Wednesday, May 18, 2011

{Yes...Another Skirt Tutorial}

Here's another little skirt I made for Squirrel. This tutorial is for a peasant style skirt, once again made from those fabulous little fat quarters! (I love fat quarters...they let me feed my fabric addiction without too much guilt. They are cheap, don't take up much space, and there's none of that hemming and hawing at the cut table, trying to decide how much yardage I "need." Just a cute little package ready to play with. Like snack-sized fabrics!)

This tutorial will create a three-tiered skirt. Again, Squirrel wears about a size 3T or 4T, but this can easily be adjusted for bigger or smaller ladies. In fact, the same basic idea should work for adults too, and one of these days, if I can actually nail down the fabrics I want, I will make myself one too.

For the three tiers, you can use the same fabric, two alternating fabrics, or three completely different fabrics. For this size, you will need a fat quarter for each tier. I chose two fat quarters in a rose print, and one in a coordinating green-on-green floral.

Start by using the center fold, lengthwise, to cut the fat quarters in half.
If you are making the skirt for a shorter kiddo, this is also a good place to cut off some of the width. I cut about 3 inches from each set after I cut them in half. (Though admittedly, if you just cut 3 inches off the end with the fold, you could save yourself some quality time with the scissors.)

Next, sew the sides of one short end of each set of halved fat quarters (with the right side of the fabric facing inward...somehow, every time I make one of these skirts, I get at least one set backwards).

Essentially, you are making strips that are now twice as long, with a seam down the middle. 

Then, cut two of the sets down on their open ends. Leaving one set at the original length, I cut the next set down three inches, and the third set down to three inches less than the middle set. 

Now adjust your stitch length and tension so that we can get some gathering happening. 
You want a long straight stitch, probably as long as your machine will make. 

And you want to turn the tension up as well. 

These two things combined will cause your fabric to gather. 
Leave your shortest strip alone, but then stitch along the one side of your other two strips. 
This gathering will help you match up the lengths as you put your tiers together. 

After you have gathered the fabrics, you need to work with it to get the tiers to match up. 
Pin the seams together, and then slide the fabric on either side of it along the thread to get the length right. The long stitch should make it easy to move the gathers back and forth. 

Once you've got it matched up, sew the gathered tier to the straight edge of the tier above it. 
Repeat this for the next tier as well. 

This should leave you with three layers, with each longer tier nicely gathered. 
Sew up the seam on the opposite side of the skirt now. 
You're almost done! 

Cut a piece of elastic about 2 inches shorter than the waist measurement of your recipient, and stitch it to the waist. (I used the serger, but you can also use a zig-zag stitch.)

Create a rolled hem by folding the edge under about 1/2 inch, and then folding it another 1/2 inch again. 
Use a straight stitch (don't forget to fix the tension and bring that stitch length back down!) to hem close to the edge of the fold. 

Roll down the waistband elastic in the same way, and finish off with a nice long zig-zag stitch. 

Easy peasy! You're done! 

Now for the hard part--catching your model in it before she takes off! 



Tip Junkie handmade projects

Monday, May 16, 2011

{Tutorial: Fat Quarter Twirly Skirt}

Squirrel LOVES skirts. If it weren't for my occasional nagging that she at least put on leggings (and sometimes warm pants) in the winter, she would happily freeze to death in order to only wear skirts and dresses. She loves spring and summer because it means she can wear a skirt every day, with none of those cumbersome limitations her mother puts on her. One of my goals this year was to make some of the kids' summer clothes, and I figured I would put together a couple little tutorials while I was at it.

This is a fun little project that can be easily adapted for your own girl's measurements or the amount of fullness you want.  (Squirrel currently wears about a 4T, but this is easily adjusted by changing the length of the skirt and the waist size.)

For this skirt, I bought 4 fat quarters, 2 of each fabric. However, I have done this skirt in as many as four separate prints with lots of success. You will need your recipient's waist and hip measurements, as well as a measurement for the length of the skirt.

First, lay out your fat quarters on top of each other. (As always, I am inordinately lazy, so I neither washed nor pressed them. Enjoy the creases...)

Once you have them laid out, cut off about four inches from the end. (A fat quarter is about 18"x22", make this cut along the longer end, so you get the most length out of the strips.) 
This will become the waistband of the skirt later, so set these aside. 

(*Note: This skirt makes a length of about 16 inches, so if you need it shorter than that, now is where you will cut off some more length. The waistband will add about 1.5 to 2 inches to the length of the strips you cut, so keep that in mind!) 

Now you will be cutting several strips that are wider on one end than the other. I like the easy math of 5" on the wide end and 3" on the short end, because it makes the angles easy to figure. (But again, feel free to experiment with wide/narrower strips here!) 

Start with your cutting guide one inch in from the edge of the fabric and, in a diagonal, cut to the other end, headed for the corner. (Meaning you will have a one inch difference between ends on this cut.)

Next, do the same on the other side, but with the diagonal headed the opposite direction. You will measure 3 inches of width on the top, and 5 inches of width on the bottom. 

Here's your first set of pieces! 

Now, repeat this again, but this time, the first diagonal is cut for you and this piece will be upside down. 

Continue this across the fabric until you have cut all your pieces. 

Next, you will sew your strips together in alternating fabrics. 
If you are using more than two prints, mix them up however you like. 

You can stitch them together one by one, or you can do them in pairs and then sew the pairs together. 

Once you are finished putting the pieces together, sew the ends together to form a circle. 
Altogether, I used 16 strips for this skirt, though 12 would probably have been enough. 
Just make sure that at the narrow end (which will be the waist) you have at least a couple more inches than the hip measurement so that your little lady will be able to pull it up once the elastic is in!

Next, go back and grab that waistband you set aside. 
You will really only need two of the strips, so choose whichever fabric you prefer. 
Cut them down so that it measures the same as the waist of the dress, leaving space for your seam allowances. 

Sew the strips, right sides together, on each end to form a circle. 

Once you have your circle sewn, fold it in half lengthwise, 
creating a band with a folded side and an open side. 

It should look like this: 

Then sew the waistband along the open edge, leaving an inch or two open. 
This is where you will slide in your elastic. 
(*Note: You can skip this step and simply sew it on to the waist of the dress, leaving space for the elastic. I find that sewing the waistband separately first just makes my life a little easier.) 

Then, cut a piece of elastic about an inch shorter than your model's waist measurement. 
Run the elastic through the waistband, being careful not to twist it. 
Then stitch the elastic ends together. 
(This is also a great place to try the waistband on your little model, just to make sure it isn't too big or too small, and while you can still adjust the elastic in the waist!) 

Once that is done, pin the waistband to the waist of the skirt, and stitch it on, closing the elastic opening. 

Finally, add a hem to the bottom of the skirt. 
I used a small rolled hem all the way around, 
but I have also tacked on some eyelet lace for a fun ruffle at the bottom. 

Put it on your little lady, and let her twirl to her heart's content! 



Tip Junkie handmade projects

Friday, May 13, 2011

{Close Encounter of the Moose Kind}

The weather the last few days has been positively spectacular. We suddenly went from freezing rain and wind to warm, sunny days.

Squirrel, Little Bird and I took a celebratory picnic to enjoy the weather at our local Nature Park. It has a play area and a creek, as well as a pond system with lots of ducks and geese to pelt with feed bread.

So the kiddos ate:

And then we headed for the ponds to feed the ducks. As we were putting our own picnic leftovers in the car, this little fellow came dashing out of the brush and stuck his head over the ridge. Luckily, I had my camera slung over my shoulder. He and I shared a moment, neither of us particularly keen on getting any closer to the other. He was just a young little guy, but the North American Moose isn't exactly known for its patience and friendliness with people he happens upon...

He crossed over to the stream, which he climbed into... 

...and then he thought long and hard about going over towards the playground to 
nibble the juicy green grass. After a minute, he decided he didn't like the looks of all the 
people, and headed back from whence he came. 

We finished our long afternoon tossing out bread for the ducks and geese, who seemed rather uninterested. My guess is, with the weather as nice as it was, that we were far from the first group of people with the same idea. Maybe next time their birdie bellies will be less full! 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

On Legacy, Part 2

A little over a month ago (actually, just days after my grandmother passed away), I went to Texas and Louisiana with my parents. It was rock-solid AWESOME to sleep without my husband snoring and little elbows and toes joining me in my bed in the middle of the night, but what was even awesome-er was the time I spent with my parents and the things I learned about them and my mom's family.

In Texas, we stayed with my mom's cousin, Edwina, who happens to be one of the funniest and biggest-hearted people I have had the privilege of meeting. She is all Texas--big hair, drawling accent, and land money--but she is delightful. She also has a brain that functions like a rolodex, recalling every near and distant relative that's come down in the last several generations, some 3 and 4 times removed, but still family. And she's full of stories about every one of them...

I never really knew my mom's family before this trip, aside from my grandparents and her two siblings. The rest were in far away Texas, and the only time I had ever been was for the funeral and burial of my grandfather. It was a rushed trip filled with so many names and faces I had never heard or seen before, and none of it stuck.

This time was a bit different. Because the visit was longer, and because of the nature of our trip, I was able to meet, hear stories of, and understand my mom's family in a whole new way. And I was able to see and appreciate her in a new light.

This is "Mama Kerley," my mother's grandmother. And, to see the picture of her, the source of every last one of my mother's physical traits.

Here is my mother (L) with Cousin Edwina (R), and Edwina's mother, Dorothy (C-my mom's aunt). Here you can see the strong resemblance between Mama Kerley, Aunt Dorothy, and my mom.

Thankfully, the physicalities are the end of the resemblance.

Before this trip, I knew only a little about my mom's aunts, uncles, and father. I knew that Grandpa was a bit of a wild one--my grandmother forced him to leave Texas because he was worse under the influence of his brothers--womanizing, gambling, and the like. I knew that he was far from perfect, and that he was often more unkind in words than a father should be. But I also knew that the man of my own memories had softened in his old age, was incredibly generous with his wealth, was funny, and was a good man in his own way.

I learned a lot over the trip that made me very grateful to him.

My grandfather had a brother, John, who it seems has a name that is invariably linked to some version of "son-of-a-bitch," because no one can mention him without tacking on those words--who claimed money was his god, who beat his children, and whose wife thanked the doctors when they killed him.

I heard stories that told my grandfather's other siblings were also extremely hard on their children, my mother's cousins, in a way that seems brutal and shocking in comparison to my own gentle upbringing. When I asked my mom where it came from, whether Papa Kerley (her grandfather) had been that way, she told me she thought it was Mama Kerley that used her hand.

I contemplated this a lot in my time there and since. And I struggle a bit in writing this post because I don't want to seem like I am airing the family's dirty laundry, or letting everyone see the skeletons in the closet. This trip didn't leave me horrified at my ancestry, it simply made me more aware of the goodness that has come through my own line. For all his faults, my grandfather was the only one among his siblings who stopped that cycle of physical abuse, and my mother continued on that spectrum. Not only did she never lay a hand on us, but she never intentionally cut us down with words--removing us completely from that world of abuse.

My mother, like all mothers, is not a perfect woman. But she raised me in a way that never left me doubting her love for me, in spite of some mighty fine effort on my part. I never feared her. I never felt anything but that her actions were aimed at my own best interest and in showing her love for me. Were it not for the stories I heard in Texas--the images of bruised skin, long sleeves in the Texas summers to cover the abuse, and miserly aunts and uncles, cruel in word and action--it never in all my life would have crossed my mind that this could have been my own fate, were it not for the interventions of two GOOD people in the way they chose to raise their children.

When all is said and done, every good trait I have as a mother to my babies was planted in seed by my own mother. Every loving word, every gentle moment I have with my children, all these are made possible by the work and love of my mom, as she struggled to raise us in spite of her family history. In the midst of the exhaustion, chaos, fear, and outright disaster five kids can cause, she succeeded. She did what every parent hopes to do: take the best, improve, and leave the bad stuff behind.

As I think about the legacy my mom will leave, I realize that some of the most important parts are the threads she cut and left out of her own tapestry, then spun anew with a more glorious weave. It is a legacy that I can only hope to pass along, to take the best of myself--those pieces of her--and pass them on to my own.

Happy Mother's Day, Mom. And thank you, from the very bottom of my heart.


Saturday, May 7, 2011


Hey, look at me! I got a nice surprise in my inbox when I checked my email this morning:
My Buggy Thumbprint Mother's Day Frames were featured over at the Itsy Bitsy Paper Blog. I feel so very special! On top of that there are some other absolutely adorable crafts for Mother's Day--great for last minute ideas. Go check it out!



Thursday, May 5, 2011

On Legacy, Part 1

Family, and specifically, mothers, have been on my mind a lot lately.

And no, it isn't really because Mother's Day is around the corner.

I've been thinking a lot about connections and the legacy we leave---the kind of legacy I hope to leave someday. Two things have spurned this on, and I imagine that it will take two posts to adequately express my feelings.

A bit over a month ago, my grandmother passed away. I've wanted to post something about her since it happened, but I have had difficulty coming up with anything meaningful. Not because she wasn't meaningful herself--quite the opposite. She was truly an amazing women. At the ripe old age of 98 and a half, she was survived by 6 children, 34 grandchildren, 95 great-grandchildren, and 24 great-great grandchildren. She lived a quiet life, but she was full of love, and stubbornness, and concern for every one of us in that list. I am grateful to have had her touch my life and grateful that she is relieved of her earthly cares, on to bigger and better things. People remark what a legacy she left in pure posterity, and it is truly beautiful.

But none of these things really means anything. Because statistics and generalizations about my grandma or her posterity do not actually give any idea of who she was. These things do not fill me with the Christmas Eve anticipation of grandma bringing her handmade Christmas bags to every one of those 34 grandchildren, each complete with handmade ornaments, popcorn balls, and two crisp-as-could-be one dollar bills. Or the absolute dependability of a birthday card from one person on the planet. Or her laugh...the way she would almost close her eyes and tilt back her head, and lift up her hand, covered in skin like crepe paper, just a bit as she let it out.

Numbers don't explain her fierce desire for independence--the apologies she would make when I was the one who got to take her on her weekly shopping trip, too worried about inconveniencing me to know how very much I enjoyed spending the time with her, or the insistence that she put those groceries away and the fuss she would make when I would do it anyway. Generalizations don't bring to mind the holographic bandaid she wore on her forehead at my wedding (because in spite of a fall on the way up the temple steps, she was not going to miss it). They don't tell the tale of how, in spite a broken hip, she chastised the paramedics taking her to the hospital for not allowing her to put on a nicer looking dress.

Numbers don't call up the soft voice, the way she watched my children play...the peaceful, contented look she had as she watched all of us--the 34, and the 95, and the 24--play.

Most importantly, it isn't numbers that she left behind. In fact, it isn't just people. It's mannerisms and habits, turns-of-phrase and expressions; it's a legacy not of things, but of spirit. What she left behind is still in us. It's there in the way an uncle and an aunt laugh, the way one talks, and the way another worries. It's there in the way my father walks and the expressions he uses (and the stubbornness I know I will have to contend with as he himself ages). It's in my prematurely graying hair at my temples, and another cousin's nose or eyes. And from there it goes on and out to all of us counted in those numbers. Whether they are physical traits, words she spoke, or the simple mannerisms of a remarkably good woman, they are there.

And ultimately, her legacy is an endless thread of love and goodness woven into each of us. As long as we are still here, spinning and weaving those threads, she is still here.