Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Pattern Review: The "Anywhere Dress" by Go To Patterns

I've been sewing up a storm lately and I'm excited to finally show you some completed projects.  These are two play dress for Miss S.  I really wanted to make her everyday clothes that can handle lots of movement and outside play.  The big pattern companies offer shockingly little in this category.  McCalls seems to think that little girls need closets full of frilly dresses that were in style a generation ago.  Not this little girl.  After much looking, I settled on a pattern from GoToPatterns.  This is my first experience with PDF sewing patterns and let's just say, I had my doubts, so I'd like to offer my thoughts on using this pattern.

But first things first.  Doesn't my Little Miss make a wonderful model?  She's just getting old enough to take instruction from the photographer.  I had her spinning around and reaching up to the sky.  We both laughed a lot.  At least half of the pictures were too blurry to use, but as every mom knows, if you take thirteen million pictures, one or two will turn out.

Pattern Review:  The "Anywhere Dress" by GoToPatterns

*Please Note:  I bought and paid for this pattern and have not been offered anything in exchange for this review.

A Versatile Pattern

I really like the simplicity and versatility of this pattern.  It's perfect for building a little girl's wardrobe.  The four sleeve options are a great start, but don't be boxed in.  I achieved two very different looks out of the same pattern through simple colour blocking and the addition of a coloured band at the bottom hem.  You could make this dress longer (as in maxi dress) or shorter (as in T-shirt).  You could embellish it with top stitching, trims, buttons, pockets or appliques.  You could add a belt or sew ties into the side seams.  You could get really brave and reshape the neckline or skirt.  So many options; one simple pattern.

On that note, I should mention that this pattern is drafted in one piece front and back with no seam at the waistline.  To achieve the colour blocking on the purple dress, I cut the pattern at the "lengthen here" line and added seam allowances to the bodice and skirt pieces.

Preparing the PDF Pattern

Printing and piecing the PDF pattern took some time, but wasn't difficult.  Every page has lettered tabs to match up, so match them and tape it all together.  Done.  This pattern prints in black and white, using different styles of dashed line to differentiate the sizes.  I found this a little hard on the eyes, so I traced the lines for my size in coloured highlighter to make cutting easier.

Sewing with Knit Fabric

If you haven't worked with stretch knit fabrics before, I strongly recommend reading the tips included with this pattern.  They're very helpful.  I used a slight zigzag stitch on one dress (my vintage sewing machine doesn't have the lightning bolt stitch often used for knits) and a double needle on the other.  I've had good results with both techniques in the past and both worked here.

Sewing the Pattern

This is a simple dress and it comes together very quickly -- an evening or two.  The cut pieces fit together as they should -- always a good thing -- and there is no complicated sewing involved.

I would have liked to see some markings on the pattern (I'm talking about the notches and dots that help line pieces up evenly).  They can be easily added by a marginally experienced sewist, but their absence could lead to less than satisfactory results for beginners.

Overall the assembly instructions are clear, the accompanying illustrations are simple and helpful, but that lack of detail shows up again.   There are no indications, for example, to trim bulky seam allowances, clip curves or press seams in specific directions.  These are little things that add up to a very big difference in the overall quality of the finished garment.  Again, anyone with a little apparel sewing experience will know to do these things, but beginners won't.

Fit of the Finished Garment

I made a size 2T for my tall, skinny almost-two-year-old.  As you can see in my pictures, it fits.  There is plenty of space for movement through the shoulder and sleeve areas.  The dress, as cut to pattern, falls at the knee (see the purple dress).  Great.  I did hit one snag, though.  It didn't go over her head.  I discovered this at just the right moment -- after sewing the neckline but before sewing the side seams.  Because the pattern uses a facing, I was able to easily add a keyhole in the back with a button closure (see my pictures).  This may not be an issue in the larger sizes, but if you're sewing for a toddler (they're known for having big heads) I strongly recommend adding the keyhole.


Preparing a PDF pattern takes a little time, but isn't complicated.  The sizing and fit are appropriate, except for the trouble I had getting it over my daughter's head.  Be sure to test this and add a keyhole if necessary.  Experienced sewists will see this simple dress come together quickly and can have fun customizing it.  The lack of pattern markings and overly simplified assembly instructions, however, make it inappropriate for beginners.  This is too bad, as the pattern is advertised to be "perfect for beginners".  

Overall, this is a good little pattern.  It's a simple, versatile dress that will fit into any little girl's wardrobe.  I am sure to make it again and will mostly likely try other patterns from this designer.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

This Week in My Kitchen

Cooking inspiration runs a little slim this time of year when I see the garden begin to grow, but there's nothing to pick save for kale, chives and tulips.  But being forced to dig a little deeper isn't a terrible thing.  This week, inspiration came . . .

. . . from a a conversation with my mother.  She served fish cakes this week and that sounded good.  These are salmon and potato cakes, waiting to be dredged in flour and pan fried.

. . . from a library cook book.  This kale panini with feta cheese and zippy banana peppers is sure to appear on our table again.

. . . from the pantry.  There's nothing like cracking open a jar of last summer's tomato-y goodness to enjoy over pasta.

And finally, inspiration came from a string of sunny days and a few spring showers -- reminders that the abundance of summer will come soon enough.

What's cooking at your house?

I'm joining, for the first time, This Week in my Kitchen at Beauty That Moves.  This blog hop is all about capturing a love of whole foods, combined with the activity of a bustling kitchen.  A weekly collection of photos from the centre of my home.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Works in Progress

Sometimes I go about my day and write about it after the fact as a means of reflection.  Sometimes, to be completely honest, I add things to my day specifically so I can write about them. Blogging and living is a two-way street.  And every once in a while, life catches me up and I'm so inspired, so driven that I can't take time out to write for fear of missing something while I do. That's where I've been lately.  In the garden.  At the sewing machine.  Taking long dawdling walks in the sunshine with my Little Miss.

Would you like to see a few of my projects?

This will be a sweater for Miss S.  It's by far the most involved crochet that I've done, but it's turning out well.  I'm using this pattern.  I have the back panel completed.

I'm also sewing a couple of play dresses for Miss S.  Frustrated with the selection of toddler patterns from the usual sources, I'm trying a PDF pattern for the first time.  This is the "Anywhere Dress" available from Go To Patterns.  So far so good.

There are some new items in my Etsy shop too.  For summer I thought I'd branch out a little and make a line of casual table linens.

The Sea Breeze collection is already the shop and I'm itching to get to work with this summery fabric combination.  I need a glass of lemonade just looking at it.

Now it's back to work for me, but I'll try to surface a little more frequently.  Do you have anything interesting on the go?

Friday, 11 April 2014

A Personal Photo Challenge: Up Close

I've been noticing some teeny tiny blooms this spring.  Lichens and mosses cling to rocks and walls and trees and put on their own itty bitty displays of colour.  They also sit still longer than my toddler so they make excellent subjects for a little camera experimentation.  Specifically, I'm learning how to control depth of field in Aperture Priority mode. 

These lichen were tricky to photograph, partly because they're so small (about a centimeter tall) and partly because I had to all but crawl off a rock face to get down to their level.  No tripod here, but I think I held my breath while I squeezed the shutter.

These ones where more accessible.  In fact, they appeared right at eye level as I came around a corner in the trail.  I really like all the different textures and colours here.  I count at least four (maybe five) different kinds of lichen and moss.  Does anyone know what they're called?

Finally, a satin flower from my recent wild flower spotting expedition.  I especially like this picture because it includes a sense of the flower's setting.

All photos are taken with my Nickon 1J2 in aperture priority mode.

I'm participating again in Donna's Personal Photo Challenge.  Every month I learn something that helps me take better pictures, and it's fun, of course, to see what others are up to.

Saturday, 29 March 2014


The wildflowers are blooming on M Hill.  That's what a friend tells me.  So I scramble over rocks and up dry stream beds.  I have a camera around my neck and a toddler on my back -- a bit ambitious perhaps, but how else will I see these seasonal beauties?

From the parking lot I start along a forested trail, but it doesn't take long to climb up from the fir canopy into meadows of moss, punctuated by outcroppings of bare bedrock.

There's little soil here, so trees grow small.  Arbutus, twisted and red, was the first coastal tree that I learned to identify.  Garry Oak are less showy, but utterly unique to this region.  These trees are survivors.  Stunted and gnarly, they look it.

But it's the flowers I came to see.  They're subtle, small enough to be missed.  


Fawn Flower.  Shooting Star.  Satin Flower.  They sprout from the shallowest of earth and fling their fragile hearts open to the spring blusters.  What brave souls.

I lean over a rock, sprawl on the damp ground, contort myself around a shrub to meet them.  They drip dew and quietly conjure the sun out from behind the clouds.  Hello spring.

Linking, for the last time this season, to Sunlit Sunday at My Little Home and Garden.  Thank you for hosting, Karen.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

My One and Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

My recipe repertoire evolves constantly.  The standby suppers of three years ago have vanished from the menu.  New foods have taken their places.  Tastes change.  Health ideals change.  The rhythms of life change.  Only a handful of recipes survive for the long haul.

My Chocolate Chip Cookies belong to this select group of foods.  The recipe is hand copied on a student-basic ruled index card.  It's not even a full recipe, just a list of ingredients and an oven temperature followed by the exclamation pointed exhortation "Don't Overbake!"  It's been in my recipe box for as long as I've had a recipe box.

Of course I've tweaked the formula over the years, but they still come out of my oven on a regular basis, hot and gooey and smelling like home.  Soft and chewy but not too sweet, these cookies are everything that cookies should be.  Whole wheat flour gives rich flavour and fends off guilt, while chocolate chips aplenty made them decadent as can be.

My One and Only
Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe 

1 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
21/2 cups rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1-2 cups chocolate chips*
Cream butter and sugars together with mixer.  Add eggs and vanilla; beat until fluffy.  Combine dry ingredients in separate bowl; add to sugar mixture.  Stir in chocolate chips.  Drop by rustic spoonfulls onto baking sheets.  Bake at 350 for 8 minutes.  Don't over bake!  Makes about 4 dozen.
*Try a combination of chocolate chips and walnuts, or raisins, or dried cranberries and almonds (then use almond extract in place of vanilla).  These cookies are marvelously adaptable.

Do you have a recipe that has stood the test of time?  I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Sunlit Sunday with Real Sunshine

It's raining again at the moment, but the sun shone this week.  All week.  I'm not talking about a metaphorical sunniness or a symbolic scrap of yellow, not a transitional breath of light between showers.  The sun shone.  All week.  Temperatures crept up.  Spirits soared.  Croci opened wide in their last hurrah and I, shovel in hand, inhaled the aroma of fresh soil and the food that it will grow.  Hallelujah, it's spring.

I'm joining Karen at My Little Home and Garden for Sunlit Sunday.