DIY pirate shirts tutorial

DIY pirate shirt tutorial

We’re really into costumes at my house. I have two sons who love dressing up, with pirate costumes being among the most popular. For Christmas, they received a beautiful set of sea captain coat, knee breeches, boots, from H and M Unicef/All for Children.

While these clothes were a hit, the problem of what to wear beneath the coat became a nagging question in the mind of my seven year old. White button down? Wrong. Plain T shirt? Wrong. Striped shirt? Wrong. Like I said, we’re really into costumes. So, we sewed pirate-ish muslin shirts to go with these jaunty sea captain clothes.

I’ve already described my mixed feelings about this project, and since it was a little out of my comfort zone, I’ve just added it to the New to Me Linky at Celtic Thistle Stitches. Click over there to see all kinds of geat projects. If you want to hear more of  the details of how I sewed these shirts, please, read on! I’ll tell you what I did and what I learned.

Before starting I did a little google searching, and found this pirate shirt “unpattern” tutorial on Wee Folk Art to be helpful for thinking the project through, though I did some things differently, notably the cuffs and neckline.

Now, the details in slide show format. Please note that by clicking on the bottom center of a slide you can pause, go forward, or go backwards in the instructions.

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The tale of two pirate shirts, or, I sometimes hate my sewing machine

sewing maachine

I kind of hate my sewing machine, and yet, there are times when I just can’t stay away. For example, I might find myself spending a long Sunday sewing two small-sized pirate shirts instead of skiing like everyone else I know. I might find myself puzzling over how to fit the sleeve into the shoulder with just the right amount of puffiness, or how to cinch the cuff so my 5 year old can easily get it on and off. I might find myself looking at a kitchen table covered in scraps of unbleached muslin, newspaper patterns, bits of thread and straight pins, and wonder what was I thinking?? Why did I take this project on??

sewing debris

My mother once said that knowing how to sew can feel like a curse. When you know how to sew you see how simple and easy it can be to make something. You can imagine customizing and creating exactly what you want – color, fit, feel, functionality. You can imagine and execute any number of stunning and special projects.

Sounds like a blessing (and it is) but sewing projects take time. Lots of time. I could never possibly do all I dream up so I have to pick and choose which projects are worth it. Yes, there are probably mothers out there who manage to hand sew all their children’s clothing while also homeschooling, eschewing refined sugars, and building a home composter. But I’m over any form of competitive mothering.  I’ve settled for polyester superhero suits with stitched in muscles and dubious plastic party favors. But simply knowing the hand-made possibilities makes this settling hard to do. 

ruffle.cuff.pirate.shirt

In my household, costume collaborations always start strong, but  by the end of the project, my children have run off to play legos while I finish up. I’m fine with that – we’re not raising them to be tailors. But I sometimes wonder – wouldn’t it have been easier to just buy a flimsy scrap of polyester?

I remind myself: its the process, not the product. I know there are benefits of doing these types of projects with my children. We work together,  they exercise a few skills (pinning, cutting, sewing) and they learn something about sequencing a project (draw pattern, cut newspaper, pin it to fabric, cut fabric, etc.). Its a creative collaboration that allows my children to see and experience something more authentic and less made-in-china.

As I clean up and muse about the value of sewing projects,  a wee pirate bounds into the room, smiling and proud, brandishing his pirate sword and smoothing his fresh pirate shirt over knee breeches. Yes, our afternoon of sewing has been a success, though, next time, I might consider a less time consuming cooking project

aargh.pirate

P.S. I sat down to write a post about how to make a pirate shirt and wrote this instead. Clearly, I needed to work through my feelings about the value of sewing children’s costumes. In my next post, I’ll share some DIY instructions and what I learned about how to actually make one of these.  

EDITED 2/27/14: I’ve now posted some directions here. If I haven’t scared you off and you want to make one of these, hope my tutorial can help! 

Craft Project, or a cry for help?

tulle.tutuI recently made tutus for two of my little nieces. Initially, I did not plan to post about this project because it’s been done so many times before and as a craft project, there’s pretty much nothing to it. One need only to look at this photo and this photo, and how to proceed becomes clear.

DIY.tutu

Proceed, I did, and in the end, I was almost shocked by the finished products. These tutus appear so ridiculously girly, so over the top in their puffy, frothy pink-and-purple-ness, that it occurred to me that these tutus might seem like a cry for help from the mother of four sons.

In truth, I‘ve made my peace with the awkward questions (Gonna keep trying ’til you get a girl?) and unanswerable comments. (Four boys!! How do you DO it?!!) I even try to have a sense of humor and enjoy connecting with other mothers of all boys. I love my children for the wonderful people they are and feel lucky for all I share with them.

Nevertheless, I won’t deny enjoying the novel experience of tutus, barrettes, bows, and extreme girliness I get by having nearby nieces. I guess I better enjoy it now, before the girls get old enough to reject it.

Three little birds embroidery

birds3

My sister just had a baby, her third baby. I have been a bit giddy about it, possibly because my youngest child just turned 5, and I am feeling that the baby years are truly, solidly (finally?!) behind me. With no one at home in diapers, I really enjoy holding, rocking, cuddling my littlest niece.

I also have an excuse to make a few baby presents. I decided to start with embroidering something. Since this baby has two older siblings, I knew my sister to be well stocked in towels, burp cloths, onsies and more. So I settled on a generic white cotton zipper bag. Hopefully it will be useful for storing changes of clothing, extra diapers, who knows what else babies need these days.

birds2

I drew a little sketch – three little birds in a nest, and traced it on vellum with heat transfer marker, as instructed on Sublime Stitching. Ironing the design onto the fabric could not have been more satisfying. I almost wanted to stop there and I am now hankering to buy myself some colored transfer markers.

birds4

Then came the stitching. I used stem stitch for the nest, chain stitch and lazy daisy stitch for the foliage, and then struggled with stitching the birds. I tried a couple of different stitches but none seemed right. In the end, I just left it with a long and short stitch also from Aimee Ray’s book, Doodle stitching.

There seems to be something a little off about yellow baby chicks in a nest in a tree, but those were the colors I wanted and sometimes you just have to throw in the towel. After all, it’s just a baby present and we all know how quickly they grow up.

DIY reversible play tent

I have always wanted an excuse to buy something from the adorable Ikea Torva series and last week I finally found one.

tent.materials

With a niece turning two, I decided to make her an A-frame play tent, one of the many projects I’ve pinned and been hankering to try. The Torva Blad duvet cover would be the tent material.

finished.tent.detail

Last summer, I made an similar tent for my children, using a twin bed sheet and doing absolutely no sewing. By cutting, tying and scrunching, we made the sheet fit a frame copied from this helpful tutorial. Without sewing the sheet to fit, though, the resulting tent was not particularly present-worthy, photo-worthy, ikea-textile worthy. This time, I wanted to make a playful and pretty tent to thrill and delight my niece and her big sister.

finished.tent4

Of course, it turned out to be a little more than the few quick seams I’d imagined, and at one point, I did have to stop and run out to the store for more ribbon. But it was worth the effort.

The resulting tent is sturdy and sweet and managed to shelter 6 children at once when we celebrated my niece’s birthday. It reverses to green and white gingham, breaks down quickly and can be rolled up and stored in a matching bag (made from the pillow cases that came with the duvets). Yes, this tent is present-worthy.

If you are reading this because you are a friend, family member, or because you are my mother, thank you for reading, you’ve probably seen enough of this project. If you think you might have the time/energy/love of Ikea textiles to want to try this, or are just curious about the nitty grittiy details, read on!

I’m not really much of a tutorial maker, but in this case, I feel the need to present the details in the (unlikely) event that I want to attempt this project again, or someone else does. Plus, I have a hankering to try out the wordpress slide show feature. Enjoy!

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Making monsters

ma.all.together

Cropping up all over pinterest these days, these monster wreaths seemed like a must-do family project, despite their muppet-iness, or perhaps because of it.

So, one cloudy day last week, we decided to take this project on. We followed this tutorial, substituting 10’ wreath forms so they could be used on bedroom doors or as indoor decorations. (And, if you really want to know , this switch meant we used only about 50 yards of tulle per wreath.)

My plan was to allow each child to make a wreath and to make one myself for my sesame-street-loving nieces. This plan was a bit risky, given (1) the large age range of my children (4 through 13) and (2) the miles of tulle to be knotted.

Happily, my oldest son was game to make a monster wreath to give to his younger cousins. We started painting the eyeballs, deviating from the muppet-style black circles for some.

mw.tie.by.myself

Then we got down to cutting the tulle and tying it around the wreath forms. I had assumed my 4 year old wouldn’t contribute much and I would basically be making his wreath myself, but he refused my help for the first hour, determinedly knotting strands of tulle, and exercising those fine motor skills. My 7 year old managed to make his entirely on his own and I resisted mightily the urge to “just touch it up.”

All in all, it was a success as a family project. Since there are five of them, I’ve decided to give them names. Kind of like the spice girls, only different. Can you guess which one I made?

Packing Projects and a Pinterest fail

north shore beach

Today, I’m off to spend some time at my mother-in-law’s house near the ocean. It will be fun, yet I’ve been daunted by the packing, schlepping, and general pandemonium of moving the family operation to a new locale.

Aside from the usual clothing and toiletries, we’ll need swim goggles, tennis rackets, rain gear. Possibly a soccer ball, probably bike helmets. The list goes on, but, by far, the packing I am most concerned with is projects. With no day camp planned, we’ll have plenty of time to try out a pinterest project or two.

pinterest sea glass photo

Last year, we tried to make sea glass in a jar. After a few days of rolling around a plastic jar filled with sand, seawater and some broken glass, we had… a jar filled with sand, seawater, and some broken glass. That’s what happens when you don’t click through and read the details: pinterest fail!

 pirate t-shirts

We also made appliqué pirate t-shirts, modeling them on playmobil characters, cutting shapes from quilting fabrics, gluing with fabric glue and then I hand stitched the edges to prevent fraying. Possibly this is sign of my compulsiveness.

For this year, I’m thinking we could try this tutorial on making flashlights, build a play tent, or try a monster wreath. Then again, all of those projects might be a tall order… wish me luck!

*sea glass image from lisaluvz, via pinterest. 

Sidewalk chalk paint and Jackson Pollock

sidewalk.paints

Late last week, we made sidewalk chalk paint, a pinterest inspired project.

We followed a recipe from All things Simple, mixing equal part cornstarch and water and then adding the food coloring. One of my older boys pointed out that this is almost the exact same recipe for Ooobleck, a Dr. Suess inspired concoction pinging around the internet and cropping up in primary school science classes. He also used the phrase “non-Newtonian fluid” – he must have been paying attention when they made it at school.

With much excitement, including some squealing and jumping up and down, we headed outside to paint.

painting2

The results were mixed. Going on, the paint was transparent and it only became opaque and chalky as it dried. Perhaps this says something about my two younger children, but they found this delay a bit unsatisfying. Grumbling ensued.

We were painting on our driveway made of brick-colored pavers and a stone path, and these dark surfaces might have muted the colors initially. The effect might be more immediate, more satisfying on a spanking new white sidewalk.

pollock sidewalk paint

No matter. They found a fun way to play with the paint, splattering it, Jackson Pollock style.

Later, we did a quick internet search on Jackson Pollock and came across jacksonpollock.org this amazing intuitive and fun website which allowed them to “paint” Jackson Pollock style by computer, switching colors with the click of the mouse. Fun indeed.

from jackson pollock org

Making Moustaches

Moustaches seem to be everywhere these days: on keychains, pushpins, bandaids and more. My household is no exception.

uncooked pretzel moustache

So, when we recently made soft pretzels, it didn’t surprise me when one of my children suggested we make pretzel moustaches. Starting with a basic preztel dough (recipe follows), we rolled them out, thicker in the middle and long and thin at the ends.

rolling the dough 1

Then, we twisted in the midde so it would pinch in, where the two “halves’ of the moustache should join. Then we gave some of them a nice twirl, like a good handlebar moustache needs.

rolling pretzel moustaches

Given that our pretzels tend to be somewhat freeform, it was not too much of a stretch to make them. Plus, it was really fun.

pretzel moustaches baked

Here’s what they looked like baked. (The secret to getting the rich, dark color is a quick dip in a boiling baking soda solution before baking… more on that in the recipe.)

pretzel moustache 2

Soft Pretzel Recipe for making moustaches

Ingredients:

1 1/2 cups warm water
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 package)
3 ounces unsalted butter, melted (I used margarine because of a dairy allergy in the family)
2 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts water
1/2 cup baking soda
Coarse sea salt

Directions:

Combine the water, sugar, yeast, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix with the dough hook until combined and then let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the flour and salt. Mix on low speed until combined. Increase the speed to medium and continue kneading until the dough is smooth and starts to form a ball. This should not take more than a few minutes. If the dough is sticky, add additional flour, 1 tablespoon at a time.

Remove the dough from the bowl, place on a floured surface and knead into a ball with your hands.

Oil a bowl with olive oil, add the dough and turn to coat with the oil.

Cover with a clean, damp towel and place in a warm spot until the dough doubles in size. This should take about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Bring the water to a boil in a small square pan over high heat and dissolve the baking soda.

Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a flat, floured surface.  Divide the dough into 12 equal pieces, about 3 ounces each. Roll each piece into a long rope and shape into the lengths or shapes that you want. Possibly moustaches?

Cover baking sheet with parchment paper.

Drop each pretzel into the baking soda/water solution for about 30 seconds and then remove with a large slotted spoon (or two) and place on prepared baking sheet. Season liberally with the salt.

Place into the oven and bake for 16 to 18 minutes until dark golden brown.