Sewing Essentials

September is National Sewing Month! Oh, how I love learning more about sewing and making homemade gifts for friends!

Hop on over to the Sew Mama Sew blog for a list of seven sewing essentials and links to multiple tutorials. They include:

1. Pre-washing fabric
2. Taking your measurements
3. Pressing
4. Seam finishing
5. Sewing zippers
6. Buttons and buttonholes
7. Hemming

I know how tempting it can be to take shortcuts during a sewing project - sometimes I'm just so excited to see the finished product that I'm not as careful as I should be. Something important I have learned since I started sewing is to do projects in small increments when necessary. If I try and take on too much I will rush through a project and almost always make some sort of silly mistake. These tips really do help to encourage your sewing abilities and make your finished products look more professional. Try something new this month!


DIY crib bedding

When a friend of mine told me she was going to have a baby boy I volunteers to sew her crib bedding for her and it was time consuming, but a lot of fun. Here are some details and lessons learned on the project: 

I started out following this tutorial for the bumpers. After thinking about it, I wasn't crazy about the rounded edges or that each bumper was a separate piece, so I went in a different direction. That tutorial, though, did talk me through the process of sewing my own piping. Custom piping really adds a finished look to the project and was really easy to do! The new mom to be picked out all of the fabric with a little bit of my input.  

I purchased crib bumper pads from JoAnn Fabrics with a coupon. They look like this. Another way to do this would be to recover an existing crib bumper set, which I think would be easier to manage and you could use the previous one as a pattern for the new fabric. I would measure the distance for the bumper ties and sew them on to the outside fabric before assembling the cover. I forgot to do this and had to hand sew the bumper ties on.
For some reason I can't find the exact crib skirt tutorial, but here's one that pretty easy to follow.

Here's the crib bumper set up in my room and after I added the razorback and monogram, cut from my Silhouette machine and applied with fusible interfacing. You might also choose to do this step before you assemble the bumper covers. I wasn't sure where I was going to place it at that time, so I ironed it on later.

Here's the bedding in Caleb's crib!  

 I also sewed a coordinating valence, which turned out super cute. I took the window width + 12 inches {3 inches on either side of window to allow for valence bar, and 6 inches in the middle for the pleat} x 15" long. I sewed the pocket at the top, tacked the pleat, and ironed it down a bit to ensure a crisp pleat. My serger made the crib skirt and valence project go much quicker than if I would have had to hem all sides, but it's definitely possible.  
I would say that this project would be at an intermediate level. The hardest part was measuring out all of the pieces for fabric amounts and cutting. Just give yourself plenty of time so you can work at a leisurely pace and take breaks when you need to. There are so many adorable fabrics out there and this is a great way to personalize your little one's room!


A few Silhouette SD projects

I can't tell you how much I love my Silhouette machine. It's so versatile! You just download the Silhouette software from their website and connect the machine to your comp with a USB cord. It can be used to cut heat transfer material, paper, fabric, vinyl, etc. The software is really easy to use and has an interface pretty similar to Word. Here are a few of the projects I have done so far:

I did another upgrade to our front door wreath {it has gone through many changes over the past couple of years}. For this I used Silhouette's flocked white heat transfer material and it worked like a charm. I purchased the heat transfer starter pack from their website and it came with a few different colors. One of the coolest things about the Silhouette software is that you can import any image or font you want to use!
It's kind of hard to see in this picture, but I  imported the Razorback image, traced it and cut it out on fabric. I just iron fabric to one side of fusible interfacing then place that on the thick cut mat with the paper backing still attached. I put the settings on a slow cut speed and it works great! One time there were little pieces that didn't cut all the way through, but I just used an exacto knife to help with that. Then, just peel the paper backing off of your new shape, iron on to fabric and stitch around edge for added durability.

Silhouette does sell their own fusible interfacing for fabric, but for this I just used good old Wonder Under and it worked great.
 This is the same razorback shape and I also cut the monogram out of fabric. I will post this crib bumper project next.
  Another great use for the Silhouette is to cut freezer paper to use for a stencil! It's so accurate and can cut shapes that would take for-ev-er with just a craft knife in just mere seconds. The monogram onesie below is an example of this. I did also make a couple of other precious onesies for a friend's new baby girl, but forgot to take pictures.
The Silhouette is coming out with a new model next month that can cut patterns up to 12" wide {as opposed to the current 8.5"}. I haven't found a need for the wider cutting capabilities myself, but others seem to be really excited about it.


Greener grass

"The grass is not greener on the other side, it's greenest where you water it!" - Robert Fulghum

Sean and I are incredibly blessed - a solid marriage, secure jobs, loving families, a church home we adore, a growing group of supportive friends in Fayetteville. We certainly don't deserve these things, but are incredibly thankful they are each a part of our lives right now. In yesterday's sermon on marriage at Cross Church Fayetteville, our pastor shared the above quote with us and I can't stop thinking about it. He was using it in reference to marriage and the importance of investing in your spouse to help protect against outside cultural influences, but it's applicable in many situations. My mind tends to always wander to the future - where will we move next, what if any job will I take after this one, when will we start a family, etc. While those aren't bad to think about, they literally consume my thoughts sometimes and cause me to miss out on the now. I feel like I'm always looking for the next exciting moment instead of investing in people and relationships today and trusting that God has me where I am for a purpose.

Right now I'm in a study with a group of women my age working through Beth Moore's Daniel study. It's. So. Good. We are only in week three, but I've already taken a lot out of it. The first half of this study compares Babylon to our current culture - one that values success, beauty, youth and intelligence. Daniel stood firm in the face of many cultural temptations. Beth describes Daniel as "culturally relevant without being spiritually irrelevant." Don't you love that? She also gave a challenge to "do something on purpose, or don't do it at all." I think I'm going to put that in a picture frame at our house!

Our modern day Babylonian mindset would have us believe that the grass is greener on the other side. If only we worked harder, looked better, were smarter, etc. It's going to be my prayer that I not always be looking for the next best thing, the greener grass, but rather that I desire to be exactly where He wants me. I'm not sure what that will look like and imagine it might be quite different that how I pictured my life. He knows a lot more than me, so I'm cool taking a back seat on this one. :)


Pattern Review - The Beach/Bath Robe

Last night I wrapped up this precious little bath robe for my co-workers daughter, Zoey. I used this pattern that Dana from MADE put together.
The pattern was very easy to follow and the project came together quickly. I have two suggestions - the first is to heed her recommendation of using a very thin towel. I used a regular bath towel and it worked ok on my machine, but there were times it was difficult to maneuver the bulky fabric through the serger. The other recommendation is to use a large beach towel. If you use bath towels, you will need two of them. Buying an inexpensive beach towel would have saved on total cost and time.

I made a novice sewing mistake in this project. I didn't have bias tape on hand, so I thought I could substitute with ribbon. It doesn't work. Lesson learned. It's easy to think that bias tapes are just strips of fabric, but their quality of being cut on the bias makes them significantly more flexible and easy to use on curves.

Overall it turned out pretty darn cute and would be great for after bath time or when heading to the pool next summer!


Haiti Trip Part 6 - Application in the U.S.

Transitioning back to life in America hasn't been easy. I was only in Haiti for 10 days, but all of my senses were overloaded with a culture very different from my own. Upon my return to the U.S., I connected through Miami and the airport had been closed for two hours when I arrived. Due to this, it took over two hours to get through customs and many people on our trip missed their flights. I finally got to my gate and excitedly dialed my husband, longing to hear his voice. I was met with a tender voice on the other end alerting me that his grandfather had passed away during my absence. I felt so sad - yes, that his grandpa had passed away, but more so that I wasn't there to comfort him and his family during a time of need.

My flight was delayed a few hours, so I was going to miss my connecting flight in Dallas. In order to ensure I made it for the funeral the next day, I re-routed to STL and arrived around 1:00am. As I waited around the Miami airport, my gate was full mostly of tourists returning from their Aruban and Mexican beach vacations. They were all very vocal about their frustrations of flight delays and I wanted to punch them in the face. It was really hard to have seen starving children that morning and now be surrounded by people complaining about petty problems. I felt really vulnerable and like my joy was being stolen almost immediately upon my return.
 How do I not forget what I experienced in Haiti and still be mindful of how incredibly blessed I am? This weekend I attempted to go shopping and found a dress for $50 I really liked. When I was in the dressing room I thought '$50 could feed a child in Haiti for a whole month!' I couldn't buy the dress. When I left the store I told Sean my feelings and wondered out loud when this feeling would change and he asked me if I ever wanted it to change. I think the answer is no. I don't want to go back to normal. I don't want to spend frivolously just because I can. I don't want to forget what I saw while in a third world country.
 The reality, though, is that life is different here. Even the poorest here are better off than the majority of Haitians. In my life I will likely never go hungry, I will have access to appropriate medical care, I will have a roof over my head. I don't believe guilt is an emotion that God desires for his people. Discernment, sure. Guilt, I don't think so. Sometimes that's what I feel and I need to be praying that He would show me how to transition best.
 I so desperately don't want to forget these faces, the smells, their gracious humility.  Right now I'm not really sure what it looks like to stay involved. There are certainly many worthy organizations to donate to and disciplined prayer for the people Haiti is something I care deeply about. I would love to take another trip with Sean so that we can both experience another culture together. I'll say that it was a little difficult to come back and share pictures, stories, etc. and for Sean to not be able to fully relate or be interested in the same type of lifestyle changes. He was 100% supportive (he wrote me letters to read each night I was gone and they got me through some tough days!) but still didn't see what I saw.  
  I encourage all of you to take a trip like this sometime soon. Travel outside of your comfort zone to experience God's people and creation in another part of the world. Many Americans have a very narrow worldview. I do feel that mine has been expanded after this trip, but certainly has a lot of room to grow. It was and continues to be a great learning experience. It was challenging physically, emotionally and spiritually - a challenge I really needed at this time of my life.
Jesus spent a lot of time with the least of these. He loved others deeply, served other sacrificially {to the point of death}, and didn't care about cultural norms. We aren't just asked to take care of widows and orphans, we are commanded to do so. Taking a 10 day trip to Haiti isn't enough and I know that. If anything this trip exposed my weaknesses and shortcomings and for that I am thankful. The process of sanctification is sometimes slow and messy, but how wonderful that He loves me enough to give me grace and allow me the opportunity to grow closer to Him every day!


Cher's speech on Haiti

I love the movie Clueless and recently remembered Cher and Amber's debate on the people of Haiti.
"If the government could just get in the kitchen and rearrage some things, we could totally party with the Haiti-ans"

I wore tons of knee high socks after I watched this move. I also coveted a closet that spins around.


Pattern Review - Flower Girls Dress

Yesterday I finished sewing a flower girl's dress for a friend who is getting married this fall. It wasn't an easy project, but it was definitely fun to try something different.
Butterick B5458
 I made dress A (tea length) in a size 3T. I used an ivory taffeta for the main fabric and a synthetic silk for the lining. Both are pretty fabrics, but since the taffeta is a pretty stiff fabric, the gathering sections at the top of the skirt got pretty thick, making it very difficult to maneauver through my sewing machine. I got it done, but it took an extra dose of patience and a very slow stitch speed. Making this dress with any type of cotton or seersucker would go alot faster.
 I did add a couple of additional tulle layers to the outside of the dress to make it a little 'poofier.' The dress has a petticoat sewn to the lining that helps it keep it's shape. The bride sent me some extra fabric that her bridesmaids dresses are made out of and that's what I used for the sash.
 The pattern calls for a zipper in the back. I thought that would take away some of the cuteness, so I opted for buttons instead. I waited to do the buttonholes until the dress was together, which wasn't a good idea due to the bulk of the attached skirt. For others interested in adding buttonholes, I would do so after the bodice is together, before you attach the bodice to the gathered skirt.

The pattern is easy to follow and there aren't a ton of pieces to cut. I would rate the level of sewing at a medium and time at approximately 5-6 hours total (shorter if you use fabrics that more easily gather). I would for sure sew another flower girls dress for sentimental purposes, but the reality is that sewing one yourself doesn't save a ton of money (if any) because there are so many websites out there offering inexpensive flower girl dresses. For example, this one.  It's fun to have a custom made dress, though, and lots of love went into this one!


Haiti Trip Part 5 - La Baie des Moustiques

One day of the trip we hopped on a bus and tap tap and headed towards La Baie des Moustiques (mosquito bay). La Baie is an orphanage in a more rural part of Haiti affiliated with NW Haiti Christian Mission. Our goal was to hold a basic eye clinic for patients that would not be able to travel to the mission for our regular clinic. Grant and Natasha are a young married couple that run La Baie. We all had a lot in common - previous Kanakuk staff, from Missouri, big college football fans. It was a really unique experience to meet my peers who have given up a life of comfort in the US in order to live out God's calling. They were just so normal. I know that probably sounds weird, but meeting people that are like me but living a life very different from mine was really interesting {and convicting if I'm being honest}.

We crossed this river on the way to La Baie.

 I found this photo online, but it gives you a great idea of what a more rural area of Haiti looks like. More huts, goats, and more a desert like appearance.

 On the way to La Baie our truck got stuck in the mud (Hurricane Emily moved through the area the day before we arrived). I'm in the back of the bus. I thought we were moving closer to try to tie a rope or something, but no....we just tried to ram the truck out. Didn't work and the bus got stuck too.

 After about 45 minutes or so, we got the bus out and all crammed in to drive the remaining couple of miles to La Baie's campus. We set up this clinic and ended up seeing around 90 patients this day. Some of them were referred on to surgery with our team, but an unfortunate reality is that they likely don't have the means to get transportation to the mission.
 We got to do something pretty cool on this day trip - we visited a beautiful beach! The water was cool and such a relief from the hot Haitian sun. We didn't stay too long because we needed to try and make it accross the river again before dark.
 This is me on the back of a big tap tap. Think bed of a truck with 2x4 benches built in. It's a pretty dusty ride, but you get lots of air and great views.

 A soccer game.
 Remember the whole wanting to get back before dark goal? Well, that didn't happen. I wish I had a picture of what did happen, but imagine a huge dump truck stuck in a mud pit like below. It made the road impassable by vehicle. The ironic thing is that there was a giagantic pile of gravel next to the mud pit that could have helped, but there was no way of moving the gravel.
 The decision was made to start walking. We were about 20 miles from the main mission, about 45 minutes or so by car. Grant called some of his Haitian friends who owned tap taps and they started driving our way. We walked for probably 2 or 3 miles in the mud before they caught up with up. I have a smile on my face below, but I was scared half to death. These tap taps were just some type of 70s model ford ranger. No backs, so you just sit on the edge of the bed and hold on for your dear life. I thought for sure I was going to fall out! Thankfully, no one was injured and we made it back to the mission around 11:00pm. Showers were a must after swimming in salt water, walking through mud and a very dusty tap tap ride home! We pretty much all agree, though, that this was one of our favorite experiences! It was so Haitian. Fly by the seat of your pants. Flexibility was requred. Good attitudes all around. So fun!


Haiti Trip Part 4 - Cool People

I met some of the coolest people in Haiti. Americans, Haitians and other countries represented. If you only have a few minutes right now, please go read this post by Stephanie Joyner then come back for the rest of this post later. She and her husband, Noah, are trying to adopt two kids from an orphanage in Haiti (and have 3 boys of their own in America) but the process is held up because they are not yet 35 years old (they're 32).
Their boy, M, was one of our patients at the mission and this is her journal entry recounting her feelings and experience around the surgery and subsequently having to leave him back at the orphanage. Seriously heartbreaking. Noah and his brothers work with a ministry called HaitiLove - their vision is to connect American churches with Haitian churches for the purpose of real growth and discipleship. Check it out when you have a few minutes. 
Photo from the Joyner's blog

This is Johny. He's from Port de Paix and is a translator and is awesome. He's humble, funny, has hope for the future and loves Jesus. This video shows his personality and what he's saying is totally unprompted {you will have to excuse his language in some parts. Some terms that are pretty offensive here are not so offensive in their culture}. He's comparing a couple of Haitian and American cultural differences: men holding hands and skinny jeans. I'm not saying I agree with what he says.
This is Connie, a nurse anesthetist from Kansas City. She was the only anesthesia trained professional on this trip - what a job to have! She was under a lot of stress and handled it all with such humility and grace. This girl was there to serve others and that was very apparent in her actions and attitude. If you want to see her trip pictures you can visit her blog here. The itty baby in the picture below has an interesting story. He's 11 months old, though you certainly wouldn't know by his size. He's blind and from an orphanage about 10 hours away from the mission. A lady from the U.S. flew all the way to Haiti just to pick him up and bring him to our team of doctors. He's too little to do much right now, but surgery might be an option for him later.
I don't have a picture, but our team of physicians was outstanding. I work with a lot of doctors, many of whom are so busy they aren't able to attend their own children's activities. These doctors, though, make it a priority to travel (some of the every year or even two times a year) to meet a deep need in the country of Haiti. They take time out of their schedules, pay to travel to a 3rd world country and work from morning until evening - all with servant's hearts. It was a blessing to be on a team with them.

This is Courtney, a full time staff member at the mission. She runs the special needs orphanage and a few other outreach programs. She has a heart of gold and seeks to glorify the Lord is all she does. She is SO good with those kids and has even been the mother of a sweet little baby. The special needs orphanage has had 24 funerals in the past two years. It takes a special person to see God in the midst of such tragedy and she's that person.

There were a lot of other cool people. Dentists who fly in just for the weekend to provide care. College students who choose to give up a summer of comfort to serve at the mission. Grant and Natasha are newlyweds committed to the people of Haiti - they run an orphanage at La Baie and are cooler than cool.

Praise God for people like these! Oh, how I pray that my heart becomes more like theirs. More like Jesus.