Author Archives: Annabel Vita Admin

What I’ve been up to

So, I read somewhere that bloggers shouldn’t apologise for a delay in posts. But I’m thinking they meant when it’s been a few days, not something like six months!

So, I’m sorry. We moved, and that was really stressful as the workmen who’d done some fixes to the house before we moved in had accidentally pinched an electric cable and nobody noticed until all our stuff was moved in! So we had to move to my mum’s house while they tore up all the floorboards looking to find the problem. (Not going to lie, it felt like a pretty good time to be a renter).

Then, our new teeny weeny house is so perfect for us and where we are in our lives right now, but it’s also pretty modest and has a horrendously ugly kitchen, so while I’ve been enjoying making it a cosy neat, nothing really feels blog worthy. Which is fine! I just thought I’d warn y’all that Annabel Vita is probably going to be a little more focused on sewing from here on out, with (even) less house stuffs.

But! That said, I haven’t even got my sewing machine out in the five months since we moved, as not long afterwards we learnt that somebody else would be joining us for the ride…

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(Sorry for the dark picture! It’s also a little out of date now, but oh well! Imagine me a little tubbier…)

So that’s fun! We have a little baby boy due to join us in July and we are SO excited!

I’ve got my energy back now and am feeling a lot better than I was for the first few months (I didn’t even have the energy to find my sewing machine in all the boxes still unpacked), plus I feel ready to get sewing some bits and pieces for the baby.

So that’s what’s new with me. Thanks for sticking around!

Starched lace window treatment follow up

Hello! I’ve been blown over by the response to my post about our lace window treatment made with cornflour. Thanks everyone!

 

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I thought I’d pop in with the answers to come of the common questions from the comments section.

Q: Just how opaque is it? I am curious how much privacy this actually allows. 

A: I’d say it totally depends on your fabric. If you’d be happy with getting changed behind the fabric as curtains then the fabric will be opaque enough for this window treatment too. I actually have lace curtains in this same fabric, and in both instances I feel happy getting changed behind them if it’s light outside, but I wouldn’t hang out without my clothes on with the light on if it was dark outside. So if privacy is really important, just pick a lace that is more opaque than sheer.

It also depends how directly other people can look into your window! Our bedroom window isn’t super overlooked, although there’s lots of windows out the back, most of the angles are indirect and/or the other window is frosted.

Here’s some pictures (I had to stick my had out of the window to demonstrate as we couldn’t take a pic from outside!) to give you a better idea (remember, a thicker lace would give you more coverage).

 

This spooky picture is my hand pressed right up against the glass…

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And this one is my slightly stubby arm reach out as far as it can, you can just make out my fingers.

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Ok! Other questions…

Q: I’m interested in knowing a little more about the mixture. So it’s however much corn starch I want and match it with equal water and then boil the mix

A: You make a paste with equal parts cornstarch/cornflour and hot water and then add extra boiling water. In my case it was two tablespoons cornflour and two tablespoons water to start with and then I mixed in a cup and a half of boiled water from the kettle.

Q:  What about mod podge? Would that work as well?

A: We don’t really have modge podge here so I don’t know! It would be a bit more permanent I imagine. If it’s anything like PVA glue (I think it is) then I wouldn’t want to use it on wooden painted windows like we have, but it could work great on more modern windows. It would also be much more expensive. (The “glue” made out of cornstarch is essentially free!)

Q: If I used colored lace would the cornstarch show?

A: No, it dries totally clear (but goes on gloopy and white-ish, don’t panic!) It will probably go clear overnight.

Q: Can I see a picture from the outside.

A: Sadly this isn’t possibly in our flat, but Michal did this window treatment in her gorgeous over the door window and put up some pictures on her blog. It looks amazing!

Picture from sweetwoodfuffs.blogspot.com

It’s well worth popping by her blog to see how pretty this looks from the inside, too.

If anyone else has any other questions, please feel free to ask away! (Either here or in the original blog post.)

The wedding: A bridesmaid’s view

I am feeling daunted by writing about the wedding, since there are a fajillion photos and things to say. And at the same time I feel like I can’t write about anything else until I at least give you an overview of the wedding! This is stupid, I know, so I’m just going to make a start at some wedding details. I’ll probably circle around back to all of these in more detail, but I just wanted to get something out there so I can get back to popping into blog whenever I want to say something!

As a way of getting a bit of an overview of what the wedding was like, I thought I’d share a letter I received from one of my bridesmaids shortly after the wedding (with a curated selection of printed photos – note to wedding guests, this was SO nice to receive!)…

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My bridesmaids are the first four on the left (we will talk about mismatched bridesmaids!

What an absolutely fantastic, wonderful, amazing weekend! Thank you so much for the honour of being your bridesmaid and for entrusting me with your eyebrows and nails! You looked completely gorgeous and completely YOU, and in fact, that description extends itself to the whole weekend. From the handmade bunting to the afternoon tea, and the flowers (real and on fabric!), and the gingham tablecloths, and the pot plants and all the homemade touches… it was just PERFECT and I truly enjoyed every second… helping to decorate the marquee the day before, getting ready with you in the morning, following you down the aisle, chatting up a storm with all your friends, dancing the ceilidh…. I take my hat off to you for being so organised, thinking everything through so carefully, and for remaining so calm and collected throughout the whole weekend! You looked like you thoroughly enjoyed yourself and that is what is important.

Here are some pictures illustrating some of the things LB mentioned….

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I wore a pretty robe Mr V had bought me a few years ago to get ready – I liked that it was blue!

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The only arrangements we ordered from a florist were my bouquet, the bouttonieres and a hanging ball thingy for the church lynchgate. The bridesmaid flowers were arranged by one of the bridesmaids – who went to Covent Garden flower market and then bought them all in a bucket on the train! (What a hero)

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.36.09 amPew end arrangements in the church – these were done by my Mum and her friends in the village with a few bought blooms but mainly flowers from everyone’s gardens. I’ll do more about the church flowers – there were plenty more!

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.34.51 amShooooooes. We didn’t have a theme but “swallows” emerged as a motif, and again, they were blue!

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.37.06 amThe tables all had different table cloths that I’d collected, a mixture of gingham and vintage floral embroidery. 

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My mum and I spent an enjoyable morning a few days before the wedding picking ten different pot plants, which we put into old terracota pots she had already. Total cost of ten centrepieces? £40. (Oh, and about £10 total for all the clippy on mini chalkboards.)

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Tiny selection of the 50 metres of bunting I made! 

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Pom poms in the bar area (and blue mason jars!) I’d had a totally different vision for how these would look, but at 6 o’clock on the day of marquee set up, I delegated the whole job to a bridesmaid and I love how it turned out!

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.38.53 amA friend made us this fymo figurine as part of the Homemade Secret Santa we do every year. I was going to make the cake bunting myself, but all my attempts looked awful so I drafted in a friend to finish it for me! (You can see the scones from our afternoon cream tea in the background)

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.39.55 amOur dinner was hog roast served family style. So tasty.

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.38.09 amThe jam jar arrangements from the church got transferred to the farm and put on these hooks to form a pathway up to the marquee. My step dad MADE the hooks and my mum hand-sewed the lace onto the jars. When it got dark, these got replaced with little hanging lanterns (watching my new father-in-law hang the lanterns with his brother is one of my favourite memories of the wedding… I think just because it looked exactly as I imagined and everyone had said it would be too complicated to swap them, but I could tell the two of them were having a good chat! 

Screen shot 2013-09-02 at 11.39.18 amI didn’t think you’d let me get away with another post where I didn’t show you my whole dress! Mr V didn’t tell me he was going to wear these shoes and he had no idea mine were the same colour! The mysterious Mr V wore a three piece tweed suit and a green tie. He looked so handsome. 

Ever after

Maggie Sottero Isadora Ann with bolero

 

And just like that, we are married!

We had such a wonderful time. The set-up day was exhausting but I felt so loved as my friends laid tables, painted signs, carried heavy boxes and did a million other tasks just for us. The rain held off until well after dinner. My bridesmaids looked gorgeous. The speeches were heartfelt, yet hilarious (there wasn’t a dry eye in the marquee by the time Mr V finished his). The bouncy castle was a huge, huge success. We forgot to cut the cake until after half the guests had left, but it didn’t matter. My groom wore a three-piece tweed suit and we both wore green shoes (by chance!). Everyone loved the ceilidh and danced their little hearts out. There were just enough babies to be passed around for cuddles.  I had made the perfect amount of bunting and it looked great. My brother’s puppy caused small pockets of mayhem at the reception. Our tiny flower girl niece walked down the aisle with my best friend. My husband carried me over the threshold that evening. The next day we were sent off with tin cans on the car and had two glorious weeks in sunny Italy for our honeymoon.

There will be more about all of this, in time, when the photographs come in and there is more to share.

Right now I am still feeling so loved, so spoilt, so blessed. This has been an incredible season of my life, and I keep telling myself that the wedding is just the beginning of what I intend to be a long and happy marriage.

 

Lace window treatment with cornflour

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Oh my goodness, this was the quickest, easiest, cheapest project ever but I’m 100 per cent in love with the results. You know those little upgrades that just make your life both better and prettier? This is one of those for our bedroom.

So, privacy. This bedroom has delectable shutters, which I adore, but it makes window treatments kind of hard. You either have to hang curtains in front of the whole alcove (we can tell by the holes in the trim that this is what our predecessors did) or not at all. For the last year and a bit, we’ve opted for the latter option, except for a tension rod light blocking curtain above the shutters.

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The shutters are great at blocking all natural light, which is great for lie-ins. But, this room gets crazy beautiful morning light and it always seemed a shame to be getting dressed in artificial light just for privacy.

Anyway, the other day I was browsing the Manhatten Nest blog (looking for something else entirely), when I stumbled on this post of yore about using liquid starch and fabric for privacy in glass windows. Boom!

Obviously, my mind went straight to lace (because my mind always goes straight to lace) and I thought ooh, I gots to try that out one day!

Serendipitously, we headed to Ikea earlier in the week to scope out tea-light lanterns for the wedding. Even more serendipitously, Ikea has JUST started selling lovely scallop edge lace fabric for a mere £1.50 per metre. Boom boom.

Anyway, I got home from work one day and mixed up the starch jelly. I ended up mixing 2 tablespoons cornflour (that’s cornstarch across the pond) with about an equal amount of cold water, then mixing that in about a cup and a half of boiling water from the kettle. I mixed it in a lunch box and the resulting jelly is both spooky and somewhat non-newtonian.

(Random interlude – my first lady boss once told me that some men – ie. our coworker at the time – are like custard powder mix – the more you stir them the more they resist, so keep a light touch. It’s been remarkably useful advice and obviously applies to lots of women too!)

Unlike Daniel, I didn’t soak my fabric in the mix. It just felt like a messy and icky idea so instead I painted a thick layer of gloop on to the window pane.

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Then I cut out a rectangle of lace using a template I’d made earlier. I didn’t iron it first but the one piece I had where there was a crease was the hardest to apply so do iron your fabric if it’s creased at all.

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Then I applied another thick layer on top, being sure to get it right into all the corners. I tried working top to bottom, centre to corners and a few different ways, but there wasn’t a noticeable difference in ease or result. I did notice that there were sometimes brush marks if I did it too regimented so I ended up going for random patterns of brush strokes.

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The best thing about using lace (with holes in) is that there are automatically not air pockets so you don’t have to both squeegeeing them out, which is good because I’m really bad at that sort of thing. The other good thing about lace is it’s very forgiving. On one pane, I ended up with a gap in one place, I just cut a small strip and starch-glued it over the top. I can’t even tell where it was now!

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Et voilà! Done. This took less than an hour from start to finish.

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Except I’m going to go back and add a row of scallops in the panes just above it. But I figured if I waited to post about it until I’d done that then I’d probably never post about it.

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The best thing about this is that to remove it, you just wash it off with warm water, so it’s perfect for renters. My other favourite thing, that doesn’t really show up in pictures, is that it keep the texture of the lace, so it doesn’t look like fake lace contact paper.

I noticed Dan got a lot of comments wondering if this could be done in a hot, humid room like a shower. To that, I’d say it wouldn’t work somewhere that gets directly wet. As for humidity, it probably depends just how humid, but this is so cheap (£1.50 of fabric, probably less than a penny worth of cornflour) and easy to install and uninstall that you should just give it a go and let the internet know how it works out!

I would say it’s probably not great for a window that would get dirty a lot (like above a sink) because you probably can’t wipe it down. If this window gets dingy, I’d probably remove all the sheets and run them through the machine in a lingerie bag. It’s that easy to apply.

Hopefully I’ll get the scallops up soon and will post back about those!

PS. To see the stunning view this is blocking, click here.

UPDATE! I added a few more details and answers to common questions on a new blog post. Read all about it here

PPS. Click here to see an update for how I removed it after six or so months.

The bedroom

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When you walk into our flat, the doorway to our bedroom is the view that greets you on the right. It’s also what you see from the sofa if you turn your head to the right down the hall.

Our bedroom is teeny. Our bed has to be pushed up against the wall. There’s a tiny cupboard (seems to me like an average American hall linen cupboard) and no room for a wardrobe. But, it’s filled with light and has a huge lovely window.

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That green curtain at the top is green ikea fabric plus a closet rod.
Mr V had to risk his life to put it up (it’s a 11 foot high and he got
it up by climbing the window frame), but it’s worth it to not get
woken up by the light as soon as it’s up.

I’ve decided it’s time to love it exactly as it is. We’re nearly-newlyweds, living in a teeny flat is par for the course! My future-mother-in-law was telling me that their newlywed flat had huge gaps between the floorboards that let in freezing cold air and they’d get ice on the inside of the windows. It’s okay! We’re still just starting out our lives together.

The whole flat looks nicer with the bedroom door open (because then light is coming in from both directions), so our bedroom is a lot more “public” than it would be in some other flats. This makes me pleased that we’ve been able to sort out the hot mess that the bedroom used to be.

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Before > After (I’d hope that was obvious!)

Ah, that’s better! I’ve written before about adding the rast dresser, but the garnityr hanging clothes cover has really helped hide even more clothing clutter from view.

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But the real reason I wanted it was that our clothes were getting crazy dusty. I don’t know if it’s the high ceilings or the fact we’re living in the city centre (beside a pretty busy road) but this flat has more dust than anywhere I’ve ever lived. You can dust, turn your back and it’s covered in thick dust again.

bedroom 3Drats, everything moved slightly in a recent shuffle and I forgot to recentre this poster!

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That bluey thing you can see down the side is an Ikea hanging storage thing that I can’t find on their website,  where I keep my tights, belts and slips. Mr V’s work shirts don’t get dust protection because they get worn and washed weekly, which is just enough to keep them clean out in the open!nook

 

Oh weird nook, you are weird. I would love to make a feature of you but I need you for storing underwear, art we don’t have room for anywhere else, Mr V’s grandma’s handbag, a knitted rat muskateer and the homemade chewbacca I sewed for Mr V. Those hooks I added under the overhang are handy for worn-but-not-dirty clothes and the lint roller. I painted that mini chest of drawers in those two colours as swatches for something else, but ended up liking the way it looked just like that!

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Favourite map and curtain bought for €1 a few years ago are both from French brocantes (long before we moved to this flat). Globe lamp shade from a local toy shop! Badly made bed courtesy of the fact it’s up against a wall and our duvet has lost all its poofiness.

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See? No poof. Sad duvet. This picture also shows our incredibly handy tall and narrow tables (one is tucked under the other). I bought both of these for £4 when we were first moving in together and they’ve been endlessly useful as we live in these tiny flats. I may give them a lick of paint one day (the tops are all kinds of cruddy) but they do an okay job of hiding their flaws (and I like that they’re already ruined so it doesn’t matter if I spill water or coffee on them). bedside tbaleIkea lamp, bunny night light (the best for late night toilet trips), five year diary, pens, Anthopologie catch-all bowl. This picture illustrates how tight a fit our bed is in this room! Also, check out that lovely molding. I still need to show you the original (1745!) molding in the front room, it is ridonkulous (about three times the size of this!).

And that brings us to the end of this little room tour. I hope you liked it. The room is too small and has been too cold all winter, but I do love it. The light is incredible and those silly-high ceilings keeps it from feeling pokey or claustrophobic. Plus, we’re only young. There’s plenty of time for bigger bedrooms!

For now we love where we live enough to deal with the compromises. (Enormous living room means all the other rooms are tiny. Location makes us so, so happy. The rent is really, really affordable.) I’ve been idly looking for our next place (one where we could get a dog) and none of them have anywhere near as good a balance of size, location and cost that our flat has, despite the many downsides of this place.

I guess it’s like anything else, it doesn’t have to perfect to be perfect for you in the here and now.

New Home 611 sewing machine review and manual

Sewing table

Do you ever post something just because before you did it / learnt it you couldn’t find it on Google? Well, this post is one of those posts. I love my sewing machine but there is NOTHING out there about it and I wanted to remedy that, in case anyone in the same situation I was two years ago (in a charity shop, googling a review of a sewing machine to see if they should buy it or not!) Sorry that this post will be boring for most of you… I’ve put everything behind a jump to make it easier to skim!

 

New Home 611 sewing machine manual

So, without further ado, after the jump you’ll find my review of my New Home 611 sewing machine and pictures of every page of the manual. (One day I’ll photocopy the manual into a PDF, but that day is not today, too lazy.)

Continue reading

Pisces baby quilt

If you follow me on instagram you’re probably bored of me teasing you with pictures of this quilt buuuut it’s all done now so here it is with our resident newborn model, Kermit the Frog!

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I put Kermit on it for scale so you can see that I accidentally made it totally massive (42 x 52 inches). Oh well, the baby can use it until it’s old enough for sleepovers, plus it’s a nice size for using as a lap quilt on the sofa (as I discovered when I was hand finishing the binding in front of the TV this week!).

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This quilt is for the same baby that got those little trousers a few weeks ago. The baby will be a Pisces like me, so (even though I don’t really believe in horoscopes), I thought this mix of sea on the front and stars would on the back would suit the little one. The salt water fabrics that I used for the top are so much fun, with all manner of sea creatures (and submarines!) hiding in the patterns.salt water constellations quilt 7

I made up the pattern on the top as I went along. It was nice to take a lot more risks with quilt, compared to the last baby quilt I made where I was quite “safe” with my fabric choices and the pattern. I started from the top with full stripes of all the different fabrics, and then worked in strips down from there, epiecing the fabrics together. I started with some bits precut, but in the end I was just cutting the fabric and playing with it like a jigsaw and then sewing it together. It was fun! One thing I learnt was that some of the fabrics that I wasn’t that fond of when they arrived (like the stripes), actually looked sooo good once they were cut up into little pieces and up against other patterns.

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I ordered the fabrics online and when the arrived I was a bit worried that the two different hues of blue on the front and back didn’t really go…. But once it the top was all sewn up I took into into my local quilt shop with the backing fabric and spent my lunch break browsing fabrics. Once I found this beautiful yellow the two blues really started to sing and I fell in love.

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Here’s one of my favourite bits! I had this seagull ribbon in my stash and at first I just sewed it into the binding, but then I figured it would be nice to reinforce it so that the baby’s mum (my friend) could use it to hang the quilt up on a hook if need be.

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Here’s a better view of the backing fabric with all its funny constellations. I quilted it with a triple zig zag stitch on my machine for some more wavy-ness. I wasn’t thrilled with the way this turned out (I have got to figure out how to work the walking foot I got for Christmas!), but I think it works.

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I attached the binding using the machine for one side and then secretly hand stitching on the other. I did all this using yellow thread that matched the binding, but as I was doing the hand stitching, I realised that I should have matched the machine thread to the quilt not the binding, so that it would be less visible if any bits did stick out of the binding.

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Materials:

Front: six skinny quarters of various Salt Water by Tula Pink fabrics in the ‘aqua’ colourway from the Village Haberdashery (I emailled Annie the shop owner and she cut them skinny not fat for me so that I could do the long stripes at one end of the quilt).

Back: 1.5 metres of Lizzy House constellations night blue from Backstitch (this was the harrrdest blue to photograph ever but look at the gorgeous pattern!)

Binding: about half a metre of Kona Solids mustard yellow (I think! It doesn’t look like any of the swatches online but what does that mean?!)

Batting: Bamboo Blend 50/50 bamboo cotton batting (I bought this off a roll at my local quilt shop though).

(I really like this batting! It’s snuggly and warm but still folds up really well so the quilt isn’t too much of a behemoth. I think the technical terms to describe it are: high drapability, low loft and high resilience. The lady in the shop said it wasn’t really necessary to pre-wash it before use (unless you were making a very pale quilt – the washing is recommended to remove any traces of oil from any cottonseed husks left in the batting). It will shrink about 5 per cent in the wash for that wrinkly look.)

Time: Started after work last Wednesday, finished Tuesday lunchtime. Two solid evenings and a Saturday morning, the rest in bits and pieces.

Cost: quilt top £24 (I have scraps left over but nothing else), quilt back £18, binding £3.50 (I used half a metre of £7/metre fabric), batting £8.10 (1.5 metres of the baby quilt width). Total = £56.50 (Plus p&p on some items and three – count ’em! – three 100m spools of gutermann thread at £1.55 a pop) (two blue and one yellow) (I only finished one of those fully though)

(I put the time and cost just to show why custom quilts cost so much on places like Etsy and why I won’t be going into business any time soon! I also thinking quilting cottons might be more expensive in the UK than the US?)

My favourite quilting tutorials: All linked up in this blog post

Let’s finish this up with one more picture of our beautiful baby all wrapped up!

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I love making quilts for babies! I spent a lot of time while I was making this quilt, just thinking about this little baby that we’re all so excited to meet. One of my other friends said that maybe I should be careful of setting a precedent that everyone’s babies get quilts, but for now I’d rather work on getting faster at quilting than give up on giving them! (Ask me again in a few years though.)

Baby trousers! (Winter Pinterest Challenge)

Here’s a short and sweet post for a short and sweet project.

 Rae's basic newborn baby pant lined

Kermit loves modelling, and he’s so good at it too.

The first of my close friends is due next month and we are all SO EXCITED, yet also a little unprepared because we’ve never done this before! I plan on making the baby a baby quilt, but when one of her friends organised her a last minute baby shower dinner thing, I wanted a quick project to give her (the quilt won’t be finished till the baby is born).

 

So I turned to my pins and found this lovely free pattern from Made by Rae and got to serging (oh yeah! I did all the guts of these on my new overlocker). I was going to just make them unlined in this black and white elephant fabric, buuuut then after cutting them out and sewing them up, I realised I had cut the elephants out upside down. Ruh-roh.

So I pulled out my copy of Anna Maria Horner’s Handmade Beginnings and copied the construction of her quick change trousers to make a these into lined pair of trousers.

To do this, you make two identical pairs of trousers and sew everything except the waistband and leg openings. Then slip one pair into the other, right sides facing. Sew a seam along the top of both pairs of trousers. Turn inside out, then top stitch about half an inch under the waist band, leaving a small opening to slip quarter inch elastic through. Thread the elastic through and then zig zag stitch the ends of the elastic together and complete the top stitching so it looks all nice. I didn’t take any pictures of this but thankfully I used horribly clashing thread for the top stitching so you should be able to figure it out…. Once you’ve turn that, turn all four leg openings up quarter of an inch with the iron and top stitch all the way around. You’re done!

 Rae's basic newborn baby pant lined

And those upside down elephants on the inside? Perfect turn ups!

This post is part of the Pinterest Challenge, organised by Katie (Bower Power), Sherry (Young House Love), Michelle (Decor and the Dog), and Megan (The Remodeled Life).

Thanks guys!