Divided Baskets

I’m finally getting around to blogging one of my last pre-Jude projects: two Divided Baskets (pattern by Noodlehead). I made two of these baskets—one for Jude’s room and one to keep on the first floor in our living room. We use both baskets to hold diapers, burp cloths, and things like diaper rash cream. I love these baskets. They are cute and practical and were pretty fun to sew.

Noodlehead Divided Baskets

The one for his room is made using the same space-themed fabric I used when I made some simple valences for the windows. All of the other fabrics are just quilting cottons that I picked up from Joann’s. I used some white cotton webbing for the basket handles. The pattern has an option where you add some accent fabric to the handles, but I didn’t feel like bothering.

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The baskets are really easy to put together. You’re really just sewing a bunch of straight lines and the instructions are clear and thorough. I was also surprised by how quickly the sewing went. For some reason, I was thinking that constructing the baskets would be a fairly involved process, but it’s not at all.

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Hands down, the most tedious part of making these baskets (and I won’t lie—it is definitely tedious) is cutting out and applying all of the interfacing. Obviously, I made this worse for myself by making two at once so I had to deal with twice the interfacing. But I also followed the recommendation to use two kinds of interfacing, both the heavy craft interfacing and the fusible fleece, to get a more structured basket. The process of applying all that interfacing felt endless, but it was totally worth it. The baskets are structured enough to hold all of the things we need without collapsing, and we’ve been using them every day for nearly four months without any issues.

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These seem like a really popular handmade baby shower gift, and I can see why. But I’m also thinking about making one of these baskets for my sewing room to organize pattern pieces and notions for the projects I have on the go. There are so many potential uses for these baskets, I’m glad I bought this pattern—I’ll definitely be sewing it again.

Baby Knits, Part II: Hats

I don’t typically knit a lot of hats–they aren’t one of my favorite projects, I don’t really like wearing them, and where we currently live, I can get away without needing one for almost the entire winter anyway. But a baby needs hats and so I went on a little hat-knitting bender recently. Making these turned out to be really fun, likely because they were so fast. I think I made each one of these in about an evening’s worth of knitting time.

Newborn Hat

Magic Coffee Baby Hat

This one is just a simple, newborn-sized hat for the hospital. I used some of the leftovers from the Maddie Hoodies I made my twin nephews before they were born, so the yarn is Berroco Weekend DK in Swimming Hole, Seedling, and Daisy. I used the Magic Coffee Baby Hat as a guideline for making the hat, although I had to make adjustments since the pattern is written for a worsted weight yarn and Weekend DK knits up more like a sport-weight. I ended up casting on for the number of stitches called for the in the 2-9 months size, knitting to the length recommended for the newborn size, and then switching back to the 2-9 mos size instructions once again for the crown decreases. I also just tied my i-cord into a little umbilical knot rather than create the loop shown in the original pattern.

Good Sport Hat

Good Sport Hat

This little hat is hard to photograph. If you look at the project pages for this pattern on Ravelry, you can see that it’s really cute when it’s being worn, but it looks a little dumb and floppy when it’s just laying flat.

Good Sport Hat

Anyway, this is a simple striped, rectangular hat with columns of slipped stitches at the sides. I think the slipped stitches are a really nice detail that make this hat distinctive while cleverly hiding the jog in the stripes. This one is also knit in Berroco Weekend DK leftovers, using Swimming Hole and Daisy once again. I knit the “small baby” size or the 0-6 months size, and I’m thinking this will be a nice lighter-weight hat for fall.

Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat

Purl Soho Garter Ear Flap Hat

I’ve been wanting to knit this pattern since it was released, mostly because I’m a sucker for trying out new construction techniques. With this hat, rather than picking up stitches for the earflaps, which seems to be the most common ear flap approach, you form the earflaps with some simple short rows before knitting the body of the hat. I love the visible decreases on this hat and the little attached tassel is the cutest.  I’ll definitely be knitting this pattern again–it’s fun to knit and would make a really great gift. I’m already planning to knit the next size up when our monkey outgrows this one. This hat is the infant size, knit up in Encore Worsted in Light Gray–the same yarn I used to make the Tokyo Hoodie, which was leftover from yet a different sweater project for my twin nephews.

Serendipity Hat

Serendipity Hat

I got a single skein of super bulky yarn as a gift several years ago–the yarn was Berroco Sundae in Isle of Skye. I’m pretty sure this yarn has been discontinued now, but it’s a wool/acrylic blend spun up in one fat single with lots of color variation throughout the strand. It is a really pretty yarn and I was at a complete loss with what to do with it, so it sat in my stash until I came across the Serendipity pattern. I love the chunky garter brim on this hat and the giant pom pom. You’d think that this would be the fastest of all the hats, but knitting with a super bulky yarn is so awkward and slow (at least for me–I don’t think I’ve knit with anything heavier than a worsted weight in years). This hat seems to run a bit on the small side, and this yarn doesn’t have a lot of give, so I knit up the toddler size. If it doesn’t fit until next winter, oh well–clearly this kid is good on hats for awhile.

That’s it for baby hats (at least for the moment). So far, everything I’ve knit except the baby blanket has been made using yarn from my stash. But I just ordered a few skeins of yarn for some more baby sweater knitting. It feels like I’m knitting a crazy amount of stuff for this baby, but at least I’m trying to be practical and cover a range of sizes? Or I’m just crazy.

Baby Knits, Part 1

I love baby knits. They are fast and cute and help use up those random skeins of yarn leftover from bigger projects. Knitting for my own baby is all the more fun since I know that I will be one of the primary beneficiaries of all the wooly baby snuggles. These are just my first few finished baby projects—there are more in the works.

Linus Security Blanket

This is the first baby knit I started. I ordered the yarn just after we moved into our new house in January and knit on the blanket slowly when I had the energy during my first trimester. The pattern (available here) works well for knitting while exhausted because it is a very simple repeat. The yarn is Berroco Weekend in Mallard, which is hard to photograph but is a deep blue-green color. The first picture is a truer representation of  the actual color than the second. I’ve previously used Berroco Weekend DK for some gifted baby sweaters I made a couple of years ago and am really impressed by how well the yarn has held up to washing and wearing, so I figured it would be a good choice for a blanket.

Linus Security Blanket

I sometimes have the idea that I should knit an afghan for our living room. But this project was an excellent reminder of why that is a terrible idea. Knitting a blanket is SO BORING. I think of myself as having a fairly high tolerance for boring knitting, which I demonstrate in my willingness to knit lots of basic, vanilla socks and sweaters that are primarily just stockinette stitch. But there’s no shape or variation in a blanket—it’s just a giant gauge swatch that feels like it goes on forever. Now that I think of it, I generally have a very low tolerance for square- and rectangle-shaped projects since I also hate knitting basic scarves and dishcloths.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m very glad that I knit this blanket, I love the finished product, and I am very much looking forward to wrapping my baby up in it. But unless I forget about what a slog this project felt like (a distinct possibility given the sleep deprivation I’m inviting into my life), I don’t see myself jumping to take on another blanket project unless I have a second baby. And even then, I think I’d be better off making something like a Pinwheel blanket in a variegated yarn to keep myself interested.

Wee Envelope

This little pullover pattern from Ysolda Teague is a fun knit because of its interesting construction. It’s a seamless knit that starts by knitting from the cuff of one sleeve, through the garter stitch yoke, down to the cuff of the second sleeve, and then you pick up and knit the stitches for the body. I knit the 3-6 mos size up using 2 skeins of Cascade 220 Superwash Sport in Moss that I received as a gift from Aidan’s sister and her wife a couple of years ago.

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This should have been a very quick knit, but I ran out of yarn about 1.5” short of the necessary length for the body and had to rip the entire thing out and make some adjustments. I realized in the process that my row gauge in stockinette was off, resulting in sleeves that were way too long. So I saved a bit of yarn by working the sleeve shaping rows more frequently. I then reduced the width of the yoke by cutting out a single garter ridge from both the front and the back, and then picked up 4 fewer stitches for the body. Although the body is a bit narrower than the schematic measurements, I still think it’s plenty wide for a 3-6 mos size garment, and making those adjustments gave me enough yarn to get a decent length in the body.

Wee Envelope Sweater

My real concern with the fit of this particular pattern is that the armscye doesn’t seem deep enough for this style. I’ve read before that with a basic drop sleeve (which is more or less what this style is replicating), you need a deeper armscye and wider sleeve to allow for greater movement. This, however, has a narrower sleeve that looks like it will be a lot more fitted. Of course, when this actually fits, it’s not like the baby is going to be mobile or engaging in active play that requires a large range of motion, so maybe it won’t be a problem at all? We’ll see.

Tokyo Hoodie

This little pullover was truly a fast knit (I think it only took me two days?), was completely drama free, and is possibly one of the cutest things I’ve made to date. I can’t wait to see this on a little squish. I knit the 6 mos size using ~1.5 balls of Encore Worsted leftover from the Wonderful Wallaby sweaters I made our nephews for Christmas last year.

Tokyo Hoodie

This pattern was designed by Carrie Bostick Hoge, who also did the super-cute Maddie Hoodie pattern I’ve made before. I think the Tokyo Hoodie would make a great project for a baby gift. It’s really simple, knits up fast, and doesn’t take much yarn. Plus, it’s a basic piece that you can throw on as a little jacket, which should result in lots of wear.

And now I have to focus my attention on some unfinished adult knits—I need to free up some needles so I can get going with even more baby projects.

Baby Gift x3: Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies

I was already in the process of planning a baby gift for a friend when we found out that we’re going to have twin nieces or nephews (or some combination of the two—why is there not a gender-neutral word to express that relationship in English?) coming into our family at the end of the summer. For some reason, the idea of picking a couple of patterns and making them in triplicate seemed like great fun to me. And, indeed, it was a lot of fun to see all three items lined up at the end and feel like I was the master of the pattern, which I think is mostly a reflection of the way the meaning of “fun” shifts when it’s deep winter in central New York and you’re at the height of a job search. Anyway…

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

First up, I made some baby swaddlers. The pattern I used is originally from Lotta Jansdotter’s book Simple Sewing for Baby, but it’s also available for free on MAKE. I used quilting cotton for the outside layer and flannel for the lining. These are generally pretty easy to make, except for two little hiccups. First, if you use the free pdf version of the pattern, there aren’t any reference points for assembling the pages and there is a substantial amount of (unmarked) overlap between the pages, making this the least intuitive/most unnecessarily frustrating pdf pattern I’ve encountered. I didn’t come across it until after I had managed to put the pattern together, but there is a picture of the assembled pattern on Zaaberry, which would definitely would have been helpful.

Lotta Jansdotter Snuggler

The other tricky bit is the step where you have to sew the lining to the outer shell. At that point, you have to find a way to sew around both the inner part of the pouch and the swaddle flaps (for lack of a better term), and if you’re not careful as you pivot around that corner, the fabric can easily get twisted up at the seam where the two connect. Rather than trying to sew the seam in one pass, I started at the top of the inner part of the pouch and sewed to the side seam, repeated for the other side, and then sewed from side seam to side seam (leaving an opening to turn the swaddler inside out) around the swaddler flaps. Does that make any sense?

Blood Orange Maddie Hoodie

The hooded cardigans are Carrie Bostick Hodge’s Maddie Hoodie pattern. I knit up the 12 mos size and followed the pattern almost to the letter, except that my row gauge was off just enough to require some minor adjustments to the sleeve increases and to the row counts for the hood. I used Berroco Weekend DK in Blood Orange, Seedling, and Swimming Hole for the main colors and Daisy for the stripes. I really liked this yarn and would definitely use it again for kid stuff.

Maddie Hoodie pocket

This pattern is very easy to follow, but there is a fair bit of finishing work for such a small cardigan—seaming the pockets, seaming the sleeves, extra ends to weave in from the stripes, and a bunch of buttons to sew on. If you aren’t knitting three of these cardigans in a row, I suspect the finishing is less of an ordeal. The little green sweater sat around for two months before I could stomach another round of buttons. Anyway, I like that it’s a basic style with some more distinct details. Like those little pockets! So useless, but so cute. They will be great for storing things like runaway Cheerios and partially smashed blueberries.

Maddie Hoodie in Berroco Weekend DK

My own style tends enough toward “somber” and “boring” that the best part of making things for small people is using color and bright prints. Now that we’re moving closer to our families, I’m going to make a habit of regularly measuring our smaller family members so I can make fun, bright things when the mood strikes. I’m sure it won’t be weird at all when I try to wrangle them with a measuring tape.

Lotta Snugglers and Maddie Hoodies

Basic Socks and a Wee Liesl

After I finished my Grandpa cardigan (which I still haven’t photographed yet, but which has been blocked and now has buttons and has been on my back every couple of days since then), I was feeling the need for some quick and mindless knitting. I started by finishing up two small projects that I’d had laying around for awhile. The first finished project was another pair of socks for Aidan. There isn’t much to say about these since they are pretty much the same as every other pair of socks I make for him—top down in 2×2 rib worked over 72 sts on US size 1 needles. This yarn is Regia 4 Ply Terra in the Anthracite colorway. I think this is something like the 12th or 13th pair of socks I’ve made for Aidan over the last seven years, and only one pair has bit the dust so far.

Anthracite Socks

The second finished project was a little cardigan that I started making at some point last spring when I was in the middle of a knitting funk. I had just finished up my Blank Canvas sweater, and I didn’t have a project that I felt inspired to work on but my hands felt restless. When I saw the pattern pop up on Ravelry, I thought: that purple yarn that I never know what to do with would be perfect for this. And so , even though I didn’t have a recipient in mind and didn’t even know anyone with an infant- to toddler-sized girl, I cast on. I managed to get about 3/4 of the way through the body of the sweater before I finally thought, “What the hell am I going to do with this sweater?”, shoved it in the back of my knitting bin, forgot about it, and settled back into my knitting funk.

Wee Liesl Cardigan

The pattern is Ysolda Teague’s Wee Liesl and the yarn is Serenity Sock in violet. The pink buttons were the only appropriate button choice I had on hand, so I decided to just embrace the super-princess look. I knit the 18-24 months size to use up the maximum amount of yarn. This was a fun and frivolous knitting project and the result is pretty cute. If I were a toddler, I would probably style this cardigan with rainbow striped leggings and heart-shaped sunglasses. In the time between me setting this cardigan aside and then finally finishing it, a friend actually had a little girl, and so this cardigan will now be going to my new little friend Yusra (who was also the recipient of the Pomander cardigan). She probably won’t fit into it for another year, but I’m sure she will look very cute in it when she does.

After finishing up the socks and cardigan, I was on a roll and managed to knit up a cowl and two hats in the span of a week. Now I’m in the middle of a fingering-weight pullover that I’m knitting. For a mostly sweater knit almost entirely in stockinette at about 8 stitches per inch, it’s going surprisingly fast. I’m still trying to plug along with sewing, but honestly, I have a lot on my plate right now and knitting is my comfort craft. So if I post a lot more about knitting than I do about sewing, it’s just because my hands and my brain are going with what they know best!

Pomander Cardigan

Right now, I have several knitting projects in the works at once, which is unusual for me since I generally prefer to focus on one thing at a time. It also means that I’ve been doing a lot of knitting but haven’t managed to finish much. My most recent finish is this little baby sweater I made for a friend in my doctoral program last month.

Pomander Cardigan

This is the Pomander Cardigan pattern, which I knit up in Valley Yarns Huntington in the Sea Gull colorway (you can find all the knitterly details on Ravelry). This is a light-weight circular-yoke cardigan with a cabled yoke and an i-cord finish at the neckline, and the pattern comes in sizes 3 mos – 18 mos.  You work the body of the sweater from the bottom up, using a provisional cast-on for the sleeves at the start of the yoke shaping. Then, once the body is complete, you undo the provisional cast-on and knit the sleeves from the top-down. I’ve never made a sweater with this construction method before, so it was an interesting knit.

Pomander Cardigan yoke closeup

Overall, I really like this pattern—I’m not a huge fan of the wide button band, but I love the way the cable detail works at the neckline. I made the 9 mos size and am crossing my fingers that it will be just the right size to see a late-summer baby through most of Central New York’s lengthy sweater season.  I didn’t make any significant changes aside from working one-row buttonholes instead of the yarn-over buttonholes called for in the pattern. I seriously dislike yarn-over buttonholes. Yes, they are easy to make. But I think they can also look kind of sloppy and can be difficult to locate when you’re actually trying to button a sweater up—especially in a fingering-weight baby sweater.

Pomander Cardigan back view

All in all, it was a fun little knit and a well-received gift. I know some people balk at the idea of knitting sweaters for babies and toddlers since they grow so quickly, ooze various kinds of bodily fluids, and are generally sort of messy. But in my experience, a simple sweater in an easy-care yarn gets a lot of love, especially given how quick they are to make.

Regia 4 Ply Terra in Silver and Denim

Sock in Regia 4 Ply Terra Anthracite

As for my other in-progress knitting projects, my Grandpa cardigan is still on hold while I do the finishing for my Apres Surf Hoodie (and there is basically a metric crap ton of finishing for this pattern). Thanks to all of that tedious finishing work in front of my and a particularly stressful week, I ended up impulse buying 3 balls of discontinued Regia 4-Ply at 50% from Webs. I’ve already cast on for a simple pair of socks for Aidan in the Anthracite colorway. I’m glad to have some mindless knitting at the ready, and I’m also seriously doubting that I will manage to finish the Apres Surf Hoodie while it’s still seasonally appropriate to wear. So it goes. Knitting adheres to it’s own timetable!

A Tiny Typewriter

Cross stitch was my first craft. My first serious crafting memory was working with my mom to cross stitch either a dragon or a dinosaur onto a bib for my then-not-born/now-22-and-6-foot-tall brother. I think the dino/dragon was purple and green. I would have been about 5 years old then. Since then, I’ve cross stitched on and off, starting and abandoning a lot more projects than I finished along the way. I think the first project I actually finished on my own was a little jump-roping bear design that said “No pain, no gain.” Such a weird project for a kid. After that, I think it was a Precious Moments design that my dad still has hanging in his church office. Which is all to say that I have not always made crafting look cool.

Honestly? Cross stitching makes me feel kinda dowdy. I’ll talk about my knitting from here to kingdom come, but I keep quiet about the cross stitching like it’s my craft shame. When people find out that I do cross stitch, I get uncomfortable and start looking for ways to sweep it back under the rug. There’s probably something deeper at work with my craft shame, but the design market for cross stitch certainly isn’t helping. The majority of cross stitch designs seem to fall into a handful of unappealing categories: motivational sayings, cutesy cartoons, country florals, religious stuff, and cultural appropriations. (Seriously. The number of cross stitch designs described as “oriental” is disturbing.)  I know there are a host of independent cross stitch designers on Etsy and such, but a lot of these designs don’t appeal to me for an entirely different set of reasons—a lot of them strike me as very twee, but they also tend towards small-scale designs that are moreso aimed at beginners. I find myself wanting more complex patterns that will take me longer than an evening to finish and that I can put to good use. That is, more complex patterns that don’t involve dragons or Jesus. They’re just not my jam.

The pattern I made for my dad. The finished version says "It's What's On the Inside That Counts." I made a mistake on it that still haunts me.

This is the pattern I made for my dad. My finished version has a glaring mistake that still haunts me.

This project is helping me reconcile my relationship with cross stitch. It is another gift of sorts, on it’s way to California for my friend who is also the recipient of the monster-themed baby gift. Her family is making a quilt for her baby that will be made up of 5” squares contributed by family and friends, with each quilt square representing a different family. So she asked Aidan and I to contribute a square to represent our family, and after some discussion, we decided a little typewriter design nicely reflected my writing and Aidan’s vintage typewriter collection. I found this little cross stitch design from Tiny Modernist on Etsy and managed to stitch it up over a weekend. This is the first time I’ve downloaded a cross stitch design from an independent designer, and I’m very pleased with how it turned out. The pattern came with a full color chart that was very easy to follow. Since it was a small design, I just worked on it with my laptop open next to me, but the pattern also comes with instructions for printing a folding design onto card stock, which is a nice feature for people who are more motivated than I am. Tiny Modernist has a lot of really great designs—I really like this kitchen gadget design and I’ve already started working on this sewing machine, which is part of the same vintage series as the typewriter design. I can definitely see myself making more her work since they do not fall into any of the aforementioned no-no categories.

Typewriter Cross Stitch via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

The finished design measures about 4”x3”. Some quicky internet research suggested applying a lightweight interfacing to the back of a cross stitch square meant for a quilt as a way to secure the stitches, so that’s what I did. I also added our fake last name (which is a hybrid of our respective last names that we use as a funny short-hand with friends), as well as the Rukeyser quote. I’m not totally sure this is what my friend had in mind when she asked for a square for her quilt, but she specifically said “it can be anything” and I take these kinds of instructions very seriously. Anyway. I hope it is appreciated, and I hope it lets our new little baby friend know that we are weird and dorky people.

Am I the only one who experiences craft shame?

Monster Love Baby Gift

When I told Aidan about my recent post about learning to sew, he said that he thought that my efforts to sew were turning out pretty well. And I think this monster-themed baby gift I made for one of my good friends is a testament to that “pretty good” rating. At some point with each of these projects, I was pretty sure that everything was going to turn out terrible. But in the end, I think everything turned out okay and, while these items aren’t going to be confused with professional-grade craftsmanship, I feel pretty good about what I was able to accomplish.

Monster Love Baby Gift via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

My planning for the gift started when I came across this free tutorial from Stubbornly Crafty for making monster-faced bibs. I have to say that I think these bibs are a pretty awesome project for people like me who are new to sewing. The tutorial was very clear and easy to follow, but the benefit of a baby project like this is that you can have some screw-ups and still end up with something that looks really cute. My biggest struggle was the step that involved stitching around the edge of the appliqued eyes. I did okay with the teeth, but the stitching around the eyes basically looks like it was done in the dark after I drank a box of wine. Anyone who examines it closely will be astounded by my talent. But like I said—these still turned out really cute. I’d make these again in a heartbeat.

Monster Bibs via sweetalchemy.wordpress.com 

I made these with four coordinating fat quarters for the faces, some white muslin and black cotton scraps for the eyes and teeth, and some white minky fabric for the back. If (or when?) I make these again, I’d probably skip the minky because it’s kind of a pain in the ass and is the worst fabric name in the world. I’d just use flannel as a backing on my next go.

LOVE Soft Blocks 1 by sweetalchemy.wordpress.com 

Because I have a tendency towards overdoing things, I decided that I needed to make something in addition to the bibs so I used the fabric scraps from the bibs, plus a monster-print quilting cotton I found at JoAnn’s to make some fabric blocks. As I was looking around the internets for soft block tutorials, I came across this tutorial from Sew Can Do that featured blocks made from fabric printed with the ASL alphabet, cut strategically to spell the word “love.” And since my friend used to be an ASL translator and since I hadn’t yet proved that I have a tendency to overdo things, I decided my blocks also needed to spell “love” in ASL. I couldn’t find the fabric used in the original tutorial, so I decided to embroider the little hands onto some white muslin.

LOVE Soft Blocks 2 by sweetalchemy.wordpress.com 

(As I was embroidering the hands, Aidan looked over and asked me what I was doing and I said, “I’m reluctant to tell you because you will think I’m crazy.” A portrait of life with the out-of-control crafter.)

The embroidery turned out really cute and the block tutorial was very easy to follow, but I have to be honest: I don’t think that these will be baby-approved. These strike me as the kind of item adults think is good but babies find boring. Because, really, they’re pretty boring as far as toys go. I get it. But these are going to live in California where I will likely never have to face how often they do or do not get used. And they are really cute. I regret nothing.

Monster Puzzle Ball from sweetalchemy.wordpress.com

My money is on this puzzle ball thing being a bigger hit with baby. It’s shape is perfect for chubby little hands that are just learning to hold things and in high-contrast fabrics, it is visually interesting for really young infants. The process of making the ball is kind of tedious—you cut out 36 little oval-shaped pieces, sew them into 12 little pods which you have to stuff and then sew closed by hand, and then the entire process of forming the ball is all done with hand stitching. Still, I’d make one of these puzzle balls again—probably with a bell in the middle for optimal baby fun. I used this tutorial from Thimble. I’m surprised that I like this as much as I do since it was totally an afterthought and since I was convinced right up until the end that it would never turn out.

So there it is: my first sewn gift. If I look back at this in a year or two, I’ll probably be mortified that I foisted my super noob-ish sewing off on someone else. But today, I’m feeling pretty damn good about myself.