Monthly Archives: February 2012

I am bad at planning. Despite the glare of my cut-out Minarou jacket on the table and the stacks of fabric and patterns that make up the rest of my winter sewing plans, I got it in my head that I would like to enter the Pattern Review Red Dress contest. I had a great piece of fabric from my favorite crazy fabric store, but what pattern to use? Enter Vogue 8728. I had seen this pattern made up a couple times, but I fell in love with it when I saw Mena’s orange knit version over at the Sew Weekly last year. I instantly resolved to make a knit version too. But somehow the pattern wouldn’t stay in my head, and many, many Vogue pattern sales came and went without me buying it. When I suddenly realised that it would be the perfect pattern for my red dress, it was of course the day after a Vogue sale. D’oh! I briefly toyed with the idea of paying (gasp!) full price for the pattern, because I needed to finish the dress by the end of the month, but luckily (since it’s JoAnn, after all), the Vogues went on sale again last Thursday and I snapped it up. And since I definitely work faster when I have a deadline, I sewed a little bit every night and finished it up yesterday. So this is my Leap Day dress – hooray for the bonus day in February!

This is a Vintage Vogue pattern, a reissue of a pattern from 1946. The pattern instructions are rendered in contemporary style with modern drawings, but the instructions themselves are the techniques of the time. Interesting, but I ignored them for the most part because they were somewhat illogical (to attach the bodice to the midriff, the instructions had you fold down the top edge of the midriff, lay it on top of the bodice lower edge, and topstitch. What? I just sewed them right sides facing!) I also omitted the shoulder pads, though there were pattern pieces and instructions for making them out of batting!

Probably because I used a knit, but maybe also because the pattern ran big, I took it in on the sides quite a bit even after cutting one size smaller than I would have with a woven. And there’s so much room in the bodice with all the gathering that I could probably fit three or four additional busts in there… but an SBA on this pattern would basically eliminate the design feature of the bodice, so I’m not worrying about it. I do like the bodice, though, and the curved midriff is a bit odd, but unique. Here’s a closer look at the top:

The dress is still a little big (probably because my knit is really stretchy), but it’s super comfy and a more-than-basic fun red dress. My full review is here. Oh, and as for planning? I don’t need no stinking planning.

So Happy Leap Day to you! Go eat some rhubarb (and please watch that amazing 30 Rock episode if you haven’t seen it yet) and enjoy your bonus day!


After I took my first knitting class last month, I got the yarn and needles home and I realised I’d need some kind of knitting bag to store and transport them in (duh, right?). Could I have used one of my bazillion free Old Navy totes, or another random bag I had around? Of course. Did I see it as an excuse to make a cute bag? Obviously.

Here’s an even more brief How-I-did-it-orial than the last one: I cut two 11 inch squares of fabric (left over from the Kindle case I made my mom for Christmas) and two matching squares of lining. I interfaced just the exterior fabric. The bag is constructed the same way as the body of my messenger bag – sew around three sides, make triangles on the bottom corners to box-y it up, put exterior inside lining and stitch around the top edge (I sandwiched the ends of the handles between the layers with the handles facing down), turn right side out and topstitch. Easy little knitting bag! It’s pretty small, so I don’t know that I’ll be keeping any, like, afghan projects in it, but it’s perfect for a skein or two of yarn and a couple needles.

As for the knitting this bag enabled, I’ve finished my first project!

I’m really proud of them, actually. No wonky or dropped stitches, everything how it’s supposed to be (I think)… just don’t look too closely at how I stitched them up on the side (turns out I hate hand sewing even in knitting!). I think I’ve got a handle on the basic knit and purl stitches, so, now what? I’m interested in upping the skill level a bit (ribbing sounds fun), but nothing so complicated that I have to devote large blocks of time to it. Cowl maybe? Heading into spring, knitting warm things seems a little silly, but I don’t want to lose my newfound skill. Suggestions for my next project?

When I’m in rehearsal at work (like right now) and my only night at home for dinner is Monday, what I cook on Monday becomes a major decision. Last week we went out for Valentine’s day, so I didn’t get to cook, and the farmers’ market mocked me with all the delicious produce that I wouldn’t have a chance to eat. So this week I got it in my head that I was just going to buy everything beautiful and tasty that the market had to offer, and throw it all on a pizza. Here’s what I took home:

Pretty random selection for February. Only in California! Purple cauliflower, candy cane beets, a delicata squash, and king oyster mushrooms. In the middle is a nettle pesto. Yes, pesto made with stinging nettles. I’d seen a recipe for a nettle pesto pizza and it looked really interesting, but where on earth would I find stinging nettles? Well, at my favorite herb stand at the market, it turns out. I actually mostly followed this recipe instead, but used less pine nuts. I didn’t have gloves, so I used a silicone potholder and kitchen shears to strip the leaves off the nettles before blanching them (stinging avoided!). They turn a really great, vibrant green and smell rather like spinach, and the pesto is very mild and nutty – a great compliment to this odd collection of toppings, actually. I chopped and sautéed the mushrooms, blanched the cauliflower a little, microwaved the squash and chopped it, and chopped and boiled the beets. I rolled out my crust really thin, spread the pesto on it, and topped it with a little mozzarella and my colorful veggies. When it only had about 5 minutes left to cook, I pulled it out and cracked an egg on it, then finished cooking it. The egg really made it, I think – it’s my new favorite pizza topping (since I had an egg on a pizza at Boot and Shoe Service in Oakland last month – awesome name, awesomer pizzas). The yolk broke, but it still tasted good!

The pizza in the background has an onion compote that my mom made and canned in the fall, goat cheese, and broccoli rabe (another market find).

Of course, between pizza prep, a really long bike ride, and watching the new episodes of Project Runway (Mondo rules!) and Smash (not as good this week… a fluke or a trend? I’m not ready to give up on it yet), of course I did absolutely no sewing today. I am almost finished with my first knitting project, though! More on that later in the week…


Because I seem to be committed to avoiding all Sewaholic sewalongs entirely, I ignored my freshly cut out Minarou jacket and decided to put together the Renfrew top instead. Easy, quick project, right? Ha ha, not when you’re sewing after midnight! First lesson learned: more sewing mistakes happen when you’re tired. I would say my rate of use of the seam ripper on this project was roughly three times as high as usual. Example of stupid mistake: after moving the needle position to more easily topstitch the neckline, I forgot to move it back before sewing the sleeves on, which resulted in a too-big seam allowance. Rip! Second lesson in complicating an easy project: fun design ideas are not always worth having to ignore the pattern directions for. I’d had a contrast stripe neckband/cuff idea in my head ever since awesome, awesome Mondo made this look on his first season of Project Runway (I still want that skirt fabric too), and when the Renfrew top pattern came out I thought, perfect! It’s got cuffs already! And I could do contrast stripes on the bottom too! Well, it ended up okay ultimately, but it turns out those grainline markings are there for a reason…

(Sidebar: you may not be able to tell from this picture that it was taken during the 30 mph winds we had yesterday, and I hope you can’t tell from the picture that my nose is all red from blowing it constantly, since I seem to have suddenly developed just the end of a cold [you know, the really unpleasant part] this weekend.)

First off, this is clearly a good pattern. I had some trouble with it, all of which was certainly my fault, and which I will outline here so you can just make a top and not have an ordeal instead… I started by cutting a size 6 at top and bottom, blending out to an 8 in the waist, to follow my measurements on the chart. But the top is a little small across the shoulders, so I probably should have cut an 8 on top too. I maybe have broader shoulders than Tasia, or at least than the shape she’s drafting for. I don’t generally find my shoulders are too broad for the size for my bust measurement on the big 5 patterns, so it’s just something I’ll remember about Sewaholic (unfortunately I’ve already cut my Minarou, so I’ll probably take a smaller seam allowance in the shoulder area when I sew it). I also prefer my shirts a little longer than this, so I’ll add an inch or two next time. The fit at the hip would be fine if I hadn’t so blatantly ignored the grainline marking to cut the hem band with the stripes going the opposite direction. It fits, but without the extra stretch it’s a little tight. The less-stretch on the cuffs is fine (and the sleeve overall fits great), but the off-graininess gave me the most trouble on the neckline. The first time I put in the neckband, I was tired and in a hurry (after midnight!), so I got an uneven gathered look around the front. So I tore it out and tried again, more carefully, and got it to go in okay. It was sticking out kind of funny, but I topstitched around it anyway to see if that would help. Nope:

That neckband was just sticking straight out in front. I can only assume this was an unforseen grainline issue, and I was almost ready to give up on the idea of contrast stripes at the neckline, tear it out and cut a new, on grain neckband, when it occurred to me that maybe I could turn the neckband down and stitch it in place, like a binding.

Aha! Not perfect, but wearable (those gathers mostly disappear when it’s worn). And design concept preserved! Of course, it did mean that this simple top took me five late nights and a bit of Monday afternoon to finish… so much for an easy diversion. Oh well. I will definitely make more Renfrews in the future – but I solemnly swear to follow all the grain lines!

My full pattern review is here.

For Christmas, my mom got me this super cool bag (from Boden, sadly sold out now):

It’s quite a bit bigger than the purses I usually carry (I’m a smallish purse person, I don’t tend to carry my whole life in my purse – that’s in my work bag…), but looking inside I realised that it was a perfect size to carry all my purse stuff plus my camera (a DSLR)! I have a couple great camera bags (including one that looks like a purse, which I love, from here), but they hold all my myriad accessories and lenses as well as the camera, so they’re big and heavy and not necessarily what I want to bring on a casual trip to visit friends. So I determined that I would make a small foam insert for this bag to hold just my camera with one lens attached. After some googling, thinking, and yes, sewing, I had this:

A safe little cozy for my camera, leaving room for my water bottle on the side. I did document how I put the insert together, but what follows is not quite a tutorial – it’s less “you should do this” than “I did this”, so I’ve coined the term “how-I-did-it-orial” for it. Yeah, that’ll catch on, right? Anyway, see how-I-did-it after the jump… Read More