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

Vogue 1377 & Unexpected Joy

This project started as a blanket, a wool cape, a silk suit, and various scraps from various projects.

My client, Alice, brought me the blanket back in August along with a copy of Vogue 1377 and asked me to make her a coat. At the muslin fitting, she brought the cape and suit and added it to the pile of materials. 

Crazy muslin
This project definitely came with some challenges: ridiculously thick fabric (did I mention I was cutting out a blanket?), a dizzying number of pattern pieces, welt pockets, hammered snaps, overlays, decorative stitching, an enormous amount of ease, flat fell seams (sewing through not one, not two, but three or four layers of wool blanket), and heavy lifting (by the end, the coat almost weighed too much to stay in the machine). I had to make a map before cutting it out so that I didn't get lost. 

Cutting out piece #7 from the wool cape. If you look closely you can
see my label so that I cut it from the correct fabric.

I've struggled with an anxious awareness of time when I am sewing for others. Getting things done on time, being efficient with time so that I don't waste hours (the ones I'm charging for and the ones I don't), squeezing in time between drop off/pick up/after school activities/teaching/my own meetings. This project brought me some peace with time.

Front laid out after cutting.

And Back.
This anxiety gets in the way of experiencing the joy of what I'm going. Most projects I do for others give me joy at the end - the pleasure of pleasing someone else, the satisfaction of bragging on social media, the gratification of earning every penny in the check I receive when I hand it over. But is sometimes feels like I can only enjoy the joy for a minute before the race begins again. This one gave me joy at almost every step along the way.

Who doesn't have fun with hammers?
Why? I think in part because it was the right blend of challenge and ease. I sewed some seams and tackled a decorative overlay. I sewed some seams and figured out where and how to hammer some snaps. I sewed a collar and created welt pockets. 

Some of the joy also came from the design. I don't love this coat design for myself. I experienced no envy when I handed it off to Alice. But I got giddy at certain points along the way with how things came together. Giddy with learning something new and thinking about where else I might apply it, giddy at the cleverness and humor in certain design elements.

Blanket label. Decorative stitching on overlay.

Pocket right side

Pocket wrong side
And maybe just because I let the joy wash over me. I was challenged enough to have to set aside my anxiety about time in order to fully concentrate. I knew it would take a lot of time, my estimate reflected that, and then I could just be in the doing. By the time I was midway through the project, I was having too much fun to worry.

I always thank clients for bringing me work. The money I earn that helps me contribute financially to my family comes from that work. And I love solving problems (riddles, patterns, mysteries) and my work generally involves a lot of that. My gratitude for this project went way beyond the money part of it, and the problem solving games it involved. It made me happy. 

*For the nitty gritty review of Vogue 1377, please see my review here.

New Bag for STITCH Winter 2014

I have been wanting to learn to sew with leather for some time now, and purchased and watched Kenneth King's Leather 101 video from in anticipation of finding a project. I then proposed a leather bag for the Stitch Winter 2014 issue, and when they accepted my proposal I had to step up and do it. Like how I cornered myself into trying something new?

Here it is in the magazine spread. And if any of you are contemplating sewing with leather, definitely give it a try. There are some specific techniques you will need to learn, but once you know them, the actual sewing isn't hard. Not sewing-with-chiffon hard anyway.

My favorite tips:

  • Use a walking foot (this worked better for me than a Teflon foot)
  • Tie thread ends instead of back stitching at the beginning/ends of seams
  • Long stitch length
  • Glue is your friend!!
  • Consider overlapping seams instead of sewing RST

I'm still learning how to topstitch over uneven areas - tricky!

I really want to highlight the gorgeous hardware on this bag as it didn't come out very well in the magazine shots. In full disclosure, I got this hardware for free since it would appear in a magazine article. But I plan to purchase some for my next version of this bag (mustard denim & burgundy leather, yeah baby). It's everything I like in bag hardware: beautiful finish, lots of size/shape options, and solid (nothing flimsy about these - they will outlive the bag and get used again, I'm sure!). You can find them at Here's what I used:

1.5" Antique Brass Double Loop Slider

1.5" Antique Brass Swivel Bolt Snap and 3/4" Antique Brass O-Ring

The denim is from Indygo Junction's Crossroads Denim Collection. They have a whole bunch of delicious colors!

Photo source

And it still makes me giddy to see my name in print!

I have a couple more completed leather bag projects that I can't reveal yet. Can you tell I'm now hooked on sewing with leather?

What about you? Have you ever cornered yourself into learning something new? And have you been bitten by the leather bug yet?

Hardware and Hammers

I decided to enter the Pattern Review Surprise Sewing Bee even though this is an entirely impractical thing for me to try to engage in right now. But sometimes leaping into the impractical (and sticking out your tongue at the practical) is good for the soul.

It's impractical because I've got a ton of orders to fill and any personal sewing should be directed at making a coat. I desperately need one and it's starting to get cold here in the Midwest. As in snow cold, as it snowed on Halloween and actually stuck to the ground overnight.

But, like I said, I decided to go for soul.

The first challenge was to make a lined, a-line skirt with zipper, waistband and button/closure. I haven't made an a-line skirt for myself in a while now. I like what pencil skirts do for my figure and I like that they have a sexy/gritty vibe. If I were to give skirts a personality rating, a-lines would be the girl-next-door with her demure sex appeal, and pencil skirts would be her cousin from the big city who likes to stay out late drinking cocktails and flirting with the bartender, head thrown back laughing. So the challenge for me was to see if I could give the a-line skirt a bit of edge.

My inspiration came from a RTW jacket I own with interesting hardware. There are rivets and grommets and hooks. I particularly like the front closure:

I did a quick search online but couldn't find what I wanted and wasn't sure anything I ordered would arrive in time anyway. I think it might be a scabbard hook, like this one that I found on Richard the Thread, attached with rivets. I don't like the bright brassy color of the one on RtT, so if anyone has leads on where to get something more like the original, I'd love to hear them!

Then I drew up a couple of sketches and got to work.

I used the skirt block I created from the Studio Faro worksheet. I shortened the length by about five inches and added 6 inches to the sweep to get an a-line shape. I wanted this one to end a few inches above my almost 45-year-old knees (muttonlambs be damned). I drafted the wide waistband from the block and eliminated the darts. I added a center front seam that continued up through the waistband/yoke. I thought about adding pockets but thought I might not have time to do those well. I also played around with the idea of moving the seam closure to front left, and I'd like to try that in the future.

Since I hadn't been able to find the hardware I wanted, I foraged through my own stash and the notions wall at my local Hancock's for something that fit the look I wanted and came up with large brass snaps like these:

Dritz Sewing - Snap Fasteners
Photo from

I also pulled out some gold jean thread for topstitching and a chunky metal jean zipper, both purchased from And this skirt emerged.

Check out my new stretch boots from Boden! Love them!

I sewed a flat fell seam for the front/back center seams and finished them with a double row of topstitching with jean thread. I used a single row of topstitching around the waistband and hem. I installed an exposed metal zipper using the tutorial in Thread No. 162. The waistband closes with three metal snaps and I added three more decorative snaps to balance out the design. I hand stitched the facing to the lining and the lining to the zipper. 

I like that I can wear the skirt with a somewhat dressy top and a concert tee and it works both ways.

 Side note: you know I took the photo shoot seriously when I actually put on make up. This happens around 4 times a year, and I'm still using the make up I bought for my wedding in 2006. At this rate, I might run out of product when I'm 80. I needed to disguise the fact that I'd been up until 3am finishing the skirt for the deadline.

You might wonder why the middle snaps in each row are not solid. Two problems emerged post midnight when I was finishing up the skirt. First, I had made the waistband so that the right side would overlap at center front by about 5/8" so that I would be able to center the snaps over the zipper. This is what I did with my muslin and it worked great. I had purchased six snaps and only planned to use three, so I used one up to practice the installation. When it came to the real garment, I forgot that the right waistband needed to overlap, and I eased the waistband to fit the skirt exactly. Don't know what I was thinking. I didn't realize my mistake until after I had completed the topstitching and handstitched the lining and facing. So now my snaps couldn't be centered over the zipper. I went into "Huh" mode (as in, "Huh, this is a problem. How can I solve it?") And decided to do two rows of snaps. This was a good solution, except that I only had 5 snaps. Luckily I had the exact same snap in silver, so I could use those on the inside. Don't know if that makes sense, but it all worked out! And if you follow me on Instagram, you know this was my second time getting out the hammer this week.

So that's it! The denim is a charcoal/indigo stretch denim that has been in my stash so long I'm not sure where it's from. The lining is a stretch lining I purchased at the Discount Textile Outlet in Chicago. The facing fabric is leftover from a skirt I made for a client a couple years ago and I was so happy to find it in my scraps - it was exactly what I wanted! It's an Alexander Henry cotton lawn. I hope I make it to the next round so that I can see what my imagination cooks up for the next challenge.

Happy Weekend!