Sunday, November 27, 2011

Winter and the Holidays

Lena's sweatshirt swing dress, perfect
for winter weather.
Thanksgiving is over already, and December lurks around the corner. On the North Coast winter can't be far away. It's always a busy time of year, as cooking, baking, shopping and making, as in making by hand, come into the forefront.

I am so grateful to be able to make by hand. An idea comes into my mind, and I go into my studio and bring the fleeting thought into reality. There is nothing more fulfilling! I have been busy cards, hand stitched journals, stationary, gift tags. I have also created several new Magic Baby Designs for holiday and cold weather wear. Hope you like them! Everything in my shop is on sale through midnight on Cyber Monday, so please stop by. Watch for Small Shop Saturday specials all through December.

Girl's Party Jacket. Yes, it's reversible!

Boy's Christmas Overalls, reversible and adjustable
Baby Sailor Boy Sweater with holiday collar
Hurrah, It's a Party. These reversible overalls in
piped velveteen (on the front side) and matching
shirt were a custom order. I love custom orders!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Magic Baby Snuggle Jackets

When I began designing baby clothes years ago, I found that the process was similar to how I approach making art. In this case, inspired by a new grandbaby, I pulled out flannel scraps left over from making Magic Baby Snuggle Blankies. I have always been frugal in most aspects of my life; needless to say, I was not going to let those exquisite scraps go to waste, especially when baby clothing requires so little fabric. My first step was to cut off any selvedges from the scraps, then rotary cut them into strips and squares, which were stacked together in a box. Piecing the strips together, I could make matching snuggly, cuddly reversible jackets for the Snuggle Blankies. It was easy to add little tags of ribbon into the seams, keeping everything very soft, and snippets of trim to the fold-up cuffs. After turning the jacket right side out, I inserted a scrap of pre-gathered satin pink ruffle into the bottom edge.

Magic Baby Cuddle Jacket Prototype, front
The biggest challenge in this design, as is the case in many of my designs, is coming up with a unique closure that is also functional. For the jacket, I inserted a piece of medium gauge, round elastic into bias tape, gathered it and measured the length before inserting it in between the front and reverse jacket sections. Next, since I don't want to be buying tons of buttons, and because buttons can pop off, I created a "soft" button using ribbon blanket trim satin stitched over a cut-down cosmetic sponge, and stitched in place with an "X" of embroidery floss.

This design was fast, easy, and, in my mind, a complete success. I have the pattern worked out from NB to 4T, and plan to make jackets that also match my reversible dresses. 

I am still working on prototypes for my "story clothes", finishing up my new holiday designs (the boy's overalls are finished, and ready to ship!),  and completing three custom orders from the show last weekend.

I am an artist, so why am I spending so much time designing baby clothes? There are several answers to this question: a) I need to earn a regular income, and baby clothes sell faster than artwork b) I am a grandmother, and like making things for babies c) It's fun and challenging. Granted, I have had to put my current book project on hold, and don't have as much time in the studio to make artwork. I do, however, make time for art. Can't live without it!
My new granddaughter wearing her MagicBaby Cuddle Jacket.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

First of all, let me say that I am happy to be posting again. There have been some problems with blogger, and I couldn't post or leave comments. Hurrrah, Magic Baby Designs blog is back in action!

I am thrilled to be participating in my first boutique with Magic Baby Designs this coming Sunday. I hope to see some of you there! By the way, order your holiday custom order outfits now. I have several choices in my etsy shop, will have some new designs on Sunday, and more to come. Happy Fall!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Experiments in Construction and Composition

First Magic Baby Reversible Overalls
An experiment that worked
I am swimming in experiments. This past week, just as I am working like crazy on my fall and winter etsy line, I dropped my camera and broke it. Sigh. Since I can't show you what I am currently working on, I decided I'd show you my very first reversible overalls prototype, created several years ago. The design is very cute, with two bodices to play with and a cute crossed back strap. In addition to loving the challenge of creating reversible designs, something which sets my Magic Baby clothing apart, I also love the challenge of figuring out ways to create design elements that will allow my clothing to fit for a very long time. This experiment worked in that regard, too, going from baby to toddler quite easily.

Miss E was just a baby when she first wore
I pieced one side of the overalls using a re-purposed wide wale corduroy blouse and some fun, striped cotton upholstery left over from making pillow case edges years ago.
On the reverse, I used a decorator-weight cotton sateen in light blue, and added pockets lined with the stripe, all of which blended beautifully with a fall leaf fabric in cotton. The colors were perfect for my red-headed granddaughter!

As cute as the design came out, there were  some problems I discovered while testing out my ideas. First of all, there is no leg opening for ease of diaper changes in this initial design. Since making it, I have, of course, made allowances for adding either snaps or snap tape to baby sizes.

Secondly, with the back bodice design including built-in crossed straps, the shoulder tabs would have needed to be lengthened in order for me to make them adjustable. I made this adjustment, as well.

Finally, the gathering into the bodice is adorable, but perhaps not great for a boys design, which would look better with pleats or straight. This, of course, is an easy design change that I have made moving forward.

In the end, I have saved this cute design as a special one for my own grandbabies, and have created four simplified overall designs for my Magic Baby line. I do love this one, though, and seeing it makes me want to sew up a new pair!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Magic Baby at Retail Show

When: Friday, September 9, 6 - 8 p.m.
Where: Valley Art Center, Bell Street, Chagrin Falls, OH
One night only, at the opening of the wearable art exhibition, Art Strikes a Pose
This is Magic Baby's first retail show. Hope to see you there!

If you can't make it to the retail show, please visit Magic Baby on etsy

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Inspired by Children...Again: a T-shirt tutorial

What could be more inspiring that a child's drawing?
A few weeks ago I wrote a posting about being inspired by children. This past week, I was so inspired again, I decided to share it with you. And the bonus? You, too, can do this with the Magic Baby in your life!

This past week, my oldest grandchild started first grade. Oh, the memories, and oh my, how quickly time flies!

My favorite First Grader...

My grandson loves to draw, an activity that I encourage. On a recent visit I had shown him a drawing his own father had made as a child with fabric crayons. We decided to try it on his next visit, and voted to make a drawing that he could wear on a t-shirt. If you want to try this at your house, here's what you will need:
White drawing paper
Light to medium colored cotton knit t-shirt fabric (or actual t-shirt) a bit bigger than your paper
An old towel, a hot iron, and some scrap paper

First of all, you should know that Pentel Dye Sticks can also be used, but they work differently than fabric crayons. Printing with fabric crayons is a two-step process: draw on the paper, then transfer to the fabric. The dye sticks, which look similar to fabric crayons, use a one-step process: direct application onto the fabric, followed by heat setting.

Step one: Make your drawing!
Drawing is easy, especially for children. Here is my grandson's drawing. So that his lettering would not be backwards on the final print, I showed him this trick:
1) Write the letters on the back of the paper.
2) Tape your paper to grandma's sliding glass door with the letters toward the glass and the drawing facing you
3) Trace your letters on the front of the drawing, then color them with the fabric crayons. Yes, they will be backwards...for now.

Above, you see the fabric crayon drawing on the left, and the transferred drawing on the right. To transfer the drawing onto fabric, place an old towel on your ironing board (this will protect the surface from the crayons.) Place the t-shirt or piece of t-shirt fabric (we cut off the back of an old t-shirt) onto the towel, the fabric crayon drawing face down on top of that, and a piece of scrap paper on top of that.
With a hot iron (no steam), iron until the design has transferred. I let my grandson carefully help me, being careful to keep him away from the hot tip of the iron. His back and forth movement shifted the drawing a bit, so I gave him some fabric markers to outline the shapes for a crisp look on the t-shirt fabric.

Grandma is going to sew his drawing into a special t-shirt for him. You can, of course, transfer the drawing right onto a t-shirt and be finished. Save the precious drawing, however, as it can be used over and over. Just color it in with more fabric crayons to brighten the colors up, then transfer it again. Think of the possibilities : )

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Artist Grandmother

Becoming a grandmother was the inspiration for creating Magic Baby Designs. When my own children were babies and my husband was still in college, I had to make do with what we had. I recycled sweaters, coats and usable cottons to make all of their clothes. I started making quilts in earnest about the same time. The first Christmas we were married, I got my first sewing machine, a $99 Singer. I still have it. It's the machine I use to stitch paper.

When I was still living at home, I sewed on my grandmother's converted treadle machine. Having come very close to getting kicked out of Home Ec. in Junior High for making a bikini instead of an apron, it should have already been clear to anyone who knew me that I was going to follow my own path.

When my first granddaughter was born a few years ago, I was thrilled. Although I have sewn several things for my grandson, I admit that making fancy baby dresses for little girls is a lot more fun than a Thomas the Train pillowcase. I made her this dotted dress outfit for her first Valentine's Day. I now own more baby patterns than I ever had when my own children were small. Of course, I never follow the pattern instructions. I prefer to use them as a suggestion, and proceed as I do when making my artwork: do something, respond, do something else; collage and layers upon layers.

Happy first Valentine's Day, Miss E!
My own grandmother was very artistic. Even though I was still little when she died, I remember how she always encouraged my artistic efforts. And when she was able to finally have the time, she started making art and craft pieces for the sheer enjoyment of it. She was the only grandparent I knew, and I absolutely adored her, even though I only saw her a few times a year.

As a grandmother of three, the youngest born two years ago already, I cherish taking some time away from work to make special things for my grandchildren. With my Magic Baby line of clothing, the hardest part is not making everything for them. I have told their mothers that the baby girls will be the recipients of my learning curve process; the prototypes go to them, or, as in the case of Baby E's Valentine dress, are designed for them. Some patterns are just too intricate and detailed to make for anything but a custom order.

The Little Frenchy dress, to the left and below, was my very first Magic Baby design. I made this one, the prototype, for my oldest granddaughter. She wore it for years, then passed it on to my youngest granddaughter just this year. It is designed to fit for a very long time, is completely reversible (two dresses in one,)and transitions easily from dress to cute top! These are now available in many color combinations for custom order in my etsy shop, from newborn sizes on up to girl's size 8. I also have designed a Frenchy Girl style, which is has a patchwork skirt. Very cute! 
With fall around the corner and a wearable art exhibition and a fashion show booth coming up, I am busy finishing up new fall designs. I would love to know what clothes YOU loved wearing as a kid. Leave me a note in the comments section!


Baby dress to cute top, several years of wearable cuteness!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Inspired by Children

My Frenchy Girl prototype
I met some dear friends for coffee a few days ago at the new branch of Mojo's on the Lake. It is always pleasant to take a break from the studio, and see what my other creative friends are up to. My one friend brought her daughter along, and she read, played and studied while we chatted.

I made my first Frenchy Girl prototype for my friend's daughter, inspired by the bag of fabric scraps my girlfriend had generously shared with me. I have made many variations of it since then.

As I talked with my girlfriends about some design ideas, my girlfriend's daughter sketched out a dress she would like me to make for her. It is an amazing design, and I can't wait to try it in knits and upcycled t-shirts!

The Count on Three design at the bottom is a second design, a reversible A-line pullover jumper with a wide band. The numbers will be on the shaped band all around the dress. What fun!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Around the Corner: Magic Baby Fall Fashion is coming

Cute in argyle anywhere you go

I had a fun visit from my daughter and granddaughter recently. Prior to their visit, I spent a week cleaning and organizing my work spaces, so they would have a place to sleep! I tend to spread my work around the house, so it was a good chance to rearrange while cleaning.

I have, of course, been sewing a lot as I prepare new Magic Baby Designs for fall. The cute argyle set my granddaughter is wearing in the picture is one outfit I have finished. I love it, because it's perfect for spring and summer, pulls on easily, and can be layered with a long sleeved top and leggings for fall and winter. It is available for custom order here in my etsy shop.

Magic Baby Designs has been accepted into the Textile Art Alliance Fall Fashion Show, scheduled for Sunday, October 16th. I will have a booth there, as well, and am creating some very special designs to show there.

Even as I prepare for the fashion show, I have been invited to exhibit Magic Baby Designs' fashion in
Art Strikes a Pose exhibition at the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio.

The Argyle capris look cute on their own, too!

Finally, I am working out the details in one of the earliest designs I came up with: Magic Baby Story Clothes. Stay tuned, and thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Baby Apron and a Quick Tutorial

In a recent post, I told you the story of my baby apron, and of finding the exact, matching vintage fabric on ebay. I finally finished creating a copy of the apron, so thought I would show you the original one with the new one here.

The original apron is at the bottom, stains and all.
I mailed off my original apron to my eldest granddaughter today, and kept the new, duplicate one for my next granddaughter. They won't fit either child for long, so I wanted to be sure that each one will have some memories created while wearing their little aprons. My little Maddie already wears hers for pouring water, so I hope Lena G will have some similar fun times in her little apron.

Quick Tutorial for Making a Todder Apron
So, how did I copy the apron? Since it was simply made from two fabrics joined at the sides and shoulders, I just folded the front in half, pinned to my folded fabric, and cut out the shape twice. If you don't have something to copy, a basic swing dress or top pattern will work. Just skip the sleeves. I cut each piece, front and back, on the fold, then cut the back piece along the fold line for the opening, adding 1/2" seam allowance to all edges. After hemming the back edges, I stitched the front to the back at the side and shoulder seams, then topstitched to finish the seams. Yes, I admit, I am obsessive about topstitching and clean finishes!

Next, I hemmed the bottom edge and pressed it well before stitching it in place. Using some vintage double fold bias tape, I covered the raw edges of each arm opening. A little tip on using bias tape for armhole edges: Instead of trying to cut it to length, try this: Open the bias tape so that the slightly smaller side is at the top right. Fold under the raw edge of bias tape 1/4" and iron well. Place this pressed edge at the underarm seam right side of bias tape to wrong side of apron, lining up the bias tape edge with the raw edge of the apron armhole. Begin stitching where you ironed the edge under, and work your way around the tiny armhole. Don't stretch the bias tape too much, or it will ripple. Rather, sew a length, then work the edges to match, lifting up the presser foot if necessary. As you come back around to the underarm seam, continue sewing 1/4" past where you started, so that you have a good overlap. Don't sew too far, though, or you will end up with too much bulk to turn over. Turn the bias tape to the right side of the apron, pressing at your ironing station as you go. Pin your overlapped edge in place to prevent slipping. From the front side of the apron armhole, topstitch the bias tape in place. You can hand stitch the opening at the underarm seam, if desired. Repeat for other armhole.

For the neck edge and tie closure, I will be using a single length of double fold bias tape. Begin the same as for the armhole, but when you line up the bias tape to the wrong side to begin sewing, make sure you allow an extra 12 inches overhang before you begin sewing. You will do this on the other end, as well, to create the apron neck tie strings. Stitch the neck edge in place, turn to the front of the apron, and press. Press under the other tie end before you finish the final stitching. Pin each turned under tie end in place to hold them until they are stitched down.

To complete the neck ties and neck edge, begin stitching at one tie end. Hint: to sew this cleanly, use tear-away or tissue paper underneath the tip of the bias tape. This will give you something to hold onto while you secure your stitches, and begin your line of stitching. You can finish your stitching on the other end in the same way. Continue top-stitching the 12" bias tape tie, then the neck edges and the other 12" tie. Knot off, and you are finished. Hurrah!

This apron opens in the back, and ties at the neck.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dhoti Pants, Shweshwe, and French Stripes

In my last post, I showed you the dress I finished out of my new stash of South African shweshwe fabric. I wanted to make an outfit, so I finished a pair of dhoti-style pants in a matching knit, completing my vision for a WorldWear design to add to my Magic Baby Designs repertoire. Here are some pictures, including another pair of dhoti pants I made from my own granddaughter.

Here is the dress with matching knit pants. The dhoti pants are adorable, but look so much cuter on a body!

Here is a pair of dhoti pants for my granddaughter. I love how they fit! You can't see here,
but I appliqued some flowers to the side cuffs.
Earlier in the week, I discovered a real fabric find online. I am always on the lookout for blue and yellow striped fabric for my Little Frenchy designs. I use other colors for the reversible dresses, overalls and jackets, but I truly love the traditional colors of French Provence. When I saw one of my favorite sellers on etsy who had yards and yards of these fabrics, I snatched them up. You can be sure you will see these fabrics cropping up in my Magic Baby Designs very soon.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Playing with New Fabrics for Magic Baby WorldWear Designs

A new baby quilt made from shweshwe
When I went to the Quilt National opening a few weeks ago in Athens, Ohio, my friend and hostess Gill introduced me to a new fabric: shweshwe. In all my years of sewing, I had never even of heard of it before. Gill is South African, and shweshwe is a specialty fabric from South Africa. She was replicating a quilt she had made for her son many moons ago, recreating it for her new granddaughter. I helped her baste and tie the quilt, so she could finish the binding and send it along. What a great fabric for a baby quilt.

And what a great fabric for Magic Baby Designs' WorldWear line. Shweshwe is very high quality cotton still produced in the traditional manner, just as it was in the 1800s when it was created in England and shipped to South Africa. Initially worn only by local tribes, Gill says the name shweshwe came from the sound the fabric made when you were wearing it. The fabric was coated with a glaze designed to protect it from moisture during the long journey from England to South Africa, producing a particular feel to the fabric. No wonder the native women named it! The beautiful cotton becomes softer and softer as it is worn and washed. What a great discovery, and how lucky I am that Gill gave me a stash of her fabrics to play with.

WorldWear shweshwe dress in progress

As a thank you, I have sewn a new Magic Baby WorldWear dress for the new little granddaughter using my mix and match approach to designing and my beautiful new stash of shweshwe. Here are a few pictures of the dress in progress along with the finished piece. I absolutely love it, and hope Gill's new little Magic Baby will love it, too.

WorldWear shweshwe dress front. The bodice is pieced
to take advantage of the wonderful design. I used some
vintage indigo Japanese fabrics for the bodice band at the waist
and for the hem ruffle.

This is a detail of the inside. I pieced the front and covered
the seams with binding on the inside. Here you can also
see the logo of one of the companies that produces
this terrific fabric, Three Cats.

WorldWear shweshwe dress, back
Here is a detail of the sleeve. Instead of a
butterfly sleeve, I pleated it into a cuff band.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Fabric From the Past

One of my granddaughters wearing my apron
One of my granddaughters spent the night last night. Grandbaby sleepovers are always a fun time, and we try to find special, fun things to do with each one. This morning, after breakfast, I pulled the kitchen set into my own kitchen and filled the little sink with water so she could play and practice pouring while having fun. At the last minute, I realized she needed an apron, so I ran upstairs to pull out my own childhood apron. I knew it would fit her perfectly, and it did.

I'm not sure who made the apron, though it was surely my own grandmother, or maybe one of my aunts who sewed. My mom had a sewing machine, which I learned to sew on, but she didn't really like to sew, and mainly did repairs and hems, so I'm pretty sure she didn't make this little apron. It is also likely that I was not the only one to have worn it, as I had two sisters. In any case, seeing my granddaughter wearing it today transported me back in time. I could see myself in my mind's eye, wearing the same apron at the same age.

Pouring water is so much fun!
It was serendipitous that I dug the apron out this morning. A year or so ago when I had found it in my closet after the birth of my first granddaughter, I made a pattern from it so that I could sew a new one for her. Amazingly, after careful and long searching on e-bay, I actually found and purchased a piece of the exact same fabric my little apron had been made from! I don't have much of it, but I have enough to sew a matching one. After a quick trip to the grocery store this afternoon, that is exactly how I am going to spend the rest of my Sunday: sewing a new little apron to match this one, and hoping that my granddaughters will have happy memories from the times they wear them now. I can imagine both of them, many years from now, finding their own little apron in a closet, and remembering their time with me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Super Soft Dot Minkee Babies

After being away over the weekend, I jumped right back into work yesterday, anxious to finish up some orders. I thought you might like to see the finished Magic Baby Plushie dot bear and lion before I ship them off.

Bear and Lion waiting to meet their owners

I have also designed a kitty, and all three in both a small and larger size. You can have a peek at them in my etsy shop.

These are so soft and huggable, that many grown-ups have told me, "I want one!" I designed these before Christmas last year, and made the prototypes for my grandbabies for Christmas. Wow, were they a hit! Hope you like them, too : )))

Lion has a soft leather mane

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Frenchy Girl, Finished and Shipped to Italy

Frenchy Girl, size 4
 Just a quick post today to show you the finished Frenchy Girl dress that I shipped off to Italy this week. I am heading to Quilt National this weekend, but wanted to update you before I leave.

I have posted the front and back, finished. In addition, I am showing the buttonhole elastic feature I mentioned in the tutorial of my last blog post. Finally, I have a close up of the adjustable bodice tab and straps. Enjoy, and have a great holiday weekend.
Frenchy Girl back, size 4

Frenchy Girl dress, deatil of adjustable straps and tabs

Frenchy Girl dress, detail showing the hidden and adjustable elastic