I suppose it’s odd to find oneself finally having some time to breathe in the second week of December, but that is how it’s fallen out for me. The pre-Christmas frenzy seems somewhat calm in comparison to the preceding weeks, which for me included: an extremely challenging period at work during which I frantically sewed unseasonable summer clothes for my Hawaii trip, consisting of three dresses, three tank tops, two swimsuits and two cover-ups for me, and a dress, skirt, and coverup for my mother (which I will share in a huge Christmastime summer clothes roundup post soon); said trip to Hawaii (which was amazing); working in Los Angeles for the three weeks leading up to Thanksgiving (which happily featured hanging out with Det Houndstooth and Ms McCall and buying an obscene amount of glorious fabric, of course); hosting said Thanksgiving at my house (which is such fun but a lot of work); and all the while frantically trying to make sellable items for my first-ever craft market last weekend.

Yes, I actually sold my handmade goods! It’s one of those things I’ve always half-considered and dismissed for various reasons, but I finally took the plunge when a friend conceived of and organized a sort of neighborhood pop-up market made up mostly of crafty friends who are at that point in our chosen craft that we’ve made enough stuff for ourselves but we want to keep making things… It was a great opportunity to experiment with selling in a somewhat safe environment of newbies, as opposed to trying to jump into an established professional craft market.

craft market booth

This was my “booth” – a table dressed with a length of poplin from my stash and laid with my wares: several zipper pouches, some foldover clutches, a couple tote bags, and a selection of silver charm and bike chain necklaces and earrings. It was so interesting to see what people liked and what they weren’t really that interested in. As I suspected, the graphic pattern bags sold well, though it seemed that people were more interested in the color than the cool prints. The foldover clutches with straps sold right away but the ones without didn’t sell at all, so clearly more straps needed in future. Also, smaller zipper pouches were more popular than larger ones, which makes sense in retrospect.

The jewelry was less popular, which was disappointing but not totally surprising. I know I’ve never been “on trend” in my jewelry taste, and it would seem that the reason I can never find pieces I like in stores is not because there’s a market niche that needs to be filled, but rather because I’m the only one who likes that kind of thing. I also realized about halfway through the market that people weren’t understanding that I had made the silver pendants myself (having never heard of silver clay until last year myself, that makes sense), and interest picked up when I started telling people that the pendants were handmade and pure silver.

craft market jewelry

I actually had a really good time selling my wares, even though it was rather nerve-wracking. I would absolutely consider doing another market, and possibly even selling on etsy if I ever found myself with a ton of free time to make things. I could say I “made money” at this market in the sense that I sold the items for more than they cost to make in materials, but the primary problem for me with buying supplies is the “one for me” syndrome – buying extra of a fabric or notion because I like it and I want to keep it for myself. So in that sense perhaps crafting for money is a terrible trap. But it was fun to buy a bunch of great quilting cottons again – I’d forgotten how pretty that fabric can be. And I also enjoyed sewing things that don’t have to fit a body!

But after all of that I was way, way behind on seasonally appropriate selfish clothes sewing. With the weather finally turning toward real (California) winter, I’ve found myself wishing that I already had all the lovely winter garments I’m planning on making (why yes, 30% off merino from The Fabric Store that I bought last month, I’m looking at you). So in a bout of determination that I would have the perfect outfit for today’s activities of visiting the farmers’ market, doing a matinée at work, and the evening’s trip to the tree farm for our Christmas tree followed by our annual post-tree-decorating traditional watching of Love Actually, I stayed up til 1 last night making a dress with deer on it.

Butterick 5246 deer

(And yes, I absolutely acknowledge and am thankful for the fact that I live in a place where I can buy fresh local tomatoes(!) and a Christmas tree on the same day while just wearing leggings and a three-quarters sleeved dress. I love California.)

This fabric is from, obviously, Girl Charlee, and although it broke my rule of thumb for online fabric purchases (9oz and above only), well, it had deer on it. I shamelessly copied this Boden deer dress, and to that end I pulled out Butterick 5246, which has a similar empire line and I’ve made twice before. My last version was in the super stretchiest knit ever, which hid some of the fit problems that this version, made in just about the un-stretchiest knit ever, reveals – strange armpit wrinkles (which Nhi advised me how to fix but I didn’t bother to this time), terrible low back pooling, weird off-grain looking sleeves. But whatever, it has deer on it.

B5246 deer detail

I actually had to cut the bodice out twice, because of an ill-advised decision to attempt an exposed neckline binding. It turned out terribly, but luckily I had enough deer left to cut another bodice (I was not unpicking that binding at midnight). I also scooped out the front neckline by about an inch, which I prefer to the original can’t-decide-if-it’s-a-boat-or-scoop-neckline of the pattern. This pattern has a single back piece, but when I redid the bodice I had to cut the skirt off the old one and make a back waist seam to attach the new back bodice piece, so now it has a back waist seam. Oh well. Deer.

I have a ton of gift sewing to accomplish in the next week (because I so cleverly decided to make everyone’s presents this year…), as well as some actual cold-weather items for myself to wear in actually-has-winter Northern Nevada over Christmas, so back to the sewing machine for me for now. But hopefully I’ll get around to sharing all my (seasonally-appropriate or non) previous projects over my holiday break. ‘Til then… deer!

B5246 deer 2


You ever feel like your life is on repeat? I do. I seem to find myself occasionally in a sort of rut of recurrence. For example, yet again I have waited several weeks with a draft of this post (and edited pictures) sitting patiently on my desktop before I’ve managed to finish and post it. Quelle surprise. But it turns out that repetition is not necessarily a bad thing. What follows are a couple good things that came around again for me recently.

Recurrent Nice Thing the First: Once again I found myself just a day from opening night of my current show without a fancy dress to wear. But this time, instead of choosing a new-to-me pattern with a lot of details, I pulled out trusty Vogue 1250. I’ve made it twice before, both times in about 2 hours from cut to hem. It’s a magical pattern. I complicated it a bit this time by making it in lace and adding sleeves, but still it only took me a few hours. Magical, I tell you!

lace vogue 1250

I grabbed this stretch lace out of my stash – I had ordered it on a whim from years ago because I figured the lace trend wasn’t going anywhere and this gray lace wasn’t too floral-y for me, but it languished because it still felt too vintage-y for my style. The bright green ITY I found at Discount Fabrics in Oakland a while ago. I like the color, but every time I pulled it out it just seemed too bright to be anything but obnoxious as a dress. But together, they solve each other’s problems! The lace tones down the green and the green mods up the lace.

I took the speedy, lazy route and cut the (just two!) pattern pieces out of the lace and ITY at the same time. I was very careful laying out the ITY on the lace then folding them both together before I cut. Risky, I know, but it worked.

I knew I wanted to add sleeves, both because we were in a cold snap last month, and also because sheer lace sleeves are probably my favorite thing about lace dresses. The Vogue has a sort of cut-on cap sleeve that I had to convert to a traditional armscye – so what pattern did I grab for that? Simplicity 1716, of course! I reasoned that since it was a cowl too, I could more easily figure out how they would go together. I folded all the pleats out of both pattern pieces and matched the corner of the cowl, then pinned the Simplicity to the Vogue at the shoulder where it fell. This is what it looked like when I released the pleats.

sleeve mashup V1250 S1716

For the back I simply matched the patterns at center back and cut the back armscye of the Simplicity. Unfortunately either my reasoning or my method were not quite right, because when I went to attach the front to the back at the shoulder, the back shoulder was about an inch longer. It occurred to me at that point that I should have measured the shoulder of the back piece and made the front shoulder match. Ah well. Yet another thing I do over and over again – do something the hard way first. But it was made workable by simply reducing the size of the front pleat by half. It’s a tiny pleat now, but it hardly affects the look.

lace vogue 1250 back

Assembly-wise, I basically treated the lace and ITY as one as I constructed the dress, like an underlining. The only exception to this was the center back skirt seam. This dress is constructed very oddly, with the front piece wrapping around on the sides to become the back skirt which attaches to a separate back bodice piece. It makes it perfect for underlining, since it only has one seam in the skirt (the side seams end in deep darts at the hip) and you sew that seam before sewing the back waist seam. I sewed the two layers separately on the back skirt, which kept the lace layer and ITY layer free from each other at the hem. I hemmed the ITY normally with a twin needle, and I intended to hem the lace with a rolled hem, but I couldn’t get it to work on any sample pieces so I gave up and just trimmed it neatly (sadly, this lace doesn’t have a pretty finished border I could use). I used the selvage for the sleeve “hems”, but it’s not fancy!

I finished the back neckline with a piece of the ITY and serged the lace and the ITY together along the cowl. Man I love cowl necks. So. easy. I also serged the armscye seams, but nothing I do keeps them from popping out toward the sleeves, where they’re slightly visible through the lace due to my not-quite-matching serger thread. Ah well.

lace V1250 detail

It was done in time to wear for opening, as well as my anniversary two days later. Two wears in one weekend for a three hour dress is a pretty high return on investment. See, repetition isn’t always a bad thing.


Nice Recurrent Thing the Second: After I posted my last dress, the fabulous and funny Anne of Pretty Grievances was in the middle of her own version, and she debuted it as part of her post on receiving the Liebster Award. She then generously handed out the award to 5 other sewists who had recently tackled the Duchess’ dress knock off, including me! Which reminded me that some months ago (okay, more than some – it was almost a whole year ago!), lovely Jess the Sometimes Sewist gave me the same award and I did absolutely nothing with it. So here are my answers to a conglomeration of both their lists of questions. Thank you so much, Anne and Jess, for the shout-out and for making me think about some interesting things!


What’s your favorite aspect of sewing?  I think my favorite part is dreaming up garments and (eventually) actually ending up with them. I love matching fabrics to patterns, and I’m really loving frankenpatterning to create exactly the item I want – it’s just enough planning to be interesting without having to do any actual drafting. Knocking off a RTW design I’ve seen is probably my favorite type of sewing.

If you could have up to five yards of any fabric in the world for free, what would you choose?  There’s not really a specific fabric, but really any of the print fabrics Boden uses would be amazing. I wish I could buy their bolt-ends. I mean, seriously, where does all the extra fabric from foreign manufacturing end up? I just love so many of the prints I see in RTW and I wish I could have access to that fabric.

What would you make with the mythical unicorn-like fabric from question 2?  I would make what I usually make, of course – more knit dresses and tops. I generally don’t have any desire to copy a RTW garment exactly, so if I could get my hands on, say, a Boden knit fabric I would probably make a totally different garment out of it than the one they used it for.

What’s your favorite fruit or vegetable?  I love squash. Winter squash like butternut and kabocha in the fall in soups and roasted in salads, and summer squash just sliced and grilled. I could eat squash every day. My almost daily lunch in the summer: grilled squash with hummus, roasted red pepper tapenade, and a slice of goat gouda on whole wheat lavash bread.

If you could travel anywhere tomorrow, where would you go?  I’m gonna go with Hawaii. Specifically, Kauai, and the Waimea Plantation Cottages Hotel where we stayed the last time we were there. But seriously, can that happen? I could really use a magical surprise tropical vacation right now.

What is your favorite “end of the day wind down time” activity?  Eating a snack (or four) and reading my blogroll.

What’s your favorite non-sewing project of all time?  Even though I haven’t been doing it long, the silver clay jewelry I’ve made is my new favorite non-sewing creation. I think because I always thought making real silver jewelry would be something I could never do, but now I can.

What’s your dream job?  I think that because I work in theatre, a lot of people think I must have my dream job… but honestly, although I still love theatre, sometimes I just wish I had a regular 9-5 job. I actually think copy editing would be fun… yes, you can all commence mocking me now. But I just really love proofreading.

Who has had the most impact on who you are today?  My mom, without question. What’s funny is that all the things she did when I was a kid that I thought were totally weird (like sewing, gardening, making everything from scratch) are all things I like and value now. See Mom, I came around.

Favorite websites that make life easier?  Well, I’m an obsessive weather-checker, so every morning I go to both (for the hourly forecast) and (for the current temperature at various locations around town). As far as sewing-related things, Pattern Review of course.

Favorite rainy day recipe?  This amazing vegetarian chili. It’s so good, and so easy – it’s almost entirely made with pantry staples but it has so much depth of flavor. In fact, literally every recipe I’ve ever made from that site has been wonderful. Check out the recipe archives!

Why do you blog?  For me, what’s coolest about blogging is that it lets me know that I’m not alone. I’ve always been someone who’s super excited to find out I have something, even something really minor, in common with someone else (side effect of being an only child, perhaps). So when I was discovering sewing blogs, I would always get so excited to see someone have the same fitting issue I was having, or someone who just made up the same pattern as me, or someone who bought fabric from a store I’ve been to, or mention another interest of theirs that I share. And it’s been even more fun and amazing to be able to put my stuff out there and have people relate to it, and to me. So I guess what I like most about being a part of the online sewing community is, well, being a part of a community. I’ve always had a lot of sort of unusual interests and hobbies that I don’t share with my in-person friends, so it’s amazing to make connections with people who don’t think it’s totally crazy that I make my own clothes.

Thanks again for the award and for letting me share! I’m supposed to nominate some number of blogs I admire with under 500 followers, but I always play pretty fast and loose with the rules of these things. I’ll just call out two totally awesome sewists that I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out in real life and call it good. Nhi of Detective Houndstooth and Ms McCall of Brown Paper Patterns are just as fabulous in person as they are on the internet, and they both sew circles around me. Go check out their blogs, you’ll learn some stuff!



Back in early January, when everyone else was making very sensible resolutions to stash diet, I got sent to Los Angeles for two weeks for work. So, what was I supposed to do with that opportunity? Not buy fabric? So I guess I’m a yo-yo stash dieter… because I binged a bit in LA. But from now on! Oh, who am I kidding. I’m not strong enough to stash diet. But here’s my spoils, so all you more scrupulous stash dieters can live vicariously through me.

LA haul jan 14

The top row is my haul from my favorite fashion district haunts: a nice teal doubleknit and a small piece of striped knit from the Michael Levine Loft, and a lovely drapey charcoal jersey, super stretchy drapey avocado jersey, and a great print poly-lycra from the FIDM scholarship store (which I finally arrived at early enough to spend more than 5 minutes there). The blue print is obviously perfect for a DVF wrap dress, and the stripe for the top of another wrap dress if I can find a good contrasting print for the skirt.

What I didn’t find downtown, though, was bottom-weights, so I actually went into Mood for a minute and restricted myself to the denim aisle only. I found a great stretch denim and a black and white striped stretch cotton for (gasp!) more skinny pants.

But by far my favorite stop in LA this time was a new-to-me place on La Brea called The Fabric Store. They’ve been a presence in New Zealand and Australia for a long time, but they just recently opened an LA store to share the goodies with us Northern Hemisphere folks. Ms. McCall of Brown Paper Pattern clued me in to its existence, and was kind enough to take me there (probably because I bugged her about it nonstop once I saw what she’d bought there). From right to left I got: an awesome pink polka dot merino remnant for a skirt maybe, a blue and a green 200g merino jersey that is pretty much exactly the fabric my beloved Icebreaker bike jerseys are made of (finally! I can make real bike jerseys!), a lighter weight yellow merino jersey for a top, and a fantastic navy ponte knit that I’m going to make into a moto jacket with a pattern from the new Burda Easy magazine that Ms. McCall also generously loaned me. Oh, and my weird impulse purchase at The Fabric Store is the green and white print in the middle – it’s a cotton voile-like fabric with a cool abstract embroidered texture under the green bird(?) print – I’m thinking summer tank top.

But lest you think that the only sewing-thing I did down south was buy fabric, never fear! I also caught the (free!) Diane Von Furstenburg dress exhibit at LACMA. (Well, kind of at LACMA. It’s in a building on the corner of the museum campus, but the exhibit isn’t on their website at all, and I found three different addresses for the exhibit online… But trust me that it’s in the building on the corner of Wilshire and Fairfax and you enter from the back.) Basically, for the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress this year, they assembled something like 400 DVF dresses and put them all on creepy mannequins on step units sorted by color in a giant room. It was pretty amazing to see all those dresses in one space, and up close! Oh, I so badly wanted to touch them though. Is there a waistline seam? How is the binding attached? Is there a pleat or a dart under there? Ah, so frustrating. But still cool. It was interesting to see how that 70s jersey hasn’t really held up very well, and that some of the older prints were fabulous and some were the ugliest thing ever. Though the more recent dresses also were pretty evenly split between fabrics I loved and fabrics I would never ever buy. But I did find the section I fit in with! (The dress I wore was not my DVF knock-off, but a similar Butterick I made a couple years ago. Gotta wear a wrap dress to a wrap dress exhibit, right?) Obviously I am attempting a creepy mannequin pose:

me at DVF

And there were so many different kinds of wrap dresses! I took pics of the ones I want to copy… I fell in love with the halter wrap. One or two of these are going on my summer make list for sure.

DVF halter wrap

And the lace one is so. pretty.

lace DVF halter

And look at the front gathers on this one. Plus the parachute print!

gathered DVF

Anyway, it was a really cool exhibit and totally worth checking out if you’re in the area. It runs through April 1st.

So I’d call my work trip a resounding success in the sewing department. Except, of course, for all the sewing I didn’t do while I was down there. Ugh, I’m the worst kind of stasher! My stash in/out statistics are atrocious. Well, at least the Orange Terror appreciates my efforts…

OT on haul

So, yeah, I know I’m a little late for Halloween jokes. And that’s not the only thing I’ve waited too long for… Sorry for dropping off the planet for a while. Suffice it to say, unpacking turns out to take significantly longer than packing. Not to mention assembling two full carloads of flat-pack Ikea furniture. And painting. Man. Painting. is. terrible.

But! The house is “done”! I put “done” in quotation marks because, as everyone who’s ever bought a house has told me, it is never, ever really done. But! Our house is done enough to have had a housewarming party, which in my book makes it done enough for now. Most everything’s put away, there are no boxes left lying around, and I’ve gone back to work, so let’s just call it good. And now I’m really optimistic that I can get back to my regular schedule of, ya’ know, sewing something every once in a while.

But for now, I thought I’d do a recap of the meager sewing I’ve done in the last month… all in my new sewing room(!)

The weeks leading up to my birthday last month were incredibly busy, but the Crazy Sewing Monster in me absolutely demanded I make a new dress for my birthday dinner. Left with just 2 hours before dinner on the day, I pulled out trusty 2-pattern-piece Vogue 1250 and some ITY from the Loft and I just. did it. That pattern is truly miraculous. I literally cut it and sewed it in an hour and 20 minutes. No joke. My last version is a little, uh, clingy, so this time I gave myself a smidge more ease along the back skirt seam and it was perfect. Here is a not-great picture in front of my new front door (it is a totally awesome 15 panel solid wood door, which might actually be original to the house – I love it, but it’s not light enough in the morning in the entryway for good pictures):

Vogue 1250 stripesThe second thing I made in my sewing room (I’m just gonna keep saying it cause it sounds so good) was another down-to-the-wire effort. At 11pm the night before our housewarming party I whipped out a cushion cover for our new bench (it’s an Ikea Expedit 1×2 shelf with casters). For the cushion, I cut a piece of fabric (it’s a cool home dec print from – home dec fabrics have such great prints! Why can’t garment fabrics be that cool?) that was as long as the piece of foam and twice as wide plus a bit. Basically, I folded it long-ways right sides together, sewed the back (I inserted a zipper) and the sides, then squared up the corners just like my messenger bag. I wanted to take pictures for a tutorial, but, well, it was midnight and it just wasn’t gonna happen. I’m happy to provide more details if folks are interested. Anyway, the Orange Terror sure likes it:

expedit bench cushionAfter that there was no sewing for a while, until I was invited to a baby shower rather last minute, and I realized that I kind of had to make a baby-something in one evening with supplies I had in the house, since I would have no time before the shower to actually go to a store that sold baby-somethings. To the internet I went! And found this pattern/tute for cute knit baby hats. So I made a couple:

knit baby hatsAnd that brings me to my most recent last minute make (are you sensing a theme here? I’ve said it before, I work best with a deadline!) This one wasn’t really urgent, it’d just been so long since I’d made an easy everyday garment, I just wanted one. This has gotta be the fastest fabric-purchase-to-garment conversion I’ve ever done. I bought the fabric at Jo Ann (I know, I try to avoid buying their fabric, but once in a blue moon something acceptable pops up) last Sunday during their crazy sale, and I cut and sewed the shirt on Tuesday evening (and wore it Wednesday). The pattern is Simplicity 1716, which is my holy grail of cowl neck tops. I love this pattern. It’s such a quick sew, the cowl is just the right depth, and the fit is great right out of the envelope. I don’t imagine this one will be my last. (Here is my first one, with more pattern details.) This time I cut the second-longest length and did the ruching detail on the sides. What can I say, I like long shirts.

IMG_9778I was trying out another photo location here – this is a redwood screen we put up on the side of our back porch for privacy. I like it as a background, but the morning light was even worse here! This picture was manipulated a lot to get me even visible. Ah well, it’ll probably take me a few more projects to find a good photo spot…

Just one final piece of sewing news: a friend who deals antiques brought me a box she found at an estate sale recently – a box full of random sewing goodies! Granted, about 70% of the box was ugly trims, but there was some good stuff too. Here’s my haul: a big box of zippers, lots of snaps and hooks (most of them antique – love those labels!), bias and hem tapes, a grommet setter and bias tape maker, horsehair braid, and some cool pre-cut waistband interfacing (self belts, much?). Oh, and it looks like another household member is interested in learning about “Stitching the Knits”…

vintage notions haul

vintage chanel tweed…and from the same estate, about 2 yards of a beautiful white and blue loose weave fabric with a label reading “Chanel Tweed”. Originally $175 a yard! My friend said she maybe paid $5 for everything. My first vintage fabric find! Now what should I do with it? Before you suggest the obvious – a Chanel jacket – know that I am utterly not the sort of person who would make and/or wear one. I’m nothing but impressed with those that take the time to create a beautiful couture jacket – it’s just not my thing. As you can probably tell by …basically everything I’ve ever posted. Plus when would I wear such a jacket? But – perhaps some other kind of coat? A sheath dress? Just leave the fabric in my closet and pet it every once in a while? Help!

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Not a lot to show for two months, but there it is. I feel like I’ve missed a whole season, and now I’m way behind on fall-appropriate sewing. Luckily I have a lot of stuff I made last year to wear now that the weather’s changing (yes, here it’s basically summer until November. Not complaining). But I want shiny new things! So I’d better get moving (figuratively, of course. I don’t want to literally move again for a very, very long time). I just dug out the doubleknit Cordova jacket I started last winter (by “started”, I mean cut out one piece), and finished cutting it out finally. Also on the “urgent” list: pants. Because I currently own one single pair of long pants that fits. I had the shorts bug this summer, hopefully that will translate into the pants bug… Now to get sewing!

For realsies this time.

Well hello there.

So, yeah, I’ve been missing for a little while. It turns out that even when your no-time seems like it should be lots-of-time because you’re on summer hiatus, something else pops up to turn it in to no-time again.

To wit: we bought a house.

Here’s the thing: everyone who tells you that being in escrow was the most stressful time in their adult life (this includes people who have had children) might be understating it a little bit. Escrow is terrible. I have a stressful job, I feel like I manage stress pretty well, but this was a whole other monster. Between just wanting to curl up in a vibrating ball of uncertainty and terror, and spending hours in the black hole that is google image searches for “bathroom paint colors”, sewing has been basically nonexistent for more than a month. Sorry ’bout that.

But! We closed! Then we had to move! (Silent horror screaming commence!) I have always understood that I have a lot of stuff, but that understanding didn’t really sink in until I started actually opening closets and attempting to pack. I’ve been much better recently about not keeping stuff I can’t think of an immediate use for, but we’ve been in our place for eight years, which equals about 6.5 years of collected cute-small-plastic-doodads and random-rectangles-of-foam and boxes-from-things-I-got-rid-of-4-years-ago and truly-horrific-hat-I-bought-at-a-college-costume-sale-and-why-do-I-still-have-this?! My hoarding tendencies did not start with my epic stash, I tell you what.

Anyhoo, I will answer the one question that matters, and then shut up about it. Yes, there is a room in our new house that will be the sewing room! Hooray!

All that out of the way, I do actually have a small backlog of things to share – to tide you over until the sewing can recommence. (I need to buy a table for my machines, in my new sewing room, so my dining table can go back to serving its intended purpose, solely. More hooray!) I will start by sharing a quick dress I whipped out in a most careless fashion in the middle of July, mainly because the marvelous Ms McCall has already spoiled it (she had a fried hard drive and beat me to it! My house excuse is sounding pretty sad…)

Nhi Sandra and me

About a month ago (eesh!) I had an awesome visit from the most wonderful and talented Sandra (of Brown Paper Patterns) and Nhi (co-founder of the new Lolita Patterns), up from LA for the night. We finally made it to the weirder ugly cousin of the LA fabric district, the Crazy Fabric Store in Solvang (sadly, it has seen better days, it was mostly ancient polyester this time); we had a lovely swap in which I acquired the remainder of the aqua and silver stripe jersey that Nhi’s shirt is made of (which was passed on to her by Cindy of Cation Designs – what a pedigree!) as well as a few other cool things (including loan of like 6 Burda issues and other pattern goodies); we saw a show at my old theatre company; and generally just hung out and chatted and had a great time. And Sandra bogarted my photo wall! (Well, I guess it isn’t my photo wall anymore, now I have to find a new spot at my new house…) But I had a dress I needed to photograph too, so it worked out.

Simplicity 1881

In the midst of escrow craziness, I found myself wanting a new summer dress to wear to a friend’s annual giant backyard party, so I somewhat arbitrarily pulled out Simplicity 1881 and a yellow polka dot ITY I had recently ordered from I chose the pattern mainly because I only had a couple days and I judged that a fully lined halter bodice meant no time-consuming edge finishing, and the construction seemed very straightforward. The fabric I ordered in a fit of weakness in June when my common sense was overruled by my love of yellow and dots. But, predictably, it is not very nice fabric. It’s rather shiny and slippery (most ITYs are matte, I thought?) and pretty thin. Too thin to wear without a lining or a slip (needless to say, with my time constraint I went with “slip”), and I probably should have interlined the bodice or inserted bust cups, or both, because even with a double layer the fabric feels pretty insubstantial up there.

It did go together easily, though I’m not in love with the results. I didn’t really think about the effect my very small bust would have on the fit (shouldn’t I know better by now?), and because I shortened the back elastic substantially to get a tight enough fit, it pulls the bust area toward the back and creates wrinkles below the bust (because I have nothing fighting back against the elastic in the front, I guess). And it still slips down in back. Sigh. I like halter designs because I like my shoulders, but I think I should stick to nontraditional halters (like my open back dress) because they work better with my no-bust.

Simplicity 1881 back

I didn’t use the recommended purchased bias tape as the elastic enclosure (though I think it’s a great idea) simply because I didn’t have any (and although I live in a metropolitan area of more than 150,000 people, there is not a single place to buy regular ol’ Wright’s or Coats and Clark anything within 40 miles anymore. Seriously). So I had to use self fabric, which doesn’t stabilize the elastic casing at all, obviously, and the elastic twists around something terrible, which probably exacerbates the slipping-down problem. Lesson: follow the directions. (Within reason, of course.)

I didn’t hem the dress (see: time constraints), though I may go back someday and line it properly and hem it. Or I may not. I’m not sure the fabric is good enough to be worth the effort. But, all things considered, I had a new yellow dress to wear to the party. And that felt pretty miraculous at the time.

And appropriate too, because our new house is Bright. Yellow.

When I logged in to WordPress today it congratulated me on my two year blogiversary. Well, that came out of nowhere. As much as I’ve enjoyed (slash been tortured by) the house-buying-packing-moving-decor-planning process, when I ducked back into a few blogs I hadn’t read in a couple weeks I realised how much I missed sewing and reading about sewing and admiring all of your creations. While I’m sure it will take me a while to get unpacked and settled and sewing again, I certainly want to, and I will make a valient effort to tear myself away from the IKEA website occasionally and rejoin the sewing community. And I promise to not make curtains. Well, maybe a roman blind or two… but that’s it!

So, March happened. Yep. In a whole month I managed to make one whole garment. And I’m so glad to hear that you didn’t find yet another knit dress boring, because really the only other sewing-related thing I accomplished in March was – wait for it – buying even more knit fabric! Because I need more fabric like I need a hole in the head. But it was LA! It was the fashion district! It was Mood and Michael Levine Loft and yeah, I have a problem.

As you may have gathered, I was down in Los Angeles for work for about three weeks in March. My schedule there leaves me free in the evenings, so I did my best to cram in as much LA-specific stuff as possible. Which mostly amounted to buying things. By things I mean fabric. Oh, what, you want to see it? Well okay then:

LA fabric haul #2

The pieces on the left are from F and S Fabrics, which is a lovely store along the line of Mood but not as big. They also offer sewing classes, one of which was happening when I was there – I’m glad the fabric stores are making an effort to secure their future by luring more folks into sewing. I managed (not on purpose) to buy two polka dot fabrics: the pink dot is a rayon remnant that will probably become a flowy sleeveless top (if I ever sew a woven fabric again, that is), and the other is the graduated dot poly knit I mentioned that I will certainly use to copy Amanda’s awesome dress. And what’s that behind them? Why, it’s my very first Burda mag! Found at the newsstand next to F and S. The stand was like a Burda jackpot, actually, with multiple copies of the January, February and March issues. I chose March because it contains a gathered front cardigan pattern that I’m dying to make up.

The middle row is my haul from the Michael Levine Loft, where everything is $2.50 a pound so you don’t have to count your yardage! Turns out this is important when you’ve arrived at the Loft only 20 minutes before closing after literally running there from the Metro stop. (Yes, LA has a very nice Metro, that will get you within about 7 blocks of the heart of the fashion district. Provided you are starting from somewhere with a Metro stop.) From top to bottom: an avocado doubleknit for a summer version of my sweatshirt dress, a textured deep turquoise poly knit for some kind of dress or other, a random colorblocked stripe fabric that will maybe be a Cation dolman top, and like 4 yards of a striped rayon knit for a Tiramisu finally (that pattern needs kind of a lot of yardage – I mean, not that much, but better safe than sorry, right?)

FInally, the last piece is the one thing I allowed myself at Mood. I only had about a half an hour for Mood, and without a specific need for anything I told myself I would only buy something if it was a statement fabric that I loved. And when I spotted this modern graphic ITY I knew I had to have it. I got enough for a maxi dress, and I’m excited about it. Black/white/gray/chartreuse modern art print? How could I not?

But hey, I didn’t just shop. (Well, mostly I did. Discount Swedish furniture is almost as hard for me to resist as discount fabric.) But I did manage to get to LACMA, the Los Angeles Museum of Art, which is a really, really nice museum. It’s open til 8 on Fridays and after 5 LA residents are free! And if you’re visiting LA, I highly recommend you skip the tourist junk in Hollywood and go to LACMA. They have a huge, very diverse collection and a lovely facility. I love their contemporary art building in particular, and was thrilled to be able to see the super cool sculpture/construction Metropolis II in action. It’s basically a little city that has thousands of Matchbox cars rushing through it. It’s loud and beautiful and complicated, just like a real city, but less stressful since I don’t have to drive in it. (Man I hate driving in LA.) Anyway, I can’t recommend LACMA enough. I also recommend the restaurant/bar at the museum, Ray’s/Stark Bar, where I had a good pizza and a fantastic cocktail afterwards. Do it!

Metropolis II

But the best part about being in LA was that I got to hang out with a fellow sewing blogger! I met up with Ms McCall at F and S (where I convinced her to buy a totally awesome red-orange stretch velvet, under the condition that if she hadn’t turned it into something in one year that it would pass to me!), again (brief as it was) at the Loft, and on my last day we checked out Golden Road, a great brewery/restraunt in Glendale. Sadly, my only photographic evidence of our awesome time is this really embarrassingly bad picture. Was I already 2.5 beers in at this point? Entirely possible. Anyway, the magic of the internets never ceases to amaze me, and I’m so glad I live in an age when sewing can connect two people who end up having a lot more than sewing in common, to drink beer and talk for hours and have a great time. Hooray for technology! And I know there’s more of you sewing-types in LA, so I hope I can meet up with you too the next time I’m down.

at Golden Road

As fun as it was, I’m glad to be home and back with my sewing machine, though I’ve been sadly neglecting it since I’ve been back. But this month? April’s got a lot of potential, I can feel it. And though my new acquisitions are sorely tempting me, April is the stashbusting month – Cation Design’s Vibrant Color Stashbusting Challenge and the Pattern Review Pattern Stash Contest are calling my name! Now let’s see if I can undo some of my March Madness…

Well hello there.

What’s that you say? I’ve taken much too long a break and it’s rather too late for some kind of yearly wrap-up post? Ha, nonsense! The fourth week of January is the perfect time for a new year’s retrospective for the consummate procrastinator. Which I obviously am.

It’s funny, I’ve been kind of (or more than kind of) avoiding writing a post like this (and therefore not posting at all, since somehow I thought a recap should be my first post of the year – I mean, I couldn’t just ignore the turn of the year, right?), because I thought it’d be a pain, or take too long, or because for the last few weeks all I’ve been wanting to do is stream old episodes of How I Met Your Mother while knitting (man I knit slowly). I’ve sewn a few things, but nothing that I’m excited enough about to motivate me to blog. But now that I’ve finally started to think about my year in sewing, it’s actually reinvigorated me. Look at all the things I made last year! They look so pretty all together! Hey, I want to do that some more!

2012 collage 1 2012_collage_22012_collage_3

Observant followers may notice some pictures of things here that I never blogged (no, actually, I don’t expect anyone to be following so closely that they’d remember all my makes – that’s why I’m confessing it!) Like what is happening currently, at some point over the summer I made a bunch of stuff in a row and never took the time to write it all up. If there’s something you spot that you’re absolutely dying to know about, do let me know and I’ll try to dig up the details.

I tallied up my totals for the year – I made:

  • 21 dresses
  • 17 tops and 1 tunic
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 pairs of crop pants
  • 1 pair of shorts
  • 2 jackets
  • 1 pair of pajamas (plus 2 unphotographed pairs of pj pants)
  • 3 bags and a camera insert

So, not bad! Looking at my closet now, even though I added 20 dresses to it this year, I still find myself wishing for more. I think that’s because only a handful of the dresses I made land in that sweet spot of nice-enough-for-work-but-not-too-nice, especially now that I’m generally commuting to work on a bike and I need dresses with some stretch. I like making tops ’cause they’re quick and a good use of just a yardish of fabric, but my sad lack of well-fitting pants means they hang in the closet unworn most of the time.

All the same, it’s actually hard to pick a favorite item of the year. I’m particularly proud of my Anthro knock-off tank and of my whole Mini Wardrobe. My Minoru has been seeing a lot of action in the last couple months (rainy season), and all my knit dresses are in regular rotation. My biggest fails this year were definitely my sad rushed poly dress and an unblogged maxi dress that I wound up cutting in half and turning into a top and a skirt. And as far as least worn goes, although I like them, the two sacks-with-belts I made this summer will likely languish in the closet in favor of some of the fancier knit dresses I also made.

Which brings me to the lessons-learned-and-applied section: Thinking about what made me happiest to sew this year, I’ve realised that I’m really a practical sewist. I like to make things I wear, and I want to wear-it-NOW-already! So taking six weeks to craft a complicated, perfectly fitted fancy woven dress is just not my thing at all (sorry, Gertie’s Bombshell Dress Course, I don’t think I’ll ever get around to you). Now, that’s not to say that I only want to make boring garments – I love color, prints, and unusual construction details (I’m so on board with all the twisty jersey dress patterns I’ve been seeing), and I rarely make the same pattern twice. So I suppose my goal for the new year is… more of the same. Wow, ambitious, right? Well, I’m the first to admit that I’m honestly not that interested in stretching myself too much – this sewing lark is supposed to be fun, after all. But I do want to keep improving my skills: getting better at choosing appropriate fabric for patterns, getting more confidant with my routine fit adjustments, getting faster. And I do want to sew some more complex things this year – pants and coats, for one. But only things I can really see myself wearing every day.

I also need to get a handle on the Stash Monster. Fabric has literally taken over our office, to the point that there’s no place to sit anymore and the cat has to vault straight from the floor to get to his sleeping spot on the back of the futon because of the teetering piles of fabric that have taken over the seat… To that end I’m joining Cation Design’s Stashbusting Sewalong for sure. I can’t swear off buying fabric altogether (that’s just setting myself up for failure), but I do want to stop buying fabric online. I have a bunch of knit fabric in the stash that I ordered that is staying unused for some reason, mainly because it’s thinner than something I would have picked out in a store. So my only stash additions this year will be from my local 99 cent bolt end store and from any incidental vacation/special trip fabric shopping I may do (LA garment district, I’m looking at you!). I love nothing more than browsing fabric online, but I’ve learned that the fabric I’m most likely to use is the stuff I touched in person before I bought it.

My last big nebulous goal for the new year is to not let myself procrastinate this blog into nonexistence. I think the key to timely blogging is to not let finished projects build up. I just need to get into the rhythm of finish a project, write it up, start new project. Once a few things build up, it’s hard to motivate myself to sit down and blog because it seems too daunting and I’d rather just keep sewing. I want to try to keep sewing and blogging together as more of a unit so I can write about things while I still remember what I did!

So that’s my year in sewing, and my sewey goals for this year. I do feel like I should mention what else went on in my life last year, since thinking back on it now it actually was fairly eventful. In May I left my job of nearly 7 years and transitioned into a job closer to home, eliminating my hourlong commute and also decreasing my work hours each week (which did translate into more sewing, but not more blogging, as discussed above…) I’m still figuring out my new schedule and how to not just spend my extra time each week perusing cooking blogs (though I have been cooking a lot more, which is great). Happily, the job shift has also allowed me to spend more time with my friends, and has resulted in the growth of some great friendships. My year in biking was certainly eventful also – I rode almost 5,000 miles and climbed over 300,000 feet in 2012. I rode 5 organized rides: two full centuries (100 miles), two 70 milers, and 90 miles of the Death Ride. If you’d asked me two years ago if I thought I’d ever participate in any kind of organized athletic event, let alone something as challenging as Death Ride, my answer would have been a resounding “are you crazy?” But much to my surprise I really enjoy it. And, of course, also this year I had my first major crash and broke a bone for the first time in my life! I hope this year I can ride as much or more, but I’ll do without the crashing, thank you.

But back to sewing, one last thing that was great about last year was just the fun of participating in this crazy awesome online community. I’ve loved getting to know everyone through their blogs, and having the pleasure of meeting a few real sewasaurases in the flesh! And I don’t say it often enough, but thank you all so much for reading and commenting! I’m dreadful at replying to comments, but every time a new comment shows up in my inbox it absolutely makes my day. I can’t articulate how cool it is to find out how much I have in common with people all over the world! Thank you for making me feel so welcome and appreciated! I was even nominated for the Lovely Blogger Award (thanks Adrienne of stitching on the edge!) Rather than make this post any longer by sticking to the letter of the award rules, I’ll just finish up by calling out some of the blogs that really inspired me last year (and I’m sure will continue to do so this year!):

  • Cindy at Cation Designs is slowly convincing me that I may be able to just wing it and make something awesome without a commercial pattern,
  • Andrea of foursquarewalls has given me the baby step option of just altering the heck out of my existing commercial patterns before I try to leap off the patternless cliff,
  • Lisa of notes from a mad housewife has helped me to not be afraid of real coat construction (I hope to apply those lessons soon!),
  • Jess of the Sometimes Sewist has shown me that you really can just jump in to a big complicated project and just make it happen,
  • and Anne of Pretty Grievances has made me laugh harder than I thought possible at sewing related matters.

Thanks, ladies, and thanks to all the other bloggers who I just happily devour whatever gorgeous thing it is you’ve made this week – there are too many of you to list, and that’s the best thing ever!

Here’s one more collage of the things I made last year (a happy accident that occurred as I was trying to figure out the online collage maker). Recap over, back to regularly scheduled sewing (and sharing the things I’ve already sewed before they get away from me!)


So here’s to a great 2012, a better 2013, and lots of sewing for everyone!

I hope everyone who celebrated Christmas yesterday had a great one! Mine was lovely, and I wanted to share a couple sewingy things it involved. First up, a Christmas Renfrew!

winter Renfrew

What makes it Christmasy, you may ask, besides the Christmas tree in the background? Why, nothing at all, except the fact that I wore it on Christmas eve. I bought this soft and cozy knit fabric at the FIDM store last month in anticipation of needing some warmer tops for the holidays in Nevada. I thought it would make a perfect casual Renfrew, and so it proved. The fabric is lovely, warm and thick but with fantastic stretch and recovery. My first Renfrew was a near miss, due to fabric choice and dubious off-grain stripe placement decisions, and because it was the first time I realised that the Sewaholic patterns are drafted for folks with narrower shoulders than I, but I vowed to get this one right. This time I cut about a straight 8 (I say about because of course I am a pattern cutter and not a tracer, so my pattern was cut on the size 6 line, so using the other lines as a guide, I just graded up as I cut to what I thought would be an 8), veering toward a 10 at the shoulders just in case. That plus the super stretch of the fabric means I can reach my arms forward comfortably in this version, hooray! The neckband also worked much better this time and lays properly with no problems. I’m still getting some wrinkles from the armpit to above the bust, I suspect due to the whole not-drafted-for-broader-shoulders thing, but I’m not going to make a ton of fussy adjustments to a knit tee pattern. I may just seek a TNT tee elsewhere… blasphemy, I know, but I’m just not sure the Renfrew is perfect for my shape up top.

That’s not to say I’m going to stop making Sewaholic’s patterns, though… because one of those presents under the tree turned out to be her new Cordova jacket! I’m thinking I’d like to make it in a doubleknit, because I’m really into the whole knit jacket trend, and also because I think it might mitigate the shoulder issue a little. I’ll be cutting a bigger size in the shoulders for sure, anyway.

christmas haul

I also got a french curve set and some of the famed Swedish tracing paper – yes, I’m going to attempt a bit of pattern drafting in the new year! Possibly. Not anything major, now, but maybe getting in to some more serious pattern modding and RTW knockoff fun. My need for jeans that fit is getting dire, so at this point I’m actually seriously planning on some quality jeans-pattern-making time. Soon.

And one last Christmas present – I was nominated for the One Lovely Blog Award by the appropriately lovely Adrienne of stitching on the edge! Thank you so much! I’ll need to ponder a bit more about what 7 random things about myself to share, so more on that next time, but I just wanted to say thanks!

So Happy (belated) Christmas and (soon) Happy New Year, and (always) Happy Sewing to all!


Once again my terrible procrastinatative (yes I just coined that word) nature shows itself in a something like three-week blogging hiatus. In those weeks, I returned from LA and was immediately met at home with the craziest weeks of my work schedule as well as visiting family members, and, you know, a not unconsiderable amount of turkey. But I have at last managed to carve out some computer time (I am also woefully behind with what you all have been up to), and I have things to say/share!

I’ll start by going back to my last few days in LA, when (on very short notice) some awesome LA sewists came out in the rain the week before Thanksgiving to meet up in Venice for some fabric shopping, dinner, and lots of sewing talk! I met up with Cindy of Cation Designs, Sandra of Brown Paper Patterns, and Nhi (who can be found here on Pattern Review) at Fabric Planet (open til 8, about the only place to fabric shop after 6 in LA), which is a pretty big, delightfully random fabric store with a nice amount of knits, some nice wovens, a ton of zippers and just about every trim you could possibly imagine. I walked out with a piece of mustard yellow modal knit and a super stretchy blue chambray (shirtdress!), and a few random zippers (all zippers $1!). The proprietor was really nice, and funnily enough was surprised and amazed that we had all sewn the things we were wearing. I guess he mostly gets people in who buy fabric for curtains and then hire someone to make them? We let him in on the secret world of the online sewing community and he gave us some deals (he miscut my knit at first, but let me keep the miscut remnant for free!). We then went and had dinner at a really cool place called Lemonade, which is like an awesome, mod, gourmet Souplantation, with everything served “cafeteria style”. We stayed there talking until we realised the employees were waiting for us to leave so they could go home… I once again marvel at the magic of the internet, which can so easily connect four people with like interests living in roughly the same geographical area, when we otherwise would have had no idea that such like-minded folks existed at all. I had a great night and I hope we can do it again sometime! And, luckily, we remembered at the last moment that we’d better take a picture:

Fabric Planet meetup(I love how it looks like I bought the whole store… really it was just 4 yards of fabric! The bag was actually made from a funny ribbed knit fabric remnant, tied into a bag shape with handles cut out.)

Following short on the heels of my return home was the holiday week. I actually started this post on Thanksgiving day, but didn’t have time to finish it before the cooking needed to start. But even though it’s two weeks past the day of thanks, and we’re well into the next holiday season, I still wanted to share some thoughts I had on that day. I’m not one of those folks who goes in for a lot of sentimental stuff, so generally the most important thing about any given holiday for me is what I get to eat, rather than, you know, giving any thought to what the holiday is supposed to represent. Thanksgiving for me has always been an amazing food orgy and little else, but this year I actually had a couple things that I was, well, really thankful for. So I thought I’d depart a little from my usual meaningless-holiday tradition and run down the reasons why this was maybe the most appropriate Thanksgiving ever.

First, on that Wednesday morning I got my cast off, found out my wrist was totally healed, and on Thanksgiving morning I rode my bike for the first time in over 6 weeks! I even got a flat tire and it didn’t dampen my joy. I was, ridiculously, a little worried that I’d have forgotten how to ride or something, but it turns out that riding a bike is just like riding a bike – huh, I guess that phrase exists for a reason. I am generally grateful for having full use of both hands back, which makes everything so much easier of course; and I’m also glad now that the weather has turned colder and I’m wearing tops with sleeves that I won’t be stretching out one cuff on all my warm shirts and sweaters! Mostly the whole broken-wrist experience really made me so thankful that my usual state of being is whole and healthy, and I will try not to take that state for granted so much in the future.

I also had a funny experience the week before Thanksgiving that really brought home how glad I am that I’ve embarked on this whole sewing lark. I was in IKEA (like I was going to be in LA and not go to IKEA. Man I love that place), and up on the top floor in one of the sample rooms there was a really cool orange bird-print table runner on a table all decked out for Thanksgiving. I immediately thought “I must have that”, but when I went downstairs to the table linens section, no bird runner. Then in the fabric section I spotted the orange bird fabric and realised that the sample room decorator must have made the runner from the fabric. After a moment of disappointment that I wouldn’t be able to buy the table runner, I literally thwacked myself on the forehead and thought “wait, I can sew!” So I bought a yard of bird fabric, got it home, cut a strip of it and hemmed the edges. It made me wonder how many other people had walked away disappointed that the table runner was not for sale, when it was so easy to make. Sewing is pretty cool. So here it is on our Thanksgiving table:

ikea fabric table runner

We had a wonderful feast, featuring a splatchcocked turkey (it’s laid out flat in the pan so it cooks more evenly – it really works!) basted with Emeril’s Essence (terrible name, but it’s awesome on turkey and the drippings make the best. gravy. ever.), as well as a terrific apple parsnip soup and a persimmon salad (no spinach at the market so we used kale, marinating it all day in the dressing, and it worked great), not to mention fall cocktails. So even though I had reason to give thanks this year, it still was an awesome food orgy too.

And now, finally, things have slowed down a bit and I can really get back to sewing – I mean, sewing frantically, since before Christmas I want to make a bunch of long sleeve knit shirts as well as at least one pair of pants, since I’ll be spending the holiday somewhere rather colder than Southern California, not to mention all the presents I want to make! Right, more than I can chew as usual… I’m off to a good start with 5 shirts and a dress all cut out and waiting to be put together. Let’s just hope I can keep up the pace, and still make time to share the stuff with you all! In the meantime, I’ll be back with actual finished clothes soon, the last of my pre-LA sewing binge (including the dress I wore to the awesome LA meetup). So a belated Happy Thanksgiving to those who had one! And with that discharged at last, full steam ahead to the next holiday!

So, just as I was poised to go forth and conquer my fall sewing projects, I hit a surprising speedbump. Well, actually I didn’t hit anything, but I did fall. Hard. Off my bike while traveling quickly down a steep hill. After spending most of Monday in the ER, I emerged with a diagnosis of a bunch of scrapes and a (very minor) broken wrist. So. No bike for a while, and sewing, while still possible, will be a lot slower. I think I’m going to stick with some simpler things (I can barely put on pants, how could I make them?), and take it slow. At least I still have some things that I made this summer that I still need to share, and I can still (mostly) type…

I did manage to cut out most of a knit dress yesterday, so we’ll see how that proceeds. Ah, life. It happens!