Colorful Charity Sewing

SoundStitches sewing blog charity sewing Days for GirlsHere’s what I did last weekend: I stitched colorful fabrics to help girls stay in school! A co-worker alerted me to a sewing session to benefit a group that believes, “Every girl in the world deserves education, safety, and dignity.” Well, I decided I not only believe in that, but I could spend a few hours proving it! Here’s a bit more on Days for Girls International:

We help girls gain access to quality sustainable feminine hygiene and awareness, by direct distribution of sustainable feminine hygiene kits, by partnering with nonprofits, groups and organizations, by raising awareness, and by helping communities around the world start their own programs.

Practically-speaking, we stitched soft cotton covers and liners that will go into kits with washcloths, soap, and various plastic bags to make these necessary items easier to manage. We also consumed tasty soup, snacks, chatted, and enjoyed the great view afforded by our hostess’ hillside home! The goal of this program is to enable girls to continue attending school when they are often absent for one reason alone. More days in school leads to higher educational attainment and delayed motherhood, which leads to better maternal and infant health, and overall quality of life. Learn more or find a session near you: Days for Girls International

The organizer had assembled ready-to-sew kits. The fabrics were the delightful, high quality, and well-coordinated cottons you see in the picture, making it a pleasure to stitch together various combinations. I hope to attend the next session! This is actually the second session I’ve attended. The first was with school-aged girls, organized by a local mom, and held in a local crafts/sewing studio. Though puberty has not arrived for these girls yet, they were eager to either learn or practice their sewing skills to benefit other girls. And what a great, informal way to learn that the arrival of puberty is a challenge all girls can handle!



Could You Be Loved? Update

We be loved… the pajamas are loved, I mean. Before the holidays, I wasn’t sure that my gift would be loved, or worn. But the cute critters on the blue background have been loved, and she says she’s so glad they are blue and not pink. Here is my daughter loving her pajamas — and the new kitty who joined our crew in December. The normally good cat is a terror in my sewing room, by the way. He seems to love tissue paper, particularly the feel of it crunching into his paws as he slides into the middle of a pile of already-pinned, already-cut out pieces. I should have thought of this!


Could You Be Loved?

2012_Blog_Simplicity3669While photographing my next holiday gift, I had in mind the Bob Marley song, “Could You Be Loved?” The last two winters my daughter wore bright pink collared pajamas with kitties on them, and she was disappointed to learn that they no longer fit her this fall. Very disappointed (which I found surprising because she no longer likes pink). So off I go to locate kitty pajamas. Found some, from Hadley’s. They make cute but pricey organic cotton pajamas and my mom offered to spring for them as an additional gift. But they fit very small, and my girl doesn’t do close-fitting clothing. (I hope this means less of a struggle when she’s a teen!) So they went back, and she has been wearing a pair of fleece pants with a peace sign print that my parents also gave her. She has worn those every day since Thanksgiving. (I’m not sure how many times they’ve been washed, to be honest.) A child needs a second pair of pajamas, don’t you think?

Found this cute fabric with raccoons, mice, and some other creature I can’t identify (we’ll see if you can, next post). The fabric is lofty cotton flannel from Pacific Fabrics and pattern is Simplicity 3669. I’m holding my breath because the other thing about this girl is that she no longer wears most of what I make for her. I gave up earlier this year — sort of.  This summer I made corduroy capri pants with side pockets she really likes. Here’s my reasoning this time: pajamas are just pants + collared shirt.

I did two things differently this time around: 1. I used my serger more and 2. I skipped interfacing the collar and the entire facing. GASP! I’ve never skipped steps before. I wanted to know whether Peggy Sagers had a valid time-saver. She says that production houses don’t interface simple blouses. I’m still not sure that’s true — I don’t know that I’ve ever bought a blouse without some kind of interfacing. So I only interfaced a strip where the button holes would go, and they came out beautifully. (Love automatic buttonholes!)

Join me for the reaction!

Gift Idea for You and Yours

SoundStitches sewing blog pyjamasA simple project that I’ve made over and over again is casual elastic-waist pants. Call them whatever you like — pajama pants, house pants, or yoga pants — I highly recommend them as a quick gift that you can complete in less than two hours. For summer, use a lightweight woven print. For fall and winter, choose a cozy flannel or fleece. (It’s a great beginner project, but it’s also great for advanced sewers — sometimes we just need a gift that’s quick and simple!)

Last summer, my mom picked out this lovely cotton print at a quilt shop nearby. The background is aqua and the flowers are poppy-red and periwinkle-purple. On a recent visit I made the pants and she’s very happy with them. I customized basic pattern Simplicity 9505 for myself, my mom and my husband. Some things I’ve changed about the pattern: Instead of using the recommended 1/2″ elastic, use 1″. This creates more of a smooth yoga-pant look, and it’s more comfortable. To accommodate the wider elastic, add some to the pant upper edge using tissue paper or similar. If you can’t find Simplicity 9505, any unisex or ladies’ elastic waist pants pattern will do, and there are similar patterns for children. All you need is a waist measurement and an approximate length.

Think about how much you spend on pajama pants and consider sewing them for yourself and some other worthy someone this season!

Vintage Textile Soak

Can you tell I was a child of the early 80s? Laura Ingalls Wilder-style ruffles were the fashion! I made this white flannel nightgown, complete with lace and embroidered initials, for a 4-H project when I was about 12. But this nightgown wasn’t this sparkling when I pulled it out recently. Oh, no it was brown and icky. It was living in a dry cleaning bag from the 90s — it must have been that old because my parents haven’t lived near the dry cleaner’s whose name the bag bears for more than a decade! I was lamenting how sad and brown the item was, when my friend Maris lent me her bag of Vintage Textile Soak. She used it to clean her daughter’s christening gown for wear by her granddaughter. She showed me the gown — it’s beautiful, white and as fresh-looking as it must have been the day it was finished!

The package for Vintage Textile Soak says the active ingredient is sodium bircarbonate. I dissolved the powder per instructions, and let it sit “from 4 to 24 hours or as needed.” Well it didn’t need that long. I started soaking at dinnertime, and in the morning the white flannel was sparkling. No traces of brown anywhere. My mom will be thrilled to see it so clean and new-looking. Info below on this product, which could reclaim any number of treasured items in your household.

This nightgown has another story, and here it is: The project was conceived as a 4-H project when I was about 11 or 12. Putting together the nightgown was not a big deal, though it looks detailed. I don’t remember all the details about its construction. My mom and I DO remember the embroidery part. I was SO OVER this project by then. But my mom reminded me of the plans to embroider my initial in pink and the little green leaves. I didn’t WANNA! My mom had to nag to get me to do it. The embroidery is not very well done, and doesn’t do the nightgown justice. Alas, it was finished, and it was entered into the 4-H sewing exhibit. I don’t even remember what prize it won! (Maybe my mom does.) And now I can share it with all of you. Thanks Maris!

Vintage Textile Soak, Arlington, Texas, 817-912-0905

Snack Bags with Reduce-Reuse-Recycle Style

My sewing student Sheri recently made her second reusable snack bag. We were both inspired by the book, Sewing with Oilcloth. I mentioned the book briefly at the end of a sewing lesson and showed her my first effort in cotton. Before I knew it, she had bought oilcloth, and during the next lesson I had to explain that for snack bags, laminated cotton is recommended instead to avoid over-exposure to PVCs. We also decided that my version was too big. Not kidding: If you filled that thing with the quantity of goldfish pictured in the book, no child would eat anything else in the lunch! So we made a smaller template and a prototype from leftover cotton and denim (repurposed jeans, no less). These things take no time at all to whip up.

By the next lesson, Sheri had made the bag pictured here, and the original was no longer available because it was at school with her oldest daughter! The bag pictured repurposes a reusable shopping bag that had lost its handle. The “F” is from the word “Fresh” and it closes using Velcro strips. Who knows what Sheri will use by next time!

She knows that since the needle punched holes into the reusable bag “fabric,” it’s not truly waterproof, but she plans to use it for damp snacks like carrots and dry sandwiches. She already washes her plastic sandwich bags and is looking forward to reusing her near-oilcloth substitutes. Personally I don’t plan to buy oilcloth or laminated cotton: I’m going to continue with two layers of regular cotton, interfaced, with double-wide binding and a Velcro circle or snap at the top. (The binding is needed because with cotton, unlike with oilcloth, there are raw edges.)

A local store, Nancy’s Sewing Basket, recently made an entire store display of Sewing with Oilcloth. They had on display virtually everything described in the book, along with cool props like a bicycle. I snapped the picture below through the window and I do hope they took the time to send a nice picture to the author and publisher!

Sewing with Oilcloth, Kelly McCants, Wiley Publishing

Capri Pants with Benefits

These are simple elastic-waist pants with two extra features: side pockets with contrast lining, and side slits for easy movement. “Nice pants,” you might say, “for your boy.” Well, these are for my girl. I had to get her out of some worn-out, hole-destined khaki pants. So you see, I have a tomboy. So the new pants had to be a compromise. Not shown well in the picture, they are a teal-colored baby corduroy. Durable and not too girly. The side pockets were necessary, you see, because every girl needs a place to store her opened cheese stick wrappers and rocks. Something has to protect them from the washer machine and dryer, you see. And she wants to wear pants that protect her knees, so I made them capri-length with slits on the outside legs.

I obtained the fabric from what we locals are calling “Erma’s stash.” In May, a member of our local American Sewing Guild chapter was helping her mom move into an assisted-living facility. She invited us all over to see if we could use the fabric, in exchange for donation to her mom’s cause. Erma is in her 90s and endured World War II. She collected decades of fabric, though I overheard her say “I wasn’t able to get much.” Erma’s two daughters chatted with friends and visitors.

We were grateful to have the opportunity to have met Erma, who bravely came out to see her stash raided. (I actually felt rather emotional myself, remembering my grandmother Mumu who died last September at age 96.)

I collected a number of pieces of fabric that you’ll see referred to as “Erma’s stash” in future. Apparently many members of our sewing guild have been stitching up gifts for family and items for charity using the fabrics. We understand from daughter and guild member Molly that Mom appreciates seeing it all go to good use. This is my first finished garment, perfect for a tomboy daughter.