Last-minute Gift Sewing: Elephant Stuffie

Ever since my daughter went to the Memphis Zoo with her grandmother back in September, she has mentioned– off and on– wanting an elephant toy. It wasn’t the first time she visited a zoo or saw elephants, but for some reason the idea has really stuck with her. In November, when I had to travel for work, she told my husband that she hoped I would bring her “an elephant toy to color” (fwiw, although I was near the National Zoo on my trip, the trip itself had nothing to do with animals or zoos!).

Several weeks went by without a mention of an elephant, so we gave up our half-hearted search on Amazon for a suitable gift. But then, of course, on Christmas Eve, she tearfully told us that she really really wanted Santa to bring her a stuffed elephant. This was after expressing extreme trepidation that Santa would actually *enter our house* (stranger danger!) and telling us that she didn’t WANT Santa to come AT ALL if he was going to come inside. Oh, boy.

(IMHO, smart kid. I don’t want strangers in our house, either, no matter how many toys they’re bringing us!)

So what did I do? What any sane person (ahem) would do in such a situation. Pull out the fabric stash and get to work!

Okay, first I went on Pinterest and Google and did a little research. It turns out, there are a TON of hits for “free elephant stuffie pattern” out there. Go figure. I settled on the Fat Quarter Elephant project on The Sewing Directory (pattern by The Make It Room). I thought it was a nice combination of cute but not-anthropomorphic, and judging by the amount of fabric it called for (a fat quarter) it would make a toy roughly the size I was looking for.

I had some fuzzy gray knit (I guess technically it’s fake fur? plush?) as well as this sparkly pink fleece in my stash that I snapped up at a sale several years ago. I had intended to make a hat and pants for my daughter out of it, but when fabric is on sale I tend to purchase in bulk. Like… really bulk. I had enough to make a whole herd of these elephants. And a whole fleecey wardrobe for my kid.

I started sewing at around 9pm… and finished at roughly 2am. Worth it?

TOTALLY worth it.

The cutting and machine sewing went very quickly… I’m just a slow-as-molasses hand-sewer, so attaching the ears, stuffing the elephant, and sewing the pads of the feet on to close it up (you stuff through the legs) took me for.ev.er. It might have gone slightly faster if I hadn’t been watching some late-night TV with my husband at the same time (he stayed up with me in solidarity 🙂 ). It might also have gone faster if I hadn’t re-sewn the ears and rounded back. Twice. (Perfectionist, much?!).

So, how did the lucky recipient react?

She was underwhelmed. As I should expect an almost-3-year-old to be when faced with a pile of other brightly-colored, noise-making new toys from her favorite TV show (wrapped in crinkly plastic boxes, no less) and a house full of grandparents on Christmas morning. Alas.

I am still inordinately thrilled with the results of my last-minute project, and the elephant has now taken up residence on my daughter’s bed (where he gets about the same amount of love as the other non-favorite stuffies do… which is still quite a bit).

As an aside, my husband very sweetly posted a photo of the elephant on his Facebook page and a little note about how impressed he was <3

One of his friends commented, “Wait, so your wife just happened to have a sewing machine, some plush fabric lying around the house, and the ability to sew this up at the last minute?!”

Why yes, yes I did. +1 for sewing skills and a “healthy” fabric stash!

If you want to make an elephant stuffie of your own, the free PDF pattern is available at The Sewing Directory.

Summer Sewing Plans

When summer finally rolls around, I have a bit more free time. So… it’s time to line up some seasonal sewing projects! With the rather sudden arrival of much warmer weather, I’m discovering some gaping holes in my wardrobe. Namely, I have no shorts. I also lack warm weather tops that aren’t form-fitting, sweat-showing knit. On the less practical side, I’ve got a friend’s wedding to attend and am excited for the chance to do some special occasion sewing. Finally, I love wearing skirts and dresses in the summertime, and that area of my closet could use some size/ color updating. Plus, I have two projects that have been languishing in my drawer for far too long, and need to be finished.

I’ll link to finished projects as I post them!

PS. the links included in this post are not affiliate links, they are just for image credit/ information.

Seamwork Harrington

Harrington short in linen, by Seamwork

I have four pairs of running shorts in frequent rotation, and exactly nothing made of anything other than parachute material. So. Time to sew some shorts!

Yes, I know this pattern is intended to be made with athletic material, but I loved the linen version shown on the pattern page. I bought a few yards of Robert Kaufman linen, along with some dotted chambray (after seeing the cute chambray Seamwork shorts another sewist made) and plan to make a couple of pairs for myself and my husband.

(Images + fabrics from Fabric.com… images link to fabric purchase page)

I’ve been a Seamwork subscriber for seven months already, but I’ve only sewn one pattern so far (the Akita blouse). I’m a little nervous to sew this one up, because I cannot find a single blog or review of this pattern anywhere online. I’ve read extensive accounts of Seamwork patterns being hit-or-miss, especially in the fit department. The Harrington shorts are intended as a men’s pattern, and I usually like the way men’s pants and shorts fit me. I plan to sew the pair for my husband first (he’s one size up from me) to see how the overall fit is, and make adjustments from there. Don’t worry, he’s a willing guinea pig.

Made with Moxie Prefontaine Shorts

(Prefontaine Shorts pattern for women and kids available on Etsy.com)

I might have plenty of running shorts, but all of them are lined  with compression unders and are not terribly comfortable for just lounging around in (or running errands, or using as a bathing suit cover-up, or whatever other casual non-running activity I have going on). My daughter is also in dire need of shorts. She has several pairs, but she is between ready-to-wear sizes and the ones I bought her for this season usually end up falling off her tiny-even-when-diapered booty.

While I was perusing reviews of various Seamwork shorts patterns, I discovered the Prefontaine shorts reviewed on Sie Macht. Pretty much everything appealed to me about this pattern: retro styling, pockets, long-enough inseam, suggested use of upcycled materials, just ONE yard of fabric (hellooooo stash-buster!). And there was a bundle discount for the women’s and kids’ patterns! Score!

I think these will get made this very week, so stay tuned!

Shantung Dress with Roses from Gertie’s Ultimate Dress Book

I love an excuse to wear a fancy dress, especially since such excuses come around pretty rarely in these parts. My husband’s one bachelor-holdout friend is getting married at the end of the month (on our wedding anniversary!). It will probably be the last wedding we’re invited to for a while, unless people start getting divorced and remarried, or unless we make some more single friends. Neither of those things seems terribly likely right now.

My husband is also in the wedding, and will be wearing a tux (!!!!!), so I decided to make something a little special.

(Note: this is the first time ever that I will see my husband in a tuxedo in person– he wore a regular suit for our own wedding)

(image via Pinterest, links to book purchase)

I have about 2.5 yards of baby blue dupioni from a dress I intended to make for my own rehearsal dinner but never got around to. I checked with the store where I bought it 5 years ago to see if they could match it. There was a similar-looking swatch on their website, and they very kindly said they’d send me a sample. Pending being able to find more of that fabric, I plan to make the Shantung Dress with Roses from Gertie’s most recent book. If I’m not able to get more of the fabric, I will likely make the pattern I originally intended to use, Vogue 1242. I’m not super excited about the idea of a sheath dress, though… it feels a little too “cocktail party”-ish rather than “fun summer wedding”-ish. Or maybe it’s just that the lady on the envelope looks older than me, and I don’t want to feel older than I already am. Fingers crossed for the fabric!

Seamwork Akita

This will be my second Akita blouse– the first that I made has become a wardrobe staple. I wear it at least once a week, and I’m sure that my students are getting sick of seeing it. One of them even commented that I seem to coordinate my PowerPoint slide patterns with the print on my shirt. She wasn’t wrong.

I *might* like this shirt so much because of the amazing Cotton + Steel rayon I picked for it. I love absolutely everything about this fabric. The texture, the drape, the pattern, even how it seems to be fairly wrinkle-resistant fresh out of the dryer (at least, I haven’t ironed it yet…). It’s a dream to sew with, and I would like every blouse I own to be made from it, please.

(Image + fabric from Fabric.com, links to fabric purchase page)

For my second Akita, I stuck with the C+S rayon, but went with a floral print this time. They have several collaborations with Rifle Paper Co., and this design is from the first collection. There are a couple of tiny fit adjustments I’d like to make on this second iteration, but otherwise I’m hoping this will be a straightforward project.

Colette Aster

As I said above, I’ve been a Seamwork subscriber for seven months. And I was super psyched when they started letting subscribers use their pattern credits for Colette patterns, because I had accumulated quite a few.

(Cotton + Steel Poplin Navy Diamonds via Fabric.com)

One of the patterns I selected was the Aster. I need some new tops that can double as out-in-public weekend wear (with jeans or shorts) and classroom-appropriate wear (with a skirt and cardigan). I plan to do a combination of version 1 — short sleeves, with version 2 — pleated bodice. And I have more C+S rayon, naturally.

FYI, there’s also a sew-along available here.

McCall’s Pleated Skirt (M5591)

These last two projects have been sitting in the docket, with all necessary supplies, for more than three years. I have several really good excuses, I promise! You see, I had a baby, finished writing my dissertation, and then moved cross-country. Twice. So, not much summer sewing since 2013, I’m afraid.

Actually, I first learned about this pattern from this blog post, which means this project has been sitting in my drawer for FIVE. YEARS. Oof. Okay, well… this month. I’m finally going to sew it.

(Day Dreamer by Benartex Fabric, no longer available)

I found a mini-bolt of this fabric at a quilt shop where my mother-in-law lives, and should have enough left over to make a skirt for my daughter, too. I plan to make version C, most likely without the trim.

McCall’s Shirtdress (M6696)

This seems to be a pattern with a solid reputation among bloggers (understatement!). Like the skirt above, it has been sitting in my drawer for far too long. Last but definitely not least, I plan to make version A in a lightweight pink ditzy print cotton from Jo-Ann Fabrics (which is sadly no longer available).

Instagram + The 100 Day Project

I joined Instagram not too long ago in an attempt to diversify my social media diet. Other sites were becoming a bit too fraught for me, and I found myself being sucked in to a negative vortex when I visited them. I had heard good things about the positivity of the creative community on Instagram. As a visual person, the idea of filling my brain space with pretty pictures was appealing.

I’m a total Instagram newbie, and it was like being exposed to a whole new culture. How do hashtags work? What’s the following etiquette? How do I even find people to follow, or get people to follow me? Is it weird to comment on strangers’ posts? I had had a private Instagram account before in order to share images with my family and friends, but this was an entirely new thing.

I like to think I picked up the basics pretty quickly. Perhaps I’m showing my not-quite-young-enough-to-be-millennial age here, but one thing that I found endlessly confusing before joining Instagram was hashtags. I’m still not the most adept hashtagger out there, but I’ve managed to find a few that I consistently like. One of the things I think it is the coolest is the way hashtags can be used to create ad hoc community groups, contests, and collective projects. I had no idea that this is how they worked! The 100 Day Project is one such collective project (following? movement?) that I was excited to discover through hashtags.

The 100 Day Project with Elle Luna: http://the100dayproject.org

The 100 Day Project was first started way back pre-Instagram by a Yale art professor to get his students thinking about their own creativity and creative processes. After several years of running it as a graduate course, a group of his students banded together and posted their projects on Instagram, and it has since grown into the huge project it is today. The idea is simple: pick a creative action that you will do every day for 100 days. It needs to be something you can be consistent with, so it forces people to evaluate how much of their time they are reasonably able to commit. Inevitably, it will become something that stretches people creatively, as you’re forced to come up with something relatively novel each day, even when you don’t feel like it.

Doing the same thing day after day for 100 days becomes tedious, no matter what thing you’re doing. If you persist past the tedium, you begin to see what you’re doing in a different light. It can be freeing– who cares if one iteration is crap, you’ll make another one tomorrow! But there’s also pressure to keep going, to keep creating, to not break your chain. It’s just the right amount of balance (for me at least) between that freedom and pressure.

For my project, I opted for super-simple and open-ended. I decided to create 1- 4″ x 6″ postcard each day. I can use any medium, and can mix it up at will. I just have to do *something* on the card.

I’ve wanted to develop a sketchbook practice for a while now, but have had trouble getting started. I think part of the issue is that I’m intimidated by my lovely leatherette-bound, mixed media paper-filled, $20-sketchbook, and am afraid that I’ll somehow mess it up. Incidentally, this is also part of the reason why I have a collection of still-blank lined journals sitting around.

My postcards are an unbound sketchbook. A pack of 100 cost me $2 at the craft store, and they’re really nothing special. I can feel free to experiment on them, to be lazy and just mush stuff around on them, or to be a little crazy and glue plastic gems to them. If I mess up, hey, no big deal. I’m out 2 cents and get to try again tomorrow. And yes, I still post the “mess-ups” to Instagram, because my project is all about the process over the ultimate product.

That is the hardest thing for my perfectionist brain to wrap around: it’s about the process, not the product. Heck, the process IS the product. There have been several instances where I’ve been tempted to skip posting, mostly out of embarrassment at my fledgling skills in a particular medium, or because it’s not exactly what I pictured when I started, or from fear that people will be disgusted and unfollow me, or because I’m worried about violating some unspoken rule about never posting first drafts (all of my postcards are the one and only draft!). But as it happens, there are plenty of people out there interested in sharing the messiness of the creative process.

For me, being able to acknowledge and embrace just how messy that process can be is the only way to move from planning to actually doing any of my projects.

It has been exciting to dive in and see how other people are progressing with their own interpretations of the 100 Day Project. As we approach the half-way mark, I’m really proud that I’ve stuck with it this long. I’m especially looking forward to finding ways to keep the momentum going after the project officially “finishes” on July 12.

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Oh, hello there!

Hi! Welcome to my tiny corner of the Internet. I love to make things, and this blog is where I plan to document those adventures.

I write new posts on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. I love to talk all things sewing, painting, printing, sketchbooking, and other creative projects. I hope you’ll join me!

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