Some Ponyo Love

A pinafore dress patterned with Ponyo running on top of giant waves laying next to a pair of matching baby bloomers.

When we first found out we were pregnant, I enthusiastically purchased 3 yards of gender-neutral patterns from Spoonflower. A yard of firefighter fabric in their organic cotton knit, a yard of kiwi bird fabric in their organic sweet pea gauze and a yard of Ponyo Fabric in petal signature cotton. Then, I enthusiastically set off to find gender-neutral patterns to work each of the fabrics up in.

For the firefighter fabric, I made a pair of easy-knit overalls. The kiwi bird fabric became a bubble romper. Ponyo, however, sat staring at me for months because I couldn’t find a gender-neutral pattern that fit what I wanted to make with it. There isn’t a good reason as to why, but for some reason, all I wanted to do was make a Flutter Pinafore Dress out of the material. Honestly, it wasn’t even that the dress had ruffles (especially when you consider that I didn’t even add ruffles!). Something about the fabric just screamed to me that it wanted to be a dress and not overalls or a romper.

So I sat on it, occasionally taking the adorable fabric out from time to time to see if I could find a pattern that excited me as much as the Flutter Pinafore Dress. Trying to decide if I should cut my losses and make the dress for a friend or if I should compromise and convert the dress into a romper. In the end, I spent a lot of time knitting and sewing other things. Allowing my mind to forget about Ponyo until about a week ago when I started to have enough energy to start thinking about being creative.

The back view of a pinafore dress patterned with Ponyo running on top of giant waves laying next to a pair of matching baby bloomers.

I would be lying if I said that the Flutter Pinafore Dress was not enthusiastically printed and taped together. Due to looking for alternative patterns for so long, the Ponyo fabric was going to become this little dress no matter what, it was just a matter of who was I going to make it for (and I was sort of hoping to keep this one).

Monica Bacon is a fantastic pattern writer for beginners because each step shows an image of what you’re meant to do. In true Paige fashion, I hated gathering the skirt but am happy with how it came out. The only thing I would do differently would be the addition of the elastic on the back of the dress. For starters, using 1/4 in was too small to synch the back completely (but I had so much of it leftover from making crib sheets that I couldn’t help but commit). The other thing I would do differently would be to thread the elastic through the back instead of attaching it before sewing around the waist (which is what the pattern called for). In my mind, I would have less sewing to do and less ends to clip, but in the end, attaching the elastic early lead to a finicky five minutes. I also added a decorative star stitch to the bottom of the skirt, which would have looked even cuter if I had considered the color of starfish instead of using white thread (but hey it’s still cute!).

I love this little dress and wish I had the skill set required to convert it into adult size.

Hippo Baby Bunting

Pattern envelope for Simplicity 9215 showing a baby in a fleece bunting.

While I spend more of my time knitting than sewing, it’s safe to say that I tend to reach for both with a mentality of either “this will be fun” or “I could make that”. While perusing baby patterns last fall, I stumbled across Simplity 9215 which offers the sewist the ability to transform fleece fabric into a jacket, pair of pants or baby bunting. Combine that with Joann Fabrics having a sale on fleece during the upcoming weekend and it felt meant to be.

Now, the pattern envelope claims that this is an easy project. Having just curned out a wonky looking baby bunting I think it’s safe to say that the pattern pieces were finicky and the instructions left a lot to be wanting. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the indie patterns I’ve been working with or perhaps I’m simply not in a place where I can picture how what I’m about to do will translate into the finished garment. Either way, I will aknowledge that my beginner sewing status played a role in the wonkiness of the finished garment as well.

For starters, the zipper is one of the first items that you sew on rather than the middle or last steps as I’ve previously worked. This is tricky because the instructions have you working with the front and back piece without the extentions in one step and then add in the extension in the following step. Honestly, it would have been easier to either attach everything together and to attach the zipper after sewing the shoulder seams and inserting the sleeves. In the end, I skipped the extensions (I’m still unsure how they fit together with the final grament, which is ok because I opted for a contrasting zipper on purpose) and was able to manuver my sewing machine around the extra bulk caused by installing the zipper so early. Also, my 14 inches zipper was a little smaller than the length of the body, I should have opted for 17-20 inches.

Another modification to the instructions I would have made (and highly recommend) is sewing the toe piece to the front before attaching the front pieces to anything. The area you’re manipulating is so tiny that any reduction in bulk is going to make it easier. Then, while I would like to think I could try pinning the bottom of the foot in such a way that I could sew around the foot and then up the side seam, the reality is that the bottom of the foot really can’t be attached until both leg seams are completed. So this step would indeed need to wait until closer to the end.

Finally, I couldn’t wrap my head around how to attach the mittens to the sleeves in a way that would make them usable. Now that the project is over, I think I would be able to if I were to rework the pattern? The directions here left a lot to be desired, but I’ll chalk this one up to being a newbie.

Would I make S9215 again? Perhaps in a larger size than 0-3 so that the manuvers are easier to make, but I also don’t see myself making this as a gift for anyone until I’m a little better at sewing. Luckily our little one will be small enough that the sizing won’t really matter (the feet in particular didn’t work out quite right). All in all, happy that I worked through the pattern (I learned a lot!), but a little bummed that one foot is smaller than the other and the larger foot is a weird shape.

A hooded baby bunting made of fleece with a hippo pattern on it.

Kiwi Bird Bubble Romper

Front view of a bubble romper made with gauze fabric with multi colored cartoon kiwi birds.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, we’re expecting an addition to our little family! I feel like it’s taken me forever to start crafting for them. For starters, we don’t know the gender of our child. While this doesn’t affect the colors or fabrics that I use, it does seem to have an effect on the patterns that I want to work with.

Honestly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of gender-neutral sewing/knitting patterns out there unless you’re willing to make “just a sweater” or “just a onesie”. Don’t get me wrong, those are important and would get a lot of use… they’re just also not very fun to make. I can’t help it, if we have a little girl there will be more hand-sewn dresses in my future. It’s not that I wouldn’t knit or sew for a little boy, it’s just that there seems to be fewer options to choose from. So really, until our child starts to have strong opinions about what they wear it will be a little bit of this and a little bit of that (and even when they do start to care it will still be a whole lot of hand-me-downs).

I have never worked with gauze fabric before, and while I’m not on a mission (at this point) to try every fabric out there, Spoonflower’s Sweat Pea Gauze combined with cartoon kiwi birds seemed like a fun summer combination. Add in a free swimsuit pattern from Made-by-Rae in order to adjust the base of her Germanium Dress and you’re on your way to imagining how my afternoon went. Filled with deep breaths, “you gots this”s, and a triumphant look what I made at the end.

Back view of a bubble romper made with gauze fabric with multi colored cartoon kiwi birds.

Why not just use the entire swimsuit pattern from start to finish? To be perfectly candid, it probably would have been easier due to having fewer pieces. In my opinion, the bodice area on the swimsuit is slanted towards the feminine side and I wanted to make sure that this romper could be worn comfortably regardless of gender. Plus, the swimsuit has a lot of gathers in the top and I honestly wasn’t in the mood to mess around with that many rows.

It will be interesting to see how the final garment wears on a person as the gauze fabric has a lot of drape to it. This may be a situation where it’s less poofy from the fabric and more poofy due to having a diaper underneath, but either way, it’s a cute ensemble to add to our collection (that and it feels good to be crafting for our little one)!

Time will tell if I will reserve gauze fabric for dresses, shirts, and pants that don’t bubble as it was a little tricky to work with. I also plan on using this tutorial to modify an overall pattern I found so that it has snaps for easy diaper changes. Stay tuned, and be prepared for some baby knits to make an appearance soon!

“Saving” My Emery Dress

Young woman wearing an ill-fitting short sleeve dress. The dress is green with frog faces on it.

In May/June of 2021, I enrolled in an Intro to Classic Dressmaking class at Notion, where I attempted to sew an Emery dress out of a frog patterned quilting cotton. Attempted for a few reasons, for starters, it was hard and I’m by no means an expert sewist (yet?). The more important reason, however, is that when I blended two sizes together to form what I thought would be the correct size bodice I was left with a shoulder area that could have been smaller (aka I probably didn’t need to blend a larger size into a smaller size)! This is probably why people sew a mock version before attempting the project in their final project, similar to creating a large swatch in knitting. Needless to say, the only way my Emery dress would fit would be if I suddenly grew about two cup sizes.

If I’m honest, the dress sat on the floor of our bedroom for several months. Literally staring me in the face day in and day out with its cute (and just a tad creepy) frog faces. My husband, who hates clothing on the floor, stopped offering me pitying looks about the situation after about a week. At least he didn’t say anything about moving it, I was suffering from a feeling I’m sure his inner artist understood.

A size 6 month pinafore dress with a repeating frog pattern laying next to a pair of matching baby bloomers.

It finally came to me, after spending probably too much time on Pinterest looking up sewing projects for babies (their clothes don’t require a lot of fabric!) and a strong desire to have the little frogs live out their destiny to adorn someone’s body. In less than an hour, my missized Emery dress became an adorable Crossover Pinafore (free pattern from Smashed Peas and Carrots) with matching bloomers!

Pros and cons of the Crossover Pinafore really come down to how well you can manipulate fabric around the tight corners that form the straps (which in my case means that they’re a little wonky). I like that the pattern is reversible, but I used some leftover black cotton from an art project my husband was working on, and don’t foresee anyone flipping this particular version to that side. It was also a fantastic excuse to pull out my machine’s buttonhole maker, which always blows my mind a little bit. All in all, I can see myself making this when a friend announces that they have a little girl (Is this too girly for a boy to wear? Do babies even really care?) on the way with purposefully picked lining fabric so that it’s actually reversible.

Now that it’s done, I can’t help but think about the remnants that can be found in my fabric stash. I must have enough fabric leftover to make another one (combined with more black remnants of course!).

Ballerina (Cleo) Skirt

A young woman wearing a black fitted t-shirt tucked into a long green skirt with ballerina's practicing at the bar printed on it.

The thing about sewing is that in many ways it’s not that different from knitting. Ok, in many ways it’s very different from knitting. In fact other than using your hands to make something many of the tools and techniques are different. All that aside, in many ways sewing is not that different from knitting. Like knitting, sewing projects have a way of jumping out at me when they’re ready to come to life. Like knitting, I go through phases of zero inspiration, and then suddenly a pattern that I’ve seen a million times needs to be given life immediately. Mostly, there’s a strong desire to grab beautiful materials because you know that at some point you’ll be able to use your hands to turn them into something beautiful.

We don’t make the trek to Notion very often, though a wonderful shop, it’s an hour away. When you combine that with there’s a record shop in town for my husband to patron and a delicious eatery down the street, it’s a trip that very quickly becomes a treat. So you have to understand when I say that this ballerina fabric literally jumped out at me from their clearance section, you have to understand that I typically go in with a budget and a plan. I check the clearance section as a means of sticking to that plan, not necessarily for the “OMGOSH I need this to make this and I’m going to start it tonight” feeling that ensued when my eyes made contact with this green cotton poplin fabric.

In addition to the fabric, I also walked away with a copy of the Cleo Skirt by Made-by-Rae. The plan, as I enthusiastically informed my husband over lunch, was to merge the two different styles so that I’d have a long skirt with visible front pockets. A plan that went into action as soon as I could wash and iron the fabric.

The Cleo skirt came together incredibly fast and I love the stiffness that using poplin brings to the garment. Though slightly more of a summer fabric, I do plan on wearing this with a turtleneck, tights, and boots through winter. Another project that I not only want to make again but honestly fits so well into what I tend to wear day-to-day. Perhaps a woolen version is in my future!

There’s about a yard or so leftover, so stay tuned for another ballerina project! I think I have enough to make a t-shirt using the 100 acts of sewing pattern?