Category Archives: Sewing

Sewing Little Things


K made me a tote bag! We discovered a while ago that my attempts of teaching her sewing was not an enriching experience for either of us, so she’s been taking an after school class taught by Little Hands Creations. Brilliant move if I do say so myself. At first K was dubious about the class, but now she’s officially hooked.


She told me that she chose this fabric because I “don’t like color.” I love it! I thought it was interesting that they taught her to add the straps without finishing the raw edges, but I’m very impressed with the overall quality of my new tote bag. “Mama, use your new bag!” K said, eagerly tossing it in my hands when I dropped her off at a sleepover birthday party on Friday, and as I ambled home, I noticed that my wrist suddenly felt empty. Somehow the bag had fallen off!

I backtracked my route twice, but it was such a dark and rainy night with little in the way of street lights, it was nearly impossible to see anything on the ground. Why I didn’t think to use my iPhone flashlight, I don’t know, but on the second pass, there it was midway between the friend’s house and ours. Crumpled and drenched but intact. Whew…


Bursting with relief that I found the bag and to say thanks, I made her a little pouch. I had in mind the time we went to the pet store to get frog food the other day — there was a rescue cat that K fell in love with named “Epic.” Though he seemed affable and gentle, M is allergic to cats so it was a no-go. Epic was inky black and big, but I figured cream-colored and little would be just as appreciated. It’s the size of a coin purse that easily fits in my palm.


The back is a simple envelope closure and I’m debating whether to add snaps or velcro…or maybe leave as is? K was thoroughly delighted and immediately went to show the neighbors (a sign of utmost approval). I didn’t use a pattern or anything and made it up as I went along. It was a snappy and fun project that took less than an hour even with the embroidering and painting on the blushing cheeks.


Despite our unsuccessful history of sewing together, we’re giving it another joint effort with a small puppy toy. It’s not looking too promising so far since I downloaded a free pattern from a Russian site assuming I would be able to wing it, but I’m a bit mystified by how the pieces go together. I need to find a different pattern, preferably in a language I can read.

All these non-garment sewing projects are making me think about the holidays. Are you gearing up for the craziness? I’d like to scale way back this year and keep it super simple. That’s sounding mighty good to me right now.

Monday Outfit: Faux Fur Vest


Good Morning! We had a bustling weekend filled with celebrations and Ultimate Frisbee (in the rain! K called Uncle midway to avoid getting sick again). I also stole away for a few hours to luxuriate in some crafting, and remembered my minimalist sewing plans. The warm zip vest seemed like a practical item to tackle for these days with rapidly cooling temperatures, but I couldn’t get myself worked up into a frenzy of excitement about sewing with batting.

As I waded through my stash of fabrics, I came across a piece of white-and-grey pelt the size of a placemat and recalled how K lingered to touch a faux fur vest at Target. I believe it was this one. K rarely stops to look at ready-to-wear clothes, so that moment stuck in my mind. Naturally, I had to make one for her.


I used this book, which actually has a pattern for a faux fur vest. I am thrillingly close to have sewn every pattern, and I’ll have to do a round up of all the clothes I’ve made from this book soon. I derive a lot of satisfaction from seeing all the outfits lined up together — it’s the small things in life, right? Or maybe it’s the touch of OCD in me.


I did change things up a little bit:

– K wanted a cropped vest, so I cut out the size 130cm, but shortened the length to 110cm.

– There are separate instruction for spring and winter versions for this vest pattern, and the winter faux fur version recommends a hook-and-eye closure. I didn’t have one, so I used one of the other closure options of a loop and button (the third option is a tab closure). The loop is leather, and the button is a vintage metal one from my mom.

– Since I had so little of the faux fur, I used it for the front only, and found a nice neutral grey wool for the back piece.

– I lined it with leftover jersey knit from the Halloween costume cape instead of rayon lining fabric that I usually use. This was purely out of laziness since the knit happened to be right there by my cutting table. I’m glad it wasn’t too fiddly!


I love quick, unnecessary and fun projects. Necessity sewing gets me down for some reason (underwear comes to mind).


If K could have given me a thousand thumbs’ ups, she would have. “I LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE it,” she declared.


(She accidentally threw the hanger on which the vest was hanging, which is why she looks like that up there. I think it’s cute).

The only tricky part is that faux fur starts shedding uncontrollably once you cut into it, so I was very, very gentle about handling the front pieces. I looked like a 90-year-old offering up a sacrifice while concentrating on walking meditation: I carried the faux fur pieces on upturned, flattened palms as I took painfully slow micro steps from the cutting table to the sewing machine. It worked. There was minimal fluffy tufts floating about, and the vest practically assembled itself.

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Fun fun fun. I can now cross off the knit tunic, the skinny jeans and the (modified) vest from my minimal sewing plan:


Not too shabby, I’d say. K agrees.


P.S. I did not make the jeggings, though I wish I had because they’re so awesome. They’re from the neighbor hand-me-down pile. We’ve made very little progress on the clothes elimination front….

Ginger Skinny Jeans Revisited


When we last left off with my Ginger Skinny Jeans adventures oh, a mere seven months ago, I had gone down from a size 12 to a 10. And then something mysterious happened and although all my clothes are fitting just the way they always have, I recently attempted to shave the muslin down to a size 8, and they’re still too big. Could this be the result of the denim somehow stretching out over the months of neglect?


In my craziness of sewing up samples for the book and moving my supplies helter skelter, I’ve lost fabric and pattern pieces for my original muslin and am thoroughly confused. At this point I figure I might as well go back to the drawing board and start fresh. I’m now happily assembling the pattern pieces, anticipating more progress this go around.

A few weeks ago, I had the enormous pleasure of meeting Heather in person, and the woman is a dynamo. I love her. We perused the essential pit stop for all fabric and sewing aficionados — Drygoods Design, naturally — and she kept me in stitches over lunch. Fiercely intelligent, wildly witty and full of gorgeousness, you could practically see her brain pumping out ideas every nanosecond. Once again, I’ve discovered how easy it is to transition online friendships into face-to-face ones, and it makes me believe in the power of the internet for good.

So of course, when I finally found my own brain again, I wanted to resurrect the sewing of the now desperately necessary pair of skinny jeans (I’ve patched and patched my last surviving pair from 8 or 9 years ago, and we are reaching a point of no return). I’ve learned not to promise anything, but maybe, just maybe, I might be sporting a brand spanking new pair next week…

Here’s what gives me hope at least: I may let projects languish, but I rarely entirely give up on them. There’s a chance that I’ll be enjoying senior citizen discounts by the time I finish a successful pair of skinny jeans, but I will get them done, and they will be awesome!

Monday Outfit: Superhero K


Good morning! It was a weekend of highs and lows — shall we start with the lows? I had been looking forward to large chunks of sewing time, but it was not to be. Much to my dismay, I discovered that our basement was flooded and spent my allotted sewing time moving a large number of plastic bins and wiping down the the floor. Not fun.


On the bright side, however, our basement is now sparkling clean and I managed to finish K’s costume in time for the school event. We even got our photo shoot squared away in record time.


Remember her instructions? My one rule was that I wouldn’t buy any fabric for the costume because I simply cannot add any more to my already excessive pile, and I’m happy to report that I abided by my own rule with flying colors. The top, shorts and cape are all from my fabric stash, and I drafted them all myself.


K is in love. We hauled ourselves to Fred Meyer (sort of like Target here in Seattle) and found the mask, belt, boots and fingerless gloves. I had actually been planning to make the gloves, but at $1.49 a pair, handmade gloves seemed pointless.


M conceded to model for the photo shoot as well. They’re so funny.


I had to redo the tie to the cape twice because the sparkly ribbon I used initially was too itchy, and then I found the perfect strip of faux leather and it was a done deal. This is a virtually no-sew cape made out of some shiny black knit and I watched this youtube video to construct it (the sound quality of the video isn’t great, but his instructions were very clear and I had a cape in 15 minutes).

In fact, I didn’t finish any seams, nor did I hem the shorts, so this costume came together ridiculously fast. The part that took the longest was the “K” stencil, only because we had to wait for it to dry.

At Fred Meyer, we got one more thing:


And yes, K did wear the whole get-up including the wig to the school event. Her friends squealed with delight when they recognized her after the initial confusion.


To me, she looks like one of those troll dolls, though I think these photos are super fun:

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She’s all set for Halloween 2015! On the actual day, she’s going trick-or-treating with one of her best buddies outside of our neighborhood, followed by a special Hallow’s Eve sleepover. M and I may actually have a date night!

My sweet girl – she absolutely adores her costume and it’s these sorts of moments that make me so happy that I sew.


P.S. The winner of the giveaway is Ksenia, congrats!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Above are my poor, poor neglected serger (left) and sewing machine (right). Did you know that you can use a regular old sewing machine cover for your serger too? The pear print is what could be considered a vintage Kokka linen/cotton blend — I made that cover for my very first Singer sewing machine back in 2007 or so. I adore that fabric. The cover on the right was a potential book project (it has multiple pockets), but it didn’t make the cut.

Good news: final illustrations for the book are COMPLETE. I still have a couple of extremely minor things to turn in before I can call it a wrap, but the illustration portion was huge (over 300 files!). Now that I’ve become a little familiar with this process, I’ve given myself a few days to relax after the milestone. I’m going to ease back into my beloved routines and ever so slowly ramp up. I can tell I’m doing the right thing because I haven’t gotten sick at all. Both K and M have been under the weather, sadly, but I’ve been hearty enough for both of them to handle care-taking duties.

So I’m off to revel in this feeling of accomplishment for a bit before channeling my energy into a new phase that I’m excited about. I hope you all have a great weekend, and I’ll see you some time next week!

What shall I sew first?
A costume for K, perhaps?
Or maybe for me…


Friday Outfit + Randomness


Happy Friday! The teachers’ strike finally ended on Wednesday of this week, and it’s funny how almost every parent I ran into on the first day of school commented how looooooong this summer vacation was. All told, the start of school was delayed for six days, but when you don’t know what’s happening each day, every passing moment can feel like an eternity, you know?


Anyway. K thoroughly enjoyed the extra days of lounging about with friends, and despite my best efforts, I wasn’t as successful as I’d like to have been on the work front. I did, however, sew yet another animal print dress.


Sadly, K rejected it as a first day of school outfit because…well, I’m not sure why. She said that it’s more of a second day of school dress without providing much in the way of illuminating information. Hmmmm….


I used this book, from which I should sew more. I love that it has patterns for both girls and women, and I’ve been eyeing a few items to whip up for myself. This particular dress pattern is technically meant for wovens, but since K won’t wear anything that’s not stretchy, I gave it a shot with this cheetah (?) knit jersey from here. It’s super soft. The contrasting dark grey is the same scrap knit I keep using for details.


So there you have it, the second day of school dress. Be still my heart — could I interpret this to mean that the animal print phase is almost over??

OK! Back to editing/illustrating! I hope to post at least once next week too. I wish you all a wonderful, wonderful weekend!

First day back at school
K was filled with nervousness
But it was awesome*

*She loves her teachers and most of her closest friends are in her class. Huzzah!


Wednesday Outfit: Ottobre Marja Top



As you know, I’m devoted to my Japanese sewing books, but K is starting to outgrow the 130cm size which is usually the largest size offered. Luckily, I happened to be organizing all of my sewing books and patterns and discovered that I’d purchased quite a few Ottobre issues back when I’d first caught the DIY bug. Look, the sizing goes up to 170cm!

I decided to try the simple Marja knit tunic in 134cm from the Spring 2009 issue. This was my first experience with Ottobre patterns, and I have mixed feelings. Ottobre Design hails from Finland and it’s a mystery why the magazine name is in Italian (it means October). At any rate, branching out to this Scandinavian publication confirmed a few things about myself.

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First of all, I am an entirely visual learner when it comes to sewing. The instructions were sparse for this pattern and there were no illustrations or photos accompanying the constructions steps. None!! After reading through the instructions twice, I gave up trying to process the words and sewed it the way I normally would. It’s a good thing I’ve made dozens of tops like this and it’s no wonder that I love Japanese sewing books with their superb illustrations. I’ve always known that I’m a visual learner, but I didn’t know how utterly dependent I am on images to follow instructions.

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Second, I used to be convinced that my perfectionism was unparalleled, but this top proves that I’ve become much more laissez faire. Or maybe just plain lazy. I initially missed cutting out the front bottom piece and seeing as to how I only had 3/4 yard of this lovely 95% cotton/5% spandex knit, I had to do away with the gathering and reduce the width of the bottom pieces to squeeze out the needed piece. I actually shrugged to myself and muttered, “oh well.” Believe me, a few years ago I would have scrapped the whole project at this point.


This top would have been much cuter with the gathers, but you know what? K likes it a bunch. I realize that her smiles up there look more like sneers, but she was actually singing the whole time I was snapping away with my camera, and singing always means thumb’s up.


Related to the easing of my perfectionism, but not exactly the same thing: I’ve relinquished all control of trying to style K’s outfits. That purple tiered skirt and the animal print headband would not have been my first choice (I had visions of pairing the tunic with grey leggings and a cute neutral scarf), but hey, the combo makes her dance — another good sign. She happily wore the top for the day and now it’s in the black hole we call the laundry basket. Who knows when we’ll see it again.


M tells me I’m uptight (in a way that’s not annoying, he adds. What??), but I beg to differ and feel that I’m practically Rastafarian these days. Case in point: I haven’t even bothered to make her a first day of school outfit mainly because I have no idea when the first day of school is. It was supposed to be today, but negotiations for salary increases and other amenities are underway and teachers are on the brink of going on strike as of this writing. Maybe when this post goes up, it’ll be resolved. I hope so.


Alright, the cafe where I’m typing this is closing so it’s a wrap.  I leave you with this image — don’t the pocket edges look like closed eyes? I suppose this tunic would also make an excellent pajama top…

Monday Outfit: Rockstar Pants


Good morning! Everyone knows about K’s love of animal prints. And most people know that I make all her clothes, so of course, she received two yards of animal print fabric for her birthday.

“Pants!” she said without an iota of hesitation when I asked her what she’d like me to make with her special fabric. Pants it is.


I used the “slim pants” pattern from this great book, but made a few mods in addition to lengthening the pant legs by 1cm. I changed the front pockets (the original design has front patch pockets) and skinnified the legs, which were easy modifications — I’ll show you what I did in more detail on Wednesday!

rockstar-pants3K is very, very happy with these. Her one complaint was that she wanted them to be skin tight, but despite having a little bit of stretch, making them any tighter would not have allowed her to have the range of movement she so loves.


Rockstar pants, don’t you think? The shirt is a hand-me-down from her slightly older neighbor friend, and K inherited a huge bag full of bright and colorful clothes. It almost made me toss out my plans to sew school clothes for K. Almost, but not quite. Sewing back-to-school clothes is a ritual I consider sacred.

We tried the pants with the black stripey tee for a different look. That tee gets worn a ton.


I’ve been meaning to make these pants for years but the zip fly had me cowed, as many zipper projects tend to do. I took the plunge, though, and I’m glad I did because it really wasn’t all that bad. I also had it in my head that it would be incredibly challenging to add one of those adjustable elastic waistbands, which turned out not to be painful in the least.

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The one snafu I ran into was the shortage of waistband width, and rather than cutting out a new waistband, I got creative and folded the fly guard instead. It worked! So much so that I wondered if maybe that’s what I was supposed to do and the instructions just didn’t include it…who knows?


At any rate, these pants resulted in much jubilation! I would like to try the Peekaboo pattern next. [I originally wrote Small Fry, but I’ve already made a pair back in November. See what I mean about my memory? Thank goodness for this blog!]


rockstar-pants6Look at all these fun denim colors I have — K is going to love them!

What about you? Any fall sewing plans?



The Great Pattern Hack


It’s my turn to chatter on about the lovely collaboration with Melissa of A Happy Stitch and Michael Miller Fabrics (via Kait of Making it Fun): The Great Pattern Hack! My pattern hacking skills are still pretty basic, so I didn’t get all fancy or wild on you, but I had lots and lots of fun modifying the Southport Dress into two garments.

First up, the strappy-backed tank:


I selected the Indigo Midnight Cotton Couture, which has a drapey hand and feels like an ever so slightly weightier lawn with subtle sheen. It’s beautiful, and of course, I have a weakness for anything indigo. To remain true to my leanings, I opted to go as simple as possible by converting the bodice to a long tank, and attempted to add wow factor with thin straps that ended up forming the letter M (for Melissa and Michael Miller — not really, that part was totally accidental, but now I’m liking the connection).

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I added 11 inches to the bodice, and eyeballed a curvy shape for the shoulders. I’m always very picky about making clothes that are bra-friendly, so I made sure that the back would sit high enough to cover any unsightly undergarments (I wore a strapless).


I cut four 1″ x 20″ pieces that I then folded and sewed into thin 1/4″ straps. First, I attached two straps each on the front side and proceeded to do a lot of body contortions to figure out how much to shorten and where to place the straps on the back. Alas, they’re slightly off, but I doubt anyone will notice.


I could have sewn this up in a jiffy, but I wanted to give it a nominally more “refined” look to it, so I hand-stitched the bias tape along the top edge of the front piece. The back is simply double-folded with elastic threaded through. Easy-peasy.


Conclusion: I love it!!


I suppose I could have stopped there, but I had also requested the fun Indigo Bias Weave, and I just couldn’t get rompers out of my mind. Rompers! I am quite possibly too old to be sashaying about town in a playsuit, but I wore it all day yesterday and not an eyebrow was lifted (or at least none that I noticed).


M, however, did say that I look like a “70s housewife” in a way that implied that 70s housewives aren’t too hot. We’ll ignore him because we all know that 70s housewives were totally smokin’ (in the literal and metaphorical sense).


The only real change I made was to switch out the skirt portion with a pair of slapdash shorts. I’m going to call this “intuitive” sewing since not a lot of measuring actually happened to create the shorts. I marked the width of the skirt waist directly onto the fabric, then grabbed a pair of decent-fitting shorts, and outlined them rather loosely.


I had more than enough of the fabric and was pretty confident that the sizing would be okay, but once I basted them together, I could tell that the rise of the shorts was woefully inadequate despite adding a few inches. Back to the drawing board, and I added an additional 5″(!) to the rise to accommodate my super long torso.


Not sure what’s happening here…I think the outfit inspired me to unconsciously strike a heads-shoulders-knees-n-toes pose. At any rate, the True Bias pattern instructions are great, and the top segment came together effortlessly. I had to tug and pull a bit, but the shorts worked, and overall, the fit is spot-on!

I adore it. I thought I would feel silly in rompers, but it’s really comfortable and the fabric is just the right weight and drape for this pattern. The drawstring detail is a necessary element to avoid the dreaded beer barrel look, and because the cinching happens a little higher than my natural waist, it gives the illusion of longer legs — an illusion that has rarely happened in my lifetime.


What do you think? 70s homemaker or sweet summer garb appropos for 2015? I think rompers are all the rage right now, right? At least that seems to be the case with the blog hop (I hadn’t looked at any of the other Great Pattern Hack posts until I finished sewing and was pleasantly surprised to see other rompers). In fact, you should go see all the pattern hacks pronto:

Monday 6/29- Kick-off with Jessica Abbott: Me Sew Crazy

Tuesday 6/30- Kait Witte: Making it Fun

Wednesday 7/1- Delia Randall: Delia Creates

Thursday 7/2- Jane Kohlenstein: Buzz Mills

Friday 7/3- Melissa Quaal: A Happy Stitch

Monday 7/6- Rachael Gander: Imagine Gnats

Tuesday 7/7- Tamara Serrao: Kaya Joy

Thursday 7/9- Laura Titchener: Craftstorming

Friday 7/10- Kristin Timm: Skirt as Top

Saturday 7/11- Jessica & Ericka: Violette Field Threads

Monday 7/13- Celina Bailey: Petit a Petit and Family

Wednesday 7/15- Erin Sundet: Sewbon

Thursday 7/16- wrap up! More giveaways!

Finally, I should point out that I did receive the fabrics and pattern for free as well as some compensation for creating the garments and writing about them — this is the first time I’ll be receiving actual payment for a blog post so I guess this counts as a sponsored post (I’m embarrassed to say that it hadn’t even occurred to me to call this a sponsored post – I was delighted to team up with Melissa and would have done it for gratis)! Needless to say, but I think I’m supposed to say it: all opinions are my own.

At any rate, I’m pleased with both hacks and really enjoyed sewing for myself again. It sounds like some amazing giveaways are happening and much fanfare abounds. Don’t miss out, and thank you so much for including me, Melissa and Kait!




Monday Outfit: Henry Dress in Gradients of Grey


Good morning! We’re still recovering from the Fourth of July party, the heat and technical blips, but I have a new garment to share today, and that’s always an energy booster for me.

A few months ago, I had fun sewing up the Franklin dress + tunic (in fact, K wore the tunic when we went to see the fireworks on Saturday). The lovely Erin of Brooklyn Pattern Co. contacted me again recently to see if I’d be interested in giving the Henry dress a try. But of course!



I had a hard time deciding on the fabric. The combination of the feminine pleated puffed sleeves and the more geometric angled pockets (which I absolutely love) had me scratching my head a bit. I wanted a sort of gradient look and have this fabulous pink linen that I wanted to use, but I only had one yard of it. So I burrowed into my endless fabric supply, pulling out gingham checks, my default navy-and-white stripes, a madras seersucker, a couple of knits with bright prints… None of them felt right.


I struck gold when I found this gradient striped fabric at the bottom of one of my bins. I think it’s a cotton poplin, and I’m all about the various shades of grey. The one stickler was that the stripes run parallel to the selvage, so I had to cut the patterns cross grain. This made it tricky for K to get the dress on since the fabric couldn’t stretch much width-wise and there are no closures.


For the neck and pocket facings, I used the thinnest cotton lawn in a refreshing mint color. My neck facing didn’t like staying in place despite my understitching; if you look closely enough, you’ll see the neck facing scooching up and revealing itself in small tufts. But check out my stripes-matching — I’m quite proud. I might have to start thinking about dipping my toe into quilting.


The instructions are superb, but I did a few things slightly differently, just because:

1. To make finishing the sleeve edge easier, I double-folded and pressed the sleeve edge before sewing the underarm portion of the sleeve together. It’s always harder for me to press sleeve edges in the round, and with the added bulk of the pleats, this turned out to be a good move.

2. I raised the skirt hem by about 2.5inches. It looked too long to me when K tried it on.

3. I basted the pockets on each side before assembling the front of the dress. The instructions guide you to simply pin the sides. By basting each side of the pocket to the side panel, the pockets are nicely attached and makes the next step easier.

On a side note, I think a sleeveless version of this dress would look wonderful.


The verdict? Thumbs up from both me and K! I cut out the largest size, which is 8, and the fit is perfect. I really like how modern it looks (though maybe she appears to be heading to a corporate board room and just needs to locate her Manolo Blahniks?) and K asked if she could keep it on after the photo shoot. The ultimate sign of sewing success! She even volunteered to add some modeling oomph with her prop of choice:

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Thank you for the pattern, Erin! I thoroughly enjoyed making the Henry dress, and K is a happy camper. Make sure to check out the other blog tour participants and Erin is offering a coupon code for you! Readers receive 20% any pattern in the shop with the code: SUMMERFUN15. The code runs from 12:01 am on July 6through 11:59 pm on July 15.


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