Tweens Can Sew! The Girl’s Guide to DIY Fashion

Girls Guide to DIY Fashion

My little girl is going to be nine this year.  NINE.  It’s an awesome and icky age for any kid, and I can’t believe how quickly it happened.  When did my little girl get to be NINE?!?

Like my sisters and me with my mom when we were little, my kids see me sewing.  Like, every single day, sewing.  It’s how I internalized sewing as a natural extension of my own hands, as a way to take my creative ideas and make them real.  I want that for my children, and most days I feel like we’re doing a pretty good job of getting there (all those hours spent tracing shapes with embroidery floss must be building a foundation, right?)  Nine years old, though, has its own ideas.  Nine years old wants to do for itself, wants to express a viewpoint that’s independent of mom and dad.  Nine years old wants to design and plan and select and construct and MAKE.

i heart diy

Enter The Girl’s Guide to DIY Fashion by Rachel Low of Pins & Needles NYC, written just for girls ages 7-14 so they can design and create their own projects with minimal help from adults.  One of my pet concepts is a book where girls are truly encouraged to sew for themselves, not with a condescending tone but with encouragement and empowerment and total fun.  This book hits just that tone, with lovely photography and a sense of humor.

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I invited our daughter, one evening after the other kids had gone to sleep and she was already in her jammies, to sit down and review the book with me.  While I left the room to tuck the littles in, she flipped through the pages, and I told her to see if there was anything that she liked.  When I came back, she had her fingers tucked in between the pages, marking five or six different projects that she “really, really liked–like, a lot, Mom.”

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I swear, I’m not just making that up because it sounds good.  That’s not just blog tour stuff, honest.  She was so drawn to the photography and the tone of the book, and seemed to instinctively know that this wasn’t a “little kids” book, but was something on her level.  Even more important than that, she found the projects super appealing–and huzzah, so do I!  There’s fabric paint here, but no puffy paint in sight.  These are real projects with real application and appeal to girls, without trying too hard (we all know how deeply I dislike trying too hard) and without schmaltz.

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I particularly like that author Rachel Low has worked hard to walk girls through the entire concept-and-design process, so the book avoids becoming a collection of projects to complete cafeteria-style.  It becomes a guide for training girls to think with their creative souls and consider themselves individuals who are capable of and can be trusted to come up with ideas, and then acquire the skills to make them real.

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I like that there is some reference to technology (using Pinterest as a type of mood board, for example), but because 7-14 is a pretty wide age spread, there isn’t a heavy reliance on it.  There is no iPhone or iPad case project, for example, nothing that would make a mom have to be the giant buzzkill who says the project isn’t appropriate.

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The book focuses on fashion, just like the title says, in categories that girls are likely to encounter and get excited about: Fun with Friends; Back to School; Slumber Party; and Rockin’ Summer are all areas of our girls lives, and there is so much of value in offering them the chance to see that their powers of creativity can be brought to bear on all those aspects of their personalities and their days.

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Off she went to bed, but not before selecting fabrics for one project: the Party Purse.  (I really thought she’d go for the Pretty Pencil Case that first caught her eye, but she surprised me. Nine is always full of surprises.)  She went into the other room, dug in the scrap basket, and selected two fabrics: a lovely cotton print and a flannel–the same flannel that her blankie is made of, and from which I made her pajamas this Christmas.  Part of me wanted to edit them, honestly (from her project a little, and from these photos a LOT).  Party purse?  Of blankie flannel?  That matches your jammies?  And maybe doesn’t match the cotton perfectly?

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But then I stopped myself.  This book is about HER sewing, and about HER creativity.  Holding back my own hand and putting the needle into hers might turn out some less than perfect projects, but man, I made some pretty hideous green-and-cream plaid tapered-leg elastic-waist high-rise pants from quilting cotton for my first sewing project, and look where I am today.  Jubilee for a book that encourages girls to trust themselves, to learn by doing, and to celebrate their creative side!

Rachel Low Girls Guide to DIY Fashion

Many thanks to Rachel Low for writing such a wonderful book, and inviting me to share it with my daughter.  If you love the idea behind her book, too, you’re in for a treat!  Rachel has offered a copy of the book for one of YOU to have for your very own!  Enter below to win a copy sent straight to you to share with the girl in your life–and share with us in the comments what it is that you think sewing can teach girls that has value beyond the sewing machine.  Hint: I think it’s a LOT.
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Lemon Drop Love: Small World Fabric

Small World corduroy pink with lemons | Whipstitch

Hello, Lemon Drop!  When Rae’s new collection for Cloud9 was very first announced, I lost my mind a little bit over this print.  I have some citrus obsession, I admit, but also: gah!!  How great is THIS??  The color combination, the lemony shapes, the sheer deliciousness of it all.

Small World corduroy from Cloud9 | Pinafore and Flip Flop Dress from Whipstitch

This fabric is from Rae’s Small World collection for Cloud9, which is in shops now.  It’s an organic cotton babywale corduroy, and it’s just dreamy.  I have been a long-standing fan of babywale cord for just about everything, but I extra love it for children’s clothing.  When I used to manufacture clothes for kids at a local indy boutique, I made a zillion versions of The Overmost in cord, and the softness combined with the texture was always, always a winner.

Small World corduroy | Pinafore by Whipstitch in Lemon Drop

One of the things I love about babywale is how nicely it gathers.  Do you see that?  Sweet, soft gathers with lots of fullness and shape to them, but not a ton of bulk.  For girls especially that makes for whirly, swirly happiness.  These lemons might actually look even better with gathers.  What?!  Yes, EVEN BETTER with gathers.

Small World babywale corduroy Pinafore | Whipstitch

Good grief, that yellow!!  Two words: signature color.  Bless you, Rae, for loving us all so much that you made this print.  At first, I wanted to pair it with a green dress and accents.  The green of the lemon leaves here is close to a kelly green–since I lean more toward the chartreuse family, I didn’t immediately have anything on hand that was a good fit.  What I DID have was a pile of yellow prints (not that it stopped me from ordering yardage of another five or six yellows, you know, for science).  This one is from Windham Fabrics, and is a dead match for the lemons.  The pink and the yellow together?  Total magic.

babywale corduroy by Cloud9 | organic Lemon Drop by Rae Hoekstra

See that texture?  Love.  And I think one of the other blog tour folks pointed out that the prints in the Small World collection have a very mini-Boden feel to them, in the best way.  I agree, and I love that I can get it in yardage!

Small World corduroy for the playgroud

The Lemon Drop print here is sewn up in my Pinafore, a pattern I manufactured for years to sell and developed into a pattern for my Sewing Clothes for Kids class back in 2010.  It’s headed out to testers in just a few days, and will be back available for sale super soon!  Read more about the Pinafore here.

running in Small World corduroy

The dress is the Flip Flop Dress, my next pattern after the Pinafore–in fact, since they’re designed to be used either together or separately, they’ll probably release on the same day.  (The two patterns together are the same outfit I made for our girl for Easter.)

Eeek!  I loved having the under-dress and pinafore together with this fabric–I adore the lemon print so completely that having that yellow peeking out from beneath to make them really POP brought me absurd amounts of joy.

Small World corduroy lemon drop | Whipstitch

Where we live, summer is for sure on its way.  We’ve got temps in the 70s+ most days, and despite the near-constant rain, there is no question that spring has sprung and the hotter weather is coming.  My youngest (in these photos) and I have ZERO intention of putting this corduroy puppy in the closet anytime soon, however.  It’s so, so soft, and while you might think, “Corduroy’s just for winter!” I can see this as a fabulous beach cover-up, just the right blend of soft and sweet and a-little-bit-cozy for relaxing at the end of those long days by the water.  Beach, lake, mountains–she’ll be wearing this straight through the hot weather and into next fall.

Small World lemonade pinafore | Whipstitch

Ha!  That face!!  I finished sewing this up and she immediately said, “Gasp!  Mommy, can I wear it RIGHT NOW??”  Kiddo seal of approval.  She loooooves the colors, she loves the print, she loves the dress.

Small World corduroy makes little girls smile | Lemon Drop Pinafore by Whipstitch

There are so many other fabulous prints in this collection beyond Lemon Drop.  Check out more on the Small World blog tour, and check #smallworldfabric over on Instagram!  Rae’s posting some great photos to her blog as well as the Small World Flickr pool, and you can find Small World at local shops now, including Fancy Tiger (in the US) and The Village Haberdashery (in the UK).

Tutorial: Quick & Classic Fabric Headbands

fabric headbands and family photos

When our oldest was still living at home (before moving off to college), it made my plans for matching family outfit world domination a challenge.  As a high schooler, the patterns I used for the younger girls not only didn’t fit, they weren’t appropriate for an older girl–and things that were appropriate were more time-consuming to sew.  She was always a team player, though, and always willing to match the other kids, so long as it was reasonable.

Enter: the fabric headband.

headbands help with dyeing eggs

Our eight-year-old has inherited her older sister’s passion for the headband, and we have quite the collection of assorted ones lingering around the house (and under foot).  Plastic ones, sequined ones, headbands with animals attached, headbands with themes.  All kinds of headbands.  And never, ever, ever the right headband for a dressy occasion.  How is that possible?

simple classic fabric headbands

As I worked on our Easter outfits this year, I looked at the bow ties I was making for the boys, and was reminded of the headbands I’d made for our oldest.  I whipped one up for the please-don’t-call-her-a-tween-yet, and she looooved it.  When I asked her after Easter if she’d like me to make her some more, she was SUPER enthusiastic.  They take so little fabric that I sent her to dig through the scrap basket in my work room and select some bits and pieces.  They take something in the neighborhood of eight minutes to make, too, so I cheerfully made her four lickety-split.

simple fabric headbands

These have a hidden seam, and an elastic band at the base.  I’ve seen other designs similar to this, but a lot of them use a casing for the elastic–while I appreciate that the elastic is covered then, I find that bulky, and dislike that you get a little cowlick action at the base of the skull, under the hair.  I prefer the smoothness of this application, and have found that with 1/4″ elastic there’s absolutely no tangling to worry about.

classic fabric headbands

These samples are un-interfaced, so they’re nice and soft and flexible, which my girls love.  If you wanted to embellish–by adding a bow or some vintage buttons or a patch or applique, something like that–I might recommend a lightweight interfacing on the wrong side of the fabric strip to support any additions you place on the right side of the fabric.

Tutorial: Classic Fabric Headbands

For each headband, cut a strip of fabric measuring 3.5″ x 19″–this means you can make FOUR headbands from a single fat quarter of fabric, or use a tiny fraction of a larger cut (or even a scrap) to make a matching headband for any outfit.

fabric headband a

Fold the strip in half lengthwise, long edges together, and sew a 1/4″ seam.  Turn the resulting tube of fabric right side out and press, with the seam centered on the back side.

fabric headband b

Tuck in the raw edges on one short end of the tube by about 1/4″ (this measurement is flexible, but the more you tuck inside the tube, the shorter the headband will be).  You’ll notice all these images are shot AT my sewing machine–that’s because these are so quick and simple that I really do ALL the work while sitting at my machine, with the exception of the pressing!

fabric headband cCut a piece of 1/4″ elastic (white or black, depending on your preference and fabric selection) measuring 2″-ish long.  Insert one end into the tucked opening of the tube, placing 1/2″ inside the opening.

fabric headband d

Fold one corner of the tube end on a diagonal, toward the center seam, over the end of the elastic.  Repeat with the other corner, making a triangular shape at the end of the tube.  All the raw edges are enclosed at this point, and the folded edges are capturing the inserted end of the elastic.  Pin (or pinch) in place.

fabric headband e

Sew two seams through all layers: one at 1″ from the end of the tube, another at 1/4″ from the end of the tube.  The first anchors the folded corners, and the second ensures that the end of the elastic is secure.  Be sure to backstitch at least twice over each seam, to keep them nice and snug.

fabric headband with elastic closure

Repeat all steps for the opposite end of the tube, and that’s it!  Classic, simple and FAST.  You’ll find that suddenly you have a desperate need for LOTS of headbands, and that you can make them in no time.  I’m considering giving these as party favors at the girls’ birthday parties for….forever, basically.  And if my children think they won’t get matching headbands for every outfit I ever make them, well, they haven’t been paying attention.

fabric headbands

Have fun sewing, everyone!

I Can’t Be Stopped: Matching Family Easter

family easter 2015

I am over the edge.  It’s official.  After many holidays and events where I insisted on dressing all the children in matching outfits, we have now celebrated our second? third? Easter where I made the entire FAMILY dress in matching outfits.  I am a monster.

Two dresses, two tops, two bow ties, one headband, one hair bow, one pair of shorts and a skirt.  Seven fabrics, nine patterns.  And a heavenly morning was had by all.  Read on for details and links!

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Sew Together, Grow Together

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Ever since my Sewing With Kids series yeeeaaars ago, I’m always on the lookout for sewing projects I can do along with my children.  They went to Montessori school as little ones, so scenes like this are not uncommon at our house:

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I stretch a piece of unbleached muslin in an embroidery hoop and we draw a shape using felt tip pen.  Then they “trace” it with floss and an embroidery needle.  It’s “sewing work,” and they love it.

Each of them, though, would gleefully move beyond this simple project to make something a little more substantial.  They regularly go through my scrap basket–to which they know they have unfettered access–and I discover that our boy has made scarves or vests for his dinosaurs, or that our girls have made clothes for their dolls.  I’m always on the lookout for the kind of project that we can make together–and there’s a new e-book out that does just that.

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Now Available: The Overmost Pattern is Here!

Click to Buy The Overmost Now!

The Overmost sewing pattern a7

At last, at last!!  The Overmost pattern is BACK!

The Overmost sewing pattern a1

I originally released this pattern back in 2010, and it has been one of my best-selling styles.  Over the years, I have loved and used and my children have worn and worn and worn this design, and I couldn’t be more excited to give it a much-needed facelift and release it back into the world!

The Overmost sewing pattern a3

This is a classic overall style for boys and girls.  It has a full-length option (an overALL) and a short version (an overMOST).  Both are fully lined or reversible, and they are a snap to sew!  An elastic back waist gives tummies room to grow, and the straps make the length fully adjustable–even when handed down between children.

The Overmost sewing pattern a4

The high front bib and low back with cross-back straps is such a wonderful, timeless shape.  It works great with tee shirts or button ups, with cardigans or sweatshirts.  And make the straps with Velcro closures, and they even work for potty training!

The Overmost sewing pattern a8

This revised version of the pattern has a slightly more tapered body for an updated style, but with the same features and pocket options as the previous version.  The instructions have been completely revised, with both photos AND line drawings for each step along the way.  The tablet-friendly format of the instructions means you can print only the pattern pieces and easily refer to the instructions on your device–but their grey-scale design means printing the instructions won’t eat up your ink, if that’s what you decide to do.

bumble riffled overmost

Coming up on the blog, I’ve got a few posts planned with variations of this pattern, including adding sweet ruffles or trim along the bib!

overmost 4t

The Overmost works great for any season: line and lightweight yarn-dyed cottons for summer, two quilt-weight cottons for spring and fall, even denim or corduroy with fleece lining for the colder climates.

overmost 2t

I love styles that work equally well for boys AND girls, and this is one of them.  I love that you can easily hand them down between children, or even make a pair with confidence to give as a gift!

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The Overmost pattern comes in sizes 2T-6 and prints on 16 sheets of 8.5″ x 11″ or A4 paper (pattern pieces only) or 35 sheets (pattern pieces and instructions both).

overmost linen full

I hope you’ll make a zillion pair and share them all over!  Use #theovermost on Instagram and Facebook–I can’t wait to see what you’ll make!!

Buy The Overmost Now!

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UPDATED: Last Day for Sewing Buddies 2015!

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***Registration extended!!  I’ve had a special request from a dear friend who wants to spread the word about the Sewing Buddies!  I’m extending registration until April 1 at noon Eastern to allow folks to get all signed up and ready to go.  Matches will go out on the same schedule as previously announced.  If you HAVE NOT filled out the survey form, Buddies, make sure you get it done by April 1!!

Today at midnight TOMORROW AT NOON registration will CLOSE for the 2015 Sewing Buddy Project!!  We’ve got a great, amazing group of folks who are looking for YOU to come play along with us.  We’ll be sharing videos, project ideas, downloadables, charity sewing, and community ALL YEAR LONG.  I can’t wait to see everything you’ll make and all the friendships that will be formed in our online group space.

Register to join the group, fill out the online form, and you’ll be on your way!  Registration closes at MIDNIGHT Eastern time tonight Wednesday at NOON, and all matches will be mailed out no later than April 2, 2015.  Can’t wait to introduce you to your Buddy!!

The #2015SewingList & A Sewing Buddy Welcome!

Back in January, I put together a list:

sewing bucket list 2015

I called it the #2015SewingList and shared it on Instagram.  (For the record, I don’t really like the term “bucket list,” but for the purposes of easily communicating my goals for making a list of all these projects, it’s a good handle, so we’re gonna roll with it.)  My idea was that all of us–ALL of us–have a pile of projects we’re wanting and waiting to do, and just need a little encouragement to get them done.  Making a list of project categories seemed like an efficient way of organizing them, making a checklist to work against, and maybe getting myself a little motivated.

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Days for Girls: A Sewing Charity to Embrace

One of the things Sewing Buddies have done over the years of which I am most proud is sewing for charity.  There are some really amazing organizations around the world and right here in the US that do incredible work and make a lasting impact in people’s lives through simple sewing projects.  I recently learned of a new one that moved me far more deeply than I would have expected, and that I hope you’ll consider following and promoting, even if you never sew a stitch for them.

days for girls banner

This is Days for Girls.  They are an organization whose mission is to provide education, employment and dignity to girls all over the world in one simple way: allowing them to have a private period.

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Coming to a Screen Near You!

I’ve got a couple projects up and coming to share with you!  A great power session class covering details and finishes; and an episode on PBS with collars and collar techniques. Click through for more details and links to each, and come play with me!!

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