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

Thank you, Patty!

I received a nice surprise over the holidays when Patty from SEWmuchKNITting nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blog/One Lovely Blogger award.  I was so pleased!  It's taken me a while to post about the award because it came with some instructions.

First, I am supposed to share seven things about myself that my readers don't know.  I always freak out a little when I get asked questions like this but I think I've found a few things that won't be too boring or weird!

1) I'm a reader.  I have loved to read for as long as I can remember and the characters I've met along the way have helped shape who I am.  My top five books are: East of Eden by John Steinbeck, I Married a Communist by Philip Roth, Portrait of a Lady by Henry James, Charlotte's Web by EB White, and The Guns of August by Barbara Tuchman.

2) I'm a runner.  It keeps my crazies away.

3) My mother was a nun and my father was a priest.  Interesting, huh?

4) When I was 18-years-old I was a singer in a band called The Courgettes.  I was living in England at the time and friend Caroline (the other band member) and I just liked this word (French for zucchini).

5) I've moved around some.  I've lived in  twenty-one different homes in two countries (US, England), four states (Illinois, Colorado, California, and Georgia), 11 cities (Maywood, Naperville, Englewood, Faversham, London, Canterbury, Coventry, Chicago, Oakland, Atlanta, and Berwyn) and one unincorporated territory (Puerto Rico). 

6) I have a tattoo.  This ties in with #1 since the tattoo is the word timshel, a central idea in the book East of Eden.

7) I'm highly unsentimental but I choke back tears when watching Taylor Swift music videos.  I don't understand this part of myself at all and it surprises me every time it happens.  I'm not moved by soft cuddy animals, the thought of keeping baby books for my kids makes my skin crawl, and my husband calls me the least sentimental person alive.  The music I usually favor is much grittier than Taylor Swift (hooray for the Drive By Truckers!), but I watch one of her songs on YouTube and I just get overwhelmed.

I was supposed to nominate ten people for the award and let them them know about it.  As far as I can tell, every single blogger I can think of to nominate has already been nominated.  So instead, I'm going to list my favorite blog posts of all time:

1) Sewing for the Life You Want from Mari at Disparate Disciplines.  I'm still thinking about what this means for me.

2) True Confessions - I Sometimes Sew Deshabille from Karen at DidYouMakeThat?  The whole True Confessions series is hilarious.

3) Cloacas and Poop from Dawn at Two On, Two Off  This lady makes me laugh!

4) One of Lladybird's vogue rants.  If you are having a bad day, just read all of these posts.

5) Something from Oonaballoona  It took a couple of tries for me to get into this blog and I think that's because you don't always get poetry the first time you read it.  Now I look forward to every post for the humor, the joy, and the PERSONALITY.

6) Rhonda at Rhonda's Creative Life runs a series called Fabulous Free Pattern Fridays where she posts patterns made from simple geometric shapes - genius!  The Hanging On a Cliff Dress is one of my favorites.  And Rhonda is also the only sewing blogger than I've met in real life - hi, Rhonda!

7) Liza Jane from Liza Jane Sews did a post called Moving Forward after the shootings at Sandy Hook.  It was the best thing I read at that time.

8) I can't pick just one thing from my dear friend Candice's blog, ReFab Diaries.  She has an eye for beauty, an appreciation for people who know how to make do, and an abundance of whimsy. 

Go read all these posts and then read them again.  Three cheers for sewing bloggers!

Paisley-ish Matellasé Stretch - Bittersweet Chocolate

First, the name Ann bestowed on this fabric is just fantastic.  I could drink this name, and not just because the word chocolate is in there.  Matellasé makes me think of something whipped and creamy - add that to chocolate and I'm sure you have a dangerous cocktail or a yummy coffee drink.

I spied this fabric in early fall and immediately pinned it.  And just as I suspected, it attracted my clients attention - like bees to matellasé, as it were (sorry, couldn't help it!).

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So far I have made three skirts for clients out of this fabric.  Two Gertie pencil skirts, one with boning and one without, and a simple A-line skirt with a corduroy hem band.

Gertie skirt for Diane

Gertie skirt for Melissa

A-line for Jennifer

Corduroy hem band - bought this from an Etsy de-stasher
The fabric absolutely lives up to it's scrumptious name.  It is slightly spongey with a good amount of stretch.  There's a slight sheen to the paisley thread design.  It's warm.  It's soft.  And there's still some left.  Unless I decide to order it all up!  And I might just wear it around myself like a toga, I love it that much.

Leather Straps and Bias Bindings

Did I hook you in with that title?  I hope you won't be too disappointed when you discover that this post is actually about handbags and wallets instead of something more sexy and illicit (although I suppose that depends on how you feel about accessories).

These are bags and wallets that I made in December and January for skirt party clients.  It's fun sometimes to make something that doesn't require a fitting!

Yoked Bag

For: Carrie
Fabric: Alexander Henry Dandy Lion in Black, faux suede from my stash
Straps: Black Imitation Leather Bag Handles from YeahShop

Messenger Bags

For: Liz
Fabric: Home dec fabric from JoAnn's (leftover from another bag)

For: Leah
Fabric: Upholstery swatch, brown corduroy from The Economy Shop, olive JoAnn's home dec fabric leftover from another project

Upholstered Wallets

For: Carrie
Fabric: upholstery scraps & swatches, bias tape from Sewing Designs

For: Leah
Fabric: upholstery scraps & swatches

BurdaStyle bag - Variation

For: Zerrin
Fabric: thrifted from various places

A Few Finished Skirts

I finished up a few client skirts last week that Carol started for me before the holidays.  My process with Carol has been that I draft the pattern, she cuts the fabric and bastes the skirt together, then I do the fitting and finish it off.  So far this has worked well and it allows me to get skirts out the door a bit faster.

I think Carol did a stellar job using the fabric print on these first two skirts.

This is Kendra's straightforward yoked a-line skirt and the fabric is a stretch poplin I bought from ages ago.  Don't you love the colors??!  Because the yoke is curved, we decided not to try to match the print there.  My instructions to Carol were something like, "Be thoughtful about how the print comes together at the yoke line."  Yep, that's me, super helpful.  And I love what Carol did!

This second skirt is Lisa H's gored a-line using some kind of stretch drapey twill I bought from  Because the skirt has six panels, we knew we couldn't match up the print across the seam lines or we'd run out of fabric (I had three yards, but it was only 42" wide and the skirt is long).  Carol and I took a look at the fabric together to figure out how best to use the print, and Carol came up with the diagonal idea.  When she went to cut it out, she didn't have enough fabric to continue doing this across that back, so genius struck and she reversed the direction for one panel.  Nice, huh??!


This last one took me a while to figure out how to draft.  Lara wanted a pencil skirt with a front pleat, but I didn't want to do panels because the wool had a somewhat looser weave, and I was worried about it getting all stretched out of shape.  I spent a good hour or so reading through the Adele P Margolis book, Make Your Own Dress Patterns, and finally came up with the ideas of inserting a side pleat that ran from the top of the skirt to the bottom, that is sewn shut until about 7 inches up from the hem.  The pattern piece looks kinda crazy:

with pleat un-pleated (disregard length difference between two halves)

with pleat pleated

The lovey wool fabric is from a haul I bought from a woman selling off her stash (thank you, Craigslist!).  I've had this lovely button (from the Eonomy Shop) in my stash for a couple of years now and I'm glad it finally found it's place.  I knew there was a reason I didn't use it earlier!

Finally, I'm happy to report that Mooper eventually decided that she likes her birthday dress (she wore it three days in a row until I insisted that it needed a wash). 

And check out the pink cowboy boots that Grandmother gave her!  Yee-haw!!

Work in Progress: Lara's corduroy skirt

I'm super excited about a skirt I'm working on at the moment.  Lara wanted a corduroy skirt made from this super soft, cozy, stretch corduroy I bought from last year (I also made a pencil skirt for Diane from it).  I didn't have enough left to do the whole skirt, so I cut the yoke from a purple corduroy. 

Here's the part that has me giddy: hidden pockets!!

I'm excited to see how they look on Lara and I put a snap in one to make it lay flat (but this may not be necessary once it's on a body). 

This is one of those skirts that I've made for someone else that I really covet for myself.  If only I had more of that purple/pink corduroy left.  If anyone has it in their stash and is willing to part with it, contact me please!!

The Return of Personal Sewing: Vogue 8593

In my efforts to complete client projects for the holidays, I broke my rule of sewing for myself on the weekends for the last six weeks or so of the year.  Now that I'm getting back on track, I decided it was time to re-institute that rule.  I love this rule!

I've had Vogue 8593 in my queue for a while now.  I bought the fabric and zipper at The Economy Shop for $1.75, and the thread, hook and eye were from my stash, leftover from other projects.  I think the top took me 4-5 hours to sew, but if I did it again (using my altered pattern) I bet I could do it in about 2.5 hours.

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Vogue 8593

And I'll likely do it again.  I had to choose between longer length or sleeves due to the amount of fabric I had on hand.  I choose long sleeves because it's getting cold here in the Chicago area and as much as I love dresses, I won't really be wearing them on a regular basis until April.  The competition at Pattern Review this month is One Pattern, Many Looks and I'm thinking about doing a couple more versions of this top and putting myself in the mix.  Gotta up the ante when you can!

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In reading reviews for this pattern, I found that the only problem was with the facings - with all those pleats at the center front, the facings wouldn't lay flat.  Ann at solved this problem with binding at the neck, and all I had to do was to copy her excellent instructions.  I cut a size 12 (one size down from what my measurements dictated) and thought I might have to take it in based on the garment measurements, but the opposite was true - I had to let the side seams out all the way to a 1/4" seam allowance because this knit has almost NO stretch.  I added an inch to the arm length (and I'll add another inch the next time I make this) and slanted the shoulder slope from a size 12 to a size 10 (I don't know why this adjustment works or what it's called, but if I don't do it, I end up with extra fabric at the bust) and shaved a bit off the sleeve cap.

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I decided to try an exposed zipper on this one, using the tutorial that Threads ran in Issue No, 162.  I didn't like this look at first, but after seeing some cool versions of it online, I decided to give it a go.  Not that big of a risk when you remember that the materials for this top came to less than $2!  I think I like it.

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I serged the sleeve and top hems and then left them as is partly because I needed the length, and partly because I thought it looked right with the exposed zipper.

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Please ignore the threads I forgot to clean up - oops!
I've got a question for my fellow bloggers: What do you do when you fill up your blogger photo account?  I just hit my limit and I couldn't upload photos for this post.  I tried copying from my flickr stream and that didn't work, so I ended up pinning these photos to a pinterest board and then copying them from there - too many damn steps.  I'd appreciate any solutions you have!

2013: Some Numbers and Favorites

I've really enjoyed reading all of the 2012 review posts around sewing blogland.  I particularly enjoyed Liza Jane's fancy excel charts and Ginger Makes' Top 5 Posts (and I know these ladies got the ideas from elsewhere, but I found the ideas because of them).  I'm still a bit exhausted from my end of the year sewing marathon, so this is just a half-a**ed version of what these ladies have done in full.

A pie chart!

I completed a grand total of 145 sewing projects this year.  This includes
  • 89 garments (22 for myself, 8 as gifts, and 59 for clients)
  • 24 handbags and wallets (2 for me, the rest for clients/Etsy shop)
  • 20 random projects (scarves, flower pins, softies - I think I kept two of these)
  • 10 alterations or refashions (2 for me, rest for clients)
  • 2 things for the home (mine all mine!)
I have no idea how many hours that is, but I since I usually sew around 20-25 hours a week, I think it's a lot of time spent with fabric, needle, and thread.

When I think about my favorites, they usually involve learning something new.

1) Corsetted Pencil Skirt - I based this design on an Ann Taylor skirt and it was fun figuring out how to do it.  I also wear my personal skirt A LOT.

2) Flower Button Coat - my first coat, and while I know it has problems, I'll always love it because it was my first.

3) Gertie pencil skirt - I made four of these this fall, two with boning and two without (I still need to take pictures of one of the skirts and write about my experience with the pattern).

4) Beginning to sew with jersey/knit fabric - I love it and look forward to improving this year

5) Camp Runway - I loved this week and can't wait to work with more young sewists this summer!

I've got some specific things I really want to make in 2013, but mostly I just look forward to more time with fabric, needle, and thread, more teaching, and reading about all the lovely things that my fellow sewing bloggers create!

The Rejected Birthday Dress

Most of my sewing is done to fill the wardrobes of my clients and myself.  I have two lovely daughters who barely get a stitch out of me and I have even been known to put needle, thread, and fabric into the hands of the older one (now 5) to get her to let me sew (for myself or a client) for "just a few more minutes . . ."  In my defense, they don't really need clothes from me.  Most of my friends had children years earlier than my husband and me so we have truckloads of hand-me-downs.  And my fantastic MIL had three boys so she and her sister love to shop for little girls.  But each daughter gets a handmade dress and homemade cupcakes for her birthday. 

Part of this tradition is having the birthday girl flip through books to find the dress and cupcakes that she wants.  When I first started sewing, my brother's (now ex-) girlfriend gave me the book Little Girls, Big Style by Mary Abreu, which has some cute, super easy-to-sew styles, and I also have a binder full of patterns and tutorials - quite a collection, considering how infrequently I sew clothes for girls! 

The cupcakes come from a book that my MIL gave me, What's New Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson.  These cupcakes look super complicated but are really quite simple to make using easily found ingredients (Michael's and local grocery store).  Since I am not even remotely talented as a baker, that's saying a lot.  And when I saw that the Meijer's brand white cake mix was on sale for $1.05, I didn't even make the cake from scratch this year.  It made me so happy to take that task off my list that I just might do it again (more time for sewing!)

The birthday girl this time around was Mooper, my baby, who turned 3 at the end of December.  She's had the fabric picked out for months, a discontinued Michael Miller cowgirl print that I bought from a neighbor who used to have an Etsy shop when her kids were young (the fabric for Belly's last birthday dress came from the same source).  Choosing the style was a bit more difficult.  This was our first conversation about it in early December:

Me: Mooper, we need to pick out your birthday dress soon so that I can start working on it.
Mooper: I want a cowgirl dress.
Me: Yes, that's the fabric we'll use, but we have to pick out the shape.
Mooper: I want a round dress.
Me: A round dress?
Mooper: Yes, then it will be an address.

I had her look at the book and binder, but she really didn't get the idea of her fabric become one of the dresses that was made out of a different fabric.  In the end, I went with the dress she seemed to like best.  She picked out the contrast fabric and here's what I sewed up:

Mooper's initial response was humorously lackluster:  "Well, it's in-ter-esting, Mama."  Huh???  She put it on for about 10 seconds and then wanted it off.  I didn't even have time to snap a picture!  She wore a dress that her Great Aunt Wendy found in a charity consignment shop instead.  I'm not sure I'm ever going to get her in this dress again, but I'm hanging onto it for a while in hopes that she'll change her mind.  If anyone out there has ideas about how to help young kids visualize fabric + dress style, please let me know.  Or if you have a pattern for a "round dress" - clearly that's where I went amiss!  Ah well, at least I got to try shirring for the first time.

Luckily, the cupcakes went down without complaint and no one noticed that I'd used a box mix:

The best part for Devon and me was watching Maisey enjoy her birthday present.  We bought her a trampoline and her face at the moment she started jumping more than overcame the disappointment of the failed birthday dress.