Sharks and Kilts

Shortly after writing my most recent post (yes, that one that was published months ago) I started working on a sewing project. I was pretty excited about this one; it had been in the works for almost a year, realistically probably more than a year. I’m kind of bad with time. (Understatement of the year right there!) I was on a school break and my kids were about to go on a trip that this particular project needed to be on…

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It’s a shark dress for my shark-loving teenage daughter; my kids (and two of their cousins) were going on a road trip with my parents and they would be seeing the ocean for the first time.

As I said, this simple retro dress took a long time to materialize. Not because it’s complex or anything, when I actually got to the making of it it only took a couple days, but because the fabric and pattern had been sitting on my sewing table for months and months waiting to be made into something cool, fun, and totally unique. Back in late December, over Christmas break, I had thoughts of constructing this for my daughters upcoming 16th birthday. Obviously that didn’t happen but there I was in late March with a teensy bit of time for sewing and a deadline. Deadlines make things happen!

I picked up the vintage Simplicity pattern at a garage sale years ago. At the time it had no specific purpose but when I saw it in my excessive stash of patterns I knew it was perfect for this material. The clean cut style compliments the size of the material’s print, the pattern’s darts give it a lovely fitted shape, and it’s got pockets. Actually the pockets are probably my favorite part of this dress. That and the coilar that’s made from a remnant of formal dress material; I think it contrasts the simplicity of the cotton material and it matches the blue in the print so well.

My daughter loved the dress…but, much to my disappointment, she did not end up wearing it on their trip. She did get to see a couple real, live sharks in the ocean though.

This second project, a kilt as the title of the post suggests, is another school break project. Currently I am on my longest break of the year, I’ve got most of the month of May off school. While I’m enjoying dental school the pace of it is intense and I’m happy for the chance to take a break, regroup, and get my house in order (literally get my house in order…the place is a disaster). And after the last two months of driving two plus hours a day to sit in a classroom for hours then coming home and trying to cram as much studying in around the never ending parenting and household duties I was ready to make something fun. Really I was ready to make anything… I miss having time to be “crafty” and create things when I’m amidst the craziness of end-of-semester-dental school.

I made a very costume-y kilt a couple years ago when my oldest son was in the high school Shakespeare class production of Macbeth.  It was made of cheap, colorful flannel plaid and, while it was very fun, it was not what one might call quality.

After seeing the quick and dirty kilt, my brother-in-law (who has some Scottish heritage and a last name that actually has a plaid to it) asked about making him a kilt. It’s something that had come up a few times since then but any decently authentic kilt material is crazy expensive.  I had been keeping my eye out for a good price on some MacGregor plaid but had not come across any so this idea stayed in the realm of hypothetical ideas for quite a while.

Almost a year ago (11 months yesterday to be exact) my sister, this brother-in-law’s spouse, unexpectedly died. There’s not much of anything positive that can be said about that and we’re all still just trying to cope with the loss. BUT my sister was a smart, pro-active woman and she had life insurance and a will and trust all set up. (She was a lawyer and had a side business doing will and trust work for individuals.) With that and the fact that her student loan debt died with her, my brother-in-law is in a pretty financially secure situation. He decided to treat himself and finally bought the good stuff…Authentic kilt wool!

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Coincidentally I was planning on making this kilt over my spring break back in March but the shark dress took precedence and I had to set this aside until this May break.

20190507_122727.jpg20190506_133328.jpgSince I’ve only ever made the one kilt I was quite nervous to cut into the fabric, especially knowing how expensive it is. I spent a day Googling “how to make an authentic kilt”, measuring and folding the fabric. It was helpful but I knew if I was going to get this thing done I just needed to cut and go for it.

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I had measured my brother-in-law’s waist and hips and then, for good measure, wrapped the green lining material around him and cut it directly to fit. That was very helpful in the end because it reassured me that I was, in fact, doing this right and making something that would fit.

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Turns out my fretting was unnecessary and I DO know what I’m doing (a little bit). The kilt is awesome. He came and picked it up yesterday and, other than a little tightening at the waist, the fit was perfect. One of the great things about the really nice material is that it had a finished top and bottom edge so I didn’t have to hem this thing. (Yay!) I had to cut the finished top edge to make the kilt the right length but I was able to use that cut edge for the waist band and enjoy the benefit of not having to fold that under again.

The last detail of the kilt is probably my favorite part of it: the buckles. My brother-in-law asked that the kilt be as authentic as reasonably possible but I was having a hard time finding authentic buckles and straps for it. Neither of us wanted to wait for something to be shipped so I made a trip to the local fabric store and came up with this. 20190509_092738.jpg

 

A couple clasps and rings and some leather scrap.

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I cut the leather into strips and used the thing that looks like a plug (but should definitely NOT be inserted into an outlet) to punch holes in the leather. The holes functioned like stitch markers; using quilting thread I stitched it all on nice and tightly.

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I really love how the fasteners turned out. They’re my favorite part of the kilt and if/when I make another I’ll use this method again.

 

So there you have it, sharks and kilts. I’ve realized that when you have very limited opportunities to make things you should choose to make the things that you are excited about. 

Annual Christmas Craziness

Like every year (especially since going back to school), the few weeks before Christmas in mid December were Kuh-razy with a capital K. Finals/end of term projects for me and pre-holiday demands and events for the kids have me running around nonstop like the proverbial headless chicken. Because this is an annual thing I’m mostly prepared for it, as much as one can prepare for an already intense life to kick into hyper-speed.

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At one point (Tuesday), less than half an hour before the class period it was due, I was finishing a hefty presentation …from home…forty minutes from campus. All I could think was “How the Eff did this happen?”

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At another point, a day or so after the presentation procrastination, I was hustling my cranky kids out of the car to (quickly!) pick out a Christmas tree so we could get to the sledding hill across town where their aunt who was visiting from out of town was waiting for us with some cousins. It was cold, windy and already dark but gosh darn it we were going to get some sledding in. And we did. Just a bit before it was time for me to make dinner for 11 people. Directly following that I squeezed in an hour and half nap and headed to work for the night. Over the next couple of days I got six hours sleep. Total. In a span of 48 hours. I made it to my last test (it could hardly be called a final), attended my little guy’s school holiday concert, got the tree up and decorated before the kids left for the week, finished a paper, and worked another shift before finally crashing for 11 hours straight (and subsequently being an hour late for work Friday night).

But then my semester was officially over and a very strange thing happened…  end-of-finals-week-meme

I had free time. Well, relatively free time.

So I did what any sane person would do and began making some Christmas presents. There was just under a full week and making a list of things I wanted to make was as far as I had gotten.

First there was the Slytherin robe one of my sisters asked if I could make…

I used soap and drew the “pattern” out on the fabric. Other than the sleeves being a bit long (for growing room of course), it turned out perfectly and I expect I’ll see my nephew wearing this for a few years.

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And then there was a random hat made with chunky yarn for my mom, a scarf/cowl thing for my brother’s girlfriend, a “fallen leaves” baggy hat (for the same brother’s girlfriend), and a “Little Sister” hat for my God-daughter. (The other God-daughter got some My Little Ponies but she’s getting an Anna cape for her birthday in January.)

Sadly, I only got pictures of the Little Sister hat. It’s a bit big but should be perfect this spring or fall.

After that it was the holiday.

(Okay, that’s actually the before-Christmas craziness there.)

And that, dear readers, sums up this year’s round of pre-Christmas/finals week craziness.