sewing with kids: sunny day shorts and flashback skinny tee

My sewing mojo came back this summer, apparently. I strongly suspect it has something to do with the combination of me not really working (for pay) in the summer and my kids being old enough to let me get things accomplished while we're home. Sure, there are interruptions for snacks and card games and trips to the pool, but there have also been several mornings where they are content to read for an hour or so while I work on a project. I wasn't sure if this day would ever come, but it has.

Of course, after I use the machine for a little while, they get curious and want to use it too. There aren't simple requests for me to make them things, either. No, no. They want to do it themselves. This goes for both kids, mind you. And since I've learned to embrace these fleeting moments of creative interest as they come, I do pretty much drop everything and go with it - even if that means spending my entire Saturday sewing shorts in crazy colors instead of making something for myself.

Case in point: in the last week, Daniel and Anya and I have collectively made four pairs of Sunny Day Shorts, including three from start to finish since Friday. It's a free pattern from Oliver&S and it's a good one. (Let's not talk about how many not free patterns I have from that company that I have yet to make, a few of which only go up to size 8 so Anya will grow out of them lickety split...) 

It's too funny to see them choose fabric. They prefer knits, obviously since knits are comfy, but my stash of knit fabrics is really, really small. When this whole project started I had maybe five different pieces, including some leftovers from projects past and a couple cuts I got at a yard sale for a buck apiece. I also have two yards of zebra print (WHY??) that nobody wanted (imagine!). These kids, they love contrast. Bright blue shorts with a black waistband and yellow thread, please. 

Don't you just love those little knees??

How about another pair with red in the back, yellow in the front, and a green waistband? Coming right up!

The kids want to do a lot of the work themselves. I trace the pattern right on the fabric, piece by piece, and they cut it out. Would it be more accurate if I cut it out for them? Absolutely, but that would take out all the fun. Of course, they love using the machine, too. After a couple disastrous seams with Anya at the helm, I figured out that it works best if I take a chalk marker or fabric pen (actually, I prefer to use Frixion) and mark the seam so they can follow the line as they feed it through the machine. It's time-consuming, but again, it works and they're learning.

I also do all of the pinning and pressing (for obvious safety reasons), and I take care of the tricky parts, like feeding elastic through the casing and sewing up the waistband. But the rest, they can do.

This morning, Daniel asked if we could make him a t-shirt. That is a step up, but I have a pattern already (Flashback Skinny Tee from Made By Rae) so we went for it. This time, I did the cutting out (so much faster, so much more accurate now that I've figured out how to do it with a rotary cutter) but Daniel still wanted to do all the sewing.

Because it's a fitted tee that will endure more tugging than a pair of shorts, I wanted to try using stretch thread. I have Maxi-Lock stretch thread in a bunch of colors that I ordered a while back on recommendation from the Made-by-Rae blog. At the time I was probably being way too ambitious with my intentions of sewing knits, and sure enough, when I tried sewing with it, I ended up with a tangled mess. Stretch thread is tricky stuff. I put it all away in frustration. Fast forward a year or more and I found myself with a 9yo kid wanting to sew, a better machine...and the same problem. The bobbin stitches were all fine, but as for the top thread? Some stitches looked great, and some look like the thread was in the losing end of a fight with a giant strip of Velcro. It looked terrible.

More frustration. I took a little break, then did an online search. There's not a lot out there about sewing with stretch thread, but if you read through the comments on that MBR blog post linked above, there are some helpful suggestions (and several other people with the same problem, which was oddly reassuring). I went with the one where you leave the stretch thread in the bobbin but use regular sewing thread on top and lengthen the stitch to 3.0. It worked! I did a little happy dance.

Once we figured that out, Daniel's t-shirt was finished in no time. Some of the seams using all stretch thread look shitty on the inside, but they'll hold. He did the shoulder and side seams, and the bottom hem. I sewed the sleeve caps, hemmed the sleeves, and stitched on the neckband, along with topstitching it with a twin needle. By the way, hemming and topstitching with a twin needle is my new favorite trick for making things look polished.

As you can see, Daniel is pretty happy with his new t-shirt. He'll also be growing out of it next week, though, you think?

Tomorrow we leave for a road trip. I'm driving my kids up to Boston to see my brother and SIL. We're camping along the way and it's going to be a big adventure. Stuart will fly out next weekend to visit all of us, but he isn't coming along for the driving and camping part. Wish me luck! When I come back, I'll have more stuff to show you: a shawl, another Beatrix top, and socks. Oh my!


WildflowerWool said…
Have fun!
Anonymous said…
I'm so impressed with the clothes y'all sewed together!! I don't think M's quite ready to sew WITH me just yet, but I've been wanting to sew FOR her (and me) this summer...maybe once I get this manuscript I've been working on out the door, I'll make it happen. I hope you have a great adventure on your trip!

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