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Sep 132015

I’m doubling up again in hopes of getting all my summer makes blogged before it gets too cold.  It’s been flipping back and forth between chilly and blazing hot here, so I might be safe to keep talking about and wearing summer clothes a little longer!

In that spirit of continued summer, here’s the final dress from the seven-dress frenzy of June 2015.  As I’ve been banging on about all summer, I dropped everything else in my life and made seven dresses in like two weeks prior to going to Kansas City to score essays for a week.  I regret nothing.  I’ve worn all of those dresses tons this summer, and they were a good investment of time.

This one is made of Cotton and Steel double gauze, and you can see right away below that I didn’t adequately prepare for the loose-woven nature of double gauze: I should have interfaced the waistband.  I didn’t realize this until the whole dress was together, though, and I abhor seam-ripping serger stitching, so I just have a kind of sloppy dress.  I’m going to just plan to interface all my Belladone waistbands from now on.  Especially since the esteemed McCall’s 6696 asks you to interface the waistband, and those waistbands always come out looking sharp.


I’m still getting used to my camera settings, so sorry about the darkness.  I’ll get it figured out someday!  Using the regular settings was resulting in super blown-out photos, though, so darkness it is.  They don’t look quite this dark on the camera screen, so I’m going to have to start bumping the f-stop down a few numbers past what looks good on the camera screen.


I never put a hook and eye in this dress, which is quite obvious in the photo below.  I hate putting in hooks and eyes, so I often just don’t do it, but the dark color of this dress against my skin makes my laziness a bit too in-your-face.  But look at that waistband matching!  I used a contrast fabric for the waistband to give myself a little waist definition, which is always welcome in my household.  It’s a coordinating double gauze that matches the little asterisks in the print.  I really like the effect and I wish I could find coordinating solids like this more easily.


I also used the solid double gauze to make my own bias tape, which I hardly ever do, but I thought it would be senseless to use a soft and cozy fabric like double gauze and then use stiff pre-made bias tape on it.  I also thought I’d be a genius and handstitch my bias binding down so the dress would have a clean finish from the outside.  But I was too lazy and made my stitches too far apart, so what you see below is what my horrified eyes saw the first time this came out of the washer.  I still haven’t fixed it even though I’ve worn the dress again – oops!  It’s not causing major problems yet, but I clearly need to fix it before the double-gauze binding shreds and I need to replace it entirely.  I’ll probably just machine stitch it this time to avoid having this problem again.


Next up is another Belladone (which, if you couldn’t already tell, is one of my pattern true loves alongside McCall’s 6696).  But this time, it’s a knit!  As I mentioned a few posts ago, I made a knit Belladone a couple years back but the fabric pilled and looked awful right away.  I’d wanted to make another one ever since, and decided against making a Morris blazer with this fabric in favor of making my longed-for knit Belladone.  I LOVE this dress, so I’m glad I went for it.

There is one issue, which you can see below in the way the stripes distort at the shoulder – the fabric in that area has some minor wrinkles.  For one thing, I should have narrowed the shoulders more.  The second thing is that I made my armhole binding slightly too short for this knit, which is very stable.  I read somewhere that 85% of the opening is a good length for knit bindings, so that’s what I did.  That worked out perfectly for the neckline, which is much more prone to gaping or standing away from the body, but it’s a bit too tight for the armholes.  I’d kind of like to cut the shoulders in a little bit and redo the binding, but I’m also kind of lazy.  Plus sweater season is almost here, so this will be covered most of the time anyway.


This is a really stable ponte, so I didn’t size down even though this is a knit.  I thought I might have to take it in, but it turned out fine.  This is definitely a secret pajamas dress, and it makes me want to make a thousand more.  You’ll notice that I kept all the darts, even though this is a knit.  This may seem reasonable for this dress because it’s made of a pretty stable ponte, but I’m actually planning on making all my knit tops with darts from now on.  I get a much better fit, and I’ve noticed that a lot of knit RTW has darts or princess seams.  I have a few knit dresses from Target and LOFT with darts and one with princess seams, and they look perfectly fine and fit well.  I always wanted to avoid darts in knit garments because I thought they would look Becky Homecky, but an ill-fitting garment looks much worse than a well-fitting darted one, and if it’s good enough for Target and LOFT, it’s good enough for me.

As you can see below, my stripes got really wonky around the waistband and I’m not sure why.  I cut the waistband pieces so they’d match, but something went awry.  My skirt side seams are still fairly matched because I sacrificed waistband matching to get them to look right.  I figured my arms would cover the side seam at the waist a lot of the time, but the skirt side seams will always be visible.


Back of striped dress is striped just like the front:  truth in advertising.  I accidentally made a cutting mistake right away, so I had to cut my back skirt pieces separately to conserve fabric even though they should have been cut on the fold because there’s no zipper in this dress.  I think I did a pretty decent job of lining up the stripes.  I can see where the seam is, but I think it’s hidden pretty well for those not in the know.


And here’s my lovely binding, which I painstakingly folded right on the stripe so it could be solid black.  You can also see my rear skirt seam.  Oh, and my coverstitching.  I almost used the sewing machine instead of the coverstitch because this knit is so stable that it really wouldn’t matter.  But I went for it because I paid money to own a coverstitch machine, so I should probably use it.


And there you have it:  two Belladones. That brings my Belladone count up to six, I believe, but a couple of them are two years old and too small to wear.  McCall’s 6696 is currently beating it at seven, but it’s close.  I also have a Belladone frankenpattern that I finished a couple of weeks ago, so if we count it, I think my 6696 and Belladone counts might be neck and neck.  Plus I’ve used the Belladone skirt on tons of dresses because it’s my perfect dress skirt: slightly a-line, darted in the back, and front pleats for extra belly room without adding bulk.

When I first started sewing, I never wanted to repeat patterns because I thought it would be dumb to have a closet full of the same clothes in different colors/prints.  I’ve obviously changed my tune on that one, and it’s a good thing because if it weren’t for repeat patterns that don’t require several rounds of muslining, I wouldn’t have nearly as many clothes!

Aug 052015

Last year I made a summer Sureau out of some gorgeous Cloud 9 organic voile, but I only wore it a couple of times.  I thought voile would be the perfect thing for a summer dress, but the print I bought was very light in color, so I had to line it.  The lining made the dress unbearable in the heat, so I never really wanted to wear the dress.  I believe I’ve previously mentioned that this summer, I discovered that dark printed voiles are magical summer fabrics.  Light enough in weight to keep you cool and dark enough in color to not need lined.  When I bought a pile of dark printed voiles a few months ago, I earmarked one of them for a new summer Sureau, and it is much better than last year’s version!


I made this one out of a Pat Bravo printed voile from Art Gallery.  It’s from the Etno line and it’s called Shore Remains in Algae.  In the little images online stores use to sell this fabric, the background looks sort of brown or grey, but it’s actually a dark navy blue that looks pretty much black.  I never would have ordered it if I thought it had a brownish greyish background, but I saw photos of the actual fabric on Hawthorne Threads so I knew I liked the way it actually looked.


This was probably my least favorite of all the voiles when I bought them, but the dress has gotten a ton of compliments and I like the color more than I thought I would, so it’s moved up in the rankings.


As with my latest versions of McCall’s 6696, I very unscientifically added a little extra at the side seams to accommodate weight gain.  The dress ended up a little bigger than necessary, but it’s supremely comfortable, so I left it as is.  I am so loving my loose breezy dresses this summer!

pat-bravo-etno-shore-remains-deer-and-doe-sureau-button-detailThe buttons are just cheapies from Joann’s I had lying around.  They’re a sort of iridescent shell, but it’s hard to tell in the picture.  I looked everywhere for buttons that would match the light blue triangles in the print, but it turned out to be a really difficult color to match.  I settled for sort of matching the cream flower petals.

I’m really glad I redeemed the concept of the summer Sureau with a a better fabric choice!  I really love the Sureau – I think the neckline is flattering, and I love that the gathering at the bust means fewer darts.  The skirt also seems to have the perfect amount of gathering – not so much that it’s poufy and just enough that the skirt looks appropriately gathered.

I still have a few of my summer dresses to post, but I’ve been sewing in the meantime.  I’ve been working on another 6696 (my sixth!) that’s trying to kill me, and I’m also making a knit Belladone.  I made one before but never got around to posting it; here’s a quick picture I took back when I made it:


I loved that dress but the knit was pretty crappy and got pills all over it right away.

I’ve also been working on a pile of muslins.  Since it worked out so well to cut a bunch of dresses out at once and sew them all up, I decided I’d give a try to cutting a bunch of muslins at once.  I posted a picture of them to Instagram, though it’s hard to see which patterns they are:


I’ve got Butterick 6168, McCall’s 6503, McCall’s 6891, Simplicity 1803, and Simplicity 1873.  I’ve got the fit sorted on the two Simplicities and McCall’s 6891, but McCall’s 6503 is giving me major fit issues, ugh.  Butterick 6168 doesn’t have a side bust dart because it has under bust pleats.  But I still need a side dart, so I’m trying to figure out if I should add one or if I should somehow figure out how to rotate it into the pleats.  But I hope to finish up my knit Belladone and my 6696 soon so I can get started on sewing a few of these up as final summer patterns.  It might seem late to be sewing summer dresses, but it will be pretty hot through September, and I’ll need lots of clothes because I’m going to be teaching five days a week instead of three this fall. Wish me luck with teaching and sewing for teaching!

Apr 172015

Hi kids!  Today I have a Deer and Doe Belladone to show you, plus I have some thoughts on purchasing Vlisco fabric, which is what this dress is made of.

First, the dress.  This is the Deer and Doe Belladone, which I’ve made twice before.  You are seeing it photographed in my grandma’s backyard on one of the many days when it was too cold to visit the beach while we were in Florida.  But I’m next to a palm tree, so it’s better scenery than is usually offered on this blog!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-back
Also good scenery:  a puppy!  He’s not really a puppy, but I’ve taken to calling all dogs puppies.  That’s Bentley, my grandma’s dog.  He’s is actually not at all a spring chicken; he’s advanced in years for a miniature Doberman Pinscher, and as a result he has diabetes and poor vision.  Which is very sad, but also adorable when he tries to jump up on the couch to sit on your lap and has the grace of a baby giraffe trying to find its legs.  Re: the dress, there’s a little wrinkling on the back that I’ll try to take care of in future versions, though I’m not sure I’ll use the cutout back again.  It’s a bit too distinctive for me to want to have five of them.  I’ve decided I’m okay with a closet full of Archers and McCall’s 6696s, but I draw the line at cutout backed Belladones!


My lovely photographer, my mother, decided to get artistic, which made me laugh.  But I do like how this photo turned out!


As we were taking this picture, Bentley decided to photobomb me while taking care of his business.  I 1. find this hilarious, and 2. like the way the wind is blowing my skirt, so the photo gets posted.


Another through-the-palm-tree shot with bonus puppy.  You can see here that I scooped out the neckline a bit.  That Belladone neckline is really high!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-waistband

Here you can see my waistband seam matching, which is excellent except for the fact that the side on the right is a little bit shorter than the side on the left.  Boo, but I was very pleased with my invisible zip seam matching.  I didn’t attempt any pattern matching because I just barely had enough fabric to eke out this dress, plus I can’t even discern a repeat in this pattern.  The fabric, as I mentioned above, is Vlisco.  This one is their voile, which seems exactly like their Wax, Java, and Super-wax (I’m pretty sure I have them all in my collection) to me, so I’m not sure what the difference is supposed to be.  This one did seem more shiny when it arrived, but they all look and feel like quilting cotton once they’ve been washed.Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pink-serging

I used pink thread for my serging!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-binding

And pink bias tape!Vlisco-Deer-and-Doe-Belladone-detail-pocketAnd pink pocket lining!  I actually didn’t intend to use pink pocket lining, but I had to cut my pocket linings on a single layer because I was squeezing this out of 2 yards, and I accidentally cut them both on the same side.  I always do this when I’m cutting on a single layer!  Ugh.  But I like my pink lining, so it’s all good.

So what am I talking about when I mention liking problematic things?  Well, for background, you can read this: How to Like Problematic Things*.  After buying my Vlisco fabric, I realized I didn’t really know anything about it.  People call it African wax, but in what precise way is it African if it’s made in Holland?  So not at all like the good consumer I would like to be, I looked up information about this stuff after purchasing it.  I found a couple sites explaining the history of the type of prints Vlisco sells: What is Ankara? and The Origin of Ankara.  I learned that these types of prints are the result of the Dutch appropriating Batik fabric-making techniques from Indonesia in order to sell fabric in Indonesia for cheaper than local producers could.  Hmm, I don’t like that.  Colonizing, mass manufacturing a good made by the people you colonized, then selling it back to them for profit?  Not cool, Dutch (but then we all knew the Dutch were no paragons of virtue when it came to colonization, right?).  The fabric ended up not being very popular in Indonesia (good for the Indonesians!), but was popular among people in West Africa.  Which is why we call these prints African wax prints or Ankara today; they’re just most closely associated with West Africa because that’s where the most people wear them.  So the fabric seemed kind of problematic to me because of its history, but I also found this article: The History of Dutch Wax Prints. That author raises concerns about the way these fabrics dominate the textile market in West Africa such that people don’t buy as many locally-produced fabrics because they’re not considered high fashion the way something like Vlisco is.  This, to me, seems to be the more pressing concern.

Finally, I also have some concerns about the appropriative aspect of wearing fabrics associated with cultures that are not my own.  I’m still working through those concerns.  When I went to India years and years ago, I wore saris and salwar kameezes, but I would never do that today.  But would I wear something I sewed out of a sari?  I’m not sure how I feel about that yet.  I’m certainly trying to avoid being appropriative, but intentions don’t really matter in this debate.

Anyway, those are my thoughts, and those are the reasons why I feel some unease about Vlisco.  I’ve already bought another piece after my first order, so it’s not like I’m boycotting the stuff.  I have no willpower in the face of a gorgeous print, and I’m not always the noble consumer I would hope to be.  But I do think it’s worth recognizing the problematic aspects of the things we like.


*That article is talking about liking problematic texts, which is different than liking problematic products.  If I buy Scott Pilgrim comics, which is the example from the article, I’m giving money to an individual who has some problematic views.  If I buy fabrics, I’m supporting an industry.  My “support” is not likely to make or break either the individual or the company, but I like to be intentional about what I give money to.  This is less an issue of boycotting for a particular effect and more an issue of avoiding cognitive dissonance.

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!





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.

Nov 272013

Happy almost-Thanksgiving everyone!  Today I have a Deer and Doe Sureau to show you.  I loved my experiences with the Belladone so much that I decided to try another Deer and Doe pattern.  I had a super hard time figuring out which one to try next, but I eventually decided on the Sureau, and I love it just as much as the Belladone!


This is made from Kaufman 21-wale corduroy in the rust colorway.  I LOVE corduroy, but I can never seem to find corduroy things in stores that fit well or look right on me.  I bought some thin-wale corduroy last year to make a skirt, but this was before I knew about how to press corduroy, and I ruined it by pressing it all by itself.  The nap got crushed in the formation of the grid pattern on my ironing board and it never would come out, even after I washed it.  I’ve since learned that you have to press corduroy on the wrong side only, and that you have to iron it over another piece of corduroy or a velvet board.  I only recently learned about the velvet board from Beth at Sunny Gal Studio.  I decided to buy a velvet board because I was nervous about pressing it wrong and ruining my new corduroy.  If it’s what Beth uses, I knew it would have to work well because her stuff is always SO professionally finished!


The velvet board works very well, but the one I could afford is so tiny!  It’s kind of annoying to use, but I do like it for pressing things like seams.  I experimented and discovered that ironing with a piece scrap of corduroy under the garment works well for large flat areas and saves a little time and hassle.

I only made a few little alterations to the Sureau, but they led to additional alterations.  I’ll describe them all here so you can see how they work.  The first one is the usual – I lopped off some length at the shoulder seams.  This time it looked best when I cut more off the back bodice piece than the front, so I cut off 1 3/8 inches off the back piece and I think 3/4 of an inch off the front piece (I can see what I cut off the back in the photo below, but don’t have the front pattern piece in front of me and I already put it in my pattern storage, so I’m not digging it out – sorry!).  I took a picture of my pattern piece so you can see how I do this:


The thing that happens when you make this back pattern piece is that when you cut the extra off at the shoulder seam, if you make no other alterations, you’ll end up with a too-small and distorted neckline.  This alteration also makes the armhole and front neckline smaller, but these are usually part of what I’m trying to make smaller, so no other alteration is necessary there – necklines and armholes are usually way too low on me.  What I do to solve the back neckline problem is I trace the top part of the pattern like normal, then I slide it down so that the shoulder edge I’ve traced is 1 3/8 inches (in this case) lower than the shoulder edge of the pattern, then I trace the rest.  This leaves the shape of the neckline intact but shortens the bodice overall and makes the armhole smaller.  Now, the other problem in this case is that when you do this, the top corner of the shoulder edge gets cut off a tiny bit.  It’s usually not enough to worry about, but the Sureau has a neckline facing that gets caught in the armhole seam, so I had to alter something so that the facing would line up.  I decided to add the bit I’d lopped off back to the bodice, and I did that by simply lining it up with the facing pattern piece and taping a bit more tracing paper at that edge so I could add it back.


You can also see my pattern weights here, which are an idea I got from someone at Pattern Review a long time ago – I wish I had kept track of who to give credit to for this!  They’re large washers I got from Home Depot and glued together, then wrapped with ribbon.  I may have mentioned it here before, but I used to be super into card-making, so I have tons of ribbon from those days.  I have a set of 15 pattern weights, all wrapped with different ribbons.  I really like using them because they’re colorful, and I think we all know that I’m in love with color!  Anyway, this little alteration ended up being moot because when I put the sleeves on, I saw that the shoulder was too wide for me, so I cut off a half inch at the top edge of the armhole and tapered it to nothing at the bottom of the armhole edge.  That ended up looking a lot better.

Now, the final thing that happens when you do this alteration is that since the armhole is smaller, the sleeve needs to be smaller as well.  When I looked at the Sureau pattern piece, I discovered that it’s what Kathleen Fasanella would call anatomically correct, meaning that one side isn’t a mirror image of the other.  I’ve linked to her blog post about this before, but here it is again: Sleeve Cap Ease is Bogus.  You can see the way the sleeve isn’t symmetrical in this photo.  The side seams are matched up, but the sleeve cap doesn’t match.


I was happy that Deer and Doe use a more sophisticated sleeve design, but it also made me unsure of what to do to make the sleeve smaller.  I ended up doing the following, but I have no idea whether it’s what one should do.  It worked well enough, but this is just me making it up as I go along.  I measured the total sleeve cap and then each side of the sleeve cap and calculated ratios.  I figured out how much I needed to subtract based on my new armhole size, then I figured out how much of that subtraction should be done on each side of the sleeve based on the ratios I had calculated earlier.  I wasn’t sure it would work, and I thought I might lose the gathers that were supposed to be in the sleeve, but they ended up remaining intact.  Yay!  It may have worked out by accident, but it worked out and it’s all that counts.

You can see the final alteration in the first pattern piece photo above – I added a quarter inch to the side seam of the bodice.  When I made the muslin, the bodice was super tight, so I thought I’d add a bit of room.  After this alteration, it ended up being ever-so-slightly too big.  But it’s not that noticeable, and it just makes it a super comfy dress to wear.  I love my new comfy cozy corduroy dress!


You can sort of see here that it’s a bit loose.  I really love the color, too.  With my brown boots and jewelry, I look like Mrs. Autumn Woman, the companion to The Onion’s Mr. Autumn Man, LOL!  It’s perfect because fall is my favorite season!  It’s been like 20 degrees here this week, so I’m lamenting the coming of winter just like Mr. Autumn Man does at the end of the article.


When I turn to do side views in my photos, I sometimes look like I’m checking out the bookshelf, so I decided to do it for real this time, haha.

deer-and-doe-sureau-buttonsI really wanted to finish this dress and didn’t have time to go to Vogue Fabrics, where they have an obscene amount of buttons, so I had to rely on Joann’s.  I had a really difficult time finding buttons I liked at Joann’s, but I ended up with these and I think I really love them!  They look like ceramic, but I think they’re just plastic.  One thing to note about this pattern is that it’s not really a button-up on top – that’s a mock placket, and the buttons are just sewn on top of it.  This is fine with me because I think it would look weird if any of the buttons were ever unbuttoned, so it wouldn’t really be functional and would just be extra work.


I’ve worn it twice now and I plan to wear it for Thanksgiving tomorrow because I LOVE it.  It’s super comfy, excessively fall-ish, and fits pretty well even if it’s just a smidge too big.  Yay for Deer and Doe patterns!  I can’t wait to make more.  I’ve never seen myself as having a body shape that would look good with button-down shirt dresses, but I really like the Bleuet, and I think it could look good on me.  I think I’d also like it in a fine wale corduroy, but maybe I’m just obsessed!



Nov 182013

I had planned to write this post a week ago, but I got sick last weekend and spent the next few days totally miserable – tired, stuffy, sore throat.  I didn’t feel like doing much of anything, especially getting all gussied up to take blog photos of completed projects!  I cancelled class for my students on Tuesday but had to drag myself in on Thursday because they had a paper to write, and I also had an appointment to get my sewing machine cleaned on Wednesday, so I was really worn out from all the activity and was just a vegetable while I was home.  I’m still sniffling now, but I’m mostly recovered.

Anyway, I finished my second Deer and Doe Belladone a few weeks ago and have been wanting to blog about it ever since.  I have such a backlog of things I’ve finished and haven’t posted about that I’m going to talk about my first and second Belladones in this post.  Let me start by saying that I LOVE Deer and Doe patterns!  They fit me very well right out of the envelope, which is amazing.  This happens more often with independent pattern makers than it does with the big 4, but it seemed like the Belladone was particularly easy to fit.  I almost could have made it without any modifications, but I tweaked a few things here and there to make the fit better.

peacock-deer-and-doe-belladone-front-1So this is Belladone #1, for summer.  I was obsessed with this fabric – I just love colors (haha, can you tell from the walls in my apartment?), and this has lots of them, so it’s clearly superior to other fabrics!  It’s a linen/cotton blend from Anna Maria Horner’s Field Study line, and it’s called Parenthetical in Potpourri.  I was really pleasantly surprised with how little it wrinkled, considering that it’s a blend of two fabrics that are known for wrinkling.  The first day I wore it I was running late, so I had to drive instead of taking the train to campus, and being scrunched up in the car plus seatbelt didn’t leave me with a wrinkled mess like it usually does.


My cutout in the back is still ever-so-slightly gappy, especially when I move in certain directions, but I’m mostly happy with it.  When I wore this on that first day, everyone was complimenting me on the front, and then a few minutes later when I turned to leave, they’d gasp and then compliment me on the back!  This is a dress that really knows how to make you feel good about your sewing skills, especially considering that the back isn’t really that hard to make!  The directions are really well-written, and I wasn’t confused even once.  The back is the area where I had to make the most alterations, which is typically the case for me.  I took the two back pieces in slightly at the center seam and overlapped the top triangles a little more than was called for in the pattern.  I also cut the back just a little shorter than the pattern called for because I always have a problem where if the front of a bodice fits me, the back is slightly too long.  I suppose what I really need to be doing to solve the back problems is starting with a smaller size and then doing a full bust adjustment.  There’s been a rash of really awesome and clear FBA tutorials going around lately, so I’m going to give it a go on my next new make.  Lauren’s tutorial for the La Sylphide sewalong finally made sense out of FBAs for me, as did Alana’s for the Dakota sewalong.

peacock-deer-and-doe-belladone-sideI was really worried about that front pleat sticking out in an obnoxious way, but it looks pretty good, I think!  Another alteration I had to make was taking the dress up a bit at the shoulder – I think about a half inch.  As I’ve mentioned before, this solves two problems for me – armholes and waists that are riding too low.  I also usually have some gaping at the armholes, and this dress was no exception though it was pretty minimal.  In order to deal with it, I pinched out a little dart where it was gaping and then rotated the amount of the dart into the horizontal bust dart that was already in the pattern.  It was my first time rotating excess into an existing dart, and I was pretty excited about how well it worked!  It’s amazing to me how excess fabric in one area can be taken care of by removing it in another area.  Magic, I tell you!


For winter, I want to make myself a long-sleeved t-shirt out a black tissue knit, because for some reason I think this would look awesome to wear underneath this.  For now, I’ll just wear it with a cardigan, tights, and boots.  This cardigan, by the way, really shows you how much I need to knit my own sweaters.  It’s just way too long, even though it’s a petite size.  I can’t wait until I know enough to make my own sweaters!

So that’s pretty much it for the first Belladone.  After making and loving this one so much, I decided I wanted one for fall with sleeves.  I had been eyeing some fabric for a while and it went on sale for like $4 a yard, so I grabbed it and decided to make my fall Belladone with it.  Now that it’s all said and done, I’m not as in love with the fabric as I originally thought I’d be.  It’s a quilting cotton, and it just doesn’t drape as well as the linen/cotton blend.  I have a bad habit of falling in love with quilting cotton prints and then making things out of them that don’t live up to my expectations.  I still have a few in my stash that I need to use up, but I need to institute a rule about buying them in the future.  It’s so hard, though, because you can find them so cheap that it always seems like a great idea to buy them.  Anyway, this fabric was annoying for two other reasons besides its hand.  First of all, I didn’t buy enough of it to make the sleeves.  I bought the same amount that I bought for the summer Belladone because I’d had plenty of extra left over and could have easily cut sleeves out as well . . . but that fabric was 54 inches wide and the quilting cotton was 44.  Ugh.  So I went online, found some at fabric.com, then hemmed and hawed about what else I wanted to buy along with it, and by the time I made up my mind it was sold out.  Remember how I said it was on sale?  Yeah, that’s because it was being discontinued and was in the clearance bin.  I was really irritated with myself for being so stupid twice over and even cried.  What can I say – I’m a crier.  You’ll probably hear a lot about me crying on this blog!  I finally found some at a website I’d never heard of before – Ladyfingers Sewing Studio. I was concerned that their obscurity wouldn’t bode well for my shopping experience, but it all worked out smoothly, so yay for Ladyfingers!  This nefarious fabric is Lucky Penny Fallen Leaves in Night by Allison Glass, for those curious.  Though don’t be too curious because you’ll never find the stuff!

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-frontSo there it is, the fall Belladone.  I had the worst time with that sleeve.  I tried to use a tutorial from Threads to draft my own sleeve, but it was ridiculously too huge for the armscye.  I don’t know if I did it wrong or if Threads is a propagator of the unnecessary sleeve cap ease that’s so rampant in commercial patterns, but it did not work out at all.  I ended up just taking the sleeve from the Deer and Doe Sureau pattern and popping it in.  The Sureau sleeve is gathered, but somehow it turned out that I needed to use a quarter inch seam allowance instead of 5/8 to get this sleeve to fit, plus it ended up not having enough fabric to be gathered.  Whatevs, it covers my arms and doesn’t look horrible.  I was never committed to the idea of the gathering anyway.

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-sideI really love the mustardy yellow paired with grey.  I started to type that this is one of my favorite color combos, but honestly, when I really think about it, there are tons of combos that could qualify as “favorites.”  I’m pretty indiscriminate when it comes to pairing colors!

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-backI wanted to make the back solid as well as adding sleeves so this could be worn for fall without a cardigan.  Everything seemed fine at the muslin stage, but I must have mucked something up because the top of the back was way too tall.  It was crawling halfway up my neck.  I hacked it down and it looks mostly okay.  You can’t really tell in this picture, but when I hacked it down, it meant that some of the zipper teeth had to be enclosed in the bias binding I used on the neckline.  I tried to cut the teeth out, leaving just the tape to be caught in the binding, but I didn’t do such a great job and the the stiffness of the zipper in the binding caused the two halves of the bodice to be uneven.  You can’t really tell in the picture, but the right side is definitely higher than the left.  I ripped it out once and redid it because it was really noticeable, but I didn’t want to rip it out a second time to get it perfect because I was worried about causing additional problems by stretching out the neckline with all the handling.

deer-and-doe-fall-belladone-no-beltI mentioned earlier that there were two problems with this fabric, but I only told you the harrowing tale of not having enough of it to make sleeves.  I also ended up not liking the all-over print once it got put together.  Once again I chose a busy print that left me with no waist definition.  I could tell right away that I didn’t like it before I even tried it on.  I thought I might rip it apart and substitute a different color for the waistband.  I had some grey fabric in my stash that I thought would be perfect.  It turned out that the grey fabric didn’t match at all – it was too cool to go with this warm yellowy grey with mustard accents.  Then I decided that it would be totally awesome if I could find a mustard fabric to match the leaves in the print.  I even mocked it up in Gimp and loved how it looked.


What I didn’t realize is that that mustardy yellow color is exceedingly strange.  I took a swatch into Joann’s to look at the Kona cottons, assuming that quilting cotton designers might take coordinating solids into account when designing their prints.  No such luck.  Against everything I could find, this mustardy yellow actually ended up looking sort of limey.  So I gave up on that idea and went to Target, where I bought my second-ever belt.  Woohoo, belts!  You solve all my problems!


See how happy you make me, belt?  You’re awesome.  Why on earth did I ever think I couldn’t pull off a belt?  My body apparently pretty much requires a belt whenever I wear print dresses.

So goes the tale of the Deer and Doe Belladone in my household.  Wow, that was really long!  At least you got to see two different dresses, though.  I’m resisting the urge to call them “looks” after the marathon sessions of Project Runway watching that I’ve been doing.  I feel the need to not call them “looks” or discuss how I’ve “styled” them.  Maybe when I start taking myself more seriously as a seamstress (though it’s not Project Seamstress, is it?).  For now, my ineptitude at making sleeves and ordering enough fabric make me feel that I’m not worthy of such high-minded language.

I finished my Sureau last weekend, just before the sickness caught me in its grip.  I did a marathon photo session, so the photos are all ready to go and I’ll post about it in a few days.  During that marathon photo session, of which this fall Belladone was a part, you may have noticed that my tripod is captured in the bottom right corner of all my photos.  Editing it out would cut off my feet or part of my arm in most of the photos, so I’m leaving it as is.  Ah well.  I will figure out this photo thing someday, including not capturing the tripod and getting rid of the three feet of dead space above my head!