Lobster Shorts for the Boy, and the Myth of Flat Piping

This isn’t a real post, so don’t get too excited.  It’s just a chance to show off a particularly successful pair of shorts I made for our son before we headed out of town on our mega-road trip.

Remember this photo?

handmade kids clothing group shot

Our girls are wearing their handmade jersey tees, and our boy is wearing his Lobster Shorts.  Which I looooooove.

lobster boy shorts with slant pockets

These were made with an altered version of the pattern I used for our children’s other summer shorts, but this time I had the good sense to include a little piece of “flat piping” along the seam edge of the slant pockets, and it totally makes the shorts for me.  Plus: lobster fabric!!!  I see no downside here.

whipstitch | lobster boy shorts

These have an elastic back waist and a flat front, which is my default setting for kids’ shorts (the shorts pattern I designed way back in 2010 for my Sewing Clothing for Kids e-course had both the elastic back/flat front and a mock fly, and I’ve pretty much been hugging that lane ever since).  In this pair, I realized I’d inadvertently ordered 30 yds of 1/2″ elastic instead of 30 yds of 3/4″ elastic, and so I used two channels of elastic–sort of a twinnie casing–and ran one length of the 1/2″ with one length of 1/4″ that was in my drawer.  I actually love it a lot, and found that it offered more freedom of movement for my son but more stability for the garment.  Am exploring the ramifications of this two-elastic-channels discovery; hold for details.

flat piping on shorts slant pockets

And as for that set of quotation marks around my flat piping comment above…see, the thing is, I don’t really think flat piping is a thing.  What I mean is, it’s not PIPING.  It’s TRIM, I don’t question that, but there seems to have been a trend in the past couple of years calling this piping, which I find disagreeable.  Or more accurately, maybe I just disagree, because I don’t think I care enough for it to be disagreeable, if that makes sense.  Again, it’s TRIM, yes, absolutely.  But for me, from my experience (I didn’t look this up in any Absolute Sewing Authoritative Handbook of Rules or anything, so what do I know?), piping is filled, usually with some kind of cording; if it’s flat, it ain’t piping, it’s trim.  So I trimmed out these pockets with a length of bias tape, folded in half and pressed, inserting the raw edges into the seam and matching them with the raw edge of the pocket pieces before adding the pocket facings and finishing out the shorts front panels.  I did NOT pipe them.  Or maybe I did, whatever.

flat front lobster shorts

Alright, so this turned into a little bit more of a real post than I was expecting.  Good for me.  I didn’t post anything during Kids Clothes Week (I don’t think I even sewed anything during KCW, since we were on vacation?  or had just gotten back from vacation?  one of those–my calendar is a little muddled), so I’m a bit surprised I have so much kids’ clothing to share at all, to be honest.  Will pat self on back and reward my labors with a nice coffee-flavored iced beverage and an episode of Bones.  Done and done.

Three Little Beach Hats

little things to sew bucket hats

Before our big Summer Road Trip, what really got me started sewing (and sewing and sewing) for myself and the kids was these little hats.  With pale skin, I knew at least that our two littlest would need more protection from the sun–their older sister is brown, like her dad, but even she would benefit from keeping her bitty nose out of the afternoon rays once we’d been on the beach for a few hours.  Which we would be, because that is how I roll: pack every conceivable beach need, lug it all down to the sand, and then MOVE IN.  We have been known to head to the water at 10 am and stay until 4 in the afternoon, but you can’t do that without two umbrellas and sunglasses and an ocean of sunscreen and a pile of swim shirts and HATS.  Lots of hats.

trip of little things to sew bucket hats

This particular pattern has been a darling of the Interwebs this summer, it seems–it’s the free PDF from Oliver + S, the Reversible Bucket Hat from Liesl Gibson’s Little Things to Sew, available on their free patterns page.  Perfectly sized, and easy to sew.  And uses just a smidge of fabric, so I could commit some really hoarded and lovely Japanese canvas to this project!

stack of oliver and s bucket hats

I actually ended up making the same size for all three of our children, who are four, six and eight.  The large seemed just the right size, and measuring their heads as the instructions indicate showed me that each of them were within 1/2″ of the measurement for the large, so I went with it.  Only one size to trace off!

bucket hat topstitching up close

I opted to make these with no hand-stitching, in the manner A Little Gray wrote about, which worked swimmingly.  I always love a finish that allows me to tuck the seam allowances inside and then topstitch them shut–I do that with the tote in Stitch By Stitch for the same reason she does it here, because it makes a clean finish that avoids hand-sewing but still conceals all the work.

little things to sew stack of bucket hats

The Melody Miller Ruby Star hat is for our eight-year-old; the mermaids fabric is for our four-year-old; and the robots is for our boy.

little things to sew bucket hats topstitching

Naturally, I spent a solid hour making sure that all the hats were color-coordinated with their swimsuits.  Because you do.

bucket hat at the pool

Before leaving for the beach, we even test-drove the hats at the pool, and I was gratified (and a little surprised?) to learn that ALL the children willingly and cheerfully wore them.  Whaaat?!?  So exciting.  I was sure there would be a hat battle, but with these simple hats in great fabric, they were more than willing–and even spent time flipping them inside-out and wearing the reverse fabric on the outside.

Made the breeze at the beach that much sweeter.

Stitch By Stitch Giveaway!

Click to purchase a SIGNED copy from the Whipstitch shop!

Head on over to Creative Domestic today and enter to win a signed copy of my first book, Stitch By Stitch!  Charlotte is offering up a copy along with her other favorite sewing books in coming weeks–a great chance to build your sewing library!

Catching Up with the Modern Instabee (and learning more about margin)


modern instabee hive 6 blocks

Part of what I’m learning as I explore this idea of margin this year is that we learn our priorities based on what we DO, not on what we say we WANT to do.  Money where your mouth is, and all that.  And this year, I deliberately made very few commitments, knowing that I didn’t want to take the risk of cutting things out in order to give myself more margin just to have all my time given away again to NEW things.  I chose to commit to both the Modern Instabee and the Handmade Birthday Club for one specific reason, though: I didn’t want to have my margin isolate me.  On the one hand, there is great power in saying NO to things, in regaining some room to maneuver and the power to choose.  On the other hand, there is a risk that by saying no to TOO many things, I would find myself with no connection or tether, afloat without direction.  My hope was that by committing to both of these groups, that I’d be connected to something bigger that would require me to organize my time and prioritize these other folks in a way that would balance out my (occasionally selfish, though not always in a bad way) newly-discovered margin.

And I kinda sucked at it.

String Circles Quilt Block

What I discovered is that it was very tempting to procrastinate, and the thought of margin never really entered into it.  It is always easy to find things more urgent, and to push off the things that are important.  But I’ve discovered the truth of urgent vs important: that when we only focus on the urgent/important things, we are constantly putting out fires, but never creating; when we focus only on the urgent/unimportant things, we are constantly changeable, and feel out of control; when we focus on the non-urgent/unimportant, we are irresponsible and dependent on others; but when we focus on the non-urgent BUT important things, we are gaining vision and discipline, we are reaching into our creativity and building a foundation on which all the other cool stuff can grow (all of these discoveries were confirmed and illuminated by the matrix here, based on the 7 Habits).

Cordelias Garden Quilt Block

Bottom line: I found myself three months behind on my quilt blocks for Modern Instabee.  THREE MONTHS.  And it preyed on me, daily.  I felt like I’d really let people down, even though they assured me they weren’t in a hurry and that it was OK.  I knew that really, I’d let MYSELF down, and that I had betrayed one of the key things I want to gain from building margin into my life: the ability to pour into relationships rather than into crises.

Bliebells Cabin quilt block

As of today, though, I am TOTALLY CAUGHT UP.  See, that margin stuff really works.  We spent ten days on vacation, just my husband and our kids, driving up the coast to visit with my sister and her kids and my mom for a few days, back down the coast for a work conference for my husband and some beach time for me and the little ones, and it allowed/forced us to put our hands down and be still.  And when we got back, I was ON FIRE.  I can’t even begin to describe the joy and energy with which I approached tasks I had been putting off for aaaaaaages.  Man, I even cleaned out my entire email inbox for the first time in over a decade.  Woot!!  Plus, I was able to use my energy and focus it on the projects I most wanted to invest in and get them off the list.  Double woot!

Kenna Quilts String Circle

Kenna chose the String Circles block, which was really fun to put together and used up a bunch of scraps.  She sent us all out the background fabric–and thank goodness that she sent extra.  I sewed this up once, but the background was slightly off-grain, and so the final piece was both too small and a bit wonky along the edges.  I might have let that slide in the past, but I wanted what I make for my Bee ladies to be really high-quality, so I took it all apart and re-cut the background and sewed it up again.  Much better!

marking quarter circles to inset

The second time through, I took extra care in the placement of the background, marking both the inset circle and the background pieces in quarters with my chalk marker–you can just see the pink marks in this image.  It made it even easier to match the pieces up and get a really smooth, pretty result.

Modern Instabee Hive 6 Cordelias Garden Quilt Block

Abby chose the Cordelia’s Garden block, which looks suuuuper fussy, so I left it for last.  In the end, it wasn’t fussy at all–the majority of the work was in the cutting, rather than the assembly.  Once that step was done, the HSTs got sewn up, and the rest was just repetition.  And lots of pressing.

matching points half square triangles

I am especially pleased with my points–look at that matching!!  On the first of these HST-to-HST seams, I didn’t get a perfect match, so like the circles background, I took the seam out and re-sewed it.  And the extra seven minutes pales in comparison to the satisfaction of getting it right.  Sigh.  Contented quality workmanship.

green and white quilt block

The final block was Liz’s Bluebell’s Cabin.  This one seemed like it would be the simplest of the three–and in construction, it totally was–but because Liz asked us to really stay with a “true green,” the fabric selection portion (which always takes me the longest, anyway) was extra careful.  Liz wanted a real grass green color, and I pulled fifteen or more different fabrics to narrow down to the eight here (since I didn’t want to repeat any fabrics in her block).

cutting and pressing log cabin blocks

Then the cutting came, and the fun of getting to plan what little segment of each fabric would get to be shown for each portion of the block.  I loved getting the stripes just right, and the ducks in a row.  Literally.

In the end, this was another lesson in margin: putting first things first (thank you, Steven Covey) allows me to have more space and time to focus on the other building-up activities that can make me feel like I’m moving forward rather than treading water or reacting to crises.  Which leads to the next lesson that I’m already learning: keep the momentum going.

How do you keep the momentum going when you get on a roll?  I’d love to have a list of techniques to try, because the satisfaction and peace that come from having all the urgent/important tasks checked off so that I can focus on the creative, forward-reaching non-urgent/important tasks is intoxicating.

Bias-Bound Pouch: Camp Stitchalot Giveaways

whipstitch | bias bound pouches

Before heading off to Camp Stitchalot, I wanted to do something nice for all the campers.  Since this particular camp session didn’t include formal workshops, I wanted to make doubly extra sure that every camper there was remembered and felt special, and that I’d made an effort to get to know them all individually–it matters so much to me that people love sewing and find joy in it, and over time I have come to see that connecting with one another is the surest way to bring more happiness to your craft.


quilted pouch sewing kit

So: something sweetly handmade for each camper. Now, I admit that I didn’t fully process that there would be FORTY campers.  I added in another six gifties for the instructors and for Brenda and Rossie, who did all the heavy lifting in organizing camp for the rest of us.  That’s a lot of last-minute sewing–because, naturally, while I had thought to make gifts weeks and weeks ago, it wasn’t until the last few days prior to leaving that I finally made the time to sit down and DO the sewing.

camp stitchalot giveaway


The result is these sweet little pouches.  I equipped them with sewing supplies and some Whipstitch goodies, but very deliberately sized them to work equally well as a glasses case or for “personal care” products for the ladies, if you catch my drift–always nice to be subtle where those are concerned, and keep them from bouncing about too much in one’s handbag (that applies to sewing supplies and glasses equally well, of course).

anna maria prequilted fabric for bias bound pouches

The fabric were all pre-quilted–I made sandwiches of a fat quarter plus batting plus another fat quarter of a coordinating fabric, so the exterior of each pouch is different from the interior (for most of them–I did make 40, after all, so they’re all a little different).  I struggled and struggled for what fabric to use for each as bias binding, but ended up using the same for every fabric I chose: this lovely Robert Kaufman Quilter’s Linen in chartreuse.  It had all the right qualities: it matched or complemented every fabric I chose; I have an entire bolt of it; and it’s one of my very favorite colors.  In fact, it’s a dead match for my go-to thread, Guterman 712, with which I have on on-going love affair, since it is the perfect thread choice for approximately 72% of my sewing projects (white is appropriate for another 21%, which means I rarely need an odd color of thread).

bias bound pouch with sewing goodies

I also used the same buttons for every pouch–a lovely 1″ coconut number I brought back from Hawaii–and added buttonholes to the flap on every pouch.  I thought long and hard about using Velcro, instead, but I really thought the buttonholes were nicer, you know?  Classy like.

bias bound pouches for sewing kit eyeglass case

By no means do I argue that this is my very best sewing.  I MADE FORTY, Y’ALL.  Some of the stitches are riiiight on the edge of the bias tape, and some of the ends where the tape overlaps along the side are imperfectly lined up.  But I think the end result is pretty great: they’re a really good size, and I filled them with lots of goodies for folks at Camp.  Everyone got a Whipstitch patch, and a bookmark, and a new seam ripper (those got a serious workout, I can tell you), along with a garment tag, some sweet little pins with button heads, and a hand-sewing needle. They were such fun to giveaway, and I actually ended up with extras, so a few folks who bought tons from my IG destash got one in their packages, too!

Another simple but satisfying gift project to have on hand!