate Dora-like swing.



On Dora’s legs, you see Oliver & S Playtime Leggings in periwinkle interlock.  I’d never made leggings before, and these are pretty cool.  There’s only one pattern piece, and they sew up in a flash.  They aren’t skin tight like the Old Navy variety, and you can make them in really nice, thick knit which will keep little legs toasty all winter under skirts and such. I’ll definitely be making lots more of these — maybe some in sweatshirt knit.  I’m also going to try out some Go To Leggings  for myself.  Why should the little people have all the fun?

There was no way I was going to get away with making a Dora dress without the flower on the side of the skirt.  So, I did a Google search, found a great tutorial from Sew Mama Sew and got ready to try my hand at applique.  It’s so easy!  All you need is fusible webbing and an iron.  When I finished up this flower that looks pretty darn close to the Dora original, I felt like a genius!


The only real hiccup I encountered in this endeavor was adding the purple band at the waist.  This isn’t included in the pattern, and I don’t think I did it in the most practical way.  I cut a 2 inch wide strip of purple knit and pressed it in half longways.  I then lined up one of the raw edges of the strip with the raw edge of the bodice waist and sewed it onto the bodice at the crease of the strip.  Then, I pressed the strip down with all the raw edges aligned and attached the skirt through the three layers of bodice and strip.  I pressed the seam allowance down toward the skirt, since it’s pretty thick with all those layers.


In the end, the seam allowance is too thick and makes the waist seam stick out and to go all wavy.  I tried pressing the seam allowance up toward the bodice and top stitching with a zigzag, but that didn’t help at all.

If I had it to do again, I’d attach the strip to the bodice the same way, but would trim the seam allowance under the seam to reduce the bulk.  I’d attach the skirt to the bodice piece only, and then would press the bottom raw edge of the strip under at the waist seam and top stitch it down.   This would leave only two layers of seam allowance, with way less bulk.

I considered taking the whole thing apart and trying this method — but really, that would be crazy overkill.  Kiki LOVES this dress and has vowed to wear it every minute of everyday.  Not only would it be silly to do a ton of seam ripping and futzing around for unnecessary perfection, but I’d never be able to get it off Kiki’s body long enough to do it!  Sometimes, you just have to let it go.

On to the happier features of this creation.  Since Dora no longer has a backpack to tote her stuff in, Kiki and I decided that she totally needs pockets for her smart phone and other sundries.  I added some in-seam pockets in periwinkle (my favorite feature).


I wonder what other treasures will end up in there 🙂


Of course, there needs to be a headband — just a 3 inch wide knit strip sewn together as a tube, turned right side out, and tied.


Lastly, and most importantly, there’s the magical charm bracelet.  Oh yes.  Dora uses it to conjure all sorts of solutions to problems — don’t we all need one of those?  Kiki and I had a lot of fun picking out charms and beads at Joann’s.  This bracelet was fabricated a week or two before the dress, and has been worn everyday to preschool (and everywhere else).  We’ve already had to tearfully replace a charm or two.


I think we’ll be safe this year from the dreaded last minute costume change of heart — you know, when you slave away to create (or locate and purchase) the perfect requested costume, only to have a huge crisis on October 30 when your precious little one decides that she would never have asked for such a ridiculous and hideous costume and demands something else.  Hope you’re safe, too!


By the way — I haven’t mentioned Lulu’s costume here, not because she doesn’t have one, but because she amazingly requested to be the Oz Wicked Witch weeks ago and is sticking to it.  The kicker — Kiki was a witch last year, and Lulu fits into the costume. YEEEESSSSSS!!!


Woodland Creatures? Yes, Please!

Yes, yes — I like so many other sewers have vowed to sew only from my stash and to not be tempted by sparkly new offerings from our favorite fabric makers.

That was all well and good until I came across the new Acorn Trail by Teagan White for Birch Organics.  Here you’ll find not only beautiful, vintage storybook-like illustrations in nostalgic autumnal colors — you’ll find them in luscious interlock knit! That’s right — nice, thick knit!  As the weather is turning cool around here, these fabrics were screaming to be made into something toasty for my girls.  So . . . I caved.

Flashback Skinny Tee

I ordered a yard of Acron Trail Penny’s Seasons and a couple yards of Nature Hike from Fabricworm.  When these fabrics arrived in the mail, I was all a-flutter.  They are as soft as anything you’d expect from Birch, and the weight of this knit is just right for fall and winter.  Their thickness makes them easy to sew with, too.

I tossed it all in for a pre-wash, rolled up my sleeves, and got right to work.

Flashback Skinny Tee

If I want to sew something that will surely be consistently worn by the most discriminating of preschoolers in my household, I turn to Rae’s Flashback Skinny Tee. Nothing too fancy — just the perfect cozy shirt (or dress, as you will see or may already know).  

Flashback Skinny Tee

For Kiki, I sewed up a 4T, straight up long sleeved shirt with cuffless, hemmed sleeves.  The fit is spot on, and it’s pretty much perfect.  And, she wears it!

Flashback Skinny TeeThe only change I made was to use Jess of CINO’s method of attaching the neckband that I picked up from making Nessie Tops last winter. Using Jess’s method, you attach the neckband as a long strip before sewing it together into a loop, and before sewing the second shoulder seam.  This way, you don’t have to stretch it to exactly fit the already sewn together neckline.  I find that you don’t even need to pin it before you sew.  Just gently stretch the neckband and sew carefully, matching it up with the neckline as you go.

The only drawback is that you have the seam allowance from the neckband hanging out at the second shoulder seam.  But, all you need to do is tack it down right by that shoulder seam.  I think it looks just fine and is way faster and less fiddly to put together.

Flashback Skinny Tee Flashback Skinny Tee

For Lulu, I followed Rae’s tutorial on making this tee into a super chic dress.

Flashback Skinny TeeThere’s really nothing to it — just add as much length as you want, flair out the skirt a little and round the edges of the hem at the side seams.

Flashback Skinny TeeThis is a 2T, with enough length to last her a while — I hope!

One of the other parents at preschool described this dress as “delicious” yesterday.  That pretty much made my day — especially since she didn’t know that I made it (wink, wink)!

Flashback Skinny TeeThere’s more to the Acorn Trail collection.  Check out the bugs in gold and blue.  You may be seeing more of that here before long.

In the meantime, we’ll be channeling our inner woodland creature . . .

Flashback Skinny Tee

Flashback Skinny Tee



It’s as if a package was delivered to me straight from heaven — the Lulu Dress from Craftiness Is Not Optional.


I didn’t fully grasp the awesomeness of this pattern when it first came out.  It’s pretty simple and straightforward.  But you see, when you have a four year old who will wear nothing but tops and skirts (despite the myriad of lovely dress choices in her closet, hand-crafted by her loving mother), you can bet your bottom dollar that said four year old will never choose a combination that comes at all close to matching, or even vaguely coordinating.  (I’m sure it goes without saying that she also has many well thought out top/skirt combinations that were also hand-crafted by the same loving mother.)  It’s like she puts on a blindfold, opens her drawer and picks at random.  Suggestions of the perfect combination are met with dismissiveness and borderline hostility.  Most of the time it’s pretty hilarious. But, I have to admit that it can at times be frustrating for her own personal stylist and clothing creator.

I get it.  I really do.  She’s asserting her independence and exploring her own sense of style.  These are things to be respected and encouraged.  I for sure don’t want to be the one to rain on her creativity parade.

Enter the Lulu Dress.  I show Kiki the gorgeous photos online of Jess’s darling girls wearing their Lulus and say “Look Kiki — it’s a skirt and top . . . but they’re attached to each other!  Wouldn’t you love to wear that??”  “Yeah, I definitely would!” she replies. Holy Mother of all Good Things, she totally bought it!  Kiki might actually wear something that matches head to toe!!  (Although, I can make no guarantees on the choice of shoes, as you can see.)


So, needless to say, I made three of them.  Right away.


The first one was made with the first day of school in mind.  It’s Heather Rose Briar Rose strawberry knit on top and chambray from the Imagine Gnats shop on the bottom.


If this dress looks familiar to you, that’s because it’s a total knock-off of At Luce Ends’ terrific version of the Lulu Dress.  Seeing Stacy’s take on this dress is what really made me want to give it a whirl, i.e. try to convince Kiki to wear one 🙂  So, I made one (almost) just like hers!

Craftiness Is Not Optional Lulu Dress

I was tickled pink when Kiki insisted on wearing this dress as many days in a row as we could manage it without washing.  It did appear on day one of preschool, and again the next day.  Hallelujah!


Don’t you love the pockets?  They’re so easy to do!  And chances are, you’ll have just enough coordinating solid cotton sitting in your stash for these cool pockets just like I did.

The only thing that I found to be tricky was pinning that binding around the neckline and armholes, and sewing it down evenly.  It’s definitely not at all impossible — you just have to take your time.  Other than that, this dress whips up in a flash.


Lulu #2 is Heather Ross Briar Rose again, this time with woven strawberries in green on the bottom and an old Ann Taylor Loft t-shirt of mine on top.


Since I buy most of my knits online, I was apprehensive about finding the right shade of pink for the top.  So I was pleased as could be when I found the perfect match in my own closet.


This one was worn again and again as well.  Yeah, baby!


The third and final Lulu is Girl Charlee jersey on top and random quilting cotton from Joann’s a million years ago on the bottom.

20140924_173129After Lulu #3, I have to admit that the thrill was gone for Kiki and the Lulu Dress.  Maybe I overdid it.  Maybe my enthusiasm for her actually wearing the stuff I made her was a little too much, a little too annoying for a four year old.  And, sadly, these three dresses have languished in the closet ever since.  Maybe she’ll come around again.  But if not, it was still totally worth it to see her so jazzed about these “attached skirt & tops” (not dresses, please) while it lasted.


Maybe I can figure out how to make a long sleeved version for winter and quietly slip one into her closet to see what happens . . .