Elvis In The House! -Part 2

October began with setting a costume-making timeline.  I figured nothing would be more difficult than Josephine’s so I should be able to make a costume each week and be finished one week before Halloween.

We decided Eleanor should be Gold Suit Elvis.  It’s a bright, shiny costume for our bright, shiny girl.  Black Leather Elvis and Hawaiian Elvis were the other two we were planning on, and needed to decide which boy should be which Elvis.

But then My Love had another brilliant idea.  Instead of the slightly lame Hawaiian Elvis, what about . . . Jailhouse Rock Elvis?

Woooooo-hooooooooo!  Now there’s an exciting costume.

Andrew would be Jailhouse Rock Elvis since he’d be able to rock the moves.  Which meant Dutch would be Black Leather Elvis and I couldn’t think of anything cuter than my little man in leather.

I told Andrew the plan and then showed him a video on YouTube of Jailhouse Rock.  He immediately recognized it because Grandma Diane, who is a huge Elvis fan, has a Dancing Elvis Telephone similar to the one below that sings and swivels his hips whenever anyone calls.

The lesson I learned that day:  Recognition counts.  Since Andrew had previous knowledge, he was very excited to dress up and imitate Elvis.

We bought a collection of Elvis movies and had the kids watch some of them.  They were made back in the day so there wasn’t a lot of risqué stuff that we wouldn’t want them to see.  They’re kind of like the Simpson’s in that most of the inappropriate material is done in a way that people old enough to understand recognize, but younger people don’t see it.

At least I hope.

Viva Las Vegas was first because it has race cars in it.  And what 6 year old boy doesn’t like race cars?  They found the movie hilarious.  Eleanor liked the songs especially.

Jailhouse Rock costume seemed fairly straight-forward.



Jacket, pants, and a striped shirt.  Not so bad.  I decided to buy dark jeans instead of making them because, hey, let’s be honest, they’ll look better.  And instead of spending money on fabric that will only be worn a handful of times, Andrew can wear them after I take the white stitches out until he grows out of them.  Or until there are massive holes in the knees.  And let’s be honest again, that’ll happen in about two months.

Shirt.  The shirt in the picture looks like a knit button-down with a polo shirt-type collar.  I have never seen a shirt like that.  And the white stripes are slightly wider than the black stripes.  The chances of me finding fabric where the stripes are a different width were slim to none.  My sister noticed that the stripes only went to the side seams, too.  Brilliant costumers, that’s for sure.  As he’s moving and dancing, if the jacket flies, there won’t be distracting lines; it’ll all just be shadows.

Andrew had a black polo that was getting a little small on him.  Perfect.  I took some white fabric paint and painter’s tape and went to work.  It’s not perfect but it got the job done.

The painter’s tape I used was 1 inch wide.  I made the white stripes 1.5 inches so they’d be a little bigger, just like in the photo.  However, once I was finished I thought it would have looked better if I’d done 1.25 inches.  My Love needed to remind me once again that I was nit-picking and that the stripes would still get the point across.  Sigh.  He was right.

Next up, the jacket.  Once I found the plainest, darkest wash jeans I could find at Target, I took them to the fabric store and matched a denim to them.  I found a pattern for a zip up jacket and figured I’d just leave the zipper out and put buttons and buttonholes on it.

I didn’t notice until I had all the pieces cut out and had the front and back sewn together that it was one of those jackets that is longer in the front and back than it is at the hips.  Crud.  Elvis’ jacket is cut straight across the bottom.  I fixed it by laying out my leftover fabric and placing the jacket so that the bottom lined up with the edge of the fabric.  Then I pinned and sewed and turned up the now straight across bottom edge to hem as normal.  I didn’t worry about the fuzzy cut edge of fabric.  I figured it would blend in and if anyone noticed, I’d give them a piece of candy, an “atta girl,” and send them on their way.

See?  I can learn to relax and let things go.  Sometimes.

To customize the jacket to look more like Elvis’, I turned down the edges of the collar and turned in the lower part of the jacket edges.

I sewed buttonholes and corresponding buttons, not bothering to open the buttonholes.  The edges of the jacket only meet, they do not overlap.  Plus, I think that’s how Elvis’ was done, too.

Next comes the stitching.  Three strands of white embroidery thread and more time in front of the television.  I did a simple running stitch, trying to replicate the look from the pictures I could find online.  I did the back of the jacket some but not as much as I could have.  I didn’t bother with the back of the jeans, except for continuing the stitches around the waistband.

Lastly, but this is actually my favorite part, the stenciled numbers.

Ack!  Couldn’t you just die?  I love those things.  I thought about using different numbers than Elvis, thinking maybe Andrew’s birthday numbers would be cool or his age and . . . I don’t know.  Something.  But I ended up using the original numbers and I’m very happy I did.  I makes it more authentic to me.

I used a font in my Photoshop Elements program called, you guessed it, Stencil, typed the numbers, fidgeted with the size, printed them out on freezer paper, cut out the numbers, and then used the freezer paper stencil method to paint them on.  There are many tutorials online so I won’t go into details here; just know that freezer paper stenciling ROCKS.

The final product:

Two costumes down, two to go!  My costume-a-week plan didn’t really go as planned.  By this time, it was getting close to two weeks before Halloween with still two costumes to make.  I was starting to feel the pressure, that’s for sure.  So many details to finish up.  My brain was on overload.  More to come . . . soon.



P.S.  I must apologize for the not fabulous pictures today.  I’m still learning where the good light is in my house at the different times of day.  There are better photos to come when Andrew is actually wearing the costume. xoxo



Elvis In The House!

Halloween 2010 just might go down in our family’s history as being the BEST ever!

It all started back in 2004 when I only had one kid and I decided to make all of my kids’ Halloween costumes instead of buying them.  I thought it would be nice and fun and a special thing that I could do for them every year.  Little did I know that someday sewing four costumes for a deadline would drive me crazy.

Okay, that’s beside the point.  This story actually began two years ago, in 2008.  My Love had the fab-u-lous idea that we should dress up all the kids as Elvis.  Different versions of Elvis.  Like White Jumpsuit and Cape Elvis.  Hawaiian Elvis.  Gold Suit Elvis.  How awesome is that?!?!?!

I was out-to-there pregnant with Dutch at the time.  We decided that it would be way funnier to have four little Elvis’ than three little Elvis’ so we must wait.  He was due in February so we thought about when he would be 9 months old.  Mmmmm, no.  As excited as we were about the idea, we thought it would be better to have them all vertical and walking so they could all stand together in photos and go trick-or-treating together, instead of one being confined to the stroller.  So we must wait.  Wait until Halloween 2010 when Dutch would be over a year and half old.

And wait we did.  And it was worth it.

We did run into a glitch though.  During the year, we had made sure to bring up the subject every once in awhile that mommy and daddy had decided what their costumes were going to be so they wouldn’t get their hearts set on something else.  We didn’t get into specifics about it because a) Elvis is a big subject to explain to little people who don’t know about him and b) we didn’t want them to tell everyone about it ahead of time.  We didn’t want to exclude people but we thought the surprise would be fun.

When it finally came time to execute our plan, we talked more about Elvis.  That he was a very famous singer that everyone loved.  That he was also famous for the different costumes he wore.  They were all on board and thought it would be fun.  Then we showed them pictures on the internet.  And then . . . Josephine.

Josephine said, “Elvis is a boy?!?!”

“Um, yes, darling.  Elvis is a boy.”  I’m cringing now, waiting to hear what she’ll say next.

“But I don’t want everyone to think I’m a booooooooooooyyyyyyyyyyyy!” and then a few tears start to roll down her cheeks.

$#!+.  Two years of planning and Josie doesn’t want to do it.  This is a delicate situation.

“Honey, Elvis was so famous that lots and lots of people still dress up like him.  Even girls.  Everyone loved Elvis.”

We had already decided that she was going to be White Jumpsuit with Cape Elvis because it had jewels all over it.  If anything could change her mind, jewels could.  And in this case, I wasn’t above a little bribery.  And begging.

We snuggled and I told her all about the cape with jewels on it.  I told her I was planning on getting her a microphone to hold so she could sing into it.  I told her that this was the very last year I would ever tell her what to be for Halloween.  She wiped her tears away and sniffled, “Next year, can I use the microphone again and be Hannah Montana?”

Of course, my dear.  Of course.  Anything you’d like, baby.

And just like that, Little Love #2 was back on board.

She was neutral for a couple days.  Until I went shopping for her pattern, fabric, and jewels.  Once she saw the jewels, she was over the moon excited and completely jazzed about the idea.  She showed everyone in our family individually the jewels that were going on her costume.  As her costume came together and she tried it on, she became more and more excited.

I, however, began to doubt.  I purposefully did her costume first because it was the one that scared me the most.  And let me tell you, the pattern for that outfit was a pain in the a$$.  I’m not going to sugar coat it because it was a freaking nightmare.  I was scared to sew it and I was scared to start gluing jewels on it.  I was pack of nerves and have never broken so many sewing machine needles.  If this costume didn’t work out, we wouldn’t be able to do the Elvis theme.  Two years of planning could be down the drain and I would be forever disappointed that it didn’t work out.

I finally finished the sewing aspect of it.  The outfit was complete.  It wasn’t my best sewing job ever but it was done.  Now for decorating it.  The part I had really been dreading.  Dun, dun, duuuuuuun.

I found a picture of a cape of his that I especially liked.

I had jewels, glue, and little tool to pick up jewels and scooch them into place.  I also had a bottle of glitter paint.  The real cape is outlined in studs that have prongs and attach individually, through the fabric, but I wasn’t about to do that.  It is still just a costume for a five year old.  So, I got glitter paint and made big round globs instead.  Here was my set up on my ironing board.  The cape is attached to the costume so, haha, that made embellishing it interesting.

And you know what?  This was fun!  I had been dreading this part but it was so. much. fun!  All my worries scattered as I spent little snatches of time placing jewels and glitter globs.  In the evenings, I spent longer stretches of time on it while My Love and I watched TV.

I started this project in September.  It took two weeks to sew the costume and I started jeweling it up on September 29th.  I worked on it off and on, right up until the night before Halloween.  The cape took the longest, of course, but there were a surprising number of other places to decorate.  And I didn’t even do as much as I would have liked.  But My Love says that I spent at least 40 hours with the glitter and jewels and you know what?  That was enough.

Are you ready to be bombarded with pictures?  You can click on them to enlarge them.  Here we go:

The bodice:

The pant leg:

The cape:

One of the things I was frustrated with while sewing the costume was the sleeves.  Sleeves are finicky anyway but these sleeves had THREE parts to them; an upper sleeve, a lower sleeve, and the cuff lining.  Ufdah!

Once I got the sleeves together, the way I needed to attach them looked wrong.  In the picture below, see the sleeve on the left?  With the pointy cuff pointing up?  Weird.  I have learned, though, that I do not know better than the pattern.  So follow the pattern directions I did.

And wouldn’t you know . . . once the costume is on and the person wearing it lifts their arm to hold a microphone to their mouth: the fancy cuff is perfectly visible to the audience, as seen on the right.

Another thing that made Josephine happy to wear the costume was the red glitter fabric.  Hee hee hee.  It was all part of the plan.

I do believe I have written enough for one day.  I shall continue with the Elvis Costumes Saga next time.

Have a wonderful day,


The Moment My Life Made Sense

My name is Rachel.  I am married to the love of my life, whom I met at my seventeenth birthday party.  Over a distance of four hundred miles, before cell phones and right on the cusp of e-mail, we quickly became best friends, fell in love, and then not-so-quickly got married five years later.  Nine years and four beautiful babies later, we’re still best friends.

Our wedding day, June 2001

Setting: Beautiful, clear, slightly cool, fall day in a small Midwestern town.

Plot Summary: Unexpectedly, my heart explodes with happiness and gratefulness.  Tears sting my eyes as I realize why I, and every other parent, does the things we do everyday.

Let me start earlier in the day.  My Love leaves for work as I get our four Little Loves up and ready.  Tired children want me to help them dress, which I know is a ploy for a little one-on-one attention to start the day.  I happily accommodate.  Little Love #3 is in a stubborn mood and would rather not change out of her jammies just yet.  No problem, dear.  I’ve learned to chose my battles carefully.

Teeth brushed, breakfast eaten, and we’re out the door.  We’re  loaded in the minivan to take the older two to school.  As usual, Eleanor who is still in her jammies with a coat for warmth, sheds a tear at not being able to run onto the playground with her brother and sister.  Back home, we clean up breakfast and greet our daycare friends.  The morning goes on as usual.

All of a sudden, I realize Eleanor has a field trip to the apple orchard with her preschool class that afternoon.  My mind works frantically trying to think of what to do.

To understand the dilemma, you must know about my Get Kids Home From School Situation.  The neighborhood elementary school gets out fifteen minutes before the other-side-of-town preschool.  My first grader and Kindergartener walk home with a 5th grade neighbor, taking about 15 minutes.  Since I take daycare kids with me, and I don’t have a 15-passenger van, I pick up Eleanor early from preschool and drive back home in time for the older kids to arrive.

The apple orchard threw a monkey wrench into my routine because I knew the field trip bus wouldn’t get  back early enough for me to pick up Eleanor and get back home before the older kids.  I stressed out about it the rest of morning.  My usual daycare back-ups were not available this particular day.  I had told Andrew and Josephine previously that if I wasn’t back from preschool before they got home to let themselves in and behave nicely until I got there, probably in a minute or two.  No one else could pick up Eleanor, no one else could be home waiting for Andrew and Josephine.  I had too many daycare kids and not enough seats in the car to pick up Andrew and Josephine and then go get Eleanor.  The only way I could think to handle the situation was to be waiting for the field trip bus and hope it got back early enough.

I got Eleanor dressed finally.  She wanted a red shirt with a skirt but I convinced her to wear a shirt that went better with the tights.  After lunch, we were off to preschool.  Back home once again, naps for the Littles.  After naps, we loaded into the van yet again, drove to preschool and waited for the bus.  And waited.  And waited.  My heart was fluttering with nerves.  I hadn’t even gotten a chance to warn my older two that I may not make it back in time that day.  Our kids had never been without supervision.  I started biting my nails.

Finally, the bus pulled up.  I watched the kids, flush with excitement from the outing, file off the bus and into the classroom.  Hey, wait a minute.  They’re all wearing red shirts.  Bad mommy.  I forgot the newsletter had said to wear red that day.  That was the color she’d wanted to wear.  Why did I pick out a different one again?  There’s my girl, a brown shirt amongst the sea of red.  I grab Eleanor’s hand, make sure the teacher sees that I’m taking her, and head out.  I have daycare kids with me so I can’t speed.  My heart is racing enough for me and the car, though.  I can’t get rid of this panic that my kids will be scared or freaked out or feel alone if they come home to an empty house.

Finally, we turn on to our street.  Go another block.  My heart sinks.  I would have seen them walking already if they didn’t beat me home.  I see our house.  The front door is open.  My heart sinks further.  I pull into the driveway, park, and before I even get the kids out of the car, I must let my Little Loves #1 and #2 know that I am home.  I run to the front step, swing open the storm door, and see their backpacks on the rug.  Andrew is getting himself a cup of water and Josephine is going through papers she brought home that day.  They’re not panicking like I am.  They’re fine.  They’re even nonchalant.  I breath a sigh of relief.  I give them hugs.  I tell them I’m sorry for not being there when they got home.

Josephine helps me get the kids from the car.  She was the one I was most worried about.  She’s our little freaker-outer.  She’s a mother hen and always makes sure everyone is safe.  I was worried she would be crying when she saw that I wasn’t there.  As we’re walking back to the house, I tell her, “Josie, I’m very proud of you for not being upset that I wasn’t home right away.”

My little 5 year old angel, who has always had a way with words, shrugged and said, “I knew there was love in the house.”

My heart stopped and so did my feet.  No breath filled my lungs.  Tears stung my eyes.  A simple sentence.  Simple, common words, strung together in a way that made me see my whole life differently.  “I knew there was love in the house.”  I didn’t know that that was what I was striving for, but there it was.  My life’s purpose.  This is what it means to be in the midst of raising happy, healthy kids.

“I knew there was love in the house.”

All of a sudden the past six and three-quarter years of me staying home with our kids made sense.  I always knew it was worth it but the beautiful words from my beautiful daughter gave me a clear definition of what my job and my life is truly about.  Love in the house.  Who could ask for more?  The things I do, the things I sew, the spaces in our home we’re trying to beautify . . . it all helps create a feeling of love in the house.

Our family: Me, Andrew, Eleanor, Josephine, My Love, Dutch

I’d been toying with the idea of starting a blog.  Many friends had been encouraging me to do so.  I struggled to find a focus for it.  Would I write about sewing?  Would I write about parenting?  I want to chronicle our family life, too, but would people get bored reading that?  So many facets of life, only one blog.  How could I make it cohesive?  Love in the house.  Once Josephine said it, so many things clicked into place.  One of those things was this blog.  I want to make Love in the House a place for it all: a chronicle of our adventures, my interest in photography, my love of creating spaces and things to be enjoyed, our love of travel.  Our house is a place that encompasses everything we love, why not my blog home?

I hope you enjoy reading my little corner of the web as much as I look forward to writing it.  Please leave comments and tell me who you are so we can get acquainted.  What kind of  home would Love in the House be, if not a gathering place for all?