Halloween

Last year, Peach was only 2 months old for Halloween, so I dyed a onesie peach-colored, made a headband with a stem and leaves, and she “trick-or-treated” as, well, a peach!  My dinosaur-obsessed Monster wore a dinosaur costume, inspired by this Etsy product (you can’t see in the photo below, but there’s a triangle tail that the spikes continue down).

Halloween 2013

Trick or treating was hard work for Peach! Monster’s hoodie was made of fleece, so I cut the sleeves off for our Florida October weather.

I didn’t dress up because, frankly, with a 2-month-old and a 19-month-old, just getting out of the house within an hour of what we planned was a big accomplishment!

This year, however, I will not be slacking.  Peach, in keeping with the peach theme, is going to be Princess Peach!  Monster will be Mario (I know it’s a cop-out, since every American boy is required by law to own the blue overalls, but it goes with the theme!), and I’m going to be Bowser.  Yes, you read that right.  Back in May, before Radar left, the wardroom held a Nintendo 64-themed party, and rather than go as something simple, he constructed a Bowser costume!  It didn’t occur to me to take tutorial photos of the construction of “Bowser,” but I can describe the parts:

Shell – The basis was a throw-away turkey roasting pan.  Radar used stuffing and hot glue to create the shell, then spray-painted it green.  The spikes were made from party hats spray-painted white and hot glued on.

Chest – I had some canvas from another project left over, and he just cut the oval out and drew lines across it with a Sharpie.  The shell is on the heavier side, so we use safety pins to attach it to the fabric at the front of the fly on our shorts and keep it from slipping.

Head – This was the piece de resistance!  I didn’t see exactly how Radar put it together (because, you know, I was keeping the kids alive), but I know he started with a baseball cap, sewed the jaw and stuffed it, and hot glued most of the features on, using pipe cleaners to give some shape to the horns and a few of the red spikes.

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There’s a photo below to show a front view of the head on me

Princess Peach was pretty simple.  I bought a little pink dress and found a teal decoration at Joann’s.  I just safety pinned the decoration on so that Peach could still wear the dress after Halloween – it’s so cute!  I also found an adorable crown headband on Amazon that is perfect for my little baldy.  And that’s about it!  She won’t put up with much accessorizing, so I tried to keep the costume simple.

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Cute and easy!

Mario was also relatively easy to put together.  I got a red cap and used white puffy paints to add the trademark “M.”  Then I used his blue overalls (he has long ones, but the kid HATES to wear pants, so I went for Florida Mario) with a red shirt underneath.  And don’t judge, but a 2-year-old won’t keep a stick-on mustache on for an evening, and face paint will smear…. so I plan to use Crayola washable marker!  He might have a mustache residue for a couple of days, but he’s looked worse/crazier before haha!  I opted out of the white gloves because it’s still 80 degrees out, and Monster is really sensitive with that sort of thing (see the pants comment about 4 lines up).

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Please ignore the fish on the chest!

It’s an annual tradition for the squadrons on base to host a “haunted hangar,” where they decorate the hallway and the offices for the kids to go through, get the tar scared out of them (for the bigger kids), and trick-or-treat.  It’s a blast, and we look forward to it every year!  Downstairs in the actual hangar, they use the large open space for bounce houses and socializing – and dessert, in case we haven’t been sugared up enough.  Participants are asked to bring a treat to share, and I found this darling idea on Pinterest last year for pretzel ghosts.  I know it’s lame, but they were such a hit that I’m using it again!  The combo of salty and sweet, plus easy portion control and clean-up make this treat the perfect goodie to bring to a party.

Supplies:

  • Large pretzel rods
  • 1 bag white chocolate chips
  • Handful of mini milk chocolate chips
  • Solo cup
  • 2 tbsp butter (optional, if chocolate is too thick)

Pour the white chocolate chips into the Solo cup, and microwave until just melted – 10 seconds at a time, don’t overheat or it will seize.  If your chocolate is too thick, add the butter to loosen it a little.  Dip a pretzel rod in the chocolate, and lay on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil.  Then, use 3 mini chocolate chips to create eyes and a mouth on your ghosts.  Repeat as many times as you want – a bag of white chocolate goes a long way!  I usually run out of cookie tray space before I run low on chocolate.  As the chocolate gets lower in the cup, tip it to coat further down the pretzel sticks.  When you’ve filled your cookie tray, pop it in the fridge for about 15 minutes, or until the chocolate is hard.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

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Don’t be like me – melt the chocolate just enough! I went way too far today, and had to add butter and milk to loosen it up – the results were not pretty, but still delicious!

So after all this prep, we were ready to enjoy our evening as a family!  We had a great time, as always, and it’s super fun to make family-themed costumes while the kids are still too little to protest!  (You’ll note that Monster isn’t wearing anything from his costume but the shirt – he decided to dress up as a stubborn two-year-old tonight.  I’m hoping he’ll be Mario on Friday for trick-or-treating!)

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Monster was just not having it this evening. Peach was super happy with all the activity, though!

And of course, I had to send Radar a grown-up Halloween care package, stuffed with Trader Joe’s goodies (they just opened up here in Jacksonville) and other adult treats.

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I used Halloween memes to decorate the box!

Happy Halloween!

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Over the Hump

Our first deployment flew by.  Monster was only 2.5 months old when Radar left, and I wasn’t as deep into crafting as I am now, and I have no idea what I did for the 6 months that he was gone, but man, did that time go fast!  This deployment is the opposite – I feel like time should be sifting through my fingers, but it is DRAGGING, despite being constantly busy with the two kids and travel all over.

Luckily for us, today marks the midpoint of deployment, so we are officially over the hump!  Those of you who are military know what this means – a reason to celebrate, because we are halfway to seeing our loved ones again!  (For our squadron, this is actually only an approximation, since they don’t all leave and return at the same time and we don’t actually know their homecoming date yet)

Today is also my 28th birthday, and it makes me reflect on what Radar is missing during this 7-month deployment.  Of course, we were heartbroken, along with the rest of the squadron, when the word came out last year that they were extending deployments from 6 to 7 months, which pushed our leaving date back (yay!) but guaranteed that they would be gone for both Thanksgiving and Christmas (boo!).  But it’s not just those big holidays that he’s missing.  Peach’s first birthday was in August, our anniversary is in November, and Radar’s birthday is just before Christmas.  Because our year is so back-loaded with family events, the only thing Radar ISN’T missing was Monster’s birthday!

(I have to pause here to show off what Radar gave me for my birthday.  I absolutely LOVE it!!)

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Isn’t that an awesome ring??

I don’t mind celebrating birthdays and anniversaries alone, but it just highlights all the milestones and fun family events that he isn’t here for.  I am not complaining at all – I love our military life and I truly wouldn’t have it any other way.  But I can’t even imagine what it’s like for Radar, having his life at home essentially on pause while he goes and defends the freedoms we take for granted.  And I know that we have it good.  If he were in a different branch, or flying a different aircraft, or even in a different squadron, we wouldn’t have all the luxuries we enjoy while he’s gone, like constant email and the ability to Skype pretty regularly.  But even with modern conveniences, he will never get these 7 months back.  The best I can do is take lots of pictures (and send them in care packages!) and hug and kiss the kids enough for both Mommy and Daddy.

One thing I am looking forward to in the second half of deployment, though, is moving in January.  Radar’s orders are up about 2 weeks after he gets home, and I don’t want to spend the first month that he’s home in total chaos, so I’m planning to move right after the holidays to our new duty station in Pensacola!  We are really excited to be going there; it was our first choice.  And while some may think I’m crazy, voluntarily moving alone with 2 kids, I’m really excited to have our house pretty and settled before Radar comes home.  I plan to paint (something he will do, but I’ll have to listen to him complain about it the whole time), set up my new craft room (which hopefully will not also double as a guest room in our new house), and get us all comfy before he comes back to our new home.  It’s sort of become a running joke in our house – last deployment, I bought a car (without him knowing)… this time I’m buying a house, so he’s glad he doesn’t have a 3rd deployment this tour because I’d probably use my power of attorney to buy a small country!

So here’s to loving the kids enough for both of us.  Here’s to this crazy military life that we love.  Here’s to working hard while he’s gone so we can enjoy our lives together when he’s home.  And here’s to being Over the Hump!

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My deployment survival glass 🙂

Simple Cinch Sack

As I mentioned in my last post, two of my nieces share my birthday.  I made my middle niece a cute little pouch shaped like lips, and I decided to make the youngest a cinch sack to carry all her things.  I got my inspiration from two places (here and here) and combined their tutorials to make my own design.  I chose to use paracord for the strings because it’s sturdy, you can melt the ends to keep them from fraying, and Walmart has all sorts of colors for a very reasonable price.  I liked the idea of using ribbon to hold the strings at the bottom, since it can be sewn to the bag more easily than the strings – and it’s going to take a lot of stress from the soon-to-be 8-year-old!  It took me less than an hour to put together, so if you’ve never made a bag before, this design is a super simple starting point!

Supplies:

  • 2 13″x15″ pieces of fabric (can be the same or different; adjust larger or smaller depending on the size of kid using it)
  • About 100″ of paracord
  • 6″ of coordinating ribbon
  • Coordinating thread
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“Ingredients” for this project

Fold the top edge (short edge) of one of the pieces of fabric over 3/8″ onto the wrong side and press; fold again another 3/8″ and press again – this will make the casing for the paracord later.  Repeat on the other piece of fabric, and pin them in place.  Cut the 6″ piece of ribbon in half; fold each piece in half and pin on the good side of one of the pieces of fabric, towards the bottom (think about where you want the bottoms of the straps to sit).  Then place the two pieces of fabric right sides together and sew around the 3 raw edges (1/4″ seam allowance), stopping before you hit the folded upper edge.  If you want, you can backstitch at the ribbons to make them stronger.  At the top, unroll the top edge and press back 1/4″ to match the seam, and stitch in place.  Repeat on all 4 edges.  Then refold the casing and sew across the bottom of the folded section a scant 1/4″ to hold the casing in place.  Don’t forget to backstitch at either end to keep it secure!

Top Assembly

Left: Top edges folded and pinned, ribbons inserted towards the bottom, and ready to be stitched around the 3 edges. Center: Fold back 1/4″ to make the end of the casing. Right: Stitch down the casing.

Use a safety pin to thread the paracord through one of the casings, down through the ribbon, back up through the other casing, and down through the 2nd ribbon.  Pull as much as desired, then cut it, melt the ends, and stitch them together to create a continuous loop.

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It’s not pretty, but it will get the job done!

And you’re done!  I threaded the cord back through, so the part where I attached the ends is in the middle of the casing so it wouldn’t show.

Finished Cinch

I love the wavy striped fabric, it’s whimsical without being baby-ish

I think my youngest niece will like this bag, whether it’s for carrying toys or even sports gear to and from the field!

Lips Pouch

When I saw this pouch, I knew it would be the perfect gift for my niece’s birthday.  Crazy as it is, 2 of my nieces have the same birthday – and it’s the same day as mine!  Since I made the oldest a triangle bag for her birthday, I decided to make the two younger girls their own unique bags for their birthdays as well.  The original lips pouch uses a 7-inch zipper and is meant to go inside a purse, but I wanted this to be a more stand-alone bag, since she’s too young to carry a purse yet.  I also thought it would be cute to put words on the inside of the bag instead of just a darker red color, especially since this niece is known for her constant talking!  Also, since the bag is meant to be on its own, I added a strap to carry it.

Supplies:

  • Lips Pattern (credit: abeautifulmess.com – enlarged on my printer)
  • 1/4 yard pink fabric
  • 1/4 yard word fabric (mine was actually Barbie, I just cut around the Barbie logos)
  • 9″ white sport zipper
  • Interfacing (optional)
  • Coordinating thread

My pink fabric was really thin and see-through, so I started by ironing some light-weight interfacing to the back so the words wouldn’t show through the outside; you can skip this step if your fabric is thicker.  Print out the pattern and cut out one of each shape from your outer (pink) fabric and inner (words) fabric.  Also, for the strap, cut a piece of pink fabric 12″x4″.

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I flipped one of the pink pieces over to show my interfacing

Attach the zipper to the outer fabric by pinning the split pink lips right side down on the zipper; sew as close to the zipper as possible, then fold back and topstitch in place. Repeat for the other side of the lips, and open halfway.

Zipper

Top: Pin the lips right side down on the zipper and stitch close to the zipper teeth before folding back and topstitching. Bottom: Be sure to open the zipper halfway before you sew the outer shell together!

Make the strap by ironing the 12″x4″ piece of fabric in half along the 12″ side, then open it up and fold the two edges in, like the photo below.  Stitch close to the edge along both sides to secure.

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How the folds should look on the 12″ strap

Fold the strap in half, and line up the raw edges with the edge of the good side of the large pink lip piece.  Pin the large pink lip piece right sides together on the zipper front, and sew around the edges.  Be careful when you go over the zipper – you don’t want to hit that plastic with your machine, or crankiness will ensue!  Lift the needle and the presser foot to move the fabric and continue on the other side of the zipper.  Clip the edges of the lips (careful not to hit the seam you just sewed), and turn right side out through the zipper opening.

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This is also a good time to trim the zipper ends

Create the lining of your pouch by first folding back the straight edges of the opening of the lining pieces.  Then pin them to the large lining lips piece, and stitch around the edge.  Clip the edge (not as important as the outer lips, since you won’t be turning it right side out), and insert into the outer shell.  Use a ladder stitch to attach the lining to the outer shell along the zipper; don’t put the lining too close to the zipper or it will catch!

Lining

Left: Attaching the lining. Right top: Lining put together. Right bottom: Stitch the edges of the lips back.

And you have completed your super cute lips pouch!  I know my niece will love it, and I’m sure someone you know will too!

Finished Lips

Isn’t that just too adorable?? I thought the words coming out of the mouth was just ingenious!

Hollandaise Sauce

I am addicted to hollandaise sauce.  If I go out to breakfast and the restaurant has eggs Benedict, no omelet or fancy pancakes can compete for my order.  I just can’t resist that hollandaise on poached eggs!  Despite my love for it, I have never had the guts to tackle this delicious sauce… it required a double boiler (read: double dishes in my mind), lots of hand whisking, and is hard to get just right.  But yesterday morning, I had some leftover asparagus staring at me in the fridge, just begging to be cooked with some eggs, and I thought, today I conquer my fear.  Today, I make hollandaise!

I found a recipe online that used just ingredients that I had on hand, and got to work.  Spoiler alert: yesterday was not the day I conquered poaching an egg.  We’ll leave that adventure for another time.

Ingredients:

  • 3 egg yolks (don’t waste the whites – make an omelet or at least some meringues)
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp hot sauce (I used Louisiana Hot Sauce)
  • 1/2 cup butter

Place the egg yolks, dijon mustard, lemon juice, and hot sauce in a food processor or blender (either works, as long as you can add ingredients while it’s running).  Pulse to combine.  Melt the stick of butter in a measuring cup in the microwave for about a minute.  Turn the food processor on and slowly drizzle in the melted butter (just like we did with the olive oil for the basil mayonnaise) to make an emulsion.  Serve as a sauce on eggs, asparagus, or anything you think it would taste good on!

Since I had 3 egg whites already in a bowl, I cracked a 4th egg in and whipped it up to make a mostly-egg-white omelet.  I added some of the leftover asparagus, along with some salt and pepper, and topped it with some of the hollandaise.  I then achieved breakfast nirvana.

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A classic combination: asparagus with hollandaise

If you don’t eat it all in one go (which I don’t recommend – that’s 3 egg yolks!), save the leftovers in small containers.  You can reheat them GENTLY by placing the container in hot water – no microwave here, you’ll just get scrambled eggs.  This morning, I enjoyed some of my leftover hollandaise sauce on a tomato basil omelet.

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Waste not, want not!

It tasted just as good as yesterday, but I didn’t have to do any work!  Now go make yourself some of this irresistible sauce – I know you have all those ingredients handy!

Easy Chicken Marsala

I’ve mentioned before that I am in love with oregano.  This recipe was introduced to me by my mom, and it’s become one of our favorites!  It’s definitely not “health food,” since you need 1/2 stick of butter and 1/4 cup of olive oil, but it’s so darn delicious!  You start by browning the chicken, then make a gravy and add mushrooms.  It’s savory, with a deep flavor that comes from the Marsala wine and sherry, and I’m sure it will soon become one of your favorites, too!

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 lb boneless skinless chicken – you can use thin-sliced breasts, but I prefer tenderloins
  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine
  • 1/4 cup cooking sherry
  • 1 tsp bouillon granules
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup canned sliced mushrooms (drained)

On a plate, mix together flour, salt, pepper, and oregano.  Coat chicken pieces in flour mixture.  In a large skillet, melt butter in oil over medium heat.  Place chicken in the pan, and lightly brown.  Turn over chicken pieces until cooked, then remove from pan.  Add the remaining flour mixture to the butter and oil, and whisk for 1 minute.  De-glaze the pan with the Marsala wine, sherry, bouillon granules, and water (whisk to break up lumps and scrape up all the yummy bits from the bottom of the pan).  Add mushrooms, and return chicken to the pan.  Heat to a simmer; add a bit more wine if it gets too thick.  Serve with noodles.

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Broccoli, egg noodles, and chicken marsala? Everyone went to bed with happy, full bellies tonight!

Even my kids gobble this up, and they’re not too enthusiastic about dishes with gravy.  Tonight, Monster even helped me by adding the water and the mushrooms!  Peach kept shoving so much chicken in her mouth that she was gagging… but never let a piece escape!  I think what I like best about this dish is that it tastes like it was a lot of work, but it wasn’t.  It doesn’t use any extra pots or pans, either!  That’s a mark of a good dish in our house.  So serve this up for a fancy Saturday night dinner or a usual Wednesday night supper – it’s sure to be a hit!

Personalized Birthday Present

They say the Navy world is small; people you know now have a way of popping back up and crossing paths with you in the future.  Well, sometimes I think the whole world is small!  With all the places we’ve been and lived, it turns out that one of the first friends that I made when we first moved to Florida from Canada (19 years ago) lives about an hour and a half away from us now in St. Simon’s Island.  It’s been fun to reconnect with each other, now that we’re so close.  Last year, about 3 weeks after Peach was born, Kristen and her husband adopted a sweet baby girl, Macie Kate, and just like Peach, her first year has just flown by!  We headed up to Georgia to celebrate her birthday, and of course, I couldn’t just buy her a gift from the store… I had to make something sweet and special for this amazing little girl!  I appliqued an original design with her initials, where I incorporated a 1 into the K, onto a shirt, added some cute flutter sleeves, and then made a pair of ruffled jeggings to go with it.

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I thought my design was pretty ingenious! It’s super easy to incorporate a 1 into initials.

Supplies:

  • T-shirt, long or short sleeved
  • Pair of jeggings
  • 1/4 yd accent fabric (increase to 1/2 yd if you’re making it for a bigger kid)
  • Heat N Bond Lite
  • Fusible web
  • Tearable stitch-on interfacing
  • Coordinating thread

I’ve only appliqued on a t-shirt once, for Monster’s 2nd birthday, and I wasn’t 100% pleased with the results.  I used regular interfacing to stabilize the stretchy knit fabric, but it still pulled a little still when I sewed, and now that it’s been washed about 100 times (because the kid loves dinosaurs, what can I say?), the interfacing is starting to pill and get lumpy.  So this time, I decided to use tearable stitch-on interfacing.  I would have preferred just to pin it in place so it would tear off super easily, but an 18m size shirt is so tiny, I knew it wouldn’t stay where I put it.  So I used a fusible web called Wonder Web to attach the interfacing to the shirt, and after I did my applique, just tore the interfacing off (carefully, so I didn’t stretch the shirt).  I made the “M1K” applique like I usually do:

  • Draw the design backwards on the paper side of the Heat N Bond Lite
  • Iron it onto the fabric
  • Cut it out
  • Peel off the paper and iron to the shirt
  • Stitch around shape to secure
  • Tie knots to secure threads on the back – remember, this will be washed again and again, you don’t want it coming undone!
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The backside of my applique with the sew-in interfacing (I’ve already tied and trimmed the applique threads)

You can probably see that the shirt I got is long sleeved.  Apparently, as soon as September hits it’s “cold weather season” for the stores… never mind that it’s 90 degrees outside still!  So that’s where I came up with the idea of adding a flutter sleeve – because that poor little girl would melt in long sleeves!  I got my inspiration here, but decided to make new sleeves out of my accent fabric instead of the sleeves I took off.  My inspiration for the pants came from here, but again, instead of knit, I used my accent fabric so it would all coordinate.

You need to start by prepping your shirt for its new sleeves.  CAREFULLY trim the sleeves off at the seam, but be sure to leave the serged part on the inside intact!  You want to cut as much of that sleeve fabric off as possible, because anything left over will show once you redo the sleeves.  This is also a good time to prep your pants – cut them about 2″ shorter than you want the finished leggings to be, parallel to the original hem.

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I folded out the serged part so you can see what I’m talking about – leave it there! It helps you make a nice finished look later.

To start off, I cut out the fabric for the sleeves.  I cut 2 pieces that were 2″x8″ each, then trimmed them to curve for the sleeve shape I wanted (see photo below).  While I had the cutting board out, I also cut the ruffle fabric for the pants, which I made twice as long as the circumference of the bottom of the pants (after they were cut) and 2.5″ tall.  For my 18m pants, this ended up being 2.5″x16″… don’t forget to cut 2!

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I started with 2 pieces 2″x8″, then cut a curve for the flutter sleeves

Both of the websites I got my ideas for the sleeves and leggings left the edges unfinished because they used knit fabric, which doesn’t unravel; cotton, however, will fall apart if you don’t do something.  So I pulled out my serger and put a pretty rolled edge on the outside of each piece of fabric.  Then, since I had it out, I thought I’d give ruffles a try on the serger!  They’re pretty easy to do on the sewing machine, but even easier on the serger, plus the inside edges won’t unravel with washing!  If you don’t have a serger, you can hem the sleeve and pant ruffles by turning the raw edge under and stitching on a regular sewing machine.

I threaded the serger for the standard 4-thread overlock.  Then, I cranked my stitch length and differential feed to the highest setting on the machine, and I just serged along the edge I wanted to gather.  It started to gather a little as I serged, but when I was done the edge, I trimmed one of the tails right to the fabric.  Then I used my tweezers to grab that inner top thread, and pulled it to gather the fabric.  It was super easy!

Serger

Top left: Stitch length maxed out. Top right: Differential feed maxed out. Bottom left: My sleeves and legging ruffles serged, with a rolled edge on one side and my gathering serging on the other. Bottom right: Pull the inner top thread to gather the ruffles.

To finish off the shirt, gather the flutter sleeves a little.  I gathered them so they were both about 4.5″ long.  With the shirt right-side-out, tuck in the serging from the original sleeve seam and pin the new sleeves inside at the shoulder, making sure any gathering threads will be concealed.  Start sewing at the armpit of the shirt, and finish the sleeve edge by tucking in the original serging and sewing close to the edge of the shirt.  Sew all the way around the arm hole, and backstitch at the starting point to secure.  Repeat for the other sleeve.

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See why we had to cut as much of the sleeve fabric off as possible? That flutter sleeve looks so cute!

For the jeggings, gather the ruffled accents until they are the same length as the circumference of the pant legs.  Fold right sides together and sew along the raw edges to make a circle.  Then hold the ruffle up-side-down (still in-side-out) and insert the pant leg up into the ruffle so the gathered edge of the ruffle meets the cut edge of the pant leg; pin in place with the seams lined up, and use a narrow zigzag stitch to attach (as with the shirt, make sure your gathering threads won’t show when it’s flipped over).  Repeat for the other pant leg.

Ruffle Pants

Top: Ruffle loop with seam. Bottom: Line up the seam of the ruffle with the seam of the pant leg and sew below the gathering threads with a narrow zigzag stitch.

And that’s it!  This whole outfit took me about 3 hours from start to finish, and a lot of that time was spent obsessing over the applique design (have I mentioned I can’t draw?).

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It turned out so cute, if I do say so myself!

One more thing before I sign off today: I want to stress prewashing your materials, especially if you’re making clothes that will be washed repeatedly.  I hate coming home from the store with everything I need to get started on a new project and having to take the time to wash everything (in this case it was fabric and the clothes), but I would hate to see all my hard work wasted when something shrank the first time it was washed!