Sewing for Me: A Linen Top + Ginger Jeans Muslin


I almost forgot how to set up the tripod, it’s been so long since I’ve inundated you with selfies.


So today, I’ve got a double-whammy with a stripey linen top made using this lovely book (it turns out I was misleading on instagram and showed the wrong book) and a quick and dirty muslin of the Ginger Jeans by Closet Case Patterns.


I can’t help but make these maternity-esque tops – I just love them so and my stomach is free to hang out in its natural state. Comfort is key, and just for fun, I just might say yes next time someone asks me if I’m pregnant. The silhouette is similar to this one, but this Japanese version — I made the one featured on the cover — was slightly easier to construct since it doesn’t have any yokes or gathers. I’m going through a serious blue-and-white-stripes phase right now. I made the SVE gift out of a similar linen, and I just ordered this fabulous fabric from Miss Matatabi.

I don’t have a lot to say about this top since it came together quite easily, particularly since I did away with the extra back ties. The original design is reminiscent of a hospital gown with an open back — this is not a look I can rock. I also had to adjust the pintucks because I poked a hole when I had to undo some wayward stitches. By folding them slightly wider, I was able to hide the hole, so I patted myself on the back for my clever solution.


I purchased the Ginger Jeans pattern a good while ago, and it’s been staring at me hopefully for weeks. I cut out the size 12 for this muslin that’s simply basted together, and clearly it’s too big. Actually, my calves probably need a little more room, but everywhere else, it’s the I’m-PMSing-and-am-feeling-fat jeans. It’s worth pointing out that I shortened the pants length by three inches. And it’s still too long — I’m shaped like a dachshund. Next step: downsize to 10, try to salvage the pieces I’ve already cut out and shorten another 2 inches.

I opted to attempt view B, that of the high-rise sexiness. This is mainly because all of my denim is on the thin side and the pattern recommends a sturdier denim for the lower-rise view A. I’m planning on documenting the whole process from beginning to end for these skinny jeans, and it may take several weeks. But once I have the adjustments all sorted out, I will have a most useful sloper for a pair of well-fitting skinnies, and that’s worth all the extra time. We’ll see how successful I am…


You can see how it compares to my favorite pair of skinny jeans above. I got these cropped ones eons ago, and I wear them all the time. So much so, that the fabric is wearing down, and I’ve had to mend them to keep them in rotation.


I love to mend my jeans. I use the darning program on my Bernina, which I think a lot of machines have? I’m not sure. The function creates a grid of stitches to patch holes and I use grey thread so that it’s not very obvious. Given the position of the holes, it’s not noticeable at all (the inner thigh). Exhibit A from the front:


Exhibit B from the other side – I could have ironed the patch on better, but it’s still effective. I got the small 2×3 inch patches that I trim down, and I’ve found them to be comfortable. This is easy enough to do manually with a shorter stitch length, but the darning function allows me to set the overall length of the row and then the needle automatically moves back and forth, creating as many rows as you need. Super handy. Ignore the weird zig zag area, that was where I forgot to initially switch to the darning function.

darning-jeans2I like fancy jeans and have had them for a very long time, so I’ve become a pro at mending jeans. The stitches gives the jean a rough-shod, cool texture, resulting in an inadvertently hip, distressed effect.

That’s it for today! A floaty top that will be worn frequently in the Spring, and a slow, but at least concrete start on skinny jeans. That’s good enough for me.



Monday Outfit: The Persistence Dress

plaid-wool-dress1Good morning! Well, this was a dress that tested my patience.


It doesn’t look like much, does it? I mean, it’s perfectly fine…it is a very basic dress, after all. Yet, I couldn’t get much right.

First of all, notice that the front placket is decidedly shifted over to the right. I measured and re-measured, and still this happened, so I’m not sure what the deal is here. This is how it’s supposed to be, modeled in the book:


Second, I intended to make this out of a cotton geometric print fabric, which would have been fresh and anticipatory of Spring, I’m sure, but then K said, “Make it a winter dress, Mama. I need warm clothes.” So I pulled out the only wool fabric with enough yardage (I used it to sew a hooded capelet way back when).


But wool gets itchy so I decided to underline it with the thinnest cotton voile. It’s the pink peeking out there. When you underline something, you’re basically basting a layer of the lining underneath the pattern pieces and treating them as one. I, being the genius that I am, managed to sew on the lining on the wrong side on almost all the pieces. My seam ripper got a decent workout.


The only change I made to the pattern was for the neckline. I let a bit of the binding peek out, because I didn’t love the way the neckline hung without that little edge. Oh, I also cut the back yoke on the bias, which I like to do often. Overall, the dress has a bit of a 60s/70s vibe, which I sort of like.


The other issue I ran into was my inexplicable need to add 15 buttons. Why?? I have no idea, and of course, I don’t have 15 of the same buttons so I found a mish mash that were roughly the same size and vaguely in the same color family (aqua, navy and dark green). Since the buttons are hidden by that accidentally off-center front flap, I didn’t lose any sleep over it.


It’s not a difficult dress to sew, but I just kept making mistake after mistake, but by jove, I didn’t give up. Even after stabbing my finger (pretty forcefully. ouch) with the seam ripper that was constantly in use, I kept a-going and triumphantly whipped it out of the sewing machine, only to realize that daylight had virtually run out.


I scooted K outside for the fastest photo shoot ever, and these pics were the only salvageable ones. Thank goodness we’re having a balmy spate these past few days. But she likes the dress, and it’s actually toasty, so let’s chalk this one up as a favorable project.

Happy Friday + Randomness


Whew. I shipped off my SVE gift yesterday and now I’ve got fingers and toes crossed that it’ll get to my partner in time. I loved making the little present(s) and you can see a sneak peek above. How are you intrepid SVE participants doing? All done? Getting ready to dash to the post office as I did?

It occurred to me that I’ve been remiss about extolling the virtues of my partner-in-crime, Ute. Just as she did last year, she took on the bulk of the Secret Valentine Exchange work with her signature cheerfulness and efficiency. If you’re not following Ute on Instagram, you really ought to – she has an impeccable eye for capturing the beauty and the ephemeral in the every day, not to mention her stitching skills that result in awesomely neutral sewing projects which make my heart sing. The internet is an amazing thing. Ute and I haven’t met in person, but I consider her a dear friend. Thank you, J.C.R. Licklider (who went by the somewhat disturbing nickname “Lick”) — he’s often attributed with the conceptualization of the internet. Or at least the direct predecessor that would become the internet.


The other day, I was at a coffee shop as usual, and I saw a young man with his little baby strapped to his body with one of those fabric wraps — a Moby or Solly or something-y. He had trouble pouring cream into his coffee with the human bulk in front of him, and his valiant efforts made me smile. M always thought of himself as too manly to wear a baby wrap or carrier, but he used to plop K into his sweatshirt and zip it up so that her tiny head would be sticking out. Same concept, slightly more ghetto execution. Ah, memories.


I’m off to finally make some headway on those custom illustrations — I haven’t forgotten, but I’ve had to stick to a rigid schedule with various deadlines (with more on the horizon so the illustrating will take a ridiculously long time, I fear). Thanks again for your patience everyone!

It’s almost V-day
Must plan to make something good
for my M and K

Happy weekend, my friends. See you on Monday!

My Little Sewing Space Part 3

sewing-area-pt3-2I covered in detail all the within-arm’s-reach items on and in my sewing table a couple of days ago, and today, we move onto the cutting table and ironing station.


I purchased the cutting table from Jo-Ann’s about four years ago, and I have to admit that I’m not happy with it. The screws keep falling out, and the surface is badly scuffed and portions of the MDF coating are peeling (I have a piece of packing tape on those portions, which I’ve cleverly hidden under the cutting mat). But it’s been doing its duty, so I can’t complain too much. One day I hope to make a customized cutting table that’s narrower and longer.


I have more tools on top of the cutting table. Are you getting the sense that I love gadgets? You would be right. In my little white basket, I stash my various scissors and rotary cutters (some for fabric, some for cutting paper patterns), my trusty chalk Chaco Liner plus other tracing tools, pencils/pens, and an assortment of rulers. This, though, has been the major game changer for cutting:


The Gypsy Gripper on a 24-inch quilting ruler. This has made cutting bias tape (which I do a lot) and knit fabric in general about a thousand times easier with a rotary cutter; it’s also useful for drafting patterns and sometimes, I use it as extra weight.


Underneath the cutting table, I store bins of fabric that I plan to use right away. A lot of the fabric in these bins will probably end up in the book I’m currently working on. That oversized laundry basket on the left is my scrap basket. As you can see, it’s filled to the brim. I also have a bolt of cotton muslin I use for pattern drafting resting on one of the bins.


To the right of the cutting table, I keep my beloved Swedish tracing paper and some rolled up patterns from prior projects. That cool vintage wire organizer holds a bunch of props we used when we shot the cover of the book, and I haven’t gone through and organized them yet. The white IKEA bucket is my trash can that normally sits right beside the sewing table, but I moved it there to take photos for some reason. That wooden suitcase is a treasure of mine. My mom used to store her acrylic paints in there, and it fits perfectly on top of a cheap little table I used to use as a nightstand before it became a supplies-holder.


And then we have the ironing station. Please excuse the corner that I failed to tighten properly. I use the ubiquitous Black & Decker D2030, and I love it. I’ve tried a few models, and this one has treated me very, very well. And the fact that it’s not outrageously expensive adds to its allure. The ironing board is an extra-wide one — I got it from Amazon, I think, though it might have been Bed, Bath and Beyond and I never use the little metal stand for the iron but balance supplies there instead. I always keep the mesh pressing cloth (so awesome) at the ready. The ironing board cover is a recent discovery and it’s pretty great: the Brabantia Ironing Board Cover. The discolorations on the cover used to drive me crazy, and on this one, it’s barely noticeable. I’ve been using it for a couple of months, and I can only marginally detect the offending discoloration.

What else do I keep near my iron? Well, there are seam gauges, of course. I don’t know why I have to have multiples of everything, but I do:


And then tailor’s hams are essential for apparel pressing. They’re not my favorite things in the world, but they work. The little containers with the spout are for refilling my iron.


And then my bias tape makers in every imaginable size. These are so, so great. The Clover brand is the only kind to get, as far as I’m concerned. I also keep the iron cleaner (I can’t remember where I got it from), which I don’t use very often, but it’s fabulous.


To put it all together, this is the whole set-up in my “atelier”:


What do you think? I’m always looking to make it more effective, so all suggestions are welcome! I’ll keep dreaming of my Pinterest-worthy studio, but in the meantime, I’m making do just fine.

P.S. I need to let you know that I included Amazon affiliate links – it’s something I’m testing out because the husband keeps begging me to make more money and to at least give this affiliate thing a shot. I promise to only do this for things I absolutely adore. I can’t imagine earning more than a few pennies off of this, but it’s important to keep marital relations happy, people. This is my first time ever doing it, so it’s very likely I’ve messed something up…oh well, it’s always good to try new things, right?



My Little Sewing Space Part 2


Good morning! I did sew something for K: an absolutely dull blue and not particularly attractive Seahawks tee-shirt at my daughter’s request, because she — much to my shock — is a football fan. Who knew parents completely oblivious to the Superbowl would produce a gung-ho 12th man? 12th man is the term used for a Seahawks fan, as I understand it, but don’t hold me to it.

But why subject you, my discerning friends, to a stenciled tee yet again? Instead, I thought it might be a little more interesting to continue showing you my sewing space. I love seeing how other people have their work areas set up and maybe you would have suggestions for improving mine – that would be much appreciated! I ended up with more photos than I expected, so there’s going to be a part 3 on Wednesday.

Shall we continue with the desk? I picked up the little organizer with drawers from Storables years ago and it works really well to keep all of my odds and ends stored yet accessible (I can’t find the 20-drawer version online, but it’s similar to this).


On top of the little organizer, I keep my weights I get from the hardware store for tracing patterns. They’re in a wooden bowl a dear Kiwi friend gave me as a gift. I’ve had that bowl for over fifteen years and it makes me happy to have this memorabilia from her (she lives in Australia now and it’s been many years since we’ve had a proper face-to-face chat). The glass jar holds vintage safety pins from my mom, and the pincushion for hand-sewing needles and extra pins is from Daiso, our local Japanese dollar store. The jumbo darning needle (the gold one) is handy for poking out corners or threading elastic. The pretty glass coaster is from Anthropologie and I love the colors and sparkle. And of course, I can’t live without my seam ripper nearby.

The tiny little drawers are ideal for my assorted tools. The first row is exclusively for the machine needles I use the most (except the twin needles – those I dislike and avoid using). You can see that I separate my needles by type.


The second row has extra hand-sewing needles, less frequently used machine needles, and extra pins.


The third row is a mish mash – I store my presser feet in the first drawer and info about the various presser feet next to it. I have some chalk powder, a tape measure and a brooch from M’s grandmother (no idea why it’s in there) and snaps. I could organize this better…


The fourth row has threaders, bodkins, the little brush for cleaning out the sewing machine dust, oil, point turner and seam presser (never used it), chalk, and tape for assembling PDF patterns. That last drawer contains plastic labels for the drawers, which I obviously haven’t bothered to use.


Moving along to the desk drawers, I already showed you the one that contains the my fave thread colors. The drawer above it houses the bobbins and my walking foot and a Bernina pouch that came with the sewing machine. The pouch contains some mysterious tools that came with the sewing machine — I have yet to figure them out. This is also where I keep the instruction manual for my sewing machine. I use the tweezers to thread my serger and like to have it accessible.


The center shallow drawer is still in progress and has all of my other thread spools.


And then on the right, the top drawer is a bevy of tools I couldn’t fit into the desktop organizer and don’t want to have out in the open necessarily. More pin cushions, needles, tape measures, tape, dusters, wonder clips. It used to look a little neater when I first cleaned it out.


The final drawer is where all of my favorite elastics congregate. I often use the 1/8″, 3/8″, 1/2″ and occasionally the 5/8″ and 1″. I also toss in double-sided fusible tapes, knit tapes, Steam-A-Seam and piping in here.


On the left side of my sewing table, I keep all of my Japanese sewing books and a selection of other, non-Japanese sewing books, along with my reference binder for commercial patterns. To take this photo, I had to pull it out into the hallway since I didn’t have enough room to frame its entirety.

sewing-area-pt2-11 sewing-area-pt2-13

Now that I’m looking at these images, I’m itching to organize everything better. This was a good exercise! Stay tuned for part three: the cutting table + ironing station!





Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! Sometimes don’t you wish you could pluck the moon and sun from the sky, put them into a container and take them out only when you need them? As I typed that it dawned on me that we use celestial movements as markers of the passage of time, but they aren’t time itself. I need a refresher course in the fourth dimension. The power to stop time…maybe in the future someone will figure out how to make it into an app.


K: Look Mama! The froggies are breeding — that means they’re making babies. Just like you and Daddy did!*

*We finally had a successful discussion about the birds and the bees. As predicted, I was at my awkwardest, and she was completely grossed out.


You’re the giveaway winner!
Cute sock softies time

Have a wonderful weekend all!

My Little Sewing Space


This might be the longest I’ve gone without sewing anything for myself since I started to make my own clothes. I miss it, but I’m time poor at the moment, and when given the chance, I tend to choose sewing for K or tidying for the sake of mental sanity. In a little while, however, I’ll be able to get back to some grown-up sewing…I’ve got my denim washed, pattern pieces cut out, jeans hardware at the ready and if I don’t get started on these skinny jeans soon, there’s a risk that it’ll never happen. (and yes, I’m working on my secret valentine project too!)

I organized my sewing table. Have I told you that I sew in my bedroom? I know it’s sacrilege to have a workspace where you sleep, yada yada yada, but I moved my so-called “atelier” when K was in kindergarten three years ago because she would get scared at night and pad two floors down all the way to the basement where I would be toiling at my Bernina into the wee hours. Our bedrooms are next to each other, and I figured that if she could hear the hum of the machines, she would know that I’m close by and feel assured. So far it’s been working.

Plus, if a sewing table in the corner of a bedroom is good enough for Flossie Teacakes, it’s good enough for me. Mark Bittman cooks in a pint-sized kitchen (I half-heartedly tried to see if he’s upgraded since 2008 but I didn’t find anything), and though he doesn’t love it just as I don’t totally love my ad hoc craft station, it gets the job done and sometimes, magic happens. Of course, I drool over capacious and stylish studios on Pinterest, and though I sigh at the dreaminess of it all, I’m quite content with the functionality of the current set-up. I have humongous thoughts on the benefits of limitations, but that’ll have to wait for another day.

One of the things I did was to go through my drawers and trash all the junk. Now I am delighted every time I open my drawer of commonly used threads (I don’t like to keep them out because they get so dusty):

sewingspace3 sewingspace2

This is sort of a part one since the winter light in the Pacific Northwest makes photography a race against time and it was getting too dark for decent shots. I’ll show you more close-ups of how I arrange all my stuff because I get geeky about organization and love to see how other people keep their materials corralled. More soon!


Monday Outfit: More Perri Pullovers


Good morning, friends! I should just call this the month of tees and be done with it. It’s all K seems to wear and they’re so easy to whip up that I default to sewing one form of knits-based top or another.


These two tops are sewn from the Cali Faye Perri Pullover pattern. I’ve used this once before in an impractical metallic faux leather combo, which of course has never been worn since last May. I actually made the burgundy one back in September of last year and completely forgot about it. I must have thought it was too plain jane and not blog-worthy at the time, but I’ve clearly gotten over that hang-up since all I seem to share with you are these types of garments now.


To give the all-white version some oomph, I tried to add piping. “Tried” being the operative word here since I’m incapable of proper piping insertion. Shallow depth of field photography is awesome because a lot of mistakes can be artfully blurred out. If you look very closely, you’ll see there’s some puckering at the neckline because my serger ate into the seam too far, and when I undid the offending stitches, it left indentations and a teeny tiny hole.


These minor blunders don’t bother me much, but what does bother me is how lazy I am when it comes to certain things. I haven’t added piping in a long time, and I couldn’t really remember how to deal with the two ends that meet. Did I look it up, which would have taken five minutes? No.


So the back is funky with the cord sort of showing, and the sleeve pipings don’t match up evenly. Oh well. Isn’t that a cool glittery lizard tattoo? We are going through a huge reptilian phase, if you haven’t noticed. I’m sort of on the fence about this white top. Does it say “mormon temple clothing” or “insane asylum patient” to you? Not that there’s anything wrong with either, but there’s a vaguely pious or medical feel to it, don’t you think? K is also uncertain about this one, made out of the same sweatshirt knit as the much beloved tennis dress.


On the other hand, the burgundy one in your standard knit jersey doesn’t evoke any unexpected associations. The color looks great on K, and it’s nice and casual with just enough interesting details like the asymmetrical hem and in-seam pockets.


I have to give special thanks to K for modeling because she’s been under the weather. A bit sniffly and sore-throat-y, she was in bed for most of Sunday morning, then cheerfully agreed to take photos in the Perri Pullovers in the afternoon – I think she was bored out of her mind just flopping around.

Before she consented to shimmying into the tops, I was just going to show this:


But then you would have missed out on this money shot:


I’m sure I’ll be paying for a lot of therapy in a few years for forced child labor.


Way off topic, but on Saturday, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a fascinating party filled with authors, filmmakers (plus an actor from the movie “Wild“, though I didn’t meet him), illustrators and all manners of making types over the weekend. I noted with interest that my impostor syndrome is alive and kicking, and very robust indeed. I enjoyed the eclectic group and met quite a few lovely folks – my favorite was a photographer whose father worked for the CIA so he grew up around the world. It was heartwarming to see such camaraderie and a spirit of helpfulness all around. I found that people were encouraging about my children’s book, but as soon as I mentioned that I like to sew, eyes started to glaze over….I might have been imagining it. Then again, when you’re sewing up t-shirt after t-shirt like I am, I suppose sewing doesn’t seem all that alluring.

Anyway. Perri Pullovers. It’s a good pattern, but I think I just haven’t nailed the right fabric for it. I could have gone with my first instincts and chosen a striped jersey, but sometimes I like to try something I’m not sure of just to see. Back to the drawing board!

Happy Friday + Randomness


Happy Friday! To all our lovely SVE participants, how’s your planning going? I’m currently trying to get a few other projects wrapped up, but am looking forward to diving in to gift-making and have outsized ambitions to ship a package out before the end of next week. Will it happen? We shall see…

One of the projects I finally checked off was tidying our monstrous paperwork. It was a bear, I tell you, but oh-so-necessary since I had to hunt down info for health insurance and found the state of our paperwork woefully inadequate. I shredded and shredded copious amounts of documents and old statements that are no longer relevant, and I filled our huge recycling bin to the brim. The relief I feel is HUGE. Plus I found old 401K accounts that we’d completely forgotten about. Not much in there, sadly, but it was like discovering a tiny bit of treasure. Joy.

Slowly but surely, my mind is getting a little less cluttered as I clear away the physical detritus.


I made K a little hair accessory that she tried on yesterday. She turned to me and said, “Is it chic or so last week?”


Have a delightful weekend, everyone! I’m delving into non-bloggable sewing and major book stuff (I know I don’t talk about it much mainly because I feel awkward about it, but I’ve been quietly working on my second book behind the scenes and deadlines are nipping at my feet). I may have to be extremely sparse for the next few weeks, but you know how I like to stick to my schedule so I’m playing it by ear.

I’m purging away
Finding sparks of joy each day
Odd, but rewarding*

*I keep running into more and more people who have read and loved The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying — I’m totally drinking the Kool-Aid, so fun!

Giveaway! Sock and Glove Charmingness [CLOSED]


Is there anything cuter than sock puppets? Probably, but Miyako Kanamori has taken the heart-melting factor up a notch with her book Sock and Glove: Creating Charming Softy Friends from Cast-Off Socks and Gloves.


I am continuing with my life-changing tidying among other things, and as much as I love this book, I’ve had it since 2007 when it first came out and I’ve looked at it twice, if that. The photography, the projects, the sweet story-telling element of it — they all make me smile, but honestly, I’m just not the sock or glove puppet making type. My slightly OCD nature balks at the thought of using previously worn socks, though I suppose I could use new socks or even knit fabric to construct these endearing animals. However, deep reflection (well, as deep as thinking about sock puppets can get) forced me to admit that it’s time to let it go.


I could donate this to Goodwill or try to resell it, but I wanted to offer it up as a giveaway in case anyone was interested? It comes with instructions for thirteen softies, and possibly the loveliest little clothes:


I mean, c’mon:

giveaway-sockandglove5These are some of my faves:

giveaway-sockandglove6 giveaway-sockandglove7 giveaway-sockandglove8Irresistible, right?

To enter the giveaway, since I went on and on about K’s little frogs earlier and since this book features animals, I’ve got pets on the mind — please leave a comment telling me about your favorite childhood pet. Or, if you didn’t have a pet (I didn’t), maybe your favorite softy/stuffed animal from days of yore. I had a white little bunny that my mom made me when I was just a wee lass, and I still have it to this day. I can’t believe this li’l doll has survived all these decades — I called her “usagi-chan”.


The giveaway will be open until next Thursday, January 29th and I’ll announce the winner the next day. International entries, of course, are more than welcome. Good luck!

P.S. I finally got all the custom illustration requests all organized. Please check your email junk or spam folder if you haven’t received an email from me and you commented on that post. I have some major book deadlines coming up so my progress on them might be on the slow side, but I’m on it!