Tag Archives: Kid-Made



While I grapple with the enormity that is wedding sewing and try to put together something resembling a coherent post (hah!), let me entertain you, however fleetingly, with a top Syo made herself.


It is drapy and cute and I just might want one. It comes from the “tying knots in fabric until it fits” school of fashion design, which I suspect is the oldest such school. We then replaced the knots with a few serged seams, because that was easier than threading the sewing machine.


I think I could use a few of these projects myself…


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Another Closet Monster

Another city, another birthday party, another monster made (loosely) from the Closet Monster book.


This one is not really as cool as the first. It’s ok, though. Its chief claim to fame is its super long limbs, which were harvested from an old octopus costume I may have worn for a school play a quarter century or so ago. Yes, my mom has stuff like that lying around.


It enjoyed playing in the back yard for a few minutes before being wrapped up and sent away.


Tyo sewed on the limbs, button eyes, and stuffed it. I made the belt, including a salvaged buckle, and did the big final seam around the rectangular body, which was pretty tricky since all the limbs were stuffed inside by the end. The purple embroidery on the face doesn’t show up as much as one might have wished… I should maybe have insisted on white.

In any case, it’s one more on the list of projects down. In enabling news, my crafty sister-in-law stopped by to show me the plaid coating she picked up at the thrift store the other day. So we’ll be going through my multisize coat patterns soon…


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An Odyssey in Denim



Back in the late nineties, I was a high-school student exuberantly indulging in exploring my own style, limited only by my budget and what I could find at the thrift store. I had settled, somewhat reluctantly, on Levi’s button-fly 501s for jeans—they were a decently close fit, didn’t have the hugest saddlebags at the hips, and were comfy. They had one major drawback, however—the waist was quite high and, me being as rectangular back then as I am now, rather snug.

Yes, this was the beginning of my quest for the low-rise jeans. At the time, at least in my backwater corner of North America, stretch-denim was unknown, and waistbands still hovered just below the navel. 80s-tight was out, but I was so done with oversize-grunge, and the 70s revival was only just beginning.

One day in gr. 12, probably during Creative Writing class, I had a brainwave. If I removed the waistband from my Levi’s, they would be lower-rise, the waist would no longer be uncomfortably tight, AND it would be a cool inversion of the omnipresent cutoff denim shorts everyone wore. And because of the button-fly, they would still stay closed.

I have rarely been so pleased with myself for any fashion innovation. I wore my reverse-cutoffs proudly. With crop-tops, of course, to maximize the amount of tummy-tan. (I tried to find a lingering crop-top to pose in, for posterity’s sake. Apparently the last of them have been purged from my wardrobe, although it occurs to me that I do still have one cropped boho gypsy blouse in the basement that I bought when I was 14…)

Mariah’s cut-off jeans

A few weeks later, I first saw this Mariah Carey video* (also a nifty article about the waistbandless-jeans phenomenon, which I have to say, in my area, was a phenomenon consisting of me and only me). I don’t think I can properly convey how crushed/angry/amused I was, to have been scooped on my fashion innovation. This did not, however, stop me from wearing my very first low-rises proudly. Two or three different pairs got the treatment.

Anyway, fast forward a year or two, and one of my pairs of hacked-up Levi’s was on its last legs. I had moved on to other jeans styles at that point—notably vintage Wranglers—but I wanted to give my “innovation” one last hurrah. So I hit upon the idea of having a plethora of friends sign, draw, and write all over them. Sometimes while I was wearing them, mostly not.

Anyway, having created this unique piece of apparel, I realized I couldn’t really wear the (rather tattered) jeans anymore. I hadn’t heard of the idea of setting Sharpie marker with an iron, and after the first or second wash the text was showing significant signs of fading. So I retired them, and proceeded to cart them around with me in the “sentimental” box over every move (and there were a lot of them) of the next dozen years.

Sometime this past winter, Tyo found them.

Fortunately for me, she’s not quite big enough to steal my jeans yet. But she did like the idea. As she and her classmates are graduating to middle school this year, and we’re moving away, so naturally she’s been feeling sentimental all around and wanting a way to commemorate her class. Not long after finding my jeans, she hit upon her solution—a messenger-bag, made out of old jeans, that she could take to school and have everyone sign.

Stitching the bag.

Now, ever since I saw these jeans of Yoshimi’s (back when I was brand-spanking-new to the world of blogging) I’ve been hoarding old jeans in the hopes of someday making my own pair. Well, that hasn’t happened yet, but the old pairs finally got put to use for this project, so I feel less guilty about the hoarding. Three pairs of my husband’s old pants (two jeans and one pair of khakis, if anyone cares) went into the making of these, plus the strap which was made from the cutoff legs of a pair of Tyo’s jeans which recently became shorts.

The bag

We made the main part of the bag from the butts—lots of extra pockets this way. The flap was from a leg area, the patch having been in use on the jeans. Tyo did the majority of the stitching, although I did a bit of additional patching as necessary, and the final stitching around the top of the bag, which was through the lining plus jeans waistband and belt-loops—pretty heavy-duty with some major changes in thickness. The featherweight handled it like a champ, although I still prefer to hand-wheel the really thick parts. I did a bit of re-stitching around the crotch to get them to lie flatter (the same thing you’d do if converting a pair of jeans into a skirt), and Tyo stitched across the bottom corners to give it a bit more of a 3D shape. And an interesting cutout in the corner of the flap. Just because.

Bag, open.

And Tyo took it away to school with a big, fat sharpie. Apparently her replacement teacher (who has been the source of much angst the last few months) was not impressed. Ah, well.

Happy Tyo

Tyo, at least, is happy.

Now I just have to manage to iron all that sharpie.

*This is one of those Lessons On the Fallibility of Memory. I would swear that I cut my waistbands off in Gr. 12, and saw the video shortly thereafter. I graduated high school in June 1998; the video apparently came out in 1999. Am I transposing my brainwave earlier? Or was the gap between my waistbandless jeans and Mariah’s longer than I remember? Who knows…


Filed under Sewing

The Closet Monster Lives!

Monster & Maker

Tyo had a good friend’s birthday party to go to this weekend. (These pictures were squeezed in between her having a shower and leaving for the party, hence the wet hair.)

Said good friend has a mother who sews (quilts) and has given away home-stitched party favours at previous birthday parties. She also really liked looking at Tyo’s Closet Monster book, and even gave Tyo an old PJ shirt* she didn’t like to turn into a monster.

So naturally, Tyo wanted to give this friend a closet monster for her birthday.

The Inspiration Monster

I won’t go into too much boring detail. The inspiration monster was Gilmor Oothby, who also appears on the book’s cover. We did not follow the directions particularly, because Tyo doesn’t read directions very well and I couldn’t be bothered. We looked at the picture of the pattern pieces, but that was about it, especially since we wound up using mostly fabric scraps from the massive Scrap Stash of Doom , and not much in the way of the actual shirt, which had a cute penguin on the front that Tyo wants to applique to something else. And was a really soft, thin knit not really suited to monsterizing. The trickiest part was getting the bottoms of the feet and the bottom of the body approximately the right size—but fortunately, approximately was plenty good enough.

Monster Face

Anyway, Tyo managed a fair proportion of the construction, and I did the trickier bits, and while it was definitely a joint project I feel pretty satisfied that she held up her end of things. There was a modest amount of un-picking where we went too far off the rails (like forgetting to insert the arms), which was accomplished with only minor grumbling.

I am told his name is "Freddy."

The body is made out of one leg of what was once my favourite pair of jeans. When Buffalo Jeans discontinued their City X style, it was probably the first step on the road to making my own jeans, because man, nothing has quite matched them since. /sniff.

Back View

Every other piece of fabric on the body (aside from the head/mouth that was from the gifted PJ shirt) is a scrap left over from some other project on the blog. I’m tempted to list them, but it would be long and probably boring. How about you guys guess? Y’know, with all that free blog-reading time you have.

Pointy fingers.

The monster appears to have been well-received. I have a feeling we will be making more of these in the coming months…

There was a certain amount of goofiness.

*Turns out it was actually a nearly-brand-new shirt she got for Christmas. Oops.


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Tyo & Bear

Girl & Bear

Tyo’s teacher is pregnant. This is awesome for her. Tyo’s teacher is going on maternity leave.  This really sucks for Tyo—not just because, despite a bit of a rocky start to the year, Tyo has really come to love her teacher, but because now we have to go to the trouble of breaking in a new teacher, with only a few months left in the year and province-wide tests coming up. But that’s another story.

As a present for her teacher and the new baby, Tyo really really really wanted to make a teddy-bear.

We have a pattern for a teddy bear. Tyo made it once before, in rice-stuffed version. It’s, um, a nice pattern. For a very classy, old-fashioned sort of teddy bear. With ball joints. The kind you set up on a bookshelf in an antique doll’s dress, sipping tea.

Bear Profile

We have no ball joints, nor any particular interest in inserting them into a teddy-bear. Also sewing fun-fur with 1/4″ seam allowances around sharp little curves is tricky for my sewing skillz, never mind Tyo’s. This makes making these bears a bit of a frustrating project. And there’s a fair bit of hand-sewing involved. And the pattern is designed to have the seam go down the front of the belly, which Tyo doesn’t like, so we kept them on the sides and went with an asymmetrical body. The scarf is mostly to cover up how ugly this makes the neck area.

Anyway, Tyo did do most of the machine sewing, and all the stuffing, and sewed on all the buttons. I hand-stitched the head, limbs, and ears to one another, with varying degrees of care.  And the finished product is, if not exactly cute, at least endearingly ugly. Kind of like newborns, really. So it works.

Bare bear

I know buttons aren’t exactly kosher for baby toys, but, frankly, this is about Tyo and her teacher.

Oh, the Jalie yoga pants are cut out, too. The only change I made there was to add, oh, 4″ to the length (although I suspect I won’t need all of that, I’d rather be safe than sorry). And then I spent a whole hour (which was my designated sewing time for the evening) the other night sampling stitches because I’d like to add some black topstitching to cut the pink-sweetness-overload. I *think* I’ve figured out settings and a stitch that will work. It turns out that my White sewing machine stitches knits beautifully, completely without stretching  out the seams, because you can adjust the presser-foot pressure and partially lower the feed-dogs. Unfortunately, its poorly-calibrated backwards component (the stitches it takes backwards aren’t the same length as the stitches it takes forward, which isn’t great for fancy stitches) means that all the fancy stitches that might look cool as topstitching look like crap. But there’s one that I think I can use for seam-stitching, which’ll save me flipping the settings back and forth all the time on the Janome.


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Syo Sews

Syo sewed so well. Also she's wearing a shirt I made her.

While I’ve been dithering over the hubs’ coat, Syo seized the opportunity to sneak onto an unattended machine and whip up a little purse. Her being extremely proud of her creation, she asked me to blog about it. Me being putty in her cute little fingers, immediately snapped some photos and set to.

Look! It opens!

Look! Not only does it have a strap (thankfully using up the last of that trim!), but there’s even something approaching a seam-finish on the end of the fold-over flap!

Ok, so I may be a little bit exuberant. Here’s the thing. She sewed this on her own. The only thing she asked me was whether she could use the machine (yes, dear, just don’t sew through your fingers, k?). No hovering, no planning, no supervising every seam-allowance and pivot and backtack.

People, this is how I learnt to sew (when I was probably right around Syo’s age, maybe a smidge older). Grab fabric, think (or don’t), and go. Doesn’t work? Try again. Something you never thought of goes wrong? Oops, that was a learning experience!

I’m not knocking anyone who learnt to sew properly—it’s probably a much faster, more efficient way to learn. But it’s not how I learnt, and trying to teach my kids feels… forced. Weird. Stressful.

This wasn’t stressful. This was great.

Shot with tree.

In other news, I traced out the size F(2, but in length G/3) and size H(4) of the Jalie 2908 jeans, to make up for my nieces, possibly even for Christmas. I’m still in limbo over a shirt for my Dad… I have the fabric picked out, but the Negroni pattern I ordered at the beginning of the month (yes, I caved, finally) still hasn’t arrived. I have printed out a custom size (as far as I can figure going on my mom’s recollection of his measurements and some gentle prodding over the phone) of this pattern, but I’m a little worried that it’s going to fit like a tent, which is not really what I want to create. I’m planning a backup gift on that front, either way. On the subject of Mr. Isis (every time I type that I think I should just put “Osiris”)’s jacket, I did a second muslin, with a much fuller back and wider sleeves, after he very instructively flexed while wearing the first muslin and ripped the back seam open clear to the waist. We are having some issues over fit vs. freedom of motion; like many hard-to-fit people, he’s used to wearing knits or vastly oversized wovens. Anyway, the second muslin had a very curved back seam, a lot of ease rotated into the shoulders (basically I rotated some of the curve from the neck into a shoulder-dart, but I don’t plan on sewing the dart, just easing the fabric in), and has some big folds under the arm, all of which disappear completely when he crosses his arms. I tried to suggest (as I seem to recall reading somewhere) that a suit-jacket should lie smooth when the hands are clasped in front. He doesn’t consider this adequate. I think he’s on glue. The debate continues. Anyway, I think I can shave off a bit of the excess and get something that doesn’t look completely grotesque when he’s standing naturally.  Fitting muscles is weird. It’s almost like an FBA for the back, in an area that doesn’t happen to have any darts. (Boy has a drop of almost 12″ from chest to waist right now. That’s not only more than mine, that’s more than twice mine. The jerk.). At least widening the sleeves went well. I’d be tempted to try a larger size, but the shoulders fit beautifully.

Now if I could just find my roll of craft paper to make the rest of the pattern pieces… (I’m trying to save the wrapping paper for the presents…)


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Beautiful Boxers

Tyo's Boxers: Pattern and Fabric

This past summer, Tyo fell in love with boxers. Less as underwear than as PJ/lougewear bottoms, but anyway. When Peter of Male Pattern Boldness announced his Boxer Sewalong, I thought it was the perfect thing for her to try out. After all, boxers are one of those classic beginner projects! And a sewalong could get her motivated, interested, and above all, reading!

So when Peter started earlier this week, I gleefully shoved my Steve Jobs Memorial Handheld Device* in her face to read his posts, dreaming of after-school idylls of mother-daughter time spent peacefully together in the sewing room.

Tyo's Boxers

Tyo being Tyo, glanced over the posts, complained that she had a headache (she always has a headache when she gets home from school. Unfortunately, the combination of not eating well during the day** with the long bus ride home means she usually arrives home with nausea and cratering blood sugar), and went off to watch “Good Luck Charlie.”

But finally on Saturday (Thanksgiving long weekend! Yay! We’re not having a turkey! Cry!), she had the time/energy/interest/desire to get Mom to stop hassling her about cleaning up, so we headed downstairs.

One Happy Seamstress

Pretty much all of Peter’s clever, fine details went out the window almost right away. Flat felling? I think not. Fly? Meh. It’s not like she’s going to be using it. Stitching elastic directly to the fabric? Um… let’s not even go there… (I did make one grave error, when I flippantly mentioned that boxers are the perfect beginner project. Tyo informed me that she is absolutely NOT a beginner.)

After some rummaging, Tyo selected this fabric, which is a red and white striped, lightweight polyester from the stuff my Grandma gave me last summer. In real life it’s not nearly as shiny as it looks in these photos, although it’s still fairly obnoxious. For the pattern we went with Simplicity 9495, which she also used to make Syo’s birthday present earlier this summer. She also traced off the pattern (YAY one-piece patterns!). I made one alteration, which was to lengthen the crotch-height (or is it depth? I always get those mixed up. I added vertical height) in the back portion. This was a Good Idea, as the rise in the back is just about perfect. The rise in the front, on the other hand, is way too much and bubbles out—I will probably lower it almost two inches when/if she makes another pair. Which probably means that the whole thing is meant to have a waist-level rise and Tyo’s wearing them low-rise, it’s just that her wonderfully round bottom (I might just be a tad jealous) is eating up the extra rise in the back…

More Superfluous Hedgheog

Tyo cut them out and did all of the stitching herself, including serging the seams to finish them. I did most of the pressing. We discovered that hems are easier to stitch without pins (which is how I always do them, but we all know that I don’t always or even often do things the “right” way). I made some pretense of trying to get her to read the instructions, but a) they were making no sense to her, and b) they were stupid, so we winged it. I’m not a big fan of the pants-construction method where you sew the inseam first, THEN the crotch seams. It just seems awkward. Especially when the inseam is only 2″ long.

Tyo's Oil Painting

Then Then Tyo went upstairs and made an oil painting. First she made her canvas (by gluing some white paper to cardboard). Then she pulled out the oil-paint set a friend gave me eons ago (like, pre-child) that I only ever dared use once because the whole canvas+cleanup thing completely terrified and overwhelmed me.

Since we don’t have the products on hand for cleaning up the oils, she used some disposable makeup brushes and a paintbrush that was probably on the way out anyway.

And I gotta tell you, it’s probably one of my favourite things she’s ever made…

There’s a lot to be said for not knowing you can’t do something.

*iPad. Thanks, Little Hunting Creek! (Oh, Hunting Creek is still popping that Malware alert that’s been stalking the blogosphere very annoyingly this week. As far as I can tell the original problem’s been resolved, and a scan before and after visiting it didn’t reveal any malware or viruses on my computer, but now you’re warned.)

**Just to cover my ass in the parenting department, I pack both my kids a healthy and nutritious lunch including whole-grain bread, low-fat lunch meat, and several servings of fruits and vegetables every day. She just never eats it. SOP is that she finishes it when she gets home, but of course this doesn’t help with the after-school crash.


Filed under Sewing