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I always have a really hard time with fall sewing. Mostly I think that’s because we don’t really have fall here on the coast – our hottest months are September and October, then November is all about food, not sewing, and then it’s magically winter, bam. So I end up sewing summer clothes until almost Thanksgiving, then switch straight to winter things. I make a ton of spring clothes, because our spring lasts like 6 months, then I wear those things the following fall, but I never get to make any real fall-specific things. But this year I cracked the code: I took a trip in the fall to a place that has fall! (Boulder and Denver, Colorado, to be exact.) And because of course for any trip I have to frantically make as many new garments as possible, that meant I sewed a whole fall mini-wardrobe in October. Real fall clothes, at last!

My quote-unquote inspiration for this “collection” was a great pair of brown heeled oxfords I found on Zappos (not there anymore, but here they are at 6pm) and just inexplicably loved. I don’t usually go for that vintage-y style (for myself – I love it on other people), but I thought I could pull these shoes off. I imagined them with cuffed jeans and sort of boxy tops, and started compiling a wardrobe built on warm browns and complimentary colors.

natalie top side

I started with a Liola Patterns Natalie shirt in a lovely dark maroon bird print voile that I picked up at Hart’s in Santa Cruz this summer (great store, totally worth a stop if you’re anywhere nearby, but I took the rest of the bolt of this one, sorry!) I’ve realized that I will never wear a traditional button up collared shirt (again, love them on others but they just don’t feel like me), but I quite like shirts that are kind of riffs on button-ups. I liked that this pattern is collarless and has a front detail that is sort of a deconstructed placket.

natalie top close

I sewed up the pattern pretty much exactly as drafted. I graded from a M on top to a L at the hips (wise choice, for me), and the only thing I changed was that I shaped the hem for more of a shirttail look. I initially thought that I wanted a lower front slit than the pattern suggests because 4 inches didn’t look like much on the pattern piece, so I made it 5 inches down from the top and that was somewhat indecent, so I sewed it up to the pattern suggestion after all. The neckline is more of a scoop than it looks on the flat pattern, so the modest slit turns out not so modest in the end. It took some careful stitching and a small amount of unpicking and redoing to get the front pleat to lay perfectly (I used my blind hem foot so I’d have an edgestitching guide), but it got there. I recommend a fabric like this with a not-too-different wrong side, since a sliver of wrong side might show unless your stitching is super exact (which mine never, ever is).

echino jersey sweater

I knew my mini wardrobe had to include this awesome leopard spot Echino jacquard knit that my mom got me for my birthday, and knew that it had to be a sort of boxy sweater, but I wasn’t sure what pattern to use to realize my vision. Not helping matters was the fact that this fabric is only 30 inches wide. Luckily I had 2 yards, and I used every ounce of it. Happily, my leopard placement worked out perfectly (although there are some disembodied paws on one shoulder…) The fabric is lovely, lofty but surprisingly light, not too stretchy but enough that it still feels like a sweatshirt knit. I really, really love it. Echino, make more knits, please!

echino sweater 2

I ended up using the Hey June Aurora tee pattern as my base for this boxy dolman look. I kept the neck/shoulders/sleeves the same, but I boxed up the shape by cutting basically straight down from the armpits and cropped it several inches from the bottom. I used my remaining fabric to make a hem band to complete the boxy look (the size of the band was determined by my fabric scraps, I would have preferred to make it just a smidge longer). I bound the neckline with a scrap of ivory jersey rather than with self fabric to cut down on bulk, and I just turned and hemmed the sleeves. And I have to say, it turned out exactly how I wanted it. This is probably my favorite make of the year so far!

camas and hudson 2

I also thought I should make something that would be comfortable on the airplane (particularly because my flight left at 5:40a – why, why do airlines think people should be flying that early?), so I pulled out some soft brown french terry from GirlCharlee and whipped up a pair of True Bias Hudson pants. I actually made a pair of Hudsons last winter, although I was on the fence about the style, and then ended up wearing them basically every day… when I wasn’t going to leave my house. But this year I vowed to make a pair that I would feel good about wearing in public. I’ve been seeing knit track pants in stores and catalogs, they must be a real thing, right? So I made them and wore them on the plane and around Boulder when we arrived, and of course didn’t see a single other person all day wearing track pants. At one of the biggest airports in the country! And let me say, all those people flying in jeans are doing it wrong. French terry Hudsons are definitely the way to go.

I made a size 10 in accordance with the size chart and the fit is great. They go together really fast and the topstitched gathered waistband is really easy and looks very RTW. I omitted the drawstring on this pair simply because there was no way I was finding any appropriate drawstring anywhere in a 40 mile radius (more on that later). And these are seriously the most comfortable pants I’ve ever worn in public.

camas and hudson

If I was gonna dress down on bottom, I thought I’d better dress up on top, so I decided to make another Thread Theory Camas blouse to go with the Hudsons. I picked up this lightweight slubby jersey in the swap pile at the LA Sewists meetup last summer, and I paired it with some light brown cotton lycra jersey scraps I had leftover from some long-ago gift (a draped cardigan for a friend, I think?) I didn’t double the yokes because my yoke fabric was already so much heavier weight than my main fabric, and also I didn’t have enough anyway. I also didn’t attach the button bands as instructed – the instructions seem like they’re for a woven or more stable fabric, and this was so light and drapey I wanted as easy as possible. I interfaced the band facing, sewed the band and facing together along the neck edge, turned and topstitched, then just serged the finished band onto the blouse. There are some drag lines along the front, but that’s just ’cause the fabric is so drapey in the body and the interfaced bands don’t drape as much. Because of the drape, this version feels much lower-cut than my previous version, but I’m generally okay with super-low necklines (lack of cleavage to the rescue!).

Surprisingly, it turned out that the hardest thing about this top was finding buttons. Ridiculous, right? I just needed 5 matching off-white translucent buttons. But there is literally no place to buy buttons in my city. My city of around 200,000 people, a major tourist destination, is home to exactly one garment fabric store (which is super expensive and not my taste and closed for remodeling anyway) and one chain craft store (Michael’s, which carries black and white buttons and of course the sort of multicolored plastic buttons you glue onto cards but would never sew onto garments). The woman at the antique store I thought might have some vintage buttons (they didn’t) actually suggested I go buy a shirt at the thrift store and cut the buttons off of it. Seriously. I was leaving on a trip in two days and didn’t want to waste the time driving 50 minutes to the nearest JoAnn, or 35 minutes to the nearest regular-ol’-local-fabric-store, so I resorted to pillaging 5 almost-matching buttons from the random-notions box in my theatre’s wardrobe office. This is what happens when I want to make something spur-of-the-moment. Anyway, sorry, rant over.

stripe top and boyfriend jeans

Now, before you go thinking that my whole vacation wardrobe came out perfectly (barring button frustrations), I did have one dud and a near-dud. High on the perfection of my first three tops, I got cocky and decided to make something awesome with a brown and white striped rayon knit from the stash (probably picked up at the Loft last year). I didn’t know what, though, so I googled “striped knit top” and found the image of a dolman sleeved top with a diagonal seam across the front with offset stripes and thought, I can totally hack that. I went back to the Aurora pattern, tracing the front piece in full and then cutting it diagonally and adding seam allowances along that edge. Then I cut the front pieces singly, offsetting the stripes. I even copied the longer curved back hem of the inspiration. It came out exactly as planned. And the result? Meh. I don’t know why I don’t like this top, I just don’t. It feels frumpy and casual in a not-cool way. Maybe I shouldn’t have topstitched the neck in white? Maybe it needed a less drapey fabric? Anyway, not a fan.

boyfriend jeans side

Especially not paired with my near-miss, a pair of attempted boyfriend jeans. I had this light denim from… somewhere (I absolutely cannot remember when or where I got this fabric) and got it in my head that it would be right for a more relaxed cut boyfriend style. I used my trusty Thurlow jean hack, but I cut the legs wider starting just above the knee. I erred much too wide, though, and had to spend like an hour trying the jeans on, taking various leg seams in (including ones I’d already topstitched, d’oh!) before I got an even almost acceptable leg silhouette. They do definitely read casual, but again, maybe not in the cool way. I have to be very careful pairing these jeans with tops – too slouchy and casual and they just look unflattering. They’re not bad with a dressier top, but of course I only photographed them with the fail-shirt, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

But all in all, a pretty good fall wardrobe accomplished in just two weeks. That’s more fall things than I think I’ve ever made in the actual fall. And of course, because one thing made equals 5 new fabrics bought, I have to share my goodies from Colorado!

co fabric haul

The patterned cottons on the bottom are from Boulder, where we found a lovely shop called Fabricate just down the street from our hotel with a beautifully curated selections of cottons (seriously, this shop owner and I are fabric soul mates – there were so many geometric mustard prints!). Not too many garment fabrics here, but I did score some not-yet-released Echino fabrics that the proprietor had just brought back from quilt market. Look at those shiny wolves! Echino is my absolute favorite fabric for making bags, and those wolves are going to make a fabulous evening clutch.

Then in Denver we visited the amazing Fancy Tiger Crafts. Why, why can’t there be a shop like this in my town? (Oh, probably because we apparently can’t even support a store that might sell plain buttons.) I could spend hours and hours in that place. As it was, I came away with some lovely shirting, a beautiful wool, and a printed pattern to go with both! I was so glad to see the Cascade Duffle Coat pattern in print, because I have been wanting to make it but in no way wanted to print and assemble that pdf. I also couldn’t resist the hand painted ombre yarn, even though I would characterize my knitting as “amateur” and “sporadic” at best. (I do go through knitting phases, though, and I will say that this yarn has already become an ombre cowl scarf…) And talk about service: my yarn didn’t end up in my shopping bag somehow, and I didn’t realize it until we had already cycled back to our downtown hotel from the (very, very cool) neighborhood where Fancy Tiger is located, but when I called the shop, one of the employees offered to drive downtown to bring me my yarn. Amazing! Seriously, if you’re ever in Denver, do not miss Fancy Tiger.

And now, on to winter sewing! It’s finally taken a turn toward cold here, and I’m imagining cozy sweatshirts and merino everything. And maybe more Hudsons. And hopefully a duffle coat before Christmas… we shall see.

It seems possible that even those regions that have been unfairly smothered in winter for ages are starting to see small signs of spring, so I thought I’d throw out these winter accessories I made for my trip to New York before they’re totally obsolete.

Now, I have a ton of scarves. A simple jersey infinity scarf is my favorite thing to do with a leftover half yard of fabric, and as a frequent nighttime bike commuter in a coastal area, I get a lot of use out of my lightweight jersey scarves. But for real winter I thought I would need something more substantial, like with wool. I am by no means a speedy or skilled enough knitter to knit a scarf in the time I had, so I was at a loss for what to do until an opportunity presented itself in the form of an 18 inch width of leftover gray merino french terry from a cowl sweater I whipped up.

The idea of the infamous lululemon snap scarf (called the Vinyasa scarf, of course) has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and while I didn’t have enough fabric for a double-layer version, I liked both sides of my fabric so I decided to make a single layer scarf. Extensive googling gave me lots of pictures of the scarf in various snapped and unsnapped states, and I improvised some finishing that I’m really happy with. So here’s a sort of mini-tutorial for my single layer version of the Vinyasa scarf:

vinyasa scarf knock off 1

I started with a roughly 18 inch by 60 inch rectangle of my french terry. I think this would work with any thickish fabric that you like both sides of – one of those reversible double-knits would be really cool. Luckily my fabric pressed well, so I was able to press a narrow hem along the long sides of the rectangle. I just did a single fold because I didn’t mind seeing the raw edge, but you could do a double fold narrow hem if desired. I used a wide zigzag stitch to hem the long edges, just barely catching the raw edge in the edge of the zigzag. I reasoned that this would be a nice sturdy and decorative edge for the scarf. (There’s a lot of decorative zigzag stitching on the lululemon clothes I’ve seen, perhaps it’s not the becky-home-ecky stitch I always thought it was.)

For the snap ends, I wanted to add a pop of color with ribbon a la some of the inspiration scarves, so I went hunting for a yellow grosgrain or petersham ribbon. What I found instead was yellow twill tape, which ended up being even better than ribbon. I found this great yellow color twill tape at a local fabric store, but I imagine you could also dye white twill tape your desired color. My tape was 3/4 inch wide, which was about perfect.

scarf tutorial edge     scarf tutorial tape

I also didn’t want the darker side of the fabric to show under the snaps on the non-tape sides, so I folded a slightly less than 3/4 inch hem toward  the right side of the fabric and laid the tape over it, folding the ends of the tape under. I stitched the tape on first with a zigzag stitch, then I edgestitched it as close as possible to the edges to really seal it down. (I used yellow thread in the needle and gray in the bobbin to match the respective sides.)

Finally, the snaps. I used the regular pound-in snaps, because I liked the ring that shows on the opposite side of the functional part. For my scarf width, 7 snaps made the most sense to me. I spaced them one inch from each end and one and a half inches between snaps. Hammer ’em in and snap ’em and you’ve got a scarf!

vinyasa knock off snaps

The appeal of this scarf is obviously all the ways to wear it (there’s even a video about it), but I found that I mostly wore it fully snapped and double wrapped, or double wrapped and half-unsnapped. I love the twisted two-color look from the contrasting sides of the fabric, and the little pop of yellow from the tape. Plus it didn’t cost me $50!

vinyasa scarf knock off cowled

The hat I’m wearing is the first ever hat I’ve ever knit. I learned to knit a couple years ago, but it never really took hold – I think I don’t have the attention span required for knitting. Nevertheless, I was determined to knit a hat for this trip. Fortuitously the perfect pattern presented itself in my blog reader in the form of Ginger Makes’ version of the Mock Rib Watch Cap. (That horse sweater, by the way, is totally amazing and a great example of something I would never ever have the patience to knit.) The lovely owner of my local yarn shop pointed me to an appropriate-weight charcoal colored yarn that is so soft and actually pretty warm. (It’s SimpliNatural by HiKoo in Slate Gray, alpaca/merino/silk, for those who are interested in those kind of details.) I used the recommended needle size and my gauge swatch was pretty close, but I found the finished hat to be a little big, if still wearable. I suspect I’m a rather loose knitter and my band is really stretchy. I’m not much of a hat-wearer generally, but I wore the heck out of this hat in the frigid New York weather.

scarf and hat

So about my New York City experience – just a couple things. First off, I absolutely loved The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime. If you’re a theatre person at all, and you have the chance, go see it. The things they do with the ensemble creating the world of the main character are just really innovative and exciting.

Second, yes, I did do some fabric shopping. I hit up Mood, Metro Textiles, and Paron (everything was an extra 40% off when I was there, so that was cool). I also popped into Spandex House (or was it World? one of them) which was impressive but I didn’t need any more swimsuit fabric. Here’s my haul:

NY fabric haul

Top to bottom: from Metro, a super soft poly jersey that feels like cotton, a nice gray ponte, a gray herringbone stretch denim for pants of some kind, and a spotty poly charmeuse; from Paron, a crazy blue pinecone print stretch twill for awesome shorts, a lovely poly crepe de chine print from Italy (which they made me buy the remainder of the bolt, 3 yards, but I think I’ll use it all for something), and a dotty stretch poplin for more awesome shorts; and from Mood, a fantastic Anna Sui silk that I couldn’t pass up. Not a bad pile, and worth cramming in my suitcase, I think, but overall I didn’t think I found anything crazy special or super different from what I might find in LA. The feeling of the Garment District is totally, totally different from the LA Fashion District, though, and way less intimidating, even though I did have to take elevators to two of the shops. The one store I did want to import to the west coast, though, was Pacific Trimming. That place has everything you might need for any number of projects, but is absolutely the kind of place you visit with a particular project in mind, not just to randomly shop. I’m sure over the next year I will wish I could drop in there for some specific item, but as it was I tried to pre-buy for some theoretical projects:

NY trim haul

Two lengths of high quality strapping and some accompanying hardware, some white cotton rope and some gray faux leather rope for bag handles, and a couple random buckles and clips. The store was so well organized, and while I know all this stuff must exist in LA, it’s much more of a pain to locate.

So I guess I did enjoy a little taste of real winter, but all the same I’m glad to be back in California, where spring cannot be denied. It was fun to make winter clothes, but now it’s time to pull out all the sleeveless top patterns!

I’m a garment spotter. The first thing I notice when I see a stranger is what they’re wearing, and if I like what they’re wearing I spend the time they’re in my sight trying to figure out how to make it. I do this everywhere. In restaurants, in line at the grocery store (lots of time to stare there), just walking down the street. It’s a great game. What patterns do I own/know of that I could frankenpattern into that garment?

This particular dress was inspired by one I spotted on a girl walking on the path near the beach as I rode my bike in the opposite direction, so I only glimpsed it for a second. But I immediately knew how I would make it. And further, unlike most of the things I play this game with, I really, really wanted to make it.

And when I realized I could attend the LA Sewist Meetup, I had an occasion to make it for. As a bicycle commuter working in a profession that largely involves moving large awkward pieces of furniture all over a stage all day, maxi dresses are not really an option for work wear. But what better than a halter maxi dress to wear to a luncheon with a gaggle of sure-to-be-well-dressed ladies in warm and sunny early summer Los Angeles?

Vogue 8380 maxi

I am kind of in love with the gathered-sack halter dress style. (Why doesn’t this neckline style have its own name? It’s not a true halter, really, but I guess that’s what you call it. Gillian was recently musing the same thing.) Vogue 8380 was the very first dress pattern I ever made, and last year I hacked it to copy a dress I spotted on a TV show. This hack is based on that hack. I used the front bodice piece from that hack (which is extended from the original pattern to go to the true waist rather than the empire waist), and I extended the original back pattern piece in the same way. The neckband I cut from the neck tie pattern, but only made it 25ish inches long because I didn’t want a tie. The waistband is again just rectangles 3 inches high and waist-sized. The skirt I bogarted from New Look 6122 (which I bought because it has several bodice variations I like, none of which I have tried yet) with the skirt cut down at the top to the waistline from the empire line. (Could I have drafted a maxi skirt with center gathers? Almost certainly. Did I feel the need to when somebody had already done the work for me? Nope.)

I just stuck it all together and hoped it would work out. Luckily gathers are your friend when frankenpatterning, so I just gathered the bodice and skirt to fit the waistband.

Because maxi dresses are generally pretty heavy, I used clear elastic when hemming the armholes (zigzag to wrong side, fold along edge of elastic, twin needle over, same as my usual crossover neckline technique) as well as inside the neckband (sewn into the seam) to provide as much support as possible to those little shoulders holding up all that dress.

Vogue 8380 maxi back

Let me talk about this fabric for a second. I. love. this. fabric. This was a Girl Charlee success story. I’ve gotten burned ordering from there in the past by thinner-than-I-thought knits, purchased before I understood what weight of fabric I really wanted. My tip: unless you want a sheer or burnout look fabric, don’t get anything that says it’s less than 10 oz weight. Especially if you want to use it for a skirt/dress. Also, buy everything they have labeled as “designer overstock score” or anything like that, it’s always fabulous. This fabric is a bamboo jersey with lycra that was described as a 10 oz “famous designer score”, and it is amazing. It’s so soft, and springy, and a pretty color, and striped, and just generally awesome. Also, it’s wide enough to make a halter maxi with just two yards. I bought this green one and a gray one too, and I liked it so much when it came that I went right back online and ordered it in two more colors. Yep. Go get some now before it’s gone! (Obviously I’m just telling you about it now after I got all I wanted.)

And after a long spring of buying fabric online without being able to touch it first, I was really excited to go gorge on fabric I could wrap myself in. Because the meetup was only scheduled to shop at The Fabric Store (with Mood still inexplicably closed due to earthquake damage), I made arrangements to hit the downtown fashion district the day before. Nhi, Sandra, Julianne and I made a huge dent in the Michael Levine Loft striped jersey supply, I can tell you that. We also hit the FIDM store and a few of the strange these-zippers-have-been-here-for-decades type shops typical of the fashion district. And let me tell you, the only thing that makes digging through giant piles of fabric of dubious origin more awesome is doing it with other sewists!

LA Sewists!

And hooo boy, other sewists there were aplenty at the meetup on Saturday! It was so cool to discover how many of us there are in Southern California (for a while I was pretty sure there were more sewing bloggers in New Zealand than in California… I still think it’s pretty close.) We occupied a very long table plus some at the cafe, and then we swarmed The Fabric Store, where their huge table in the front of the store was barely long enough for the piles of patterns and fabric people brought to swap. All the fabric I brought found new homes (I’ll be excited to see if any of it pops up as a garment anywhere!) and I picked up a couple patterns and one nice piece of oatmeal slub jersey. Then in the giveaway I won my choice of any Deer and Doe pattern! I chose the Centaurée, which I’ve been eyeing since it was released. It’s winging its way to me from France as I type, and I’m going to see if I can make it up in a knit, obviously. Thank you so much to Erin, JillLaurie and Kathy for all your work organizing this meetup! And thank you to all the generous pattern designers who donated patterns to the (extensive) giveaway! I can’t wait to get my Centaurée (and put my college French to the test with the French version of the instructions…) I had a great time at The Fabric Store meeting folks and talking fabric. It’s a beautiful store, and actually a great place to hang out and chat – here’s Nhi and Juliane hanging at one of the tables. It’s like an awesome fabric bar – they just need some fancy cocktails…

at the fabric bar

I only bought two pieces myself, surprisingly restrained (and I’m pretty sure they happened to be the two least expensive fabrics in the store, my bill was only $16!). So, what did my whole trip net me?

LA haul June 14

Across the bottom are my two Fabric Store purchases – a stretch denim and a mushroom colored viscose jersey. Above that on the right are the two pieces from FIDM – a gray stripe jersey and a lovely drapey pink jersey that feels like upscale yoga top fabric (the Pneuma Tank is calling its name…) On top is my swap snag, the oatmeal jersey. And all the rest is my haul from the Loft – so many stripes! My favorites are the neon pink and gray stripe doubleknit, several awesome variegated stripe jerseys, and on the top left, a weird quilted-y fabric of mysterious origin, which reminded me of Tasia’s recent quilted skirt. I also scored an assortment of fold-over elastic in various colors and prints and a long purple zipper for the project I spent hours coverstitching at Nhi’s.

Yes, the amazing Nhi was kind enough to let me stay overnight (as she is located closer to LA than me), and doubly kind to let me occupy her coverstitch machine for most of the night. I hemmed the maxi dress to start, then coverstitched the heck out of a knit hoodie/jacket I’m making (more on that soon). And, obviously, I want a coverstitch machine now.

I got to enjoy Nhi’s awesome sewing room in her new house, and of course I also had to use her backyard vineyard (seriously – the previous owners were so obsessed with wine that they planted a vineyard) for a dress photo op.

vineyard maxi op

Hmmm, are these grapes ready yet?

mmmm...grapes

Inexplicably I kept posing like I was smelling the grapes, but that makes very little sense, of course. I am the. worst. at photo posing. Sandra, on the other hand, is a natural with bizarre props (never mind that the wheelbarrow is almost entirely obscuring the object of the shoot, the fabulous red jeans):

wheelbarrows are fun

I had an amazing time all in all last weekend – it was so fantastic to hang out with awesome people I can talk to about not only sewing, but also life, and work, and food, and pets, and anything and everything. I’m so grateful that this weird little hobby of mine and the weird giant internet has connected me with great friends I would never have encountered otherwise. Let’s do it again soon!

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 fabric.com – 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.

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…

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!