Too Many Cats



When grandchildren are babies, or at least fairly young, we can make pretty things that please us and, hopefully,  their mothers.  Then, after some time, our target audience becomes opinionated little ones.  That’s what happened with this special request from 3 yo Vivian Rose.

“Please make me a kitty cat dress, Nana,” she implored on her last visit.  Having put The Incident  behind us, making her a new dress seemed just the right gesture for assurance of forgiveness.

This child is fixated on cats.  Their family pet is a 17 year old feline who went to college with Vivi’s father and has been with him ever since.  So Vivi has daily interaction with a cat, elderly though she is.

When I spotted this fabric at my favorite fabric haunt, The Sewing Studio in Maitland, FL,  I knew Vivian would love it.   Not only that, the black background would make her mother happy, who declares this active child’s clothes have a chance of surviving the school year if they are black denim.




Even so, the fabric seemed a little too feline for my taste, but I wasn’t buying for me.  Don’t get me wrong–I love cats, but mostly in smaller numbers.

Challenges arose as soon as I began to cut it out.  Those rows of cats are not printed precisely on grain.  I dealt with a similar problem many years ago, but wisdom learned then was forgotten in my haste to make this for my precious little cat girl.  So a choice had to be made between going with the weave of the fabric or with the print.  I went with the print.

The pattern was Annie’s Sundress by Primrose Lane.



This is a very nice pattern with a lined bodice and just two shoulder buttons or  ties as closures. Easy peasy—if you are dealing with a less fussy print.  The wide size range is a bonus.

The inverted pleat at the skirt’s center front was omitted.  I had almost torn my hair out trying to get complete cat faces at the side seams (no way),  at the hemline (required fabric be cut a little off grain) and at center front of the bodice.  I wasn’t up to fiddling with two pleat folds through those cat heads.

This dress is actually a suggested variation included in the pattern. The lining was reversed on the back so the straps offered contrast against the bodice.

I had hoped that the pink gingham lining and gray gingham piping would cut the roaring purr that emanated from the fabric when my back was turned.



Photobombed by our Hannah who believes there are too many cats in the world.   And certainly, too many on this dress.


Vivi loves pockets so I thought gingham pockets would reduce the annoyance of the huge clowder. FYI, a “clowder” or “glaring” is what you call a group of cats, like a herd of cattle or a flock of geese.  I had to look that up. 



A tiny button sewn through the nose holds the pocket flap in place.


But the pockets made little difference in the overall appearance.  Still too many cats.

To find satisfactory buttons, I ended up stacking three together, a gray 4-hole,  a green 4-hole, and finally a tiny 2-hole flower.  This was a little tricky because the distance between the holes varied.

First, I lined all three up and held the stack to the light.  Sure enough with careful rotating I saw a glimmer of light through the two holes of the flower.  So the pink flower was hand sewn to the green button with a few stitches.  Then the tree were machine stitched to the strap.



I’m always in a hurry.  If I had taken time to think this through, I would have used that cat print as a border at the hem.  Or as the skirt with a gingham bodice.  A dress like A-line  Children’s Corner Lucy  would have avoided the gathers which added more and more cats to the dress.  Any one of these choices would have given Vivi her “kitty cat dress” and I would have been so much happier with the results.

I had planned to make a matching hanger, guided by Joanne Banko’s great project at Brother’s blog, Stitching Sewcial.  The cats would have been perfect for this style of hanger.  But I was no up for another cat projects.

The bottom line is that for Vivi, there is no such thing as too many kitty cats.  I think she will like the dress.

Remorse, Fish, Family, and Fun



This is one of our three formerly feral cats. They were a daily source of delight for 3 yo Vivian Rose and 7 yo Alastair.


Before the summer was over, our two younger grandchildren came  across the state for a week of Nana (and Granddad) camp.  As all grandparents know, it was a fabulous, memorable time for all, not the least of whom were their folks who were relieved of parental responsibilities for a week. How well I remember that special joy in years gone by.

In an effort to give this some sewing references, I must tell you that Vivian Rose’s suitcase was packed with nothing but Nana-made clothes.  I love my daughter for that–and a million other reasons.  Vivian wore her firefly outfit, the ever popular parade dress, her ABC shorts set, the CC Jane tricycle set and others.  More pictures should have been taken, but I was too wrapped up in the children to shoot more.



With a goofy grin and a little chocolate cake still lingering on her mouth, Vivi wears a well-worn Children’s Corner Katina, made fir her mother 35 years ago. There is something to be said for polycotton. The dress and bloomers are in near perfect condition.



A highlight of  the week was a visit to our friends’ garden and koi ponds.  John and Susanna are the grandparents of Baby Shrek who surely found a world of delight at their home when he visited in September.




Susanna led the trail through her jungle paradise.

Susanna led the trail past the koi pond and through her breathtaking garden.


After a short time, Vivian left the fish.  She had discovered a quiet hideaway where Susanna likes to sit and read, though she seldom sits.  She and her husband John are always on the go, what with keeping up with the garden and ponds, doing church work, and being friends to all.



Vivi was awed by the wind chimes and a singing bird in a secluded nook in the garden.


Among the bromeliads  was a pink pineapple.  Alastair was old enough to know that it was unique.  Vivi just saw a pineapple.


Vivian points to the nearly ripe pink pineapple.

Vivian points to the nearly ripe pink pineapple.  Take note of her outfit, lovingly made by her adoring Nana.  Read on to the end oft his post for news of its unseemly demise.



Host John led Alastair to a barrel full of tadpoles  under the treehouse. Somehow frog eggs had traveled through the pump to this holding tank and hatched.  It was brimming with tadpoles that he could see up close and personal.




Both children enjoyed the treehouse, one in which their mother and uncle spent time as a child.  That fact didn’t impress them one bit, but I thought it was nice for them to know.




The visit ended with cookies and lemonade.  John and Susanna know how to end a perfect visit.


At the end of the week, the parents returned along with our son and his family.  It was so special to have all both of our children and their families grands home at the same time.




Twelve yo Laurel and 11 yo Robert are idolized by the younger cousins.  Their mutual affection and admiration for one another is a joy to behold.




Of course, there was swimming.  In lieu of her own darling swimwear, Vivi chose one of Laurel’ s old suits from our box of swimwear for visitors.  The suit is size 8–not a good fit for a 3 yo. But she loved knowing it was Laurel’s.




All four grands swim well and had a grand time splashing around together, along with their parents.  Vivian Rose, on Uncle Ryan’s back, couldn’t get enough of him.

Now, Vivi is the only grandchild who hasn’t outgrown the old rope swing on the side yard and she loved it. How she managed to hold on with the straps falling off her shoulders is a mystery.




Alastair did his swinging under the treehouse, often eating a homemade orange juice pop.




We had so much fun!


Then there was The Incident. Vivian found a long lost permanent marker and decorated the house, her arms and the outfit she wore to see the fish.





This is our ancient and well-loved pine kitchen table, unembellished until the day of The Incident..


This was all accomplished while Alastair and I were watching a 3:30 video of his summer camp. What Vivian lacks in artistic style, she makes up for in speed.




And this is Vivian Rose showing genuine remorse in her ruined outfit.  But it was the set’s second summer, so I wrote it off as a lost cause.

The day after The Incident, which I handled rather gently, Vivi came to me, unprompted.  With those big blue eyes looking up at me, she said, “Nana, I not never gonna mark on your walls or your stove or your table or my arms or my dress ever again.  But if I do, I’m gonna say sorry.”  I THINK she meant it.

As it turned out, the stove and woodwork cleaned up, thanks to Mr. Clean’s Magic Eraser and the efforts of Vivi’s mother.  The yellow walls in the utility room were scheduled to be painted the next week.  Whew!  The table remains embellished with Vivi’s signature artwork.  Granddad wants it left as is, a colorful reminder of our special week with the children.  I may start using tablecloths in the kitchen.

Finished Christening Gown for Baby Shrek!

“I prayed for this child, and the Lord has granted what I asked of Him.” 1 Samuel 1:27

After earlier disappointments, people around the world prayed for this baby during the difficult pregnancy.  God hears all prayers and answered with the safe delivery of this precious baby into the arms of his loving family.

So here are the details of the renewed heirloom gown Baby Shrek wore for his baptism. ~~~~~~

Photo taken between rain and wind gusts from tropical storm Hermine.

photo taken between rain and wind gusts from tropical storm Hermine.


It’s been so long since my last post that faithful readers probably think I have dropped off the face of the earth.  A more accurate explanation of my absence is that I’ve been buried deep in my sewing room.  Sooooo much has been going on, the highlight being the completion of this gown for Baby Shrek and spending some time with him.  Details of a weekend with 4 rabid embroidery enthusiasts, ages 3.5-9, nearly a week of sewing with our two older grandchildren before they moved to New Jersey, and more will be posted later.


Little Shrek on my dining room table

Little Shrek on my dining room table. His adoring grandmother is captured in the mirror wearing a white blouse.


First let me answer a the question many have asked about why he is called Baby Shrek.  His parents very graciously gave me permission to use any photos of him, but asked that I not use his name.  So the hasty endearment from his maternal grandmother, “beautiful Baby Shrek,” is used in place of his very lengthy, good Christian name.

These pictures are not great, but he had passed up his noon nursing due to the distraction of my two dogs and his watchful, attentive fan club.  Then when he was dressed for the photos, he was good-natured, but very actively squirmed and flapped his little arms as he pleaded for his dinner.





"Do you understand?  I'm HUNGRY!"

“Do you hear me? I’m HUNGRY!”


It is obvious from his chubby cheeks and arms that he misses few meals.




We were so eager to wrap up  this little photo shoot that we did not even notice that the mirror captured the photographer–me–and his mother. I love this young lady and have since I met her when she was four years old.

Let me explain why this project was such a challenge.  An earlier post detailed the fact that his family’s 100 year old heirloom gown of Swiss goods was sized for a 3 month old baby.  Each baby who came into this large Finnish family has worn this gown as a newborn, including his mother and grandmother.  Shrek was 10 months and 28 pounds when he was baptized.  His parents left New Zealand to  journey first to France to visit his father’s family.  From there  they flew to central Florida to his mother’s childhood home for his christening.  So Plan B was needed for the family gown.

The lovely half slip in the heirloom set was all that could be used, and even that required modification.  A new 23″ waistband replaced the original 20″ band.  As I said, this boy is robust!

6 tucks and beautiful Swiss embroidered edging on 35" slip

6 tucks and beautiful Swiss embroidered edging trim the 35″ slip


A shirt was made with a wide Swiss edging to cover the waist band.  Buttons sewn to a band joined to the shirt under the edging.  Buttonholes in the waistband held the skirt to the shirt.




The skirt was quite heavy, requiring sizable buttons which, regrettably projected into the Swiss edging.  Another disappointment was that the creamy color of  antique mother of pearl buttons showed through the white Swiss.  Oh, well.


His mother liked my suggestion that a bit of pale blue be included.

His mother liked suggestion that a bit of pale blue be included. At first I planned to use it only on the somewhat intricate and tiny cross.A mere .90 x 1.28″, I’ve used this machine embroidery design on  a number of items.  It is on an old Brother card, #20, and is also available at here.


The machine embroidered blue cross and all construction was done on my Brother Dream Machine, a real dream for heirloom sewing.  In addition to the cross, matching blue floss was buttonhole stitched through the entredeux at the neck and sleeve edges. It also was laced through the entredeux holes in the Swiss embroideries.

TIP: It takes a lot of floss to work the buttonhole stitch through entredeux,  After a few annoying shortages, my measurements and calculations showed that it takes 3 times the length plus about 15%  more.  Of course, the holes through which you are stitching–entredeux or Swiss trim–must be large enough to allow the floss to flow through easily.  Otherwise, it will be worn out before you finish.



After so many earlier disappointing attempts at feather stitching, I was finally satisfied with the fine tatting cotton hand stitches on the sleeves and bodice.

Another tip: On someone’s recommendation (I think Jeannie B.)  I  used a large (#90 or 100) needle to machine stitch the feather without thread on the heavily starched fabric.  What a relief to finally have nice feather stitches!  I also learned that in our humid Florida climate, it is best to machine stitch one row, then fill the wholes with stitches before the holes sag closed.

Knowing that a 10 month old baby would not be happy very long with the crawling restrictions imposed by that 35″ long skirt, I  recalled a breathtaking gown made by master stitcher Carol Ahles for her grandson.  An article with the details was included in an old Creative Needle magazine (OH, how I miss that mag!).  It was actually a button-on suit with a skirt over the shorts.


button on shorts under the skirt

Shrek’s button on shorts under the skirt


The buttonholes on the shorts, of course, matched up to those on the skirt.  So the sturdy buttons on the shirt held the three pieces together.




Just look at those well-fed thighs!

standing with help--walking soon!

standing with Mama’s help–walking soon!


Thanks to Carol’s creative design, as soon as the church service was over and all the family festivities began, the skirt was removed.   Baby Shrek was comfortable and free to crawl in his shorts.



Here he has just been dressed before the service and is being held by his loving, attentive, hands-on father. This baby is blessed with wonderful parents.



It was a beautiful service.  Baby Shrek’s great uncle, a Lutheran pastor, officiated at the christening.  “Borning Cry” was sung, a hymn I had never heard.  Now I treasure those reassuring words.  The opening lines are:

“I was there to hear your borning cry,
I’ll be there when you are old.
I rejoiced the day you were baptized,
to see your life unfold.”*

For the gown, there are several things I would have redone if there had been time.  I would like to have changed out the wide Swiss edge at the hem of the shirt with another piece.

It should have been slightly gathered to accommodate the bulk of the skirt and shorts below.  But baby’s mother loved the piece, of which there was no more, and preferred that it be left as it was.  I also wish I could have replaced  the ivory buttons with white.

And I wish I had had more time to spend with this precious baby boy.  He is back at home in New Zealand now.  It will be at least a year before his family makes the grueling trip across the pond for another visit.  I sigh, along with his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and others.  And I try to imagine just how precious he will be as a nearly two year-old toddler.  May God continue to bless you, Baby Shrek.

ABC Preschool Shorts Set

Children's Corner Charlotte pattern

Children’s Corner Charlotte pattern


This swing top and shorts set was made for 3 yo Vivian Rose’s back to school wardrobe.  The pattern is Children’s Corner Charlotte and I love it!

CC charlotte


It is such a versatile pattern.  A cute print could carry the day or a solid fabric with machine embroidery would be just as sweet.

The crayon/ ABC print is a luxurious cotton twill lined with yellow gingham.  That same gingham  is also used on the shoulder ruffles and spaghetti bias on  the shorts.  Piping was added around the armscyes.



The crayon embroidery design can be found at Embroidery Library.


The shorts are embroidered with crayons from Embroidery Library.  Spaghetti bias is stitched over the machine hem.  The bow is held in place by a small square red button, which seems to have flopped down.

It was such a pleasure to make this outfit.  But I was so disappointed when Vivi’s mother reported that her opinionated little miss refused to wear it.  As things stand now, her fashion statement requires “kitty cats,” rainbows and or hearts for all garments.  Nothing else will do.

My daughter prevailed at last and Vivian Rose wore the dress on Friday.   This shot of her in the school parking lot shows a happy little preschooler  climbing out of her car seat.  She was too eager to get to her classroom to  complain about the outfit or stop for better picture. But maybe she really does like Charlotte.   Sure.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.


Vivi in car


I guess I’d better look through my fabric and design library for kitty, rainbow and heart designs.  If only Vivi could be persuaded to wear the garments I had planned, and for which I have yards and yards and yards of fabric with no-kitty cats, no rainbows and no hearts.  I guess there is no Liberty in this year’s wardrobe.  Oh, well.  She is so darn cute that I will get more fabric.  What a hardship ;-).

Coming up next—Little Shrek’s christening gown remake.  I will see him next week!!!!! Now I’m doing the happy dance!


Finding Dory~Another Fun Disney Dress

image 1 close finished p

My step-by-step tutorial for this dress is posted at Brother’s Stitching Sewcial blog. Please take a look and leave a comment . I’d really appreciate your feedback.


It seems like forever since there has been a new post here, but My! Oh! My! have I been busy!  Highlights include time in NC with family, a week at home with 2 younger grands, including hurricane Vivian Rose (good news,  we have finally recovered. Whew!), several days of sewing with the two older grands and so much more.   It’s been a wonderful summer.

But I’m back in the saddle now and have a really fun little project to share with you.  I do believe this sweet child’s dress would qualify for the “Modern Projects for Old Fashioned Nanas” category.  Don’t you?

It started with this cute pattern


and the Finding Dory machine embroidery designs at  The fabrics are a solid soft aqua Swiss cotton pique’ and a blue Disney Finding Dory quilting cotton. Continue reading

Alice Tea Linens Tutorial

image 1 panned set all shadowed

This child sized tea linen set features Alice in Wonderland characters.  With the heavenly scented Confederate Jasmine in full bloom on my front porch, a sweet tea party could be held, if only I had a few grandchildren in house.


Making this linen tea set was such a pleasure.  The project and accompanying tutorial were just posted on Brother’s Stitching Sewcial  blog.    This is especially timely with the recent release of Disney’s new movie, Alice through the Looking Glass. A whole new generation of children will meet the characters through this movie.

The tutorial includes .pdf downloads for the corner templates (a smaller one for the napkins and a larger one for the tablecloth).  It also includes a link to download the zig zag feather stitch which I created in My Custom Stitch,  available on many Brother machines.  I find this stitch useful for many projects–baby bonnets,   baby shawls,   blankets and more.

If your machine has this feature, you might want to download the zig zag feather even if you are not planning to whip up an Alice tea linen set.  Instructions for getting this stitch from the download to a memory stick to your machine are included in the tutorial.

When I began this project, my biggest challenge was to select the designs from  the 13 designs available at   Somehow, they would be have to be color coordinated with sweet Alice’s dress because the Madeira tablecloth corners just had to be blue.



Alice napkin close


Finally, I decided that the napkin corners would have to coordinate with its many colored embroidered characters. Continue reading

Baby Shrek’s Christening Gown~A Work in Progress

Now this is FUN!  And even more than that, it’s a meaningful challenge.   For a family friend of more than 40 years, I am lovingly adapingt a 100+ years old family christening gown.  Requiring many special considerations,  this baptismal robe is for an especially precious baby boy.


UFO bodice

UFO bodice + one sleeve


His mother, whom I have known and loved since she was 4 years old, grew up a mile from our home.  Her parents are two of our dearest friends.  But now this young mother  lives in New Zealand with her French husband.  They were blessed with this beautiful son after many disappointments.

beautiful Baby Shrek

beautiful Baby Shrek


His parents want him to be surrounded by family and close friends at this milestone in his life.  So in a few weeks they will be making the long trip from Down Under all the way to Florida, then on to France.  Their son will be christened at one of these locations.

Here is the complication.  The heirloom family gown, like most, was made for a 0-3 month old baby.  But this baby will be 9 months old when he is baptized. Continue reading

Kid Sew Monogrammed Scarf

R quattro 2xx


Our 11 yo grandson, Robert, gets such a kick out of machine embroidery.  He is very, very savvy about technology so my Brother embroidery machines fascinate him.


R quattro 3a xx


Recently, he monogrammed a polar fleece scarf for his mother, thoroughly enjoying the process of selecting, setting up and transferring the design to the machine.  Curious about the need for water soluble stabilizer on top, about why  we don’t hoop polar fleece, about how the machine knows which hoop is in place, etc. etc. etc.

He even made some design decisions, choosing to alternate the fill and outline colors between each letter.

R finished scarfxx


But he really wants to know just how the machine does what it does.  I just tell him to be grateful for its capabilities and DO NOT TRY TO TAKE IT APART!!!  If he tries, I threaten that I will cut his hair while he sleeps.  I almost wish he would make an attempt so I could shear those blond locks.

Straw Hats and Frog Pee

B hat stand

Rebecca’s hat


Embroidered straw hats seem to be turning up everywhere–at the beach, in the park, even at church.  Stitching them must be tricky, I thought.

But while shopping, I spotted two nice hats marked way down and thought, why not try?  If I ruin  them, the loss is small.  If they finish nicely–well, great!  Our daughter would like one.  She always wears a big hat when she hits the beach with the children and they go very often.   So with two hats taking up room  in my crowded sewing room, I thought it was time to have a go at it.


The monogram is from Loralie's Loralesque collection.

The monogram is from Loralie’s Loralesque collection.


Just an hour or two before Rebecca arrived with her two children and her good friend Zahra with her two, I decided the time had come.  (Remember Dr. Suess’s Marvin K Mooney?  “The time has come, the time is now, just go go go. I don’t care how.”  I read that book  at least 500 times to my son and can quote most of it verbatim even now.)

I recalled that there was a tutorial at Embroidery Library about embroidering on straw hats.  It’s a GREAT tute.  After reading through the comprehensive instructions, the hats met my Brother Dream Machine which performed flawlessly.  In a very short while, I had a hat ready for each of the young mothers. Continue reading

One FF Cat with One Finally Finished UFO

FF (formerly feral) Rusty with CC Jane for Vivian Rose

FF (formerly feral) Rusty with FF (finally finished)  CC Jane for Vivian Rose


This little outfit has been sitting at the back of my cutting table for almost a year now.  Why?  Because after embroidering the tricycle I thought a lighter pink applique fabric would have looked better.  I got as far as cutting out another front, but never got to the re-embroidery.  So it sat. Until last week.


allegria bodice

Children’s Corner Jane, one of my go-to-patterns for wiggly Vivian Rose, with an added angel sleeve ruffle. The pattern is so simple, perfect for embellishing one way or another.

When I took it outside to photograph because the lighting is so much better, my ever-loving, always-seeking-affection feline fella Rusty jumped into a pot of geraniums to be near me.  It was a cat photobomb. But I  just kept shooting as sunset was approaching.

Some readers might remember this photo of grandson Alastair with kitten Rusty, who was discovered with his recently feral mama in our old vacant chicken house.  That was in an earlier post, Sew Lucky, Sew Beautiful, .

Alastair and tiny Rusty kitten

Grandson Alastair is wearing his Big Brother shirt and holding tiny Rusty.   Mama Alina is keeping close to her kitten. He never was camera shy.


A most unusual cat, he has grown up to be as social, loving and attentive as any dog we’ve had.


Rusty tail w dress

Continue reading