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the secret behind the southern child's Easter outfit {a must-read for mama's this Easter!}

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the secret behind the southern child's Easter outfit {a must-read for mama's this Easter!}

secret behind southern child's easter dress

secret behind southern child's easter dress

Easter outfits are kind of a big deal in the South.
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Seriously, this Sunday you will find children dressed in not only their Sunday best but their Southern best. There will be so much lace that newcomers attending church will wonder if we are all here for a wedding instead of to celebrate Christ's resurrection. We southern mamas just can't help ourselves. From heirloom dresses for our girls to tall white socks on our boys, we love a good ole' fashioned outfit on our children. I will plead guilty this Sunday for making our girls wear big bows in their hair and for Ridley to not have a single trace of Ninja Turtles in his attire. Making memories, people, making memories.

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Of course, to make memories, we have to take the family Easter picture, right? You know, the one where we are all squinting on the front porch with the sun glaring in our eyes and the bright fuschia azaleas blooming in the background. We smile the fake smile even though we are so over wearing our new outfits and so ready to eat our ham and take a nap (Ridley will be wearing his Ninja Turtle pajamas by this point, rest assured). Since the Easter picture can be somewhat forced, I took the liberty of snapping a few pre-Easter shots when we were at the beach recently just in case Easter morning involved some meltdown over candy or presents or something so not in the name of Jesus.  While I managed to get several lovely shots, many looked a little something like this:

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Getting three kids under the age of six to all smile and sit still at the camera is no easy task people! But, I'm such a fan of the few I did capture of my sweet things:

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Adeline, five years old

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Maralee, five years old

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Ridley, two years old

Since Ridley is two, this is the year of the light oil portrait. I had Robertson's Photography in Montgomery make light oil paintings of Adeline and Maralee in their custom Easter dresses, and I'm so looking forward to having Ridley's portrait made by Phil Robertson this spring. It is an investment, but I do think it is a beautiful keepsake to remember that these childhood years weren't always so crazy.

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Because I wanted Ridley to have an heirloom outfit to pass down to his children one day, I asked Mrs. Sally, the owner of The Sewing House in Dothan, to make him an outfit. I wish I could have taken lessons from her to make it myself, but I'm afraid that I'm very out of practice and don't have the time like I did when the twins were little to stay up and work on it. Even though I didn't make it, it is evident that Mrs. Sally made this outfit with love. It's perfectly tailored and not too "girly" for our little guy. He looks so big, doesn't he?

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When we moved to Dothan, I had taken a class on hand embroidery at The Smock Shoppe and had begun embroidering Maralee's dress. But, then I put it down and never picked it back up. I had bought the lace too, but it just sat in my sewing bag for TWO YEARS. I showed this to Mrs. Sally, and she was able to take what I had started and turned it into a beautiful A-line dress. She had to make Adeline's pink dress from scratch, and I think she did a fantastic job. Hand embroidery is such detailed work, and those roses are for the advanced sewer (I do not fall into that category!). Here's a close up look at her handiwork:

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Some people of the more practical mind might call these outfits showy and unnecessary. Trust me, I get that children's clothes are expensive and they grow out of them. But I think there is something sacred about putting on beautiful clothes for special occasions that completely justifies the money spent. Sure, my kids will only wear these outfits a handful of times but if we take care of them, they can be passed down for generations to come. Maralee loves to sleep with my yellow baby blanket. One day, she might love to wear my wedding veil. Why not give my children clothes that can make them smile when they adorn them on their children twenty years from now? 

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Yes, Easter is about celebrating Jesus' death and resurrection. It's not about the fancy clothes and meal but the fancy clothes and meal do draw us into a spirit of celebration. When we miss this, we miss the reason for the beautiful outfits and our children become part of a parade on our Facebook home page. But, when we can recognize the symbolism and the beauty and enjoy the day instead of fussing or fighting over socks and bows and shoes, then we can truly enter into holy communion with Christ, our Savior. He really doesn't care what we wear, and He won't turn us away, no matter how we are dressed.

So put your kids in the fancy outfits. Or don't. However you dress them and decide to dress yourself this Sunday, just remember that your family is not a show and there is no prize. Come to the altar, in your fancy dress or your ragamuffin garments, and give God thanks for creating His son as a man, who understands all the hurt and happiness that we experience, and teaches us kindness and forgiveness and so many other things that we desperately need to know to make it during our short time here on earth. Sound good?

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Happy Easter, from our family to yours!

Till next time, let your light shine,

Blessings, christen

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How to Make an Heirloom Easter Dress

how to make an heirloom easter dress When my twin girls were two years old, I spent hours upon hours making their heirloom Easter dresses. Their dresses were truly a labor of love but what I loved most about making their dresses was the conversations that were had between my sewing class as we sat at little tables with lace and fabric, needle and thread. We were a class of young moms and grandmothers and my teacher, Christy, was a mom to teenagers that traveled to Montgomery every Monday night from Selma in her minivan. I just loved it.

If you've ever wanted to learn how to heirloom sew, I hope this post will inspire you. I've also got another post full of sewing tips and tricks here. My biggest suggestion would be to find a class and commit yourself to going. Learn from the experts and let them help you if you make a mistake (because trust me, you will!). These dresses are something that I pray will stay in our family for generations to come and were worth every bit of time and money invested.

 

I simply love the color of these dresses.  Last year, I fell in love with a picture of another little girl in this dress at Sarah Howard Stone.  My teacher, Christy, assured me that I would be able to make this dress.  What she didn't tell me was how time consuming the yoke (neck) part of the dress would be.  Here is a closer view of the beautiful round neck of these dresses:

I'll spare you all the details, but the whole neck was hand-sewn.  See the little bands of dotted material in between the lace?  That is entredeau.  I had to attach each side of the lace to the entredeau which meant that I had to weave thread in and out of every single hole to make it secure.  I had to do that with three strips of lace, plus the long ruffle strip of lace.  To make this process easier and more secure, we actually attached the pieces of lace, entredeau and fabric to the pattern piece and then cut it away once it was in the rounded shape.

Also, another technique that was used on the collar which made the fabric bunch up is called puffing.  There are two types of puffing (that I'm aware of) hand & machine.  I did hand puffing on the neck piece of fabric and machine puffing on the band above the bottom ruffle.  To do puffing by hand, I had to roll & whip the edge of the puffing strip on both edges to the entredeau and then pull it to gather it up.  I love the puffing strip on this neck.

Another reason I loved this dress was the sleeves.  I'll take an angel-sleeve version of a dress any day, so I loved the simple lace strips on this sleeveless pattern.  Again, lots of attaching entredeau to ruffled lace....

The very first piece of the dress that I worked on was the ruffle.  To save money, I did a big fabric ruffle with lace trim.  It is so neat to see a big piece of fabric slowly become a dress.  I had to pull and cut strips of fabric for the ruffle and then there was lots of sewing straight and zig-zag stitches.  At the time, I thought the ruffles would never end (I didn't know what was ahead of me with the neck!) but I was thankful to make the process move along with my machine.  There are some women who still hand-sew all parts of their Easter dresses, including ruffles.  I say this all the time, but these dresses truly are a labor of love!

After the ruffles were sewn together in one long piece, I started machine puffing the strip above the ruffle.  To do this, you need lots of thread hanging at the beginning and end of your strips.  Basically, you stitch along the top and bottom edge and leave your long thread hanging.  Then, you attach the thread to marking pins on your ironing board and wrap the thread tightly to anchor the fabric.  After that, you are able to move the fabric into gathers.  Once the thread is gathered there is lots of steaming and more sewing to make it stay in place.  Finally, you sew the puffing bands into a circle with your ruffle strips, with all of the seams lining up.  (If you ever take classes on puffing, Ann from Sarah Howard Stone has a wonderful tutorial).  The end result is a gorgeous puffing strip and ruffle that makes any little girl want to twirl.

Since the fabric is so thin, a slip is a must.  My teacher came to my rescue and attached the lace to the bottom of this slip.  After that, all I had left was to attach the slip to the inside of the dress, under the arms and neck.  Again, more weaving in and out of entredeau!

Here's a look at the back of the dresses.  I bought the girls beauty pins which are basically just fancy safety pins to keep the dresses together instead of using buttons on the delicate material.  Such a southern thing!

After four long months, they were complete!  Sure, there are little errors here and there, but that is what makes the dresses so special. I know some of you are wondering why I went to sew (get it!) much trouble, and trust me, I asked myself the same question many nights.  I did it because I knew that I was making something to be worn by future generations.  Something that will be pulled from the drawers many, many, years from now and will be delicately admired.  These dresses will become a story that my girls can tell their girls and their girls can tell their girls about.  A story of love work, that's what it is.

Adeline & Maralee, Easter 2012

 

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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when it's okay to not to do something just because you can

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Monogrammed pocket tees are all the rage here in Alabama these days. But, when did monograms really go out of style in the South?

I'd been wanting to make my own monogrammed pocket tee for months now.  I knew where to buy the shirt, how to monogram my initials on the pocket, and how to sew the pocket on my shirt.  I have endless amounts of fabric scrap and have recently splurged on more than one piece of chevron fabric (I just can't help myself, it's so cute!).  Yet, in spite of all of my good intentions, I have not made myself a monogrammed pocket tee.

Last week, I was buying a gift for a friend at a store that made these monogrammed tees.  I gave in and bought one.  It only cost me $12 and it was ready by the end of the week.  I wore it on Friday and when people asked if I made it, I told them no. And, I was okay with that.

I know it might sound silly, but I'm learning that it's okay to not do something just because I can.  Because, here's the thing: we have the capabilities to do a lot but we have to pick what is most important.

That's really hard for me as I'm sure it's hard for others that like to please people, save money, or spend hours upon hours at Hobby Lobby because we just can't believe that chevron burlap now exists (it does, in bright pink, orange, and black...perfect for bows!).  But, one thing that God is teaching me right now is to let go of all that I can do with my time and zoom in on a few things that matter most.

For me, those few things are my family, my friends, and my profession.  As much as I love sewing or making cute cakes or painting or clothes those things aren't top priority for me right now.  It doesn't mean that I should give up all these hobbies (or obsessions if I'm to be totally honest about the clothes), it just means that I need to scale back and do these things in smaller dosages.  God made us to create and express ourselves in different ways.  But, if I'm spreading myself too thin with all of this creating, I'm not creating anything good.  And, I'm taking away from those other three things that are most important.

Today, as you start your week, where do your priorities lie?  Are you doing what is most important or doing things just because you can?  Is your day satisfying or plagued with guilt?

Consider your schedule for the week.  I hate cliches but are you putting too much on your plate?  Because if you are, you are going to feel really full and then get mad at yourself for "biting off more than you can chew."  Trust me, I've had a full belly one too many times and it only leads to frustration and exhaustion.  Being full takes away the fun. We are meant to savor our days instead of being miserable.

If there is anything on your schedule that you can do but maybe shouldn't do right now, make a deliberate choice to scale back. Or, find an alternative way to get it done, like I did with my monogrammed pocket tee. Let this week be about what matters most in your life. Ask God to help you refocus your priorities, rest, and receive joy.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments about what you are taking off your plate right now.  May you be intentional with what you chose to do (and don't do) this Monday!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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It's Fall Y'all {sewing ideas}

[dropcap]W[/dropcap]hen it comes to fall sewing, the possibilities are endless.  Just walk into a fabric store and you will leave an hour later with soft fabrics made from corduroy and velour or with colors of deep orange, crimson red, turquoise, plum, and chocolate.  This changing of season also inspires appliques ranging from pumpkins to ghosts, scarecrows to turkeys, and acorns to owls.  I love all of the choices but one thing that I have learned lately with sewing is to be picky.  I do not have the time or money to make my girls every single smocked dress and appliqued shirt so I picked two projects to work on for the fall that I thought would be practical and of course, cutie patootie.

Angel-Sleeved Geometric Bishop

I have so enjoyed my trips to Chicago and Pennsylvania this fall and I think it is such a treat for these city-goers to actually experience cool weather.  Here in Alabama, we can still wear shorts in the fall months (usually up until Christmas!).  So, it just isn't smart to dress my children in heavy clothes until the changing of the calendar year.  This fall, I decided to smock a geometric pattern on an angel-sleeved bishop so the girls would stay cool but still have a dress in fall colors.  I loved how it turned out!

Maralee and Adeline, October 2012

Last year, I made the girls a Christmas bishop with sleeves.  I did not like smocking or sewing the sleeves.  Love the look but not the time to achieve it :)  I have Ellen McCarn's Ultimate Bishop Pattern and used the 18 month pattern for my girls' dresses (my girls are short so this length works best right now).  I only had the sleeve traced out but I made it into an angel sleeve by turning up the lower portion of the pattern so it looked almost like a slightly arched boomerang (weird reference but it is long and slightly curved so that is what it looks like in my head!).  I simply adore the angel sleeve look and also love that I can sew the hem on it and be done! Since I used a different fabric on the sleeve, I just folded it over, pressed it, and then sewed the raw edges to the raw edge of the brown micro-check.  The contrast of these two fabrics was so lovely to me and I was able to pull those colors in for my smocking.

I used the Daisy Chain Bishop by Crosseyed Cricket as my smocking plate.  I wanted a geometric for the fall so the girls could wear these dresses from September-November.  I am all about making dresses than can be worn frequently!!!!  This was a very easy geometric and the only part that I had trouble with were the french knots; simply because I'm not good at making french knots.  You can use a seed bead instead but I liked the golden yellow thread so much that I labored through all of the knots until finished.

I was also pleased with this dress because it is the first smocked dress that I put together completely on my own.  I had The Smock Shoppe pleat it for me and they gave me advice on my french knots but I did all of the sewing by myself!  Thank you Christy and Ann for teaching me how to put a dress together properly while I was in Montgomery!!!!!  I did a french seam on the sides and back of the dress and then used my serger zig-zag stitch on my sleeve seams so they wouldn't be too large when I went to smock.  I did cut corners on the lower hem because every time I do a blind-stitch hem my girls step on it and it becomes undone.  So, I just sewed a straight stitch instead (you will see this technique done on most smocked dresses you purchase in the store).

Monogrammed Pumpkin Applique Shirts and Corduroy Ruffled Pants

Like I said before, there are a million different appliques for fall.  I actually used this pumpkin applique last year but it is my favorite pumpkin in my file, so I used it again.  This year, I decided to do it big and to put their first name initial in the middle in lime green.  So cute!  I think the pumpkin is from Applique Cafe and the monogram is called Jackson (I ordered it from an Etsy Shop).  The pumpkin can work for October and November so it saved me time to work on other things instead of Halloween and Turkey appliqued tops.

For the pants, I had bought this lime green corduroy fabric at Sarah Howard Stone when the store closed.  I adored it and instantly knew that the fabric would be super cute for the fall.  I used my Sophie pants pattern (I made the bloomers this summer) and added a four inch ruffle at the bottom (similar to the Ruthie's romper).  Because I did this, the pants were super long but instead of cutting off the top, I just folded it over before sewing the waist band.  Since I kept that fabric, I can let the pants out as the girls grow.

With the pants being lime green, I decided to make just tops to match them for fall, Christmas, and even St. Patrick's Day.  That way, I'm not having to make a completely new outfit each time, just a top.  Some ideas that I have had are to make a peasant top and bring in the corduroy green for some cute pockets on it or use the fabric to make a big ruffle on the sleeves or neck.  Also, I have even considered taking the fabric that I choose for my top and cutting a six inch ruffle out to add to the four inch ruffle on the bottom of the pants.  I have no idea if this would look tacky without trying it, but I've even thought about adding velcro to the inside of the pants (where the green ruffle is sewn to the leg) and just velcroing the new fabric to the pants instead of sewing them in.  That way the pants can be completely coordinated with whatever top the girls are wearing and it would be an easy change-up.  Just a thought but figured it was worth sharing. :)

 

I hope these fall outfits inspire you next time you are out fabric shopping.  Sewing fall clothes is so much fun but maybe these tricks will save you some time spent in front of the sewing machine to more time spent with your children and family.  If I didn't get a chance to enjoy activities with my girls, there would be no purpose behind making them these clothes.  So, get creative but also get outside and enjoy this fresh new season!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

[box_dark]If you haven't had time to read the other posts from the "It's Fall Y'all" series, click on these links to read about fall gardening, home decor, and festive food.  Your day just might shine a little brighter![/box_dark]

 

 

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Cutie Patootie: {swing top & ruffled bloomers}

Maralee & Adeline

My sewing shop sadly closed its' doors this past spring. Sarah Howard Stone will always hold a special place in my heart because it was in this place that my fingers began to learn the craft of sewing. As the final days of the store approached, the shop had some really incredible deals on their fabric. I picked up this pink plaid fabric and couldn't wait to get started on a cute summer outfit for my girls.

I decided to try out the Sophie pattern from Maja's Heirlooms. I really liked the pattern because it included options for a bubble or a top with shorts, pants, or bloomers. I decided to go with the swing top and the bloomers for my girls and could not have been more pleased!

 

On the top, I smocked this ladybug plate from Creative Needle magazine (I couldn't find a link for it but I'm sure you could just ask your local sewing store). I have been wanting to try out ladybugs for a while and thought three little ladybugs would look cute on this top. Since the smocking area was so small, I finished in no time.

Then, on the back, I just took the geometric from the ladybug plate and added a diamond geometric instead of the ladybugs. This went super fast too.

The directions for this pattern are pretty easy to follow in most places. The shoulder straps were a little difficult to understand because you had to fold and stitch a certain way but once I did the first one it was easy to do the rest. I also made my top a little longer than the pattern suggested in hopes that they can wear these outfits again next year (I used the 24 month size and as you can see, it's big on my girls).

On the bloomers, I learned a new trick to get that cute ruffle in place. I sewed a strip of single fold bias tape to the wrong side of the leg and then ran elastic through it to get it to bunch up. Super fun! Even though I have done plenty of pants, I still get confused with putting the two legs together. My Sydney Back Wrap pattern was easier to follow than this one so I ended up using that to finish off my shorts. I love the end result!

I hate that I didn't get a good picture of the girls on the first day of school, but I was a proud mom sending them to Mother's Morning Out in style.

My mom and I also found a store in Dothan that makes these bows FOR A DOLLAR Y'ALL. One dollar for one really cute bow...seriously? So, we bought four for pig tails :)

Hope you get a chance to try out this pattern on your little one! My friend made the bubble out of a soft paisley fabric for a three month old and it was irrestistably sweet. I'm also considering using the pants pattern for some green fabric that I also bought on sale for the fall. Endless options!

Till next time, let your light shine!

Blessings, christen

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Can y'all believe Adeline and Maralee are two? Check out our family's NICU video testimony to see how much these munchkins have grown! You can share it with your friends, family, or church too! To make their day shine a little brighter, just send them this link: http://youtu.be/N-iIofRz0dw .  

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