Vacation Wear: Nelle Dress and Moon-ish Pants

raspberry Nelle Dress sewn by

We’re nearing the very end of March and it still feels like winter around here. Grrrr. I am past the cabin fever; past being depressed over the snow, snow and more snow. Now I’m just COMPLETELY ANNOYED. I used to be someone who enjoyed winter. This year is forcing me to rethink that mindset.

Thank goodness we were lucky enough to escape last month to sunny Florida for a family vacation. I was just so happy to be somewhere warm and sunny, where being outside felt good rather than numbing. It was heavenly to feel the sun on my skin.

raspberry Nelle Dress by; pattern by brownie goose

In joyful anticipation of a sunny vacation I made big plans at the beginning of February to sew up a handful of items for the warmer weather. But it turns out that spending your nights sitting on your butt watching Netflix is not very conducive to sewing, so my big plans were quickly whittled down to two items made two nights before our departure. My daughter scored big, and my hopes for a new beach cover-up have been shelved until summer — assuming we actually get a summer and we’re not stuck in permafrost tundra forever.

raspberry Nelle Dress

The sundress was made using the The Nelle dress pattern by brownie goose. I love this pattern. I actually have several Nelle dresses in my Etsy shop because it’s so much fun to sew. It doesn’t require yards and yards of fabric and is so versatile; wear it alone or pair it with pants or leggings. I have had that dress fabric for almost four years now. It was the very first fabric I ever purchased when I started sewing, and I still love it as much as I did back then. The color makes me think of black raspberry ice cream. I have just enough of it left to maybe make her a skirt next year.

Raspberry Nelle Dress by; pattern by browniegoose

The pants are my attempt to hack the upcoming Moon Pants Sewing Pattern from Made By Rae. Rae’s moon pants were among the fabulous sewing projects highlighted in Issue 3 of Stylo Magazine, and I have been eagerly awaiting the actual pattern. After their magazine debut (and before sewists went crazy over the design and *demanded* that Rae create a pattern), Rae mentioned on her blog that the pants could be sewn by making some alterations to her Parsley Pants Sewing Pattern. And so, I attempted just that. I’m happy with the results, but I still can’t wait to purchase the real pattern.

raspberry Nelle Dress by; pattern by brownie-goose patterns

raspberry Nelle Dress by; pattern by brownie goose

Nelle Dress by; pattern by brownie-goose

The pants fabric is from the City Girl collection by Kitty Yoshida and is also a purchase from my early days. I guess this outfit was a real stash buster!

Nelle Dress and "Moon Pants" by; dress pattern by brownie goose

Vacation was great. Not in the big, fancy, expensive, once in a lifetime way that vacations can become, but rather in the way that I felt like I was able to hit the re-set button. In past years we’ve made trips to zoos and other attractions while on vacation, running here and there for oohs and aahs, but this trip was different. We didn’t try to cram each day full of trips and big experiences, but instead spent our days playing at the beach, swimming in the pool, being outdoors, being together, heading to bed early, recharging.

Before vacation I was feeling kind of ambivalent toward many of the things that typically appeal to me. Winter doldrums, I guess. This vacation, in its simplicity and lack of reliable internet connection, was more about having time to think. To enjoy each other’s company. To take a deep breath and not have to rush off to the next thing. Of course, that also leaves me wondering why we allow “regular” life to move so far from that ideal.

So, now that those of you who did not have a winter vacation are ready for me to shut the heck up…

raspberry Nelle Dress by; pattern by brownie goose

Is she still talking about her vacation?!!


I will!

Here’s to Spring and all of us feeling recharged and ready for something simple and good!

KCW Winter 2015: An Unnecessary Polka Dot Dress

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by

Oh, Kids Clothes Week, are you over yet?

Don’t get me wrong. I love Kids Clothes Week and the way such a large online sewing community comes together to celebrate it and share ideas and give virtual pats on the back for jobs well done.

But. I find that not a lot of other things on my to-do list are accomplished during KCW. The final day of KCW means that reality is about to bite down hard on my butt cheek. Laundry piles await. The house is generally unkempt. Nothing tragic or even all that problematic for sure. More like a dull headache that is nagging in the background and you just wish it would go away.

Further, sometimes the creative frenzy that KCW fosters inspires me to sew up garments that are not even remotely a wardrobe necessity. Like this polka dot dress for my daughter.

In its prior life, it looked like this.

Dress Original

A polka dot dress that is neither purple nor navy blue (blurple?), with a very sheer polyester exterior and a rayon blend stretchy lining.

As I started to lay out my pattern pieces, it became obvious that the original exterior dress hem was not completely straight. Since I firmly believe that an integral part of upcycling clothing is that you incorporate as many of the finished edges and other completed details as you can (heck, I’ll take any opportunity I can get to skip hemming!), I was determined to use that hem — asymmetrical or not!

Polka Dot Upcycle2

So, I shifted my pattern pieces a bit to accentuate the asymmetry, and now — asymmetrical hem rules the day. I think it’s a nice, unexpected counterpart to the otherwise sweet mini polka dots.

And, having now sewn with that sheer polyester fabric — by far the slinkiest, shiftiest fabric I’ve ever sewn — I can tell you I never would have finished the dress if I had to hem it myself. Dang — this stuff had a mind of its own. I just kept reminding myself that this dress was essentially an experiment, with free fabric (thank you, sister!), and there would be no harm in ditching the whole thing in the wastebasket if it became a sewing nightmare. Yep, that was me, with my devil may care attitude, hair blowing in the breeze, whistling a tune while sitting at my sewing machine. As if. There was some cursing involved as I wrangled the polyester into submission.

The dress fits just fine over a shirt, and so I can justify its utility as a winter wardrobe addition. However, I am looking forward to seeing her wear it sleeveless in the summer. The sheer, flowy fabric is definitely a better match for warmer weather.

And I have a KCW confession to make. I haven’t finished off the seams yet; raw edges abound on the inside. So naughty, I know. This is partly because I had light colored thread in my serger and I was too lazy to change to a dark color. The other, perhaps more compelling reason, was that this fabric is so sheer I was afraid I’d burn it with my iron, so I just sewed up the seams and left them — no pressing, no finishing, just moving on.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by


Of course, I can’t leave it this way. And there is a reason why ironing is an incredibly important part of sewing. I cringe looking at this photograph below of the side seam in all its unpressed madness. Shudder.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by

Oh, forgive me my sloppy, unpressed side seam!

Let me just get on my soapbox for a moment to discuss the need for good ironing (since I’m obviously not leading by example in these photos, ha!). Perhaps my appreciation for a nicely pressed garment was imprinted over several years of spending Sunday nights ironing my school uniform shirts for the week ahead. I recall my mother even teaching me the correct order for ironing a shirt. (Oh, yes, there’s a proper order — google it!) But seriously, skipping pressing when constructing garments, will likely contribute to your creations looking amateur and cheap. You can even think of pressing as a remedy of sorts for less than perfect sewing, since pressing can help smooth out minor imperfections and will give everything a nice, neat appearance. Okay, stepping down from that soapbox now.

Polka Dot Dress Upcycle by

So behold the dangers of Kids Clothes Week. You make dresses your daughter doesn’t need. You get angry at finicky fabric. You leave your seams raw. And you shun your iron. What is the world coming to, people?!

Oh, and you make your daughter endure endless photo shoots.

Please, please, I beg you. Stop taking my picture, Mama!

Please, please, I beg you. Stop taking my picture, Mama!

So long, KCW Winter 2015! It’s been swell.

KCW Winter 2015: Another Tee to Dress Upcycle

Coral Circo Tee to Dress Upcycle by


Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by

Circo clearance t-shirt to dress upcycle #2. I just had to make another. And I think I like this one more.

Daisy was in an incredibly good mood as we had our photo shoot for this post. She was hamming it up and we had a lot of fun. The starry background may have contributed to her cheerfulness. It kind of set the mood for feeling you were somewhere much more special than the living room. (Backdrop is from Caravan Shoppe. I’m not sure if it’s still available, but they always have a great selection of printables, so it’s worth checking out.)

A few months ago I wouldn’t have batted an eye over her exceptionally good mood. It would have seemed like the norm rather than anything extraordinary. But these days, tantrums are becoming a regular part of her day. We’ve become accustomed to seeing more of this lately:

Circo Tee to Dress Upcycle #2 by

Oh, I swear, it should be called the “terrible threes“, rather than the “terrible twos.”

I made this dress a little differently from the prior one. The skirt portion is half the width I used before, so it’s not as full. The biggest difference is that I attached the skirt to the outside of the t-shirt, rather than tucking it under.

Tee to Dress Upcycle by

I simply folded over the gathered skirt top by about 1 1/2 inches, and then topstitched the skirt onto the t-shirt bottom.  The raw edges are hidden away from sight, and you have a cute stand-up mid-line to the dress.

Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by


Tee to Dress Upcycle 2 by

Such an easy way to dress up a regular old tee. It doesn’t require much fabric, and somebody else did all the trickier parts for you. Can you sew a straight line? You can make this. A perfect beginning sewing hack!

kid's clothes week

KCW Winter 2015: Easy Tee to Dress Upcycle

Tee to Dress by

Kids Clothes Week rages on and I’m back at it with a very simple project this time. This one transforms a t-shirt from the Target clearance rack into a fun dress by pairing it with a bright Amy Butler fabric.

I love stripes. For real. I just can’t resist striped attire for children (or myself). And stripes paired with a big, bold floral print become both sporty and feminine.

This project started as a long-sleeved t-shirt that I scored for $3.50 from Target (had to buy two colors at that price!). I sized up and purchased a size 4T because it seems like the Circo brand always shrinks a fair amount after the first washing.

Circo Shirts

I hacked off a good 10+ inches from the bottom of the t-shirt, and about 5 inches from the sleeve length. I then made a skirt using two width-of-fabric rectangles of a bold Amy Butler print. I used this same fabric when I made Daisy some summery skirts when she was about 9 months old. It’s kind of a crazy print but the colors are so great.

Circo Tee Upcycle by

I gathered the extra wide skirt portion to make it the same size as the bottom of the shortened t-shirt, and then attached it to the bottom of the shirt using a zig-zag stitch to allow for as much stretch as possible (since the knit t-shirt fabric is stretchy, but the woven skirt fabric is not). Then I hemmed the skirt.

Sleeve Detail on Circo Tee to Dress for KCW by

The size 4T sleeves were way too long for my daughter. I could have just shortened and hemmed them, but I decided to add a ruffle to the shortened sleeve for a little girly flair. I used the hacked off bottom of the t-shirt to make a ruffled cuff. No wasted fabric on this project!

Upcycled Tee to Dress by


Upcycled Tee to Dress by

This bright dress seems like the perfect remedy for all the snow and cold weather we’ve been experiencing lately.

Upcycled Circo Tee to Dress by

As a side note, there was another Kids Clothes Week project that I was working on last night. I had scored a pair of purple velveteen jeans from Goodwill about a year ago with hopes of transforming them into a soft pair of pants for Daisy. But, it just didn’t happen. I was most of the way done with the sewing when I realized I really didn’t like how they looked. The envisioned pants were better in my head than they were in person. I could tell they would not be a hit with Daisy, either.  Pants are a hard sell for her to begin with – she’s a leggings girl. And so, I just walked away from the project.

There’s a certain luxury associated with working with upcycled materials. Because the cost of entry is generally pretty low, you can feel free to take risks you might not want to take with your “good” fabric, or, as in my case, to abandon a project that doesn’t quite satisfy your creative intentions.

The pants cost me about 75 cents at Goodwill. Much, much less than the cost of the same amount of a new, quality fabric. The time spent sewing was good practice – I view it as an investment in strengthening my sewing skills. Rather than feeling guilty about “wasting” good fabric on a pair of pants that would never be worn, I could walk away from the nearly finished but unremarkable pants without a second thought.

I have at least one more project to share this week. Until next time…