The thoughts, sewing projects, and fabric oglings of a dedicated sewist.

What's Up: Inspiration, New Heroines, Wool Fabric

I spent Thursday through Saturday at the Original Sewing & Quilts Expo in suburban Schaumburg.  I don't normally think of Schaumburg as a city of excitement, heros, inspiration, and knowledge (sorry, Schaumburg), but it was for me last week!

I had some trepidation approaching the conference.  The logo, website, and language definitely comes across as dated.  I spent a lot of time watching instructors on YouTube before choosing my classes and I certainly found people I wanted to learn from and people I wanted to avoid.  I heard from other sewists that it has become more quilt-oriented over the years (not my interest). I'm happy to say that I had a great time and learned a lot.  I'm not sure that I would attend again, at least not for all three days, but I think my money was well spent.

The way to approach this conference is to see it as a chance to get a surface understanding of what's out there in terms of instructors, patterns, and schools of thought on fitting and pattern alteration.  All of the instructors have DVD programs and/or longer workshops to will give you depth (at a cost).  I think I walked away with an idea of which program(s) I'd want to spend money on in the future to get that depth of knowledge.

It was also motivating to hang out with a bunch of sewists.  I don't consider myself a young person (I'm 42) but I was almost always the youngest person in the room.  So these ladies have been sewing and learning for decades.  I realized how much I have to learn, and want to learn.

And they have fun prize drawings at the end of every day and sometimes at the end of a class.  I won two $30 gift certificates for The Wool House, a Canadian fabric store specializing in wools and wool blends.  They don't have a website or online shop, so I'm not sure how you would find them.  But I purchased these lovely items with my gift certificates:

The top fabric is a wool/silk blend herringbone.  It has beautiful drape and is very soft and light.  I like the selvage edge and may save it for embellishing the hem of whatever I make.  The bottom fabric is a wool/linen blend - I just love the texture of it!  I've not decided yet what I'm going to make with it, but I'm leaning towards Silhouette Pattern's Sheath Dress using the solid color for Guffey seaming detail on the front and back princess seams.

Which brings me to my newfound heroines.  My two favorite instructors were Peggy Sagers (of Silhouette Patterns) and Cynthia Guffey.  They were very different in terms of teaching style and fitting philosophy, but I learned a lot from both of them.  And they've both enjoyed careers similar to the one I hope to eventually carve out for myself: dressmaking, designing, and teaching.  I'll go into more detail about both of them in later posts, but here are a couple of recommendations for my fellow sewists:

Peggy Sagers has a FREE online library of webcasts on a variety of topics.  I highly recommend these.  Peggy broadcasts live every other Monday night (the next webcast will be on sewing with silk) and you can find past webcasts here.  She is also a regular guest on the Channel 20 Program It's Sew Easy.  You can find videos of her on YouTube and in the It's Sew Easy archive.

Cynthia Guffey has a pattern line and a bunch of instructional sewing DVD's.  Her website is a bit sparse, but you'll find her patterns and DVD's there.  You'll find video clips of her on YouTube as well.

I did actually do a bit of sewing this week (finished off a couple of skirt orders that have been hanging around too long), but nothing all that show-worthy.  This week I'll be working on the muslin for Linda's dress and drafting skirt patterns for Bryn and Domenica.  And I hope to try a cowl neck adaption to my new Silhouettes t-shirt pattern!

What's Up: Bits 'n Bobs

Please remember that you can vote for my PoldaPop Flower Button Coat in the VintageModern Design Challenge through Thursday, March 22!  Click here to vote.

This week was a bit of a downer after last's week high level of productivity.  I had some small things to finish up but nothing all that exciting or showy.  And my energy level took a dive after all the late nights of the week before.  I love losing myself in intensity, but I generally have to pay for it at some point!

But I do have a few things to show.  I helped out the Maiden Street School of Irish Dance by finishing off six skirts for their St Patrick's Day show. 

Can't you just imagine a whole army of little girls marching in a St Patrick's Day parade with these?  They were going to pair them with black turtlenecks but I'm guessing they had to go for something lighter with our unseasonably warm weather.  I earned myself some free classes for Cora and the owner is now going to refer new students to me so that they can get a matching skirt made for performances, so my good deed has certainly been rewarded. In the middle of the project I had to run to Hancock's to get more of the binding they had chosen for the waistband.  This trip highlighted why I get so irritated with Hancock's.  They were all out of the item I needed (black blanket binding), and when I asked one of the clerks (one that I like - I certainly know who to go to and who to avoid) if they had more squirreled away somewhere.  She looked for me, and when she came up empty-handed explained, "We're always running out of the black."  SO WHY DON'T YOU UP YOUR ORDER??????????  I know their trick of not having much of something the moment there's a 50% off sale (see if you can find any neutral colored invisible zippers when zippers are on sale), but this was full price.  Humpf.

I got to re-visit Eileen's skirt from last summer as I needed to take it in a bit.  This is one of my favorite skirts:

I made this skirt with a combination of Valori Wells fabrics from her Wrenly collection.  And it came out the way it did as a happy accident.  Eileen wanted the vertical stripe fabric for the background ruffle. This was my first peplum style ruffle, and I didn't think about the fact that the stripe would become diagonal and then horizontal because of how the peplum is cut.  Luckily Eileen liked it this way!  One of the things that I love about sewing is how often a problem becomes a opportunity to be more creative. 

And now for my first experiment with knits.  I decided that I didn't have the right fabric for the dolman banded top and I was worried that the wrap top would ride up too much (Thursday's post) so I decided to make up my own style.  I used one of my existing jersey tops as a guide, shortened the length, lengthened the sleeves, added a looonnng tie, and ta-da:

I wore it to Devon's reading and got a lot of compliments (even before people knew that I had made it!) so I think it was a success.  I used a cotton interlock that I bought on clearance at ages ago, so I wasn't worried if it didn't work out (I've got some jersey I paid $12/yard for but I'm saving that until I feel more confidenct).  I used interfacing on the shoulders and faced the neckline to give it a nice edge.  I used a rolled hem for the sleeves and hemline and while I kind of like the scallop-y edges, I need to figure out how NOT to do that, too.  I think I'll tweak it a bit more then put up a tutorial for it, for those of you who want to D-I-Y.

This week will be a little light project-wise.  I'm attending the Original Quilting and Sewing Expo in Schaumburg from Thursday through Saturday (thank goodness the girls have willing and doting grandparents) so I plan to finish up a few more leftovers then get my learnin' cap on.  I so hope I can bring home a batch of new skills and ideas!

Fabric Focus: Knits & Jerseys

I wrote my post about my upcoming experiment with jersey, and then received an email from one of my favorite online apparel fabric stores about a sale they are having this weekend:  15% off knit fabrics at  I think this is a good omen!

So good, in fact, that I think I'm going to gamble on this experiment going well and get some fabric for myself.  Even if experiment #1 doesn't work, I know I'll get there in the end and I should probably be ready with lots of cool fabric.  Right??

Here are three of my favorites:

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Up a Lazy River Jersey - Greens/Orange/Yellow/Ivory

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The Bold and The Beautiful Floral Jersey - Blues/Green/Purple/Black 
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Paging Jackson Pollack Jersey - Black/White (she also has this in grey/white)

I've started a knit/jersey fabric board on Pinterest and I'll be adding fabric from and other places as I continue ogling.  If you want to check out the sale on knit/jersey at GorgeousFabrics, just click here.  You only need 1-1.5 yards of fabric to make a great top, so you know I'll be stocking up!

Have a great weekend!

New Direction: Knits & Jerseys

I am feeling emboldened by my recent success with the Flower Button Coat.  You might even say that I am feeling brassy or fearless.  Whatever you call it, I'm ready for a new adventure.

Now that the coat is complete, I've been thinking about what I might do as my next personal project (the weekend is coming up, afterall!).  I want to do something a little less time-consuming this weekend, as I'm still recovering from the late nights of last weekend.  So the obvious choice is . . . knit/jersey fabric!

It is supposed to be easy to sew, but it involves learning more about the serger I received about nine months ago and have still only used to finish seams (a woeful under-utilization of this wonderful machine, I know, I know).  So I cracked open the book that my mother-in-law gave me for Christmas 2011, Sew U Home Stretch by Wendy Mullin, and started reading.  I think I'm ready to dive in!

Now I have to decide on my first project.  Devon and I are going out (yes!!) this Sunday night as he is doing a reading at the Columbia College Story Week kick-off (he is reading a story about the time he was banned from ever returning to Canada - it's a good one) so I'd love to have something ready to wear for our outing.  I should probably start with a simple t-shirt, but I don't really want to wear that.  Instead, I've narrowed down my choices to one of these:

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So, Readers, which one would you go for??  Both patterns are generously offered free by their designers (just click on the title and it will take you there).

My goal is to work up to creating this jersey dress from Boden sometime later this summer:

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Wish me luck on my new adventure!!

What's Up: New Dress for Jen, Finished Skirt, VintageModern Coat

UPDATE:  You can vote for my Flower Button Coat in the VintageModern Design Challenge through Thursday, March 22.  You can only vote once and you must register at the BurdaStyle website in order to do so.  You can find my entry hereI'm project #11.  Thanks!!!!

For the moment, I feel like a powerhouse when it comes to completing projects.  This probably won't last long, so I'm going to enjoy it while I can!

The big project of the week was making my coat for the VintageModern Design Challenge hosted by Indygo Junction (patterns), BurdaStyle, Coats & Clark, and Singer.  This was big because it involved sewing a coat for the first time, and making style changes to the original pattern (collar, pockets & flaps, flower buttons, piping).  You can read about this project in more detail on my BurdaStyle page, but here's the completed coat:

I learned a lot from this project and I'm already planning what I'm going to do differently the next time I make it, but I'm happy with how it turned out.  Now keep your fingers crossed that I win the challenge!  I'll keep you posted on how I do.

My second completed project was a dress for Jen, who hosted the last skirt party.  I used Kay Whitt's Flirty Dress from Sew Serendipity.  I made the under bust band a bit wider (2.5 inches) than her pattern and added a tie to the back.  I love the fabric Jen chose - Joel Dewberry's Heirloom Tile Flourish in Green - and the dress looks great on her.  I'll try to get a photo with her in it when I drop it off later in the week, but here it is on a hanger:

And then I finally finished Melissa's bias trim denim skirt.  I had to re-do the waistband because I just didn't think the straight waistband was working.  A rectangular/straight waistband is theoretically supposed to work when the skirt sits at the high waist, but I haven't found this to be the case.  Or I should say, it works for my 4-year-old but not for anyone with a womanly shape.  So, ta-da, here it is!

I love the button Melissa's picked out from my collection.  It gives a masculine touch to an otherwise very pretty skirt.

That's it for last week (she says while flexing her sewing muscles).  This week will be a bit less exciting.  I need to finish a few odds and ends and I offered to help a local Irish Dance school finish off six skirts for their St Patrick's Day show.  I bartered with them so now Cora will get to take some Irish dance lessons!

Have a great week!

Sneak Peek: Indygo Junction VintageModern Design Challenge Entry

**UPDATE**  Please excuse the typo.  It should be "Sneak Peek" - I blame the 1am sewing!!

My Monday "What's Up" post will be delayed this week because I am finishing up my entry into the Indygo Junction VintageModern Design Challenge.  I had to work until 1am the last two nights to get it finished and I think I'm pretty happy with it.  I've got a friend coming later today for a photography session so I'll post more photos tomorrow, but here's a sneak peek at what I've created:

More to come on this coat and my other completed projects for the week tomorrow!

Fashion Focus: Patterns for Voile, Lawn and Batiste Fabrics

Voile, lawn and batiste cottons are all super light fabrics.  They can float and have some drape, especially if they are soft.  They are usually somewhat sheer, so may need a lining unless you are going for the "I see London, I see France" look.  Here are a few of the patterns and ideas that I've ogled recently.

The first is a lovely Joel Dewberry design (remember him?  I wrote about his fabric in one of my first blog posts).  Check out the contrasting fabric in the skirt:

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Joel Dewberry Vintage Flutter Dress

Nice, huh?  And of course it looks wonderful with Joel Dewberry's fabrics (he now has a voile line as well).

This one is for sale at Etsy shop MyFairLabel (very cool shop - handmade, fair trade and organic fashion from Africa):

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I love this simple design.  The off-the-shoulder neckline can also be worn as a cowl neck.

And doesn't this Vogue pattern .  . .

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Vogue 8632

 . . . . look almost exactly like these dresses at Garnet Hill

Marisol Voile Dress from

Add a band at the waistline and you'll get this look!
I found this pattern in the Etsy shop ScientificSeamstress, and after I pinned it on Pinterest it was frantically repinned all over the place:

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Jamie Dress Pattern from Etsy shop ScientificSeamstress

I love the neckline, straps, and waist detail.  I bet this dress is super comfortable as well as super stylish.

And finally, how about something sweet for dessert from Colette Patterns?

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Colette's Jasmine Pattern

It isn't my usual style, but there's something very fetching about it!

If you want more ideas, check out my board on Pinterest.  I'll keep adding to it as I find more. 

Happy Friday!

Fabric Focus: Cotton Lawn, Voile and Batiste

It was 65 degrees F in Berwyn, IL yesterday and it felt like the first real day of Spring.  Even though the winter was pretty mild here in the Midwest this year, it still feels wonderful to open the windows and fill the house with the smell of spring: mud, plants, warmth.  I definitely have summer fabrics on my mind now that I can feel it coming (nevermind that tomorrow's high will only be 39 degrees F).

I am excited to sew with lightweight cottons this spring and summer.  Quilting weight cotton is fine, and it can make a lovely A-line skirt, but the lighter weight cottons have more flow and drape.  I've been ogling dozens and dozens of these lighter weight prints and I'll showcase some of my favorites in this post.  If you want to see everything I've found, hop over to the Pinterest board I created here.

Anna Maria Horner, orginally one of the quilting cotton queens, has been branching out into apparel fabrics.  She has a velveteen collection and now her prints are available on cotton voile.  I love the simplicity of this one, and the contrast of the colors:

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Anna Maria Horner's Pastry Line Voile in Olive Green/Aqua from Etsy shop GreysFabric

Liberty Tana Lawn art print fabrics are gorgeous, but super expensive (generally $35-45/yard) so I try not to "see" them when I'm ogling.  But I couldn't help seeing this one!  My friend Candice will love it because of the bookish design:

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Liberty Art Fabrics: 'Dr. Tulloch' Tana lawn A from

While I've been drawn to more graphic/abstract prints lately, I couldn't help falling for this floral, especially in combination with the matching polka dot print.  I think it the mix of sour lime with the cheery flowers - a nice mix/clash!

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Cotton Lawn Fabric Lime Darling Floral from
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Cotton Lawn Fabric Lime Darling Dots from

Happy Spring!

What's Up: Corsetted Skirt (done!), Coat Muslin, Fabric Surprise

What a satisfying week.  It's much more fun when I have actual finished projects to admire at the end of the week, instead of pattern pieces and cut fabric!  This week I finished Diane's two denim skirts, the corsetted pencil skirt and a regular pencil skirt with funky material.  I'm very pleased with how the corsetted pencil skirt turned out, which is a good thing because I had to work hard to get it right:

I want to make myself a version of this, and I think I'll use a thread with more color contrast on the topstitching to really make the corsetted seams stand out (Diane wanted something more subtle).  I also hope to get a tutorial in the next week or two for those of you who want to try it yourself (I need the tutorial myself so I don't forget what I did!).

The fabric for Diane's second denim skirt is a heathered grey denim.  I don't think the photos do it justice (they didn't on the website where I first saw it).  The fabric has a lovely sheen and feel, and looks almost metallic when it moves.  The heathering creates interesting vertical streaks and is very slimming.  I found it at and last I checked they still have some here.

I also finished my coat muslin this weekend, thanks to a visit from Grandma Polderman (she spent hours and hours playing with the girls.  I now feel that I have a chance of finishing the real coat on time for the competition (the deadline is next Monday at midnight).  I'm so glad I did a muslin for this.  It gave me practice with the in-seam pockets and pocket flaps (not in the original pattern, so I had to figure this out and draft the pieces), it showed me where the coat needed to be altered for a better fit (hips), and I now know what changes I want to make to my additions (collar, pocket flaps).  I don't usually do a muslin for skirts unless I'm making something unusual (like the corsetted skirt); instead, I follow the guidance of a costume-maker friend of mine who suggests making the skirt with a 1 inch seam allowance so that it is easy to make adjustments.  I always do a muslin for dresses, or at least for the bodice, and now, for jackets/coats.  Here's a sneak preview, although I didn't finish the sleeves, hem, or add the buttons (not needed for the muslin):

The fun surprise of the week was receiving a box of (free!) fabric and a dress from my husband's Aunt Wendy.  She has a friend returning to Malaysia who is downsizing her goods and Wendy told her she could find a home for the fabric.  I received YARDS of beautiful silk.  Some lightweight, like these:

I think they'll make lovely scarves or flowing summer dresses.  And then there were a couple heavier brocades:

I love the grey/purple brocade with dragons and I'm already dreaming up what I can make with it.  Also in the box was a Chinese-style red dress.  Wendy wasn't sure it would fit, but here it is (and here's me, vamping it up with Cora):

This week I'll be finishing Melissa's skirt and then working on Jen's dress.  And I also hope to finally get my finished bags up on Etsy.  And then I'll rub my tummy and pat my head.

Fashion Focus: Patterns for Linen Fabrics

So here we are with Part the Second of the two-part blog on linen.  I've had a lot of fun finding patterns for linen fabric (who doesn't like designing and redesigning dresses for themselves even if it just in your head??).  I created a board on Pinterest on this topic and you can see everything I found here.  Below I'll show what I consider to be the best of the best.

Vogue 8755
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There's a lot to love about this dress/tunic.  It's nice and simple and I can picture wearing it with flip flops to the park with my kids or with heels to work or out to dinner.  Linen's crispness would really show off the subtle waist pleats and you could do some nice topstitching or decorative stitching around the bodice seams.  You could use different fabrics and color-block the dress in a couple of different ways.  I like the idea of a tangerine orange fabric for the side bodice and skirt pieces, and some sort of purple for the V (yes, I've still got that color combination on my mind!). Janet Dress

I recently found this Australian pattern company and I love their designs.  I think this dress would work well with a soft linen.  I love how tailored it looks with the fitted bodice and A-line skirt.  Again, you could mix it up with some color-blocking or topstitching, but I think it would look great with a plain solid or a simple print.  Although it would be fun to make the basque waist piece a different color (and if I made it for myself, I'd probably go darker to give the illusion of actually having a waist!).

Simplicity 2651
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I like the neckline on this one and the tie belt but I'd definitely have to lose the breast pockets.  That just looks odd.  I can picture this with a twill pencil skirt and flats.

Indygo Junction Chinois Coat

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What a fun spring coat!  I haven't always been drawn to the swing coat look but I'm coming around to the style and this coat could push me over the edge.  This design would also work with home dec weight fabrics and there are some Joel Dewberry home dec prints that would look just lov-er-ly. 

I think the Vogue 8755 dress is calling me and I picked up some teal-blue linen on clearance that would work.  Unless I find that perfect orange/purple linen combo!

What about you?  How do you wear linen?