Sunday, June 29, 2014

A Birthday Apron

I just finished a fun, challenging-to-me sewing project: a kids' apron of my own design. My niece Maya (daughter of one of my best friends) just turned six (!!), and this was my gift to her. In a sense, it was custom-made: I took Maya with me to the fabric store, and she picked out all the fabrics and decorations ("Can it be pink, Auntie Liz? Can it have sparkles?!?! And these buttons?!" Sure. I can figure out a way to put buttons on an apron!). Then I worked up a design and sewed for a month of fits and starts, as I do, and voilá:

I am pretty pleased with the result. I'm really glad I wrote my pattern out step by step ahead of time, to make sure I got everything in the right order. I presented it to the birthday girl on Thursday, and was happy to see that it fits well, although is plenty large so she'll be able to use it for a long time. And was very gratified by her glorious smile and exclamations of "You made it so so beautiful Auntie Liz!" Bless young eyes that don't see my mistakes.

I don't have a good way to share my pattern, but it was fun to come up with so I'll give it a shot. It was a good exercise in geometry and fabric engineering, for my not-particularly-math-inclined brain. I probably could have made it simpler, but I wanted to make sure it was "fancy" for this awesome little girl. Hopefully the photos are a good reference if my directions get confusing.

This could easily be adapted into a larger apron, but the final dimensions for this one were:

Height (top of bib to bottom of skirt): 29 inches
Width (top of skirt): 13 inches

2 100% cotton fabrics, one print (1/2 yard) and one solid (1 yard), pre-washed and dried on high heat
Matching thread(s)
Buttons (optional)

Pieces (All dimensions include 1/2 inch seam allowance on each side):

Print fabric

  • Shape is a trapezoid, with the curve added onto the bottom after these dimensions 
  • Height: 15 inches from top to bottom of trapezoid
  • Width at top: 14 inches
  • Width at bottom of trapezoid: 19 inches
  • I used a ruler and the skirt of one of my aprons to help me free-hand an even curve at the bottom of the skirt. The curve is optional!   
Bib: 10 inches x 10 inches

Solid Fabric
Belt: 5 inch x 44 inch strip (could stand to be longer, but these are the dimensions I used)
Neck straps (2): 2.5 inch x 19 inch strip
Pocket: 5 inches x 6 inches (optional: cut off bottom corners diagonally for more interesting shape)
Hem ruffle: 3 inches wide, cut to match slant of sides of skirt and bottom curve of skirt, or  3x19 inches with slanted ends if using flat line at bottom of skirt

Project Steps:

Cut out pieces in this order:
1. Belt (you'll want to use the long side of your yard of fabric before you cut out any other pieces)
2. Neck straps
3. Skirt
4. Bib
5. Pocket
6. Hem ruffle 

(note: I'm leaving out steps that involve pressing seams and belt/straps, I figure you'll be able to tell when you need to do those things)
1. Hem top of pocket
2. Sew ric-rac onto pocket
3. Turn sides and bottom of pocket under and sew onto skirt
4. Hem the bottom of the ruffle
5. Sew ruffle to skirt
6. Sew ric-rac onto skirt
7. Hem sides of skirt/ruffle
8. Fold belt piece the long way with right side of fabric facing in.
   8a. Sew into a long tube, leaving the ends open.
   8b. Turn tube right side out (this is easiest done with a large safety pin pinned to one end, the same trick I use when threading elastic through a waistband).
   8c. Hem the ends of the belt
9. Sew the skirt to the belt (make sure to mark the center of the belt and center of the skirt and line them up before sewing)
10. Sew ric-rac onto bib
11. Hem sides & top of bib

12. Sew the bottom of the bib to the belt (again, remember to center it)
13. Sew the straps to the top hem of the bib, at the very edges of the bib
14. Sew the buttons onto the bib


Friday, June 6, 2014


It's that wonderful sunny busy time at the front end of the summer, before things get REALLY busy. Here's a little of what's been going on in my life lately. 

:: I spent Memorial Day Weekend up north with my family, babytending my wee niece and enjoying a stay at my childhood home, where my favorite wildflowers were blooming. 

:: My mom and her grandbaby

:: A gift-in-progress for a pink-loving six-year-old

:: The final batch of starts are now safely into the garden, with Bill's help this morning. Ararat basil from the farmer's market, tomatoes grown under my shop lights. Peas abound.

:: Some of Bill's students got a gorgeous day to launch the boat they built. Bill took them on their maiden voyage, and later a smaller group of us went sailing in another student-built boat.

:: Life is pretty darn good.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

In a Holding Pattern

I've been absent from here for awhile, mostly because things haven't felt...blogworthy. My life is good, and filled with good things, but mostly I feel like I'm just waiting for The Next Big Thing. I feel maxed out at my current job. I'm lucky to have a good employer and a supportive boss (who lets me switch my schedule around to accommodate interviews for other jobs!) but my work doesn't stimulate me, and I feel like I have nothing left to learn from my position. It's been nearly a year since I earned my MPH, and I want to be working in my chosen field. I'm currently in the process of interviewing for a big state job that would be a career maker. I may get it, I may not.

I've been at a loss for big projects of my own to work on, so sometimes I get home after work and just wonder what I should do with the evening. For a person who places high value on productivity, I've been having a hard time figuring out what to work on. I have a hard time with feeling at loose ends-- no big trips planned, no big events to look forward to, finished with a big round of sewing/crafting projects and now casting around for new ones. I would be planning summer vacations or trips (one of my goals this year is to go to a national park I've never been to before), except that there may be a job transition in my near future, which makes for unpredictability in terms of time off. Although now I'm considering just planning a week-long trip, so that I have plans regardless, and can take unpaid time off if I have to.

The biggest event that I had been looking forward to happened at the end of March, when my niece, Margaret, was born. I was antsy as all get out to meet her, of course, and had the most wonderful nine day vacation in April, as a live-in auntie. It was so great to be there, to know that I was being useful to my brother and sister-in-law by doing dishes and laundry, making dinner, and waking up in the wee hours of the morning to give Maggie a bottle. It's so incredible (and yet totally normal) to see my brother as a parent, and it was amazing just having so much time with that gorgeous baby.

She was asleep when I first got there, so I only saw her at that point, swaddled and passed out in her crib. I truly met her at 2 AM after a shift change with my sister-in-law. Maggie woke up hungry, and as I picked her up for the first time, she locked her big blue eyes on mine, with a deeply furrowed brow (which is precisely my father's), as if working out that although she had never met me before, I was kin. Just me and her in the middle of the night. Pretty magical.

The weather has turned summer-like, and I've been getting back into garden mode. I kind of got out of garden gear over this winter full of surgery and laid-up-ness. Now it's so very nice to spend my lunch breaks in my community garden plot, and to potter around at home with the little starts under the growlights and the herbs and flower in the pots outside my front door. Still, I have been longing for a big garden outside my back door, always with work needing to be done to fill my evenings. 




Tonight after work I spent an hour at the garden in 80-degree heat, planting my home-started marigolds, plus beans, lettuce, and another round of radishes. I also cast out some dill. I never plant a patch of dill- I just throw some seeds around the plot, and get lovely stalks coming up here and there. Some self-seeds every year, but I always want to make sure I have enough for canning dilly beans come August.

The neighboring plot is home to this gorgeous (and knee-weakeningly sweet smelling) rugosa rose.

Bill is very busy teaching at the moment (have I mentioned here that he teaches a combination of math and boatbuilding to kids who aren't thriving in traditional math classrooms? It's a job he was born to do), and he's trying to finish his own boat in time for summer sailing, so little progress has been made on my kitchen island. However, we decided we'll get it done in time for my birthday in August, so it will only have taken us 10 months to build!

Otherwise, I've been reading a lot, cycling a lot, job searching, and trying to stave off the itchiness for change. New job, better income (read: pay off student loans and buy a house), bigger projects, traveling, something to feel like I've got a little more forward motion in my life, early in the summer in which I will turn 30.

Friday, April 4, 2014


Recently I've been paying more attention to the little everyday pleasures that make me happy, and I thought I'd share some of them here.

First, though, the biggest happy-making news:
 Last Thursday, March 27th, I was given the gift of a brand new niece! 
Margaret Auburn Rose was born, healthy and strong, at midday in Spokane, Washington. She is the first child of my brother and sister-in-law and the first grandchild on both sides. There was a lot of jumping for joy, and many many happy tears, and a huge amount of relief on my sister-in-law's behalf after the four days (!!) of labor. As you might imagine, I can hardly wait to meet little Margaret and it's suddenly extra frustrating to live 450 miles away! However, I am heading up on April 16th, when my brother goes back to work, to help out for a good long stretch and be there for her Christening on Easter Sunday. A week and a half until then, and I am practically counting down the minutes.

Now then: here are a few little everyday things that have been making me happy of late:

Finally branching out from my usual bread making routine

 Delicious smoothies to use up last summer's frozen berries (made using my immersion blender)

Flowers inside.


My favorite houseplant, steadily wending its way around my east-facing window with a strand of yarn for a trellis. 

 PG Tips with sugar, milk and fresh mint.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

In Progress

Here's a project I haven't written much about on my blog. Mainly because progress has been slow, and I always forget my camera when working on it. Back in October (September?), Bill drafted a beautiful design for a wooden Shaker-style island/cabinet for my kitchen. Since then, we've been building it together, in fits and spurts, from reclaimed wood from The Rebuilding Center. It's been coming along slowly, hampered by our two months of surgery/recovery when we didn't work on it at all, but now it's finally taking shape. I've been learning so much from Bill, who is an extremely talented woodworker and boatbuilder. He has a fully outfitted workshop in his basement, and I've learned how to use new tools: dovetail saw, drill press, handplanes, mortising chisels. I still refuse to use the table saw though. It will be awhile before I get comfortable around that one.

I've done only a small bit of woodworking and whittling in the past, so most of the techniques are new to me, and I'm loving it. Wood is such a neat medium, and under Bill's guidance, I am starting to hone my instincts for determining grain (which direction should I chisel from?) and figuring out how to work with warped or twisted boards. One of the most satisfying things has been cutting into old boards that are dark and moldy on the outside, and finding beautiful, sweet-smelling, tight-grained wood on the inside.

Over the last couple of months, I had gotten all of the mortises and tenons cut and chiseled out, and recently we've been fine-tuning them, getting the joints to fit together tightly. Yesterday we got the last ones done, and fit all of the posts and rails together. Bill snapped some pictures on his phone:

Wedging one of the rail tenons into its mortise.

It fits! (I'm pretty sure there are photos of me as a two-year-old with this exact same expression on my face after having achieved some great feat)

 The frame, all fitted together. (Behind it, you can see the skeleton of the 16-foot Shetland-style sail and oar boat that Bill is building)

I'm very excited to have this in my kitchen. It will replace the very low and very ugly Ikea table that current provides me with extra counter space. The new wooden one will have two drawers plus an open front, with room to store bags of flour (which currently live on the floor) plus a variety of other things. The side and back panels will be tongue-in-groove, and Bill is going to teach me how to make hand-turned wooden knobs for the drawers using the lathe. One of the best things about this cabinet: it's custom built for my height, so its counter will be 39 1/2 inches off the ground: taller than most kitchen counters, which make my back ache because I have to bend over so much when kneading bread or washing dishes. It will be like Julia Child's kitchen, which her husband had custom-built to accommodate her six foot frame!

It's great to be working on a different kind of project, together with Bill. I like the old-fashioned simple but sturdy style of Shaker furniture and I am looking forward to seeing what the finished product will look like. By the way, I highly recommend The Woodwright's Shop, which is free to watch on the PBS website. It is very entertaining and covers a lot of the techniques that we're using on this project.

Now, speaking of projects, it's time for me to head off to my garden and do the first planting of the year!

Monday, March 17, 2014


One of the many wonderful things about Portland is our early, early springs. Mild weather, biking through town with the scent of flowers on the air. White blossoms in front of gray clouds. Things blooming at the end of February! It's been lovely so far, and it's been way too long since I've wandered my neighborhood with my camera in hand. So that's how I celebrated St. Patrick's Day: an after-work walk, seeking out the brightness of spring.

 (Daphne odora, the best smelling flower there is)

Spring has well and truly sprung!