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Jan 062015

So, it’s 2015.  I’d been thinking about doing a reflective post about 2014, but when I looked at what I sewed in 2014, I realized that I hadn’t done very much!  If I wanted to participated in Gillian’s Top 5 of 2014, I’d have very little material to draw from.  Including the suit I’ll be blogging about today, in 2014, I made 19 items.  Two of them were household items and three of them were for other people, so that leaves me with only 14 garments for myself.  I wouldn’t say that any of those items were super hits, but if I had to pick one thing that got used more than anything else, it’s probably my Under Armour leggings.  They’re just so practical and fit me so much better than the fleece tights I’ve bought from Target.  I have more Under Armour fabric and would like to make another pair, but I’d like to use a tights pattern this time instead of a leggings pattern.  If I had to pick a miss, it would easily be my Victory Patterns Anouk.  Unfortunately, I just don’t feel comfortable in it for three reasons:  the fabric under the front placket blouses out a little, making me feel like I look like I’m pregnant (and that’s AFTER eliminating all the gathering there!); the little window at the neckline is too low and shows my bra a little sometimes; and I failed to notice or fix the swayback issue on the back of the dress, leading to all sorts of ill-fittingness.  That one makes me sad because I really like the design and the fabric I chose, plus I always get compliments on it when I wear it, but I just don’t like it.

So that’s my mini review of 2014.  If I had to set a goal for 2015, it would be to sew more things!  And thanks to a crazy bout of productivity, if I can manage to finish everything I have in the works right now, I will have sewn more than I did in 2015 very shortly.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to have my tonsils out, and indeed I did.  I decided that I would take two weeks off after the surgery to recover, and hoped I might feel well enough to sew during that time.  For a few days, I mostly slept, but once I felt well enough to be up and doing things, all I wanted to do was sew – I’m sure because I’d done so little sewing in 2014!  I also know that I have another very busy year coming up, so I guess I wanted to make the most of this little reprieve I granted myself.  So in the past week and a half or so, I’ve finished 7 tops and I’m in progress on 2 tops, 4 dresses, and 1 cardigan.  I’ve cut out 2 skirts and 1 more top as well (actually that’s a lie – one of those skirts is one I cut out like two years ago and started working on again).  Dear readers, if I can manage to finish all those things in relatively short order, I’ll have 17 items, which is almost equal to my total output last year!  What is the secret to my productivity?  I’ll share more as I blog about each item, but it was largely making multiples of the same patterns and using TNT pattern pieces to make alterations to new patterns prior to muslining.  I’m working on a McCalls 6696 shirt dress right now, and I used the pattern pieces from some of my Deer and Doe dresses to compare and make some quick changes prior to sewing up a muslin.  I still had to sew two muslins (and the dress I’m working on now is one I’m thinking of as a wearable muslin so I won’t be too disappointed if something goes wrong), but I shudder to think of the time I would have spent in muslintown if I hadn’t used a TNT pattern at the outset.  Oh, another secret to my productivity is KNITS.  So easy to fit, can be easy to sew if you don’t make a bunch of dumb mistakes like I did.  Mistakes which I will recount when the time comes.

Even though I wish I’d had more time for sewing in 2014, I am glad that I can say I was able to conquer a new garment.  I’ve really been wanting to tackle pants and jackets for a long time because it’s so impossible for me to find well-fitting versions of those garments in RTW.  I swore that I was going to tackle pants in 2014, but it didn’t happen.  I’m not going to swear the same this year.  I hope I find the time to figure out pants, but I’m not going to make it an official goal because I might be more excited about sewing other things during the limited time I have to devote to sewing, and I don’t want to feel bad about that.  But I definitely feel good about my blazer sewing accomplishment!

I used to love to wear blazers.  I would wear them constantly.  I have no idea why I got so into blazers as a 23 year old, but I totally did and I totally looked about ten years older than I was.  I hardly ever wear them now that I am ten years older than that (!), but I think that’s mainly because when I started sewing, I realized how ill-fitting they all were on me.  I always have problems with swayback issues and above the bust/near the armhole.  I thought I’d start with a Simplicity Amazing Fit pattern to help me with the bust issues, so I picked up Simplicity 2446.  It was a pretty darn good fit right out of the envelope, which is evidenced by the fact that what you see below is a wearable muslin of this pattern.  And there were no pre-muslins to my wearable muslin, as there were for my shirtdress.  I knew I wanted to make a muslin of this jacket that was fully complete with the collar and everything because I’d never made a jacket before and practicing the construction would be essential before setting out to make a real jacket that I’d wear to something like an interview (a situation that is not currently in the stars for me, but I will continue to hope!).


So with this wearable muslin, I can see some weird creasing at the armholes, and as soon as I sewed this up, I realized that I should have made sure I was getting a pattern with armhole princess seams rather than shoulder princess seams.  I’ve made both before and found that the armhole version was much easier to adjust.  I think if I had an armhole princess seam, that creasing would be gone or much less noticeable than it is here.  But even with that creasing, this still looks pretty good!  The only changes I really made were to take in the princess seams on the back to deal with excess fabric and bubbling above the waist.  You can kind of see a bit of this in one of the photos below, but it’s very minimal.


Since this was a wearable muslin and since I don’t have any quality interfacing and since I hate fusible interfacing anyway, I didn’t put any in this jacket.  It’s true; I’m an interfacing-denier.  The fabric was ridiculously cheap at the Textile Discount Outlet, so I wasn’t committed to making this a wardrobe staple or anything.  It’s some kind of wool blend and it’s super scratchy.  Wool and I don’t get along very well, which is incredibly sad to me because I love wool, and this is definitely one of the worst ones I’ve dealt with.  Very stiff and wiry.


The skirt is the Champagne from Capital Chic, sort of.  I had a pencil skirt pattern that I knew fit, so I just cut out the flounce pieces for the Champagne and adjusted them to fit the existing pattern.  I figured there was no need to reinvent the wheel.  I just wanted that cute flounce in the back because I can’t stand a plain pencil skirt in a solid color.  I just don’t have it in me to make something that boring.  When I got the skirt made up, I tried it on and showed it to Ben, very excited about my adorable flounce.  He expressed confusion about whether the skirt was supposed to be hanging like that in the back.  I expressed my resolve to never ask him an opinion about my sewing again.  I wore this suit to my practice job talk and everyone there assured me that they knew it was supposed to be like that, but looking at this picture, I can see where my husband was coming from.  The wool fabric doesn’t quite have the drape that would be most flattering for this style, and it also gets too creased after sitting.  Lest you think Ben is just some heckler, let me tell you that he was totally wowed by the jacket.  While I expressed some concerns over its shoddy construction (which I’ll get to momentarily), he said that it fit so well that no one would notice.  He was convinced that this was the best-fitting jacket he’d seen anyone wear, ever.  It’s definitely the best-fitting jacket anyone’s ever seen me wear, even with those two little issues I identified above (above-the-bust and back wrinkles).  I’ve never actually had a blazer that I could wear buttoned up – I always had to wear them unbuttoned to disguise the many fitting issues I faced.  This one actually looks better buttoned up, which I suspect is because it doesn’t have the interfacing to lend it the structure it would need to sit nicely when not buttoned.  But I’m amazed that I have a blazer I can button up!  It’s a first!


I like the way this jacket looks with jeans more than I like how it looks with the skirt.  Hmph.

Let’s see, how many things are wrong with this jacket?

1.  Have you noticed that the sleeves don’t have vents?  The sleeves are supposed to have vents.  I had to shorten the sleeves because they were too long, and when I was cutting the pattern, I didn’t know how much they’d need to be shortened.  I thought I could just deal with it when the time came.  Not so, because of the flap for the vent.  When you shorten the sleeve, you’re just hacking off a huge chunk of that flap at the bottom, and you can’t do anything to get it back except cut another sleeve.  So I decided to jettison the idea of sleeve vents.  I ended up having to really narrow my sleeve at the wrist as well because the other half of the vent construction has a mitered corner, so you don’t have as much room at the wrist as you’d need to just sew a straight seam.  I’m totally fine with this error, though, because I like the width of the sleeve at the wrist now.  It would have been way too wide otherwise.

2.  Have you noticed the weird bubbling at certain points around the bottom hem?  I had some issues getting this thing properly pressed, which I again blame on lack of interfacing.

3.  Do the lapels look too wide to you?  They’re not supposed to extend past the princess seam lines if the envelope photo is any indication, but mine do for some reason that I can’t fathom.

4.  THERE IS A PUCKER IN THE BACK OF THE LEFT SLEEVE THAT MAKES ME WANT TO SCREAM.  Ugh, these sleeves were nearly impossible to ease in!  After I’d set in the sleeves, I remembered that I’d seen somewhere that you can sew a slightly stretched bias strip around the top of the sleeve that will make it easier to ease into the armscye.  I was hesitant to remove any sleeve cap ease because I didn’t have enough fabric to cut even one new sleeve if I messed it up and I didn’t want to make another trip to the Textile Discount Outlet hoping that they had more of this stuff in stock.

5.  All manner of sloppiness on the inside of this jacket.  It’s shameful.  See exhibits 5a through 5e.

5a.  I ended up doing a lot of the finishing work the night before I had to wear it, and that did not bode well for me figuring out how to properly bag a jacket lining.  I still don’t understand it.


I don’t know if you can tell in this picture, but there’s really no bagging.  Isn’t the lining supposed to be sort of blousey at the bottom?  I have no idea what I messed up there.

5b.  And turning the corner for the collar/lapel on the inside nearly did me in.  It looks like a horrible mess, but it’s not visible from the outside, so I rolled with it.


Yiiiikes.  I have serious problems making this sort of pivoting look nice.  It’s part of the problem with my Victory Anouk, and my Grainline Alder has some issues in this area as well.  I think I’m too timid with my clipping.

5c.  I tried to add a pleat to the lining too, for wearing ease, since I couldn’t understand why it wasn’t drafted that way.  That was a fail.


What a sad little pleat!

5d.  The lining sleeves are somehow longer than the regular sleeves and have to be tucked back up the arm when I put the jacket on.  OH!  While typing that sentence I realized why the lining sleeves are so much longer!  When I cut length off the sleeves, I didn’t make the same change to the lining.  Writing really does help you think things through!


5e.  Because everything else about this jacket is so messed up, I never felt like sewing up the hole in the lining sleeve that I pulled everything through after bagging the lining.  What’s the point?


6.  And the whole thing is just a bit too short.  I thought I’d be safe making the cropped length because I’m short, but apparently I’m not that short.  I ended up taking the smallest possible seam allowance on the bottom front to avoid a super short blazer.


I’m looking forward to making my next jacket, in which I hope to solve at least half of the problems I had with this one.  Can anyone recommend a good resource for bagging a jacket lining, preferably a video?  I used Jen from Grainline’s tutorial, and it was by far the most helpful–I had absolutely NO idea what I was doing until I used her tutorial–but I’m really terrible at figuring things out from diagrams or even photos, so I think a video would be better for me.

One final note about this suit.  I’d wanted to sew a shell to go underneath it using this gorgeous teal fabric I got from Emma One Sock.  But I ran out of time, so I just used the only other thing in my closet that went well with the color:  an activewear shirt from Eddie Bauer.  It has a little tab along the bottom hem that indicates its status as an activewear item, and the whole time I was wearing this for my practice job talk, I kept having to check to make sure the bottom of the shirt wasn’t exposed below the hem of my jacket!  It’s the shirt I wore to trek through the ruins of Chichen Itza when we went to Mexico last May, and it cracked me up that I could also wear it with my suit.  It has a pretty decorative neckline that’s kind of hard to see in the photos above, though, so I felt like it was sort of okay to wear with the suit.  Again, not something I’d wear to an interview in a billion years, but it served the purpose for my practice job talk.

Oh yeah, and my hair was purple!  Can you even tell in these photos?  It was totally purple and this particular color got me so many billions of compliments from strangers (including one comment noting that I had “awesome hair” in my student evaluations for last semester – teaching goals accomplished!) that I must be crazy to have already dyed it back to my natural color.  There’s that whole potential interview thing, though, and I didn’t want to be caught off guard, having to dye my hair the night before an interview.  I can think of at least ten potential disasters lying in wait in that scenario.  But here’s the thing – I dyed it that semi-permanent purple color probably two months ago.  I dyed it a permanent brown-black color two weeks ago.  The brown-black is already fading and the purple is showing through.  I’m telling you, if you want a so-called semi-permanent dye that will survive nuclear winter, Pravana Chromasilk Vivids are for you.


Dec 162014


Hey!  I’m back, and I have pink hair!  At some point between taking the photos for my first two Daturas and taking these ones, I used hair dye remover to get the red out of my hair, bleached it a second time in hopes of getting it to be platinum, and then realized I would probably never have hair that was both healthy and platinum.  Instead of attempting a third bleach (not right away, mind you!  Double-bleaching without rest time in between is a great way to fry your hair), I decided to just dye over the yellowy orange post-bleaching color with pink.

Oh, hey, that’s also a new skirt!  It’s Simplicity 2152, which is out of print.  I decided that I had to have this specific skirt and no other would do, so I had to buy it from sewingpatterns.com, which is an AWFUL company.  They don’t actually give you a pdf of the pattern; you have to download this weird pattern viewer software that doesn’t work half the time and print your pattern from there, and they only give you like three prints.  HELLO, HAVE YOU HEARD OF A COPY MACHINE?  If I really wanted to make more than one copy of this, I could easily just take my printout and copy it.  But who on earth wants to do that?  And who on earth has done that?  I feel like the sewing community is pretty honest.  I’ve never heard of anyone attempting to get away with using someone else’s pdf pattern rather than buying their own.  Independent pattern companies make lots of money by only selling pdf patterns, and they don’t use weird, buggy, obtrusive software, so I feel like sewingpatterns.com needs to calm down.  I honestly don’t remember what I did to get the software to actually work for me eventually aside from screaming profanity at it.  I was worried it wouldn’t ever work based on some comments on Pattern Review, but it did work for me.  You can’t really see the detail here, but the skirt is paneled and has pockets on the front.  It’s made out of denim I bought at Vogue Fabrics in Evanston, IL.  It’s a very strange denim – it’s white on the other side and is very stiff, though it’s not a heavy weight.  Unfortunately, I think I ruined the fabric by using too big of a needle on it.  I thought denim = huge needle, but I soon realized from the way my sewing machine sounded that it wasn’t necessary, so I switched to a smaller needle.  The places where I used the larger needle are fraying now!  I guess the large needle really just made holes in the fabric.  Also, this skirt looks sort of crappy now because the denim got these stress marks on it the first time I washed it, so it has these whitish spots that make it look old and ratty.  I want to remake the skirt with different fabric, because I just don’t care for the weird stiffness, even aside from all the problems.


I guess there was something really interesting on the floor to the left of me that day.

So that’s the skirt – what about the shirt?  This is the first Datura I made with a collar.  My next one also has a collar, but it’s a print collar on a solid fabric.  I really love this shirt – the fabric is quilting cotton from Joel Dewberry’s Heirloom line, and I love the green color and the pattern.  I was originally going to put a grey collar on this, but then I had a vision of this scrap of navy blue fabric left over from a doorway puppet theater I made for my nephews a few years ago.  I searched high and low for this scrap that I knew existed, and when I finally found it, it was a lot smaller than I remembered, and I could only just fit the pattern pieces for the collar on it.  Serendipity!  I sewed the collar with smaller seam allowances because, silly me, I kept thinking that if I used the full seam allowances, the connection between the two halves of the collar wouldn’t even be visible anymore!  Well, yeah, it’s not supposed to be!  The idea of any real collar is that you have two halves of a shirt that you’re buttoning together, meaning that the collar pieces are separate and don’t connect in the center.  So if you’re making a mock collar, you wouldn’t want the two pieces to be visibly connected.  I guess unless you’re me.  For whatever reason, I was convinced that the two pieces should visibly connect.  So that’s what I have here, and I don’t hate it.


Oh, hey look at that!  Pink hair!  Well, it was pink before, but there’s pink and then there’s pink, you know?  I like this color.  I’ve moved on to something else, but this was a good one.  I wasn’t sure I’d like pink hair on myself, but I really do.  I thought the lighter pink might make me look jaundiced because my skin tone is pretty yellow, but I don’t think it looked bad at all.  And I really love this richer, more jewel-toned pink.


I really wanted to make a solid Datura with an accent collar, and I have almost no solid fabric, so I dug out this piece of fabric, which I got to use as a bag lining back when I thought I was going to make tons of bags.  It’s the same as the teal fabric on my first Datura.  As soon as I decided on this fabric, I knew I wanted to make the collar out of this awesome floral fabric that I used in a quilt a few years ago.  Yes, I’ve made a quilt.  It’s just a little lap quilt, but I made the whole thing myself, including some really terrible free-motion quilting.  I’ve had a second quilt top and back pieced for like two years now and I’m too lazy to start quilting it.  Soon, I hope!  Anyway, this is an Art Gallery print by Pat Bravo, I think.  I love love love it.  I’ve always been sad that I used it to make a quilt instead of something to wear, so I’m glad I shoehorned it into a garment finally.  And bonus for using a scrap!


This scarf is one of my absolute favorites.  I think my mom got it for me at Talbot’s a few years ago.  You can’t tell in this picture, but it has sparkly threads woven through parts of it.  So pretty!  I can wear this if I don’t want the collar to show.


I haven’t shown you the buttons on any of my other Daturas because I’m too lazy to take pictures of them, but for this one I went with green.  Green doesn’t really match anything on the shirt, but they were the right size.  I don’t have enough smaller buttons!  These are from a boatload of buttons I bought back when I was making cards.  Buttons used to be (maybe still are?) a really popular decoration for cards.  I’m really glad I bought all those buttons now that I’m sewing!


There’s that pink!  I’ve moved on to a new color, but I really liked this one while it lasted!  I had it for like a month and a half I think and it never faded!  The brand of dye I used is amazing – it’s Pravana Chromasilk Vivids.  I did a ton of research to find a dye that wouldn’t just wash out immediately, and this is what I came up with.  I can confirm that it’s ridiculously long-lasting.  In fact, it’s impossible to get out.  I shampooed with the harshest shampoos I could find in hopes of fading it enough to dye teal over it, but no dice.  You can’t bleach it out, apparently (it drives the color into your hair shaft because bleaching opens up your hair cuticle), and hair dye remover doesn’t work on direct dyes.  Since teal wouldn’t end up looking teal over pink, I just went with another color that would cover pink well.

That’s it for today.  On Friday, I’m having my tonsils out, but I hope I’ll be feeling well enough to do a post about the suit I made before too long.  We’ll see!


Nov 092014

Wow, so it’s been 2 whole months since I last posted!  This semester is totally kicking my butt.  I’m teaching two classes, which isn’t a ton, but they’re both a lot of work.  I feel like I’ve been grading and commenting on papers constantly.  But what’s really eating up all my time is searching for a job.  When you’re looking for a job as an English professor, you look at listings in the fall starting in September, then you apply to everything you possibly can in hopes of getting an interview at the major convention in my field, which happens in early January.  If you’re lucky enough to get one of those and it goes well, you’ll get invited to visit the school’s campus, where you’ll give a talk based off a chapter from your dissertation, meet with a bunch of professors, administrators, and possibly students, and maybe also do a teaching demonstration.  In my department, it’s traditional for people who are on the job market to do a practice version of the talk they would give at the much hoped-for campus visit.  Mine is next Friday.  So in addition to just applying to places (which took a ton of prep time getting all my materials together before the jobs were even listed), I’m preparing this talk.  I feel like I’ve never worked this much before in grad school, and I haven’t even had time to work on my dissertation.  I’m just constantly grading, reading, commenting, revising application letters, researching schools so I can tailor my application letters to be relevant to what they’re doing, etc, etc.

I haven’t had a ton of time for sewing, and I’ve also mostly been too exhausted to even want to sew.  I really wanted to make a winter coat this year, but that isn’t happening, so I went and bought one last week.  I had cut out a muslin of the Deer and Doe Pavot, which is what I wanted to use, but I had some problems right away, possibly because all my stress-eating has put me in a larger size, so I just abandoned it.  I made a skirt for a suit, though, and I’m working on the jacket for it right now in hopes of being able to wear it next Friday.  The jacket fits well so far, but I haven’t put the sleeves on it yet.  I’m a little nervous about how that will affect the fit at the shoulder/armhole because that’s usually a problem area for me with RTW jackets.

What I’m blogging about today, though, is two Deer and Doe Daturas.  I have two more, but I’m saving them for another post.  I started making these way back in the summer for the One Week One Pattern challenge, if you can believe that.  I didn’t get all four done in time, but I did take a bunch of photos with different looks just because I thought the idea was fun.  I’m kind of terrible at sewing for challenges or sewalongs.  When I feel like I’m forced to do something, I don’t want to do it anymore.  The minute I commit to doing some challenge, I all of a sudden get an urge to sew something totally different and then start to hate the challenge project.  I was a little fatigued with Daturas by the time I finished the fourth one, but I really needed some tops and I like the details on this pattern.  It’s a lot easier to make a pile of clothes when you’re using the same pattern!


That’s actually the second one I made, and it’s made of green linen I bought from Emma One Sock.  It’s a very nice linen – soft and drapey.  I have a RTW linen dress that’s kind of stiff and weird, so I was pleased with the quality of this linen.  I have this love/hate relationship with linen – I love how it feels and I love how it looks when it has a few classy wrinkles like you might see in a catalog.  I hate how it ends up looking on me after I’ve been sitting in my usual contorted positions all day.  For that reason, I haven’t bought a ton of linen, but I want to buy more blends.  This Belladone is made from a linen/cotton blend, and by some strange property of hybridity, it wrinkles less than either fabric would on its own.  Magic!

Linen is pretty ok to sew with, though this one was raveling like crazy.  It is not at all good for making bias tape, though, so that part was frustrating.  It kept sort of warping as I was pressing it, and I thought it was going to drive me crazy.  After I finished this top, I realized that it reminded me a little of Kermit the Frog because of the color and the triangles at the neckline.  That’s okay, though – I like Kermit!  In the photo above, I’m wearing it with one of my cheap maxi skirts I bought at Target after I fell while running this summer and got a huge gaping wound on my leg.  I think I might hack that one off to wear with tights during winter, but it all depends on my motivation to do anything after this practice job talk.  So, linen + maxi skirt = summery look.


This one is a fall look, obvs.  I really love pink and purple and green together, so that explains what’s going on here.  It might be kind of hard to tell that the cardigan is purple, but it is.  I know you all want to know where my pink polka dot scarf is from.  It’s from Target and it’s one of my most very favoritest scarves ever.  I have quite a few, but I seem to only ever wear this one and another one that will feature prominently in my next Datura post.  Remember how I mentioned in the Belladone post referenced above that I thought I couldn’t wear belts?  Well, for a long time I thought I couldn’t wear scarves.  My neck, like every other part of me, is really short, and I thought maybe only people with long, elegant necks should be wearing scarves.  But then I realized that people who want to wear scarves are the ones who should be wearing scarves.  And my life improved a lot because scarves are awesome.  Especially when they have pink polka dots.


Next up, the first Datura I made.  This one is made out of some quilting cotton from Rashida Coleman Hale’s Koi line that I actually bought to make a bag.  The accent fabric, which you might be able to tell has a strange sort of sheen, is also fabric I bought to make a bag, but not the same bag.  I had this brilliant idea for a line of bags made from wool felt with cutouts that exposed bright colors like this one underneath, and with thread sketching around the cutouts.  I still maintain that those would be awesome bags, and I still have the bolt of wool felt and yards of brightly colored fabric, but I no longer have any interest in employing myself as a bag factory worker.  I don’t know what I’ll do with the wool felt, but this turquoise-ish fabric went pretty well with the Koi fabric, so I was able to stashbust some of it.  I don’t really know what it is.  I thought it was cotton broadcloth from Joann’s, but it definitely has some poly content based on how it behaved and the sheen it has.


I had the brilliant idea to pair this split-back shirt with this skirt that has a lace accent.  But I soon realized it was too much party in the back.  I am not at all into the way the split in the shirt leads into the skirt accent.  But I thought you might enjoy seeing my wacky ensemble.  I did not make that skirt, though I have taken it almost completely apart and resewn it.  This skirt was handmade by this woman who used to sell skirts in a local boutique sort of place (the word boutique seems so silly to me, but I think that’s what they called themselves?).  These skirts were not cheap.  But this woman did not finish her seams beyond pinking them, and the seams shredded, so I had to fix it.  I also have a skirt from her with a beautiful appliqued accent that looks all wavy because it wasn’t properly interfaced.  And I had another one that had these circle cutouts appliqued, but they were just pinked and then sewn on with a straight stitch rather than zig-zagged at the edges, so they also shredded and started to fall off.  Good ideas, poor execution.  And high prices.  As soon as I learned how to sew, I stopped buying skirts from her.  I also did some surgery on this skirt when I lost some weight last year.  I like the lace feature, so I wanted to salvage it instead of donating it.  But I think we can all agree that it shouldn’t be worn with this top!

That’s it for today.  I hope to be back soon with my other two Daturas.  The pictures are taken and part of the post is drafted, so hopefully it won’t be too long before I can finish it up.  When I do, you’ll see two new hair colors, and neither of them will even be the color my hair is right now.  Coloring hair is fun.  I’m off for now to continue working on this talk!





Sep 042014

Those of you following along with the hair color game will notice that my hair is much redder than before.  Thanks are owed to Wella 6R, and no thanks are owed to Age Beautiful’s “light strawberry blonde,” which turned out more like light carrot orange.  These pictures are a week and a half old and I’m realizing that my hair is noticeably lighter now.  My roots are also coming in with a vengeance, so it won’t be long before my hair is teal!


What you see before you today, aside from a gorgeous mop of red hair, is a Grainline Alder, view B.  Oh, and also a new spot in my living room.  I took these pictures very late in the day, so I had to move from my usual spot in the corner furthest from our windows because it was totally in shadows.  My camera may not be the DSLR I long for and it may, to my perpetual consternation, not be compatible with remotes, but what it does do is pick up all available light like a mofo.  You guys, it was really dark in that room when I took these pictures and I was pretty sure I’d have to give up and try them another day.  They’re not the brightest, but I’m shocked you can see anything!  You can definitely see that mess of wires under my husband’s second desk, though, so sorry (he works from home and this is his personal desk, while I usually stand next to his work desk.  Your eyes do not deceive you – we have two of the exact same desk).


So, the Grainline Alder.  I was obsessed with this dress from the moment I saw it on Jen’s Instagram.  You see, I love love love shirt dresses, but I feel like they don’t flatter me very well.  But when I saw these style lines, I thought I might have a shirt dress I could actually wear.  The results are debatable, but man did I have a fun time sewing this up.  I had no idea how enjoyable shirt-making could be.  I loved the precision of all the steps and I enjoyed putting on the collar, and I love how it turned out – so professional!  A lot of what I sew seems unique to me; for the most part, I sew because I can’t find things I like or that fit me in stores.  But a button-down shirt is a button-down shirt.  It seems silly after sewing for so long, but I got a thrill out of making such a standard, recognizable item.  Like, “Wow, I really can sew things just like you can buy in stores!”  Like I said, silly.  I’ve traced off a pants pattern because I’m determined to conquer them this year, and I expect to feel the same silly way about them.


But the above photo accurately captures my dissatisfaction with how the Alder looks on me, and let me be clear that the problems are all my fault.  This pattern is great, it’s just that I made it a size too large, and failed to notice until literally the last second.  I finished everything, tried it on, and thought, “Oh, this is actually way too big!”  And I’d made a muslin and everything – a muslin that was too big.  I made very few adjustments to the muslin, and I think I was just so shocked and delighted that the fit was pretty good right out of the package that I didn’t quite see that I’d chosen the wrong size.  The Alder is supposed to be loose-fitting, so it’s not that it looks terrible or inappropriately large.  It’s just that I think I’d like it more and find it more flattering on myself if it wasn’t quite so billowy.  I’ve thought about nipping in the side seams a bit, and I may do that.  It would mess up my nice finish on the inside, though, which would make me sad.

The only alteration I did make to this dress was to pinch out some armhole gape and rotate it to the bust dart.  This made the bust dart look to be about the same size as most of the patterns I sew, so I thought I was golden.  In retrospect, the fact that such a narrow bust dart fit me should have been a sign to me that I was going about things incorrectly.  I think what I really needed to do was sew a smaller size and do a full bust adjustment.  Next time!  And I’m pretty sure there will be a next time for this dress.


Hey, there’s that collar I loved constructing!  Like everyone else who’s sewn a collar and stand recently, I used Andrea’s tutorial, which makes the whole process so easy.  If you notice any floppitiness in my collar, it’s only because I didn’t interface anything on this dress, not because Andrea’s tutorial was lacking.  I don’t have any good interfacing and I’m on a fabric fast, so I couldn’t buy any.  Perhaps I could have made an exception for interfacing, but I didn’t think it would be a big deal for this dress.  It’s a more casual sort of thing, so I didn’t think I would miss the extra stiffness in the collar or button band.  I may live to regret this decision; only time will tell.grainline-alder-collar-detail

Now, you may be saying to yourself, “Hark! I see some shiny space fabric in this Grainline Alder view B!”  And you would be correct.  This dress is from space, and it has the harsh reflection of light from its silvery coating to prove it.  This fabric is a funny story.  I saw Sew Dixie Lou’s post on her metallic linen cami and immediately high-tailed it on over to Mood’s website, where I ordered some of what I thought was the same thing.  When it arrived, I couldn’t help but laugh out loud when I unfolded it and realized that it would make a great costume for this guy who wanders around downtown Chicago dressed in a metallic suit and covered in metallic paint, pretending to be a robot for tourists.  It was WAY shinier than Clare’s appeared to be.  I even asked her if hers was blindingly metallic, and she assured me it was not.  Readers, I bought the wrong fabric and Mood doesn’t accept returns.  And this fabric wasn’t all that cheap.  I was quite distressed, but eventually came up with what I thought to be a quite inventive compromise:  using the fabric with the wrong side out.  Someone (I sadly can’t remember who!) recently posted about how Kenneth King argues there’s no right side to fabric – there’s only the side you want to show.  I think that Kenneth King fellow is right on.  I was initially set on dyeing this fabric a deep teal, but was too lazy to order everything up from Dharma trading and didn’t relish the idea of hand-stirring my fabric for an hour as I can’t extend the spin time on the coin-op washers in my apartment building.  So I stuck with the grey, also rationalizing that my hair would soon be bright colors, which would mean that perhaps some neutral clothes are called for.  I ended up really liking the grey, so I’m glad it worked out.grainline-alder-metallic-inside

And here’s the inside of my shiny shiny space dress.  I was a bit worried that the metallic surface might reflect my body heat back on me, sort of like those space blankets, and make me too uncomfortable in the summer heat.  My husband assured me it wouldn’t work like that.  I’m happy to report that my understanding of science was woefully inadequate enough for my suspicions to be proven untrue.  It’s a wee bit hard to tell in these photos, but I did use the metallic side as an accent on the button band and collar.  Despite my concerns about looking like the robot man, I secretly do love my shiny space fabric, and wanted a bit of it to be visible.



A few closing notes:

-You can barely see my scar from my hideous wound anymore!  It’s on the leg closest to the camera above.  I was diligent about putting vitamin E oil on it once I was able to stop bandaging it up, and I think it really helped.

-There’s been a lot of great discussion about blog photography lately, making me want to purchase a DSLR and a prime lens to make my photos look as gorgeous as those of Amy and Jenny. Lacking the funds to do so, I decided to take another bit of Amy’s advice about posing. So here’s me trying to face the light and trying to look pensive.  I think I look depressed, which may not be that inaccurate during what is going to be a very busy semester for me on many fronts.  Next time I experiment with blog photography, I will definitely use the low-to-the-ground Oona tip.  These photos were taken before she posted about it, so I haven’t had the opportunity yet.

-In the past few weeks I’ve sewn three Deer and Doe Daturas and have a fourth on the horizon.  I’ve been toying with the idea of participating in One Week, One Pattern, and I think I’m going to go for it, so look for that next week.

-I sat down and planned a bunch of fall sewing earlier tonight, and while I’m positive I overplanned, I’m excited about sewing some cooler-weather items.  I have a pair of purple pants planned, so my game plan is obviously the best.  I’m also very excited about sewing a winter coat, which my button-down shirt success inspired me to do. I think I’m going to go with the Deer and Doe Pavot because I usually have success with their patterns.  I’m also having a great time ogling wool coatings on various websites. September 22 and the end of this summer stashbust cannot come quickly enough for me!

-On a summer stashbust note, I consider this make a real win. I was certain this shiny, impractical fabric would sit in my fabric bin forever, so I’m really glad I found a use for it!

See you soon with my stockpile of Daturas!

Aug 282014


So, first things first.  I bleached my hair and now it’s red!  I was bleaching it with the intent to dye it a more vibrant shade of purple, of course.  Once I bleached it, though, I really liked the gingery color that resulted, so I decided to do red for a little while.  Even though I liked this color a lot, it’s a little too light and orangey for my skin tone, plus it was uneven because I didn’t listen enough when people online said your roots would bleach a lot faster than the rest of your hair because of the heat from your head, so my roots turned out bright yellow.  I ended up dyeing it a much darker and more vibrant red, and I think it looks better with my skin and more natural.  I mean, it’s still pretty obvious that I’m not a natural redhead, but at least it doesn’t clash quite as much.  I think I must have been inspired by Tasha’s recent transformation, which I love!  I finished a Grainline Alder last week and already have some photos, so if I can get my act together and write up a post, you should be able to see the new red soon!  Once my roots grow out, I’m going to use hair dye remover, bleach out whatever red is left, and actually do teal first.  Once that fades, I think I should be able to put purple over top without too much interference.  Yay colors!


Now on to the actual topic of this blog!  Today I have a fairly altered version of McCall’s 5893, a maxi dress.  The two substantial changes I made were to make this a little bigger so I could sew it in a woven, and to make the dress out of a single piece in the front and a single piece in the back rather than having a separate bodice.  I didn’t really like having a seam line breaking up the length of the dress.  I’m so short that I thought a continuous piece of fabric would be more lengthening.  I don’t know how much of a difference this makes in a busy print like this, but it was especially important for the second one I made, which was a border print with stripes along the middle of the fabric.  Keeping those stripes intact made the dress look a lot better than it would have broken up.  Unfortunately, my darts are all kinds of wonky on that dress, and I really don’t want to wear it.  They were super pointy and I couldn’t do anything to fix them.  When I tried, the points actually turned from single points to these weird elliptical bubbles.  Ugh.  I really liked the fabric I used, but at least it was only two dollars a yard at Vogue.  It’s a poly and wasn’t taking a press very well, which I think is part of the problem.

Another thing that making the dress all one piece did is allow me to eliminate the gathered skirt.  I didn’t feel like a long gathered skirt would be a good look for me, so what I did was just leave the vertical bust darts open at the bottom so the dress would still give me some ease through the stomach and hip area, which makes me feel much more comfortable.  I really like how this turned out.  I think it’s flattering, and I have plans to use this construction method on tops and other dresses.


In that photo, I was trying to smile at the voluminousness of the skirt, but I ended up looking skeptical, which I think is actually quite appropriate!  I’m not sure maxi dresses look that great on me in the first place, but the volume in this skirt especially made me worry it was too overwhelming for my short frame.  I’m still not sure if I should take it in at the side seams.  The width of this skirt was another thing I altered, come to think of it.  I was worried it wouldn’t be wide enough based on the pattern as drafted, so I used a maxi skirt I have from Target as a guide.  However, the skirt is a rayon jersey and has awesome drape, whereas this skirt doesn’t drape quite as nicely.  I thought it might because it’s a nice cotton lawn, but it’s just not as good as jersey.

So you might be wondering why I decided to make a maxi dress if I was so uncertain of how it would look on me.  I had kind of been wanting to try a maxi dress this summer, but my hand was forced about a month ago when I stupidly fell while out for a run and got a huge disgusting scrape on my leg.  It was truly gross and had to be covered with a huge bandage, and there was no way I was going to go out with it or even the bandage exposed.  So I pulled out this pattern, which I think was one of the first ones I bought back when I started sewing!  I also went to Target and bought a bunch of maxi skirts because I just didn’t have enough clothes to get me through the week and couldn’t sew up everything I needed quickly enough.  One of the Target skirts is so ridiculously long that I’ve actually hiked it all the way up and have been wearing it as a dress.  I know I’m short, but come on, Target!  These skirts are made for 7 foot tall women!


So my foot looks a little pale and dead in this photo, haha.  But this photo captures what’s constantly happening as I wear this dress – I have to hold up the skirt to go up stairs, get in cars, avoid getting the dress in puddles.  It’s actually one of my favorite things about this dress.  It makes me feel like a princess!


Not much to say here, but I like to include a back shot because sometimes what looks good from the front looks hideous from the back.  I’m happy with this one, though.  I do think I’ll make the back narrower at the arms, though.  This extending pretty far out onto my arms, which happened because the neckline is really wide on this dress.


Not much to say about the side, either.

mccalls-5893-dramatic-frontThis picture cracks me up.  I wanted to do a dramatic shot, but I ended up looking like I’m leading the charge into battle in some old painting.

I’ve definitely been inspired by Oonaballoona’s maxi awesomeness, and I did sew this during Oonapalooza month, but I didn’t get my act together with photos.  So I’m going to say this is my contribution for the Sewcialists’ Tribute Month, and it’s a late tribute to Oona!  I only wish I would have caught on to her low-to-the-ground style of photography, because this just-shy-of-five-feet girl needs all the help she can get.  I’ll definitely try it next time.

So with all that being said, I’m sort of thinking of chopping this dress off at the knees.  A maxi just isn’t that wearable for me, and I would kind of like to wear this into the fall with tights, boots, and a cardigan.  On the other hand, this is a really summery print, so maybe it would look weird in the fall.  What do you think?

Jul 242014

I’m still working on that Cambie I keep mentioning.  There are so many annoying things that have happened during the construction of this dress, all of which I’ll talk about in what will hopefully be my next post.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the pattern; it’s all my fault for not thinking things through when lining eyelet with a different color, plus something went wonky in my fit from muslin to final garment, which is what I’m dealing with right now.

So, next most important thing:  hair dye.  I mentioned in my last post that I was going to dye my hair, but I didn’t say what color.  I had initially wanted to dye my hair bright pink, but I went to a sort of costume party a few months where there was a pink wig, and I realized my yellowy-olive skin looked gross with pink hair.  When I talked to my hairdresser, she agreed that pink wouldn’t be good for my skin tone.  So I turned to purple, which is my favorite color.  I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned it here, but the number of things I own that are purple is reaching a disturbing height.  So dyeing my hair seemed both a natural choice and probably one that would make me look like a purple people eater.  But the hairdresser recommended purple because she thought a reddish one would be great with my skin.  I think she was right.


That’s me right after getting my hair dyed at the salon.  All of it is dyed a very dark purplish brown – so dark you can barely even tell it’s purple – and then there are highlights with a brighter reddish purple.  Another thing I initially wanted to do is totally bleach my hair to platinum and then dye it colors because then I could use much more vibrant colors.  I didn’t end up doing that because I just went with what the hairdresser recommended, which was this.  I was a little nervous about bleach frying my hair, so I didn’t argue.  Next time I think may have my whole head of hair taken down a couple levels and dyed the color of the highlights because they’re my favorite part.  Plus, those are the parts that are bleached and they’re not damaged at all, so I think I should be okay.

The purple seemed really subtle to me, which made me a little sad, so I decided to put some Manic Panic over top of it to see if I could make it more vibrant.  It’s a subtle difference, but I think it is a little more purple with the Manic Panic.


I have like a billion hair pictures because I kept taking them in attempts to convince myself that my hair really was noticeably purple.  Here’s a sunlight picture, where the purple that seems so similar to my dark hair color in low light really pops:


However, you guys, Manic Panic is a huge pain in the ass.  Ever since I did this a week and a half ago, it’s been turning my fingernails purple.  So now that I have purple hair, I apparently have to always paint my nails purple as well because painting them yellow (which is what I’ve done today) leaves them with gross purple streaks.  The first day I did my hair after adding the Manic Panic my hands turned seriously purple, and I kept hiding them in my pockets like a weirdo while I was trying to teach.  In addition to all of that, it’s already significantly faded.  Has anyone ever tried Manic Panic and had the same problems?  If so, have you found an alternative?  I’m going to try Special Effects next, which Lauren Lladybird recommended to me, and I hope it isn’t as annoying as Manic Panic.  After my next salon appointment, I hopefully won’t have to do this again because I’ll be able to get my whole head looking like the highlights I have now, which should be vibrant enough.

The purple is very similar to my natural dark hair color, plus I think it looks almost natural, so I haven’t had many comments on it.  The hairdresser actually called it “adult purple” when we did it, so it’s pretty tame.  But the funniest story that I’ve gotten out of this hair dyeing situation is when a student who came in late one morning raised her hand in what I thought was an attempt to answer a question I had just asked about the article they had read for the day.  Instead she said, “I have an unrelated question. I came in late, so maybe I missed this, but is your hair purple?”  Everyone busted out laughing, and I’m guessing some others were wondering the same thing.  I laughed and told her that she hadn’t missed, like, an announcement or anything, but yes, my hair was purple.  Haha!  My next favorite story is when a friend sent me a picture of a coloring book page her three-year-old daughter had colored that day because she had given the lady in the picture purple hair.  Her daughter hadn’t seen me or anything – it’s just that great minds think alike!

Ok, with all that hair nonsense out of the way, how about some sewing projects?  Today I have two household projects to show you instead of the usual garments.  The first one is a new ironing board cover.  A couple of years ago I got fed up with my cheap ironing board from Walmart leaking rusty water all over my clothes, so I did a bunch of research and found that a lot of people like this Reliable ironing board:


So I got it even though it was pretty expensive and some friends made fun of me (little do they know how much I’ve spent on other sewing nonsense!).  It’s very sturdy and it’s all powder-coated metal, so it’s not supposed to rust.  However, the cover has always bugged me because the white sides of it will flip up so that there’s a lip on the edge of the ironing board, which make sit hard to move your fabric around, plus the padding has always been too thin for my tastes.  Then I got fusible interfacing goop on it.  Then I spilled juice on it because in our tiny apartment, the ironing board gets set up in the kitchen where it sometimes ends up serving as additional counter space.  So I decided to make a new cover out of some home dec weight Amy Butler cotton sateen I got for a quilt but ended up not using because it didn’t go as well with the other colors as I thought it would (that quilt?  front and back pieced over two years ago, batting bought, remains unquilted to this day.  the quilting part terrifies me.  boo.).  I also added two cotton towels underneath it for padding, and I placed all of this over top of the original padding as well.


This is one of my summer stashbust projects, because I’ve had this yard of fabric hanging around for longer than I’ve had that unquilted quilt hanging around!  There’s some leftover, so I think I’m going to make a new cover for my tailor’s ham so it matches.  I used Sunni’s tutorial to make the cover and it was all pretty straightforward.  The only thing was that I didn’t have enough elastic to run through the bias casing, so I just used some thick pearl cotton I got a long time ago for pintucking and tied it.  It was the only thing I had enough of!  The next time I’m at Joann’s I’ll have to pick up some elastic and switch it out.

A better view of the fabric:


The next project is a new shower curtain.  About a year ago the apartment above us had some issue with the plumbing that caused our ceiling to leak.  It left a gross-looking rusty water spot on our shower curtain, and assuming it would never come out, I just didn’t even bother trying to wash it.  I was sick of the shower curtain anyway, so I began a massive hunt to find the perfect new shower curtain.  I didn’t really want to sew one because shower curtains are both wider and longer than 60″ wide fabric, so I’d have to piece it together, and that really bugged me.  I thought I’d probably end up not matching the pattern precisely enough and it would end up  looking tacky.  Even so, I bought some curtain fabric from the Textile Discount Outlet that was long enough.  Well, it wasn’t wide enough.  So I went back and bought some more.  I got it home and realized it was ever so slightly different than the first piece I’d bought.  I decided I would just piece the fabric together in multiple strips, and then it would look like I’d gotten the two very similar but slightly different pieces on purpose.  But I was sort of fed up by that point and lazy and I also hate sewing things that aren’t garments, so that never came to fruition.  And the massive search for the perfect shower curtain fizzled out because every shower curtain currently being sold is fugly, ya’ll.  I searched every single website and store I could think of, and everything was either too boring, too fussy, too ugly, or too expensive.

But about a month ago we were at Ikea and I thought, hey, Ikea might have a cheap, awesome shower curtain!  Well, reader, I was wrong.  They, just like every other place I had searched before, had no decent shower curtain options.  But then I thought, hmm, Ikea has other cheap goods.  Perhaps I could buy one and harvest the fabric for a shower curtain?  I checked the duvet section and found a couple I liked, but decided again that I didn’t really want to spend time sewing one.  So I went home and searched every place I had already searched, found nothing that wasn’t outrageously expensive, and when I found myself back at Ikea the next day because we had bought the wrong drawer for our end table unit (isn’t that always the way with Ikea?), I just bought the duvet cover.  And now I’m the proud owner/creator of this shower curtain:


Plus I have enough leftover fabric to make a whole other shower curtain because the duvet cover was the same on both sides!  We also got new purple rugs (we use Flor tiles because they’re easy to clean and replace) for the bathroom at the same time, because purple.

Here’s the old shower curtain, which I was super sick of.  This picture is actually from the apartment before the one we’re living in now, so that’s why the bathroom looks totally different.


I’d had my fill of it, plus I’m not really into that branchy flowery style of things anymore.  I’m more about bold graphic things when it comes to my living spaces these days.

The shower curtain was super easy to make.  I just measured the old one, noted down its seam allowances, then copied it.  I made buttonholes to put the hooks through, and that was that.  Oh, I did also interface the top hem where the buttonholes are to add some sturdiness to the area that would be holding the whole thing up.  Our shower curtain had a plastic overlay in that area, but I never understood the point of it because it ripped the first time we had to take the shower curtain down.

Another view of the shower curtain, now with flash!  I had a real crisis over whether this picture looked better with flash or without, so now you know a little about how high strung I am!


That’s it for today!  I hope to get that blasted Cambie finished soon so I can wear it and post about it.  I love the fabric I chose, but man is that dress trying to kill me!


Jul 082014

Friends, I am so excited because in about  half an hour, I’m going to get my hair dyed!  I’ve wanted to dye my hair for forever, but it’s so dark that I’d have to strip color from it first, and I’ve never felt like I wanted to do the maintenance for all that.  But I’m getting to be an old lady and I have quite a few grey hairs now.  Grey hair is awesome and I can’t wait until all of my hair is grey, but for now, the hairs are so few but so noticeable that I’m not really loving the look on me.  I figured since I was going to start dyeing my hair anyway, I might as well take some color out and dye it a color, which is way more fun than just dyeing brown over brown.

The dress I have today is from quite a while ago – I made it before my Summer Sureau and my Simplicity 2648 Belladone mashup .  It’s based on Kwik Sew 3758, but it’s really only the concept at this point, because I took a TON of volume out of the gathered skirt and used my v-neck Renfrew pattern for the top.  So I didn’t even get out the Kwik Sew pattern for this one, but I did get the idea from them!


The top is some kind of doubleknit from Vogue.  Vogue sells these beefy doubleknits I really like called Sophia from Logantex (the same people who make Ambiance bemberg lining, also a fave).  Vogue advertised the doubleknit line above as a cheaper alternative to the Sophia knits.  I think the Sophias are like $13 a yard, and this one was around $5.  It was a great deal and it’s very similar to the Sophia knits, but it’s not quite as beefy.  I decided to be a super cheapskate when I bought it only got a half yard because I knew that would be enough to make this top, plus I didn’t want a ton of leftover.  It turned out that Vogue cut my half yard WAY off grain, so I ended up not having enough to do binding around the armholes – I just barely eked out what I have here from the wonky half yard they gave me.  I ended up just folding the armhole under, which resulted in it being kind of wavy.  It sort of irritates me, but I don’t really want to go back and buy a micro piece of this fabric just to be able to make bindings.  I’m also having some gappage around the armholes that make me think any more tinkering with this wouldn’t be worth it.  I often have wrinkling around the armholes in knits, I think because my upper bust measurement is so different from my full bust measurement.  The next time I make a knit top, I’m going to use Devon’s tutorial for fixing armhole gape.  It looks like it will work well.


So the other thing about this dress that’s bugging me is that I made this obi style belt thing for it, and I think it looks better without it!  Above is the dress with the belt, and the first picture was without.  Now, as we know, I’ve had a moment of clarity regarding belts and decided we were friends.  Maybe not so with obi belts?


Side view without belt.


Side view with belt.  I feel like it emphasizes those weird wrinkles around the bust.


Back without belt.  Looks okay . . .


Back view with belt?  The less we say about that, the better.


If I scrunch up kinda funny, it looks a little better, but still no.

If I wear this with a cardigan, the belt looks okay, so I guess I’m not totally irritated that I spent time making it.  Anyway, it was a simple and straightforward make – Renfrew v-neck cut off at the waist with two gathered rectangles attached.  The gathered rectangles are made from quilting cotton, which I seem to keep buying because I fall for the patterns, but never want to sew because the drape is never what I’m looking for.  But it’s perfect for something like this, so I may have a ton more of this kind of dress in my future!   The specific quilting cotton is Secret Garden Bamboo Pebble in lilac from Nel Whatmore.  I like it, but the colors looked more saturated online when I bought it, and I wish I had the fabric I saw on my computer screen rather than this.

Anyway,  I gotta run so I can get my hair dyed!  See you soon with fun hair color!


Jun 282014

Hello, dear readers.  It appears I haven’t abandoned you for quite as long as I have previously, so huzzah!  What I’m about to show you has been finished for a while, and the photos were taken and edited a while ago as well.  I had every intention of posting sooner, but right after I published my last post, I headed to Kentucky to spend a week scoring Advanced Placement exams.  It was my third year doing it, and while it’s never fun to read 300 AP exams per day 7 days in a row, this year was probably better than the last two because they made us work fewer hours.  There are three questions on the exam, and every year the topic for the each of the essays is different.  This year, the question I scored asked students to analyze a letter Abigail Adams wrote to John Quincy Adams, who, if you took US History classes and can recall them, you will remember is her son and the fourth president of the US.  Let’s just say that if I never hear about the Adams family again it will be too soon.

Anyway, I had grand plans for drafting blog posts while I was there and doing a bunch of other stuff too.  Not only did I not do it, but I also sat around like a zombie for a week after returning because my brain was so fried from reading all those essays.  The only thing I did manage to do was get to the Zappos outlet in Sheperdsville, KY, which was about a half hour from where I was staying in Louisville.  It was awesome – everything is at least half off the retail price!  I got one pair of shoes that have been on my Zappos wishlist for a long time, a random pair of sandals that were super cheap, and another pair that are super comfy and cute.  You’ll see them soon because I’m planning a dress to go with them. They’re blue, and I asked the friend who went with me whether I should get them because I woudln’t know what to wear with blue heels.  She was like, “Are you serious?  Just sew something to go with them!”  So that’s what I’m doing!  I even had some fabric in my stash already that will work.

What I’m writing about today is a Deer and Doe Sureau made sleeveless for summer out of Cloud 9’s Palos Verdes organic cotton voile.  I had been seeing it floating around the blogosphere (both garmentosphere and quiltosphere!) for a while and loved all of the prints, but couldn’t decide which one to get.  I ended up getting “Abalone Cove,” but in looking up the name to be able to tell you, I question whether I should have gotten “Lunada Bay.”  I just joined Sally’s Summer Stashbust, though, so that ship has definitely sailed for this summer!  I’m not usually one to swear things off (see my thoughts on continuing to buy RTW in my last post), but I’m running out of space to store fabrics, and I’m also finding that I have several beautiful silks that I’m too nervous to sew with.  I need some motivation to quit buying more fabric that I can’t store in one of my three spots designated for doing so, and I definitely need motivation to sew what I have.

As I have mentioned before, I LOVE Deer and Doe patterns (though I just had a bad time with the latest, Centauree, but more on that in a future post), and I especially love the Sureau I made last fall in corduroy.  Ever since I made that one, I’ve wanted to make a sleeveless version for summer.


I don’t have a ton to say about this dress, actually, because everything was the same – it was a pleasure to sew and fits beautifully, just like the last time!  When I made my version last fall, I made the shoulders a bit narrower.  They turned out to be the perfect width for a sleeveless dress, which was one of the things I was nervous about in attempting a sleeveless version.


The voile was also a pleasure to work with.  It’s nice and lightweight, but since it’s cotton it’s not difficult to sew.  I lined the dress in bemberg rayon, but after wearing it in the heat, I wonder if it would have been better lined in something like cotton batiste, which would be more breathable and less sticky in the humidity.  I think I might switch to using cotton linings for summer dresses and using rayon for fall/winter dresses only.  This would mean that when I wear my summer dresses in winter with cardigans I’d have to wear a slip because cotton would probably stick to my hose, but whatever.  Being too hot in the summer is the worst!


One thing I did change was to leave off the zipper.  I never use the side zip in my corduroy Sureau because the dress is loose enough to just slip over my head.  Because I was lining this dress, putting in a zipper would be even more annoying than usual, so I just omitted it, and it’s been fine.


I don’t remember what I bought these buttons for, but they match the fabric pretty well.  They’re shell, and while they’re a little browner than I would have preferred, I didn’t want to buy new buttons when these worked well enough.

I have one other new dress to show you, then I really need to get cracking because I don’t even have a new project cut out yet!  The dress I’m making to go with my blue shoes is what I’ll make next, and it will be a Cambie made with bluish grey eyelet.  MOAR EYELET!  Right now I’m also working on a new ironing board cover.  I may have mentioned that my apartment is very small one or a million times.  Well, my ironing board is usually folded up and put away because I have no permanent spot for it, and when I do set it up, it goes in the kitchen, with the unfortunate side effect of us using it as additional kitchen counter space when it’s set up.  You can see where this is headed.  I spilled juice on my ironing board and now whenever I iron things, I have to put a towel down over the cover unless I want whatever I’m ironing to smell like rotten juice.  I’d been wanting to make a new cover because the one that came with the board was never padded enough for my liking, so this just gives me the motivation to finally do it.

So I hope to be back soon with new dresses and a new ironing board cover!  And I hope to finish my Miette that I’m knitting sometime soon, too.  I’ve been seeing so many awesome sweaters I want to knit up after I’m done, but I absolutely refuse to have more than one knitting project going at a time, nor will I buy yarn unless I’m actually going to start knitting with it that day.  The shop I frequent gives a discount on new yarn when you bring in a completed item made from materials from their shop, so that’s a good motivator to not buy yarn before I’m ready to start knitting with it.

Jun 062014

It has again been a while since I last posted, but this time I have half of a good excuse:  last week Ben and I went to Mexico!  I have no excuse for not posting during the preceding four weeks, though, so it’s not a whole excuse.  We had such a great time, and I really want to go back, though I always say that about everywhere I go and never repeat trips because there are just too many things in this world to see. We spent lots of time swimming in the Caribbean . . .


Swimming selfie!

. . . we snorkeled . . .


We bought waterproof cases for our phones so we could take pictures underwater. Our snorkel guide took this photo of us taking photos of things in this cenote, which is like a freshwater pond.

. . . we saw Mayan ruins . . .


Me trailing our tour guide Isaac in the ballcourt of the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

. . . and perhaps the highlight of the trip for me was meeting this adorable squirrel monkey.


Monkey friend!

And of course, we ate tons of delicious Mexican food.  I love traveling, and I hope that 1. I can find a real job when I’m done with this Ph.D. thing, and that 2. this real job will provide enough money for more regular travels. Before we left, I spent a lot of time sewing up summer dresses.  In addition to the one I’m writing about today, I made a summer Sureau from Deer and Doe and a modified version of Kwik Sew 3758.  Today I’m going to tell you about a mashup of Simplicity 2648 and the Deer and Doe Belladone.  I’ve made three Belladones now, and I absolutely love the skirt.  I like how the front pleat allows some extra give around the tummy area but still looks clean and smooth, and I love the option to add slash pockets.  I didn’t do the pockets on this dress, though, because I had to squeeze this dress out of like 1.5 yards of fabric.  I never buy enough fabric! While I love the Belladone skirt, the back bodice is too distinctive for me to want a thousand versions of it, and the front bodice is a little too boring for me to want a thousand versions of it.  I wanted to find a good v-neck bodice, which was more difficult than I thought it would be because most of what I could find were surplice necklines, which don’t tend to work on me in wovens.  I do love regular v-necks on me, though, because they visually break up the bust area and elongate the neck, both of which are flattering for large-busted shorties like me.  I also wanted to find a TNT princess-seamed bodice, so I looked for one that had regular and v-neck options that I could easily attach to any skirt I wanted.  I ended up with Simplicity 2648, which I was excited about because it’s one of their Amazing Fit patterns.  I usually have terrible luck with the Big 4, but I’d heard good things about the Amazing Fit line from Simplicity. simplicity-2648-front I think it turned out pretty well!  There’s still a bit of wrinkling under the bust that I want to work out in the next version, and the waistline itself is just a smidge too tight, but overall I think this fits pretty well.  I didn’t make a whole ton of alterations, either.  I did my usual taking up at the shoulders, but not as much as I usually do – I think I only took it up a half inch because one of the amazing fit options is for petites.  The princess seams fit pretty well, but I took them in here and there to reduce some wrinkling I had.  I did alter the Belladone skirt by turning the regular pleats into box pleats, which I thought might made the skirt even smoother.  I don’t know if it’s all that much smoother than the regular Belladone pleat, but it does add some variety, so that’s good. simplicity-2648-side Thankfully it’s really hard to see, but I totally forgot to match up the bodice and skirt darts on the back of the dress, so they don’t match at ALL.  The eyelet fabric hides it pretty well, and I don’t think you can see it at all in this photo though it’s somewhat noticeable in person.  When I realized what I had done, I ripped out the pleats on the front skirt and realigned them so they matched the princess seam lines on the front because I didn’t want to look at mismatched seam lines every time I looked in the mirror, but I wasn’t about to rip out a whole dart in eyelet where the stitches sink into the embroidery around the eyelet holes.  I was too worried about snagging the embroidery, so I left it as is, figuring that most people wouldn’t know the difference anyway.  Thankfully, it ended up not even being that noticeable. simplicity-2648-back You can see kitty Desdemona yelling at me in the photo above (she looks like a little floating ear, eyes, and mouth to the right of me!), so I had to appease her with a few pets: simplicity-2648-petting-cat The eyelet fabric is from Joann’s.  I bought it last summer as part of a grand plan to sew up a bunch of summer dresses, but never got around to using it.  I was excited to find some perfectly matching poly satin at Joann’s for lining because I find that one of the RTW elements that’s hard to duplicate in home sewing is perfectly color-coordinated accents or trims.  I’m always seeing dresses or tops with lace or crochet details that perfectly match the main fabric, but it’s hard to come by different types of fabrics that match each other perfectly unless you’re sewing neutrals, and we all know that I NEVER sew neutrals (though I totally need to because my closet is starting to look like a carnival or a clown convention!).  What I’ve realized since buying this fabric is that Joann’s often has coordinating colors in their bridal section that match some of the seasonal fabrics.  However, I’m not as excited about this as I once was because they’re all poly.  I usually line with Bemberg rayon when linings are necessary, which can still be a little hot in the summer, but this poly made this dress almost oven-like in the humid heat of Mexico.  I definitely won’t be wearing it on the hottest days of summer! While serging the bodice and waist together, a piece of the skirt lining accidentally made its way under the serger knife.  I didn’t want to tear everything apart, go back to Joanns and hope to find more of this fabric, then re-assemble everything with the new piece, so I just cut a piece of the leftover scraps and darned the hole closed.  I was a little nervous about this because the lining is visible through the eyelet, but you can’t tell at all.  What a relief! simplicity-2648-mistake I roughly followed Sewaholic’s tutorial for a clean-finish machine-sewn lining because I despise hand-sewing, but I couldn’t work out how to finish the armholes using this method.  The tutorial is for the Cambie dress and its armholes are constructed in a unique way, so I wasn’t sure how to handle the regular armholes on this dress.  I’ve used Rae Hoekstra’s clean-finish lining method for dresses without closures in the past, but I couldn’t figure out to do that on this dress either because of the zipper.  I’m sure there’s a way to make these lining methods work together, but I think it dawned on me that they weren’t going to play nicely too late in the process – if I had tried to finish the armholes earlier than I did, I may have been able to do it.  Since I was too late, I ended up doing the armholes last and just finishing them with bias binding.  This bias binding (which is from my oft-mentioned benefactor, my friend Annah’s grandma) is extra narrow, which I think ended up not being that great because it makes the armhole smaller (does that make sense?  Smaller binding=smaller seam allowance=smaller opening.).  The armholes are just a bit too high on this dress for me now, and coupled with the waist seam that’s just a bit too tight, this isn’t the most comfortable dress I’ve ever made.  Next time I’ll get it right! simplicity-2648-armhole-binding I really love the eyelet fabric, so I’m sad that everything didn’t work out perfectly, but it’s still a wearable dress.  I love eyelet so much that while I was in the middle of making this dress, I went shopping and bought a dress from LOFT made of eyelet.  You can see it in the picture above where I’m holding my monkey friend.  I was a real renegade, buying a dress right in the middle of Me Made May, in which I chose not to participate.  But that dress is exactly why I shouldn’t participate in things like Me Made May or RTW fasts.  I still really enjoy shopping, and when I spot something unique that fits, I want to be able to buy it (and wear it, whether it’s May or not!).  The trouble is that things don’t usually fit–which is what drove me to sewing in the first place–but when they do, I don’t have a strong belief that I should avoid buying them just because I know how to sew.  I do have some concerns about supporting unfair working conditions in the fashion industry, but honestly, I’ve never shopped at the notorious “fast fashion” places, and I know less about how the fabric that I buy is produced than I do about how the clothes from Ann Taylor stores are produced.  They have a website at www.responsiblyann.com that describes the steps they take to ensure fair working conditions and sustainable manufacturing, though of course I’m trusting them to be telling me the truth.  There’s no way to find out how the fabric I buy is manufactured in most cases, so I can’t say I’m totally innocent of supporting bad things simply by sewing at home.  In conclusion, I love both my new dress from LOFT and my new handmade dress and have mixed feelings about pretty much everything else, haha.

Apr 202014

Today I have something a little different to talk about:  a dress for a little girl!

I’ve been thinking about what makes me enjoy sewing and what makes it feel like work lately.  A lot of people talk about “selfish sewing,” which is a term I don’t really like.  I have enough trouble feeling tremendously guilty when I do things for myself.  I don’t want to feel like whenever I sew for myself, I’m being selfish.  I put a lot of hours into learning what I know about sewing, and I want to reap the benefits of those hours by having clothes that actually fit my body, which is something that is simply not possible when I buy ready-to-wear clothes.  There’s always something I have to alter or decide to live with even though it’s ill-fitting.  I enjoy my sewing time most when I’m making things for myself, and it’s my hobby, and I’m deciding to not feel guilty about it.

But with all that said, it’s not that I hate sewing things that I won’t personally wear.  When I decide to sew something as a gift for someone else without them asking, I find that I really enjoy it.  The dress below is one I decided to make as a birthday gift for a friend’s little girl, and I really enjoyed sewing it.  I still don’t know if it fit her well, which is the problem with sewing gifts for people, but wondering about the fit was really the only thing that was stressful about this dress.

I used the Geranium pattern from Made by Rae.  I have two Washi dresses made with Rae’s version of this pattern that’s for adults, and I love them.  I’ve never blogged them because I made them so long ago and they don’t fit so well anymore, but I want to make more of them, so maybe I’ll end up writing about one in the future.  Both dresses have cute pleated skirts and lined bodices (Rae has instructions on doing a full lining if you’d like), but the children’s version has a button up back and the women’s version has no closures and a shirred waist in the back.  The looser fit is cute on little girls, but I love the way the shirred backing allows for a closer, more customized fit in the women’s pattern.


The fabric I used for this dress is quilting cotton from Pat Bravo called Innocent Charm from the Coquette line.  I bought it for myself because I thought it was so pretty, but when I got it, I realized it was too pale both for my skin tone and my personal style.  I spent hours online looking for the perfect fabric for this dress, but then I realized that I already had it in my stash.  I used some hot pink ribbon at the waistline because I apparently can’t do anything without a shot of bold color, and I really like how that turned out.  Using ribbon or piping at the waistline also allows for a cleaner finish, because you have to stitch in the ditch around the waistline to secure the bodice lining, and if you have ribbon or piping, you can just stitch under it where no one will ever see.


These buttons are again from my friend Annah’s grandmother.  I have tons of buttons that I bought myself, but lately I seem to find the perfect match in her grandmother’s buttons.  You guys, these buttons were so hard to get lined up straight!  My markings didn’t line up because I didn’t overlap the two back pieces as much as the pattern called for because it looked like it was distorting the way the skirt was hanging.  I don’t know why – it might be that I did something wrong, or it might be that there’s something funky about the way the pattern is designed.  I don’t know how closures usually work on kids’ clothes, but on this one, there’s a center back seam on the skirt, and you when you sew them together, you leave about three inches at the top unsewn.  After sewing the two pieces together, you fold the seam allowances over twice so they’re finished, and then you stitch them down to the skirt.  Then the skirt pieces connect to the bodice pieces, and the opening on the bodice extends into the skirt, if that makes sense.   So the problem I had is that when you overlap the two bodice pieces, the opening on the skirt sort of bubbles because there’s overlap built into the bodice pieces, but not into the skirt pieces.


I don’t know if any of that makes sense because I’m terrible at describing spatial relations (perhaps why I never got any of those technical writing jobs I applied to straight out of college!).  But the point is that I moved my buttons over a bit to compensate for the way the skirt wasn’t laying flat, and that made the buttons really difficult to line up.  You would think it would be easy to just use the buttonholes as a guide, but it wasn’t for me.  I think I sewed them on three times trying to get them straight!  As you can see, I eventually got the buttons on straight and the ribbon on the back lined up reasonably well.


For the clean-finish bodice lining, I used Bemberg rayon.  Sorry for the sort of poor quality of these pictures, by the way!  I took them the night before I left for Ohio, which is where the little girl who now owns this dress lives.  I finished it that night and was leaving super early to catch the Megabus, so I didn’t have a chance to get photos in the daylight.


It even has pockets!

Overall, this is a really cute pattern and pretty easy to sew up.  I don’t know what happened with the back closure, but I’m guessing I just did something wrong because no one else has complained about it.

I had a lot of fun making this tiny dress, from choosing a pattern (it was between this one and the Oliver + S Seashore Sundress) to sewing it up.  I really wanted to make a handmade gift for this particular little girl, because her mother was one of my dearest friends before she passed away three and a half years ago, and we bonded over creating things.  We used to make hand-stamped cards together all the time, and I know she would have appreciated a gift I made with my own hands.  Even though she wasn’t there to appreciate it, I felt like I was honoring her memory while I was making this dress.